To the Editor:
Thank you for publishing Gerald S. Strober’s fascinating and courageous article, “My Life as a Christian” [June]. His story reminds me of a similar one, written about sixty years ago by Samuel Freuder, under the title “My Return to Judaism.” Nowadays, though (after the Holocaust), as Mr. Strober points out, it is even less possible for any self-respecting “messianic Jew” . . . to continue in the belief that faith in Jesus would have prevented the suffering of the Jewish people.
I wonder how Mr. Strober’s many Christian friends, above all Billy Graham, felt and feel now about his return to Judaism. It would be interesting to know, too, whether or not his Jewish upbringing made it easier for him to convert to Christianity. Apparently, he came from a very liberal Jewish background, with hardly any knowledge of Judaism. By contrast, most of the leaders of the Jews for Jesus movement have come from strictly Orthodox Jewish families.
At the end of his beautiful article, Mr. Strober hints that some day he will tell the longer story of his return to Judaism. . . . We look forward to a book about his whole story in the near future.
Syracuse, New York
To the Editor:
The article by Gerald S. Strober raises important matters both for confessing Christians and for those on the outside looking in at this phenomenon which has been so much in the public eye of late. . . .
Mr. Strober notes that the Christianity with which he was associated for some nineteen years had a tendency to be so overly concerned with the spiritual well-being of people that it was essentially deaf to their deeper human needs. Distribution of literature and biblical harangue too often took priority over listening to the fears and hopes of people from whom those would-be evangelists had much to learn. Alas, it is true that among us evangelical Christians are those who, being so convinced of having every answer to every man’s need in one “canned” presentation, are too quick to babble on and too slow to listen with empathy to the hurts, sorrows, or dampened dreams of those to whom they would bear witness. . . .
Further, Mr. Strober points out a particular weakness of the “dispensational” approach to understanding the Bible, namely, that it tends to promote a “proof-text” approach to matters of (from the Christian perspective) grave significance for men and women. Oversimplification and theological shallowness are no substitute for the hard work of wrestling with the problems of men and society in the light of consistent, systematic study of the Scriptures. The approach to the Bible represented by the Scofield Reference Bible is not yet even two hundred years old and is considered by large numbers of evangelicals not to be a reliable means of interpreting the Scriptures. Regrettably, however, because of the high visibility of certain fundamentalist personalities, it is the approach most often set up as a “straw man” for non-Christian critics. Mr. Strober is to be commended for his rejection of this hermeneutic as being altogether unsuitable for the task of making the Bible relevant to the lives of men and women today.
However, Mr. Strober’s “baby-with-the-bathwater” approach to Christianity might be confusing to some readers. He gives the impression that, because the Moody Bible Institute approach is unsatisfactory for making Christianity meaningful in our day, then Christianity itself is unsatisfactory and can (and, presumably, should) be abandoned. Two comments are in order here.
The first we have already broached: even among evangelical Christians there are many who have sought to point out the utter inadequacy of contemporary dispensationalism for providing a hermeneutic which can make the riches of biblical truth available for addressing the problems of the modern world. One need not assume, therefore, that the Moody Bible Institute approach is either the only or even the best expression of Christianity today.
Second, Mr. Strober gives the impression that Christianity is a religion without ontological effects upon its adherents. That is, from Mr. Strober’s perspective, Christianity, like every other religion in the world, is little else than a system of beliefs which one may take or leave according to his need or stage in life. The teaching of the New Testament, however, is altogether different. . . . Christianity is an irrevocable and undeniable truth for one who has truly come to experience it.
Granted there are many, such as Mr. Strober, who, having tasted of Christian faith, become disillusioned and abandon it later on. What can we conclude concerning these? We must let the New Testament speak for itself on such matters. In his first epistle the Apostle John describes a number of individuals who despite their former adherence to the beliefs of the Christian faith had nevertheless now departed from it, no longer numbering themselves among the believers. Concerning these he says, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us” (I John 2.19).
Thus, if only for clarity’s sake, perhaps Mr. Strober’s article should have been entitled “My Life among the Christians” rather than “My Life as a Christian.”
Evangelism Explosion III
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Gerald S. Strober writes:
I should like to thank Heinz Hartmann for his kind words. I do hope to write at greater length about my return to the Jewish community.
What can I say to T.M. Moore, who decries the proof-text method and then employs one single New Testament verse to buttress his argument that I never “truly” experienced Christian faith? I can also do without Mr. Moore’s commendation for my rejecting dispensationalism “as being altogether unsuitable for the task of making the Bible relevant to the lives of men and women today.” The fact is these are his words and not mine. I suggested that dispensationalist theory, or for that matter any other Christian hermeneutic, cannot satisfy a Jew who has discovered his heritage and origins. Mr. Moore’s argument with dispensationalism for not making the Bible relevant in the contemporary world could be challenged by the many fundamentalist individuals and organizations deeply concerned with the whole man and the whole society. I appreciate Mr. Moore’s interest in my article; I just wish he would leave me out of his squabbles with fellow Christians.