Talk:Christian–Jewish reconciliation/Archive 1

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RK, thank you for including the fuller statements, but, I'm still unsure where the opening statement comes from, that these Christian groups have said that they will not proselytize Jews. A statement so significant and plain should have more explicit support, shouldn't it? Mkmcconn 19:45, 4 Sep 2003 (UTC)

I didn't include the full text of any statements from any of these groups. The Catholic Chruch in particular, has issued a number of statements saying that Jews don't need to converted to Christianity; the links in this article to Vatican II and its related topics make this clear. RK 20:15, 4 Sep 2003 (UTC)
The introduction to this article is just summarizing the position of some groups; I didn't write that all Christian groups have adopted such positions. In fact, there are thousands of Christian denominations world-wide; the positions described here only describe a few groups. I would agree that most Christians still believe that are Jews are damned to eternal hellfire, and can only escape this fate if they abandon Judaism and convert to Christianity. This article is only dealing on reconciliation with Judaism, which is a new trend within Christianity. The full text of the statements in these articles can easily be found on these websites, or with a Google search. RK
Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies
Jewish-Christian Relations
International Council of Christians and Jews

"You, and I, and everyone else have two options:
Promote religious tolerance --the right of people to hold religious beliefs that are strange to us, without hindrance, or oppression.
To continue living in a world saturated with religious intolerance. We will then experience more religiously-based wars, terrorism, and civil disturbances, as we have seen recently in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cyprus, India, Kosovo, Israel, Macedonia, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Palestine, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sudan, etc. The ultimate cause of the 9-11 terrorist attacks was religious hatred and intolerance.
It's your decision to make. What kind of a world do you want for yourself and your children?" Religious Tolerance.Org

I'm just trying to be honest, RK, and honestly, the question is still unclearly answered. If the Christian claim that Jesus is the Messiah is defined as equivalent to religious hatred and anti-semitism, then to abandon religious hatred and anti-semitism so defined, Christians must abandon faith that Jesus is the Messiah and be converted to a different faith. Mkmcconn
First off, thank you very much for bringing up this point; it is always better to clarify such issues right off! To answer, no, reasonable people should never hold that such beliefs are hateful or anti-Semitic! In fact, check out the websites I linked to; you will see that many religious Jews (including many rabbis) explicitly state that Christian belief in Jesus is just fine, and not anti-Semitic in any way. No one is asking Christians (or anyon else) to convert from their faith.
The problems I was mentioning are the opposite of the ones you mention; when the Christian community forcefully claims that non-Christians must adopt faith that Jesus is the Messiah, and thus be converted to a different faith. Attempts to specifically target Jews for conversion from Judaism to Christianity are considered problematic by Jews. It is hard for the Jewish community to engage in dialogue with any group that seeks the end of the Jewish community. RK 20:00, 5 Sep 2003 (UTC)
I won't deny that this has in fact happened, that faith in Jesus as Messiah in any meaningful, "public" sense has been abandoned by large swaths of Christendom. I do question, however, whether the Roman Catholic Church and several others that are mentioned have actually, officially arrived at this position. The strong desire to overcome centuries of wrongs, to as far as possible regard others as more important than ourselves, to serve them and to give thanks to God because of them, to acknowledge our indebtedness to them and even our need of them, to tell the truth about our own failings and the virtues deposited in others: none of this is the same thing as resolving to bring an end to all desire that others would be converted to the truth (that is, according to Christians, the truth of salvation in Jesus Christ).
