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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Some People Call Me a Heretic

(The following is an article I wrote a few years ago for the Semi, an on campus newsletter at Fuller Seminary, followed by a scathing critique of my article from a student in the School of Theology. Following that is my critique of his use of Scripture in attacking my position. This is meant to be a lesson to all of us in how we too often unknowingly misuse Scripture and misunderstand it due to our communal assumptions. This lesson was taught at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue when we discussed the daughters of Zelophehad in keeping with the Torah reading cylcle.)

Some People Call Me a Heretic
By Stuart Dauermann
Published in The Semi of Fuller Theological Seminary
November 3-7, 2003

I am a pretty well-educated person. Still, I find it baffling when the orthodoxy of my faith and the authenticity of my life's work is judged by my answer to the question, "Do you believe Jewish people are going to hell unless they believe in Jesus?"

Most of the people who try nailing me on this issue take what I call a Greco-Roman approach to theologizing. When these people think about God and His ways, they do so like the ancient Greeks instead of the ancient Hebrews. The Greeks sought to develop systems of thought which explained reality. In the 1970s, Francis Schaeffer said the Greeks (and Romans) wanted to draw a circle of knowledge big enough to encompass all that exists and all that could possibly exist. People who employ this theological method think about God and reality by labeling things or concepts and slotting them into categories within their systems. They seek to have an answer (what they would term "a biblical answer" or even "THE biblical answer") for every question which is consistent with their system of thought. Hebrew thought is not like that.

In the Hebrew way of thinking, it was assumed there were some things we cannot understand, chiefly because we are finite creatures speaking of an infinite God. Indeed, even if God explained things to me, there are some things I could not understand. That is what it says in Psalm 139, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me: it is high, I cannot attain unto it." Or, in Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the Lord our God" (there are some things that are only God's business) "but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children that we may observe everything written in this Law" (that is our business). In other words, all of reality is broadly divided by the Hebrews into "my business" and "not my business because it is only God's business." Let me say it again: Jewish thought makes peace with the fact that I cannot understand everything and do not have all the answers.

This lack of closure makes Greco-Roman theologizers uneasy. Even today, we see Christians who recognize that evangelicalism has an over-developed anxiety about closure. Greco-Roman thought and theologizing assumes that if my philosophy/model of reality is good, there must be a category and an answer in that system for everything I encounter. Not so with the Hebrews.

Lately, some people have attacked my friends and me. When they do, they are thinking and acting like a Greco-Roman. Thus, they call me a heretic because I don't form my categories and/or fill my categories the same way they do. To them, every Jew who doesn't believe in Jesus belongs in the category "going to hell." Only those who die in infancy or are mentally defective get a break. However, I don't believe the Bible unambiguously supports their claims. God may still have some surprises up his sleeve. I argue he may just apply the benefits of Messiah's death and resurrection to some people who loved and served God the best they knew how, and who sought his mercy because they needed it, even though they never received Messiah Yeshua in the evangelical sense. I believe this is God's business and not mine. I am prepared to say, "I don't know the answer to that question because it is not my business to know - it is God's business."

A few weeks ago and this week as well, the Torah reading has another teaching for us on the particulars of a Jewish way of doing theology. Let's look for a moment at five sisters, the daughters of Zelophehad. The account of their lives is found in the 27th and 36th chapters of Numbers. They came to Moses with a problem - a question that the Torah of Moses had not yet addressed. Up until then, nothing had been said concerning inheritance rights for daughters. All land passed down from generation to generation went through sons. But they had no brothers, so their father's land inheritance would die when he did.

They said, "That's not fair!" These women wanted the inheritance to pass through them so their father's name could be honored from generation to generation. So, God directed Moses to issue a new ruling covering such cases. At the end of the Book of Numbers, some members of the tribe of Manasseh, to which the Daughters of Zelophehad belonged, came to Moses and said, "One more point, Moses. If these women marry men outside our tribe, and take their land inheritance with them, then our tribe loses land - and that's not fair!" Moses knew they were right, so he gave a new order - new Torah according to the Word of Adonai.

