While we did not want to devote another Havurah to The Challenge of our Messianic Movement,” we did want to print some of the responses to Part 2. Rich Robinson and Ruth Rosen have responded at the end. Note: the first two letters, by Mark Kinzer and Stuart Dauermann were printed in full as was Dana Pill’s.
I am grateful to Jews for Jesus for publicly addressing some key issues within the Messianic Jewish movement—and naming names (mine included). In the Fall 2003 issue of Havurah, Rich Robinson and Ruth Rosen critique explicitly the views of Rich Nichol, Tony Eaton, and myself. The article begins by stating its intention of avoiding a “divisive ‘us and them’ mentality.” While I think the article fails to fulfill this intention, I do not regret the failure.
For too long Jewish believers in Yeshua have papered over profound theological and methodological disagreements, in the interest of maintaining a semblance of unity. This is especially the case in regard to the relationship between Jews for Jesus and the Messianic Jewish congregational movement. There are major differences between us, and those differences need to be faced. For example, Jews for Jesus believes that Messianic Jewish congregational life and observance of Torah are “permissible,” so long as they are not considered normative (see the sidebar on page 4 of the Fall 2003 Havurah), whereas the Messianic Jewish congregational movement (by and large) holds the very position that Jews for Jesus rules out—the normative nature of Jewish congregational life, with the Torah as a central component of that life.
Now for the specific criticisms offered of my views. I am quoted (accurately) as stating that “the Jewish people and Judaism (always interpreted through a Messianic lens) serve as the primary locus of [our] social identity.” This is understood by Robinson and Rosen to mean, “we should identify first and foremost as Jews, and secondarily as followers of Jesus.” But this is not what I said. In fact, in the booklet I explicitly reject this way of formulating my position: “Our identification with the Jewish people does not compete with our identification with Yeshua. It can, however, compete with our identification with the Gentile church” (25). The issue being addressed is not our identity as Jews versus our identity in Yeshua, but our relationship as Messianic Jews to the wider Jewish community and to the “Gentile church,” i.e., the assembly of those from among the nations bound to Israel through their faith in Israel’s Messiah.
Fundamental to my ecclesiological convictions is the view that the Jewish people and tradition are already mysteriously bound to the person of Yeshua (The Nature of Messianic Judaism, 24-25). This is directly contrary to Robinson and Rosen’s view of the Jewish people as “a community that has defined itself by not believing in Jesus” (4). When Messianic Jews make the Jewish people their “primary locus of social identity,” we are identifying with a people that Yeshua has also identified with, and thus we are identifying with Yeshua himself.
At the same time, my book emphasizes a point unmentioned by Robinson and Rosen: our primary social identification with the Jewish community is necessary in order for us to serve the assembly of the nations by linking it to Israel. To function as that link, we must place a priority on rooting ourselves deeply in Jewish soil, while at the same time maintaining a genuine corporate bond with the “Gentile church.” Thus, our commitment to the Jewish people enables us to provide the assembly of the nations with something it could not get in any other way.
I am also quoted as saying the following: “Because of the validity of the Abrahamic covenant, I believe it’s still as possible for a Jew who doesn’t know Yeshua to have a living relationship with God, just as a Christian.” Robinson and Rosen conclude that my statement “is clearly an example of two-covenant theology, which says that Jews already have a covenant with God through Abraham and so do not need Jesus in order to find salvation” (6). Admittedly, such a statement could be an example of dual covenant theology, but it is not “clearly so.” And, in the mouth of a Messianic Jewish leader, one can safely assume that there is probably a different way of construing the remark. Dual covenant theology holds that Jews and Christians have two distinct and equally valid paths to God: Christians come to God through the covenant established by Yeshua’s sacrifice, whereas the relationship of Jews to God is through God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. I do not know of any Messianic Jews who believe in dual covenant theology, for this theological framework has no place for Messianic Judaism. Despite raising the specter of “dual covenant theology,” it appears that Robinson and Rosen also recognize that I do not embrace such a position, for they proceed to summarize my view as the belief that “God has already accepted them [i.e., non-Messianic Jews] in Yeshua” (emphasis mine).
I do believe that the Abrahamic covenant offers Jewish people access to God in and through Yeshua. That does not mean that all Jews, by virtue of being Jews, have a right relationship with God. It does mean that God’s favor still rests upon Israel, and He makes a way for humble and faithful members of His people to enter His presence through the unrecognized mediation of Israel’s Messiah.
Once again, I thank Jews for Jesus for facilitating this public discussion, and for helping to highlight and clarify the important differences that exist between us.
To the Editor,
I was glad to read Rich Robinson’s and Ruth Rosen’s article in your recent issue of Havurah. This is because it was an occasion to recall how long I have known them both (collectively, well over fifty years!) and to reflect how to my knowledge we have never had a cross word with each other. That is something to be grateful for.
That is not to say that I agree with what they said in their article. On the contrary, I found their portrayal of the UMJC and Hashivenu, Inc., to be inaccurate and problematical on multiple levels. Due to the space constraints inherent in a letter to the editor, I will confine my comments to only three matters.
 Rich and Ruth draw a conclusion that does not logically follow in alleging that Mark Kinzer’s comment that “it’s still possible for a Jew who doesn’t know Yeshua to have a living relationship with God, just as a Christian” indicates that he is saying that “a Jewish person can be saved because of the Abrahamic covenant” [emphasis yours]. You label this as a two-covenant position. However, his statement says nothing about salvation. Clearly he was talking about having a living relationship with G-d. For this reason, Rich and Ruth’s conclusion is both unsatisfactory and confusing. Can it be that you have repudiated Vera Schlamm, whose excellent biography, Pursued, JFJ has long distributed, and whose story you have featured in book, article and video form?
As you may remember, in part of her story she indicates that in coming to faith in Yeshua as an adult in the United States, she was but discovering the face of the God who had answered her prayers as a child in the concentration camp. In fact, in one of your ISSUES publications she puts it this way, “The day that I committed my life to Jesus as the Messiah, I realized that I hadn’t ‘changed’ but rather grown in my own faith.” According to her own account, which you published and distributed, even as a child she already had some sort of relationship with God—who answered her prayers in the camps before she believed in Yeshua. She indicates that her conversion meant entering more deeply into a previously existing relationship. Did Dr. Schlamm hold to a two covenant position?
The article is also illogical on Scriptural grounds. This is because I can’t imagine Rich and Ruth repudiating Acts 10, where Cornelius the Centurion, who had not yet heard the gospel which he needed to hear to be saved, is visited by the angel who tells him that “your gifts to the poor and your prayers have ascended as a memorial offering before God.” Clearly Cornelius had a relationship with God already—he had a reputation in heaven for his gifts to the poor and his prayers which had ascended and been well received there—before he heard the message of salvation in Yeshua. Did the angel and Luke, the author of Acts, believe in a two-covenant theory? These two illustrations, Dr. Schlamm and Cornelius, expose your conclusion regarding Dr. Kinzer to be not only unwarranted but also inconsistent with JFJ’s own media statements and with Scripture which I know you extol. This is puzzling to me.
 I am afraid there is yet more that is unsatisfactory and confusing. This is because Rich and Ruth create a straw man and a false dilemma by stressing that our core identity is that “we are part of his body, one with all believers in all times and places.” They stress that in the place of loyalty and relationship with the Jewish people, “our primary spiritual and social home must be among those whom we allow to influence us the most, and that should be the body of believers” [the Church]. In fact, they repeatedly pit loyalty and kinship with the Jewish community against our loyalty to the Church, stressing that a choice must be made of one against the other. This is troubling.
Because they mis-frame the question, the only “right” answer possible is the one they favor—but it is in fact a wrong answer because it answers a wrong question based on an artificial dichotomy. The question should be framed in the fashion of this one, which avoids this pitfall: “Which is more important to good health? A healthy lymphatic system or a healthy blood stream?” The only correct answer to this answer is “both.”
Similarly, a healthy Messianic Jew must manifest an ongoing vigorous and healthy loyalty both to the Jewish community and to the Church. The Jewish people are our mishpocha—our family of origin. The Church is our beloved in-laws, therefore also family. We in Hashivenu believe that it [is] only those who continue to show respect and love for their family of origin whom in-laws will trust to treat them properly as well. Or do Rich and Ruth believe that people who repudiate their family of origin are likely to treat their in-laws well? We in the UMJC believe that it is only as we continue to stay connected to and respectful of our family of origin that fair-minded Christians will trust and respect our relationship with the Church. But your article sees such loyalty and intimacy with the Jewish community to be seductive, dangerous and suspect at best. For us, on the other hand, the Hashivenu Core principle holds true: “The Jewish people are ‘us’ not ‘them.'”
And let me clarify that these are not simply equal loyalties. Our primary and continuing identity must be as part of the Jewish people, and this, not simply as a matter of etiquette. The continuing purposes of God for the Jewish people as a people includes a particular destiny for “the church from among the circumcision.” We must not restrict God’s continuing purposes for Israel to an eventual Millennium! We have a communal and distinct role to play now as the remnant within Israel.
That irreducible dyad Rich Nichol mentions is intensely biblical. Why else, for example, would G-d have appointed and Scripture have highlighted two apostolates—one to the circumcision and the other to the uncircumcision (Galatians 2:9)? These are not demographically equal spheres, yet in the purposes of God it is only these two spheres which are mentioned, and they remain distinct. Would God not have better appointed one apostle to the East and the other to the West? Or perhaps North and South? If, as Rich and Ruth say, the proper irreducible dyad were male and female, would not God have appointed distinct apostolates to each, perhaps Mary Magdalene to the women and Simon Peter to the men?
It is only by recognizing and honoring such divine purposes that we properly serve God, Israel, and our brethren in the Spirit, the Church from among the Nations, whom we honor and with whom we co-labor. On the other hand, the alternative Rich and Ruth propose seems to me to foreshadow inevitable assimilation, something contrary to the will of God expressed in Scripture.
 Finally, Rich and Ruth say something truly puzzling concerning myself and my colleagues in Hashivenu and the UMJC: “They do not represent the majority of people in any one messianic organization, but their influence is being felt in various organizations and congregations.” My problem is how you could possibly know this! Have you conducted a scientifically reputable poll on this matter? If so, no congregation I know of has received the survey! On a related note, in responding to a statement by the President of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, your article states, “We fear Jamie Cowen is overly optimistic in his belief that ‘all’ (UMJC congregational leaders?) adhere to the position that all people need the saving grace of Jesus for salvation.” Clearly, Rich and Ruth cannot claim to know the state and pulse of the Union better than the Union’s President who has served for many years as both a congregational rabbi and executive officer!
Thank you for the opportunity to correct some misunderstandings while highlighting what we view to be biblically mandated and Godhonoring distinctives of the Messianic Jewish Congregational Movement, especially the UMJC.
In Yeshua, who is both King of the Jews and Lord of the Church,
President, Hashivenu, Inc.
Ed: The following letter was too long to print in its entirety but no sentence has been taken outside the context in which it originally appears.
I’m stunned, and stumped at the same time. My family are foundational members of a congregation who now are UMJC affiliated. We have been in fellowship together (officially) for over 4 years in Montana and had the honor to become a recognized UMJC member congregation in Israel this last summer.
My personal journey with the Lord has brought me to become *Messianic* by the guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh. This has been a lifelong journey in search of truth, tackling one truth at a time. Then just recently, I have discovered my grandfather had assimilated, coming to the USA from Germany in 1911.
My husband’s story is similar, in that his grandfather also assimilated in the USA while still visiting relatives in Scotland a couple of times a year, but going alone and never discussing them on his return.
We are now raising our children as Jewish as possible. Someone asked me once, “Why don’t the Jews believe in Jesus?” An incorrect assumption, to begin with. My answer was, “Why do they need to?” I read the Artscroll prayers every day. Many Christians would do well to look at them and consider them. Jews already believe in Messiah, why do they need a “Greek washed Ge-zeus?” (Which would be one too many gods, as some denominations present their gospel.)
We are told in scripture that when Israel sees Him, they WILL recognize Him. I imagine this recognition will be much like the first coming, in that some non-Jewish people will recognize Him right away, while other non-Jewish people will say, “That’s not what I expected.” And I suppose if I were waiting for a Westernized version of a “Greek god” I may not be ready to follow Him. But fortunately for me, that’s not the case.
We are also told that ALL Israel will be saved. Not some, not a few, not most. Does that mean all? I think it means ALL. Judaism of any kind is already *Messianic* at it’s [sic] very core. Why do Jews need a Greek version of a Jewish concept?
I don’t take the term *Messianic* lightly. I have chosen to follow a more biblically based way of life.
You have chose division, to cut yourselves off from the Tree and from it’s [sic] Roots. And you cannot replace the Tree. Quite frankly, for the sake of correctness, it is my opinion that your “Jews for Jesus” organization should cease calling yourselves *Messianic* and go full throttle into Christianity. Your version of *Messianic* is nothing more then [sic] white-washed-Christianity. It’s a nice religion and there are nice people there. You seem perfectly comfortable with it, so don’t straddle the fence.
As for me and my house, we will serve HaShem.
May you diligently seek Him on His terms.
T’heila bat Yosef
Jews for Jesus, Rich Robinson and Ruth Rosen:
Thank you for your recent stand against the shift in theology within the Messianic movement. Our family were members of (name of congregation omitted) for about 8 years. We really struggled through the leadership’s move away from the divinity of Jesus and the importance of scripture. Leaving that body was one of the hardest things we have ever done. It is important to warn others that not everyone who calls themselves a Messianic Jew believes the same thing. Thank you for taking a stand and clarifying these issues. I know you pray that these individuals will return to the truth and stop confusing those who are seeking.
(now attending another messianic congregation)
The following are Rich Robinson’s and Ruth Rosen’s responses to the letters, respectively.
Let me preface my remarks, which address Mark Kinzer’s and Stuart Dauermann’s comments, by saying that I’ve known both, and more especially SD, over the years and have enjoyed (and profited from) my friendship with both. These remarks are addressed to ideas and not to people. To both, let me say also that space considerations don’t allow me to address the issues as fully as I would otherwise have liked to.
Regarding MK’s response, he needs to be careful that he does not assume the role of spokesperson for what “the Messianic Jewish congregational movement” holds to. Actually, plenty of “Messianic congregations” are led by and/or composed of largely Gentile membership, which in and of itself negates MK’s view that they adhere to the “normative nature of Jewish congregational life”—for to be consistent with his viewpoint, they’d need to be composed largely of Jews and not Gentiles. That, however, is a different issue, which our article was not meant to address. On to theology, the real point of what we had to say: If the Jewish people are the primary locus of social identity, “primary” being MK’s word, then a good case can be made that this does indeed compete with identity in Yeshua—since in our opinion Yeshua wants us to identify primarily with the body of believers. That is to say, our identity as human beings and as Jews is in the body of Messiah. This is not to deny that our relationship with Jews who do not follow Yeshua is important. I would affirm that it is of considerable importance. But if we are going to talk about “primary” identities, then our primary identity is in Yeshua and thus with His body.
As to the two-covenant theology, MK may not offer the classic version, but he nevertheless invokes the Abrahamic Covenant as opening the door for a “Jew who doesn’t know Yeshua” to know God just as a Christian does. He then implies that God could accept Jews in Yeshua without explicit faith in Him. There have always been questions surrounding God’s dealing with those who haven’t heard the gospel, those who have had impediments placed in the way of understanding the gospel, and so on. But what is happening with these gray areas is that MK is turning possibilities into programmatic statements.
Regarding SD’s letter: SD makes much of the meaning of “relationship.” In some sense, every human being has a “relationship” with God—but they are not all relationships that lead ultimately to salvation, and that is the point. As to the matter of loyalties, as a Jew who follows Jesus I do in fact feel loyal to both the Church and my Jewish people. Nevertheless, loyalty is a different matter from our core identity. And here is the main problem—that SD wants to affirm that these are not equal loyalties but that our “primary” identity is as part of the Jewish people. Then he invokes Rich Nichol’s “irreducible dyad” of Israel and the nations—but the irreducible dyad of Scripture ultimately, and certainly clearly set forth in the New Testament, is the redeemed and the unredeemed.
I think that the controversy we are seeing within the messianic movement often comes down to a reversal of those things Scripture says we have liberty concerning, versus those things where Scripture says we do not have liberty—in other words, allowing for ambiguity where Scripture is specific and requiring specific behavior where Scripture says there is choice. Two main examples:
1. Some are uncertain about the need to profess Christ for salvation, whereas the Scriptures show the specific and certain need to profess Him (John 1:12, Romans 10:8-13, Acts 13:38-39, etc.).
2. Some speak with certainty about God’s will concerning messianic Jews living a Jewish lifestyle as demonstrated by specific actions pertaining to the law, whereas the Scriptures show the liberty we have in Christ to choose or not choose these actions (Romans 14:3-5). It probably does not take a survey to know that we are not the first or only Jewish believers to bring up these differences, though suggesting who is or isn’t in the majority may have been premature in the article. It is natural to focus on the imperfection of the messengers or an imperfect delivery of the message, but the main thing is for people to deal with the issues raised.
I especially appreciate Mark Kinzer for dealing with those issues. However, I do not believe the differences that Mark thanks us for pointing out can be reduced to differences between the Messianic congregational movement and Jewish missions like Jews for Jesus, since the congregational movement is not monolithic when it comes to how people view the Scriptures, view Jesus and view themselves. As regards “permissible verses normative,” I think that “may versus ought” is clearer because “ought” is prescriptive whereas “normative” can be seen as either prescriptive or descriptive. I have no problem with what some describe as a Torah lifestyle becoming normative for Jewish believers as long as “normative” describes what most people prayerfully choose for themselves rather than prescribing their choices or requiring them in order to be part of the messianic community. As long as grace and freedom in Messiah are upheld, it’s all good.
Friendships and collegiality may seem to indicate the need to deal with differences slowly and in a way that is agreeable to all. Patience is a virtue and all things ought to be done from love. But especially concerning those matters of soteriology, I don’t see how there is any time to lose in airing and addressing the issue. The identity issue may or may not be playing into the conclusions some are drawing regarding the need to consciously receive Yeshua, but because it may be influencing some away from NT claims, it too should be addressed. People may grapple with us for writing the article, but the really important grappling we need to do is with ourselves, the Scriptures, one another and God (not necessarily in that order!).