Friday 25 October 2013

Examination of some arguments raised by "Supplement to Contra Brown" 2

I am continuing the response to some of the point that Yisroel Blumenthal has raised in his work Supplement to Contra Brown and I hope to address some of the points he raised.

"II. 17. Page 118
Brown claims that he addressed every Torah reference that speaks of atonement without blood. Another falsehood. He did not address Deuteronomy 30:1, 2."

Let's look:
"30 When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come on you and you take them to heart wherever the Lord your God disperses you among the nations, 2 and when you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, "

Why should there be any need for mentioning atonement, it is not relevant to the context. Ezekiel 18 and 33 don't raise the issue of atonement of blood in the context either, which Blumenthal refers to in his treatise later on.

"II. 19. Page 152
“God has always had one system of atonement and one system alone, namely, substitutionary atonement.”
In the book of Micah 6: 1-8 the prophet is clearly talks about substitution. “Shall I give my first born for the sin of my soul?”, and God’s answer is no. ONLY (“ki im”) to do justice and love kindness, and walking humbly with your God. Does this mean sacrifice is not necessary? Certainly not. Included in walking humbly with God, is the acceptance of all of His commandments. But the prophet is clearly telling us that the key is not substitution. The key is obedience. This is also the message of Jeremiah 7:22 where God says that He didn't command us about sacrifices, and that He only demands obedience. Of-course obedience includes bringing a substitutionary offering where we are so commanded, but the key remains obedience. There is no way that the Christian can look at his worship of Jesus as obedience to the God of Micah."

The question is does Jesus death atone? If Jesus' claims are true, then Christians need to submit to him in order to obey the God of Micah. No Christian if he is biblically solid is going to reject repentance and obedience.

"II. 20. Objection 3:15
Brown points to the Talmudic teaching that the death of the righteous has the power to atone for sin. He argues therefore that Christianity’s belief in vicarious atonement is rooted in the Jewish traditions.
Brown has just destroyed his arguments articulated in objections 3:9 through 3:14. Until now Brown had argued that the only method of atonement is substitutionary atonement. He went on to say that with the Temple’s destruction, substitutionary atonement is no longer available to us so we are lost in our sins. But if the death of the righteous has the power to atone, then we still have substitutionary atonement."

The problem is every righteous man falls short of this righteousness. Even Blumenthal admits in the previous article I wrote that we need God's mercy when we slip up. If Jesus is the one who is truly rightous or tzadik through and through, only his rightous death would work. The Talmud doesn't take that into consideration in Moed Qatan 28 a or b, I forget one it is in.
Furthermore, some Jews even would dispute the interpretation of the death of the rightous and I have come across two, one inspiring rightousness, the other referring to dying for ones own sins, both which I would dispute although the first one is very interesting. But that's another issue.

"II. 21. Page 154
Brown speaks of the idea of a “redemptive analogy”. He explains how a missionary could not communicate with a tribal people in New Guinea who did not understand some of the underlying concepts of Christianity. At some point the missionary experienced a breakthrough. He found that a certain aspect of the tribal culture could serve as an analogy for the foundational principles of Christianity. By utilizing this aspect of their culture as an analogy, the missionary was able to communicate with these primitive people.

Brown compares this situation with the concept that the suffering of the righteous atones for sin that is found in Judaism. Brown considers this concept a “redemptive analogy”, an analogy that could facilitate communication between Missionaries and the Jewish people.
The comparison is invalid. There is no communication barrier between missionaries and Jews. Jews have no problem UNDERSTANDING the concepts that the missionaries are preaching. We reject the missionary teaching because we fully understand it and we recognize it as anti-scriptural."

The point made by Brown I am guessing is because you have the redemptive analogy of the death of the rightous making atonement in your Talmudic writings, you should not have a problem with the substitutionary death of Christ. That I think is the point Brown is getting at. If Blumenthal says it is unscriptual, feel free to throw out the Talmudic tradition.

" II. 22. Page 165
Brown points out that the Rabbis taught that a sacrifice has the power to atone for future sins. He sees in this teaching support for the Christian teaching that Jesus’ death has the power to atone for future sins.
It seems that Brown isn’t satisfied to destroy his own previous arguments, he wants to bury them as well. If sacrifices have the power to atone for future sin, then the fact that we don’t have the Temple now does not mean that we are without substitutional offerings. The sacrifices of the Temple could atone into the future. The binding of Isaac can atone into the future. The sacrifices of our martyrs can atone into the future."

Even by a Rabbinic standard, Wouldn't the binding of Isaac as a sacrifice still be an abomination? considering that Isaac, though he didn't die, have his death count as a sacrifice according to that tradition? After all, Rabbinic Jews ABHOR the sacrifice of Christ and compare it to a pagan sacrifice, yet have no problem with the Akidah or the atoning death of a righteous saint? Very strange.
Interesting what the Rabbis said which Brown pointed out, although the sacrifice of Jesus covers our future sins when we repent, not in a works salvation sense obviously. I am sure the Rabbis may of had repentance in mind obviously.

"II. 23. Page 182
Brown addresses the prophecies which tell us that the sacrifices are coming back. According to Brown the sacrifices were replaced with Jesus, so the prophetic prediction of their return poses a problem to Brown. His answer? First he negates the message of Ezekiel by telling us that even the Rabbis had difficulty understanding his prophecy. Then he addresses the other prophecies by telling us that they generally deal with the gentiles bringing offerings, they do not speak of offerings for atonement, and they only take up a total of three verses."

