Jews and Christians: Coming to faith

On the RoshPinaProject Messianic Jewish site appears a report on Eddie Beckford, a Christian missionary in Israel, who was found guilty of attacking a group of (Jewish) anti-missionaries. The Messianic Jews (followers of Jesus/Yeshua) defended Beckford while the Jewish camp said he’d got his just desserts. Nothing – predictably – was resolved. Most people, naturally (because that is human nature), have fixed views, where no argument, no matter how clear, is going to persuade. I said most people; there are, though, a minority who – upon hearing a different view, even an opposing view – change. There’s also no lack of pride and prejudice in the human soul.

Although I hadn’t read anything on the Beckworth affair, I added – as is my wont – my titbit to the conversation, because like Lady Catherine de Burgh in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, “I must have my share.”

I quoted Stuart Chase: “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” (Stuart Chase was a celebrated economist of the first half of the 20th century).”

For Stuart Chase, any belief not based on external verifiable proof was nonsense. For this reason, he rejected philosophy and religion. “I pass it up, Chase says, I pass up all such talk…. It saves a lot of time. But the talk of Einstein and Planck I do not pass up. I do not understand all of it , but I know by diligence I could come to understand it. The symbols connect with real things. The talk checks with observable phenomena…In reading, in listening, I try to separate talk which goes round and round from talk which refers to something outside my head.” (Chase in “I believe. The Personal Philosophies of twenty-three eminent men and women of out time,” 1952 (first published 1940), London, George Allen and Unwin, p. 56). (My underlining).

If a Jew could have proved to Chase’s satisfaction that, first, the Torah was a true historical document, and second – which is a tad more difficult – that God appeared in the lightning and thunder on Sinai, Chase would still not have believed. What he meant by “for those who believe, no proof is necessary” is that “for those who want to believe, no proof is necessary; and what he meant by “for those who don’t believe, no proof is possible is “for those who don’t want to believe, no proof is possible.” In other words all human beings choose what they want to believe. This, ironically, is also the Christian biblical position. Come with me to discover why this is so.

Here is Filo’s reply to my comment containing the quote from Stuart Chase (“bography” is my blog user name):

“To bography’s ultimate statement of Christian faith, hear hear: ‘For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.’ For bography, and indeed all Christians, the one thing that must be avoided is an intellectual engagement with the facts. Whereas no one remains in Judaism except by a consideration of the evidence, no one remains in Christianity except by ignoring it.”

Filo says (above) that my “unjustifiable leap-of-faith mentality” causes me to that Jesus fulfilled messianic prophecies of the Jewish Bible. Filo continues:

“Contrary to bography’s willful disregard of the facts (and his resultant arrival at Christianity), Moses urged the Jews to contemplate them (the facts) carefully: “You saw with your own eyes what the L-rd did” (Deut. 4:3), and that is the ONLY (Filo’s emphasis) reason why you should believe in Judaism. Meanwhile, bography believes in a god who’s very existence is a matter of hearsay, with the only documentation of his doings being a “new testament” written by a lone guy who never met Jesus but who had a daydream about him decades after Jesus’ alleged crucifixion. What a difference!!!”

I won’t exclaim but just explain:

Filo states that whereas his Mosaic “contemplation of the facts” is proof that Judaism is fullproof, my “wilful disregard of the facts” is proof that no proof will convince me of the truth.

There is a major difference between the Jewish and the New Testament idea of “revelation.” In Judaism, “revelation” subsumes several meanings, which range from God’s supernatural impartation of divine truth to the human apprehension of God through reason. Filo – like Moses Maimonides (Rambam) and the majority of Orthodox Jews – “contemplate” (Filo’s word) God from the rational extreme of the range.

I should mention that the Bible distinguishes between  Natural and supernatural revelation: Ps. xix : “The heavens declare the glory of God” (natural revelation) but “the heavens,” says Francis Bacon, “indeed tell of the glory of God, but not of His will according to which the poet prays to be pardoned and sanctified” (supernatural revelation).

In christianity, the New Testament defines  supernatural “revelation” as theopneustos “God-breathed”:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy, 3:16).

