Thursday, 3 March 2016
Seeing Judaism Anew: Christianity's Sacred Obligation,
Ed. Mary C. Boys, Rowman and Littlefield, 2002
Chapter 14, "Covenant and Conversion" (pp. 163-174), page 163
The chapter after Dr Philip Cunningham in "Seeing Judiasm Anew" is written by Joann Spillman, who was at the time a professor of theology at Rockhurst College in Kansas City. I'm not sure she would be comfortable alongside the International House Of Prayer ministry who are also based in Kansas City.
Dr Spillman starts from the seventh principle proposed by the Christian ScholarsGroup: Christians should not target Jews for conversion. The expanded commentary on this includes: we renounce missionry efforts directed at converting Jews. She then explains:
This goes to the very heart of Jewish-Chriatian relations. If Christians seek to convert Jews, they can hardly claim to respect Judaism; by such efforts, they are saying that Judiasm ought to be eliminated. If Christians say that Jews need to be converted, then Christians are implying that Judaism is not salvific.
Perhaps the problem here is the word 'conversion'. Does this mean, in the classic Christian Church sense, "stop being a Jew and become a Christian" with all of the detail that involves? Or does it mean, "recognise Yeshua as the Jewish Mesiah while remaining part of the Jewish people"?
If the former, then the Jewish people are right to mourn for a convert, who has stopped being Jewish, will have no Jewish children or Jewish heritage - they are lost to the Jewish people. If the latter, then there is no loss - on the contrary there is considerable gain for all sides, but it doesn't follow church practice or common understanding.
So is Dr Spillman right to argue for the cessation of targetting Jews for conversion? In the way in which I think she means it, then she may have some right on her side although the evangelical wing of the church would sit up and howl. A better move would be to educate the church about how to help Jewish people find faith in Yeshua while remaining Jews, to stop coercing them into the church mould and to let the Holy Spirit direct them in the ancient paths - which are good, where they will find rest for their souls (Jeremiah 6:16) and the One who is rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-29).