Persuasion versus Education – Response to Dr. Brown

Persuasion versus Education

–  Response to Dr. Brown

The winds of controversy that swirl around Rabbi S. Boteach’s new book; “Kosher Jesus” have managed to bring Dr. M. Brown into the Jewish melee. In a Huffington Post response to Boteach, Rabbi Y. Schochet intimated that Brown had been defeated in a public debate. Brown was quick to respond with two articles; one in the Townhall online magazine (http://townhall.com/columnists/michaelbrown/2012/01/27/the_huffington_post_three_rabbis_and_me) and one on his Line of Fire blog (http://lineoffireblog.blogspot.com/). In these articles Brown takes issue with Schocet’s description of the debate. Brown then goes on to offer some of his own opinions about the intra-Jewish dispute over Boteach’s book.

In the process of correcting a false impression that someone may have picked up from Shochet’s article, Brown engages in his own dissemination of misinformation – unintentional to be sure, but misinformation nonetheless.

Brown presents the controversy surrounding Boteach’s book as if the rabbis who oppose the dissemination of the book are attempting to withhold information from their respective flocks. Brown writes: “I fully understand religious believers wanting to preserve the integrity of their own communities, and they certainly have no obligation to give exposure to dissenting views. On the other hand, it is healthiest when our beliefs can withstand scrutiny and criticism and challenge”.

The fact is that those who oppose Boteach’s book are not motivated by a desire to prevent “exposure to dissenting views”. Those who oppose the book do so on different grounds entirely, and it goes to the very soul of the ongoing conflict between Christian missionaries (such as Brown) and those in the Jewish community who oppose their efforts.

The core issue is: persuasion versus education. Both of these methods can be used to affect a change in the world-view of a target audience. But these are two different methods of going about the work of affecting this change.

Education puts facts on the table, facts and logical arguments. Education encourages the target audience to think for themselves, to sift through the relevant information and to arrive at their own conclusions.

Persuasion relies on the sad fact that most people will probably not go through the tedious process of sifting through all of the relevant information. Persuasion encourages people to bypass the process of education. By highlighting a piece of information, be it truth or fiction, or by emphasizing a specific argument, the persuader attempts to bring the target audience to a decision that is not based on all of the relevant information.

The venue of a public debate is a venue for persuasion. There is no way that the two participants in a debate can present all of the relevant information to their audience in the venue of a public debate. Furthermore, the style and demeanor of the contestants plays a role that often overshadows the logical arguments and the facts that were presented in the course of the debate. It is for this reason that counter-missionary organizations discourage public debates with missionaries. And for this same reason that it comes as no surprise that Christian missionaries favor the venue of the public debate.

The Jewish counter-missionary effort focuses on education. We encourage people to look beyond the superficial persuasions of the missionary and to consider the relevant facts so that they can arrive at their own educated decision.

In short, the conflict between the missionary and the Jewish community is a conflict between the method of persuasion favored by the missionary and the method of education favored by the Jewish community.

Boteach’s book plays right into the missionary strategy of using persuasion to obstruct education.

Allow me to explain.

The word “Jesus” represents the deification of a man – a concept that stands as the very antithesis of the covenant that the Jewish people share with God. For 2000 years Jews have insisted that the Christian exaltation of a man who walked God’s earth and breathed God’s air represents the very opposite of what it means to be a Jew. Jews were so convinced that this belief is wrong that they were proud to accept the position as the outcasts of society in order to maintain this belief – no matter the cost.

The Jewish understanding that acceptance of Jesus violates the essence of what it means to be a Jew has always been a serious impediment in the age-old missionary effort to convert the Jew. During the last century Christian missionaries developed a program of persuasion to overcome this impediment. They began redefining what it means to be a Jew. These missionaries began a propaganda campaign that attempts to persuade people that being a Jew and accepting Jesus is not the inherent contradiction that it actually is. Brown’s words in his Townhall article serve as a perfect example of this method of persuasion: “If Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, believing in him does not constitute converting to another religion”.

