Article by Dr. R. C. Sproul, Jr (original source here)
It’s Monday again, and therefore it is time for our weekly Ism Monday. Today’s Ism is a little tricky. We’re going to be talking today about Judaism. Perhaps more specifically, about the relationship of Judaism to Christianity. There is a reason why the broader world, including the secular world, speaks of this thing that they call Judeo-Christianity. Well, what’s Judeo-Christianity? It’s an attempt to acknowledge that one of the things that Christianity has in common with Judaism is a belief in a transcendent God. It’s a belief that at least the Bible or parts of the Bible is the revelation of God. It’s a belief in the existence of a transcendent moral standard that is immutable.
Years ago, J.D. Hunter, a sociologist at the University of Virginia, published a landmark book that has helped shape the culture called Culture Wars. In that particular book, Hunter argues that the battle lines in the culture wars are not drawn specifically between this religion and that religion that at least recognizes itself as a religion. This is not India at the time of its independence when you had Hindus and Muslims at war with each other. Rather, he argued, the fault line is between those who believe in a transcendent moral standard, and those who don’t. And those who do believe would include the tradition of Judaism, it would include Christianity, it would even include Islam. And on the other side we have what he calls the progressives, those who deny that there is a transcendent standard.
Well, Judaism is a monotheistic religion that looks to the Old Testament as an authority, that believes in the existence of God, that the God that exists made the heaven and earth, made Adam and Eve, spoke to Abraham. That’s where we start to see, there’s so much overlap, that we’re tempted to look at Judaism as sort of Christianity minus Jesus, or Christianity as Judaism plus Jesus. We recognize that God worked in and through the Old Testament and that He called together His saints and gathered them into His Kingdom in the Old Testament, and so we have this continuity with Old Testament Judaism, but it raises the question, how do we look at Judaism after the advent of Christ?
Well, it would be nice and pleasant and polite to suggest that Judaism in our day is specifically Christianity minus Jesus. You hear people express that reality by saying things like this: Christians and Jews worship the same God. Well, not only do I disagree with that, but I’m going to argue that Jesus Himself disagreed with that. It’s true that they have the Old Testament and we have the Old Testament and New Testament, it’s true that they have been given much.
But Jesus Himself said that you cannot have the Father without the Son. You cannot separate the Father and Son in such a way that you are, I don’t know, ⅓ of a Christian because you’ve got ⅓ of the Trinity in your sort of pantheon. Rather, the rejection of Jesus as the Son of God, the chosen Messiah, as God the Son, necessarily requires the rejection of God the Father as God the Father. You can’t have the Father without the Son and you can’t have the Son without the Father. One thing we need to make sure we understand is that our understanding of the Trinity cannot be a tritheistic understanding. That is, an understanding that affirms that there are somehow three gods, so you can get one without the others.
Rather, the triune God is a triUNE God. And in fact, ironically, our Jewish friends should help us remember that. I’ve often said that if there was an emblematic text in all of the Old Testament that sort of defined and united the self perception of the Jewish people, it would have been Deuteronomy 6:4, what we call the Shema. And that text, if you look at ancient manuscripts, all through the whole of the Old Testament you have this really careful copying of the text in such a way that there is no margin, there is no punctuation, in fact, it’s so zealous to cram as much as they can into a small space, they don’t even have vowels.
But if you look at the text, you’ll find that there is one text that is sort of written in bold, written in larger, and that is the Shema, which reads “Hear Oh Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Absolutely true. This is an affirmation of God’s unity, of His simplicity, and our embracing of the Trinity should never undo that affirmation. But what this means is that if Jesus is God the Son and you reject God the Son, than you’ve rejected this one God, the God who is one.
Judaism has much to commend it, we have much in common with them, we can work together as co-belligerents, but we must understand that even while we affirm that those who were redeemed in the Old Testament were redeemed because of their submission to and their trust in the coming work of Jesus Christ, that we are not sharers of the same faith.