Persuasion versus Education
In my previous post I made the sweeping accusation that the Christian missionary campaign favors persuasion over education. At first glance my accusation may perhaps seem to render me guilty of the same charges that I bring against the missionaries. How can I use such a broad brush to paint a campaign that is 2000 years old, and that has engaged many world-class scholars? Take for example Dr. Brown’s 5 volume series; “Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus” – a work that takes up over 1500 pages. How can I label such a work a work of persuasion and not acknowledge its educational value?
In the following paragraphs I will present my case, and in the spirit of education, I will leave it to the readers to come to their own conclusions.
The purpose of the missionary campaign is to convince its target audience that the doctrines of Christianity are true while the doctrines of Judaism (inasmuch as they conflict with the doctrines of Christianity) are false. The primary tool of the missionary effort is the Jewish Bible (known to Christians by the term Old Testament). The basic structure of the 2000 year missionary campaign attempts to establish a basis for Christian theology on the words of the Jewish prophets.
The age-old method of the missionary is the presentation of a specific passage from the Jewish Scripture that seems to support a given Christian doctrine. The missionary’s argument to the Jew is then; your own Scriptures validate the theology of Christianity.
I contend that this method, standing on its own, is an act of persuasion and not one of education and this for several reasons, four of which I shall present here.
1) The Totality of the Belief System
The missionary argument is not merely advancing one doctrine. The contention of the missionary is that the entire belief system known as Christianity is true. This being the case, in order to arrive at an educated decision, one would have to weigh the complete belief system of Christianity against the words of the Jewish prophets.
For many long centuries, the Church has preached a theology of replacement; i.e. that the Jewish people are no longer God’s elect. This teaching is openly refuted by Scripture. There are more verses in the Jewish Scripture that speak of Israel’s immutable election than all of the passages that can be quoted to support all of the Christian doctrines combined. For the purpose of education – I will provide the list:
Genesis 9:27, 12:2,7, 13:14-17, 15:5,7,18, 17:7-14, 18:18, 22;17,18, 25:23, 26:3-5, 28:13,14, 35:12, 48:4,16,20, 49:10, 50:24, Exodus 2:24, 3:8,17, 4:22, 6:4,8, 8:19, 11:7, 15:16,17, 19:5,6 24:8, 25:8,22, 29:43-46, 31:12-17, 33:1,16, 34:10,27, Leviticus 11:45, 15:31, 19:2, 20:3,24,26, 22:33, 26:44, Numbers 15:41, 22:12, 23:21, 24:9, 33:53, 35:34, Deuteronomy 1:8, 4:7,20,31-39, 6:10,18, 7:6-8, 8:1, 9:5,26,29, 10:11,15, 11:12,31, 14:1,2, 21:8, 23:6, 26:15-19, 27:9, 29:11-14, 32:9-12, 33:28,29, Joshua 1:6, 5:6, 21:41, 1Samuel 12:22, 2Samuel 7:23,24, 1Kings 8:13,51-53, 9:3, 10:9, 11:36, Jeremiah 2:2,3, 10:16, 12:14, 14:9, 31:2,8,34-36, 33:19-26, 46:27,28, 50:33,34, 51:5, Ezekiel 11:16, 16:60, 37:28, Isaiah 41:8-16, 43:1-21, 44:1-8,21-23, 45:4,14-17, 46:3,4, 48:12, 49:14-16, 51:7,15,16,22-52:12, 54:10, 55:5, 59:21, 60:1-3,12,21, 61:6,9, 62:1-12, Hosea 2:1,21,22, Joel 4:17,20,21, Zephaniah 3:20, Zechariah 2:12, 8:20-23, Malachi 1:2, Psalm 28:9, 29:11, 38:12, 44:18, 47:4,5, 48:9,15, 50:7, 68:35,36, 74:2, 78:5,69, 79:13, 89:16, 94:14, 95:7, 98:1-3, 100:3, 105:8-45, 111:4-9, 125:2, 132:13-18, 133:3, 135:4, 144:15, 147:19,20, 148:14, 149:2,4, Nehemiah 1:10, 9:7,8, 1Chronicles 15:2, 16:15-22, 17:21,22,24, 23:13,25, 2Chronicles 6:6, 7:16, 9:8, 20:7
Today, many denominations of Christianity have come to realize the error of replacement theology. This means that for all those years that the acceptance of Jesus was bound up with a rejection of Israel’s calling before God – anyone who had been persuaded by the Christian missionary campaign to accept the total package of Christianity was not making an educated decision. This is not my verdict, but the verdict of those Churches who acknowledge the error of their teachers.
