Elephant in the Room

Messianic Jews seem to be an embarrassment in an otherwise thoughtful dialogue.

Much of the modern Jewish-Christian "dialogue" movement appears to have a two-pronged agenda. Christian scholars utter mea culpas for past theological complicity in the Holocaust, while Jewish scholars—subtly or not so subtly—seek to convince Christians to forsake all forms of evangelization of the Jews. Talk about predetermined outcomes.

That such dialogues have been successful within Catholic and mainline Protestant circles, however, has encouraged Jewish scholars to seek a similar outcome among evangelicals.

Jews and Christians: People of God comprises nine essays (five by Christian scholars and four by Jewish scholars). The last 17 pages are a republication of Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity (2000), along with four scholars' interaction with that document. A Christian response to that Jewish statement appears to be the raison d'être for the book.

Despite my suspicion of the agenda, I find much to commend in this book. Evangelicals have struggled for a theological understanding of the Jewish people and Judaism. Many see only two possible positions: dispensationalism (which makes a sharp demarcation between Israel and the church) or supersessionism (which teaches that the church has replaced Israel in God's economy of salvation).

The Christian scholars writing here have sought to provide a theological foundation for understanding the Jewish people and Judaism that rejects the stronger forms of supersessionism, which allow no continuity for the Jews as a chosen people. By asserting the "abiding force of God's election of Abraham and Sarah's descendants until the end of time," these scholars search for a more affirming means of interacting with these important issues.

R. Kendall Soulen contributes ...

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