In 1964, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: "I am ready to go to Auschwitz any time, if faced with the alternative of conversion or death." The prominent Jewish theologian was protesting a reference to the future conversion of the Jews in a Vatican II working document on Catholic-Jewish relations. Both The New York Times and Time magazine picked up on Heschel's letter, which alienated many of his Christian friends.
That was 1964. This is 2007. Jews still find the subject of conversion extremely painful. For them it is, as Heschel said, tantamount to annihilation. Christian hopes for conversion can be a deal breaker in interfaith friendships.
Yet a few Christians and Jews have found a way to be friends despite this Christian hope (Romans 11:25ff). Among them are R. T. Kendall and Rabbi David Rosen. In their book, The Christian and the Pharisee (Warner Faith), they model a warm friendship as they "debate the road to heaven." Christianity Today editor in chief David Neff interviewed them about the book and their unique relationship.
For 25 years, Kendall was minister of Westminster Chapel in London, the pulpit previously occupied by G. Campbell Morgan and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Kendall is a unique blend of the Reformed and charismatic streams of evangelicalism.
Rosen is the former chief rabbi of Ireland and has lived in Jerusalem for the past 22 years. He represents the American Jewish Committee internationally in the area of inter-religious affairs.
They were introduced by George Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, and Andrew White, Carey's envoy. In the course of the meeting, Rosen kept talking about Pharisees in a complimentary way. Kendall finally said, "Rabbi Rosen, I almost get the impression that you're a Pharisee and ...1