Facing Scripture IV – a response to Charles

Charles

In response to these three comments

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/03/23/facing-scripture-2-an-open-letter-to-charles/#comment-17960

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/a-response-to-charles/#comment-17961

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2015/03/24/facing-scripture-iii-an-open-letter-to-charles-from-jim/#comment-17962

You use words as do politicians and missionaries – not to bring clarity and light, but to create darkness, to sow confusion and to mask the emptiness of your position. Throughout your three responses you do not address the explicit passages that refute your position, instead you harp back to your own speculations that you have gleaned between the lines of your misunderstanding of Scripture. You present these with literary flourish as if there was a shred of substance in your argument.

I hope that my humble words bring clarity to those who may be confused by your elaborate but empty words.

You wonder at the harshness of my language concerning the alleged position held by Isaac Lichtenstein. The missionaries have a history of inventing extraordinary titles for those who convert from Judaism to Christianity. Reading the biographies of these people written by the missionaries reveals the emptiness of their claims. In describing the “Jewish” life of these imposing “rabbis” the biographers prove their ignorance of the basic elements of Jewish habits and customs. The fact that you believe these fairytales is very disturbing to all who love truth.

You ask “Who is God? How can we please Him?” These questions ring hollow coming from your pen. What do you mean “how can we please Him”? By obeying His commandments! The commandment that you consistently ignore is the one that bears on our discussion. Instead of asking what God has directly commanded us you turn to your own speculations.

When it comes to the object of worship God does NOT point to the prior revelation (Exodus 3:2) but to the revelation that was granted to the people as a whole (Deuteronomy 4:15). When it comes to the question of the object of our worship Charles points to the prior revelations but God does not. Does this not disturb you? Why do you consistently ignore God’s direct command? It is clear from Scripture, that whatever the purpose of the prior revelations it was NOT to set the tone for future national worship – in the context of national worship God points us to what the nation did and did not see at Sinai.

You dismiss the testimony of the witness appointed by God with the words “ancestors can and do lie” and you quote Jeremiah 23:28,29 to support your position of Sola Scriptura. As is your habit, you have ignored the testimony of the Scripture you claim to believe in (namely Psalm 78:3,4,5; Isaiah 43:10, Deuteronomy 4:35) and instead you have demonstrated that a claim to loyalty to Scripture can be an empty shell. The passage in Jeremiah does not specify that God limits His communication to the written word. The passage that you have quoted is completely irrelevant to this discussion. As for your argument about ancestors lying. Allow me to remind you that written words can and do lie as well. Without the living testimony of God’s witnesses there is no way of knowing that these books are His word.

I asked how could God demand perfect obedience if man is not capable of producing perfection. You did not respond to this question but brought Scripture to demonstrate that man is not capable of perfection. I knew this when I asked you the question. This was the premise for my question that you did not answer. Do you believe that the commandments of God are a joke? Do you not recognize that God does not demand of man that which man is not capable of delivering? Do you not recognize that imperfect human beings are held as examples of obedience to God’s commandments? (Genesis 26:5; 1Kings 11:34 – note, not a word about mediation in these passages).

You respond to my “quest for evidence” with some more speculation. Do you not realize that the Author of Scripture knew how to write? That He was able to make His point with clarity and with force? Why did He not put anything down clearly which states that Sinai is a pathetic joke and that all of mankind needs to put their faith in a coming mediator? Look, God said very clearly that the Jewish people should observe the Sabbath. He said this in a commanding way and He repeated it many times promising reward for obedience and threatening punishment for disregarding His eternal sign (Exodus 16:29; 20:8; 23:12; 31:14; 34:21; 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Numbers 15:35; Deuteronomy 5:12; Isaiah 56:2; 58:13; Jeremiah 17:21). Each of these is far more explicit than all of your references together for the “need” of humanity for this savior of yours. Yet God, who knew how to make clear how important observance of the Sabbath is to His heart, was suddenly tongue-tied when it came to the supposed salvation of humanity? Instead of clear commanding words he can find no better way to communicate outside of some hints dropped between the mistranslated lines? How do you explain this to yourself?

