The New Judaizers

This morning I was flipping around the AM dial as I drove home from church. It’s kind of a sick practice of mine, wanting to hear what local pastors are preaching.  Often it just irritates me (but I have to point out that I always enjoy the sermons from a certain pastor named Randy).

Today on the way to church I had stopped on a certain station that I was not familiar with, so when I got back in the car this station was still on, and I caught this pastor (I’m assuming – there was no identification of either the speaker or church when it was over) in mid-sentence.

The speaker was going on about the pagan origins of Easter, which is nothing I haven’t heard before, and which I am still not impressed by.  He went on to criticize the early church (Eastern Orthodox), the Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists.  He then went on to say that Yeshua did not have a people; there were hundreds of denominations, but no “one people.”

Now, it began to get interesting.  He explained that the only way for there to be “one people” was for everyone to start following the Torah.  And, just to make sure that I hadn’t misheard him or misinterpreted what he said, he made sure that this was understood; Christianity was a Jewish religion, and following the Jewish Law confirms that we are indeed followers of Yeshua.  This also sets us apart from “the world.”  Indeed.  He rattled off a list of feasts and holy days we should be observing, but failed to mention where to find spotted goats or sheep for sacrifices…

When I got home I did a bit of research, trying to find out more about this guy. I figured he was some sort of Messianic Jew, due to his continued use of Hebrew names, etc.  The station turned out to be an “all Christian” station based here, whose purpose is “to network people, resources, needs, news, events, fellowships and ministries and  businesses in order to combine and multiply our resources, efforts and prayers.”

Or so they say.  Reading further, the website states,

We especially want to welcome those who are still fellowshiping in Christian churches who are seeking a deeper walk with Yahweh, the God of the Bible. Our theme verse is Rev. 12:17 – those who keep the commandments of Yah and the testimony of Yahshua/Jesus.

Alrighty, then.  I should mention that a number of non-Hebrew-oriented churches and ministries have shows on the station, or have placed ads on the site, or are otherwise mentioned somewhere on this site.  (It’s a really bad website design, too… but that’s another issue.)

I wonder, do they realize that this group’s (I still don’t know who they really are) goal is to Judaize Christian churches?  That is, they mean to convert grace-believing Christians into followers of the Torah. Or, at least those seeking “a deeper walk with Yahweh, the God of the Bible” (as opposed to the God of where?).

I wonder if these new Judaizers have ever read Galatians, or any of Paul’s other letters.  Let me quote from Galatians 1:

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

So what do we say then about these very helpful, well-meaning folks?  What about “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort (Gal 3:3)”?  Or, “All who rely on the Law are under a curse (v 10)?”  Paul challenges us to take a stand on the Gospel, and send false teachers packing down the road to Perdition.  It really bugs me that Christians think they are so holy when they quote, “don’t judge,” but they’ll stand by and watch the Gospel being flushed down the toilet.

You foolish Galatians!

Here’s the bottom line that Paul drew in his letter to the Galatians: If you add anything to Jesus – that is, any laws or traditions or eating kosher – you haven’t just missed the Gospel, you’ve trashed it completely! There is no middle ground, no “tolerance” when it comes to grace.

Now, you can going ahead and do all kinds of good works, because they’re good things to so.  Just don’t think you’re earning grace because of them. You are “good Christians” because Jesus was good, not because you are.  Think of it this way: Grace produces good works, works do not produce grace.

This little sermon today is the most blatant attack on the Gospel that I can recall hearing, and it makes me angry.  I’ve got a book about to be published (sometime this summer), tentatively called Free, that explains all this in far greater detail.  Check back in a month or two for more information on the book.

In the meantime, read Galatians, and be Free.

More thoughts on Sola Scriptura

I ran across a great little post on the Wittenberg Trail webring on the issue of sola scriptura. Unfortunately, you’ve got to join before you can read any of the article, so a link will do little good for most folks.  So, I’ll reprint a portion here along with credit and a link.

The author is John L. Moseman, who from comments in the post, was Eastern Orthodox prior to becoming a confessional Lutheran.  The Orthodox, of course, do not hold to sola scriptura, due to their stand on Tradition.  John shares that it was the book of Galatians that challenged his belief in Tradition, and converted him to sola scriptura.

Here’s the body of his post, a shot commentary on Galatians:

“PAUL, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead),” 1:1

This here in the first verse of this epistle is something that gets repeated, why? It is fundamentaly important that our faith is not handed down by men but God. What does this mean? That God can come into us and by his Word lead us in faith and direction. For the longest time I was hung up on Apostolic succession but it is not the men but the Word of God that propels the Church. RCC and EO would stress that their bishops were given the Holy Spirit but as Paul goes on to say that this is not the litmus test for teachers of the true faith.

” I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ” 1:6,7

It is so evident here that false doctrine was coming from within the Church and that when these teachers turned from Christ on the cross they started making new doctrines. To me this stresses the importance of maintaing true doctrine found in the Gospel.

‘But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. ”

Right here it is expresses that even if it is an Apostle, an angel, priest, pastor, bishop or any other in the church that with they are not preaching THE WORD that they are not from God. To me this is where Sola Scriptura comes in with a bang, that it is not the pastors but the Holy Spirit, which comes from the Word. Without the Word of God we are hopeless as he goes on to explain that even the Apostles where confused. When they went on their own, when they relied on their authority and not on the Word. Here it is evident that in the Word we do have the authority of God. It makes it clear that if one is not in the Word or preaches the Word in truth that they are not of God. It becomes false doctrine. Also is it me or does he in a off shot way give creedance to Sola Scriptura when looking in the Scriputures to make his point?