Brown is attempting to redefine Judaism – not through education but through persuasion. Instead of looking to the Bible where God defines His unbreakable bond with the Jewish people with the words: “Unto you it was shown so that you know that the Lord is God – there is no other beside Him” (Deuteronomy 4:35 – a verse that Brown did not find space for in his 1500 page missionary work) – Brown provides his own, unscriptural definition to Judaism. According to Brown, Judaism means following the “Jewish Messiah”. According to the Bible, Judaism is a marriage-bond to the God who took our ancestors out of Egypt. Deifying the man who Brown refers to as the “Jewish Messiah” is the deepest violation of that marriage-bond imaginable.

A book written by an Orthodox rabbi, with the title; “Kosher Jesus”, plays right into the hands of the missionary effort to redefine Judaism. Although the contents of the book make a pathetic attempt to redefine “Jesus”, the name of the book, the cover of the book and the hoopla surrounding the book all serve to redefine Judaism.

Those who read the book will find that Boteach actually does dispense his duty as a member of God’s witness nation.  In the 25th chapter of his book Boteach writes: “Jews, including Jesus, have always found the deification of human beings to be utterly anathema to Judaism”. If Boteach would have put that sentence on the cover of his book and the words: “kosher Jesus” in chapter 25, he would have spared the Jewish community much heart-ache and at the same time would have spared the missionary community some undeserved joy. However, since Boteach chose to entitle the book with the words: “Kosher Jesus” the masters of persuasion will thank Boteach for doing their work for them.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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21 Responses to Persuasion versus Education – Response to Dr. Brown

  1. Rabbi Eli says:

    Clear and to the point!
    Thank you

  2. uriyosef says:

    Excellent! Yasher Koa’ch!

  3. Moshe4Yeshua says:

    Wow, this is an ironic post. I have seen Michael Brown debate. This is the typical debate in my experience: Dr. Brown presents an argument from Scriptures and logically explains his reasons. The rabbi then gets up and tries to persuade the audience, often by emotional rants, but never actually or cogently responding to the point. Then Dr. Brown continues with another point from Scripture, and the rabbi again goes off on some persuasive tangent.
    Yet you have the audacity to turn these things on its tail, and accuse Dr. Brown of persuasion rather than education. Is this not in itself a means of persuasion rather than education?
    Nor does your repeating a centuries old misconception of Christian understanding make that misconception incorrect. Those who have put there faith in Jesus, believe and worship in one God whom Jesus himself has declared to be Spirit. But if you can ignore omnipotent God’s ability to come in human form as plainly expressed in Genesis 18, then I suppose you can ignore other truths as well.

    • Moshe4Yeshua says:

      When read naturally, Genesis 18 makes it very clear that God is capable of presenting himself in human form. That was my point in introducing it. The problem, of course, is that rabbis will not accept the natural reading, especially since ints inconvenient to them.

      I never intended to claim the chapter was prescriptive. But if God can come in human form once (and there are other examples in the Tanakh) then he can do so again.

      Faith in Jesus is not a worship of man become God, as Doug238 points out, but God come as man in fulfillment of the promises of Tanakh. Again, if you can’t hear that, then you will continue to misinform our Jewish people about what we as Christians, both Jew and Gentile, believe.

      Feel free to respond, but I will not be coming back to this site. I’m sure you’ll consider this a great victory, but really there are those with ears to hear that I can be relating too.

      Jeremiah 33:3

      • Thomas says:

        Moshe, but that’s just the problem with using Gen 18 as a proof text. I don’t doubt that God “can” do anything, and frankly, that’s well outside what either of us will ever know, and so, when you discuss Gen 18, it is utterly irrelevant- that’s the problem. If we are talking about what God expects us to do (which IS the discussion), a much more relevant discussion is the entire Sinai revelation, the only place where Israel ‘met’ God, and where God tells Israel that on the day when they met Him, He showed them no form. Is that not at least as relevant? That means that as far as Israel is concerned (ie. not theoretical possibilities about God’s future intentions), God is to be worshipped in no form. That’s obvious. Clearly He didn’t see fit to show them anything at Sinai, and because Israel doesn’t know what God ‘looks’ like anyway, so they would have no standards for understanding what is a ‘real’ incarnation or not- certainly Scripture gives us no standards for this.

