Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Recognizing the Differences


Many people are under the mistaken impression that the only issue separating Judaism and Christianity is the identity of the moshiach. This is a falsehood. Whether the moshiach will be the Lubavitcher Rebbe, John, Bob, Yankel or Ariel, Judaism will remain the same. A host of things separate Judaism from Christianity, namely the nature of G-d, sin and repentance, Original Sin, the nature of the Scriptures, the eternity of the commandments, etc. Since one of the most prevalent Messianic claim is that Christianity is "complete Judaism", I will attempt to briefly highlight the doctrines on which we differ in an attempt to show Judaism and Christianity are not spiritually compatible. Although we share a great deal in terms of culture and values, there is little in common theologically.

NATURE OF G-D

Christianity believes that G-d exists as in three distinct entities, as part of a triune godhead. The Christian perception of G-d is of three persons or entities, distinct, co-equal and co-eternal, which for the G-dly being.

At the Nicea council in 325 CE, Jesus was voted G-d. At this council, the Nicene creed was established. It sets out Christian belief on the nature of G-d:

"I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
...
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.
..."



In opposition to this, Judaism teaches radical monotheism, that G-d is absolutely One. "I am the First and I am the Last; besides me there is no god... Is there a god besides Me? There is no rock; I do not know any" (Isaiah 44:6). G-d is an absolute unity, and not a compound unity in the sense of a car which is composed of many individual parts. He is the One and Only divine being. "I am the LORD, and there is none else, beside Me there is no God." (Isaiah 45:5) According to Judaism, G-d has no shape or form, is the One and Only, a complete unity, and is eternal and unchanging. The Jewish understanding of G-d was formed through revelation at Mount Sinai and prophecy as opposed to a vote, as was the case in Nicea.



SIN AND FORGIVENESS

Christianity holds that man is born sinful due to the Fall of Adam, and is therefore doomed. As such, his only hope for salvation is to accept Jesus as his saviour, and that his blood should atone for him. Jesus's death at the cross represents the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of the world, and anybody who accepts him is granted instant forgiveness. This belief is based on one out of context verse: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11) However, blood sacrifices could only atone for accidental sins, and had to be accompanied by confession and repentance. There were other means of atonement in the Holy Temple, such as the incense offering. And today, in the absence of the sacrifical system, we need only confess our sins and do teshuva to be forgiven. Hosea first asked how we can atone for our sins without sacrifices. In the Jewish Scriptures, G-d told Hosea to tell the Israelites that while they were in exile, to, “return, Israel, unto your God, for you have stumbled in your iniquity. TAKE WORDS WITH YOU and return to God; say to Him, ‘May You forgive all iniquity and accept good intentions, and let our lips substitute for bulls’” (14:2-3). According to Hosea, God’s demand was not sacrifice and ritual but a piety and spirituality that expressed itself in love and loyalty. God and Israel’s love relationship is that of husband and wife.


Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return to God, and He will have compassion on him; and to our God. For He will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:7)

"And if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (II Chronicles 7:14).

"But if the wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed and observes all My statutes and practices justice and righteousness, he shall surely live; he shall not die. All his transgressions which he has committed will not be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has practiced he shall live...When a wicked man turns away from his wickedness which he has committed and practices justice and righteousness, he will save his life. Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you (Ezekiel 18:21- 22,27,30).

"By loving kindness and truth iniquity is atoned for..." (Proverbs 16:6).

"If you return to God you will be restored; if you remove unrighteousness far from your tent...then you will delight in God..." (Job 22:23-27).


SATAN AND EVIL

Christianity asserts that a fallen angel, Satan, has free will to act against G-d and fights against Him in a cosmic battle. Satan is the source of evil and sin in the world. Such a belief is idolatry because it believes that there is a power independent of G-d. Judaism believes that the angels were created by G-d and have no free will to oppose Him. G-d gave mankind a dual inclinatation, the yetzer hatov and the yetzer harah, the good and evil inclinations, and that man has the free will to choose in between these. Some Christian denominations believe in predetermination which totally contradicts these.

G-D'S SALVATION PLAN


Christianity believes that faith in Jesus, as opposed to good works, is essential. G-d judges the world according to faith in Jesus. This belief, however, is extremely weak as not one verse in the entire Torah mentions belief in the moshiach ben David as a prerequisite for salvation. Judaism asserts that by following G-d's Torah, the 613 mitzvot for Jews and the 7 for non-Jews, a person is saved.