2) The Totality of Scripture
If we are going to look to the Jewish Scriptures to find confirmation or repudiation for any given doctrine, and if we are interested in education as opposed to persuasion, we ought to set a Scriptural standard by which we can evaluate the doctrine in question. In my article entitled “Contra Brown” (http://jewsforjudaism.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=402&Itemid=354 ) I put forth a basic set of standards that we could use to measure the Scriptural validity of any given doctrine. If we apply those standards, it will become clear that the arguments of the missionary have no basis in the words of the Jewish prophets. It is only when we skip this basic step of setting a standard for the discussion that the missionary argument can get off the ground.
It is not that missionaries do not understand the concept of setting a Scriptural standard that could be used to measure the Scriptural viability of a given doctrine. In Dr. Brown’s comprehensive work he applies certain Scriptural standards in an attempt to disqualify the arguments of the Jewish community. On pages 182 of vol. 2 and 172 of vol. 3 Brown uses the amount of times a given concept is mentioned by the prophets as a standard by which to evaluate the overall significance of a given doctrine. But he only uses this standard to measure the doctrines of Judaism (when they would fail according to his application of this standard). Throughout his 5 volumes he NEVER uses this Scriptural standard as a yardstick to measure any Christian doctrine (all of which would fail by this yardstick).
I have yet to see a missionary work that sets a Scriptural standard that can be used to evaluate the opposing doctrines of Judaism and Christianity in light of the Jewish scriptures. As long as the missionary campaign skips the elementary step of setting a uniform standard by which to measure the Scriptural validity of a given doctrine and instead jumps right into the presentation of their own arguments – I will believe that their campaign is one of persuasion and not education.
3) Faith Structure
By basing their arguments on the words of the Jewish prophets, Christian missionaries acknowledge that these words are truly imbued with Divine authority. By encouraging people to make life-changing decisions on the basis of the Jewish Bible, the Christian missionary admits that this book is authentic and true.
But where did this book come from? Who determined that the men and women whose words are recorded in the Jewish Bible were truly sent by God? What standard did God give His people so that they could verify the authenticity of a given prophecy? Who was authorized to apply the divinely ordained standards of evaluating any given claim to prophecy?
I will not answer these questions in the space of this brief article. I will however point out that for 2000 years the Jewish people have been claiming that the very same set of criteria that God gave them to establish the authenticity of the Jewish Bible compels them to reject the Christian Bible.
I don’t expect a Christian to take my word for it. What I do expect is that if the Christian missionary campaign was truly interested in education they would first address this question in a serious way. What method did God set in place so that we can be sure of the truth of the Bible? I am aware that these questions have been addressed by Christian scholars. But I have yet to see this question addressed in the context of the conflict between the Christian missionary and the Jew.
Again, so long as the Christian missionary campaign skips this elementary step of first establishing the parameters of the faith structure upon which the Bible stands and jumps right to the presentation of Scriptural arguments – I will believe that their campaign is one of persuasion and not of education.
4) Do Not Unto Others What You Would Hate Done Unto Yourself
Before Jesus was born no-one had heard of him and before Jesus was born no-one had entered into a relationship with him. The Jewish people did know of God and the Jewish people were called into a covenant relationship with God long before Jesus was born. When the Christian missionary approaches a committed Jew with the suggestion that the Jew pledge his or her heart to Jesus, the missionary is intruding upon an existing relationship. That heart is already pledged to God.
I understand that the missionary contends that Jesus is in some mysterious way “one and the same” with the God of Israel. I will not dispute that contention in the space of this article. Instead, I will put the missionary argument into a Christian context.
Before approaching the Jew in an attempt to get him or her to put their faith in Jesus, I suggest that the missionaries turn to ask themselves the following set of questions:
“What would it take? – What it would it take to convince you to put your faith in a person aside from Jesus? How much evidence would you demand before accepting the claim that someone, who lives today, is a reincarnation of Jesus? What would be the quality of proof that you will want to see before believing that someone is the fourth person in the god-head? What would it take to convince you that your faith in Jesus is dead without faith in another person? What it would take to get you to believe that you are going to hell if you don’t believe in this new incarnation of Jesus? What is the standard of Biblical evidence that you will want to see before accepting this new doctrine?”
Until the missionary comes to grips with this set of questions and provides a fair and balanced standard of evidence that would convince him or her to bring a new entity into their own heart, then I will believe that their efforts to bring Jesus into the heart of the Jew is a work of persuasion and not education.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal