Silly, agenda-driven and diminished: Todd Friel uses Jews to criticise gays

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Christian radio show host Todd Friel, from his March 22nd 2013 show on Wretched Radio – listen from about 6 minutes in:

[Some gay people] adjust their entire view of the world and their role within it to accomodate what has become the dominant aspect of their lives their homosexuality. And it’s true don’t we see that all the time? It sort of reminds me of Jewish people! I’m not equating the two in any way other than if you’ve ever had the experience of meeting somebody who is Jewish, there is a propensity for Jewish people to let you know that they’re Jewish. I think it’s that thing that got planted in them to keep them a nation, when they didn’t have a homeland, and they become radically liberal and silly They’re just… they’re Jewish! I’ve never seen anything that even comes close. Irish [...] there’s a few of those [...] you’ll find a few that are Italian, whatever nationality don’t even come close to being Jewish, it’s sort of like the Green Bay Packers. There’s other football fans. Nothing like the Green Bay Packer fans! Same thing with Jewish. Nobody is more nationalistic when it comes to heritage than Jewish people. And I see that with homosexuals. It is about being homosexual. Their agenda, their desires, their needs, their work, their relationships, it is all about their sexuality. Now I don’t know that you see that same degree of definition from heterosexuals. [...] If all you are about is one thing, that is a diminished life.”

When I emailed Todd Friel, he had no recollection of his words.

Hopefully this post will jog his memory, and he will apologise live on air in his next broadcast for these ill-thought-out words.

But I think when you are so quick to speak that you unfairly insult huge swathes of the population, and then can’t even remember doing so, then that is a clear sign for you to slow down and talk less.

So that’s the advice I would give to Todd Friel.

Shlomo Carlebach: The Rebbe knew every Jew from this lifetime or another lifetime

This was a very emotional address in 1994, at a distressing time for Chabad.

Ironically, many Orthodox Jewish leaders are speaking about the Rebbe in more and more  godlike ways, whilst Messianic Jews struggle to understand and grasp the full divinity of Yeshua.

It isn’t a simple as Messianic Jews are the only Jews who believe that Moshiach is divine – many don’t, although we think they really should.

Russ Resnik, IMJ and the definition of a Messianic Jew

We had a very welcome message from the UMJC President Russ Resnik this past week.

In my review of Introduction to Messianic Judaism (IMJ), I questioned the claim by the authors of IMJ, that a Messianic Jew is a believer in Yeshua who also tries to keep the Torah. I was also unsure about Russ Resnik’s comments about Messianic Jews living on the margins, and so I raised the issue in my review, of what Russ meant exactly by Messianic Jews ‘embracing marginalisation.’

Here is Russ’ response:

Thank you for this review and the ensuing discussion. As one of the contributors to the book, and a spokesman for the UMJC, I’d like to clarify a couple of points before Shabbat, and perhaps get back for more later.

First, our definition of “Messianic Jew” certainly is not meant to narrow the category of “Jewish” in general. We might consider someone not to be a Messianic Jew according to our definition, but wouldn’t doubt their Jewishness at all. We’re simply seeking to restore the original sense of the term as applying to Jews who affirm Yeshua as Messiah *and* seek to live intentionally and concretely as Jews. The book does a good job of tracing this historical meaning of the term, showing that, in a way, the UMJC definition is a conservative move.

Second, regarding my treatment of marginalization, in another paper I distinguish between inherent marginalization, which is an inevitable condition of living for Yeshua within the Jewish world, and incidental marginalization, which we should try to overcome. So, Messianic Jews should be allowed to make aliyah as Jews, for example, and I would not embrace a permanent marginalization in this regard. Messianic Jews in Israel should fight to be free from harassment, threats of violence, economic discrimination, and so on, and should not accept such conditions as “inherent marginalization.” At the same time, we recognize that we serve a Messiah who is marginalized not just by his own Jewish people, but by all the powers of this age. That’s the inherent marginalization that we can affirm as a prophetic role.

Shabbat shalom and chag sameach.