        Not only is Gen 18 irrelevant to the actual Jewish objection to Christianity, but you are wrenching an isolated passage which clearly has nothing to do with our worship of God and trying to insert it into the picture. That is a perfect example of ‘persuasion,’ not education- citation of an isolated verse which has no bearing on the actual debate. We both acknowledge that Gen 18 is not prescriptive, nor is it a command or teaching on idolatry, and yet it’s a “proof text.”

        When one of the central messianic proof texts is irrelevant to our actual disagreement, is an isolated and unclear passage, and when even Christian scholars acknowledge that it is an “insoluble riddle to scholars throughout the centuries…difficulties are as numerous as solutions,” there is little reason for me to think this is what God is trying to communicate to Israel about who/how we should worship.

        No, moshe, I don’t consider our interaction a victory for the simple reason that you condemn Rabbi Blumenthal for calling many messianic arguments ‘persuasion’ instead of ‘education,’ but your posts have been exactly that- citing an irrelevant passage as ‘proof,’ and then ending with an altar call (plus claiming that we all ‘misunderstand’ what you are asking us to believe. It makes me disappointed, not happy, to read that. Moshe, you will understand our objections when you realize that every proof text cited asking Jews to worship God as a human being are woefully insufficient – they are isolated, vague passages which are not even teachings on the topic we are discussing. And you will understand our objections when you realize that far from rejecting God, we believe that we are being loyal to what He told us.

        Anyone can throw around irrelevant passages, but until we ask the most important questions – who does God expect me to worship; how does God expect me to identify Him, etc., the messianic arguments will be more persuasion than education.

      • Am Yisroel says:

        Moshe,

        It does not say anywhere in Va’yera (Genesis 18) that G-d came in human form. The problem is that you are trying to fit Torah to meet your preconceived conclusions.

        It says that Avaraham was speaking with Hashem who was comforting Avraham following his circumcision. Hashem made the day unbearably hot to make Avraham relax. In the next sentence is says that Avraham looked up to see 3 strangers (melachim/angels) who appeared to him. He left Hashem to take care of the travelers–which teaches us the importance of Hanachas Orchim (hospitality).

        But your preconceived notion is that these 3 people where the one’s speaking with Avraham in the first sentence. But if you read the Torah it is clear that what Avraham was doing in th first sentence (speaking with Hashem) was interrupted by what happened in the 2nd sentence (the appearance of the 3 strangers).

        So you are basing your entire thesis on a FALSE interpretation of the text.

    • moshe says:

      Moshe, I’ve personally attended several of those debates, and I think we all know which bombastic Rabbi/Author you’re referencing. Brown’s arguments only seem strong because of his opponents bizarre diatribes. One side being nuts doesn’t make the other side true.

      I’ve seen quite a few times when Brown has been found guilty of quoting Rabbinic works out of context – and with him able to read Hebrew and Aramaic, it HAD to have been intentional. He was called on one of these publicly, in his Isaiah 53 debate in NY.

    • Len Hummel says:

      Yes. and Dr.Brown was, of course, ENTIRELY RIGHT to correct the misinformation about the debate in question. – I don’t know how anyone could possibly think or imagine otherwise.

      Michael Brown is a man of integrity, … I have my doubts about some of his hardcore detractors, to be honest. Shalom in Sar Shalom Yeshua ha adOn.

  4. Thomas says:

    If you think it is a common trait of counter-missionaries to prefer persuasive tangents over scriptural arguments, then I’d encourage you to read some of the content on this blog!

