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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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Friday, April 21, 2006

Missiology, Mission, Missio Dei, and Shlichut

I am reading another book by Newbigin, "The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission." Revised edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

The term "mission" is, for most Jewish people, hardly a warm word, but this need not be the case. I have also been reading the remarkable collection of essays, "For the Sake of Heaven and Earth: The New Encounter Between Judaism and Christianity," by Irving Greenberg (Philadelphia: JPS, 2004), who reminds us of the good Jewish term "shlichut," which pertains to the God-given mission of a people. One could in fact say that missiology is the study of what it is that we believe God has sent us as a people to be, to do, to say--our mission from God.

Concerning Yeshua as the One sent from God, Newbigin says this about His mission:

We begin with what Mark calls "the beginning of the gospel.” Jesus came into Galilee "Announcing the good news of God and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, the reign of God is at hand; repent and believe the good news'"(Mark 1:14-15).

The announcement concerns the reign of God—God who is the creator, sustainer, and consummator of all that is. We are not talking about one sector of human affairs, one strand out of the whole fabric of world history; we are talking about the reign and the sovereignty of God over all that is, and therefore we are talking about the origin, meaning, and end of the universe and of all human history within the history of the universe. We are not dealing with a local and temporary disturbance in the current of cosmic happenings, but with the source and goal of the cosmos” [1995:30].

His reminder is crucial for those considering or rejecting the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and for church people inclined to see the church as ultimate. The missio Dei [the mission of God, what He is up to in the world] is bigger than the mission of the Church [missio ecclesiarum]. Johannes Verkuyl speaks to this issue in his classic, Contemporary Missiology, where he states the following:

The discussion about missio Dei has focused too little on the question of how God’s acts in history can be discerned and how the missio ecclesiarum (the mission of the church) is related to this process of discerning his acts.

. . . Even the nonecclesiastical activity of people in society [missio hominum], as long as it counters any type of evil and is purposefully performed in ways that help and heal, is connected either knowingly or unknowingly with the missio Dei in the world [Verkuyl, Johannes. Contemporary Missiology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978:4].

Greenberg would tie all of these, missio Dei, missio hominum, missio ecclesiarum and missio Israelum [pardon me if my Latin is poor; it is NOT one of my languages!], all of these Greenberg would tie together under the rubric tikkun olam, not a bad concept to factor into the mix.

Verkuyl, although speaking of course from within the conceptual heart of Christendom, helps clarify our thinking here by indicating that the Church’s mission is not the sum total of what God is doing in the world, in history, in and with his cosmos. And, although he does not speak here of it, what God is doing among His people Israel is also part of the missio Dei even though, when, and if it is not an extension of the agenda or vision of missio ecclesiarum, the mission of the Church.

This accords completely with the perspective of the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and with the insights of R.K. Soulen who speaks of “an economy of mutual blessing” between Israel and the Church under the good hand of God, working out his consummating purposes which are bigger than the vision and mission of the Church.

Yet, the Church and Israel are not meant to be essentially separate, but are rather two currently estranged sides of God’s Holy people, living in a state of schism not meant to be permanent.

In conceiving of that greater People of God, which we might best term "The Entire Covenant Peoples of God" (see discussion below), what the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm highlights in addition to all of the above is that there is a Remnant within Israel of Yeshua believing Jews who are meant to live as Jews and in submission to Israel’s covenantal responsibilities, and thereby act as a connecting point for the Church from among the nations to become part of the Commonwealth of Israel.

With the discovery of a new paradigm comes the need for new terminology. Perhaps the term we need to begin using is “The Entire Covenant Peoples of God,” being an entity comprised of the fullness of Israel and the fullness of the nations. Contrary to supersessionist assumptions, the Church is not the entire people of God—Israel is part of that people. More than that, Israel is the foundational people of God, and the Gentiles, the Church from among the nations, becomes, through Christ, part of the Commonwealth of Israel. They do not usurp Israel, but rather join with Israel.

On this matter, Carl Kinbar makes the following helpful contribution:

The word translated commonwealth (politeia) means... commonwealth, like the British Commonwealth. As you know, back then, citizens of Roman cities throughout the Empire were considered Roman citizens, but the cities themselves were not within Rome, but within the politeia of Rome. Likewise today, although citizens of Australia are commonwealth citizens, with certain privileges inuring to them, but Australia is not within Britain. I think that politeia is a very precise term here. If I'm right, then believers from among the nations (perhaps as part of ethnic believing communities) become part of the commonwealth of Israel but the Church does not become part of Israel [Carl Kinbar, in a private email, April 18, 2006].

