The purpose of this article is to defend Messianic Judaism against what I believe to be an unfair and unscriptural attack. While this of necessity requires a certain amount of “counter-attack,” I will try to keep the focus on the arguments rather than the person, though some comments about Vicki’s general tendencies in her writings are necessary.
I have to give Vicki credit for both hitting the ground running and not pulling her punches even in her opening. She begins:
Research into the Hebrew Roots & Messianic movements constitutes research into Judaism as well as the occult. . . . We do not wish to edit or criticize Judaism, but recognize it as distinct from our Christian beliefs, just as many in Judaism also see a distinction and separateness from our beliefs, and we jointly have mutual respect for our differences and each other.
As we will see, by her tacit accusation of “occultism” in Messianic Judaism, she means our general utilization of the Talmud as a source of history and commentary. To say this on the one hand, but to claim respect for Judaism on the other, lacks consistency to say the least.
She begins with a fairly common format of asking the questions she intends to answer and expressing her concern that the Hebrew Roots movement is not all that it claims. So far, so good, and no real surprises. I would argue with her assertion that Christians “already study [the Old Testament] in light of the New Testament”—while this may be true in theory, in practice 90% percent of all sermons concentrate on the writings of Paul, and rarely touch on any of the Tanakh. The fact is that the Hebrew Roots movement wouldn’t even exist as a noticeable entity within the Body of Messiah if there weren’t so many believers hungry to better know how the Tanakh and New Covenant fit together.
Her introduction concludes:
We know that many of the Hebrew Roots ministries are connected with each other and with various other types of ministries. This obligates us to investigate them even more thoroughly. By examining the HR teachings, those of the Jewish faith and it’s [sic] mystical exponent, Kabbalism–which is indeed the concerning root of the Hebrew Roots movement–we will then see if what is taught upholds the Word of God.
The first sentence is so obvious as to be meaningless: Of course many Hebrew Roots and Messianic ministries are connected with each other! We keep in contact the same way and for the same reasons that the various Evangelical churches and denominations do. I fail to see why this merits special investigation, unless Vicki’s intent is to suggest some sort of sinister cabal underlying the whole thing.
However, it’s the charge of Kabbalism against the movement as a whole which is particularly interesting and telling. The fact is that most Messianics—including those who have been in the movement for many years—have little more idea of what Kabbalism is than a dictionary definition. I’ve done somewhat more research into what Kabbalism teaches, and I can say that there is very little if any Kabbalistic influence in the Messianic movement. We’ll address her specific arguments for this influence as we continue.
“Those who have challenged the Hebrew Roots teachings in the past have been dealt with swiftly and with the utmost hostility,” Vicki writes. “Dealt with?” With what? Hit-squads? No, as it turns out, by angry emails that use strong language. I’m not sure how this constitutes being “dealt with swiftly” or “with the utmost hostility”—is Vicki likewise dealing with Messianics “swiftly and with the utmost hostility” by publishing her website?
It’s interesting that the email she has chosen to use as an example of this hostility is obviously a knee-jerk reaction, rather than one written by a calmer, more eloquent author. She claims it to be from a “well-known leader,” but doesn’t tell us who. Frankly, anyone who is in ministry gets the occasional kook email or letter; our synagogue gets them all the time, many from “leaders” in the Christian world. Should I use those emails to show just how the Christian world is out to get us, and hint at a conspiracy to silence our point of view? Neither should Vicki use her kook mail to attack Messianism.
Those who question this movement have often been accused of anti-semitism. Does the presentation of various Jewish doctrines obtained from Jewish sources constitute anti-Semitism? It seems unreasonable to conclude that the facts, presented objectively, are inherently anti-Semitic.
That depends: Are these Jewish doctrines presented in their full historical and linguistic context? Has Vicki studied the Judaica enough to know how to evaluate whether a source is considered “authoritative” or whether it is simply the recorded position of a single rabbi? Frankly, I could go through the writings of such well-respected fathers of Christianity as John Chrysostom and Martin Luther and pull quotes a-plenty to demonstrate that Christianity is a Jew-hating religion—but Vicki would be quick to leap on me for my selective quotation, and rightfully so.
Let me be the first to point out that there are passages in the Talmud and other traditional sources that are very blasphemous to our Lord Yeshua. However, I would also point out that a) just because something is in the Talmud does not make it authoritative for Judaism as a whole (just as not all things said by the early Church fathers are authoritative for Christianity as a whole), and b) that those statements were given and recorded at a time when the Church had joined with the State of Rome in persecuting the Jewish people.
Which is more blasphemous: To speak slander of an anti-Torah, anti-Jew “Jesus” that the Christians have presented you, or persecuting a person in Jesus’ name so as to provoke them to speak slander of Him? I’d say the latter.
Vicki writes, “Moreover, this writer has no bias against the Jews, but looks forward to the salvation of any through Jesus Christ.” The question is, once they are saved, would she encourage them to remain circumcised, Jewish, per Acts 21:20ff and 1 Co. 7:19, or would she expect them to assimilate into Gentile Christian culture? If she objects to the Messianic movement as a whole, the answer is necessarily the latter; and if the latter, Vicki is either saying that she wants there to be no more Jews, only Gentilized Christians, or that she wants some or most Jews to never accept their Messiah.
I’m sure Vicki would be appalled at those two conclusions, but they are the only ones which logically follow from her arguments.