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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, March 08, 2006

Universalism, Particularism and the Privileged Uniqueness of the Jewish People

In "The Gospel in a Pluralist Society," Newbigin brilliantly responds to those who say that with the recording of blessing to all the nations multiplying on earth after the advent of Noah, the Bible speaks of pluralistic blessing. While acknowledging God’s providential blessing and love over all He has made, Newbigin reminds us that:

It is very misguided exegesis which sets these two elements [universalism and particularism] against each other. God’s love for all his creation, his purpose of blessing for al human beings is fundamental from beginning to end. But . . . that purpose is fulfilled by way of election, of the choosing of one for the blessing of all. Both dimensions of the divine purpose, the universal and the particular, show themselves in different ways throughout the Bible. To set one against the other is to misunderstand both [1989:166-167].

This tension between universalism and particularism is an issue that constantly crops up, usually unrecognized as such, in theological and missiological discussion. It is a worldview assumption for religious Jews that is not generally mirrored in the attitudes of Western Christians. Instead, the latter assume that the gospel is meant to have a homogeonizing effect, that being “all one in Christ Jesus” is equivalent to all being the same in Christ Jesus, which was never to be the case.

The School of Intercutlural Studies, with its zeal for the gospel being for “panta ta ethne (all the nations),” while strongly affirming particularism, misses and neglects the priority and singularity of the people of Israel. Indeed, Western democratic instincts recoil at the idea, especially when goaded by the anti-Judaic instincts of Christendom.

I remember the outraged response of one world class missiologist, not at Fuller by the way, who took strong exception to a song I had sung at a public meeting, where the words spoke of Israel being “of all the nations in the world, most precious in His sight.” Although he is certainly a champion of ethnic particularism for all nations, this leader was incensed to the extent of flaring nostrils by my referring to Israel as God’s most favored nation. That Scripture affirms this multiple times in language far more “insulting” than mine has totally escaped this world-class leader, who like most of Christendom itself, is unable to see what the Scripture clearly affirms.

Texts which affirm Jewish uniqueness include but are not limited to Balaam’s prophecy of Israel as “a people who dwells apart, And will not be reckoned among the nations” [Numbers 23:9, NASB], or, as the New Living Bible says it, “a people who live by themselves, set apart from other nations.” Other texts teach this same uniqueness, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities” [Amos 3:2]; “When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, When He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples According to the number of the children of Israel” Deut 32:8, NKJV], “19 He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel.20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances” [Psalm 147:20]; “He gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples,that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the LORD!” [Psalm 105:44-45]; “For I am with you, says the Lord, to save you; I will make an end of all the nations among which I scattered you, but of you I will not make an end" [Jer 30:11].

Those who champion a homogeonized people of God, transethnic and transnational, misrepresent and misunderstand Scripture. Even those who champion particularism often miss that Israel is “not to be reckoned among the (other) nations.” Israel remains unique and privileged in the midst of God’s wider community of the redeemed. "Of all the nations in the world, most precious in His sight."