I did not ask you to exegete Deuteronomy 30:1-10. I asked you to read it. I don’t care if your heart is circumcised or not. All I ask is that you allow the words to talk. How can you say that we cannot repent if Deuteronomy 30:2 makes it clear that we CAN repent even before the divine circumcision of our heart? How do you allow your own sophistry to render God’s word null and void?

You charge that the community of God’s witnesses have not found Sabbath rest. You charge that there is no solid redemption in rabbinic Judaism. We have the peace and redemption of God as our small sanctuary in exile (Ezekiel 11:16). In every generation he is our dwelling place and we couldn’t ask for a better redemption (Psalm 90:1).

Your read on Hosea 12:5 is backward. The angel wept and pleaded before Jacob it wasn’t the other way round. Just read Genesis 32:27.

I would never accuse you of idolizing the word of God. You manipulate the word of God to please your idol (you know who).

You claim that without mediation we can only expect an all-consuming fire. That is if we don’t believe in God’s word. But if we believe in God’s word we can expect Him to forget our sin when we turn to Him with our human repentance (Ezekiel 33:16). Will you continue to declare loyalty to God’s word when you still insist on ignoring those words of His which you cannot manipulate to fit your theology?

Contrary to your claim, God is always our Father whether we sin or repent (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1). Another example of your disdain for the word of God.

Your accusation that the oral traditions violate the commandment against adding to God’s word has been elsewhere addressed on this blog (https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/letter-to-aryeh-leib/ , https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/two-sides-of-the-same-coin-proverbs-306/ ). If you have a substantive refutation then please share it with us instead of repeating the same accusation. Your argument which demonstrates that traditions can sometimes be misleading (on the basis of events in the time of Manasseh and Josiah) is irrelevant to the argument. No one ever claimed that every tradition originates with Moses. But those traditions that are verified by God’s witnesses are accepted by those who trust God.

You exalt Nebuchadnezzar on the basis of your own speculation (the Scripture does not tell us that the gold represents Babylon because of any spiritual quality that they possessed – that is your speculation). You then jump to an unwarranted conclusion (that Nebuchadnezzar rose to these dizzying spiritual heights on the basis of his “communion” with one who is described as the son of God) which you present as the “word of God” when in fact it is the word of no one but Charles. Perhaps you did not notice, but Nebuchadnezzar says not a word about his “communion” with this figure in his song of praise for the Gracious Host who you refuse to recognize. For some odd reason you also ignore Nebuchadnezzar’s other praise of God (Daniel 4:31,32).

The son of man who is served in Daniel 7:13,14 is none other than God’s firstborn son; Israel whose son-ship you deny. This is the explanation of Daniel’s vision given by Scripture -https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2010/11/23/daniel-713/ . But certainly Scripture cannot trump your theology.

Your manipulation of Psalm 2:12 is also a foundation of quicksand. According to most translations this passage speaks of embracing purity and not of any individual. Even if we were to grant the unlikely translation of “the son” favored by modern missionaries the thrust of the passage will be that the kings are encouraged to submit to the political sovereignty of the Messiah, not to worship him as a god.

Charles. I am just asking you to face the Scripture that you claim to revere. Do not attempt to drown out God’s word with your own speculation. Ask yourself, did God not know how to make Himself clear?

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3 Responses to Facing Scripture IV – a response to Charles

  1. Thanks for this reply, I hope to post a response soon, time allowing.
    Some lines of demarcation are becoming clearer, and that is welcome.
    However whether the life and witness of Isaac Lichtenstein, a district rabbi, was a ‘fairy tale’ I request more dispassionate observers to weigh carefully. Rhetoric on either side needs testing.

  2. I have been delayed by the near death of a close relative, but here are some reflections in response.

    “You use words as do politicians and missionaries – not to bring clarity and light, but to create darkness, to sow confusion and to mask the emptiness of your position. Throughout your three responses you do not address the explicit passages that refute your position, instead you harp back to your own speculations that you have gleaned between the lines of your misunderstanding of Scripture. You present these with literary flourish as if there was a shred of substance in your argument. I hope that my humble words bring clarity to those who may be confused by your elaborate but empty words.”

