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Friday, 30 October 2015
Enforcing the Torah?

The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission and Reception of Faith,
Andrew F. Walls, T&T Clark, 2002, page 76-77

Turning to the book of Ephesians, Walls quotes what is for him a key verse:

In union with him you too are being built together with all the others to a place where G-d lives through his Spirit (Ephesians 2:22).

And comments:

Emphatically, there was to be only one Christian community. That community had become more diverse as it crossed the cultural frontier with the Hellenistic pagan world; and Christian obedience was tending to increase the diversity by developing parallel lifestyles that would penetrate and influence Jewish society on the one hand and pagan society on the other.

The new community in Messiah was a double edged sword, cutting both ways at once, influencing both Jew and Gentile by its diversity and unity. Walls coninues:

The church must be diverse because humanity is diverse; it must be one because Christ is one ... The Ephesian letter is not about cultural homogeneity; cultural diversity had already been built into the church by the decision not to enforce the Torah. It is a celebration of the union of irreconcilable entities, the breaking down of the wall of partition, brought about by Christ's death. Believers from the different communities are different bricks being used for the construction of a single building - a temple where the One G-d would live.

I continue to be impressed with the bricks image that Rav Sha'ul uses. This is clearly true and strikes a chord with everyone who has ever seen a building. But I disagree with Wall's suggestion that the church had taken a decision not to enforce Torah. Presumably stemming from the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, I think that Wall's conclusion in this respect is simply wrong. There is nothing there about not enforcing Torah; on the contrary, four specific injuctions are laid on the Gentile church, set against the backdrop of the Torah. If G-d never changes and His standards never change, how can the question about whether Torah is to be enforced even be asked?

Torah is to be enforced differently by the Jewish community and the Gentile community, appropriately for each community, according to who and where they are, but definitely enforced. If we need to find one reason why the Gentile church has fallen away so far from that ideal, we need only ask how careful she has been at maintaining observance of the four strictures enjoined upon her by the apostle James. Has the church been obedient in at least those four simple things?

Posted By Jonathan, 9:11am Comment Comments: 0