In May of this year, Rabbi Norman Lamm, the Chancellor of Yeshiva University
in New York, predicted the demise of the Conservative and Reform movements.
As quoted in the Jerusalem Post, here is Lamm's statement.
"With a heavy heart we will soon say kaddish on the Reform and Conservative
movements." According to Lamm the reason for this coming demise is the loss
of real convictions foundational to Judaism.
The following week Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the executive vice president of the
Conservative Movement's Rabbinical Assembly, sought to rebut Rabbi Lamm,
pointing to some programs in Conservative Judaism that are vibrant and
successful. However, Rabbi Schonfeld was surely "whistling in the dark." The
overwhelming statistics show that in attendance, education, intermarriage,
assimilation, and Jewish practice, Conservative and Reform Judaism are in
Declining Numbers in American Churches
These phenomena are similar in the Church world. A few years ago Dean Kelly
wrote a significant volume entitled Why Conservative Churches are
Growing. He could have called it Why Liberal Churches are
Shrinking. Since that time we have seen liberalizing tendencies in
conservative churches and where such tendencies are significant, these
churches are also shrinking. For example, denominations such as the
Presbyterian mainline have only two fifths of the membership of just thirty
years ago and the Episcopal Church has lost two thirds of its membership over
the same period.
Evangelical Churches are facing similar difficulties. The loss of youth is
so alarming that Josh McDowell asks if we are witnessing the last Christian
generation in America. I note, on the other hand, that Orthodox Judaism is
growing. Can we learn something from the Orthodox Jews today?
Liberalizing Tendencies: What and How?
There are two types of liberalizing tendencies: The influence of modern
liberal scholarship and the driving desire to be relevant to the culture. In
the latter case, the leader seeks to tailor his message and organization to
what he thinks people desire. The harder road of the cross and discipleship
is abandoned for an easier pop psychology message of positive thinking that
makes people feel good. Entertainment takes the place of real challenge. This
draws people for a season but loses the next generation. Orthodox Judaism is
more committed to making disciples than Western Christianity. They have real
convictions. Is this what we should learn from them?
The liberalizing tendency that comes from scholarship influences individuals
to question the truths they once held. For example, in the light of the vast
complexity of life, and the different claims of world religions, can we
really believe that "No man comes to the Father" but by Yeshua? Or in the
light of Biblical critical scholarship, can we really trust the Bible and
claim that all the texts in the Bible teach the truth when interpreted
according to the intent of the author? Can we really know the intent of the
author? To some scholars, there seem to be conflicting and incoherent
orientations from one part of the Bible to another. In addition, the
scholarly world - where accreditation comes from peer review - is attuned to
what is culturally acceptable. Sociology is influencing the scholarly world
to the extent that some think that conservative convictions are too narrow
and no longer credible. This was my experience as an upperclassman and in
early graduate school studies.
Liberalizing Evangelicals now ask if the historic standards precluding
divorce and remarriage or homosexual relationships are too rigid. Conversely,
Orthodox Judaism largely rejects scholarship and anything that undermines
the inerrancy of the Bible and strongly resists the draw of the surrounding
The Delusion Factor
From such doubt and then reorientation, individuals create a new more liberal
theology. On the basis of these conclusions, not recognizing the profound
cultural and sociological influences upon them, they now believe that this
new orientation will be more effective in gaining adherents than the former
Yet strangely, the expected growing number of adherents, at least from the
uncommitted unbelievers, never materializes. Liberal theologies in
Christianity and in Judaism generally do not draw in the uncommitted; rather
they convert the converted to a more liberal view. The liberalizing
Christian, and today we can say the liberalizing Messianic Jew, believes that
their new orientation will be more effective, but the years grind on and that
greater effectiveness does not take place. They think, maybe over time it
will start to happen; if we just have more convocations, read more scholarly
papers, and have more high level courses; certainly we will see success. It
is to no avail.
The delusion comes from not facing this one fact: People will generally not
commit themselves deeply to something unless they believe that doing so is
momentous, and based on real convictions of truth that will bring lasting
positive gain. It is very difficult for liberalizing people in the
theological world to convince the uncommitted that their project is worth
their time and energy. This has been proven again and again for the last
century, and yet liberalizing people are in denial over this fact. They
themselves cannot fully believe, and so they think that a movement of people
like themselves - none of whom can fully believe in the ancient paths - will
be successful. The quest for such a movement is a quest for self validation.