Firstly, I would like to say of Russ that he showed excellent leadership of the UMJC, at a time when the Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) organisers of an antisemitic Christian conference, were trying earnestly to convince the world that Messianic Jews were sympathetic to their cause.

Under Russ’ leadership, the UMJC released a statement distancing its movement from CATC, which Russ also read out on Youtube:

With Israeli Messianic leaders caught up in an impossible situation whereby to denounce CATC would damage their relationships with some Palestinian Christian leaders in the land, it was refreshing to see Russ step up to the plate and speak out for truth. We at RPP would like to affirm Russ in this, for his wisdom and determination. His actions were a credit to Torah values.

It is for this reason why it is very good to see his expanded comments about Messianic Jewish marginalisation. This comment is spot-on:

“Messianic Jews in Israel should fight to be free from harassment, threats of violence, economic discrimination, and so on”

However, I would take issue with his definition of a Messianic Jew. Russ wrote:

First, our definition of “Messianic Jew” certainly is not meant to narrow the category of “Jewish” in general. We might consider someone not to be a Messianic Jew according to our definition, but wouldn’t doubt their Jewishness at all. We’re simply seeking to restore the original sense of the term as applying to Jews who affirm Yeshua as Messiah *and* seek to live intentionally and concretely as Jews.

If Resnik is not seeking to narrow Jewish identity, then why seek to narrow Messianic Jewish identity, beyond belief in Yeshua the Messiah?

To a degree, all Jews are messianic Jews, in the sense that we all have expectations about the future, that there will be a messianic age. Even a communist Jew who looks forward to the Revolution, or an atheist Jew who looks forward to a society in which religion is not so prominent or readily-believed, is expressing messianism in some form. Messianism itself is essentially a Jewish ideology that the world has caught onto.

But there is a reason why we specifically are Messianic Jews, with a capital “M”. This is a conscious identification with Yeshua our Messiah, whose title is capitalised because we consider him to be divine – just as most believers use the title “Christ” for Yeshua, with a capital “C”.

Messianic refers to Messiah Yeshua, and therefore it is our right to define ourselves by aligning ourselves with Yeshua’s Jewish title of Messiah. To deny us this, is to say that we are undeserving of a Jewish faith identification, because we do not live up to other people’s behavioural expectations of how a Messianic Jew should act.

You can say there is a way that Messianic Jews should live, or you can say that Messianic Jews ought to follow Torah, in order to truly obey God. You can even try to persuade and convince other Messianic Jews of this position. But just because someone does not make any claims of Torah-obedience, it doesn’t mean they are not Messianic – Messianic is simply a word that implies our belonging to Messiah.

By calling ourselves Messianic Jews, we affirm and celebrate Yeshua as Messiah. Either Yeshua is truly Messiah, and those who declare him as such are Messia-nic Jews, or he’s not Messiah, and none of us are Messianic Jews.

Michael F. Bird reviews Introduction to Messianic Judaism

Have a read of Bird’s review of IMJ on Patheos – he issues a respectful and gentle, non-supercessionist challenge to bilateral ecclesiology, from a Christian academic perspective.

The impression I get is that Messianic Judaism is presenting itself not simply as an ethnic church group or as a Christian denomination, it is touted as a separate species of Christ-believer, one more entrenched in its Jewish heritage and distinguishable from the Gentile Christians. To be honest – and Joel might push back on this – I think Galatians rules out precisely this kind of vision of believers in Jesus. First, when Paul says that in Christ there is “neither Jew nor Gentile,” he is creating a shared meta-identity where it is union with Christ that is determinative for our relationship with God and to each other, with the result that all walls between these groups are utterly broken down. What is more, Paul particularly wants to avoid any kind of ecclesiology that results in someone insisting on foreskins sit on the left and no-foreskins sit on the right. I think Paul knew of both mixed and parallel groups of Jewish/Gentile Christ-believers, but not two species of believers.  Second, despite the aversion to using the word “Christian,” I cannot help but note that Christianoi was originally used for mixed Jewish and Gentile groups in both Antioch (Acts 11:21) and in Asia Minor (1 Pet 5:13). Christianoi means “client or adherent of Christ.”

