In my last posting on the Reformed Faith and the Jewish people, Writing about the Jewish people and Christian theology - 2 I stated that I would look at the use Christians have made and must make of the Hebrew Bible in regards to the Jewish people. This is not that posting but it will do for a lead in to the subject.
As the next General Assembly for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) nears the overtures will start piling up and we are all fairly certain that one very large issue will be homosexuality. But another issue, that is rarely connected to the first one, will also contribute to the work at GA. That is, Middle East concerns. And I suggest, with this posting, that they are connected.
Many of the issues surrounding the ordination of those who are practicing homosexuals have to do with scripture and its authority. All of that authority is rooted in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament.
For instance Jesus refers to the creation account of the Hebrew Bible when he speaks of marriage. He reminds his listener’s that God created the first two people as man and woman and brought them together as husband and wife. All New Testament ethics are Hebrew.
In the same manner the Christian connection to the Jewish people is tied to the Hebrew text. Every promise that anchors the Christian in the kingdom of God finds its foundation in the Hebrew Bible. Without the historical account of ancient Israel, the ancient people of God, the Christian’s faith floats in an uncertain universe tied only to whatever cultural milieu exists. Christ is no longer the promised one but simply a surprising creature arising out of anyone’s myth.
And so both become problems when those who proclaim the word begin to disconnect Christianity from the Jewish scriptures. And I have seen this happen lately. On homosexuality it was evident in the preaching of several women at the Presbyterian Women’s gathering. Most speakers were not pushing for homosexual ordination, but those who were either discredited some of the main texts of Joshua or misused the text for their own particular agenda.
For instance one speaker used the command in Joshua for the tribes to sanctify themselves as a means of insisting that part of that sanctification process means following God into “new landscapes and unknown territory.”Sanctify Yourselves
But in order to be faithful to the text as well as the history of the Jewish people one must be honest about what it meant to sanctify or as my translation puts it consecrate. And like the Israelites who came to the mount where the law was to be given the people were to separate from the unholy or even from the mundane; circumcision was a part of that. Yet the speaker led with her idea of a ‘new landscape’ until she was able to connect sanctification with the ordination of practicing homosexuals. She stated:
“A marvelous wonder will occur the day when the Church no longer needs to sort believers into specific boxes, because everyone is fully welcomed at the Baptismal Font and the Communion Table; and because everyone’s gifts are affirmed through the outpouring of baptismal waters and ordination oil; and because everyone’s ministry is empowered though the sharing of opportunities and resources.” (My emphasis)
Another speaker detached Jesus from the promises that arise out of the sacrifices and rituals of the Jewish Temple. She too called for the ordination of practicing homosexuals by suggesting we start kicking in some roofs. “Meddlin’”
On the other hand such groups as the Israel/Palestine Mission Network detach the Hebrew Bible from the Jewish people of today. They do this by either denying the text of the Old Testament or by denying the ethnicity of the Jewish people.
There is a need to return to the authenticity of the Hebrew Bible. First one reads and studies in the Hebrew Bible the histories of the Jewish people as true and important. Then the fleshing out of Jesus Christ as he is found in all the promises, theophanies, shadows and types will allow once again our faith to rest in the Old Testament as it so securely does in the New. If Jesus the Christ is secured in the Old he is Lord of the Old. The commandments are his; the call for holiness is his. And the Christian is not disconnected from the Jewish people.
As Karl Barth puts it “… it is the unanimous opinion within the Church, that God is never for us in the world, that is to say, in our space and time, except in this His Word, and that this Word for us has no other name and content but Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ is ever to be found on our behalf save each day afresh in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. One is not in the Church at all if he is not of a mind with the Church in these things.”
Instead the Church is being fed morality disconnected from the promised Messiah of the Hebrew Bible. At the same time Christ himself is anchored in our various cultural stories and disconnected from the Hebrew Bible. I believe we can expect a continuing barrage of unholy overtures on both issues which will grow steadily worse as Christ is moved further and further away from the Hebrew Bible, and as the Old Testament is further eroded by progressive exegesis.