    That there is a serious and vital difference between us that is clear to all, but what that difference is needs clarity. It is just as easy to misrepresent the truth by presenting one side or facet of it only as it is by obscuring it with flowery language. In all good conscience I have sought to clarify not to obscure, though perhaps I have not used lucid enough expression. I take this blog as a home, and it is clear from the vehemence of your tone that my interventions are not welcome.
    Just as I would not wish to impose myself in a home where I am no longer welcome, I shall not now linger here at length. Nevertheless lest I should be considered to have yielded the point in question by default, I leave these sober warnings behind, so that your readers may ponder the issues in hand.

    “You wonder at the harshness of my language concerning the alleged position held by Isaac Lichtenstein. The missionaries have a history of inventing extraordinary titles for those who convert from Judaism to Christianity. Reading the biographies of these people written by the missionaries reveals the emptiness of their claims. In describing the “Jewish” life of these imposing “rabbis” the biographers prove their ignorance of the basic elements of Jewish habits and customs. The fact that you believe these fairytales is very disturbing to all who love truth.”

    As I wrote before, I don’t think objective observers will agree with your description of the biography and writings of Isaac Lichtenstein, however they view him. If you prefer let us call them in.

    “You ask “Who is God? How can we please Him?” These questions ring hollow coming from your pen. What do you mean “how can we please Him”? By obeying His commandments! The commandment that you consistently ignore is the one that bears on our discussion. Instead of asking what God has directly commanded us you turn to your own speculations.”

    This objection does not address a central assertion, that the commandment assumes the identity of its issuer. It is this identity I have sought to clarify. What is wrong with that? What is hollow about asking Who it is that speaks and Who it is we must obey? By ignoring this issue and treating it as a semantic distraction, is there not the danger of guilt of the very charge being laid?

    “When it comes to the object of worship God does NOT point to the prior revelation (Exodus 3:2) but to the revelation that was granted to the people as a whole (Deuteronomy 4:15). When it comes to the question of the object of our worship Charles points to the prior revelations but God does not. Does this not disturb you?”

    Not in the least, the revelation was given through Moses to the people, in an arrangement that the people requested and God approved (Ex.20.19, Deut.5.28). Who had sent Moses and the promises made to him about what would later happen at Sinai in Exodus 3 are therefore of direct relevance to the later scenes. It is tunnel visioned to insist otherwise. It is not being scripture-minded to ignore and downplay context, on the contrary it is against the mind and wisdom of scriptural method to take a passage in isolation and oppose it to others, when no such opposition is necessary (Isa.28.10,13).

    “Why do you consistently ignore God’s direct command? It is clear from Scripture, that whatever the purpose of the prior revelations it was NOT to set the tone for future national worship – in the context of national worship God points us to what the nation did and did not see at Sinai.”

    God’s primary command is to worship Him and Him alone, the question is Who is He? Is He revealed and manifest in His Word, or has He become Maimonides sterile Greek Simplex, the abstracted non-Deity, separated from man not primarily by a moral breach, but by metaphysical distinction. How is seeking to clarify Who He is, which you have persistently refused to do, ignoring His command? Even if I wrong that the Angel of the Lord Who spoke to the patriarchs is the LORD manifest, how can examining the question itself be ignoring the command? You have conflated two separate issues – the clarification of His identity the clarification of the command.

    “You dismiss the testimony of the witness appointed by God with the words “ancestors can and do lie” and you quote Jeremiah 23:28,29 to support your position of Sola Scriptura. As is your habit, you have ignored the testimony of the Scripture you claim to believe in (namely Psalm 78:3,4,5; Isaiah 43:10, Deuteronomy 4:35) and instead you have demonstrated that a claim to loyalty to Scripture can be an empty shell.”

    I do not claim that Israel has no voice, merely that rabbinic Judaism is not that voice. It must be tested by scripture, and rabbinic Judaism fails that test by its failure to reject idols, some of which I have identified. This is a strong claim, but it has been justified by the responses I have met with here so far.

