Posted on Oct 14, 2016 | 0 comments

The World Is Not Enough
by Skip Moen, D. Phil.

“I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.” John 17:15 NASB

Take them out – “Judaism is God’s perennial question-mark against the condition of the world.”[1] God has invited us to be His partners in redeeming the world. That means we must question those assumptions that form the basis of the world’s view of itself. No assumption is immune from this project. We are the sponges of our societies. We have absorbed their views simply because we grew up in them. We breathed them. We ate them. We walked in them. They seem to us to be so obvious that there is no need to scrutinize them at all. They are what does not need to be said.

In a recent book, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, authors Richards and O’Brien do an excellent job of uncovering the presuppositions of Western world exegesis of Middle Eastern biblical texts. As an example, the chapter entitled “Captain of My Soul” demonstrates how our Western view distorts the essentially communal and collective biblical texts so that they appear to endorse individualism foundational to the Western mind. The authors do a great deal to “remove cultural blinders” in order that we might appreciate the real meaning of the biblical writers. But it comes as a shock to discover that these authors might be victims of presuppositions that color all of their otherwise excellent work. They assume that the Bible is a Christian document. They presuppose that the texts support the Christian theology of the Church. They never once question their idea that there are no biblical Jewish “Christians.” Their work is what Thomas Kuhn calls “normal science.” It corrects some of the misfits by shaping exegesis into the right forms, but it still uses the Christian box to store the results. “What doesn’t need to be said” in this book is the biggest problem of all.[2]

One example demonstrates the theme. Discussing the misreading of Jeremiah 29:11, Richards and O’Brien dismiss the idea that God’s plans about us today are because it ignores the context and the culture of Jeremiah. They conclude, “A more likely application of Jeremiah 29:11, then, is that God is working to prosper his church. . . He has promised the total consummation of his church. But until that day, we labor faithfully, knowing that God is working his purposes for his church, . . .”[3] Randolph and O’Brien are right that Jeremiah 29:11 isn’t a personal promise of success, but they missed the point that it is not about the Church. It is about Israel, the only corporate entity of God’s unfailing concern. They see only the anomalies that their paradigm allows them to see and they are victims of the same disease.

Yeshua prayed that his disciples would be left behind. That means they were intended to be the contenders. They were to be the misfits, the questioners, the debaters, the non-conformists—in word and deed! Biblical truth is sandpaper. It grinds against the world and all of its assumptions, even religious ones.

The Christian Church, founded in the mid-second century, powered by Rome after Constantine, is not a biblical idea. No author of the biblical text was a Christian. The God of the Bible is the God of Israel, not the God of Rome or Geneva. The Messiah is Jewish and will still be Jewish on His return. There are no cathedrals in heaven and when He returns there will be none on earth. The assumption that this Jewish text, this God of Israel, is the same text and the same God as the ones of Augustine, Theodosius, Aquinas, Luther and Calvin is a fundamental assumption that must be challenged with everything we’ve got. We are here to challenge that cultural assimilation, that osmotic religion. The world is not enough to prevent our voices from crying, “Torah will pour forth from Zion.”

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Excerpt taken from SKIP MOEN – sign up for these daily words!

Topical Index: take them out, assumptions, Church, Christian, John 17:15
[1] Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, To Heal a Fractured World, p. 26.
[2]In dialogue with Richards, he assured me that he never intended to suggest Paul wasn’t Jewish. His other book on Paul attempts to prove the point.
[3]E. Randolph Richards and Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes, p. 202..

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