Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Ultimate Kibitzer

Christianity Today has a profile of R. Yechiel Eckstein, which includes some interesting historical information about his organization, The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ) (link):

Undeniably through IFCJ, Eckstein has constructed a bridge linking evangelicals, Jews, and Israel. He has been a trailblazer on an uncharted path of showing ways the two faiths can cooperate on behalf of shared biblical concerns. He has brought evangelical and Jewish politicians together in Washington, D.C. He has spoken out against religious persecution abroad and has traveled to China on behalf of imprisoned Christian pastors...

Click here to read moreEckstein, in his New York synagogue talk and in many other instances, carefully avoids mentioning the name of Jesus. He makes repeated references to "you know who." But what does this rabbi, who can quote passages from the New Testament better than most Christians, really believe about Jesus?

"I am as far as anyone can go and continue to have Jewish bona fides," Eckstein says. "Jesus, in some way, was sent by God in a divine appointment to bring what Christians call salvation to the Gentiles. He was a way to be grafted onto the olive tree of Israel. But the Jewish covenant continues to be valid. The roots support the branch"...

Eckstein steadfastly opposes efforts to single out Jews for outreach. "My red line is with those who proselytize through coercion, deception, overzealous techniques, and targeted missions toward Jews, those who go door to door looking for the Goldbergs and Steinbergs," Eckstein says. "Are they doing actions that are deleterious for Jewish survival?"

Christian outreach that is focused on Jews and Messianic Judaism remains a point of tension. Land remembers Eckstein becoming upset when the Southern Baptist International Mission Board launched a prayer initiative for different people groups, starting with Jews. "It helped when we went on to pray for Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists," Land says.

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