Christian Conversion of Jews?

Dialogika Resources

Covenant and Witness

Reflections of Evangelical Christians in Conversation with Orthodox Jews

[from HHCC]

As Evangelical Christians, we acknowledge and affirm that we worship the same God as the Jewish people and that we inherited from them our understanding of monotheism—the very foundation of our faith—because faithful Jewish witnesses have transmitted this knowledge to the world since the time of Abraham.

We understand that the Scriptures that we consider sacred are the result of the self-disclosure of Israel’s God to holy men and women who conveyed insight that they had received by revelation of God and his instructions to both Israel and the world.

We owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Jewish people in general and in particular to the thousands of Jews in the first century of the common era who believed that Israel’s messianic expectations were being fulfilled in the person of the Jew Jesus of Nazareth and who recognized Jesus as both Messiah and Lord, becoming incarnate to extend the promise of Israel’s salvation and blessing to all the families of the earth. We also owe those Jews our gratitude for bearing witness of their understanding in a continuing chain of events that resulted in the turning of millions of Gentiles to faith in the God of Israel, a reality that continues to the present day.

We fully appreciate the fact that the salvation which we as Christians cherish is “from the Jews,” in the words of Jesus, our Lord. We also acknowledge that our understanding of salvation as God’s plan of redemption and restoration of the universe comes to us from the Jewish people.

We are indebted to the Jewish people for our understanding that the God of Scripture expects his covenant people to be witnesses to him and, in the words of one of the first precepts of the Mishnah, “to raise up many disciples.” We understand that this call emerged from Abraham’s determination to share his revelation of monotheism with the pagan world around him and that it was expanded in the witness of the believers in Jesus in response to his Great Commission: “Make disciples of all nations.” We regretfully acknowledge the painful and tragic history of Christian triumphalism vis-à-vis Judaism and the Jewish people wherein the church for nearly two millennia became complicit in verbal hostility and in continuing violence, discrimination, and harassment against Jewish men, women, and children and wherein such persecution of the Jews was, indeed, frequently church-sponsored.

We recognize that Christian triumphalism has been manifest in supersessionism, the theology of displacement and replacement that has wrongfully asserted that Christianity replaced Judaism, the church replaced Israel, and Christians replaced Jews in the economy of God’s salvation.

We recognize that for centuries the Christian church has been characterized by Judaeophobia, anti-Judaism, and even anti-Semitism that have been manifest in words—through caricatures and vilifications of the Jewish people—and in deeds—through systematic and unrelenting acts of violence against individual Jewish men, women, and children and against the corporate Jewish community. Accordingly, we renounce such attitudes and actions, and we resolve not to repeat or to condone them or to remain silent in the face of them now or in the future.

With the apostolic founders of the Christian faith, we recognize that the Jewish people remain in relationship with God through the eternal covenant that he made with Abraham and his descendants. We understand that God’s gifts and callings are irrevocable because they are ground in God’s faithfulness and are not obviated by human frailty. We rejoice in that we share with the Jewish people in God’s covenant with Abraham by virtue of Jesus’ faithfulness unto death on our behalf and our faith in and acceptance of him as Messiah and Lord.

We believe that Jews and Christians share a mutuality of witness that is profitable to both communities. As Christians, we benefit from the input of Jewish scholars and spiritual leaders into our understanding of the faith of Abraham and the Hebrew Scriptures. As Christians we also share the Jewish call to bless all people.

Though we understand that own self-definition as Evangelicals rests on our response to and engagement in the call to bear witness both to Israel’s God and to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and though we honor the divine imperative to make disciples of all nations, we engage the Jewish people in conversation not as heathens or unbelievers but as fellow believers in the God of Scripture; therefore, we share our understanding and our beliefs with the Jewish people as dialogue within a monotheistic Abrahamic family and as communication with fellow citizens in the commonwealth of God’s community of faith.

We accept the conclusion of Apostolic Scripture that God’s relationship with the Jewish community has never been abrogated but continues in the same realm of divine mystery as his relationship of steadfast love continues with Gentile believers. We, therefore, denounce all efforts at singling out individual Jewish people as specific targets for proselytization through the use of deceptive, devious, and coercive methodologies. We reject all attempts to separate or segregate individual Jews from the larger Jewish community, and we view attempts to do so as a form of cultural genocide.

We support in word and deed the right of all Jewish peoples to exist as Jews with complete self-determination—free from any form of political, economic, social, or religious intimidation, coercion, or persecution.

We affirm our determination as Christians to stand in solidarity with the international Jewish community against any threat that may be directed against their personal well-being or their individual and corporate existence.

We support and will defend the right of the Jewish people to the sovereignty of the nation of Israel and to their historic homeland conveyed by contract to them by God’s covenant with Abraham.

Because Evangelical Christians—not unlike the larger Jewish community—represent wide diversity in both beliefs and practices, we do not pretend to speak for all Evangelical Christians or for any other Christian communion. We speak only for ourselves as individuals and as participants in ongoing Christian-Jewish dialogue, and we do so with great reverence for the calling that God has graciously given us and for his commission that we remain faithful to these deeply held convictions that have been revealed and confirmed to us by the Holy Scriptures.