Thursday, October 25, 2007

Ann Coulter on Jews and Christianity

A week or three ago Ann Coulter was on a talk show and mentioned something to the effect that she wishes Jews would convert to Christianity in order to be "completed" (I don't know if this was her term or not). She caught quite a bit of flack for it from some in the Jewish community (and elsewhere) who claimed this was offensive to Jews, although some in the Jewish community thought it was reasonable for her to speak her beliefs.

When I read the transcript, I thought she could have said it better, but I think she did adequately at explaining the Christian position without having warning beforehand as to how she'd respond to such a conversation.

But last night I casually came across Ephesians 2:11 and following, and the answer that Ann should have given started to gel in my mind.

Approximately 4000 years ago, God called Abraham to be his follower, and made three promises to him: 1) to give him the land in and around current-day Israel, 2) to make him the father of multitudes, and 3) to bless the world through his descendant. Abram believed God, and God counted this faith as righteousness. You can read about these things in Genesis, chapters 12 through 15.

Generations and about 430 years later, Abraham's children were led out of Egyptian slavery by the descendant of Abraham, Moses. As these millions of people moved out of Egypt and into the land which would become Israel, Moses, spokesman for God, established a complex set of rules and regulations for life and worship. This "Mosaic Law" constitutes the bulk of the Jewish Torah, the first five books of what Christians call the "Old Testament".

It's important at this point to realize that the promise made by God to Abraham was established by faith, and had nothing to do with the Mosaic Law.

It's also important at this point to realize that it soon became apparent that the Law of Moses doesn't work well for fallible humanity. So God promised a new covenant. Look what he has to say in Jeremiah 31:31-34:
31 "The time is coming," declares YHWH,
"when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,"
declares YHWH.
33 "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time," declares YHWH.
"I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, 'Know YHWH,'
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,"
declares YWHW.
"For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more."
So it's clear that the Mosaic Law was only temporary, to be replaced by a new covenant sometime in the future.

Traveling forward in time another 1500 or so years, we come to the time of Jesus. After his crucifixion and subsequent physical, bodily resurrection, the twelve men who had been his disciples for the previous three years then turned the world upside-down preaching the Good News ("Gospel") that the promised seed of Abraham, and the new covenant, had arrived. Although the first believers didn't yet realize it, the time had come for all nations to be blessed via Abraham's seed, and not just the nation of Israel.

However, the nation of Israel by and large rejected this message, being too wrapped up in the Mosaic Law to see the preeminence and superiority of the first promise to Abraham, or to recognize the fulfillment of the prophecy made by Jeremiah. Still, it should be noted that for the first decade or three of the Christian church, every believer was a Jew. It was unthinkable to the Jews that non-Jews were allowed into the family of Abraham. (Non-Jews could be converted to Judaism through a strict rite of conversion, but they were then no longer non-Jews.)

Finally, God got the attention of Peter, one of the early leaders of the Christ-accepting Jews. Through Peter, non-Jews (or "Gentiles", or "the uncircumcised") started to be accepted into the Jewish sect known as Christianity, although not without considerable resistance and difficulty.

Later, another Christian leader, Paul, explains in his letter to the Ephesians (2:11ff) how non-Jews fit in:
11Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.
14For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
This same Paul explains elsewhere (Galatians 3:6ff) that the Torah demonstrates that righteousness does not come by the Mosaic Law:
Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 7Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
In other words, the inheritors of the blessings promised to Abraham do not inherit based on bloodline, or on observance of the Mosaic Law, but rather on the basis of Faith, brought to all nations of the world through a bloodline descendant of Abraham.

So Ann Coulter's failure to the Jewish community was in allowing the misperception to remain that Jews who convert to Christianity are leaving their Jewishness to join a non-Jewish movement. Instead, she should have made clear that Jews who become Christians are becoming the Jews that God prophesied they'd be, and non-Jews who become Christians are being adopted into the Jewish faith that God promised in the book of Jeremiah. It's not that Jews are leaving the citizenship of Israel; rather, non-Jews are becoming citizens of Israel.

The problem is not that non-Christian Jews have rejected a "Gentile" religion; it's that they've rejected the first promises to Abraham, and that they've rejected the new covenant God promised to them.

Ann Coulter, and other Christians, just want the non-Christian Jews to seize their inheritance along with us, their adopted siblings, rather than rejecting it. But hindsight is easy. I can't fault her for not being able to articulate this very complex topic in a thirty-second soundbite, especially without preparation time.

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