“But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.
For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.”

Here it is simple though we have to hold true to the traditions and they have their place. Without the Word of God behind it, breathed in it, it is not of God. This was evident to Luther. So here we see that Sola Sciptura is not isolating the traditions only the ones not adminstered by God breathed in by his Word. So how can Mr. Hahn seriously hold that the Bible does not teach Sola Scriptura when it is clear right here that the Apostles authority directly comes from the Word and the Word alone.

I suggest everyone to read the entire epistle. Later on in it you start to see St. Paul correct and say that the Apostles had been in error suggesting that they where confused when the failed to keep the Gospel in perspective. The basic truth is that RCC and EO are right about some things. They error when they put the infalliable authority of God in man’s hands and not in the Word. This why even some of our Lutheran pastors error they are corrected by the Word.

Some interesting things to think about.  However, there are a few other things to consider:

  1. The New Testament that we have today is a product of Tradition.
  2. The Gospel Paul talks about is the Apostolic message that the EO believe has been passed down through Tradition.
  3. The question is, is Tradition the Apostolic message, or merely the traditions of men?  Perhaps a combination?

Any other thoughts?

NT Wright’s Justification, Pt. 4: Wright’s Big Picture

In the prior 3 posts in this series, I have pointed out a number of places where I am in disagreement with NT Wright’s most recent book, Justification.  Now, let me summarize some things I am in agreement with.

One of Wright’s goals, it appears, is to counter the standard Western Evangelical motif that salvation is about “going to Heaven when you die.”  This is the theme tackled in “Surprised by Hope,” and it is also taken up here in dealing with the title subject, justification.  Overall, I would tend to agree that justification goes beyond an individualized transaction where my decision to have faith is exchanged for Jesus’ death and resurrection, and therefore my eternal destiny is secured.  This does not mean that justification doesn’t have a personal, individual application.  Each one of the Israelites was personally saved when they crossed the Red Sea; that, however, doesn’t mean that God parted the Red Sea for any one person.

Wright sees justification and salvation as having a larger application, that of “setting the world to rights.”  This is not a foreign concept to Paul, who talks about the redemption of creation, which “will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)

Wright’s “big picture” goes like this: God’s one and only plan was to choose a people – Israel – in order to bless all of creation, and therefore established the Covenant with Abraham. While the Israelite people failed, God did not, and sent Jesus – the heir as identified by Paul in Galatians – to complete that goal.  Jesus’ resurrection began that “setting the world to rights” process.  The Church, now – consisting of both Jews and Gentiles – continues this mission.   Therefore, as Romans 8 says, all of creation waits for the “sons of God to be revealed.”   We are living out the Abrahamic Covenant as adopted descendants of Abraham (and God).

In this sense, justification is not about individual salvation, it is about the redemption of Creation.  Wright, in fact, writes that his understanding of Galatians is that it is a “theology of justification which includes all that the old perspective was really trying to say within a larger framework which, while owing quite a bit to aspects of the new perspective, goes considerably beyond it.” (p.140)

This was always my understanding of Wright’s views on justification: the so-called “old perspective” may have been wrong only in that it was somewhat short-sighted.  For justification to be properly understood, it needs to recognize the larger context of the redemption of all creation.  In this sense, I don’t find Wright’s theology to be dangerous in any way, as some would think.

But, I still have three chapters yet to go.

An Orthodox view of Salvation

My friend Duncan posted the following video on Facebook this evening.  It’s worth watching, whatever your theological background; it’s especially worth watching if you’ve no familiarity with Eastern Orthodoxy.

I have a very deep respect and appreciation for Eastern Orthodoxy, although I do have some disagreements with various points. (Of course, to the Eastern Orthodox, my issues don’t matter.) I have just finished reading Three Views of Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism, in which a number of theologians discuss various differences in approach.  I have perhaps more disagreements with evangelicalism than I do with Eastern Orthodoxy; as I’ve remarked before, I tend often to side with Luther, who tends to be somewhere in the middle of these two camps.  This is not because I was raised Lutheran (I don’t think, anyway), but because Luther just seems to echo what Paul appears to say.

So, while I do agree with much that is said in the video, the Orthodox position on cooperative salvation – our work being added to the work of Christ – is something I have an issue with.  I do agree that we were saved 2,000 years ago, that I am currently being saved (Luther seemed to agree with the Orthodox understanding of theosis or deification), and that at the final judgment I will be saved.  Again, this is simply an echo of Paul.

My problem with the Orthodox view comes from 2 main sources: Paul, and Jesus.  And yes, these are pretty good sources.  The Orthodox view of cooperative salvation seems to beg Paul’s rhetorical question in Galatians 3:3: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?”  Paul seems to be clearly saying in this letter that to add any human effort to the work of Christ is to lose the Gospel completely.

To this, add the words of Jesus in John 10:27-29:

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

I do believe that we are to continue in good works; that is the work of the Spirit in us. I just don’t believe that this contributes at all to our salvation, and in fact, can be as dangerous as Peter’s reverting to kosher food.  That’s not me, that’s Paul.  I’m guessing that there is an Orthodox interpretation of Galatians, and I would be very interested in seeing it.

Without further commentary, here’s the video.  Again, I do agree with most of it, and very much appreciate the spirit in which this is presented: