Bilateral Ecclesiology’s Crypto-Dispensationalism

 

by Geert ter Horst

Classical Dispensationalism is a theological framework which is characterized by a strict separation between the nation of Israel and the Christian Church. According to dispensationalist criteria all believers in Yeshua between the Pentecost of Acts ch. II and the future national restoration of Israel, whether they be Jews or non-Jews, essentially belong to the Church and are “free from the Law”. While during the dispensation of the Law Gentiles had to become Jewish proselytes to be included in the people of G-d, nowadays Jews have to join the predominantly Gentile Church for the same purpose.

The recent theology of “Bilateral Ecclesiology” — a term coined by Mark Kinzer [1] — changes important aspects of this schedule from a successive temporal order into a static order of simultaneity. Israel and the Church are now perceived as co-temporal divine institutions, and Messianic Jews exist alongside Gentile Christians. Gentile Christians belong to the Church, Messianic Jews belong to Israel and are the believing remnant of the Jewish nation. Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians are spiritually united by their faith in Yeshua and together they are the Assembly or Body of Messiah, yet they are bodily or physically separated. Their unity cannot be a practical or physical unity because according to Bilateral Ecclesiology the Gentile believers are not part of Israel. Essentially the Gentiles have the status of Noachides and this status is not changed by their faith in Yeshua.

At first sight the theology of Bilateral Ecclesiology seems to be a justified and much needed correction to traditional Christian Supersessionism or Replacement Theology. Instead of making the Church the successor and rightful inheritor of the position of the Jewish nation as G-d’s people, it makes it the Noachide part of the Assembly of Messiah. The other part of this Assembly is the faithful remnant of Israel, the Messianic Jews. Taken together, these parts are perceived as center and periphery. The relation between Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians in the messianic community is essentially of the same nature as the relation between Jews and Noachides in the non-messianic world.

After due consideration, however, it appears that this theological model is deeply flawed. One of its most blatant internal contradictions is that it accepts the current Christian Church and its standards of practice and worship, without recognizing that the Church and her standards are the resultants of a historical process which itself has deep roots in Replacement Theology. This Church would not be what it is without its anti-Jewish (and some pagan) roots: Sunday observance, the Christian holy days, the observance of the seasons of Advent and Lent, the Gregorian Calendar, Child Baptism, the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, the teaching that we are destined for an eternal existence in heaven, and numerous other theoretical and practical aspects of Church culture, shared by Catholicism and Protestantism alike, are the direct or indirect consequences of the pernicious basic premise of Supersessionism. [2]

The proponents of a Bilateral Ecclesiology accept the results of this problematic historical development without accepting its anti-Jewish premise, and they simply try to limit the terrible damage Replacement Theology has done by what could be called a theological containment policy. The containment here consists in declaring that the practice and doctrine of the Church are sound and acceptable for Gentile Christians but not for Messianic Jews. Messianic Jews should commit themselves to the Torah and Jewish culture and should therefore keep a healthy distance from the culture of the Church. They should build their own congregations and institutions. Although they spiritually share common ground with Gentile Christians through their faith in Yeshua, this common faith doesn’t lead to a lifestyle and culture shared by all. The Jewish members of the Assembly of Messiah have a special calling and responsibility for the Torah, a calling and responsibility in which Gentiles are unable to share.

Unwittingly, thus a stunning aspect of a Bilateralist Ecclesiology reveals itself: Faith in Messiah Yeshua is presumably powerless to establish a real and practical sense of community. According to this ecclesiology the Assembly of Messiah is not a strong corporate unity and for that reason it can hardly be called “One Body”. As Jamie Cowen has remarked: “A corporate unity with separate organizations or congregations is a myth. Real unity is expressed in intimate relationships, which can only occur within one community. Pauls admonitions in both Romans and Galatians reflect this fact”. [3]

The division created by Bilateralism in fact amounts to the re-introduction of the dispensationalist divide between Israel and the Church within the very Body of Messiah. This divide is now sharpened, through its introduction on a simulteneous basis, into a practical schism within the One Body, in conflict with Paul’s admonition that there should be no such thing (I Cor. 12:25). From Paul’s letters it is abundantly clear that Jews and Gentiles should participate in one and the same local congregation and that their union reflects the unity created by Messiah’s death, by which both are reconciled unto G-d in One Body (Eph. 2:16). The unity of the One Body is a universal unity without internal divisions, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and under the authority of the apostles and prophets. Jew and Gentile are made effectively and practically equal in position:

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of G-d; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Yeshua HaMashiach himself being the chief cornerstone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of G-d through the Spirit.

