Probably should change the name to “Midrash Moishe,” since “Tom” has Christian overtones. In any case, a rather popular theoblogger has not actually converted to Judaism, but is intensely studying it. That’s not all that remarkable, except for his continual shots across the bow of Christian theology. I’ve avoided the debate for the most part, since internet debates rarely end well.
While I disagree with his conclusions, and quite frankly find much of his reasoning tenuous, he has illustrated a problem with Protestant polemics, particularly sola scriptura. In fact, many of his posts are quite valuable for they show on Protestant grounds the Protestant must always concede the epistemological debate to the Jew. In short, the argument is something like this (he has around a dozen variants on this theme):
- If God gave the law forever, which the Bible says, and pronounces a curse on whoever changes it, on what grounds can you say that Christ “fulfills” (which often means in Christian theology modifies) the law?
- Secondly, if the Word gave the law, and the law is a reflection of his eternal character, and we are operating on a sola texta basis (think sola scriptura, but since that nomenclature would not be applicable to Jews, I think sola texta captures the same point), on what basis can we say things like circumcision and the feasts are no longer binding?
- Finally, if you answer that question by saying Christ as the lawgiver has the right to “expand/modify/alter” the law, and we only know this through further revelations, and these revelations only be appeals to “texts,” how can you now deny progress/process in God? How can you oppose modernism and “expansions/modifications/alterations” of the faith?
He’s absolutely right. Of course, there are logical and textual problems with the above arguments, and to foreshadow future posts, I think N. T. Wright has done a good job in dealing with these issues. That said, the Protestant polemicist is now in a tough dilemma.
Horn 1: Maintain the sola scriptura position, assuming also the early Jews and later apostles operated on the same premise: the law says circumcision is to abide forever (and similar things about the feasts). The New Testament was not yet written by the time of Acts 15. On what grounds did the apostles have the right to say circumcision is not binding on the Church?
Horn 2: deny the sola scriptura position.
Of course, accepting “Horn 2” means subordinating the “texta” mentality to that of the Church (or “interpretive community;” see, I can throw out the postmodern lingo, too!). As St Ignatius warned of getting to caught up in textual issues with Jews, we can say with him, “Jesus is my canon.”
There are other versions of this argument. Genesis 12 says God will curse anyone who curses Israel. Yet, all of the prophets offered judgment on Israel in God’s name (effectively functioning as curses). So which is it? This is also why the Talmud says the prophet Isaiah is justly executed and burning in hell.
Of course, I reject Talmudism with all my heart and stand with the church. On the other hand, the fellow above has done a great job, if unwittingly, of showing the dialectic within Protestantism: Protestantism reduces back to Judaism.