This is incorrect, and this is the crux of the matter. A growing number of Chrisitans now do believe that for Jews, the truth of salvation is not in accepting Jesus Christ. These Christians (many Catholics, liberal Protestants) hold that God doesn't lie or break his covenants, and thus God's covenant with the Jewish people still holds. In this view, while non-Jews may still have to connvert to Christianity to find salvation, Jews do not. Most Christians worldwide, to the best of my knowledge, do not hold this view, but it is a growing trend. RK 03:05, 6 Sep 2003 (UTC)
It is important, not to hate people for refusing to believe the gospel, and to seek understanding of that refusal, and earnestly to respect it. This is what the quotes amply illustrate. They say that, these Christians strongly desire conversion for themselves, and seek to put away all of the crimes and criminal attitudes which have repeatedly made the Church far from a help, let alone the salvation, but rather a destroyer of Jewish people. But they do not equate the gospel of salvation in Christ, with anti-semitism or religious hatred; and they do not say that the conversion of a Jew to Christianity is destructive, or send back to Judaism those Jews who convert , or contradict those converts who profess that Jesus is the Messiah. If they do not do these things, what does it mean that they "no longer proselytize"? Mkmcconn 02:42, 5 Sep 2003 (UTC)
To proselytize means to actively speak the conversion of a person from their current religion to another. This is usually done because the proselytizer believes that people need to belong to his religion. Christianity has traditional taught that people need to become Christians in order to be saved; thus Christians have actively sought the conversion of non-Christians to Christianity. In the last 50 years a number of Christian Churches have adopted positions in which they no longer seek conversion of Jews to Christianity. The Catholic Church in particular holds that God's covenant with the Jewish people never was nullified, and that Jews have no need to be saved, and thus there is no need for anyone to try and proselytize them. A few liberal Protestant groups have also come to this conclusion. RK 20:00, 5 Sep 2003 (UTC)
Any Christian should find it easy to agree that, "God's covenant with the Jewish people was never nullified", but this is not new. It's hard to read the New Testament differently. "I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means!" "Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all!" "they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable." Mkmcconn \
However, you said: "The Catholic Church in particular holds that ...
  1. Jews have no need to be saved, and thus
  2. there is no need for anyone to try and proselytize them."
You have not yet produced this statement, and to my knowledge it does not exist. I think that you are being misled by ambiguous language, to the effect of part 2 that I've quoted from you, but have assumed (reasonably enough) that it implies part 1. It does not. It is fundamentally contrary to the Christian faith, to believe that the practice of Judaism apart from Jesus Christ nullifies the need of salvation. You will search in vain for any official Catholic statement which says otherwise, if read for intent instead of effect. Mkmcconn 17:08, 8 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Mkmcconn, I don't understand how you can read those websites, read their clear statements, and still come away thinking that all Christians believe that all Jews are damned to burn in Hell because they don't believe in Jesus. The Catholic Church simply no longer teaches this (see below for even more details from official high-level Catholic spokespeople.) Further, the liberal statements from the Alliance of Baptists and the United Church of Canada are extremely clear; there is no need to convert Jews to Christianity, period. RK 19:24, 8 Sep 2003 (UTC)

Covenant confusion: Jews don't need saving by Catholics, bishops admit
By Michael Paulson in Boston August 14 2002
The Catholic Church, which spent hundreds of years trying to convert Jews to Christianity, has concluded that it is theologically unacceptable to target Jews for conversion. Citing teachings dating back to the Second Vatican Council - and statements by Pope John Paul II - the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has declared unequivocally that the biblical covenant between Jews and God was valid and therefore Jews did not need to be saved through faith in Jesus.
"A deepening Catholic appreciation of the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people, together with a recognition of a divinely-given mission to Jews to witness to God's faithful love, lead to the conclusion that campaigns that target Jews for conversion to Christianity are no longer theologically acceptable in the Catholic Church," states the document, Reflections on Covenant and Mission.

Why convert the saved? by Bishop Eugene Fisher
The Catholic Church does not support organisations which aim to convert Jews. Nor should it, argues the associate director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. For the Church believes that Judaism is salvific for Jews.
Kessler's summary of the current state of Jewish-Christian relations is itself a remarkable example of the level of "mature" dialogue for which he calls. There is much to ponder constructively in it. He quite rightly points to mission as a major unfinished item on the present agenda. Today, Edward Kessler says, Christian understanding envisages mission with Israel rather than mission to Israel. There should be Christian-Jewish partnership in mission to the world, he concludes. What is the position on this question within Catholic tradition today?