(Eph. 2:19-22).

This is not a “spiritual” unity in an ethereal or Platonic sense. The Holy Spirit is the power of G-d giving life to the Body of Messiah, and its effect is a bodily, corporate, physical unity, the “one new man” (Eph. 2:15).

Bilateralism often seeks to soften its divise message by admitting (some) Gentiles to Messianic Jewish congregations for communal worship and by alowing them to take on a level of Torah observance. It is clear that by so doing it compromises its own principle of separation between Jews and non-Jews and opens the door for mixed marriages and other “unwanted” effects of communion.

But, more importantly, the basic reproach to any Bilateralist Ecclesiology should be that it says that Jewish believers should follow HaShem’s instructions as laid down in the Torah, and that Gentile believers are good enough to live under instructions and traditions that stem from an anti-Jewish, anti-Torah bias, and even from pagan roots.  This type of ecclesiology is devastating for the unity of the Body and a dishonour to Messiah’s prayer: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:21). Moreover, in its condoning of the culture of the traditional Church the new Bilateralism comes into conflict with its own Noachidic fundamentals. For according to Noachidism a Gentile is not permitted to create his own religion, or to introduce additional religious observances, above those revealed in the Noachide laws.

Gentile believers are not Noachides, they are called Abraham’s seed by Paul, because of their inclusion in Messiah: “If ye be of Messiah, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). For that reason the lifestyle of Gentile believers should be kept in that framework in which the promise is preserved and cultivated: the Torah. Bilateralist attempts to interpret the so-called “new perspective” on Paul in a crypto-dispensationalist fashion are not helpful for drawing the real consequences of Paul’s ecclesiology.

________________

[1] Cf. Kinzer, Mark S., Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People, Brazos Press — Grand Rapids 2005. A Synopsis of this work, by Jonathan Kaplan, can be consulted at: http://www.kesherjournal.com/pdf/Features/A-Synopsis-of-Mark-Kinzer-s-Post-Missionary-Messianic-Judaism.pdf

[2] Kinzer’s approach to these issues, including the authority of Scripture, seems to tend to a certain ecumenical pragmatism, at least on the trinitarian question. He writes: “The Christian Church, which is our partner, is a nicene Church. Bilateral ecclesiology calls us to a corporate commitment to this Church” (emph. mine). [Kinzer, Mark S., “Finding our Way Through Nicaea: The Deity of Yeshua, Bilateral ecclesiology, and redemptive encounter with the living God” In: Kesher Journal, Issue 24 (Summer 2010).] Kinzer’s pragmatism was also noticed by Tim Hegg: “It is clear that Mark Kinzer, for example, has accepted a hermeneutic of pragmatic contextualization in which certain texts are given privilige over others, depending upon what suits the current need. In short, when Paul’s “pastoral strategy” (of a multi-national ekklesia) seems out of step with the current desire to be accepted within the traditional Jewish community, it may be disregarded in favor of a more propitious alternative. It seems a very slippery slope indeed when, for the sake of a desired outcome, one engages in selective approbation of the Scriptures. I recognize that such a viewpoint may not be espoused by all who are opting for the new definition of Messianic Judaism. But it is at least honest of Kinzer to admit that the path forward for Messianic Judaism, at least as he sees it, cannot be reconciled with some of Paul’s teachings. It remains to be seen, therefore, how others will approach the Scriptures as they seek to achieve the same goal”. [Hegg, T., “One Law Movements. A Response to Russ Resnik & Daniel Juster, TorahResource May 2005, (pp. 29-30) at: http://www.torahresource.com/EnglishArticles/OLMResponse.pdf ]

[3] J. Cowen, “A Response to Dr. Mark Kinzer”, In: Kesher Journal 12, Winter 2001, p. 116.

