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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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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Seeds, Weeds and Walking the High Wire: The Weed of Antinomianism

This posting is the fourth part of a series on where the Messianic Jewish Movement needs to be heading and why.

Sowing and growing the seeds of zikkaron/anamnesis and prolepsis is no uncontested operation. There are always weeds. I will name four. The weed of antinomianism is the first.

For more than thirty years, in Jewish Yeshua-believer circles, Arnold Fruchtenbaum has held a unique position as a tightly organized and highly focused Bible teacher. Although his audience among us is less than it once was, the spores of his perspective on Torah observance continue to sprout stubborn weeds throughout our Big Tent. I have chosen him because he is an especially focused example of the matter I am addressing. However, nothing I say should regarded as indicative of disrespect. I like Arnold Fruchtenbaum, and respect him. However, his views are problemmatical.

Fruchtenbaum says that the authority of the Mosaic Law has been annulled with the death of Messiah.

The Law is a unit comprised of 613 commandments, and all of it has been invalidated. There is no commandment that has continued beyond the cross of Christ. . . . It has completely ceased to function as an authority over individuals. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum. Hebrew Christianity: Its Theology, History, and Philosophy. Seventh Printing. (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries Press, 1995), 86.

He teaches that although there are those who may choose to obey some aspect, or even many aspects, of the Torah, as a badge of Jewish identity or means of identity preservation and inter-generational transmission, such actions must only be treated as matters of personal preference, and never regarded as either obligations or communal norms. For Fruchtenbaum and the Dispensationalism he champions, Torah obedience no longer has mandatory force. The one exception he allows is for those commandments required by Newer Testament teaching, by what he terms “the Law of Christ.”

It is right that we respect Fruchtenbaum and others like him who have worked hard and served well. However, spores spread by his brand of Dispensational theology posit the nullification of the Torah of Moses as a mandated standard of Jewish practice, and transplant personal volition and New Covenant standards in the place formerly occupied by Jewish life. We might even consider this a form of neo-Marcionism, under which the expired, defunct, and impotent Older Testamental statues, ordinances, and commandments of God are replaced by a more “enlightened” canon, the Law of Messiah.

If we are only under the Law of Messiah, in what ways, beyond simply familial nostalgia and genetic markers, are we, our calling, and our legacy, actually, rather than simply theoretically, different from other Yeshua believers? This perspective converts our covenantal Jewish identity into a genetic claim nurtured by nostalgia and collections of memorabilia, sustained by periodic get-togethers with other Jews.

Adherents to such a perspective are exiles from ongoing Jewish life and community, consigned to remember Zion by the waters of a strange theological Babylon, But how can we sing the songs of Zion in such a foreign land, exiled from the life of Torah, our spiritual homeland, and from the community to which we are joined by covenant?

Living under the Newer Covenant Law of Messiah, while treating the life of Torah obedience as “nice if that’s your style,” substitutes the cut glass of nostalgia for the bright diamond of Jewish covenantal life and community. Abandoning Israel’s call to covenant faithfulness dooms the Messianic Jewish Remnant to irrelevance. Instead, we condemn our families, our congregations, and our entire Movement to eventual assimilation, while nullifying our capacity to assist wider Israel in achieving and fulfilling its foreordained destiny and to walk in that faithfulness to which Hashem calls them--and us as well.