    “The passage in Jeremiah does not specify that God limits His communication to the written word. The passage that you have quoted is completely irrelevant to this discussion. As for your argument about ancestors lying. Allow me to remind you that written words can and do lie as well. Without the living testimony of God’s witnesses there is no way of knowing that these books are His word.”

    God’s written words are His testimony (Ex.16.34, 25.16,21, Deut.31.24-26, 2 Chr.23.11), He has undertaken to preserve and guard them (Ps.12.7, 119.89, 160, 140). No other plumbline is safe (Isa.8.16,20, Isa.30.8), especially given the evil tendencies of the human heart to invent, both Jewish and Gentile (Isa.30.9-11, Isa.29.13, Deut.31.26-27).

    “I asked how could God demand perfect obedience if man is not capable of producing perfection. You did not respond to this question but brought Scripture to demonstrate that man is not capable of perfection.”

    Man is capable of perfection, in Adam before the disobedience, in the Messiah, and in Heaven. Yet our present race is stained with sin, and our chief guilt lies in not wishing to be free from slavery (Exod.16.3, Num.14.4).

    “I knew this when I asked you the question. This was the premise for my question that you did not answer. Do you believe that the commandments of God are a joke? Do you not recognize that God does not demand of man that which man is not capable of delivering? Do you not recognize that imperfect human beings are held as examples of obedience to God’s commandments? (Genesis 26:5; 1 Kings 11:34 – note, not a word about mediation in these passages).”

    Of course, I accept that good men are upheld as example of purity to be emulated. I don’t think you yet understand my position at all.

    Yet the best of men are lighter than vanity, a lie, which will not stand by itself in the balance (Ps 62:9). God’s commands are the scale. It is our solemn obligation to fulfill them perfectly. Yet which one of us can say we have even begun to love God with all our heart, soul and strength or our neighbour as ourselves?

    “You respond to my “quest for evidence” with some more speculation. Do you not realize that the Author of Scripture knew how to write? That He was able to make His point with clarity and with force? Why did He not put anything down clearly which states that Sinai is a pathetic joke and that all of mankind needs to put their faith in a coming mediator? Look, God said very clearly that the Jewish people should observe the Sabbath. He said this in a commanding way and He repeated it many times promising reward for obedience and threatening punishment for disregarding His eternal sign (Exodus 16:29; 20:8; 23:12; 31:14; 34:21;35:2; Leviticus 23:3; Numbers 15:35; Deuteronomy 5:12; Isaiah 56:2;58:13; Jeremiah 17:21). Each of these is far more explicit than all of your references together for the “need” of humanity for this savior of yours. Yet God, who knew how to make clear how important observance of the Sabbath is to His heart, was suddenly tongue-tied when it came to the supposed salvation of humanity? Instead of clear commanding words he can find no better way to communicate outside of some hints dropped between the mistranslated lines? How do you explain this to yourself?”

    Your very style of argument itself betrays a profound misunderstanding. Who is claiming Sinai is a ‘pathetic joke’? It is a painful thing even to write. If you wish to engage in serious discussion, how about starting with your opponent’s position, not a straw man? The only purpose any other serves is grandstanding, and that is beneath your dignity and the interest you have shown in the truth elsewhere – I write in sobriety not with irony, lest any doubt it.
    The purpose of Sinai is twofold to demonstrate God’s character and our woeful shortcomings – in a word to show us what real salvation is, what it looks like.(Jer.31.33, Ezek.36.26-27) Salvation is not merely life insurance from Hell, it’s deliverance from Pharoah of this world, the chains of our bondage to selfishness and ego, and a passage through the Red Sea of human and Satanic opposition and temptation. It could never provide more than a picture of salvation, that is the promise of the New not the Old covenant. Just as Sinai provided the means for diagnosing and separating from uncleanness and from leprosy, but no cure for the malady and no remedy for the afflicted, so the Old Testament is impotent without an effective remedy for sin, valuable only to highlight rather than cure transgression from holiness.
    The Sabbath is indeed a most important issue – but the essence of sabbath for the heart (שַׁבַּת שַׁבָּתוֹן) lies only in real atonement (Lev.16.30-31).