Conservative Theology is Most Credible
After years of studying the philosophy of religion and critical approaches
to the Bible, I came to a firm conviction that the trustworthiness of the
Bible was reasonable, based on solid evidence, and alone would provide a
place to stand. It is like building a house upon a rock. Thank God for the
professors who refused to compromise.
This conviction is based on receiving the teaching on scripture by Yeshua
and the Apostles as paramount. On that biblical basis we know that Yeshua is
the way, the truth and the life, that He is Deity, and that the moral
teachings of the Bible are absolute. Our natural sense can sometimes show us
right and wrong, but we need to be bolstered by revelation from God in order
not to waiver under cultural pressures.
When society influences people to accept gay marriage and alternative life
styles, the Bible gives us a sure place on which to stand. I know that our
Jewish movement for Yeshua can only attain lasting growth when we have
confidence in the Word of God, are filled with the Spirit and see His
miraculous confirmations as we proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.
By Daniel Juster
Dan Juster leads the overall ministry Tikkun International.
to Tikkun International.
Let us know what you think - why not comment to this article.
The authors of these articles are often involved in intense ministry
and are thus unable to respond to most comments. As is normal with
print and online magazines, Tikkun reserves the right to publish only
those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.
08:40 08Jul09 HJK -
What can I say? Amen! And thank you for taking a stand for truth. And yes,
dear postmodernists, there is such a thing as absolute truth: it's all over the
The Reform and Conservative movements are shrinking. Perhaps liberal theology
is so open minded that the brain is falling out? Messianic Judaism needs to
stand for something, which is the Good News, redemption through faith/trust in
Messiah Yeshua alone, a personal relationship with a living and triune G-d, and
Torah observance, justice, loving-kindness, pursue of peace, glorifying Hashem.
Liberal theology is chillul Hashem, the exact opposite of Messianic Judaism.
09:59 08Jul09 Robert -
I thought by now [after 2000years] the word "church" would not even be read
in/on a paper of the Jewish minded.
10:15 08Jul09 Bob Brunette -
This article rings so very evident and true, but so few are willing to see. It
seems that half the probem we Evangelicals have is overcoming our denial - much
like an alcoholic. Until the problem has been faced in sober reality, in light
of the Scriptures, His Holy Word, then probably not much will change but
rather grow increasingly worse, until this wayward lifestyle comes to its
fatefull end, perhaps then the Mercy of Yeshua will make sense.
10:45 08Jul09 Timothy -
You wrote about the trustworthiness of the Bible, which is nice theory, but I
am not sure if it is so practical for most Christians who have no knowledge of
the original languages. Personally I have full confidence in the Aleppo Codex
of the Hebrew Bible (which unfortunately is incomplete) and also accept the
Leningrad codex as a reasonably reliable source. However, I have no confidence
in Christian translations of the Bible, nor do I think we should consider them
the inerrant, trustworthy word of God. The sad truth is that the vast majority
of Christians or Messianic Jews who insist on the trustworthiness of the Bible
are actually reading TRANSLATIONS of the Bible which are not really
trustworthy. As for the New Testament, with all the infinite textual variants,
what should be considered the true Word of God? When you talk about having
"confidence in the Word of God," do you mean every single word in the Hebrew
and Greek texts or the overall message?
-- Dr Juster replies:
The issue of the trustworthiness of the Bible is expressed in the
The original autographs from the inspired writings are fully
We have sufficient copies that our Hebrew and Greek texts today
are at a very high trustworthiness, even as trustworthy as we
could really need or desire;
The translations are of various quality so no translation is fully
trustworthy. It is best to compare them. However, good
translations are reasonably trustworthy.
11:03 08Jul09 Mary Drakeford -
Jesus was adament when He SAID,"Things impossible with man is possible with
HIM". I have learned from supernatural experiences, this to be true. I just
retired from the Montgomery County school system. When I was called out in
1992 I was sent to my mission field, The Montgomery county school system. God
has used me as a result of my complete submission to HIM. Just like the
scripture states, I was predestinated, called out and sent. Jesus said, "Many
are called but few are chosen." Those who are chosen for such a time as these
will do, go, and be just what HE wants and not what we want. This requires
GOD's spirit having HIS perfect way through us. I say that because it requires
supernatural strength in Christ and not in ourselves. When Christ makes HIMself
known to HIS called out servants it's as if HIS desire, will and being has now
become ours. Nothing else matter, not even life itself. This gives us one
focus in life and that is to commplete the will of HE who called and sent us.
