King's Evangelical Divinity School

31 January 2012

Two new blogroll sites added

I've added two new sites to my blogroll (which is currently under review, with more sites to be added/removed over the next couple of weeks). The first is the blog of Stuart Dauermann, a Messianic Jew based in California (a Fuller doctoral graduate) within the TOM-J movement. Yet despite the controversy surrounding this position Stuart is thoughtful, articulate, highly educated and, importantly, eschews a pejorative and polemical approach in favour of thoughtful, objective, and biblically-rooted analysis. You may not agree with all he writes, nonetheless he will make you think carefully about the relationship between the Church and the Messianic movement. I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with him informally several times over coffee last March while in California as a guest of Chosen People Ministries.

The second blog I'm adding to my blogroll is Olivier Melnick's Fight the New Anti-Semitism. I also met Olivier in California last March, and had the pleasure of getting to know him better at the MJ conference I attended just last week in Florida. Olivier is from an altogether somewhat different wing of the MJ movement than Stuart, yet an equally articulate and interesting character. A French Jew who expresses both a European perspective and an ability to be self-deprecating as a Frenchman (a most unusual quality from this [somewhat biased] Englishman's perspective), Olivier offers a valuable perspective on several issues as a thoughtful Jewish believer in Jesus originally coming from a more secular background. He's also  incredibly humourous (again, shattering this Englishman's stereotyping of the French), a good laugh as we'd say over here.

29 January 2012

A Case for Messianic Jewish Identity

This is the follow-up on Messianic Judaism I promised on Friday. But first, I want to describe a recent conversation with someone who strongly supports Israel, a dispensationalist who maintains God has not finished with Israel and believes the nation and people feature prominently in end times prophecy. Over time our conversation drifted to other related matters, and soon we were discussing the issue of Jewish believers in Jesus.

When I raised the issue of Jewish identity among Jewish believers in Jesus and how this has become a major theological and cultural debate within the Messianic movement, it quickly became clear he had not given the matter much thought. His response, based on Galatians 3:28 ("There is neither Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female...") was that in Christ there is no longer any distinction between Jew and Gentile, that through Calvary the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile had been torn down to create one new man from the two (Eph 2:14-15), thus rendering Jewish identity for believers in Christ an anachronism. For this champion of Israel, God's dealings with the Jewish people as a distinct people was limited to the eschatological realm (how Israel features in the end times), and that in Christ there is no sense of Jewish identity or distinctiveness.

27 January 2012

MJs in Florida

I've not blogged this week because I have been attending a symposium on Messianic Jewish identity in Orlando, Florida all week. The weather has been superb (27-28C, low 80s every day), while it's nice to be taken out to some great restaurants (the US is so good at hospitality). But unfortunately all good things come to an end and I'll be back in rainy old England this weekend. The conference has been fascinating, demonstrating not only how the current (and unnecessarily bitter) debate surround the relationship between the Church and Israel is having much wider (and serious) ramifications than at first glance, but also this week has highlighted some of the major theological and identity tensions within the Messianic movement. More on this later, but for now I have a flight to catch. Back to the rain (sigh).

19 January 2012

Top 50 Countries for Christian Persecution

Open Doors has published its 2012 list of 50 countries where Christians are most likely to be persecuted (hat tip to Cranmer for drawing attention to this). I found Open Door's list interesting for several reasons. First, although we hear constantly from certain quarters that Israel systematically persecutes Arab Christians, Israel is not on the list. Second, the Palestinian Territories are on the list. Then there's the point raised by Cranmer: that Muslim countries constitute the vast majority of places where Christians are likely to face persecution.

So yes, Christianity is in decline all over the Middle East, but focusing on a Christian exodus from the Holy Land for anti-Israel political reasons while ignoring Muslim persecution and other factors is just silly. For the sake of Arab Christians in the region it's time all of us, regardless of our theological views on some issues, stop beating about the bush and be honest about the persecution of Christians in Muslim lands (and this includes some Christian Zionists who would do well to focus more on the plight of Christians across the Middle East, rather than give the impression of having little interest in Arab Christianity).

5 January 2012

"Allow Assisted Suicide"

A committee of peers and academics chaired by the former Lord Chancellor Charlie Falconer has today called upon the government to permit assisted suicide for those terminally ill with less than a year to live. The Telegraph details one Anglican bishop's criticism of the commission as
a “self-appointed” group that excluded anyone who objected to legalising assisted suicide.
Aside from the group's clear bias in favour of assisted suicide, another objection to its findings is the whole issue of sanctity of life. But leaving both these issues aside, there is another, much more practical, objection to the commission's recommendations, namely, the "thin end of the wedge" argument.

Falconer's commission calls for legalising assisted suicide for those terminally ill with less than a year to live. By why stop there? How long, once it is enshrined in law, that the time limit is gradually extended? Meanwhile, the commission calls for voluntary assisted suicide on the basis of suffering. But who determines when suffering outweighs the need to end a life? And how long before there is a shift away from voluntary suicide on the basis of suffering to involuntary euthanasia based on what a doctor feels is in the patient's best interests? It's quite a short step between calling for assisted suicide for the mentally competent to recommending it as the most humane action on behalf of a terminally ill patient who is mentally deficient. Oh, and by the way, just because a doctor says you're going to die through illness doesn't necessarily mean you will (after all, this is what happened to me when diagnosed with incurable leukaemia 26 years ago).

Meanwhile, how long before terminally ill individuals feel duty-bound to end their lives - despite managing to deal with their own suffering - because of the burden (or inconvenience) they increasingly might feel they are to others or the state? And for that matter, why stop at assisted suicide (or involuntary euthanasia) for the terminally ill? How long before anyone who suffers a serious handicap is permitted to end their life, the presumption being that perfection determines quality and sanctity of life?

In short, legalising assisted suicide represents the thin end of the wedge, a situation which in time would slowly but inexorably broaden the rules to bring ever more numbers of individuals within the realm of euthanasia. We've already seen it emerge across Western society in the last four decades: abortion for serious disabilities, abortions for less severe disabilities, abortion on demand, voluntary euthanasia in exceptional circumstances, and in some cases involuntary euthanasia condoned by the state. Heavens, we already abort babies on the basis of a cleft palate or for purely social reasons. If Falconer's committee have their way, conceivably it's not a giant step from there to genetics and involuntary euthanasia for mental illness or disability (or even to save the state and health service money). Look at how quickly it transpired in Nazi Germany.

4 January 2012

The Written Word

While driving to work this morning I caught the first part of Melvyn Bragg's In Our Time broadcast by BBC Radio 4. The programme explores the role of writing and its influence upon religion, and I caught the first two sections on Christianity and Islam (I don't know what happened later in the programme). Some interesting details on, for example, the Codex Sinaiticus, by a British Library curator, as well as Mohammed and the Koran in the next section. A podcast of the programme is available here.

3 January 2012

Dershowitz on Israeli Human Rights

I've received a link to a short YouTube video featuring American lawyer, professor at Harvard Law School and political commentator Alan Dershowitz, in which he details a challenge he issues whenever he speaks publicly on the Middle East. Dershowitz holds a range of views from across the political spectrum, and as such there will always be people who will dismiss his views on an ad hominem basis. However, I'm interested to hear your views specifically on what Dershowitz says in the following video (it's a only a little over three minutes), which I'm posting here without comment.