    “I did not ask you to exegete Deuteronomy 30:1-10. I asked you to read it. I don’t care if your heart is circumcised or not. All I ask is that you allow the words to talk. How can you say that we cannot repent if Deuteronomy 30:2 makes it clear that we CAN repent even before the divine circumcision of our heart? How do you allow your own sophistry to render God’s word null and void?”

    Strong words again, but please consider my response more calmly (7th para), the sequence is not as important as the substance, as other passages make abundantly clear.

    “You charge that the community of God’s witnesses have not found Sabbath rest. You charge that there is no solid redemption in rabbinic Judaism. We have the peace and redemption of God as our small sanctuary in exile (Ezekiel 11:16). In every generation he is our dwelling place and we couldn’t ask for a better redemption (Psalm 90:1).”I wish that were true, and pray it may yet be true of all who read these words.

    “Your read on Hosea 12:5 is backward. The angel wept and pleaded before Jacob it wasn’t the other way round. Just read Genesis 32:27.”

    All Christian commentators disagree with you on the first and Rashi also disagrees with you on the second, Jacob ‘beseeched him: When he said to him, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen. 32: 26)’. Rashi curiously dislocates the subject from the second verb to suggest it was the Angel who wept, though did not beseech. Even an author of cited Talmud passage Chillun 92a first writes ‘I know not who wept unto whom’, then presumably another goes on to claim it was the Angel who had dislocated Jacob’s thigh who wept. That created angels who destroy cities and annihilate armies should weep at being held in a mere lock of promise should surprise.No, Jacob pleaded with and wept before the Angel, as he also wept shortly after before his brother, when he realised he had seen the face of God’s justice and yet been spared (Gen.33.4,10).The matter is resolved by the real supplicant’s relief. Which is the greater blessing, to be called a Prince with God or to be released from the grasp of mere dust and ashes?
    Whose is the manipulation of the scriptures you wished to expose?

    “I would never accuse you of idolizing the word of God. You manipulate the word of God to please your idol (you know who).”

    Please cite the manipulations plainly, so we can all see them.

    “You claim that without mediation we can only expect an all-consuming fire. That is if we don’t believe in God’s word. But if we believe in God’s word we can expect Him to forget our sin when we turn to Him with our human repentance (Ezekiel 33:16). Will you continue to declare loyalty to God’s word when you still insist on ignoring those words of His which you cannot manipulate to fit your theology?”

    All the scripture speaks of a means of restoration and forgiveness, as well exposing the need to that mercy. Though if we reject God’s only remedy, if Israel despised the means of the brass serpent in the wilderness, they would as surely perish from the poison of sin as those who had never heard of it (Num.21.6). Should we should not follow God’s word where it leads?

    “Contrary to your claim, God is always our Father whether we sin or repent (Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1). Another example of your disdain for the word of God.”

    Just as helpful a proof text, from your perspective, is ‘is not He thy father that hath bought thee? hath He not made thee, and established thee?’ in Deut.32.6. However the complaint against Israel (and of all the Gentile nations) is that ‘he forsook God’ (v.15) and of ‘the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful'(v.18). Does a Father abhor His children (v.19), does He treat them as targets for His arrows (v.23)?
    Yes, there is mercy and restoration for a remnant (v.43), those restored to the land, (Isa.6.13, 10.20-21, 4.3, 65.8,9, Zech.13.8,9, Mal.3.1-3,18-19), but is it proper to call those who are rejected permanently His children or His enemies? Are you suggesting it is proper to call them both simultaneously?
    True adoption is determined not by descent but by solid redemption.(Isa.63.16)

    “Your accusation that the oral traditions violate the commandment against adding to God’s word has been elsewhere addressed on this blog … If you have a substantive refutation then please share it with us instead of repeating the same accusation. Your argument which demonstrates that traditions can sometimes be misleading (on the basis of events in the time of Manasseh and Josiah) is irrelevant to the argument. No one ever claimed that every tradition originates with Moses. But those traditions that are verified by God’s witnesses are accepted by those who trust God.”

