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.