What do the daughters of Zelophehad teach us about a Jewish way of theologizing? While Greco-Roman theologizing involves fitting new situations into a revered grid (i.e. old answers to new questions), this Hebraic approach involves asking new questions and perhaps finding answers that haven't been discussed before. I contend it is not wrong to say, "God, it's not fair that these people should go to hell because they have never received Jesus. After all, look how Jesus has been represented to them by 2000 years of persecution and prejudice! Look God: they seek to honor you! Is there no place in your Kingdom for them?"

Here is a concrete example from our synagogue. Judy visited a 100-year-old Jewish woman who was blind and almost totally deaf. It was not possible for Judy to get doctrine across to Mildred, but she did go and visit with her. A few days before Mildred died, Judy heard her say clear as a bell, "Father, forgive me." Now, assuming she was talking to God, does "sound doctrine" require us to say that God said to her, "Mildred, I'd really like to help you, but you chose door number two and the answer is behind door number one?"

Finally, I think any conclusions we draw about people's eternal destinies need to be made with a heightened awareness of what we are talking about, rather than in the airtight theological grid which has a preformulated response for every question. I think it is better for us to embrace the rigors, uncertainties and agonies of beseeching God for better answers, than to accept the closure that comes from acquiescence to a system of theological thought that gives us tidy answers but a terrible God. Or so it seems to me.

Response to "Some People Call Me a Heretic"
Published in The Semi of Fuller Theological Seminary November 10-14, 2003
Robert Jones (SOT, Ph.D. student) [Name changed for privacy reasons].

Mr. Stuart Dauermann is not sure that faith in Jesus is absolutely necessary for salvation from hell. This is deeply troubling, especially given the fact that Dauermann is a professor at Fuller. Fuller has always held to the orthodox position - namely, that faith in Jesus is absolutely necessary for salvation. It is not necessary to take a "Greco-Roman approach to theologizing" in order to comprehend the clear teaching of Scripture. Peter, John and Paul were all Jewish, but they were nonetheless quite willing to state basic soteriological truths categorically. There are literally dozens of passages one can adduce to support the orthodox position, but I will take just two. Consider 1 John 2:22-23: "Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does to have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also." Couple this with 1 John 5:10, 12: "He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. ... He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."

Neither is there any indication in the New Testament that these rules apply only to Gentiles - that things are somehow different for unbelieving Jews. Clearly, Christ taught that some Jews are going to hell (Matt. 23:13-15). John refers to certain blasphemous Jews as a "synagogue of Satan" (Rev. 2:9). Furthermore, it would be interesting to know if Mr. Dauermann believes there are any unbelieving Gentiles - perhaps Christ has been "misrepresented" to them for 1400 years. Would they avoid hell because they "seek to honor God?"

Mr. Dauermann is "baffled" that he is labeled a heretic for holding this view, but heresy is precisely the term for it. Yet, he must be given credit for his courage in going public. I suspect there are other members of the Fuller faculty who hold a similar view, but they are closeted and afraid to go public for political reasons. I hereby challenge them to exhibit the same courage shown by Mr. Dauermann; I challenge them to make their opinions known to the larger evangelical world and let the chips fall where they may.


In evaluating Mr. Jones’s response to my presentation, let’s look at the passages he quotes.

Rev. 2:8"To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. 9I know your afflictions and your poverty-yet you are rich! I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.10Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.

What does this passage mean? Who is John writing to? What situation are they facing and what situation is he addressing. What is the "slander" of which he speaks? Who are they who "say they are Jews and are not?" Why are they saying this and what do they mean by it? All of these questions must be answered credibly before anyone can rightly quote this passage and use it against someone else.

Some commentators, bringing their anti-Semitic or supersessionist presuppositions to the table, come up with interpretations that we simply cannot accept.

In my dissertation research, none of the Christian commentators I consulted saw the "144,000 from all the tribes of Israel" (Rev. 7:4; 14:1, 3) as being Jews. Indeed, their assumptions would categorically preclude this. Eugene Boring is one of many who states that the 144,000 cannot be Jews or, Jewish Christians (his antiquated term). But note especially his comment on "the synagogue of Satan."