    Of course Moses wasn’t the only prophet. However the vast majority of the congregation and all the ‘accredited’ priests and Temple teachers in times of apostasy were apostate, in Bethel or in Jerusalem, true prophets were rejected or murdered not listened to. When Jehoiakim ripped up and burnt Jeremiah’s prophecy and the nobles, priests and princes stood by approving (Jer.36.20-24), upon your criteria who could judge whether God had spoken or not? Yet the scripture explicitly warns that false teachers will seek to add their own traditions and fables to the pure word of truth (Deut.12.32, 4.2, Josh.1.7, Prov.30.6, Isa.29.13, Ezek.33.31, Jer.42.20). What better means than apparently hallowed traditions to ensnare the unwary (Isa.58.2, 2 Ki.8.4, 2 Chr.33.3)?

    “You exalt Nebuchadnezzar on the basis of your own speculation (the Scripture does not tell us that the gold represents Babylon because of any spiritual quality that they possessed – that is your speculation). You then jump to an unwarranted conclusion (that Nebuchadnezzar rose to these dizzying spiritual heights on the basis of his “communion” with one who is described as the son of God) which you present as the “word of God” when in fact it is the word of no one but Charles. Perhaps you did not notice, but Nebuchadnezzar says not a word about his “communion” with this figure in his song of praise for the Gracious Host who you refuse to recognize. For some odd reason you also ignore Nebuchadnezzar’s other praise of God (Daniel 4:31,32).”

    Nebuchadnezzar’s exaltation followed the most extraordinary abasement of any pagan king in the Bible, what restored him but the Word of promise he had heard from Daniel? The gold of his praise compares favourably with the silver of Cyrus’ reverent edict to rebuild the Temple, the bare and patchy toleration of the Hellenes, and the ultimately devastating hatred of the Romans. If you consider the quality of the metals is not a reference to spiritual character, to what does it refer – wealth, extent, culture, military prowess -all these are arguable comparators? Do you not know adoration, well exemplified, as you wrote, in Dan.4.31, is a form of communion?
    Who worships One he knows not? Do even pagans do that?

    “The son of man who is served in Daniel 7:13,14 is none other than God’s firstborn son; Israel whose son-ship you deny. This is the explanation of Daniel’s vision given by Scripture -…. But certainly Scripture cannot trump your theology.”

    I do not deny Israel’s sonship, but as I have shown it is derived from redemption, to which Israel still has first call, and the other races second, not absolute from race (Isa.63.16). This redemption is found in the New Covenant of the One called Israel, (Isa.49,.1,5,6). Though as Another once said, the first shall be last and the last first. He still waits and calls for your long delayed repentance.
    As to Dan.7.13 applying to the nation not an individual, I encourage all objective students of the subject to study the series of singular nouns and pronouns in verses 13 and 14 and decide carefully whether the reference is to an exalted individual or a nation, and whose theology is being trumped by extraneous data.

    “Your manipulation of Psalm 2:12 is also a foundation of quicksand. According to most translations this passage speaks of embracing purity and not of any individual. Even if we were to grant the unlikely translation of “the son” favored by modern missionaries the thrust of the passage will be that the kings are encouraged to submit to the political sovereignty of the Messiah, not to worship him as a god.”

    The argument that the passage refers to the same son as v. 7 is as old as the Septuagint. As to kissing signifying an act of worship, the prophets are sure witness to its real significance here (Job.31.27, Hosea 13.2, 1 Ki.19.18).

    “Charles. I am just asking you to face the Scripture that you claim to revere. Do not attempt to drown out God’s word with your own speculation. Ask yourself, did God not know how to make Himself clear?”

    It is indeed a question we all need to ask quietly and reverently in the secret place of our own closets for prayer, before it is too late, not caring for the opinion of men, but seeking and putting God first. (1 Ki.22.25)

  3. Pingback: Sinai and Sabbath, for what Purpose? – A Response to Charles | 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources

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