I grant the sacrifices have a possible return, though as a symbolic remembrance for what Jesus has done for us. In other words, they are literal sacrifices but not done for our own sake but done in honour of Jesus, which I think would take place for a time during the millennial reign of Christ, rather than right now. I don't think it would pose a problem, even though the book of Revelation doesn't speak on this issue. I can safely say we need to look at both Testaments as two sides of the same coin, not that I am accusing Brown of not doing so.

"First it is in place to note that Brown seems to be unaware of at least four other prophecies which speak of the blood offerings in the Messianic era (Isaiah 56:7, 60:7, Ezekiel 20:40,41, Malachi 3:3,4). This is aside from the many prophecies that predict complete observance of the Law, which obviously includes a restoration of the sacrifices. In addition, Brown seems to have forgotten the many passages which tells us that the Law is eternal and unchanging, with a special emphasis on the laws concerning the sacrifices. Furthermore, by claiming that the prophets that speak of the offerings in the Messianic era do not speak of atonement offerings, Brown has just buried another one of his arguments. Earlier in this book (page 98), Brown argues that because God called the Temple a “beit zevach” (2Chronicles 7:12), this proves that the primary function of the Temple is to atone for sin through the substitutionary offerings. But here Brown informs us that the Hebrew word “zevach” does not necessarily refer to sacrifices for the atonement of sin. If that is the case, then the verse in Chronicles does not say that the primary function of the Temple is for atonement. Finally, Brown’s argument that the prophecies only take up three verses, implying that they cannot be considered too central to God’s message, deals another fatal blow to  Brown’s previous arguments. Brown has argued that the central concept of salvation is the idea of a “life for a life”. This “central” concept is only spelled out in one verse in the Jewish Bible. According to Brown’s own guidelines this should tell us that the concept of “a life for a life” cannot be too central to God’s message."

If Blumenthal has represented the argument of Brown accurately, I can assume there is a level of inconsistency on the part of Brown. However I wouldn't say Isaiah 56:7, Isaiah 60:7 and Ezekiel 20:40-41 necessarily refer to the Messianic era unless I am missing something here. But again, I don't dismiss the possiblity of sacrifices in the Messianic era for the reasons explained above.

"II. 24. Objection 3:18
Brown speaks about humanity desperately needing God’s salvation. Brown quotes several passages from the Jewish scriptures which describe how the prophetic authors looked forward to God’s salvation. Indeed, we all need God’s salvation in every aspect of our physical and spiritual lives. But the prophets taught us that God Himself has the power to save, without the services of a long deceased resident of the upper Galilee. God is close to all who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18).

In any case, Brown has missed the main point of the Jewish objection. The argument against Christianity is not that we do not need God’s help. Of-course we need God’s help and without His salvation we are lost. The point of the Jewish objection is that no one starts out with damnation to eternal hellfire. And even though we need God’s help to pull ourselves closer to Him, but we are not condemned before we start as Christianity teaches. This teaching has no basis in scripture."

There is no disagreement with the Psalm 145. But the problem is, man spinning his way to damnation is already present when the Book of Genesis says man's heart and inclinations were evil all the time. Noah resisted evil and God was pleased and it's possible that Noah by God's grace was able to overcome his evil desires. I hope to write an article in the future on a biblical defence of original sin, but that's for another time.
However Blumenthal presupposes that man is already good to begin with, even after the fall. If we are not condemned before we start, can you explain WHY man seeks after idols and the lusts of his heart from his youth and needs to be taught righteousness? Forgive me if I have misunderstood your point.

"II. 25. Page 194
Brown points to the shortfalls of our people, and asks, so do we not need salvation? I turn and point to the shortfalls of people who worship Jesus, and ask: do they not need salvation? Are they free of all human shortcomings?"

Yes, Christians need salvation, but coming to Christ doesn't mean we are freed from our mistakes immediately. Once born again, We try to strive for holiness by God's grace, but we are not perfect immediately, Although to the best of my knowledge Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians, both heretics, to some extent claim this perfectionism already. The scriptures of the TANAKH and the NT show man is in need of God's grace due to his fallen nature. Christians struggle with temptation all the time even after being regenerated.

"II. 27. Page 202
“God made Adam in His own, perfect image, but Adam – after his disobedience and fall – produced offspring in his own, imperfect image. The image of God our Father has been corrupted through the image of our father Adam to the point that, by nature, we are more the children of Adam than we are the children of God.”
God called us His children after the fall of Adam (Deuteronomy 14:1). The Bible teaches that the reason murder is prohibited is because God has created us in His image (Genesis 9:6). This is stated after the fall of Adam. If humanity corrupted the image of God, as Brown argues, murder would be permitted. Perhaps the teaching of the Church about the intrinsic evil of man is the factor which lead Christian Europe to attribute so little value to human life – as a cursory examination of their history reveals."

Teaching that man is intrinsically evil would not justify evil of so called Christians in Europe, that is a non-sequitor. Brown's point still stands because murder is forbidden even after our moral corruption and even after our corruption of our image in which God created us.

"II. 28. Page 208
Brown tells his readers that by putting faith in Jesus, they can be free from sin. He then admits, that “we will not experience total perfection”. My question to Brown is; by what criteria do you measure this? According to Brown, the fact that people struggle with envy, pride and greed, proves how binding the nature of sin is (page 202). Are Christians free from these character faults?"

Christians can be free from being ENSLAVED to sin after God has quickened them and should they choose to accept him after being quickened and convicted. Christians struggle with sin, but that doesn't entail them being enslaved to it. There is a difference between FALLING INTO sin and PRACTICISING it. Jesus made it clear that he who sins is a slave of sin, referring to those who willfully wallow in it.

I shall continue looking at some more of his points if the Lord Wills.

Answering Judaism.

Part 3 here:

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