(That the 144, 000 from all the tribes of Israel are Jews) cannot be the case, since John identifies this group with the same number as 14:1-5, which cannot be limited to Jewish Christians. "Israel" is obviously not meant in a literal sense; there were no literal twelve tribes in the first century. Judaism had long since been more of a religious community with people of various ethnic backgrounds rather than a racial group identified by genealogy. . . . (The text) speaks with disdain of "those who say they are Jews but are not" (2:9; 3:9), that is, Jews who did not accept Jesus as their Messiah (1989:129-130).

This language could hardly be more inflammatory. First, he demonstrates and identifies the theological presupposition that determines his interpretation. The sufficient reason why the 144,000 cannot be Jews is that "we know that John considers the church to be the continuation of Israel." He seems to me to be arguing in a circle, since he interprets one of John's texts on the basis of what he has already concluded is John's theology. Would it not have been better for him to have entertained the possibility that the text is saying something new which he as a reader/interpreter ought to factor into his assumptions about John's theology?

More poisonous still is his assumption that what makes the Jews of Smyrna to be "those who say they are Jews and are not" is that "they did not accept Jesus as their Messiah." There is nothing in the context at all that requires of us to assume that what motivates John's denunciation of these people as Jews is the fact that they do not believe in Yeshua. In 3:9, the evidence is lacking, but in 2:9, the statement is explicitly made that they are those who both slander and oppose the believers to whom John is writing. In other words they have set themselves up as enemies of the believers to whom he is writing. They have positioned themselves as opponents: they are not simply Jews without Yeshua -faith. And to assume that all Jews who do not believe in Yeshua are enemies, opponents, or not truly Jews at all is not only uncalled for, it is the stuff from which pogroms are made.

A far better perspective is found in this comment by Bruce Metzger, found in the notes of "The Access Bible": "Slander probably refers to Jewish refusal to recognize John’s community as part of the Jewish community, thus exposing them to Roman suspicions as a new religious group. John engages in similar slander by calling them ‘those who say that they are Jews and are not.’ ‘Synagogue of Satan’ is not anti-Semitic in this situation since John himself is claiming to be Jewish, but it soon becomes so in Christian tradition."

So we see that the problem here was a particular synagogue community which was expelling Jewish believers in Yeshua saying "these people aren’t really Jews." These were deadly words during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, when many scholars believe this book to have been written. If these Jewish Yeshua-believers are not seen to be part of the Jewish community, they will be required to burn incense before a bust of Caesar, as an act of civil worship of gods of Rome. To fail to do so will then mean death.

So, John’s comments must be seen in a heated polemical context. He is saying, "That synagogue community in Smyrna is slandering you, casting you out, exposing you to great danger, saying, you aren’t really Jews. Well, speaking of slander, the way they are acting, they aren’t really truly Jews themselves! They are more a synagogue of Satan!" This is very heated language born of a crisis situation. And it must not be used as a way of characterizing all Jews, nor should it in any way be joined to the issue of whether or not these Jews or any Jews believe in Yeshua. It is not the absence of Yeshua-faith that made this or any other synagogue fit to be called in exaggerated tones, "a synagogue of Satan."

Matt 23:13"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. 15"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

Here again we are dealing with heated, scolding, polemical language. Is Mr Jones right in using this Matthew text as a proof text that some Jews are going to hell? No, Yeshua is scolding the Pharisees and teachers of the law for hypocrisy, and is using a strong Hebrew idiom to underscore his judgment that this kind of behavior smells more of the kingdom of darkness than the kingdom of heaven!.

That some Jews will be in hell is almost certainly true. God is a righteous judge, and those who merit perdition will get it. But Mr. Jones will have to work harder at finding an appropriate text to make his point. This one is weak.

1 Jn 2:18Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us. 20But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. 21I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist--he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 24See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is what he promised us--even eternal life. 26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him.

1 Jn 5:10Anyone who believes in the Son of God has this testimony in his heart. Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son. 11And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

In interpreting these texts, we must answer some of the same questions mentioned earlier: What does this passage mean? Who is John writing to? What situation are they facing and what situation is he addressing?