Joel Willitts replies:

[W]hile there maybe MJ’s who think the way you suggest, my view is that most are uncomfortable with the term “Christian” not in the NT sense, which is how you are defining it, but what it has come to be defined, i.e., the gentile church. They usually like to speak of the ekklesia, leaving it untranslated for the same reason. I don’t have any problem with a shared identity in the Jewish Davidic Messiah. I would only point out that I think Galatians’ theological force is in the message of mutual interdependence between Jew and Gentile. Jew as Jew needs Gentile as Gentile and vise versa. What’s more, we should not overlook something that particularly Anders Runesson has been pointing out in various places that Paul’s communities were within the diaspora synagogue social space, thus a Jewish social space. And clearly this is evident in Galatians of all letters.

Any thoughts on this?

In 2004, Michael Wyschogrod still thought Messianic Jews are idolators

In my review of Introduction to Messianic Judaism, and then in a follow-up post, I noted my concern about the theologian Michael Wyschogrod, who wrote a book called trying to dissuade Messianic Jews from believing in Yeshua, which was published by Jews For Judaism. The book equates Yeshua-worship with idolatry for Jews.

Yahnatan  of Gather the Sparks blog replied:

In your book review of Introduction to Messianic Judaism, you expressed incredulity that Jen Rosner would describe Wyschogrod as a theological ally of the Messianic Jewish movement. I think Jen’s claim was more nuanced than you let on; the full claim was that “Wyschogrod’s concern that all Jews–including baptized Jews–maintain a Torah-observant lifestyle makes him another theological ally of Messianic Judaism’s vision.” (153) (I recognize that you differ with said vision, but I think it is worth acknowledging that Rosner’s claim was not unqualified but is actually quite specific as to how Wyschogrod is an ally of Messianic Judaism.)

Also for the record: the Berger/Wyschogrod book you’re referencing was published in 1978. That’s thirty-five years ago. (!) A lot has happened since then, both in the world of Jewish/Christian relations and in the development of Wyschogrod’s thought in particular. Wyschogrod participated in several published Jewish/Christian dialogues via Stimulus books. At the turn of the century he published his major theological work The Body of Faith, and in 2004 he published a book of essays edited by none other than Christian theologian R. Kendall Soulen, the author of The God of Israel and Christian Theology (perhaps the definitive work on Christian supersessionism to date). On top of all this, Rosner’s essay lists Wyschogrod as one of two noted Jewish scholars who delivered lectures sponsored by the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute’s Jewish-Christian Relations Center. Very few figures in the Jewish world have done something like this–precisely because of the way it would make them appear to be an ally of our movement.

If your readers want to learn more about Michael Wyschogrod and the significance of his thought for Christians and MJ’s, I think they would be well served by reading R. Kendall Soulen’s introduction to Wyschogrod’s thought: Michael Wyschogrod and God’s First Love.

Perhaps now that I’ve highlighted Rosner’s important qualification and more fully explicated the development of Wyschogrod’s thought, some of your initial concerns with this aspect of the book have been addressed?

It is a very appropriate reply from Yahnatan, kindly expressed, and seeing the best in Wyschogrod.

I agree with Yahnatan that Wyschogrod wanted Jews to maintain their Torah practice, even as idolators. But so did the Vilna Gaon, for Jews who became believers in Yeshua – it didn’t mean he had any sympathy for them.

The Vilna Gaon said of such believers:

The Vilna Gaon taught that a meshumad, an apostate, is obligated in all mitzvos, just like any kosher Jew. His apostasy doesn’t grant him any kind of dispensation, and he is obligated in every detail of the law just as he was before he abandoned the Torah. When the Gaon heard of a Jew who had converted and joined a monastery, he sent an invitation to his home so that he could try to draw him back to Judaism.When the meshumad arrived, the Gaon honored him with a drink and said, “I would like to hear a b’rochah.“ The meshumad was taken aback. “I am no longer a Jew—why on earth should I make a b’rochah?”

The Gaon patiently explained. “Converting did not change anything, and kefirah is no excuse. You are a child of Avrohom Avinu, and you will eventually be punished for every single sin. But you will also be rewarded for every single mitzvah! Take the opportunity to earn yourself another z’chus!” The words of the Gra made a deep impression on his guest, and it was not long before he did a complete teshuvah.

