Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The 13 Articles of Faith

Yesterday, I met with a friend who is a Jewish lawyer and a man of faith, albeit that of a Conservative Jew. I remarked to him that I had attended recently a funeral at a Reformed temple and that the rabbis who officiated, although they said sympathetic things about the decedent and attempted to be comforting to the mourners in their loss, at the same time seemed absolutely intent on denying that the decedent had an immortal soul and that there was at least a possibility of her spending eternity with God. I said to my friend that the only mention of an after-life came during the eulogies from family and friends, where people gave heart-felt witness to their hope of the decedent being in heaven and their seeing her again some day.

My friend said, in so many words, that the rabbis there weren't really rabbis in his opinion, and that being a Jew included the belief in one's immortal soul. He referred to Moses Maidmonides, and his 13 Articles of Faith. He saw belief in those articles as an indicator of whether one is really a Jew. For him, it seemed a sort of litmus test, not unlike our Apostle's Creed. Among the 13 is the belief in the resurrection of the dead.

As I considered the 13 Articles, I thought how close we Christians come to being inside the circle my friend and Maidmonides would draw around true Judaism. Or maybe I should say how close to salavation through Jesus Christ are those who are inside that circle. In discussing with Van last Sunday the matter of where righteous Jews are with respect to salvation (yes, I know that no one is "righteous, not even one" but you know what I mean), he said he was loathe to say that they are not saved, but he would absolutely affirm that if they are (and we hope that they are, surely) then it is only by Christ's blood that they are.

I like that expansive view of God's grace through Jesus Christ. It makes me no less adamant about sharing the Gospel, about the need to accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. But it gives me the sort of hope that enables me to share the Gospel with anyone without an underlying suggestion of severity and self-righteous judgement.

(On the trip that Mary, Carol and I took to Spain in 2007, we visited Maimonides birthplace, Cordova, and toured an ancient synagogue there.)

1 comment:

Macon said...

There's plenty of room in Orthodoxy for this expansive view of God's Grace towards Men. You have plenty of good company there, including C.S. Lewis, T.F. Torrance and K. Barth.