Monday, October 03, 2022

Anonymous Asks (217)

“Do Jews and Christians worship the same God?”

There is a sense in which we do, or at least could potentially. YHWH, who revealed himself to the Israelite patriarchs, who brought a slave nation out of Egypt with signs and wonders that astonished the nations, who gave Moses the law, who brought Israel into Canaan, who established the Davidic dynasty, who sent first Israel then Judah into exile among the nations, and who brought Judah and members of the other tribes back to Jerusalem — this is the same God Christians worship today. He has not changed.

Jewish beliefs have changed over the centuries since Christ died though, and here lies the real issue.

Another Jesus

In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church, he refers to “another Jesus”. He writes, “If someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed … you put up with it readily enough.” Had he written “another Christ”, we might think he was accusing some of the Corinthians of placing their faith in another individual entirely, but he didn’t write that. He wrote “another Jesus than the one we proclaimed”, meaning the same Jesus of Nazareth Paul preached, but a version of this Jesus so different that he may as well have been another person; a Jesus-in-name-only whose character, purposes or works were egregiously misrepresented for some purpose known only to the false teachers who had made him up.

This gives us an important principle to consider. When your understanding of God is sufficiently detached from reality, it doesn’t matter what name you use for him: you are still worshiping another God.

Modern Jews and the God of the Old Testament

So now let us consider the version of YHWH worshiped by modern Jews. Is he really the God of the Old Testament?

  • Christianity says the God of the Old Testament sent his Christ to fulfill his promises almost 2,000 years ago. Modern Judaism says he didn’t, and rejects the claims of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Word made flesh.
  • Christianity says God requires atonement for sins. Modern Judaism says he doesn’t, or at least implies it. Having abandoned animal sacrifices, they have lacked a system of atonement for two millennia and feel no need to re-establish one.
  • Both Christians and Old Testament adherents of Judaism worship(ed) a God who accepts men on the basis of faith. Modern Judaism worships a god who accepts men on the basis of works.
  • Christians have been commissioned to go into the world as Christ’s representatives and preach the gospel to everyone. Modern Jews “have no imperative to proselytize” nor do they think anyone is in need of salvation after death. They are generally open to conversion candidates, but do not think Judaism is the one and only way for everyone.
  • Christians believe in one God existing eternally in three persons. Modern Jews do not. They do not believe God sent his Son into the world, because they do not believe he has one. So not only have all modern branches of Judaism missed God’s Messiah, two of the three would not accept him even if he were to appear today because they do not believe in a personal Messiah, but rather in the “messianic ideal” of establishing justice through human effort.
  • Christians believe in a God who offers us bodily resurrection and eternity with Christ. Modern Jews have no consistent teaching about the afterlife. Orthodox Jews teach bodily resurrection, Conservative Jews teach the immortality of the soul, and Reform Jews have no teaching regarding life after death.
  • Christians believe in the doctrine of original sin and a God who has bridged the gulf between the holiness of God and the innate depravity of man. Modern Judaism believes study of the Torah can overcome any inclination toward evil and rejects the concept of original sin.
  • Christians believe in a God who banishes those who reject Christ from his presence for eternity. Jews who believe in hell at all (1) do not believe it is eternal, (2) do not accept heaven/hell as an either/or proposition, (3) buttress it with belief in a form of reincarnation, (4) believe there are worse places to be, and (5) believe other people can get you out of it.

The Same God?

To sum up then, the version of YHWH taught by modern Judaism differs from the Christian God as to his character, purposes and works: in his view of the seriousness of sin, in his way of dealing with it, in his plans and desires for the human race and in his very nature and constitution. He is, in short, “another God”.

So, no, Christians and Jews do not worship the same God.

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