I just finished an article by a Jewish publication, “The Jewish Voice and Opinion,” which more of less confirmed what I already knew. That is: the Messianic Jewish craze, initially begun as a method of Jewish outreach decades ago, is not converting Jews to Christianity hardly at all. Instead, it is converting Christians to Judaism.
I could write a synopsis of the article (linked above) for you, but the effect of it would be lost in translation, I think. Instead, here is a segment of it that I think brings the issues into high relief for you to ponder (note to the perplexed: “Yeshua” = Jesus):
“We see something happening over and over again amongst believers in Yeshua today. That is, their ‘rediscovery of their Jewish roots’ leads them into a denial of Yeshua himself,” said Hanna Nesher, a self-described “Messianic Jew.”
According to Ms. Nesher, this “alienation from Yeshua” may be prompted by the “horror” felt by Christians when they learn of the “historical, bloody, blot of antisemitism on the Christian Church.”
“Understandably contrite and broken-hearted for the vile acts perpetrated against the Jewish people ‘in the name of Christ,’ some want to distance themselves from anything ‘Christian,’ and even in some cases from the Messiah Himself,” she said.
But there is something else at work here, too. It is clear that Jewish anti-missionary activist groups, including Jews for Judaism, Chabad, Aish HaTorah, and Rabbi Singer’s Jewish Outreach, are giving the Messianics—Jews and Gentiles—a run for their money.
“If one is not well-versed in scripture, their [anti-missionary] arguments can sound convincing. Doubts begin to form in one’s mind and answers seemingly cannot be found. As the believer opens him or herself more and more to rabbinic Jewish teachings, including Kabbalah and Zohar, it seems as if the blindness begins once again to descend. Finally, the veil is firmly back in place over the eyes of the believer and he or she is no longer able to ‘see’ the Light,” said Ms. Nesher.
It is, she said, a phenomenon Jewish Messianics see repeatedly. “Believers who begin to study under Orthodox Jewish rabbis and in their study groups, who, when warned vehemently, declare that they would never deny Yeshua. Sadly, these same people soon do that very thing they had only a short time before considered unthinkable,” she said.
And they are “doing” it with increased regularity. According to Rick A. Ross, founder of the Institute for the Study of Destructive Cults and Controversial Groups and Movements, the conversion rate to Judaism by Christians “seems to exceed anything Jews for Jesus or the other groups have ever specifically accomplished.”
“And that has been achieved without spending millions of dollars on glitzy campaigns,” he said.
Phoenix-resident “Sam” and his family are examples of Mr. Ross’s observation and Ms. Nesher’s nightmare. A former deacon at a fundamentalist Christian church, Sam originally dreamed of converting Jews to Christianity.
But he felt something was missing in his education, and turned to the “Old Testament” for solace. His study of the Hebrew Scriptures brought him to “Hebrew Christianity,” which he though was more authentic than the Christianity he knew. As a “Hebrew Christian,” he engaged in evangelism, primarily to Jews, but also to Gentiles.
While some Jews were initially attracted to him and his message, he found many more Christians who “felt they lacked a connection with G-d.” Seeking “the real thing,” these Christians also turned to the Jewish Bible “to hear Hebrew words and feel closer to G-d.”
As Sam and his family delved deeper into Judaism, the more they began to doubt the fundamentalist teachings they once held as absolute truth, such as virgin birth, the divine and human character of Jesus, and even the veracity of Christian Scripture. Finally, after reading “equally powerful” quotes in the original Hebrew Bible, they questioned whether Jesus was really the only path to salvation.
Eventually, Sam and his family underwent conversion to Judaism, supervised by an Orthodox Beit Din, and today live a thoroughly halachic lifestyle.
Source: “The Jewish Voice and Opinion” (link at the top of the post)
According to the article, the conversion rate within the movement of Christian to Judaism is higher than the conversion rate of Jew to Christian by quite a wide margin. Granted, you have to consider the source (i.e. this Jewish publication no doubt wants to believe more converts have swung their way, while if you ask a Messianic Jew they might tell you Jew –> Christian conversions are higher than Christian –> Jew) and there may be a bias coming into play. However, this article does mesh with information I have seen elsewhere as well, and also with my personal experience, so I do consider it credible (the fact that they cite 3rd party Rick A. Ross also lends credibility to the case).
I hate to say I told you so, but to every one of you who ever accused me of overreacting to the Messianic Jewish movement, those who said “oh, it’s a perfectly good and useful thing and really helps with witnessing to Jews” when I was lamenting the unBiblical methods and practices and expressing the dangers I saw in all of this – well… I told you so.
I would like to add also, that I disagree with Hanna Nesher, the woman quoted in the excerpt above; I do not think that the main reason people are converting from Christianity to Judaism through the “Messianic Jewish bridge” is because of the history of Jewish persecution (certainly it is a factor, but a minute one, in my estimation). Instead, I think it is far more likely that the phenomenon stems from 3 factors:
- Lack of a basic level of understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I blame the Churches of today (not all, but a significant majority I think) for focusing more on “relevance”, “purpose-driven ministry”, and other garbage (c’mon, people, sermons about “healthy-eating for the Christian”? Really? I’m a dietitian, and even I don’t find that appealing) than on the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins.
- The irreverence with which many modern Churches treat God. To too many, God is “my buddy, my pal”, and not the righteous judge and consuming fire the Bible speaks of. Today’s Christian music treats Jesus like our bearded girlfriend – I’ve often remarked that most of what passes for Christian music on the radio could be edited to replace Jesus with “baby” or some girl or boy name and easily turn into a romance song. (interestingly, I am told that South Park apparently also noticed this, and in one episode the characters took popular love songs and replaced the word “baby” with “Jesus”, becoming an overnight sensation; see here [warning, heresy alert: you WILL be offended – though probably also agreeing that it’s a very good commentary]). Judaism treats God as Holy, the way He is supposed to be treated – much to the contrary of sizable portions of American Evangelicalism (“Holy Ghost parties”? Seriously, people?)
- The vacuous nature of what seemingly passes as “worship” in Church, as just alluded to. Church is about hearing the word of God, not the word of the preacher. In far too many of today’s churches the preacher stands up front in jeans and a t-shirt and reads his autobiography, drawing spiritual conclusions from his own experiences. Church is supposed to be about the proclamation of the biography of God in the flesh (most importantly his death and resurrection; i.e. the Gospel), and drawing spiritual conclusions from the word of God. Sadly, this has become rare. At least in Orthodox Judaism there is respect for God’s word above man’s word. (well, not technically, since the Oral Torah is definitely not God’s word – but generally speaking, you know what I mean)
Anyway, I’m well over 1000 words on this now, but I think it’s important, not only to know that Messianic Judaism is serving as a vehicle to lead many astray (the pied-piper of our day, if you will), but why it is.
Until we get back to preaching the word of God from the pulpit, and not the wild musings of fools who don’t even know the meaning of the gospel, we will continue to lose sincere people to false religion.
This is a time of great apostasy, folks. Guard your hearts and your minds in the hope that is in Christ Jesus. Amen.