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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.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Contextualization, Recontextualization, and Reconceptualization of the Gospel Message for Messianic Jewish Outreach

According to Lesslie Newbigin in “The Gospel in a Pluralist Society” [1989:142], the purpose of contextualization is to enable the gospel to come alive in specific a cultural context in a manner that comes as good news (rather than foreign news) to that context, yet in a manner which does not, for the sake of relevance and reception, sacrifice the nature of the gospel itself. Therefore, he calls us to the imperative of knowing what is the intrinsic gospel we are to transmit.

Of course, for the Messianic Jewish context there is another factor, unique to the Jewish world, which David Stern recognized decades ago in “The Messianic Jewish Manifesto” (1988). That factor is rediscovering the essentially Jewish context and nature of gospel message despite two millennia of other-culture accretions. Here the issue is not one of adapting or communicating the gospel to the contemporary Jewish context, as is the concern of contextualization, but rather of, in Stern’s words,”restoring the Jewishness of the gospel.”

The concerns of the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm which my associates and I are championing run deeper than this. Our concern is not simply the effective, non-imperialistic, culture-respecting communication of the gospel in a Jewish context, nor is it the restoration of the gospel’s original Jewish character and context. Rather, the project of the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm is the reconceptulization of the gospel itself in keeping with a post-missionary, non-supersessionist paradigm which is alert to the eschatological responsibilities of the Remnant of Israel.

The gospel cannot be good news for the Jews if its proclaimers treat the dissolution of Jewish community cohesion as a matter of secondary importance. Nor can it be good news for the Jews if, imbedded within it, is the assumption that the path of Torah faithfulness is a secondary issue, non-issue, or expired priority. Neither can it be good news for the Jews if the gospel we proclaim fails to prepare Jewish people for the eschatological commitments of which the prophets speak, including being “careful to observe” his ordinances [Ezekiel 36:27].

Again, the concerns of the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm are more than a matter of style and of being careful to not be culturally intrusive or imperialistic. It is even more than simply rediscovering what is the essential gospel, which is Newbigin’s concern. Rather, it is discovering, serving, and proclaiming the wider context of the will of God for the Jewish people, the setting in which faithfulness, even gospel faithfulness, is meant to be lived out by Jews, as highlighted in Ezekiel 36-37 and elsewhere throughout Holy Writ. This setting will include Israel's Regathering, Renewal, Repentance, Regeneration, and Recognition of Yeshua as the Messiah formerly hidden from Jewish eyes [as is evident from reading Ezekiel 36-37].

The Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm is post-missionary in its assumptions, in part because the Standard Jewish Missions Paradigm is supersessionist. Even Dispensational Jewish missions that doctrinally decry supersessionism are functionally supersessionist when they treat the distinctive covenant responsibilities of the Jewish people as expired or secondary. One Jewish mission routinely refers to itself as “an arm of the local church.” In doing so, they are acting not as the Remnant of Israel but as Jewish-born emissaries of the new and improved people of God, the Church. They are also committed to treating covenantal Jewish living as but one option among many, and term it "neo-Galatianism” when treated as a divine responsibility incumbent upon all Jews.

By contrast, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm is non-supersessionist, seeing the Jewish people as still beloved for the sake of the ancestors (Romans 11:28), and Jewish Torah-based covenant responsibility not only as persisting since ancient times, thus a continuing obligation from the Jewish past, but also as a necessary and integral component of God’s consummating purposes for Israel, thus a present privilege and responsibility in anticipation of that consummation.

Therefore, we are not calling for contextualization as commonly conceived, nor are we calling for the recontextualization of the gospel, as Stern suggests. Rather, we are calling for a reconceptualization of the outreach task, especially for Messianic Jews, as it concerns being agents of God’s consummating purposes for Israel.