Friday, June 08, 2007

Berger v. Stern on Interfaith Dialogue

Dr. David Berger responds in this week's The Jewish Week to a challenge last week by R. Eliyahu Stern. The latter had advocated open theological dialogue with Christians, including demanding that certain of their beliefs be changed (link). Dr. Berger forcefully counters (link):

Does any serious person think that such transcendent chutzpah will benefit Jews? Some pro-Israel Evangelical Christians have expressed resentment even at Jewish objections to proselytizing. One can only imagine how traditional Christians would react if large numbers of Jews would tell them that it is their ethical obligation not merely to refrain from preaching the Gospel to Jews but to abandon their faith in the Second Coming altogether?...

Finally, as I indicated in the passage that aroused Rabbi Stern’s ire, Christians instructed by Jews to reject their confident affirmation of the Messiahship of Jesus may well be moved to turn to us with reciprocal demands. The fact that Jews have not persecuted Christians mitigates their right to do so, but I do not think that it eliminates it...

From every relevant perspective — intellectual, moral, religious and pragmatic — Rabbi Stern’s critique is misguided and dangerous. Jews must vigilantly protect their interests, but they do so most effectively through cautious, sober, respectful engagement combined with uncompromising adherence to the beliefs that define their faith.

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