Monday, November 29, 2004

Philadelphia Presbytery Report on Avodat Yisrael Gives More Confirmation on My Reporting

In late 2003, I published an article exposing soteriological problems within Avodat Yisrael and with Rev. Andrew Sparks. Reaction has generally been positive. Most within the evangelical community or the conservative wing of the PC(USA) assume that Avodat Yisrael supports the sound preaching of the gospel and of evangelism simply because they are Messianic Jews. Sadly, that is just not the case.

Beyond information uncovered in that article and information in the public record, I received confirmation of Andrew Sparks' unwillingness to affirm the need for Jews to believe in Jesus from a NPR reporter.

Well, now we have confirmation from the Philadelphia presbytery, which oversees Avodat Yisrael. I am also pretty confident that I am mentioned in the report, although not by name.

All quotes in this post are from the report.
Moreover, while the congregation affirms Jesus, whom they call Yeshua, as the promised Messiah of ancient Judaism, they also maintain that insofar as the church has been engrafted into the people of God it follow that Judaism and Christianity are sister religions and that both religions always and already are an equal and irrevocable covenantal relationship with God.

The term "equal and irrevocable" should raise warning flags. I leave it to the author of Hebrews to determine if unbelieving Jews are in equal covenantal relationship with God. I've handled this objection in my Presbyterian Outlook artilce. The point here is not to debate the issue but to show where Avodat Yisrael stands. Furthermore, the report goes on to say: "Avodat Yisrael is clear that it is a co-member of one covenant."

Regarding evangelism, the report is succinct and clear.
Avodat Yisrael does not seek to persuade Jews to become does not seek to make converts to one or the other of the two traditions it represents.

This is great. Avodat Yisrael represents two traditions. Believing and not believing in Jesus. Jewish leaders believe this congregation is "dangerously syncretistic." They probably believe this because they feel any identification with the greater Jewish community and Jesus is syncretistic. I disagree. However, standing for Jesus and not Jesus is indeed syncretistic.

Best of all, I think I was mentioned in the article. The congregation is under fire from three different groups. Jews, Progressive Christians, and Evangelical Christians (by that I think they mean Geoff Robinson, because I know of no other evangelical Christians who have been opposing Avodat Yisrael). I have already had an email exchange with Andrew Sparks, where he took issue to my opposition. I would assume Sparks conveyed that opposition to the committee. I do not mean, at all, to toot my own horn. Others have supported me and written me. I very much appreciate that. I'm sure others have read what I've done and are glad my article was written. If there are any others opposing Avodat Yisrael, please get in contact with me. There may indeed be conservative opposition within the presbytery of Philadelphia itself. That would be wonderful.

Unfortunately, my concerns are not accurately represented by the committee. "Evangelical Christians, who question the mission of a new messianic church development that eschews targeting Jews for salvation as its primary mission."

Again, I can only speak for myself. I don't want a congregation to simply be an evangelistic outreach. That isn't a church. But if a church (messianic congregation, etc.) does not preach the gospel then that congregation is not a church, at least in any Reformed sense. My concern is that Avodat Yisrael does not believe in the gospel and does not preach the gospel! Let alone evangelism. Evangelism does not need to be the only concern of a church. Avodat Yisrael has problems which go beyond a lack of commitment to evangelism and the Great Commission. I would be pleased if they simply preached the gospel from the pulpit. Evangelism without a belief and commitment to the gospel would be a whited sepulchre.

Lastly, we come to one of the recommendations in the report. "We recommend that there be at least one conference organized to explore the breadth of Presbyterian thought on Christian theological responses to Judaism." That's a very good idea. I would love the opportunity to actually interact with views I'm opposed to, both in Avodat Yisrael and the progressive wing of the PC(USA). In turn, I want them to interact with my views as well.

Soli Deo Gloria.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?