An evangelical pastor and an Orthodox rabbi, both from Texas, have apparently persuaded leading Baptist preacher Jerry Falwell that Jews can get to heaven without being converted to Christianity.Color me just a little bit skeptical, but I don't think that Jerry's opinion about the question is even news, because I don't think God will be asking Jerry for that opinion. But the fact that Falwell's (changed) opinion on the matter is politically important is one of the reasons I really hate theology, which often has as much to do with power politics as it does to do with God's Word.
Televangelist John Hagee and Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, whose Cornerstone Church and Rodfei Sholom congregations are based in San Antonio, told The Jerusalem Post that Falwell had adopted Hagee's innovative belief in what Christians refer to as "dual covenant" theology.
This creed, which runs counter to mainstream evangelism, maintains that the Jewish people has a special relationship to God through the revelation at Sinai and therefore does not need "to go through Christ or the Cross" to get to heaven.
In the Middle Ages, theology was known as the "Queen of Sciences" because it was supposed to unlock for us the mysteries of God. In most cases, however, it is naught more than extrapolation from a few well-placed (and occasionally misread) verses, a couple ideas brought over from Plato, and a lot of pulpit pounding. But the theology of the Middle Ages was scrapped by the Lutherans and other Protestants, whose theology was eventually scrapped by many of those who today claim their mantle. That ought to clue us in on the limits of human wisdom.
Don't get me wrong: I am a Christian who believes in the Virgin Birth, vicarious atonement, sacrificial death, physical resurrection, and one-day return of Jesus Christ. In those things, I am a 'fundamentalist' (that's what the word means historically; it's not someone who dislikes dancing). I believe in the authority of scripture, the diety of Christ, and that He is my king, with ownership authority over everything I do, I think, I am.
But the question of HOW those things work is a question of theology, and while in truth the answer is 'we don't know,' there are no limits to the reasons that men give for why God must have acted the way He did or the way He will decide what are to us very bothersome questions. The fact that we can never agree across Christendon just shows the world that while we pretend to know, we don't, and much of the world's problem with Christianity is not with Christ so much as it is with our theology.
For example, fundamentalists and Roman Catholics alike believe that Christ was born when Mary was a virgin. The fact that historical Christianity has believed that is undoubted. But we run into problems as soon as we ask the question, "WHY was Christ born of a virgin?"
Some (namely the Roman Catholics) will argue that it had to do with original sin. They further take Augustine's ideas about original sin and apply them to Mary in the form of the Immaculate Conception, another "theological necessity," IMO, which illustrates the trap that many Christians fall into: we must have an answer, even if we have to make one up. Evangelicals will say that it had to do with prophecy - God promised to bring Messiah from a Virgin, and by golly I'll be danged if He didn't do just that - or with Kingdom rights (Joseph wasn't eligible for the Kingship, so Mary must have had Jesus without his input). Theological liberals disbelieve the whole thing, but that's due to a philosophical presupposition that miracles do not occur; it's not attributable to theology one way or another.
The question of the inerrancy of Scripture is another such conundrum. Many Evangelicals believe in plenary inspiration, which means roughly that God moved the authors of scripture such that it is inerrant in the original writings, and therefore it's important to rediscover the 'originals' via lower textual criticism. Some Evangelicals, however, go further (verbal plenary inspiration) and say that God spoke every word verbally and each author acted as sort of a divine scribe, disregarding the fact that scripture was 'updated' occasionally and was written originally without vowels (are the vowels then not inspired?) Some, notably the KJVO faction, argue that God's word is contained only in one specific translation, word-for-word, and that other versions are 'perversions' of God's perfect word. This again is the theology of necessity: if we don't have the originals, we don't have the word of God; since we have the Word of God, therefore it must be in a version we have today, thus it's the KJV. Each view starts with an axiom: God's word is authoritative, which I believe with them, but most will not simply leave it at that. They must explain how it all happens, and perhaps not surprisingly, God has not really told us. Apparently, the specifics are not all that important. I wish we could leave it at that.
But the problem is that Christians spend millions of hours arguing in public over minutia that we simply don't have an answer for. And I doubt it really does anyone any good.
Getting back to Falwell, the questions of whether Jews or anyone else can 'go to Heaven' (that anyone 'goes to Heaven' I find theologically questionable anyway) is as theologically irrelevant as it is, I gather, politically important. The only real question is what God says to men, and that is spelled out in Paul's sermon to the philosophers at Athens: God calls on all men to turn away from sin and self toward Him, and has proved this by the resurrection of Jesus Christ. How and why are questions God has really not explained: either you believe that God will judge the world or you do not. Either you want to obey God or you do not. Is the how and why really worth arguing about?
Falwell's opinion about that is irrelevant, as is mine; all that matters is that God calls on all men to submit to the Lordship of Christ. He is the coming King, the creator of the Universe, who calls on all men to get right with Him. He will rule, as was promised to the Jews, and he will judge the actions and attitudes of all men.
This is not to say that we can't know more than the Bible plainly says; perhaps we can reason our way to more knowledge. But it is to say that every time we take a step away from what the Bible actually says and into what we say it says, we ought to be humble enough to realize and say that we simply do not know for certain; we may think things to be a certain way, but our speculations are not the last word on God's opinions. There's a reason I'm both a fundamentalist and a theological minimalist, and it's because I find most men's answers to the hard questions a combination of political necessity and wishful thinking.
I believe God has a special place in His heart and Kingdom for the Jews; He made promises to them that He will keep. How does that apply to individual Jews in Israel today? I have no idea. Since there is no other name under Heaven by which we must be saved than Christ, what about those who have never heard? Is there some way Christ may save those without knowledge? I have no idea.
But I think the fact is that no one else knows, either. God has left a lot of questions unanswered. And while it is the glory of the Lord to hide things and the glory of man to search them out (Pr 25:2), we need to realize, with all humility, that His ways are not our ways (Isa 55:8). Now we see through a glass darkly (1Cor 13:12), and our bound-to-be-incomplete opinions are not what God works by. He is not a tame lion: He is the creator and owner of the Universe, and we ought to be very careful about putting word into His mouth that He chose not to speak.