What about the “new thinking” represented by Krister Stendahl and others?

Is the hope of Christianity found in a return to its “Jewish roots”?

Christianity is not “gilded Judaism.” The Church is a new community of believers transformed and united into a new spiritual entity called the “one new man” and “a new creation.” To return to our previous metaphor, Judaism is a perfectly designed caterpillar, centered around the Law, which was “powerless…in that it was weakened by the sinful nature” (Rom. 8:3). The Church is like the butterfly that emerged, and is based on the completed work of Christ and the giving of the gift of holy spirit. The provisions of God in Christ for the believers in the Church Age work to create Christ-likeness from within instead of without. Is a butterfly “better” than a caterpillar, when without the latter it would not exist? It is not “better,” but it is a “new creation.”

We disagree with Stendahl’s view that “Paul was not ‘converted’ from one religion (Judaism) to another (Christianity),” but was “a Jew ‘called to apostleship’ by the Messiah, Jesus Christ, in the same way that Isaiah and Jeremiah had been called to service.” Judaism was, and is, essentially a fleshly system of worship and works that foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah. In Colossians 2:17 the “shadow” metaphor is used with clarity concerning many of the particulars of Judaism, and Hebrews 8:5-10 make it clear that much of the “Old Covenant” was to be done away. Colossians says the regulations about food, festivals and Sabbaths were a “shadow,” but the “reality” is Christ. Christians have the reality, Christ, and should realize the temporary nature of the signs and symbols that only pointed to Christ. What man would be content to kiss his wife’s shadow when he could kiss her instead?

The “new thinking” represented by Stendahl seems to us to be the “old thinking” condemned by Galatians 5:1, which calls continued adherence to the Law in any form a “yoke of bondage.” We think it wise to maintain the perspective that Paul had of both the Law (“Get over it”) and the risen Christ (“Get with it”). Philippians 2:10 and 3:9 and 10 indicate that Paul came to see Christ as someone even greater in majesty than what had been prophesied.

Ironically, many Christians today are talking about restoring the “Jewishness” of Christianity without reference to the restoration of true Hebraic monotheism, perhaps the most basic of all the Jewish distinctiveness. Can Trinitarian Christianity authentically lay claim to any Hebraic roots? [1]

Endnotes

[1] For a thorough treatise on the subject of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, a human being, the Last Adam, see our book, One God & One Lord: Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith and Jesus Christ: The Diameter of the Ages, our six-hour audio tape seminar.

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