In contrast to Judaism, Christianity has only one way to discover the God of the Bible: God. God breathes out His revelation into human hearts. Christian revelation is not strictly speaking inspiration (which refers to the target of the divine word – human beings) but expiration (the source of the divine word – God); God “expires” his life-giving breath into expired souls, that is, souls dead to the things of God.

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:1-9).

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy, 3:16).

Christians consider Paul’s letters as “scripture. A common Jewish objection is that Paul’s “scripture” in “all Scripture is God-breathed” (Timothy, 3:16) refers to the Jewish scriptures, because when Paul wrote the letter to Timothy he couldn’t have been referring to his own letter as scripture. A thorough examination of this issue cannot be dealt with here; instead, I mention two relevant scriptures:

“I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (Paul’s letter to the Galatians 1:12). Isn’t this that same “lone guy” on one of his “daydreams” again (Filo above)? The Apostle Peter didn’t think so, because he states that Paul’s letters are “scripture.” Peter said:

“Account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation, even as our beloved brother, Paul, also according to the wisdom given unto him has written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable twist, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Thus Peter regards all Paul’s writings as scripture. (Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). (My emphasis).

In Filo’s mind, this is all “daydreams,” foolishness, a false philosphy. God is not surprised, nor is Paul phased by the wise, the intelligent, the Filosophers of this world.

Paul’s first chapter to the Corinthians contrasts the “foolishess” of Christian revelation with the “wisdom of the wise”:

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate. Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

This does not mean that the Christianity has no historical footing. On the contrary, the NT contains many references to what the disciples saw and heard: “what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). One doesn’t have faith in a foot. Where there’s a (living) foot – historical records of what people saw and heard – there is usually a person. What Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians above is that the person of Jesus (the) Christ, and faith (trust) in Him, is not discovered through human means; it’s a gift of God. This kind of talk is foreign and nonsensical to the wise, intellectual, ratiocinating rabbinic mind, but not silly at all to the great characters of the Bible such as Abraham, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah and, indeed, Moses himself. I’m talking about how they came to believe in the God of Israel. Here is a well-known excerpt of how Moses came to believe in God:

Exodus 3

  1. Now Moses was shepherding the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to the mountain of God, to Horeb. 2 The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from within a bush. He looked – and the bush was ablaze with fire, but it was not being consumed! 3 So Moses thought, “I will turn aside to see this amazing sight. Why does the bush not burn up?” 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him from within the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 God said, “Do not approach any closer! Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He added, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Compare Moses’ experience with Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus:

“And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven…” (Acts 9:3); “At midday, O king,  I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me (Acts 26:13).”

Now, were Moses and Saul of Tarsus (Paul) engaged in an “intellectual consideration of the evidence” (Filo’s words) that ensured that they would not do an “unjustifiable leap-of-faith” (Filo’s Fido)? (Fido,“faithful” in Latin). Did they make an intellectual decision to believe? Let’s read how Saul came to believe:

9“I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.”

12 “In this connectionI journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles – to whom I  am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may (that is, will) receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ (My italics).

Did Jesus ask Paul to make a decision to believe in him? Not at all. Jesus doesn’t ask Paul whether he is willing to be sent: “I am sending you,” says Jesus. And Paul willingly goes. Jesus has made him free to love Him. No more kicking at the pricks for Paul, and certainly none of “nobody is going to shape my future,” or “nobody is going to kick me around.” The same goes for Moses.

I’d better stop and run; I can see Filo and his Christian minions – the arminians – coming.



6 thoughts on “Jews and Christians: Coming to faith

  1. Well argued. A minor quibble, though I may have misunderstood, the “graphe” (text) is expired as well as the persons who are called. The text contains promises facilitating the divine nature (II Pe.1) in the Christian the same as those who claimed them at an earlier time such as David, Daniel, Ezekiel, et al.

    I will reblog this.

  2. Here is the section I was responding to with my post: “In contrast to Judaism, Christianity has only one way to discover the God of the Bible: God. God breathes out His revelation into human hearts. Christian revelation is not strictly speaking inspiration (which refers to the target of the divine word – human beings) but expiration (the source of the divine word – God); God “expires” his life-giving breath into expired souls, that is, souls dead to the things of God.”

    I agree with the statement but want to add the production of the text as an expiration also.

  3. Pingback: A city of wisdom | daily meditation

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