The State of Christology in the Contemporary Messianic Movement

Evaluating the nature of the Messiah—and how people in today’s Messianic movement can have some fair, readable, thorough, and reasonable answers to their questions—has been a personal burden which I have carried since 2003. As I entered into full-time Messianic ministry, I encountered my first people who denied Yeshua as God. I was horrified, flabbergasted, but above all presented with a challenge. What was to be done? At the time, the Jewish Objections to Jesus series by Michael L. Brown had just started being released, understandably tied to the issues that would arise in the context of Jewish evangelism and the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth. But, Jewish and non-Jewish Believers in the broad Messianic community, thinking that Yeshua was the Messiah—but not God—was a more complicated issue. The most difficult thing, for certain, was to let other people have “their say,” before I could be primed to write this lengthy analysis (2015-2017).

One of the things that you have to quickly learn, in the field of Biblical Studies, is that nothing is sacred. Liberal theologians and examiners, whether they be Christian or Jewish, have at one time or another taken a belief that you cherish dearly, and have done their best to rip it to shreds. An excellent example of this is demonstrated by higher criticism and the JEDP documentary hypothesis, where the Torah or Pentateuch is largely thought to not be the product of a real historical figure named Moses, but rather various literary sources and mythologies strewn together after the Babylonian exile in the Sixth Century B.C.E. For certain, this would relegate materials such as Genesis chs. 1-11 as being Israelite or Jewish retellings of Mesopotamian creation and flood myths, but it would also involve pseudo-historical embellishments of a group of ancient slaves having escaped the clutches of the Egyptian Empire. And, to be certain, the Bible on the whole is to be treated as almost entirely a human philosophical work, one of many varied ideologies where people have tried to evaluate the nature of the Divine Being. There have been people who have attempted to make compelling arguments against Yeshua being God, in the same spirit as those who have attempted to make compelling arguments against the reliability of the Holy Scriptures.

In my many years of full-time ministry service, I have been no stranger to addressing the controversial issues of the day, with the specific intention of facilitating resolution to them. Today in the mid-to-late 2010s, the broad Messianic movement has a dirty little secret: many people deny that Yeshua the Messiah is God. If this shocks you to some extent, because when you attend your Shabbat service or various Bible studies or other teachings at your assembly—your congregational leadership and/or denominational affiliation may affirm Yeshua as God—note that the issue in view is many people. Many Messianic leaders and teachers and organizations rightly and properly affirm that Yeshua the Messiah is God. Our issue in this publication, Salvation on the Line: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity, is to deal with what has happened regarding many individual people and families, sitting in Messianic congregations and assemblies, who deny, on some significant level, Yeshua the Messiah as God. These people, and those who they may affect, need substantial answers to the questions which they have been asking, the doubts they have been entertaining, and the issues and sub-issues which have been brought to our collective attention.

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reproduced from Salvation on the Line, Volume I: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity–Gospels and Acts

In the past, the big issue which has faced the Messianic movement has understandably been the Messiahship of Yeshua of Nazareth, widely connected to the purposes of Jewish evangelism. For the present, the big issue which is staring right at the broad Messianic movement—to which no congregation, fellowship, family, or individual is entirely immune—is how to approach the nature of Yeshua (Jesus). Is Yeshua the Messiah God, or is He a created being? While many affirm Yeshua of Nazareth to be the eternal, uncreated Son of God who is indeed God—there are many others who express various levels of doubt about this, and then others who think that Yeshua is a created being and not God. There are those who will affirm that Yeshua is a supernatural being to be sure—perhaps even the first created being in the cosmic order, pre-existent of our known universe—but nevertheless created and not God.

This publication, Salvation on the Line: The Nature of Yeshua and His Divinity, affirms a high Christology. Not only does it affirm a high Christology of Yeshua being God, it very much defends the view that while understanding all of the intricacies of Yeshua being God is not required for salvation, recognizing Yeshua as the Lord (YHWH/YHVH) of the Tanach Scriptures (Old Testament) most certainly is required for salvation (Romans 10:9, 13; cf. Joel 2:32).

This resource has consulted and engaged with a wide array of resources and perspectives across the Messianic movement, into the more independent sectors of the Hebrew/Hebraic Roots movement, the views expressed by various Christians labeling themselves “Biblical Unitarians,” and even those few theologians of note who hold to a low Christology. This involves an array of articles, books, commentaries, and even a few Bible versions. Most important, would be some of the excellent, thorough, and readable resources defending a high Christology, seen within the realm of broadly evangelical Christian theology.

The considerable bulk of Salvation on the Line, while defending a high Christology, is necessarily spent going to the text of the Holy Scriptures (Genesis-Revelation). This is not only because the Holy Scriptures are to be decisively regarded by God’s people to be the Word of Life, but also because this is the venue where the rise and fall of theological concepts are to be found. None of us wants to be found holding to a view of Yeshua being God simply because of some kind of fundamentalist dogma—where if we hold to a different view our name will somehow end up on a list or in a white paper as being stigmatized as some kind of “cultists.” We want to be found holding to a view of Yeshua being God, precisely because that is where the witness of Scripture directs us, it is the genuine testimony of the Messiah and His early followers, and because it is required for our redemption from sins as fallen human beings. The author firmly believes that such a principled case can be made in going to the text of Scripture, and that those who hold to a low Christology are decisively lacking in many areas.

452 pages