Perhaps the best statement of how it appeared to Catholics at the beginning of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II was given by Tommaso Federici, of the Pontifical Urbaniana University, in his study paper, "Mission and Witness of the Church", with which he addressed the 1977 meeting in Venice of the ILC (International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee). Federici emphasised the "irreversible" nature in the change of understanding of the Church's relationship to the Jewish people brought about by the Second Vatican Council. On the basis of a vast array of scriptural and magisterial sources, he argued that "none of the inspired Christian sources justifies the notion that the Old Covenant of the Lord with his people has been abrogated or in any sense nullified . . . The Church recognises that in God’s revealed plan, Israel plays a fundamental role of her own: the sanctification of the Name in the world . . . Christ did not nullify God’s plan . . ." Therefore, Christian witness must take into account "the permanent place of the Jewish people according to God’s plan".
While this does not settle all the biblical and theological issues raised by "mission", it lays a solid theological groundwork. On the pastoral level, "unwarranted proselytism" is already precluded, as Edward Kessler notes, by the principles of religious freedom. Federici concludes, on historical and demographic grounds, that included in the prohibition of proselytism of Jews are any sort of "organisations set up for the ‘conversion of Jews’ ". The reason, Federici says, is that these have led in the past and will almost inevitably lead in the future "to the psychological and spiritual impairment of the freedom of faith of the Jewish people". Missionary activities aimed at Jews which might have been theoretically justifiable are precluded today and in the future by reason of the centuries of collective mistreatment of Jews by Christians.
Such reasoning, I have found, is overwhelmingly understood and accepted by Catholic leaders. The result is that there exist today absolutely no Church-sanctioned organisations designed to convert Jews. Federici’s suggestion, repeated and reaffirmed time and again by the present Pope, is that the Church needs today to concentrate what might be its mission "with" the Jews, not "to" the Jews: the joint proclamation of the One God of Israel to the world, of the moral centre of human destiny revealed in the Ten Commandments, of the "saving warning" of remembrance of the Holocaust, and of the ultimate necessity for both Jews and Christians to prepare the way for the Kingdom of God by working together for Tikkun Olam (Mending the World).
But, many Jews would say, though the Church has abandoned any formal attempts to convert Jews, and understands itself to be "with" and not "over against" the Jews, don’t Catholics still in their hearts long for their conversion? Might not that longing, frustrated, pop out again one day as it has so often over the centuries?
This might be true of some individual Catholics (and even a small minority of a billion people, of course, adds up to many). But is it true of the "heart" of the Church as a whole? To test that, one needs to look at what Catholics pray for. There is actually only one official prayer for the Jews in the liturgy of the Catholic Church. This is the traditional Good Friday prayer. It was (and is) in the middle of a threefold prayer first for the Church (fideles, believers), then for the conversion of the Jews (perfideles, half-believers), and for the conversion of unbelievers (infideles). Over the centuries, the Christian teaching of contempt for the Jews burdened the original theological category of perfideles with so much opprobrium that the modern term "perfidious" took on a far more insidious and sinister meaning than perhaps first intended by the ancient liturgy.
Thus, Pope Pius XII in the early 1950s instructed that perfideles should no longer be translated as "perfidious" in liturgical books such as missals, but rather as "unbelieving" or "unfaithful". John XXIII decided that the Latin term should be deleted from the prayer altogether, though it remained a prayer for the conversion of Jews. The reform of the liturgy mandated by the Second Vatican Council, however, rethought and rewrote the prayer entirely. It now reads: "Let us pray for the Jewish people, the first to hear the word of God, that they may continue to grow in the love of his Name and in faithfulness to his covenant. Almighty and eternal God, long ago you gave your promise to Abraham and his posterity. Listen to your Church as we pray that the people you first made your own may arrive at the fullness of redemption."
The phrase, "fullness of redemption", here, is not historical but looks to the Last Things. Like St Paul in Romans 11, it consigns the issue to God’s mercy, to be revealed at the end of time. I believe this was intentional as a way of resolving the question in the present dispensation. So, no, the Church does not wish the conversion of the Jews as a people to Christianity. Otherwise Catholics would at least pray for it. This does not, of course, preclude the acceptance into the Church of individual Jews whose own personal spiritual lives have led them to the Catholic faith. To exclude these would in my opinion be itself a travesty of the principles of religious freedom.