"See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil, in that I command thee this day to love the LORD thy God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His ordinances; then thou shalt live and multiply, and the LORD thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest in to possess it. But if thy heart turn away, and thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I declare unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish; ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over the Jordan to go in to possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed; to love the LORD thy God, to hearken to His voice, and to cleave unto Him; for that is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." (Deut. 30:15-20).

Christianity also views the Torah as a burden or a curse, which was fulfilled and completed by Jesus. Judaism sees the Torah's laws as eternal and unchanging and that they represent G-d's guide and moral compass for us to live more meaningful spiritual lives.

This was just a brief outline of some of the key points in which the two faiths differ. It is important to be able to set barriers between the two religions as the opposite is precisely what Messianic groups attempt to do. Remember that just as Christianity and Mormonism have a lot in common, and yet are very different faiths, so are Christianity and Judaism. One cannot be a Jew and a Christian at the same time.

9 comments:

The Frank Family said...

You are mistaken here on several points. I will highlight a few of them. You say:

"Christianity believes that G-d exists as in three distinct entities, as part of a triune godhead. The Christian perception of G-d is of three persons or entities, distinct, co-equal and co-eternal, which for the G-dly being."

Christianity makes no such distinction. There is no way of separating the three aspects of God's nature. These aspects are not co-equal but rather are inseparable and never independent. Just as you are bone and blood and spirit and if you took one of these away you would cease to exist. So it is with God. The Father and the Son and the Spirit are all wrapped up as one inseparable package.

Concerning Satan you said:

"Christianity asserts that a fallen angel, Satan, has free will to act against G-d and fights against Him in a cosmic battle. Satan is the source of evil and sin in the world. Such a belief is idolatry because it believes that there is a power independent of G-d. "

Christianity does not believe that Satan has any power except that allowed by God who is Omnipotent. Nothing exists apart from God allowing it to and there is no other power besides God. You can see this clearly demonstrated in Job when Satan must ask permission to test Job.

Concerning salvation you said:

"Judaism asserts that by following G-d's Torah, the 613 mitzvot for Jews and the 7 for non-Jews, a person is saved."

Christianity would whole-heartedly agree. My next question then would be what person can you point to that has fulfilled the entire law? The law is a whole and as a whole if you have transgressed one aspect of the law then you have not fulfilled the law. Have you kept the law perfectly? I can point to one who has!

Bar Kochba said...

The Catholic Encyclopedia states:

"Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed : "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent. This, the Church teaches, is the revelation regarding God's nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came upon earth to deliver to the world: and which she proposes to man as the foundation of her whole dogmatic system."

The belief holds that G-d has 3 distinct persons, all of the same substance. This does raise many problems and is extremely illogical. If all three persons are of the same substance, then why is every one necessary? Wouldn't just the Father be necessary?

I know that every Christian denomination differs and that there is a great difference between each sect, but Christianity's church fathers were clear that the Satan was G-d's enemy. There is a cosmic struggle between good and evil, led by G-d on one side and the other by Satan. "In this the children of God are manifest and the children of the devil: for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God appeared, that He might destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

This struggle will come to an end with the Apocalypse. "And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: and they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven. And that great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, who seduceth the whole world; and he was cast unto the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him." (Apocalypse 12:7-9)

As for the Law vs. faith in christ, Christianity no longer believes that the Torah's laws bring salvation.

Galatians 3:10

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them"

Galatians 2:16

"knowing that a man is not justified by the Works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be Saved!"

Now Judaism's retort. Most laws cannot be fulfilled today in absence of a Temple. Some mitzvot can only be fulfilled in Israel, some only by a priest, by a man, by a woman, by a king, etc. Only a small fraction of the 613 are actually applicable in the daily life. By studying the laws that we cannot fulfill, it is as if we have kept them. Why would G-d give us something impossible for us? "It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?'... But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." (Deut. 30:12-14) What is important is not necessarily keeping the entire law but the struggle to perfect oneself.

And, as a sidenote, Jesus did not fulfill the entire Torah and was not perfect. If you want, I can show you a number of times were he violated Jewish law, lied, sinned, or issued morally problematic statements.

The Frank Family said...

I speak of Christianity and not of catholicism. The point of the law is to bring an awareness to each person that they are unable to fulfill all that it requires thus making it crystal clear that we are in need of being reconciled with God. The law was written as a simple contract between God and man. If you do these things......then I will do this. If you have not fulfilled all the requirements then there should be no expectation of God fulfilling His end of the bargain. As a Christian I whole-heartedly believe that if you or anyone else could fulfill the entire law then you would be granted eternal life on the basis of your own works or your own righteousness. Nowhere in the Torah does it say that it is okay to only fulfill part of the law and that will be good enough. To work for eternal life is to say that you deserve it and that it is your right and not a gift from God. Just as your very breath and each new day is a GIFT from God and God alone so eternal life is the GIFT of God and because it pleases Him.