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10 Responses to “Bilateral Ecclesiology’s Crypto-Dispensationalism”


  1. 1 Yahnatan August 19, 2011 at 4:38 am

    Geert,

    While you are correct that bilateral ecclesiology is indeed premised on an understanding of the Scriptures which affirms that the covenant responsibilities of the Torah were not placed on the Gentile nations, who are welcomed into the new covenant kingdom of God as Gentiles through the gospel at the initiative of the Spirit, I think you’ve significantly misconstrued bilateral ecclesiology. BE does not frame Gentiles as Noachides. And while some descriptions of BE may use the term “Church” in the way you have above (i.e. speak of “Israel” and the “Church” as distinct entities), generally Kinzer prefers the more precise (less historically loaded) term ekklesia, and he is careful in his use of the word Gentile so as to discourage readers from misunderstanding him to be claiming that the ekklesia is a Gentile institution. For example:

    “There is one ekklesia, but it contains within it two distinct communal entities: a Jewish ekklesia (representing and serving as a bridge to Israel as a whole) and a Gentile ekklesia.” (Post-missionary Messianic Judaism 156)

    Kinzer understands the Church as “a multinational extension of the people of Israel.” (15)

    There is a difference between distinction and separation. Certain types of unity are only possible in the presence of distinction–for example, the unity that comes between a man and a woman. It is therefore indeed possible for Jews and Gentiles to be in unity while remaining distinct from each other. In fact, the distinction only enhances the possibility for unity–the kind of unity that comes when things made to complement each other are brought together in a powerful fusion.

    I believe that faith in the dynamic potential of this unity of distinction fuels the core of Kinzer’s theology. His belief in the mutual interdependence of the Jewish people and the Christian Church is surely what motivated him to say this (at the recent Second Helsinki Consultation):

    “The identity of the Christian Church is inseparable from that of the Jewish People, and the identity of the Jewish People is inseparable from the person of its crucified and risen Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth. It follows that the Jewish people and the Christian Church are so intimately bound together that it is impossible to adequately understand one without also understanding the other. We have met to deepen our own understandings of these realities, and to encourage our people and our churches to reflect further on their mutual interdependence.”

    All blessings in Messiah as we seek the truth together.

    Regards,

    Yahnatan

    • 2 messianic613 August 21, 2011 at 4:26 pm

      Shalom Yahnatan,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment. It may be correct that Bilateral Ecclesiology does not frame Gentile believers as Noachides. However, if the covenant responsibilities of the Torah are not placed upon them, then for all practical purposes they are still Noachides. [1] Obviously, Bilateralists won’t openly oppose Paul, who called the Gentile believers sons of Abraham (in Gal. 3:29), and theoretically they will grant the Gentiles a place in the Abrahamic covenant. But in their eyes this inclusion doesn’t seem to have any major tangible and practical consequences. If the Gentile members of this covenant are not obligated to the Torah, then the only commandments which they have to fulfil are the Noachide commandments. There’s simply no other logical possibility. And thus, for all practical purposes, in a Bilateral Ecclesiology Gentiles are Noachides, as I said.

      If Paul’s statement that Gentile believers are sons of Abraham is to have real meaning, though, then these believers have to be under the conditions of the Abrahamic covenant. Now, the conditions of the Abrahamic covenant make clear that this covenant cannot be separated from the later covenant of Sinai. For even in the Abrahamic covenant itself the later stipulations of the Sinai covenant are anticipated as necessary conditions of bringing about the blessings promised to Abraham. In Gen. 18:19 G-d says: “For I know him [= Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of HaShem, to do justice and judgment; that HaShem may bring upon Abraham which he hath spoken of him”. The essence of what is said in this verse is, I think, very well expressed in the following comment of Tim Hegg:

      The blessings promised in the Abrahamic covenant are secure because G-d intends to enable Abraham’s offspring to do righteousness and justice. To put it in theological terms, the promise of the covenant assures the sanctification of those who will be blessed. Thus, the Mosaic covenant, the Torah, is given to bring about that holiness which would, in turn, procure the promised covenant blessings. To the extent that the Abrahamic covenant both envisioned and incoporated the nations, so the Mosaic covenant, the Torah, is given to all covenant members as the divine revelation of G-d’s holiness”. [2]

      One can add to this the argument that if the Gentile believers are indeed, as you say, part of the New Covenant Kingdom, then, obviously, they are members of the Sinai covenant. For the New Covenant is the Renewal of the Sinai covenant, not of the Abrahamic covenant. The New Covenant is the Torah of Sinai written on the heart (Jer. 31:31-34), with the effect of the commandments being carried out according to their divine intention and the Abrahamic promises being fulfilled.

      While I acknowledge that you are right in your remark about the terminology of ‘Church’ versus ‘Ekklesia’, I don’t think that this terminological issue does matter much from a practical viewpoint. The distinction between the Jewish and the Gentile Ekklesia is according to Kinzer not only a distinction. It is a real separation. He can say as often as he wants that “there is one ekklesia” — which contains “within it two distinct communal entities”, &c, &c — but as long as this “one ekklesia” doesn’t entail a practical unity, its oneness is only a oneness in words and in theological concepts, not in tangible reality. That’s why I don’t give much for Kinzer’s definition of the Church as “a multinational extension of the people of Israel”. This definition is vague because in Kinzer’s ecclesiology the term ‘Israel’ doesn’t apply to the people of Israel and to its multinational extension in one and the same sense. To the people of Israel it applies in a literal, to the “multinational extension” in a figurative or some unclear “spiritual” sense. If Kinzer really meant what he said in this definition, and did apply the term ‘Israel’ to both parts of the Ekklesia in the same sense, then the conclusion would be inevitable that the Gentile believers are called to obey the Torah, which conclusion he is trying to avoid by all means.

      As to the remainder of your comment, I certainly appreciate what you say about the identities of the Jewish people and Christian Church being mutually inseparable and inter-dependent, and “that the Jewish people and the Christian Church are so intimately bound together that it is impossible to adequately understand one without also understanding the other”. My problem is that this is a theological truth that can be affirmed of the traditional Church or the messianic Synagogue without much need for practical changes. The impossibility of separetely understanding two interconnected entities does not at all conflict with their practical separation. The concepts ‘man’ and ‘woman’ cannot be separately understood, but that doesn’t imply that men and women cannot be practically separated.

      Last but not least I think we should be aware of the kind of hermeneutic at work in Kinzer’s theological enterprise. His hermeneutical perspective is based on the preliminary acceptance of the established institutions of the (Messianic) Synagogue and the Church. His project is the theological reconciliation of these institutions. Kinzer is not much interested in criticizing or re-thinking these institutions from a biblical perspective. His acceptance of these institutions — including their canonized Scriptures — methodologically precedes his acceptance of Scripture as a critical judge of these institutions.

      ______________

      [1] I abstain here from the discussion about the status of Noachides in Jewish theological reflexion in the first century, and also from the distinction between the Noachide covenant from the biblical or from the later rabbinic perspective.

      [2] Hegg, T., Fellow Heirs, FFOZ — Littleton (Colorado) 2003, p. 37.

  2. 3 Yahnatan August 21, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Geert,

    Your claim is that either the Gentiles are under the Sinai covenant or they’re not, in which case for all practical intents and purposes they are Noachides. But contrary to this assertion that “there’s simply no other logical possibility,” I (and others) believe that you’re asserting a false dichotomy, and that in fact the apostles saw and created a third possibility: that the Gentiles would be made children of Abraham by faith and without needing to come “under” the Sinai covenant. (The reasoning being that the Abrahamic adoption necessitates inclusion in the Sinai covenant would seem to contradict the New Testament’s prohibition on circumcision–the sign-bar-none of the Abrahamic covenant–of the Gentiles.) Furthermore, Paul seemed to feel free to institute ethics in his Gentile congregations without ever alluding “Noachides” as such, yet when given the opportunity, he seems to deny that he is laying the full yoke of the Torah on his Gentile Messiah-followers. Needless to say, we may have to continue to “agree to disagree” on this one…

    As for your critiques of the practical implications of bilateral ecclesiology and of Kinzer’s hermeneutics: I’m not yet convinced by your presentation of Kinzer’s methodology. While he may appear to pre-accept the existing institutions of Christianity and Judaism, Post-missionary Messianic Judaism is in actuality a prolonged argument from Scripture (!) challenging Christians and Jews to significantly revise fundamental assumptions from the last two-thousand years. So…nu?

    Now, the first chapter of Post-missionary Messianic Judaism does provide important insights into Kinzer’s hermeneutical methodology, including his assertions about the significance of the identity of the reading community, the importance of a hermeneutical “ethics of accountability,” and what role the “reality of history” ought to play in shaping our perception and reception of the Scriptural narrative. I’d be interested in knowing which of those points you disagree with and in what way. I would encourage you to present your critique of Kinzer’s hermeneutics by responding directly to his own exposition of method, rather than risk refuting a straw man of your own creation.

    It’s one thing to disagree with the critiques Kinzer brings, or to think that he should go further in his criticism, but I think you’re confusing Kinzer’s attempt to present his arguments to relevant parties with pre-acceptance. It’s your prerogative to wish Kinzer were less salutory of Church and Synagogue, but I think it’s a cheap shot for you to play the “Biblicality” card–especially without citing primary sources!

    As for the claim that bilateral ecclesiology can be accepted by existing institutions without much need for practical change, I would beg to differ! A lot would have to change before it could be claimed the bilateral ecclesiology has been accepted. Perhaps your differing convictions with Kinzer and others lead you to desire a complete overhaul of the existing institutions; however, who’s to say that the differences between your view and Kinzer’s (including Kinzer’s positive affirmations about the church) don’t stem from differing conclusions from the Biblical text…rather than differing hermeneutical assumptions?

    Please don’t read these critiques and questions in anything other than an irenic spirit. I’m grateful for the opportunity to look into these matters more deeply and test my own understanding of Kinzer’s theology as well as my thoughts on these matters.

    Warmly,
    Yahnatan

    • 4 messianic613 August 23, 2011 at 12:48 am

      Yanathan,

      As you already said, we’ll continue to differ on the issue of the relevance of the Sinai covenant and Torah observance for Gentile believers. To keep our discussion within certain limits let us assume — just for the sake of the argument — that Kinzer is basically right with his plea for a Bilateral Ecclesiology. This assumption gives us the opportunity to dwell on the practical consequences of Kinzer’s proposal, and this emphasis on the practical aspects is in line with the tenor of my article.

      In a sense I can appreciate Kinzer’s Bilateralism because it is essentially a pragmatic approach to the Bible and the intertwined histories of Judaism and Christianity. For that reason let us investigate whether Kinzer’s approach is tenable. By this I mean let us see whether he can succeed in his project of reforming the Body of Messiah into an Ekklesia with essentially two branches, a Jewish and a Gentile, on a biblical basis, without entangling himself in fundamental problems. The following is a “thought experiment” about the practical implications of a Jewish-Gentile Bilateralism.

      In our “thought experiment” we try to discover what would remain of the Gentile Church if it were purified — on a practical as well as a doctrinal level — of its anti-Jewish and pagan roots on the one hand, without being necessitated to become Torah observant on the other. In what kind of religious framework would the Gentile Christian find himself if that were to happen?

      This question is not difficult to answer. The Gentile Christian would find himself without the traditional Gentile Sunday, and also without the traditional Jewish Sabbath. Sunday observance has clear anti-Jewish roots and it cannot be defended on a biblical basis. Sabbath observance is out of the question for him, since the Sabbath belongs to the Sinai covenant which presumably is only for Jews. So our Gentile Christian would find himself robbed of his traditional Sunday, and unable to partake of the Sabbath. He would be left without any weekly day of rest and worship.

      According to a similar logic it follows that this Christian would no longer observe any annual holy days. He wouldn’t observe Christmas, because it is unbiblical and has pagan roots, and neither would he observe Sukkot, because it is only for Jews. In short, the Gentile believer who takes the Scriptures seriously will find himself bereft of the traditional Christian holy days because they lack biblical support — they are either human inventions or pagan relics — while at the same time he finds himself excluded from celebrating the biblical feast days because they are not intended for him. His calendar would be completely secularized.

      In the absence of weekly, monthly, or annual celebrations, the question is what will remain of the structure of a local Church community? When should Gentile Christians meet for worship for example? Or, should they meet at all? And if so, when, and on whose authority? These questions are not to be solved on a purely arbitrary basis.

      A similar secularization will affect other traditional Christian religious items and rituals. The Christian of our example has to remove the crucifix because it is an idol, and the rosary because it has pagan roots. But he cannot exchange them for Mezuzah and Tefillin, because these things are only for Jews. Traditional dietary regulations of the Church, such as abstaining from meat on certain days of the week, have to be given up because of lack of biblical support. But the dietary regulations of the Bible, the laws of Kashrut, cannot be adopted, since we are told that the biblical dietary regulations are only for Jews. And thus the eating habits of the Gentile Christian fall prey to the same secularization as his Sunday and holy days.

      As a consequence of this secularization — i.e. this purgation of nearly all rites and rituals — the Gentile Christian’s religion would be very incomplete and only consist of ethical or moral demands. It would be a religion of ethical behaviour, without any ritual or symbolic observance (save only water baptism and prayer). On a biblical basis, the Gentile believer would have nothing to celebrate.

      It is not difficult to discern that what would result would be a purely “spiritual” religion, detached from earthly and material realities, and therefore radically different from Judaism and without any recognizable ties to it. What would remain of the traditional cultural edifice of the Christian Church? Almost nothing: An empty, cold and uninteresting Noachidism. As a result of this, there would not exist two branches of the one Ekklesia, as supposed by Kinzer. There would essentially only exist one branch which would be fully equipped to fulfil all the demands of a real and great religion capable of honoring G-d according to his instructions. This would be the Jewish Ekklesia. Outside this branch there would exist a disorganized mass of Gentile believers condemned to a secular lifestyle and without the proper tools of honoring G-d in a way that reflects their position in Messiah.

      Certainly, Kinzer and other Bilateralist thinkers do not accept these consequences. They limit themselves to criticizing anti-Jewish doctrines of the Church, such as Supersessionism, without criticizing the whole cultural edifice of religious practices and habits that has developed on the basis of this supersessionist mindset, such as Sunday observance, child baptism, &c. To me that’s one of the basic problems of the Bilateralist approach.

      To counter the reproach of being inconsistent here, Bilateralists will have to move toward a position that favours the idea that not only Jewish tradition and halachah but also the tradition of the Gentile Church’s pattern of religious observance is divinely inspired (without being infallible). This can only mean that Bilateralists have to move in a Catholic direction, where they can find the concept of a divinely inspired tradition with a similar function as the Jewish tradition in providing a framework for the interpretation of Scripture. There are some indications of such a move in Kinzer’s articles: “Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, Three Years Later” (The 2008 Lindsey Lectures), and: “Messianic Gentiles & Messianic Jews” (Kesher Magazine, January 2009).

      The tendency to accept that historical Church traditions are legitimate and have developed under divine guidance I find very disturbing. The traditions I mentioned above are in my opinion irreconcilable to the teachings of Scripture.

      Shalom,
      Geert

  3. 5 Yahnatan October 5, 2011 at 5:20 am

    Geert,

    Sorry, I let this conversation get away from me.

    This question is not difficult to answer. The Gentile Christian would find himself without the traditional Gentile Sunday, and also without the traditional Jewish Sabbath…The Christian of our example has to remove the crucifix because it is an idol, and the rosary because it has pagan roots. But he cannot exchange them for Mezuzah and Tefillin, because these things are only for Jews.

    And I think you’ve gone too far in assuming the necessity of purging the church of its rites and rituals. There is so much that is good in the heritage of the church: its liturgy, theological developments, sacraments (of varying numberings), missions and charity work, etc, etc, etc. By ignoring all of that, you’ve created a straw man and lost me.

    BTW, shana tovah, and thanks for endeavoring to have a good discussion from a distance.

    • 6 messianic613 October 17, 2011 at 12:33 pm

      I do not deny that there are many good things to be found in the heritage of the Christian Church, foremost among them is the Gospel of our salvation through the grace of Yeshua the Messiah. And I can certainly appreciate those parts of the Church’s tradition and liturgy as good and wholesome that don’t conflict with the demands of the Torah or the instructions of Yeshua and the Apostles.

      In appreciating something as good, however, we have to apply some criterion or standard. It is not clear to me what are your criteria for evaluating as good the things you mentioned in your last comment.

      Let us take Sunday observance for an example. Superficially it sounds good to devote the day of Yeshua’s resurrection to worship and rest, and to make it a weekly observance. It is evident, however, that the institution of a new day of worship and rest — either as an addition to or as a replacement of the Sabbath — severely conflicts with the instructions found in the Torah.

      Moreover, even apart from a conflict with the Torah — and ( just for the sake of the argument) considered from a perspective which views Torah observance as non-obligatory or as prohibited for Gentile Christians — it does not at all become clear what is the legitimate basis for Sunday observance. The theological position that the Sabbath is not for Gentile believers does not constitute a sufficient ground for the observance of Sunday. Why should it follow from Yeshua’s resurrection on the first day of the week that this day, i.e. Sunday, should be observed as a weekly holy day? This does not follow at all. What authority, one would ask, does the Church then possess in declaring that Sunday is her weekly holy day and that the Sabbath should not be observed by (Gentile) believers?

      Take child baptism as another example. Superficially it sounds good to devote children to the Lord at their birth by a religious water-sprinkling ceremony. It is evident, however, that this ceremony is not found in Scripture or in any relevant Jewish tradition in the days of Yeshua and the Apostles. And above that it is also clear that child baptism conflicts with the instution of baptism as described in the Apostolic Writings. For the Apostles Baptism is the entrance ceremony of becoming a professing member of the Assembly of Messiah. For that reason baptism is to be administered only upon a confession of faith.

      Moreover, it remains unclear on what legitimate basis the Church claims the authority to alter the biblical rite of baptism into a child baptism ceremony, and adds to it the preposterous and misleading doctrine that this Church-made ceremony has effective power of salvation in washing away Original Sin. It is not a small matter to alter a basic Apostolic rite and invest it with a new and unheard meaning.

      In traditional Christianity institutions like Sunday and child baptism are considered as very important, as essential ritual observances of the Church’s religion. Since it is clear that these observances cannot be defended on the authority of Scripture, there must be some other source of authority by which they can be enforced. This other source of authority is the tradition of the Church. But here again the question is what provides the basis, or the sufficient reason, for this tradition. Did the Church receive this tradition by divine revelation, in addition to the divine revelation she received in the Scriptures of Israel? In other words, does the Church have a source of divine authority which is independent from the Scriptures? This doesn’t seem a convincing or probable theological position to me.

  4. 7 Trevor August 24, 2015 at 6:19 am

    Bilateral ecclesiology is ultimately racist, separatist, and unscriptural. It’s softer than what the Black Hebrew Israelites teach, or what the white’s who claim colored people have the curse of Caanan teach, or what the Nazis who claim that the synagogue of Satan refers to all Jews or “Khazars” teach, but it is the same blatant wolf in sheep’s clothing, and all it’s good for is creating division and maintaining the status quo of gentile antinomianism. The body is one. There is no “Israel vs the Church”. It is just Israel, the Church (ekklesia or Cahol), which Gentiles get straight grafted into (Romans 11, Ephesians 2:8-15) to partake of the same covenants that Jews do under messiah. Either Torah observance is for everyone in Messiah, or it is for no one. Of course, there will be people who will claim it’s for no one, but we should really get rid of the racist heresy of making Jews not equal with Gentiles in Yeshua. If you think the Law still applies today, be honest and forthright with gentile Christians, that they may flee from the bondage of sin brought by antinomianism, both rank lawlessness and that which takes away from the Torah (Deuteronomy 4:2). You know the Egyptians who joined Israel were equals (Numbers 15:15-16).

    • 8 Messianic613 August 25, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      I don’t think that Replacement Theology, Dispensationalism and Bilateral Ecclesiology are racist positions. These different theological positions on the Jews — including the One Law position — should be treated for what they are: theological attempts to deal with the problem of the relation between the Assembly of Messiah and National Israel.

      In dealing with this problem we should never start from the a apriori assumption that making distinctions and divisions between people groups is wrong per se. For this assumption is itself founded in the modern liberal dogma of equality, which has its roots in Enlightenment Philosophy and the French Revolution, not in Scripture. The Torah emphasizes the fact of the national election of the Jewish nation and this election is of divine origin. Bilateral Ecclesiology tries to honour this national election of the chosen nation.

      Bilateralists will reverse the charges you make against them, by the accusation that One Law Ecclesiology, when put into practice, has the same general “racist” effect as Replacement Theology: the dissolution of the distinct existence of the Jewish people.

      I consider it is theologically unsustainable to simply identify the nation of Israel and the Assembly of Messiah (the Church). Israel and the Assembly of Messiah are never fully identical, not even in the Messianic Kingdom. This is clear from the fact that nobody is a member of the Assembly of Messiah by natural birth, but only by faith and spiritual rebirth, while it is the normal thing to be a member of the Jewish nation by natural birth.

      In the Kingdom Age all people will be subject to the rule of Messiah Yeshua and National Israel will accept him as their King Messiah. Yet this fact doesn’t make the nation of Israel the Assembly or Body of Messiah. For even a Jew born in the Kingdom Age, under the rule of Messiah, is not by this fact a member of the Assembly of Messiah. He is simply born under the rule of King Yeshua and has no choice but to obey him. But in order to be saved for eternity more is needed. He has to be be reborn by putting personal saving faith in Yeshua. This is what the Assembly of Messiah essentially is about. It is the company of the saved.

      This doesn’t imply that these two entities, National Israel and the Assembly of Messiah, are two separate things. The One Law position considers the Assembly of Messiah as a subset of the nation of Israel, thereby implying that those who are saved are ipso facto part of the nation of Israel. Bilateral Ecclesiology views the Assembly of Messiah as the intersection set of the faithful found in both National Israel and the Gentiles.

      Both position face some serious difficulties. From the perspective of Bilateral Ecclesiology it is difficult to uphold that the Body of Messiah of Messiah is a physical and practical unity. From the perspective of One Law Ecclesiology it is difficult to maintain that anyone outside the One Law movement is saved at all. One Law also faces difficulties in determining at what moment the full yoke of the Torah becomes obligatory for new Gentile believers and when new male Gentile believers should be circumcised.

  5. 9 David Nderitu October 23, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    Shalom… I think that the overemphasis on Replacement theology is an intended to turn the people away from the real issue. But before this let remember the words of Moshe on this issue. Deutronomy 32: 21 they made me jeolous by what is no God and angered me with worthless idols.. I will make them envious by those who are not people……. so God is stiring the hearts of gentiles to Torah observance so provoke jews to jelousy…. I believe by JELOUSY here YHVH implies that praise HE IS WORTH is being STOLEN FROM AND GIVEN IDOLS. Similarly the RABBINIC JUDAISM MUST FEEL that WHAT IS BY INHERITANCE THEIRS IS BEING STOLEN FROM THEM THEIR JEWISH IDENTITY. Unfortunately majority of so called Messianic judaism are falling to this trap. As with issue of CHRISTOLOGY most messianic Jews tend to lean with EVANGELICALS..


  1. 1 Homeschool Curriculum Reviews | Yiddishkeit 101™ Trackback on May 25, 2015 at 1:44 am

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