You can see the logic here – encourage idolators to keep the Torah, and they’ll eventually abandon their idolatry. Reasonable logic, except we know that worshipping Yeshua is not idolatry! But clearly, believing Messianic Jews should keep Torah, doesn’t mean you necessarily respect them or you are positive about their beliefs.

Regarding the book that Kendall Soulen edited, Wyschogrod identified belief in Yeshua as idolatry for Jews on p.158 of Abraham’s Promise, published in 2004.

In an article for First Things introducing the Wyschogrod writings, Soulen even says this:

To be sure, Wyschogrod makes clear that Christian claims on behalf of Jesus of Nazareth are problematic from the perspective of Jewish faith. The claim that Jesus was the Messiah is difficult for Jews to accept because Jesus did not perform a key messianic function: he did not usher in the messianic kingdom. More difficult by far, however, is the Christian claim that God was incarnate in Jesus. For a Jew to subscribe to this belief would mean a grave violation of the prohibition against idolatry.

Soulen is aware of the problem regarding Wyschogrod, but it possibly is not as urgent an issue to him as it is to Messianic Jews, considering we have to live with the fall out of his calling our beliefs idolatry.

Regarding his speaking appearance with the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI). I think that – with eyes wide open – it could be considered a positive step that Wyschogrod entered into debate on MJTI “territory”. But I think that we ought to be cautious in proceeding.

However, were Wyschogrod to publicly announce a change of heart, I would welcome that as clear evidence of the positive influence of Messianic Jews in his thinking. Until then I think it would be hard to ignore these concerns.

Has he rescinded his previous views? He would need to do so publicly and clearly, for us to be certain.

But maybe I’m being overly negative or sceptical – let’s see how Wyschogrod’s relationship with Messianic Jews progresses.

Michael Wyschogrod wants Messianic Jews to abandon Yeshua

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Michael Wyschogrod is admired by many Messianic Jews in the USA. I think he is overrated and not really very helpful for Messianic Jews at all.

Wyschogrod has written a book called trying to dissuade Messianic Jews from believing in Yeshua, which was published by Jews For Judaism.

Jews For Judaism routinely slander Messianic Jews and hype up fear about us, because we believe in Yeshua as Moshiach, we worship him, and we know he rose from the dead.

In his book, Wyschogrod wrote:

“It is therefore important for Jews to know that a Jew who believes that Jesus was God in the sense asserted by the Nicene Creed commits idolatry as defined by Jewish law.”

Gerald McDermott notes:

Wyschogrod says Jews have a “responsibility” to teach gentiles of the dangers of idolatry. Therefore, “it is my duty to persuade my Christian friends to abandon these teachings.”

The website of a man named Craig Lyons, carries this Wyschogrod quote:

“[Among] those difficult issues which most distinctly separate Judaism from Christianity . . . none is more significant than the problem of Christology, the evaluation of the person of Jesus as an equal person of the triune God. For the Jew, this raises the ultimate danger of idolatry, of the deification of a human being. It must be clearly understood that this is a far more serious issue than the question of whether Jesus was the messiah” (Michael Wyschogrod, “A New Stage in Jewish-Christian Dialogue,” Judaism, Summer, 1982, pp. 361-62).

His book was written to convince Messianic Jews to abandon the Messiah.

Let’s stop recommending his writings.

Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Book review

“The ideology of this book is not rooted so much in New Testament Israel, as in the counter-cultural religious trends emanating from the West Coast of America in the late 1960s and 70s.”

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Introduction to Messianic Judaism: Edited by David Rudolph and Joel Willitts

Zondervan 2013

Book review by Joseph Weissman

Religion has never existed in a vacuum, and every faith movement must be aware of its own history. Christians can sometimes make the mistake of looking at today’s Hasidic Jews, and think that their faith is the same as the Pharisees. However, Judaism changed dramatically following the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70 – Jews would no longer offer sacrifices, but found ways through the rabbinical writings to continue their religion.

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