“Tent of David is a wonderful book for those who believe Messianic gentiles should become classic gentile Christians.”
First Fruits of Zion is heavily promoting a new book, Tent of David, which purports to “heal the vision of the Messianic gentile.”
In reality, by “heal”, they mean telling gentiles to go back to the Church and making sure they understand they’re not part of Israel.
That’s the essence and theme throughout the book, and there’s no point in beating around the bush. Might as well “calls ‘em like I sees ‘em”, as they say!
In a nutshell, the book argues Messianic gentiles should stay in the church, instead of forming Hebraic Roots congregations with other like-minded individuals. It does this in accordance with Bilateral Ecclesiology theology, a new theology put forth in Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism (2005), which states that God has 2 sub-peoples, the gentile Christian Church and the Messianic Jewish synagogue.
Bi-Ecclesiology asserts gentiles should stay in the Church while Messianic Jews form their own separate congregations. This is the driving theme throughout Tent of David; the book is directed toward Messianic-minded Christian gentiles in the Church, admonishing them to stay in the Church.
The book acknowledges problems in the Church – for example, the perceived problem that the Church doesn’t believe Jesus practiced Judaism – but it rejects the idea that the Church is either anti-Torah or influenced by paganism, arguing that the Church is essentially good.
Despite the Church’s anti-Semitic past, and some inherited anti-Jewish doctrines such as supersessionism, argues the author, there are still good people in the multi-national Christian Church and many keep the weighty matters of the Torah.
The author argues that “Messianic gentiles”, a term I think he uses only begrudgingly, are really just Christians, and that they can do more good from within the Church, so, the book argues Messianic gentiles really ought to bloom where you’re planted.
(Ironically, this is the same argument Jews for Jesus makes to Jewish Christians to stay in the Church. I consider it an anemic religious plea that ignores God’s unique calling on different individuals.)
What’s the problem with Messianic gentiles staying in the Church?
Simple: assimilation. It’s difficult to keep the Torah when no one else is.
Christians are generally practicing mercy and kindness, sure, but they aren’t sanctifying shabbat, they aren’t eating kosher, they aren’t keeping Passover, they aren’t living a Torah-lifestyle, by and large. (In fact, they’re arguing vehemently against all these things, and not just for gentiles, but for all humanity.)
And if that church is your community, the odds are stacked against you; chances are, you won’t change them; they will change you. Classic assimilation.
“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future”, as the saying goes.
The author states (p. 36) that "to be a ‘Messianic Gentile’ does not make one something other than “Christian.”’ It’s true that Messianic gentiles are indeed Christians – followers of Christ – but truthfully, so are Messianic Jews, and the author acknowledges this (p. 37).
Messianic Jews are Christians, and yet FFOZ would not encourage Messianic Jews to go back to the Church nor forsake their Messianic congregations. They do this only for Messianic gentiles, in accordance with Bilateral Ecclesiology.
If you’re a Messianic gentile who believes God’s commandments are good and righteous, and you’ve applied them to your own life, staying in the Church is problematic because you’ll inevitably assimilate and drop your Torah observance.
If you doubt this, direct your attention to the Messianic Jewish Christian pioneers of the 19th and 20th centuries, and look at their children: they’ve become, essentially, gentile Christians. Paul Levertoff’s descendants are largely Roman Catholics, for example. If assimilation into gentile Christianity took the children of the Messianic Jewish pioneers, how much more easily for the Messianic gentile?
And even for the 1st century church: as former pagans adopted Yeshua faith, bringing with them ways foreign to the Tenakh, the Torah lifestyle soon dimmed, then ceased, and even became an enemy of the Torah: outlawing observance and persecuting those who observed it.
I think the book’s author knows well that going back to the church means almost certain assimilation, and so he does not encourage Messianic Jews to do the same.
But the book does encourage Messianic gentiles to stay in or go back to the Church, because Messianic gentiles assimilating just means them becoming classic Christians again, thus accomplishing one of the goals of Bilateral Ecclesiology.
Stay in the Church or join a Hebraic Roots congregation?
This is something only God can dictate.
Ultimately, a bold and hardened few will have callings to stay in the church and bring about change there. Others are called out of the Church to live in a community that keeps the commandments.
And perhaps this is what’s most egregious with Tent of David, the overall sense that it places little value on the work God’s done in gentiles today in drawing them to Torah – a work that transforms gentiles into Israel-loving, Torah-embracing people. That work is devalued and its momentum redirected to implement Bilateral Ecclesiology: keeping the gentiles in the Church and out of the Messianic synagogue or Hebrew Roots congregation.
Are you a gentile who is aware of God’s commandments and believe you have a call on your life return to the Torah, keep the commandments, and join an enlarged Commonwealth of Israel?
Welcome to the group.
Thousands upon thousands of Messianic gentiles share this grand vision, and I think that vision is from God.
Should you stay in your Church and try to change it? Maybe. Go to the Father with that stuff, pray about, see where you’re led. Know that keeping Torah when no one else does is an extraordinarily difficult task. Historically, it almost always results in assimilation, you and more certainly your kids. If you acknowledge that, are ready to combat that, and God calls you to remain in the Church and change it, then do so.
For everyone else, I encourage Messianic gentiles to join Torah-minded individuals in Messianic congregations, whether Hebrew Roots congregations or healthy Messianic Jewish congregations which consider gentiles first-class citizens. Keeping Torah in a Torah-honoring community will grow your faith and mature you through God’s commandments, something a classic Christian denominational Church will not accomplish.
Articulating the Hebraic Roots vision for Messianic Gentiles
If Tent of David’s view of Messianic gentiles is an aberration, one that leads to assimilation back into the Church, where can Messianic gentiles look for sound teaching and an intellectually- and Scripturally-grounded vision for gentiles in Messiah?
Here’s something to look forward to, my friends.
Next month, a dear friend and longsuffering laborer for Messiah, Messianic apologist J.K. McKee, is publishing a new book that will put forth the proper Hebraic Roots perspective for the Messianic Gentile:
I’d encourage gentiles who are seeking Torah to read McKee’s book and hear the Hebraic Roots vision for gentiles in Messiah, a glory-filled vision which places gentiles not as a second sub-people of God, but as first-class citizens in the Commonwealth of Israel, sharing an identity within Israel, returning to a Israel-centric, Torah-rooted Messianic faith in a community of like-minded believers. I’ll be posting a write up review of this new book in the coming month.
I also point you fine Kineti readers to Torah Resource Institute’s excellent review of Tent of David, highlighting more issues than what I’ve uncovered.
I'd like to end on a positive note. There are so many good folks at FFOZ. Some of them have even personally assured me of the book's good intentions, assuring me the intention is not to drive Bilateral Ecclesiology. To these folks, I ask you to honestly consider this question:
If Messianic Jews in the church have historically assimilated into Christianity, how will Messianic gentiles be any different?
I believe if you answer that question honestly, you'll understand why so many of us in the Hebrew Roots movement object to Tent of David's thesis.
I see 3 possible answers to this important question. Each answer points us to a deeper problem:
- If you believe gentiles will influence the Church towards Torah and Israel, then what’s to stop assimilation? (Remember the MJ pioneers and their descendants.)
- If you believe gentiles have no portion in Torah, then why the term “Messianic gentiles”? (This is why I say the author only begrudgingly uses the term.)
- If you believe ‘Messianic gentiles’ are just gentile Christians, so assimilation is a good thing, then you deny the legitimacy of Torah observance for Messianic gentiles. (You’re arguing for Bilateral Ecclesiology; why hide it?)
Fine Kineti readers, should Messianic gentiles go back to the Church?