    The mention of Gen 18 is symbolic of one of the problems in this dialogue. Gen 18 is not a command to Abraham, and certainly not to Israel as a whole, on who or how they should worship. It is not a teaching on the subject of idolatry, and nor is it ever presented as such. So Gen 18 is a red herring in the Jewish-Christian debate, because our debate is not about the philosophical or theoretical limtations of God, but about what God asks of us.

  5. moshe
    I suggest that you take some time and read Contra Brown, The Elephant and the Suit, and Supplement to Contra Brown. You will see that Brown’s arguments have no foundation. Also be aware that Dr. Brown has been in possession of many of those arguments for more than 10 years now – and as of yet has not responded to them.
    . Contra Brown

    http://jewsforjudaism.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=402&Itemid=354

    The Elephant and the Suit

    http://www.jewsforjudaism.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/The-Elephant-and-the-suit.pdf

    Supplement to Contra Brown
    http://www.jewsforjudaism.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=503:supplement-to-contra-brown&catid=40:publications-for-download&Itemid=465

    • Len Hummel says:

      1) I understand he has spoken to you MANY HOURS personally and over the phone in addressing these incessant objections.
      2) I KNOW he has certainly offered to debate you on these issues, … PUBLICALLY and under perfectly fair conditions.
      and
      3) He has made it VERY CLEAR that with his schedule he does not have the time to go round and round and round and round with you about all these issues in endless postings of point-counter-point-counter-counter-counter.

      Yet YOU try to accuse him of “dodging you”. – this is neither fair NOR right, given the three perfectly valid points listed above.
      Thank you for your re-consideration of your false accusation against him. Personally, as a Christian and as a friend and brother to Dr.Brown: I would challenge you to accept his pro-offered challenge to debate you publically in a fair and open forum.

      • Len
        1) – We reserved our phone conversations for discussing neutral topics and NOT for answering my questions
        2) He assured me more than 10 years ago that he will respond to my objections – in writing. I’m still waiting
        3) Contrary to what Dr. Brown asserts – written debates DON’T go “round and round” In written debates the arguments of the side that has the truth become clearer and clearer while the arguments of the side that is defending falsehood become more obviously empty. At some point there will be a clear victor.
        Study these two posts to see what I am talking about.
        https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/letter-to-aryeh-leib/
        https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/first-major-thread-from-l-o-f-nov-3/
        You may have been mislead by the post that Dr. Brown wrote to me on his line of fire blog. That post contains some misinformation and I am waiting for him to correct his error.
        In summary I can state with a clear conscience that I replied to EVERY challenge that Dr. Brown sent my way – with a WRITTEN RESPONSE. He has not reciprocated – despite his assurances to do so. From the beginning of our interaction I made it very clear to Dr. Brown that I was not going to debate him in a public forum – so I have not mislead him in any way.
        Fact of the matter is that the Jewish community has provided the truth seeker with a comprehensive response to Dr. Brown’s 5 volumes with the articles I mentioned in my previous post. I suggest that you study them – and see for yourself if they don’t deserve a response.

  6. naaria says:

    Which biblical Moshe was 4Jesus? Incarnation? Well, one enemy of the Jews was Antiochus Epiphanes IV, who was a “god manifested in the flesh”. He had an “epiphany” that he was god, but he failed and was defeated by mere men like the “Maccabees”. Well, Vishnu of Hinduism is one of the five primary forms of the Supreme God. That is ok in Hinduism, but in the Hebrew bible it is not ok. Embodiment of a deity or spirit in some earthly form (whether it is a golden calf, a tree, or a man) is called idolatry in the Hebrew bible and it is very not ok. Where did the 100% man Jesus go to? Did he become a god alongside the 100% god-not-man? Or is this education, a new math, where one being can be 100% god and yet 100% man? I don’t inderstand that, because what I see and hear is that there is absolutely no difference between humans and God or gods. That appears to be either humanism or some form of atheism. And if I am wrong about that, people need to explain the theology a bit better and educate instead of calling so many of the beliefs “mysteries”.

