Saturday, May 16, 2009

Return of the Judaizers

If you've watched any preacher channel lately, you may have noticed that there is astonishingly little conversation about Christianity. Pretty much every show you see is about Judaism. Not only that, but it's about taking Christians back to Jewish custom and ritual. We've discussed this a little, but I haven't gotten my thoughts together to go into detail. Maybe I still haven't, but here goes anyway.

Consider this bit by Perry Stone:

Or John Hagee:

I heard Jack van Impe say something to the effect that the Church is the Bride of Christ but that the Jews are the Spouse of Yahweh. This makes for some really strange ecclesiology.

You might think this is small stuff, but I actually saw Ehud Olmert and Benjamin Netanyahu appearing on some of these preacher shows talking about how great these guys were to be promoting Judaism. If Israeli prime ministers are noticing, I think we can safely say that this is a big deal.

I think these Judaizing tendencies are the result of three major trends. One, of course, is the proliferation of dispensationalism. Why has dispensationalism become such a big deal? Personally, I think it's part of what a Protestant pastor once said to me in a discussion we were having about justification. He said that such arguments really didn't matter anymore because "Protestant theology is dead." His point was that there was no real science or reasoning regarding religious truths anymore. When was the last time you heard someone like Joel Osteen give reasons for their Biblical interpretation? Is anybody really going to mistake the latest Rick Warren fluff for Calvin's Institutes? You get the point.

Dispensationalism really seems to be the last theology left for Protestants these days. When was the last time you heard an argument about infant baptism? Or the properties of sanctification? Or the interplay between free will, grace, and predestination? I'm willing to bet that you haven't. It's pretty easy, though, to find folks at each others' throats about pre-trib/mid-trib/post-trib raptures.

Number two on the "Ascent of Judaizers" list is the fact that Protestants are starting to understand that the beliefs in stuff like liturgy, relics, sacramentals, etc. is all grounded in our Jewish roots. What we understand is that these Jewish practices are just types and foreshadowings of the New Covenant rites of the Church. We don't do seders, for example, although it seems that more and more Protestants are. We have the Eucharist.

Number three, and something that I think works on a much subtler level, is the popularity of once-saved-always-saved theology. By that, I mean that people are less concerned about their own salvation because they think they are guaranteed heaven regardless of their sins. Since they don't have to worry about fear and trembling and other such nonsense, they have to focus on something and that something is the Jewish people and the state of Israel. Strangely enough, these same folks often appear to be preaching that the Old Covenant has some sort of salvific effect. So, you must have faith in Jesus Christ and accept Him as your personal Lord and Savior, unless you just happen to be Jewish, in which case, you just have to follow the Law.

It's weird.

1 comment:

Jane said...

One of my late uncles was pastor for a "Jews for Jesus" community. It was a weird experience, the few times I went to their church for cousins' weddings, etc. But, even when I was in my early teens, your point about searching for traditions and sacramentals struck me. It's the same thing that strikes me when I play for evangelical Protestant weddings: they have no ritual, so they must make up their own or steal someone else's so that their worship services are more than fifteen minutes long.

Unfortunately, there are also some Catholics who try to have seders--having a Passover seder in the parish hall during Holy Week, for example. Slightly better is the "Lord's Day Meal" that we had at my college, imported from the charismatic community. It's a Christianization of the basic structure of a seder meal, and held on Saturday evenings. It is sad that some Catholics don't realize that we don't need those things--we have the Mass and the Divine Office.