Edward Kessler is very critical of the Vatican document Dominus Iesus issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith last year. "Its hard-line approach to other religions and other Churches serves only to confuse rather than clarify", he declares. He and I debated the interpretation of Dominus Iesus in The Tablet of 18 November 2000. Perhaps ironically, it is a statement recently made by Cardinal Kasper of the Holy See’s Commission on Religious Relations with the Jews that I find most promising in this context of mission.
How are Catholics to proclaim the Good News universally while at the same time acknowledging the profound particularity of their unique relationship with God’s People, Israel? It needs to be understood here that Kasper’s declaration, while not quite on the order of the statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith which it interprets, is nonetheless not simply another "opinion". It was issued on a formal occasion when the cardinal was speaking for the Catholic Church to the Jewish people.
So it represents the definitive statement by the Holy See itself of the meaning of Dominus Iesus for Catholic-Jewish relations. Kasper affirms unequivocally that "the document Dominus Iesus does not state that everybody needs to become a Catholic in order to be saved by God. On the contrary, it declares that God’s grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all. Therefore, the Church believes that Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises."
Embedded in this statement of the Church’s official teaching on Judaism is a distinction that many who have read Dominus Iesus, even knowledgeably, have missed. Edward Kessler states, for example, that the Christian belief that salvation can come only through Jesus or through the Church "relegates not only Judaism but all other faiths to a position of inferiority". But belief that salvation comes, ultimately and in a way known only to God, somehow through the divine act of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection, is a far different thing from an assertion that salvation can only come through joining "the Church". The former statement is no more (and no less) "exclusivist" and "particularist" than Judaism’s own affirmation that the One God is Lord and Redeemer of all humanity, while the latter leads to the (false, from the point of view of Catholicism) notion that anyone not baptised cannot be saved. The former, in other words, is simply a logical application of the doctrine that Jesus is, indeed, one and the same as the God of Israel, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.
Now, since the God with whom Jesus is thus identified is none other than the One God of Israel, this in no way reduces Judaism, which is the response of God’s people to God’s initiative, to an "inferior" position. God cannot be "inferior" to himself. Thus, the Christian affirmation of the definitive nature of the Christ event – an event which is not just of historical significance but, again, looks toward the Last Things – does not in itself "foresee the conversion of all" to Christianity any more than Judaism’s affirmation that all humanity at the end of time "will acknowledge the superiority and sovereignty of the God of Israel". Both statements at heart testify to the "oneness" of the same God who alone is creator and redeemer of all humanity. Indeed, I would argue, the two affirmations are very much on the same order of universalism/particularism.
Kasper then attempts to add some clarity to Catholic language that definitely, in my opinion, needs clarifying. He argues so cogently that much that the Church does as Church (good works, prayer, liturgy) has absolutely nothing to do with bringing non-believers to join the Church, but rather with "converting" Catholics to a deeper relationship with God through Christ. Dialogue is, like good works, something engaged in for its own sake (mutual understanding and reconciliation), not for the sake of "converting" other believers to our faith.
One of the many evangelising actions of the Church, of course, is "mission" in the narrower sense. Kasper rightly defines it as converting people "from false gods and idols to the true and one God". Again, this is an entrenched biblical concept which has its roots especially in the prophetic tradition of Israel. But, of course, the Church acknowledges that Judaism is already the worship of "the true and one God", so there is no need for this type of "mission" to the Jews. Jews are already "with the Father" in a permanent relationship of covenant. "Thus", Kasper concludes, "mission in this strict sense cannot be used with regard to Jews, who believe in the true and one God. Therefore – and this is characteristic – there does not exist any Catholic missionary organisation for Jews. There is dialogue with Jews; there is no mission in this proper sense of the word toward them . . . In today’s world, we, Jews and Christians, have a common mission: together we should give an orientation. Together we must be ambassadors of peace."
I must candidly admit that not all of the documents that have been issued by various dicasteries in the Holy See over the past decades since the Second Vatican Council have been this clear in their language. Which is why we Catholics have much to do to render our speech, both unofficially and officially, much more consistent and clear than it now is. But I believe just as deeply that the doctrinal understanding outlined by Cardinal Kasper represents the agenda for the future of Catholic teaching. We simply need time to work through the complexities of our own language and settle on a better way to articulate our beliefs.