He is not speaking into a vacuum, nor is he just spouting theology. Rather, in writing his letters, John is seeking to address crises and problems in the congregations under his charge. Bruce Metzger again helps us here:

"The context of the letter is a serious crisis of schism in which a significant section of the community has withdrawn. While the schism reflects a leadership struggle, serious differences also divide the two groups. An understanding of the two groups can be built up by a cautious reading of the positions the author affirms and opposes. So serious is the schism in the eyes of the author that he presents it as evidence that ‘it is the last hour’ (2:18). . . . I John stresses the reality and significance of the humanity of Yeshua for believers against the refusal of the opponents to recognize this (4:1-6). (Also) by implication, he asserts that the schismatics are children of the devil because they do not love the brethren. The task of 1 John is to deal with the confusion caused by the schism. It was written to confirm that those who remained in the community were on the side of the truth and that the opponents had shown their error by their departure."

In other words, John is writing about dangerous heretics from within the community who have departed from the community. These are people who deny the true humanity of Yeshua, who are opponents of the community’s leaders, and who are seeking to destroy and undermine the congregations to whom John writes.
Is this a fair description of most Jews you know? Are they schismatics who have broken away from the believing community, are resisting and discrediting their former leaders, and are actively involved in perverting the true doctrine of who Yeshua really is? Are most Jews you know even determined opponents of the gospel?

I would respectfully note that we need to be more accurate and careful about the proof texts we use to establish our positions, than has Mr. Jones. In addition, he needds to become more aware of how his own exegetical instincts are shaped and informed by thousands of years of assumptions. In the context of Christendom, these assumptions are often ant-Semitic, or counter-Semitic. The later term is one I use to label those attitudes and habits of thinking and rhetoric that always define Christian/New Covenant faithfulness in contrast to what the Jewish community holds to. Often such statements are framed as follows: "The rabbis believe X, but we believe Y." Always, Yeshua-faith is contrasted with the Jewish community consensus.

All of us need to become aware of, reexamine, and repudiate this habit of thinking and speaking. It smacks more of Justin Martyr than of Jesus the Messiah.

At 8/18/2005 1:10 PM, Anonymous Chayamindle said...

Mazel Tov!

There should only be more "heretics" with your sanctified seychel and spiritual insight not afraid to speak out!!

How brilliantly your "theologizing" has evolved since the "old country days" at 236 W.72nd St., and those follow-up years as a team member of "moishecamp" and the lww. Mind you it was back then you composed what are now the messianic great golden oldies-- all those wonderfully edifying " borscht belt neshama choruses" in honor of which the "trees of the field will eternally continue to "shokhel" and clap their hands". And of course you also found your beshert so you could both serve G-d together by perpetually evolving in thought, word and deed --to the point that someone who has not seen either of you in over 30 years has been educated, renewed,inspired and blessed by having discovered your teaching and commentaries on this blog, in Kesher, and on other sites and publications.


At 8/21/2005 3:20 PM, Anonymous Menachem said...


I think it is better for us to embrace the rigors, uncertainties and agonies of beseeching God for better answers,<<<<<<< etc.

From your lips to G-ds ears and the ears of others. You have summarized your point eloquently and simply. What's more one can do it while standing on one foot! All the rest is very useful commentary. Imagine what would happen if we all listened and followed your advice? May G-d humble us to ask and maybe he will have an answer for all of us as we approach the High Holidays this year.


At 8/22/2005 9:30 PM, Blogger Teknigram said...

Maybe one of the biggest heresies artificially pits the Maschiach against those he never intended to be pitted and re-pitted against.

Yashar koach

At 8/23/2005 5:15 AM, Anonymous Menachem said...

Artificial is the operative word.

At 2/11/2006 6:10 PM, Blogger spantalk said...

To state that any that is in disagreement with you is of the Greco-roman view and this is inappropriate is the same as stating that all Cretians are liars and this from one of their own.To state that if someone serves God and does not or has not received Jesus as Saviour should be able to go to heaven is the same as those who do not know to serve God and that they have not been taught to honour his commands should also go to heaven. In fact can any really go to hell as they have been selected in their mother's womb and thereby born into a region that knows not God and thereby murder, steal etc... and what of Satan, I mean give me a break was he not appointed for the fall how could he deserve to go to hell and what of those that daily kill the Israelis are they not obeying the human instinct of survival so how then could they go to hell for self-preservation which was assigned from God. again can any go to hell?
Behold I show you a mystery, yet all Israel shall be saved. they were blinded in part for our benefit. Ezekiel 36


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