Friday, November 21, 2008

Baptist Minister Raises Hell In Jewish Dialogue

The following article is taken from the Australian Jewish News (published November 3, 2008) - with commentary added.

A WOLLONGONG Baptist minister has admitted telling two Jewish emissaries that Jews suffer from a sin affliction and will face a fate "worse than the Holocaust" because they don't accept Jesus as the messiah.
[The bible says that we are all sinners - irrespective of nationality. As the apostle Paul writes in Romans 3, “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. There is no one righteous, not even one”! If you are human, you qualify! You are a sinner – it’s that simple!]

The comments have sparking outrage among Jewish groups and interfaith leaders.
[The preaching of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins will be offensive to some and foolish to others. And this is a problem for all interfaith dialogue! Many faiths say Jesus Christ is a way, a guide, a good teacher. Christ says he is the only way. Christ has made it clear that one must come to him alone for salvation! This will mean that you are either for Christ or against him.]

American-born Pastor Kevin Harris of the Illawarra Community Baptist Church made the comments in a private meeting last Thursday with NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD) CEO Vic Alhadeff and education manager Lynda Ben-Menashe, who were touring the area on a bridge-building exercise as part of the JBD's speaker service.

Pastor Harris said he told them that anyone who did not accept Jesus suffered from a "cancer" and that Jews were doomed to face "a period of tribulation worse than the Holocaust", according to Christian scripture.
[Actually, the fact is we all suffer from the ‘cancer’ of sin – irrespective of whether we believe in Jesus Christ or not! Not believing in Christ is not the cause of the ‘cancer’! All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God! Because all have sinned, therefore all are condemned! Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. (John 3:18).]

"We don't wish this ill-time upon them. We love the Jewish people. [I'm] just quoting Jesus," the American-born Pastor Harris told The AJN.
[Jesus did say: I am the way, the truth and the life: no one comes to the Father but by me. (John 14:6). If you saw a blind man walking towards the edge of the cliff, would you not warn him? In the same way, if you see a condemned man walking towards the judgement seat – without the saviour – would you not warn him also? To stand back and say nothing, whether the hearer responds or not, is not loving!]

"All of us have the cancer of sin, and there's one solution Jesus Christ. I liken it to cancer to show that it's fatal. Those of us who reject Jesus as the saviour ... all of us, Jew or Gentile, would spend eternity without God in hell."
[Quite clearly the pastor here is pointing out the important fact that he is not attacking the Jewish people, but rather, showing that he himself is also counted with them in this malady. For all have sinned!]

Alhadeff said it was a "chilling experience" to be on the receiving end of the pastor's comments. "We told him we appreciated the candour of his remarks, but found his position completely unacceptable," Alhadeff said.
[All world religions operate, in some form or another, on the principle of working to attain salvation. If I try hard enough to be good, if I try to keep as many of God’s laws as I can, if I pray enough, fast enough, keep religious days, go on pilgrimages… but to put your faith in Christ solely, and not your works, is completely contrary to this position! You will be in one camp or the other! You cannot both try to justify yourself through your own efforts, and also abandon all efforts to justify yourself to rely solely on the promises of Christ.]

"While one is only too aware that there are fundamentalist beliefs and extremist preachers out there, his brazen approach and the fact that he is influencing others on a daily basis are the issues of real concern."

Peta Jones Petach, an expert in interfaith relations, said she does not believe the pastor's comments reflected the official views of churches throughout Australia.
[If that is so, then these churches are not the church of Jesus Christ! Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (2 John 1:9) And what did Jesus teach? He is the only way to the Father. Except you repent and believe you will likewise perish (Luke 13:3)]

"Unfortunately, nutters can also become Christian ministers," she said. "I think any of the organised churches would be horrified."
[The true church would uphold the truth of God’s word! The true church of Jesus Christ would not be horrified to hear Christ lifted up as the only way of salvation!]