Today people are using the world's wisdom instead of GOD's. Too many pastors
preach what they don't believe therefore without power. JESUS IS the ONLY way
and apart from this there is no other way to the Father. Jesus never said it
was going to be easy. It wasn't easy for HIM therefore it isn't for us.
Jesus said there was going to be a great falling away. Too many pastors today
are building their own kingdoms while GOD's kingdom is nowhere to be found in
their hearts and teaching.
Jesus said, "Don't weep for me but weep for you and your children." This is
what I am seeing nightly on the news. There is nothing new under the sun. We
must pray for our leaders and that His Kingdom comes in everyone's hearts while
we still have time.
12:00 08Jul09 John -
Is it possible that there is a karaite revival on the horizon?
-- Dr Juster replies:
The Karaites seem quite small. Yet we constantly meet people in Israel
who want to credit the Bible but question Rabbinic authority. Who knows?
14:31 08Jul09 Pelham -
Reading "The Delusional Factor", my mind filled in some different words
applicable to America's political scene: The liberalizing American politicians
believe that their new orientation of stimulus economy will be more effective,
but the months grind on and that greater effectiveness does not take place.
They think, maybe over time it will start to happen; if we just have more
legislation, more regulations, and have more high level government programs and
another stimulus package; certainly we will see success. It is to no avail.
15:13 08Jul09 Paula Stern -
Thank you for defining this problem so beautifully.
I have a vision to see teens and college students equipped to be a light on
campuses across America. My oldest son is a college pastor and has proposed a
symposium/workshop for this purpose, please pray that God's will would be done.
I also believe that we need to have Christian Apologists that have come out of
urban culture to truly equip our young people for this end time harvest.
-- Dr Juster replies:
These are good visions and we hope that you succeed in a great way.
21:29 08Jul09 Benny Teh -
I agree with you totally. We need prople like you to speak out the Truth in
love. I don't know where the world is heading now in light of the Scripture -
permitting same sex marriages and excepting same sex de-facto relationship,
even here in Australia. May God have mercy upon those countries who compromise
11:25 09Jul09 anonymous -
You mention Messianic Judaism, but that really does not have a concrete and
clear understanding either. With the two most visible entities of Messianic
Jewish identity, one group (MJAA) moving to a rather liberal acceptance of
Jewish custom and practice because of gentile influences, and the other (UMJC)
attempting to maintain some relevance to those Judaic custom and practices, yet
attempting to be faithful to Yeshua as the central theme. I believe there is
more religion involved in both groups in their effort to be what their
constituents (or Rabbinic leaders?) want them to be. This has sadly made the
focus on what "we" are than who Yeshua is and the fullness of the gospel. I am
personally very saddened by all this, and frustrated with our seeming inability
to be united in our purpose and making Messianic Judaism a true movement that
is "turning the world upside down" for Yeshua.
-- Dr Juster replies:
Messianic Judaism, which in my preferred theological term should be New
Covenant Judaism, is a term that covers a vast variety of tradition and
non-tradition, and different ways to apply Torah. I can only say that we
are doing our best to get this right. While in Tikkun there are various
levels of appropriating tradition, we seek to be guided by principles.
Generally, the centrality of Yeshua and the place and power of the Spirit
should permeate our preaching, teaching and worship. Then with a renewed
mind we can affirm what is good in Jewish tradition. But if we put the
cart before the horse, or Rabbinic identity before clarity on our
identity in Yeshua, we will become askew. I think that is what is
20:43 15Jul09 Art & Debbi Hammond -
Thank you, thank you for boldly declaring the TRUTH!!! Yeshua is the only WAY,
the TRUTH and the LIFE and no one comes to the Father except through HIM!! It
is sad to see how far Believers have gone from the truth ... so they can be
more "effective". The only way to be effective is to live as Yeshua lived ...
walking in the Spirit and doing what the Father told Him to do.