As a result of continuing dialogue with scholars associated with the Israel-based Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation(CJCUC), the Hebraic Heritage Christian Center (HHCC), headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, has developed an Evangelical Christian statement on “Covenant and Witness” to encourage a new era of Christian-Jewish relations based on mutual respect and support.
The statement maintains, “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 just as his relationship of steadfast love continues with non-Jewish believers.”
HHCC President Dr. John D. Garr says, “In an effort to recover biblical perspectives for Christian relations with the international Jewish community, our team of Evangelical scholars has interacted for many years with leaders from the Jewish community. Most recently we have joined in dialogue with Orthodox Jewish academic and religious leaders for joint consideration of theological and religious issues that are important to both communities.”
The HHCC team suggests that it is time for greater mutual understanding and cooperation between Christians and Jews. “In order for Christians to engage Jews as fraternal partners in religious dialogue,” Garr asserts, “it is essential for Christians to recognize that their Christian faith is rooted in biblical and Second-Temple Judaism and that they are indebted to the Jewish people of history and the present for the core elements of their faith.”
The Hebraic Heritage Christian Center encourages other Christian laypersons, ministers, ministries, denominations, and other organizations to join this effort toward rapprochement with the Jewish community so that the historical proto-schism between the two faiths that are based in the Hebrew Scriptures may begin to be resolved to the honor of the one God.
Covenant and Witness
Reflections of Evangelical Christians in Conversation with Orthodox Jews
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.
CJCUC RELEASES THEIR STATEMENT ON A JEWISH UNDERSTANDING OF CHRISTIANS
May 23, 2011 – After collaborating and working with various Christian organizations, leaders, and scholars over the past three and one-half years, the staff members of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC) in Efrat and Jerusalem have released a statement of a Jewish Understanding of Christians and Christianity. CJCUC is the first orthodox Jewish entity to engage in dialogue with the Christian world.
In partnership with The Witherspoon Institute at Princeton University, CJCUC recently unveiled their scholarly work at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem as well as at Yale University on the topics of “Covenant & Mission” and “Hope & Responsibility in the 21st Century.” In addition, CJCUC has collaborated with scholars connected with the Hebraic Heritage Christian Center in Atlanta, GA, in discussing the issues of “Evangelization” and “Jewish Understanding of Christianity.
“Jewish and Christian theologies are no longer engaged in a theological duel to the death,” the statement notes. It suggests that “Jews should not fear a sympathetic understanding of Christianity that is true to the Bible, Jewish thought and values as well as understanding themselves to be working together with Christians toward the same spiritual goals of sacred history-- universal morality, peace, and redemption under God--but under different and separate systems of commandments for each faith community and distinct theological beliefs.”
CJCUC's Founder Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Riskin said, "This statement only represents the view of our center but should also be used as a catalyst for other orthodox Jews and Jewry worldwide to consider fostering relationships with Christian communities. Leaders within the mainline Christian denominational world as well as the non-denominational movements of Evangelical Christianity have sincerely become friends of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. It is vital that we strengthen our relationship with them. We are certain that through these relational dialogues we will find far more which unites us than divides us.”
CJCUC Statement on a Jewish Understanding of Christians and Christianity
Many of the leaders of Christianity’s various denominations today no longer seek to displace Judaism but now recognize the Jewish people’s continuing role in God’s plan for history. Through their own understanding of the Christian Testament, Christians see themselves as grafted onto the living Abrahamic covenant.
Thus Christians see themselves not merely as members of the Noahide covenant, but as spiritual partners within the Jewish covenant. At the same time, they believe that God does not repent of his covenantal gifts, and that the Jewish people continue to enjoy a unique covenantal relationship with God in accordance with its historical 2000 year traditions.
Jewish and Christian theologies are no longer engaged in a theological duel to the death. Jews should not fear a sympathetic understanding of Christianity that is true to the Bible, Jewish thought and values. In today’s unprecedented reality of Christian support of the Jewish people, Jews should understand themselves to be working together with Christians toward the same spiritual goals of sacred history - universal morality, peace and redemption under God – but under different and separate systems of commandments for each faith community and distinct theological beliefs.
Nearly all medieval and modern Jewish biblical commentators understood Abraham’s primary mission as teaching the world about God and bearing witness to His moral law. In Maimonides philosophy and theology, spreading the knowledge of the One God of Heaven and Earth throughout the world was the main vocation of Abraham. Significantly, this understanding of Abraham’s religious mission is exactly the role and historical impact of Christianity as understood by Rabbis Moses Rivkis, Yaakov Emden and Samson Raphael Hirsch.
When we combine recent rabbinic appreciation of Christianity with current non-replacement Christian theologies toward Judaism, we find fresh possibilities for rethinking a Jewish relationship with Christianity and for fashioning new Jewish-Christian cooperation in pursuit of common values. If so, Jews can view Christians as partners in spreading monotheism, peace and morality throughout the world.
A new understanding must encompass a mutual respect of each other’s theological beliefs and eschatological convictions. Some Christians maintain that Christianity is the most perfect revelation of God, and that all will join the Church when truth is revealed at the end of time. Jews, too, are free to continue to believe, as Maimonides says that all will return to the true religion (Mishneh Torah 12), as well as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, “in the ultimate truthfulness of our views, praying fervently for and expecting confidently the fulfillment of our eschatological vision when our faith will rise from particularity to universality and will convince our peers of the other faith community” (Confrontation from Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Thought, 1964 volume 6, #2).
The new relationship requires that Christians respect the right of all Jewish peoples to exist as Jews with complete self-determination—free from any attempts of conversion to Christianity. At the same time, Judaism must respect Christian faithfulness to their revelation, value their role in divine history and acknowledge that Christians have entered a relationship with the God of Israel. In our pre-eschaton days, God has more than enough blessings to bestow upon each of His children.
Micah also offers a stunning description of that world, the messianic culmination of human history.
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord and the God of Jacob, that He teach us His ways, and we will walk in His paths.…Let the peoples beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war anymore. Let every man sit under his vine and under his fig tree; and no one shall make him afraid….Let all the people walk, each in the name of his God; and we shall walk in the name of our Lord our God forever and ever.” (4:2-5)
Jews and Christians must bear witness together to the presence of God and to His moral laws. If Jews and Christians can become partners after nearly 2,000 years of theological delegitimization and physical conflict, then peace is possible between any two peoples anywhere. That peace would be our most powerful witness to God’s presence in human history and to our covenantal responsibility to carry God’s blessing to the world. It is the very essence of which the messianic dream is made of.