Joe Butta and Steven Daskal
Christian Messianic Analysis and Apologetics
A fallacy is a mistaken belief based on flawed reasoning. Religiosity is excessive devotion or piety to a system of rituals and formulas in the search for connection to deity. The point is that some people who drape themselves in religion can often see themselves as superior to others who they view as less enlightened than themselves, or even as “unclean”. This thought process is not exclusive to any one faith. It can be found in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, as well as pagan religions. All religions have adherents who use their religion for what they can get from God; for the control they can gain over other people or even influence over God; for what they can do or accomplish for their religious system to gain recognition and praise; and for what they must practice or do in order to avoid God’s wrath or gain God’s favor. Most folks are raised into a faith system either intentionally by parents, teachers, or religious leaders, or just follow what “others” seem to think. We will examine these faiths and discuss each according to the points we disclosed above. Finally, we will examine how this works in each faith then offer a conclusion that we believe articulates what God really wants for us.
Judaism: Current attitudes in Judaism reflect the teachings of the great rabbis [aka sages] of past centuries dating back to the Babylonian captivity of the 6th century BC. These are passed down to contemporary Jews by the rabbis and other leaders in the Jewish community. Jewish religious practice is grounded in a host of rituals based upon Torah but substantially revised to accommodate the realities of having lost the Temple and living as a minority in societies that deny aspects of Jewish belief and practice such as animal sacrifice. While the fundamental beliefs about God and man remain, these accommodations have become more diverse as new movements attempt to make Judaism more relevant, especially for younger Jews living in an increasingly secularized world. The Jewish people have been united more by what they have withstood [pogroms], survived [Holocaust] and accomplished in terms of “fixing the world” [Tikkun Olam] than in how they exercise their faith. Most importantly, rejecting Yeshua is a matter of fundamental identity. Many Jews who ignore or explicitly reject Torah, Talmud, and rabbinical authority — even those who reject the existence of God Himself — still insist that if one is Jewish one cannot believe that Jesus was anything other than a man — perhaps a very good rabbi, perhaps a sinful false messiah, but just a man.
Christianity: After Yeshua’s death and resurrection the Way encompassed His Apostles and other disciples. Initially most were Jewish converts, while a minority were from Latin, Greek or other ethnic groups. Saul, a rabbinical student under Gamaliel converted to faith in Yeshua and became known as Paul. His ministry was largely to the Gentiles who before long outnumbered Jewish believers. After the Bar Kokhba rebellion in 135 A.D. Jewish believers in Yeshua were no longer welcomed in the synagogues, because they had not supported the revolt and rejected Rabbi Akiva’s claim that Bar Kokhba was the Messiah who would liberate the Jews from Rome. Non-biblical doctrines were a problem from the very beginning of the church — we see this in the epistles and Revelation where Paul, Peter, John and the writer to the Hebrews refute the errors of the Judaizers, Gnostics, and other heretics. Once the church became institutionalized and part of the Roman Empire in the 4th century A.D., it removed all Jewish influence in the Church. The Eastern (Greek) and Western (Roman) bishops prior to and after the Great Schism imposed complex sets of rituals and rules in efforts to cement ecclesiastical hierarchical authority over commoners and royals/nobility alike, and in the West, the Roman Church actually waged war on other ostensibly Roman Catholic monarchs over territories, populations concerning whether the Church or State had ultimate authority. Understanding this history helps explain how religious institutions can gain control over other people or even convey to adherents how they can influence God. Some are convinced what they do or accomplish for their religious system can gain them recognition and praise; while others come to believe what they must practice or do in order to avoid God’s wrath or gain God’s favor. Often this includes whether one can fully participate in a worship service in another denomination, expression or sect of Christianity. The dogma present in some churches prevents many Christians from fully integrating with other Christians.
Islam: For the past 14 centuries Muslims have revered their Prophet as if he were a deity. The Arabs were neither unified or significant before Muhammad. One hundred years after his death — by 732 A.D. — the Islamic empire that Muhammad inspired ranged from Spain and France in the west to western China in the east, from Central Asia to Sub-Saharan Africa. The goal of Islamic ideology has been and remains expanding Islam [submission to Allah as defined by Muhammad] by any means and imposing Islamic Law [Shari’a] on all Muslims and reducing non-Muslims to the status of resident aliens in their own lands. With the failure of traditional Turkish, Persian, and Arab imperialism and secular Arab nationalism, Sunni “moderates” like the Muslim Brotherhood, Sunni extremists such as Al Qaeda, ISIS and HAMAS, and Shi’a extremists [primarily the various elements of Hizb’allah] war against one another and against all who are not Muslim. Although some Muslims use their religion for what they can get from Allah, Muslim tyrants use it for the control they can gain over other people. Other Muslims vie to promote Islam through dedicating their worldly accomplishments to their religious system. A majority fear Allah and therefore practice Islamic rituals in order to avoid Allah’s wrath or gain his favor.
Conclusion: Religiosity replaces individuals’ personal relationship with God through the work of Christ and the agency of the Holy Spirit with rituals that outwardly demonstrate obedience and obeisance to God’s self-established priestly representatives on earth. This tends to ossify the church from being a living organism established by God so that believers can share their talents and resources for mutual support. Instead many are encouraged to build the Kingdom into a bureaucratic organization controlled by men to give rank and privilege to an elite establishment.
What God optimally wants for us is that each person desires a relationship with Him. He wants us to accept that His sacrifice on the cross was the only, necessary, and sufficient answer for our individual and collective human failings — our selfishness and rebelliousness against God’s benevolent authority. Once a person has done this, they can begin to understand the world from God’s perspective. It is about us seeking what God wants for us but not about how good we are as to earn special favor from God. God does not want to hear us tell him how good we are rather he wants to hear us ask for help and in doing so surrender to what his will is for us, not to earn special favor from God [none of us are good enough to do that] but to share in His work and thereby build that relationship. In this way we acknowledge that the Grace of God [His unmerited favor] poured upon us is God’s Redemption At Christ’s Expense. Belonging to a specific group, church or denomination takes a back seat to belonging to God through a relationship with Jesus who atoned for our sins because he loved us before we knew Him.