Jones Petach added that the comments highlighted the current challenges facing interfaith work. "Sometimes when someone makes extreme comments like these, the church recognises they have more work to do, in terms of spreading the true Christian message, which is not about vilifying Jews."
[This is somewhat correct; the true Christian message is not about vilifying Jews (or anyone for that matter). However, the true Christian message is to call all people everywhere to repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls. Regardless of whether you are a Jew, Muslim, Atheist, or professing Christian – if you do not repent and put your trust in Jesus Christ, you will perish! The true church of Jesus Christ will never preach hate! Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him (1 John 3:15). The true church of Jesus Christ will, however, speak the truth in love. “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” Ezekiel 18:32]

Australian Council of Christian and Jews past-president Henry Mendelson added: "This sort of thing has to stop. We have to accept that we're not living in a bible-belt society, and that we've progressed from the narrowness of the attitude that one religion is superior to another."
[Christianity is not about the superiority of the people. All have sinned! It is rather about the grace of God, extended to fallen, sinners! God is just, and because he is just he must punish those who violate his laws. But, because God is full of compassion and mercy, he chose to provide a way of salvation. This salvation was secured by Christ, who bore the sins of all those who would repent and put their trust in him! “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). All those who do not to repent, but continue to attempt to justify themselves (be it through religious ceremonies, prayers, good works, trying to keep the law et al), they will perish.]

NSW Baptist Union general-secretary Alan Soden said Pastor Harris was not a registered member of the union and declined to comment specifically on his comments, but stressed the Baptist Church respected the rights of other faiths to have their own views.
[Despite the exclusive claims of Christ, “I am the ONLY way”, a Christian cannot force anyone to repent and trust in Christ. It is a work that must happen in the heart of each individual man and woman. All a believer can do is plead with people to heed the words of Christ.]

"Major world religions have many differences and a person of faith should not be expected to commit intellectual suicide, in order to follow a particular faith. However, any dialogue must take place in a spirit of mutual respect and goodwill."
[Christ was unashamedly exclusive in his claims that he alone is the only way of salvation. Secondly, trusting in Christ for the salvation of your soul is not merely an intellectual exercise! It is a work wrought in the heart by the God of heaven himself! No one can come to Christ except the Father draw them.]

B'nai B'rith Anti-Defamation Commission (ADC) chairman Tony Levy said the pastor's comments were offensive "not only to Jews, but to billions of human beings around the world, who are not Christian".
[I do not dispute this statement. The gospel will be offensive to some, and seem like foolishness to others, but it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." (Romans 1:16-17)]

He also said the pastor's reference to the Holocaust was particularly distressing for Holocaust survivors.
[The Holocaust was a horrific time in the history of the Jewish people, there is no denying that! Being found guilty on the day of judgement by a holy God will be far worse than anyone could ever imagine. One only has to look at the severity of God’s wrath poured out upon his own Son on the cross to see that God does not, and will not, treat sin lightly.]

"The ADC works hard to combat anti-Semitism and to promote tolerance and understanding in the wider community. Unfortunately, Pastor Harris' shameful views may inflame anti-Semitic sentiments among his congregants and also give succour to those, in the wider community, who harbour and promote anti-Semitic ideas," Levy said.
[The words of Christ are not anti-Semitic! They are far broader in scope – reaching out to all people, of all tribes, tongues and nations. Jews, like gentiles have all broken God’s law. Jews, like gentiles must repent of their sin and put their faith in Christ. If anyone claims to be a follower of Christ and promotes violence or hatred, he is a liar and the truth is not in him. Unfortunately, from a racial standpoint, warning someone that they are enemies of God through wicked works (Romans 1) is now becoming a hate crime – which is the exact opposite of its purpose or intention, speaking the truth in love.]

"We are also concerned that efforts to promote a greater sense of harmony in multicultural Australia could be harmed by such comments, which obviously target, not only Jewish people, but all non-Christians."
[Shall Christians apologise for the claims of Christ?]


Anonymous said...

I think at the end of the day the judgement is just that... Judgement. If we loose site of the horrific eternal consequences of sin then hell awaits us because we will surely loose all sense of God if sin has us fooled.