Bar Kochba said...

Moses was the greatest man that ever lived. He pleaded with G-d to let him enter the Land of Israel but was refused. That means that he couldn't keep hundreds of mitzvot that can only be done in Israel, alone. And yet never again was there a prophet like Moses. That is because a person cannot be expected to keep all 613 as not all apply to him. The Torah says: "that you may do it." It is possible. It is not a curse but a blessing and a gift. Christianity appeals mainly to the childlike instinct in that it promises unconditional love, eternal life without any hard work ie keeping the commandments, fearing G-d, etc. Judaism's view is much more mature and reasonable. The 613 are intended to purify the soul, to rectify its blemishes and to make one holy.

The Frank Family said...

Of course it is possible. Just go ahead and let me know when you find someone who has done it. I don't view the law as a curse but rather view it as a gift. It is the basis of my salvation as without the law I would not know that I have transgressed and was in need of being reconciled to God. Moses was indeed the greatest of prophets and he was justified not by his works but by his faith. He followed God because of his belief in Him. Moses is the greatest example of showing that your works won't get the job done. Who is greater than Moses and yet he was excluded from entering Israel. This is an object lesson for us. Our hard work will never be good enough because eternal life is a gift and not a reward. Moses was indeed justified but it was because of his faith and not because of his work.

You wrote this:

"Christianity appeals mainly to the childlike instinct in that it promises unconditional love, eternal life without any hard work ie keeping the commandments, fearing G-d, etc. Judaism's view is much more mature and reasonable. The 613 are intended to purify the soul, to rectify its blemishes and to make one holy."

The error here is in your view of the prize. Eternal life is not the prize. It is not an ending but rather it is only a beginning. In Christianity, Salvation is the beginning of the journey. I don't seek to serve God in order to obtain eternal life or in order to secure my position in heaven. God has given me the gift of eternal life and it is now my pleasure to point people toward Him. He has prepared in advance good works for me to do and now I walk in those good works from the overflow of a grateful heart and because God daily gives me the strength to do those good works because of His mercy and grace. I do not feel that it is a mature view at all to think that somehow you could earn eternal life by your own merit. Eternal life is the gift of God and not a reward to be earned. What good are your good works if they are done in order to achieve something for yourself?

Bar Kochba said...

Jason, as the Sages say: "the deed is the principle." One can believe in G-d all day long, with a full heart, but if that belief does not translate into good deeds, then it is worthless.

It makes me think of a story. When Israel was about to execute Eichman, may his name be accursed, they brought him a Canadian pastor to confess to. After the meeting, the pastor explained that he accept christ and would therefore merit eternal life. When asked the fate of the 6 million murdered Jews, he answered that they had died in disbelief and would burn in hell forever.

This story shows the obscenity of placing faith about works. One should not serve G-d with the hope of gaining a place in heaven. One should serve Him our of love, and keep His Torah. Only by keeping the Torah to the best of your ability can you achieve what G-d desires of you.

The Frank Family said...

" Only by keeping the Torah to the best of your ability can you achieve what G-d desires of you."

This is a true statement and right in line with Christianity. I strive to keep the Torah just as I try to follow the teaching of all the scripture. This is God's path to holiness. God desires for us to be holy even as He is holy. However, this does not speak to receiving the gift of eternal life. As I just explained eternal life is only a starting point and not the final prize. Apart from the gift of eternal life God's desire is for our holiness. This is achieved by following the Torah. Eternal life and heaven are not something to be held on to but rather they are something already given when we act on our belief, which is also a gift, and accept God's plan of salvation. Then we are free to strive for fulfilling God's desire which is for us to be holy. In order for us to move toward holiness we follow the Torah and seek God's ways through His law.

Devash said...

Frankfurter, as a Gentile, you sin by "trying to keep the Torah." The Torah is the ketuba between God and Am Israel. It is not yours and you have no right to it. As we learned last week from Parashat Kedoshim, we become holy by keeping mitzvot. You have seven. We have 613. You can't even get the first one right! You are one arrogant SOB to presume to teach BK the NT and xianity on an anti-xian blog!! Your chutspah knows no bounds.

The Frank Family said...

devash -- you disseminate hate and as such have displayed yourself to not have the heart of God at all. You have been the one calling people names and accusing them. This is not the way of God or Torah. This blog was set up by BK as a place for debate and discussion as opposed to his other blog.