  7. hyechiel says:

    Dear Friends-Jewish and Noahide;
    I say “Noahide,” as there is controversy within the Christian religion as to who is a Christian. Jews are forbidden by HaShem to have human sacrifice, more than one representative of the divine (Trinity), human as divine, G-d having a child or becoming a human being. Nor is a Messiah which does not fulfill his obligations, as world peace, Temple rebuilt, family members loving and in peace with each other, and more, acceptable, as the Tanach says the opposite.
    In fact, there are many “opposite” concepts in the Gospels from what we read in the Hebrew or true translation of the Hebrew
    Christianity has a theology that is not kosher, for a Torah centered person; whither a Jew or a Gentile who accepts the Torah as binding. Also, the several contradictions of what Jesus said, and what he is made to have said. One good example is Matthew 19:16-19; there he tells the questioner that he is not to be addressed as “good”, as only G-d above is to be addressed as the Good. Also, as the man is obviously a Gentile, by being told the Noahide code rather than the Ten Words of the Covenant, Jesus tells him that all he needs to do is obey the 7 laws of Noah.
    Yet, we read where Jesus is told he is divine, or he says he is?!?
    A. Jew who accepts Christianity/Jesus abandons his Jewish heritage, as the two are different and non-compatible in the ways I mentioned above, and several others, as well. If he/she t’shuva, that Jew shall return to His Way and the Salvation He promised us. If not, then the consequences He promised us shall be that person’s reward.
    I am not anti-any-faith, just pro-do not abuse us with your distortions and lies.
    Shalom;
    Yechiel

  8. Fior says:

    If Christians were just open to receive the true interpretation of the Tanakh, they wouldn’t be still in blindness, as who will interpretate better the scriptures If not the jewish people, it’s too easy to understand once you renounce to idolatry or Jesus as god or demi-god. It requires a lot of humility and real desire to know the truth, renouncing to the lies that you have been thought in christianity, it requires to start from zero just like a baby, being humble, and open to unlearn and learn in the right way. B’H! I just came back to my jewish heritage and now I can say that I truly see the light, I thank Hashem every single day for the Rabbis He has surrounded me, that are teaching me in the right way. I say this to any christian/messianic, If you open yourself to receive, and give up idolatry, you’ll be able to see the truth from the other side, but first you have to cross the line of lies and deceit, then you will be able to see everything from other perspective, just as I did. This is not about religion or who is right, but about the Truth, and If you really say, you fear Hashem and serve Him, Please think, seek the Truth and wake up!!!

    • LarryB says:

      The typical response for the christian was recently posted here. “one can be a Jew or a gentile and live for G-d, without conversion to Judaism because G-d is the G-d of all peoples”. They will only seek the truth that fits their belief.

      • Yedidiah says:

        I think I know what you meant, but it was very poorly worded. Because that is far from a typical response by any Christian that is truly representative of any one of a majority of Christian denominations. It is far more typical for Jews to say that today one need not convert to Judaism (Noachidism is not Judaism). It would be far more typical for a Christian to say that one cannot truly know or worship God if one is a Jew or if one converts to Judaism. Far more typical is the belief that one needs to accept Jesus as Christ or messiah or as God, and that despite the belief that “God is the God of all people”. “How could one “live for God” if one can not even come to God (“the Father”), except though Jesus” , is more typical of what many, if not most Christians, would say or write. Is God then “off limits” to “believers in God”? One might ask how one could come to God by first believing in Jesus, without first knowing what God (“the Father) wants one to believe and how.

    • Dina says:

      That takes a lot of courage!

  9. Concerned Reader says:

    So I guess I’m giving a typical missionary response even when I’ve never advocated proselytism of Jews? Judaism itself teaches the noachide laws ie Gentiles needn’t convert to Judaism. In what way was the response typical Christian?

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