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Theological differences within Christianity concerning Judaism:

As with so many other theological beliefs, conservative and liberal Christian faith groups have diametrically opposed responses to Judaism - particularly over the question whether Christians have a religious obligation to convert Jews to Christianity.

Generally speaking:

bulletFundamentalist and some Evangelical Christians take an exclusive position. They believe that of all the religions and denominations in the world, their religious beliefs alone are fully valid. Their doctrines are based on beliefs that the Bible is inerrant and that God inspired its authors. Trusting Jesus as Lord and Savior is the only path that will lead people to salvation and to a living knowledge and intimate relationship with God. Other religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism all lead individuals away from salvation and towards Hell.
bulletLiberal Christians take an inclusive or pluralistic position. They often believe that there are many paths to God. Many use the analogy of a mountain: there are many paths leading up the mountain from different locations in the foothills. But all routes eventually reach the top. All great religions of the world inspire people to lead ethical lives, and motivate them to love and care for others. All faith traditions are valuable, valid to their own followers, and should be respected. Part of this respect is to not proselytize those faith groups which do not wish to be converted to Christianity. Judaism is one such religion.

Christian beliefs are split with regard to the historical covenants described in the Hebrew Scriptures (a.k.a. Old Testament). Generally speaking:

bulletMany Fundamentalists and some Evangelical Christians hold to the traditional " 'supercessionist idea' that Christianity replaced Judaism and that God no longer has a covenant with the Jewish people." 1 This is sometimes called the "theology of displacement." It relegates Judaism to an inferior position and "regards the Christian Church as the 'true' or 'spiritual' Israel." This concept was first developed by Justin Martyr (circa 100 to 165 CE) and Irenaeus of Lyon (circa 130 to 200 CE). It was largely accepted within the church by the 4th century.

One indicator that this belief has gone out of fashion even among conservative Christians was a poll conducted by ChristianWebSite.com, an Evangelical Christian Internet site. Of those visitors who answered the poll, a significant majority, 86.3%, agreed with the concept that Jews are still considered God's chosen people. 23.7% disagreed. 2

Many believe that anyone following the Jewish faith is doomed to spend eternity in Hell, just as will Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and others who have not repented of their sins and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior. This motivates many conservative Christians to attempt to lead Jews (and others) to a "saving knowledge" of Jesus. They feel that to ignore the Jews would be discriminatory. "If Jewish people are denied the opportunity to hear about Jesus because of Christian self-censorship, then Christians truly will be guilty of anti-Semitism." 3

bulletMainline and Liberal Christians typically accept the "dual covenant" belief:
bulletThat the original covenants between God and the Jewish people are still valid today, and
bulletGod has also established a new, parallel covenant with Christian believers.

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  1. "Saving our souls," The Southern Shofar, Birmingham, AL, at: http://www.bham.net/shofar/1996/0796/ss0796.html
  2. Christian Web Site has a home page at: http://christianwebsite.com/ Their survey was taken between approximately 2002-AUG-28 and SEP-3. Their question was: "Are Jews still considered God's chosen people?"
  3. R. H. Hamel, "Real anti-Semitism," The Globe and Mail newspaper, Toronto, ON; letter to the editor, 1998-MAY-27 Page A18

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Copyright © 1998 to 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2004-OCT-30

Author: B.A. Robinson

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