Response to Gil Torres
It has come to my attention that one Gil Torres has taken exception to my article entitled “Christianity Unmasked”. In an article of his own Torres attempts to respond to a number of points that I raise in the aforementioned article. I would like to thank Mr. Torres for giving me the opportunity and the context to bring greater clarity to these important issues.
Torres labels the belief of Judaism in the Creator of heaven and earth and Israel’s loyalty to her God with the term: “unbelief”. The usage of such terminology distorts the essence of the discussion. By labeling the Jewish position that refuses to attribute divinity to Jesus as “unbelief”, the discussion is cast in the mold of a discussion as to whether we do believe or do not believe in the supposed divinity of Jesus. This is false. The discussion does not begin with the advent of Jesus. The discussion begins with the loyalty that God demanded before Jesus ever walked the earth. Did that loyalty allow for the direction of devotion towards a human? Or did the loyalty to God that existed before the birth of Jesus leave no room for devotion to a human. What was the foundation of our worship before the advent of Christianity and did that foundation change? Could that foundation change? This is the discussion. https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/foundation-of-worship-iii/
I have presented the argument that the literary tools that Matthew uses give Jesus the appearance of one who originates universal truths that were unheard of before Jesus uttered them. I pointed to the fact that Matthew uses the teaching of these universal truths, not so much as a guide for Godly behavior or as an exaltation of the principles of justice and charity but rather as an exaltation of the man Jesus.
Torres claims that my argument is weak and unnecessary. He goes on to say that he has asserted that Jesus taught very little that was new.
But Torres did not address the words of Matthew. Is the Sermon on the Mount not presented by Matthew as an exaltation of Jesus rather than an exaltation of the teachings he is propounding or is it not? What does Matthew mean with the expression: “you have heard that it was said to them of old time… but I say to you”? How has that expression been understood by the readers of Matthew’s words for the past two millennia?
Torres goes on to say: “When our convictions meet or exceed those of the originator have we not effectively made those truths our own so as to live and die by them?” If I understood him correctly he is implying that because Jesus’ convictions concerning the universal truths exceeded those of the originator of these truths then he could rightly call them his own.
The originator of the universal truths is the Creator of heaven and earth and no one can “exceed” the convictions of the originator of these truths.
In response to my assertion that the Church teaches that belief in Jesus generates a certain righteousness in man that is unavailable without devotion to Jesus, Torres writes: “IT IS NOT that non-Christians cannot do good. It is not that they cannot do righteousness. Furthermore, it is not that they fail to DO good or DO righteousness. Rather, it is that the good they do and the righteousness they do is according to a righteousness in accordance with their own standard.”
However you want to word it the upshot is that this doctrine asserts that Christians are intrinsically different than non-Christians in the righteousness that they do or do not do. This is a dangerous fallacy and has no support from the words of the prophets of God. My arguments in “Christianity Unmasked” remain unaffected by Torres’ rewording of this Christian teaching.
I wrote that Israel was “trustworthy enough to establish the credibility of her covenant with God, her prophets and her Messianic vision”.
Torres challenges me with the question: “What does “trustworthy enough to establish the credibility” mean? Your statement does bring to my remembrance the admonition of God to Israel that He had not chosen them because of piety, goodness or anything God deems favorable. Rather, Israel was chosen because of God’s was faithfulness to his promise to Abraham.”
My point about Israel’s trustworthiness is not a point about Israel’s piety; it is a point about the way God chose to operate. It was He who chose this nation as His witnesses (Isaiah 43:10). You could reject their testimony by throwing out their Scriptures or you can accept it and realize that devotion to Jesus is idolatry; but you can’t honestly do both at the same time.
In “Christianity Unmasked” I stated that: “According to the Jewish Bible, the deification of any inhabitant of God’s earth is idolatry, the greatest rebellion against God.”
Torres seems to agree with me this time; however, he attributes certain motivations to me thus deflecting the discussion. Here are Torres’ words: “This is certainly a true statement. Yet, as true and noble as it may make us sound or make us appear it is not to say there is much or any degree of appreciation for one of your key points: Man was created in the image of God.” Torres goes on to “remind” me that Israel sinned against God by worshipping idols.
This will come as a shock to Torres but I did not write the statement in order to make myself “appear noble”. I am well aware of my own faults and the faults of my nation. I wrote that statement simply in order to encourage myself and others to avoid the sin of idolatry and to constantly grow stronger in our absolute devotion to God. As we progress in our devotion to God all other considerations such as Jesus, Buddha, the desire for honor and wealth all fade away into the background.
Torres goes on to assert that the alleged resurrection of Jesus confirmed his claims to deity.
The fact is that according to the Jewish Bible no miracle, no matter how spectacular, can confirm anyone’s claim for deity.
(Please see point # 5 in my critique of Dr. Brown’s volume 4 for an expanded treatment of this subject.)
In “Christianity Unmasked” I expose the tactic of the Church when it claims that the Messianic promise is exclusively reserved for those who are devoted to Jesus. Torres seems to be bothered by this argument. He responds with the following paragraph: “This statement struck me as peculiar until I read the rest of your article. A message of exclusivity does not play well in our present world. The world wants to be safe, as in professing trust in God in accordance with a particular tenet of faith, while being open to anything and everything. This is the way to absolve oneself both from the need to understand, teach and tougher still, to correct.”
Torres did not address my point at all. The Jewish prophets openly declare that the Messianic promise will unite all of mankind in the service of God (Zephaniah 3). Torres has no response to this. Instead he charges that the desire to avoid exclusivity is a way to absolve oneself of the need to understand, teach, and be corrected. Torres could not be more wrong. It is the Church’s teaching on exclusivity which has “absolved” them from the desire to understand and be corrected. When one is convinced that they already possess the exclusive ticket to heaven; why should they bother trying to understand? It is only when we acknowledge that God judges every man and woman according to their situation, their capabilities and their opportunities that we realize our responsibility before God to learn to be corrected and to forever grow.
Torres accuses me of distorting the message of the prophets: “You ply on the prophets and their message of hope to the world to employ your own message. Was the message of prophets like today’s new age, culture-speak of “focus(ing) on the positive”, “overcome(ing) psychological barriers,” of “Your relationship with your Creator . . . before you were born” or did they call it sin? Yes, in the midst of their proclamation of messianic hope and calling Israel back from her rebellion against God they called it sin. We know of the people’s response to the message of sin by the prophets and the fate faced by those servants of God.”
What did the prophets call sin? Did they teach, as does the Church, that man’s situation is hopeless? Not at all! They encouraged us to focus on the positive and on God’s all-encompassing goodness (Psalm 100:2-5). They encouraged us to overcome psychological barriers (Ezekiel 33:10-20). And they spoke of God’s love for us before we were born (Psalm 139:13-16; Job 10:8-12). The Church’s ongoing attempt to oppose these teachings must be unmasked.
Torres responds to my accusation that the Church stole Israel’s Scriptures from her with the assertion: “Your lament about how the church has stolen the scriptures, Jewish culture is unconvincing. It is unconvincing because Israel still has the scriptures and her culture. Whatever the church or anyone else might do with those scriptures and that culture can in no way be taken from Israel. Your mistaken view to equate the precepts and practices of the Catholic church as that of all disciples of Jesus is seriously flawed.”
Indeed; our Scriptures can never be truly stolen from us. But for long centuries the Church, both Protestant and Catholic, have claimed that it is their interpretation of our scriptures that is accurate as if they were the intended audience of those Scriptures. It seems that this exercise is still ongoing.
As long as people are still being directed away from the God of truth by the teachings of the Church it will be the duty of God’s witnesses to unmask their efforts.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal