Excerpt from a Written Debate with Dr. Brown
This debate took place on the comment section of Dr. Brown’s Line of Fire radio website – November 3 2011.
431. yisroel blumenthal
December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:07 am
Sheila and Dr. Brown
I am jumping ahead now to posts # 426, 427 and 428 because you are telling me that they touch the heart of the matter.
Exodus 24:10 was NOT part of the Sinai revelation in the sense of teaching Israel who it is that they are to worship.
In response to your next point – of-course the God of Sinai is the same as the God of Genesis 18, Exodus 24 and the God of the rest of the Tanach – there is only one God. When God appears to His prophets – however it is that He chooses to appear to them – they know that they are talking with the Master of all creation – that is what we call prophecy – when one KNOWS that he or she is talking with the Master of all creation. They did not need to run to their Bibles and try to figure out who they are talking to.
When people saw Jesus – they just saw a man (see your own comments in post #264)
The key here is that we learned at Sinai – what our fathers Abraham Isaac and Jacob knew before us that everything that happens here on earth is a gift from the all-powerful God who is above every form of existence that we can fathom – to point to the qualities (in this case the spiritual qualities of selflessness) of an inhabitant of this earth as emanating directly from God is to confuse the Ultimate Giver with one of His beneficiaries.
432. yisroel blumenthal
December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:25 am
To all of you who are seeking to reach clarity through this discussion on the issue of idolatry.
– I see the Christian veneration of Jesus as the very act of idolatry prohibited by our covenant with God. Some of you differ with my conclusion. I am getting very mixed messages as to WHY you differ with my conclusion.
To clarify – let me break the act of worship into its two component parts:
There is a verb –
there is a noun –
“object of worship”
In order to tell me that veneration of Jesus is not idolatry – you can say – the verb doesn’t apply here – in other words – what Christians do towards Jesus doesn’t qualify as worship.
You could argue that the noun doesn’t apply here – in other words – the object of worship – is not the object that is prohibited by our covenant with God.
There is a third argument that could be used and that is – that although the verb and the noun both apply – for some reason – worship of Jesus is an exception to the rule.
To clarify further. If God would have said – don’t press any button – and I think that you are encouraging me to press a button. You could tell me that what you are asking me to do is not “pressing” – you could tell me that the thing you are asking me to press is not a “button” – or you could tell me that although this does qualify as “pressing a button” – but this button is wired differently so it is OK to press this particular button.
Since I think you all acknowledge – that if the veneration that Christians direct toward Jesus would be directed to any other human being – you would all acknowledge that that would qualify as an act of idolatry.
This being the case (and please correct me if I am wrong) – then we can move the discussion away from the verb and the noun. In other words – this is an act of worship and this is an object that is prohibited. The only answer that you are left with – is the third one – that this particular man was wired differently than all the rest of them so the prohibition doesn’t apply.
The problem with your answer is that at Sinai – God gave us a tour of the wiring of creation – and all of it is wired just the same. Deuteronomy 4:35 doesn’t just say that we were shown who God is – it also says that we were shown who God isn’t “there is NONE else”
I hope this makes things clear – I look forward to your responses.
433. yisroel blumenthal
December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:27 am
One more attempt at reaching clarity
At Sinai we were taught to differentiate between Master and subject – between Giver and recipients.
We were taught that God is the ultimate Master and Giver (thus deserving of worship)- while everything else is subject and recipient (thus not deserving of worship).
When we see a man – and that is what we saw when we saw Jesus – we saw subject and recipient – did you see anything different?
435. Dr Michael L Brown
December 22nd, 2011 @ 11:30 am
Rabbi Blumenthal, you wrote, “When people saw Jesus – they just saw a man (see your own comments in post #264).” Absolutely not. When did I ever say that people (meaning his followers in particular) saw “just a man”?
454. yisroel blumenthal
December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:06 am
In response to #435 – In post # 364 (I mistakenly wrote 264 before – the first digit is cut off from the screen so I had to guess which hundred we were holding in) you wrote “there was not a full revelation of Yeshua’s deity to his followers until after His resurrection”
So what did they see before his resurrection – if it was not “just a man”? – and don’t you believe that he was “fully human”?
456. yisroel blumenthal
December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:18 am
To all of you – some more clarification
A repeated refrain is that I don’t understand what you believe. (I happen to disagree with that assessment – but I will not take it up here).
Worship is not a “belief”. Worship is something you do – not something you believe. Beliefs explain worship and attempt to justify it – but that is not worship.
I know what you do. You will acknowledge that whatever it is that you do towards Yeshua – if it were to be done towards anyone else would qualify as idolatry.
You now present your beliefs to justify this particular worship.
According to what we were taught at Sinai – no “belief” can justify this worship.
457. yisroel blumenthal
December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:25 am
Some more clarification
Allow me to explain the position of Tanach in relation to Sinai.
At Sinai God sealed a covenant with us – we were married to Him there. This was open and direct between us and God. Those who witnessed it did not need to know how to read in order to understand it neither did they have to be Bible scholars – everyone understood it and God went out of His way so to speak so that we can KNOW. The Tanach was given to us in the context of this covenant.
If you point to a passage in Tanach or even to many passages in Tanach – to support an argument that we violate the covenant as we understood it at Sinai – you have thus removed the Tanach from its covenantal context. I don’t need to examine the passage to see that you are making a mistake. The very context of the book tells me that.
458. yisroel blumenthal
December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:29 am
One more clarification
I don’t see Tanach encouraging me to try to understand the theologies of those who worship idols. The prophets ridicule the worship of idols in the most crude way. I know that idol worshipers (who we both identify as idol worshipers) had very sophisticated beliefs about their worship – “the statue is representing…” – but that is the point – if it could be represented by a statue – and anything between heaven and earth could be represented by a statue – then it is idolatry – giving to the subject and taker that which only the Master and the Ultimate Giver deserve.
460. Dr Michael L Brown
December 23rd, 2011 @ 11:11 am
Thanks for your attempts at clarification. I certainly understand what you believe (and am convinced it is wrong, based on the Tanakh itself), and I reiterate that you still don’t understand what we believe and that until you do, we will be like ships passing in the night. Since I genuinely believe you want true dialogue, I urge you to do what I have repeatedly encouraged you to do. Understand our point of view to the point that you could argue it yourself, then critique it (if you still feel the need to).
Otherwise, to say it once more, we will be like ships passing in the night, although I still believe that our prayers for you and the patient sharing of the truth here by Sheila and Dan1el and others will open your heart.
462. Dr Michael L Brown
December 23rd, 2011 @ 11:20 am
Because of the many posts here, I’ll quote yours in full first:
“In response to #435 – In post # 364 (I mistakenly wrote 264 before – the first digit is cut off from the screen so I had to guess which hundred we were holding in) you wrote ‘there was not a full revelation of Yeshua’s deity to his followers until after His resurrection.’
So what did they see before his resurrection – if it was not ‘just a man’? – and don’t you believe that he was ‘fully human’?”
Again, this illustrates clearly that you’re still missing our points here. Yeshua’s disciples absolutely recognized Him to be the Son of God and professed it on several occasions, and they certainly believed Him to be a human being as well, hence the Son of God here in the flesh. But the dimensions of what it meant to be Son of God were not fully revealed to them until after His resurrection.
And I remind you that the New Testament is very careful about the language used. It is “the Word” who became flesh, not “God” who became flesh, since the latter could readily be misunderstood. And this Word was God and yet was with God.
You constantly make reference to Sinai, and I concur. I worship the God of Sinai — and the God of the entire Bible, of course — and what did God say at Sinai? Don’t make a graven image of Him. Don’t make any earthly likeness of Him, since we saw no form when He spoke at Sinai. Amen and amen, a thousand times over. We agree!
So, what then is the problem? It’s that you don’t accept aspects of God’s revelation in His Messiah and we do, and you know that I believe the Tanakh supports the teaching that the Messiah will be divine.
The one and only God, who sits enthroned in heaven, whose glory fills the universe, whose Spirit works among us even now, whose unity is complex, at times visits us here on earth in bodily form through His Word/Son, and He did it most permanently in Yeshua. The Tanakh prepares the way for this, and I will not sin against God and reject Him and His witness. Sinai affirms this to me.
466. yisroel blumenthal
December 23rd, 2011 @ 1:58 pm
Dr. Brown, Dan1el and Sheila
I want to preface my words with my deep appreciation for your efforts and your patience in this dialogue – thank you.
I will try to respond to the last few points you raised.
Isaiah 53:1 reads “upon whom is the arm of the Lord revealed” – the arm of the Lord is revealed on behalf of the servant – the arm of the Lord is not the servant himself.
Micah 5:1 refers to God’s plan to bring the Messiah – which preceded the creation of the world. the origin of the Messiah is God’s plan and purpose concerning the redemption of the world.
What God said at Sinai – I should say what He showed us at Siani was that He alone is God. Teh prohibition against making an image is the natural result of that teaching.
When you say “fully divine and fully human” (I got that from the FIRE statement of faith) – in light of Sinai what you are saying is that he is fully worthy of all worship and fully not worthy of any worship – I should word that more strongly – One who intrinsically all worship is owed to – and one who, by very definition, owes worship with every fiber of his existence.
In order to say that one can be human and still worthy of worship – you have to mitigate the fact that – by definition – a human owes worship and cannot be worthy of worship.
The lesson of Sinai is that everything – everything between heaven and earth owes worship to the One above and beyond heaven and earth. And “everything” includes Jesus.
Do you not believe that when Jesus was on earth – that he owed worship to God the Father?
And if you deny that he did – then you are saying that the fact that someone walks on God’s earth under God’s heaven doesn’t intrinsically owe worship to the Creator of heaven and earth – you might as well make a statue.
469. Dr Michael L Brown
December 23rd, 2011 @ 3:07 pm
Thanks for your patience and perseverance as well.
You ask, “Do you not believe that when Jesus was on earth – that he owed worship to God the Father?”
Yes I do, which is part of the mystery of the Incarnation and part of the reality of the divine Word pitching His tent among us.
It is the eternal Son, God Himself, we worship.
501. yisroel blumenthal
December 25th, 2011 @ 9:02 am
You say you are worshiping the eternal son – God himself.
You are confusing worship and belief.
The worship you are encouraging is the worship of the central character in the Gospel stories – worship of a man.
You believe that this man is “eternal son God Himself” – that is a belief you have which you append on to your worship. This belief could technically be appended on to any of God’s creations. At Sinai we were taught that worship of any of His creations is idolatry – no matter what the belief.
Your appeal to “mystery” is anti-Scriptural. When it comes to idolatry and who it is that we are to worship; God appeals to our logic and even to our sense of humor to help us see the futility of worshiping one who walked God’s earth and breathed God’s air.
502. yisroel blumenthal
December 25th, 2011 @ 9:10 am
To clarify further.
You don’t encourage worship of half of Jesus’ personality.
Furthermore – your points about “we don’t worship the flesh” are irrelevant. Allow me to remind you of a commentary that you gave to Isaiah 40:6 in volume 5 – when the prophet points out that all flesh is ephemeral you comment – “this includes the most favored and exalted human beings” – I understand that you were not limiting your comment to the flesh of the people – but to their personality as well. The prophet calls a personality that is tied to flesh – by the term “flesh” – without distinction. – this includes the most favored and exalted human beings – including Jesus.
504. Dr Michael L Brown
December 25th, 2011 @ 9:29 am
I find this interaction truly remarkable, and the more you post, the more it proves my point: You fail to understand my beliefs and we continue to be like ships passing in the night. Again, I do not resist nor will I avoid ongoing interaction, as time permits, but this is ultimately a spiritual issue.
1) The God of the Scriptures is complex in His unity, sitting enthroned in heaven, filling the universe, touching us by His Spirit, and sometimes appearing in our midst. We speak of this as God’s tri-unity, and this is the God we worship.
2) This glorious God — the one and only God — commanded us not to make any graven image of Him, and we affirm this to the core of our being.
3) When He spoke to us at Sinai, He did not appear in any form (although in Scripture others saw His form), and that underscored the command not to make a graven image or worship Him in any form. Again, we totally affirm this.
4) In the person of Yeshua — who was not a mere mortal — God’s Word/Son pitched His tent among us, while the Father remained enthroned in heaven. (Think in terms of the sephirot and at least you will get in the right direction, although the truth is far more glorious.) As He had appeared in the Tanakh (as in Gen 18, to Abraham, in human flesh), so He appeared now in the person of Yeshua, except in a totally unique and glorious way. But we say emphatically that God is not a man!
5) Just as there are many aspects of God’s nature that are beyond us — because He is God, not man — His manifestation in our midst through Yeshua is beyond us, but we fully accept it as true, scriptural, and glorious, without the slightest possibility of anything idolatrous in any way, shape, size, or form. Again, with each new post you add, as sincerely as you are trying to prove a point, you underscore the fact that you do not understand what we believe. You could easily say I don’t understand what you believe — although I differ, I accept you saying this — but the more you accuse us of idolatry, the more you shout to us, “I don’t see and I don’t understand what the Scriptures really say!” (Again, you might say the same thing to me, which is fine. It just underscores that this is more a spiritual battle than an intellectual one.)
I leave you with this quote from the midrash to Psalm 91 it is written, “At [the moment that Moses finished building the Tabernacle], a great question arose: How could a Tabernacle with walls and curtains contain the Presence of the Almighty? The Master of the Universe Himself explained, ‘The entire world cannot contain My glory, yet when I wish, I can concentrate My entire essence into one small spot. Indeed, I am Most High, yet I sit in a [limited, constricted] refuge – in the shadow of the Tabernacle.’” Amen!
508. Dr Michael L Brown
December 25th, 2011 @ 9:51 am
With regard to “flesh,” even there, Yeshua was different in that he did not have sinful flesh, but even to address this point of yours in any depth is to once again, get us completely off topic, since you continue to miss the point. My question remains what it has been for years: When God makes His truth known to you, will you have the courage to follow Him?
513. yisroel blumenthal
December 25th, 2011 @ 10:33 am
You keep on reiterating that I do not understand what you believe.
First of all – you acknowledge that YOU don’t understand what you believe – to use your words “His manifestation in our midst through Yeshua is beyond us”. If it is beyond you – what do you want from me?
I may not understand your belief – but I understand your worship. After all – you are encouraging people to worship as yourself – so this is not some personal mystery between you and yourself – this is out in the public. You are encouraging people to bend their hearts towards the central character in the Gospel stories. Did I get it wrong? Is that not what you are encouraging?
In order to justify this worship – you present a certain theology – a belief. We were taught at Sinai that this worship is prohibited – and that no “belief” can justify it.
Furthermore – your magnet analogy fails. If all worship of Yeshua is a just a means to achieve a greater good and not an end in and of itself – you would not attempt to influence people who already worship the One Creator of heaven and earth. The fact that you try to influence people who already worship the One Creator of heaven and earth testifies most loudly that worship of Yeshua is NOT merely a path to lead one to worship of God.
514. yisroel blumenthal
December 25th, 2011 @ 10:39 am
How would you know that I do not understand your belief? Is it because I disagree with you? Do you notice that I am not commenting on your belief but on your worship?
I personally believe that if the truth of God’s sovereignty would be more clear to me – then my words would reflect that clarity and you would see the light. If my words do not convey that clarity – I see it as an indication that I need to get greater clarity and submit myself more deeply to the absolute sovereignty of God. My prayer is that my inadequacy not stand in the way of articulating His truth with which we – the Jewish people – were entrusted (Deuteronomy 4:35, Isaiah 43:10)
515. Dr Michael L Brown
December 25th, 2011 @ 10:41 am
Do you understand what you believe? You would say Yes. Is God greater than anything you can understand? You would say Yes again. The same with me.
I honestly don’t know if you’re trying to score a polemical point here (ill conceived, and, I would think, beneath you), or if you’re simply unwilling to hear me when I state that you don’t understand our beliefs and our worship. Either way, posts like this are utterly futile — except for reminding us of the need to pray for you more.
With all my heart, I want you to recognize Yeshua as our Messiah and King. When you do, your life will be radically transformed to the glory of God.
518. Dr Michael L Brown
December 25th, 2011 @ 10:50 am
As we bring this part of our discussion to a close, you ask, “How would you know that I do not understand your belief? Is it because I disagree with you? Do you notice that I am not commenting on your belief but on your worship?”
I would know that you understand my belief/worship by asking questions that applied to my belief/worship and not asking questions that do not apply to my belief/worship. I am not faulting you for failing to do so; I am simply saying it underscores a point I have made repeatedly here, namely, that this is a spiritual battle more than an intellectual one.
Please also notice that in hundreds of other posts and emails that we have exchanged — even in this thread — I do not commonly say to you, “You don’t understand what I believe.” That should say something to you as well.
519. yisroel blumenthal
December 25th, 2011 @ 10:53 am
The point I was trying to make is that beliefs about God by very definition are mysterious. I labor to understand as much of your belief as you do – and your statements to the effect that I don’t understand you don’t convince me that I don’t understand you. The fact that you quote the words of men (midrash) who considered your worship the deepest violation of Israel’s covenant with God – is an indication to me that you do not understand what I believe – but this is NOT a discussion about belief. It is a discussion about worship. Do you not see the difference between the two? Do you think that I don’t understand your worship?
520. Dr Michael L Brown
December 25th, 2011 @ 11:00 am
Rabbi Blumenthal, yes, absolutely, I think you don’t understand my worship, otherwise you would not be raising the questions you do or even arguing that anything spoken at Sinai contradicts my worship of God in any way. Once more, I don’t fault you for this, but I must reply honestly.
521. yisroel blumenthal
December 25th, 2011 @ 11:04 am
So my question as to whether Jesus is or isn’t a subject of God – is irrelevant?
My question (which you haven’t answered) asking if you acknowledge the distinction between belief and worship is irrelevant?
My question from Isaiah 40:6 is that also irrelevant?
What questions do you want me to ask?
What questions would YOU ask if someone were to point to a person – not Jesus but someone else – and try to convince you to worship that person because he is the Eternal son of God who is not mere mortal and is sinless and is the Word come in the flesh. Would you not ask the very same questions I am asking you?
522. Dr Michael L Brown
December 25th, 2011 @ 11:15 am
Start with God being a tri-unity and we proceed from there, and start with taking all the evidence of the Tanakh seriously, including prophecies of a divine Messiah. (Of course, you differ with me here, but at least start with these presuppositions on my part, based on Tanakh.) That alone changes the whole nature of your question to me, namely, “What questions would YOU ask if someone were to point to a person – not Jesus but someone else – and try to convince you to worship that person because he is the Eternal son of God who is not mere mortal and is sinless and is the Word come in the flesh. Would you not ask the very same questions I am asking you?”
Certainly not. We have the Tanakh in common and we debate that. That would not apply in your other scenario.
In any case, how does re-posting the same questions (that missed the point the first time around) prove that you understand my worship?
Yes, there is a difference between worship and belief. What have I not answered there?
I have no problem with others here continuing to interact with you on these points, but again, this has taken the thread far off topic for scores of posts here, and, as I stated over and again, we are like ships passing in the night on this issue, and time (and wisdom) does not permit me to go around and around on this point here.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal