Given the polar opinions regarding Some Messianic Jews Say Messianic Judaism is Not Christianity: A Loving Call to Unity” we thought we’d present two reviews of Stan Telchin’s new book from two of our staff members.
The adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” may be true, but you can tell a lot by the title. The inflammatory title of Stan Telchin’s new book makes me want to ask him, “What were you thinking?” as it’s an affront to the unity Telchin claims he wants to cultivate. And it immediately broadcasts doubt about the validity of the Messianic movement to the whole church.
The problems with the book don’t stop with its title. Although Telchin repeatedly says he’s not indicting the whole movement, he paints with a broad stroke, thereby giving a wide audience a distorted picture of the movement based primarily on the experiences of a few. Most of Telchin’s argument is supported by anecdotes from those who’ve been hurt within the Messianic congregational movement.
Telchin also presupposes that the majority of those in the Messianic congregational movement who use rabbinic forms are merely attempting to win the Jewish community’s approval. He ignores the fact that many are actually attempting to find legitimate Jewish forms that do not contradict biblical principles.
Telchin spends a good deal of time explaining that rabbinic Judaism and Jewish culture are not the same thing. Yet so much of our Jewish culture both here in the United States and around the world is wrapped up in Jewish rabbinic forms. All of our life-cycle events, from circumcisions to funerals, are shaped by rabbinic structures. Whatever being Jewish means, it must be connected to the last 2,000 years of Jewish identity formation. And like it or not, our rabbis have helped shape what today’s Jewish culture looks like. The job of the Messianic movement is to redeem that heritage through a biblical grid.
Telchin fails to grasp what some in the Messianic congregational movement believe is God’s mandate. Telchin would be the first to say that God wants a distinct Jewish people to exist until the end of time as a perpetual witness to His faithfulness. The question is, how will that distinction be made? The Messianic congregational movement answers by saying that to be distinct, we must live as Jews, and to some that means more than just eating bagels.
For more from our Jews for Jesus newsletter, see David Brickner’s article “Why I Support Messianic Congregations”.