There is a both and going on here. God is at work in the Church, and he is at work in Israel. He is at work in the wider world as well, in what Verkuyl calls "mission homimum" and " missio politica ecumenica." Clearly, the missio Dei is greater than the missio ecclesiarum. As bearers of the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, we see as well that God is at work crafting a people for His name’s sake in Messiah Yeshua, comprised of both the Yeshua believing Remnant within Israel and the Church from among the nations. In the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, we call this the ekklesia, but this term may need to be retired, as it is too easily seen as the restricted to the Church, making the people of God synonymous with the Church, while in fact, the people of God is a larger category, whom I am provisionally calling here “The Entire Covenant Peoples of God.” I have little doubt that I will continue tinkering with terminology. For now, at least, it seems best to refer to "The Entire Covenant Peoples of God," especially since, as the NRSV rightly translates Revelation 21:3, the eternal state will be such that:

See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them.

We need to think of the people [better, "peoples"] of God as those joined to each other and to God through the Person and Work of Christ by Divine choice, that is "election." It is only when we make explicit faith in Christ to be the sole criterion of being part of the people(s) of God that we encounter difficulties. We hold that the peoples of God is a larger category than those who believe in Christ as Lord. Although it is right to call the latter part of the peoples of God, we do not have the right to call them the complete people of God. Instead of this fideistic category, we leave to God (of course) His completee freedom of choice, and with that, the right to determine on what bases individuals or groups are beneficiaries of Yeshua’s saving work. Those who believe in Him? Certainly. But only those?

For us, this question becomes especially complicated when thinking of the Jewish people who have been the elect covenant people of God for four thousand years, and whose general unbelief in Christ was divinely ordained, salvific, and, by divine design, destined to be temporary. And, among the pious of Israel, the expectation of the coming of Messiah is a linchpin of their faith. Must we treat their covenant faithfulness and expectation of the Messiah as of no import? Hardly!

We are not arguing here about so-called Anonymous Christians, because our concern is not with sincere religionists throughout the world and throughout history. Our concern is with the elect covenant people of the True and Living God, the people of Israel. Our concern is to reframe missiological thinking in a non-supersessionist manner, paying due heed to the election and covenant status of the Jewish people and also to the judicial nature of their hardening and blindness in respect to Christ, which Scripture says was salvific for the Gentiles, and temporary for Israel. Furthermore, Scripture is clear that when that hardening is reversed, this will be a culminating and consummating act of God for Israel, the nations, and the cosmos! In other words, if the full inclusion of the people of Israel is intrinsic to the missio Dei, dare we assume that the Jewish people, the elect covenant people of God, necessarily dropped off His map when he temporarily blinded them?

Israel is a special case. All concerned to better understand why should read Michael Wyschogrod's "The Body of Faith," and his collection of essays, edited by R. K. Soulen, "Abraham's Promise." Also of note, Soulen's "The God of Israel and Christian Theology," and relevant materials in the writings of Karl Barth. In combination with the foregoing, of course and always, each should read the Bible afresh, not for confirmation of entrenched positions, which is the inclination of all of us, but for fresh air and new light.

And there is yet more. There always is.


At 4/21/2006 1:31 PM, Anonymous Chayamindle said...

"The righteous of all nations will have a share, (reward) in the world to come." (Sanhedrin 105a)

Your comments and perspective as to how this familiar, oft-quoted Talmudic passage has application for the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, (EMJP) both directly and indirectly, would be most enlightening to all your readers.

Thanks in advance.

Have a Blessed Shabbos!


At 4/21/2006 1:51 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Indeed, this is germane to our discussion, as is the related statement, "All Israel have a share in the world to come," which is followed immediately with the statement "The following do NOT have a share in the world to come."

I have always understood this latter statement to mean that the covenant people of God all have a share in the world to come, with the exception of those whose conduct effectively opts them out of covenant solidarity with their people.

So it is that Paul can say "all Israel will be saved," and not be required to mean "every single Jew alive," because there are some Israelites whose behavior will disqualify them from their claims to that identity and the attendant covenant privelege.


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