At 80 years of age, Stan Telchin, author of the well-known books "Betrayed" and "Abandoned," hopes to reprove the Messianic movement for its lack of unity in his latest book, "Some Messianic Jews say: 'Messianic Judaism is not Christianity.'"
Since coming into the Messianic movement in the mid-1970's, Telchin says he has noticed two classes of adherents - Jews and non-Jews. He wanted to address his concerns then, but says God told him to refrain. As the years passed, he continued to be troubled by what he saw.
"I've seen the stress and strain and the difficulties involved in certain aspects of Messianic Judaism," says Telchin after having visited 10 countries over the years. "I feel somebody has to speak up and speak a word of correction to the movement, and maybe at my age, I'm the guy to do it."
His original title, "One New Man," might have offered clearer insight into Telchin's goal of emphasizing the importance of a united body of Jews and Gentiles. In the book, he points to Messianic Judaism's excessive focus on rabbinic religious tradition as the culprit that divides the church and causes confusion among both Jews and Gentiles.
The more controversial title, suggested by his friend Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus, received 4,000 orders within a month after its publication, according to a Baker Books spokeswoman.
SOME ARE BOYCOTTING THE BOOK
But many Messianic organizations and ministries are not selling the book. Neither Barry Rubin's Messianic Jewish Publishers, nor the bookselling division of Jews for Jesus, Purple Pomegranate Productions, will be carrying it. Jews for Jesus does not endorse it despite Telchin's position as a missionary with the organization for the past three years. Although Rosen wrote the forward to the book, Jews for Jesus prefers to distance itself from it.
"It's a bit controversial," says David Brickner, executive director of Jews for Jesus. "We're trying at this point to be as committed to unity in the Messianic community as possible."
Brickner says the book paints the congregational movement with too broad a brush. It lacks examples of positive Messianic congregations, leaving it unbalanced. Brickner showed further support for Messianic congregations in an article in Jews for Jesus' September newsletter, timed with the release of Telchin's book. Click here to read Brickner's September Newsletter article.
But Michael Wolf, a member of the executive committee of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, says Brickner needs to go beyond writing articles in support of Messianic congregations.
"They (Jews for Jesus) have to say they don't agree with the conclusions of the book," Wolf said. "They've skirted the issue."
Wolf adds that people automatically associate Moishe Rosen with Jews for Jesus. He also notes that the last page of the book mentions that Telchin can be reached through Jews for Jesus. Wolf, representative of the MJAA's view, wants to see Jews for Jesus not only distance itself from the book but clearly say the book does not reflect the position of the organization.
Charles Kluge, president of the MJAA, agrees that Jews for Jesus needs to come out with a firmer statement. He feels the book is divisive and "raises the middle wall of partition" because it claims Messianic Judaism is not from God.
"Years ago there was a distrust in the Christian community," Kluge said. "But over the years we've built up wonderful relationships with our brothers and sisters who were not born Jewish, who are in the church, and I feel this book raises that middle wall of partition."
Russ Resnik, executive director of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, has written a review for the next issue of Kesher, a Messianic Journal. Resnik says the book falls short because it lacks specific references to Messianic Jewish writers or leaders.
"What it allows Telchin to do," Resnik said, "is to set up various straw men and then shoot them down. I think an intelligent reader is going to see that there is very little substance to the book."
Anecdotes fill up the first half of Telchin's book, and Resnik thinks they are only useful when built upon biblical and theological evidence. Telchin presents biblical passages against Messianic Judaism in the second part of the book. Overall, he allows for Messianic Jews to maintain their Jewish identity, but frowns on a Messianic Judaism that would offer a full structure to that identity.
"A whole movement or community that's seeking to express faith in Messiah within a Jewish communal context, in Telchin's view is unbibilcal," Resnik says. "It really cuts to the very heart of what a lot of us are about in the Messianic Jewish world."
Resnik does not think the book will impact the Messianic world, as Telchin hopes. He worries however that it will affect relations with the Christian community.
"Stan Telchin is well-known enough because of his earlier book, 'Betrayed,'" says Resnik, "that some Christian readers may really be troubled by what he is saying. So it makes our work of building bridges to the broader Christian community a bit harder."
TELCHIN NOT THE ONLY CRITIC
But Telchin is not alone in his perceptions of the flaws of Messianic Judaism. His latest work follows a recent series of books against Messianic Judaism, including that of Baruch Maoz, and a collection of essays edited by the late Louis Goldberg.
Michael Brown, president of ICN Ministries and a well-known Messianic debater, represents those who agree with the book's premise and thinks it will stimulate discussion.
"Stan raises issues that I've also raised for years," Brown said, "about foreign mixtures within the Messianic movement, and superficialities within the movement and I for one have never been comfortable even with the Messianic rabbi title for similar reasons."
Unlike Telchin, Brown believes there's a divine purpose to the Messianic movement, yet he also sees many problems that need to be addressed.
"Many of them (Messianic congregations) are not in any way Yeshua centered," Brown said. "Some are even retreating now from an open proclamation of the Gospel and moving in a direction that is frighteningly reminiscent of two-covenant theology."
Brown said Messianic congregations should evaluate the spiritual quality of their services and move away from an emphasis on outward form. Telchin and Brown agree that Messianic congregations would attract more Jewish people if they shifted focus.
Many of the traditions, the traditional prayer of the rabbis, the liturgy, in no way enhance the life in Messiah, and may give a soulish or mental fascination, but do not provide life in the Spirit," Brown said.
LET GENTILES BE GENTILES
While many Gentiles are attracted to the novelty of rabbinic tradition, Brown thinks they should be encouraged to maintain a distinct identity within the Messianic congregation.
"Let them (Gentiles) be who they are," he said. "Let them bring that diversity so in that sense there is one new man in Messiah."
Telchin, however, sees little distinction between the role of Jew and Gentile within the body of Messiah.
"We are one new man," Telchin said. "We are saved the same way. We have the same job to do on earth. We have the same reward in heaven. We are all joint heirs with the Messiah, each and every one of us regardless of color, shape, ethnicity, it doesn't matter to God."
Resnik rejects what he calls Telchin's classic dispensationalist view that relegates Israel's sole importance to a future missionary role to the world. "We believe there is an ongoing calling and chosenness upon Israel," said Resnik, with reference to Romans 11. Resnik also points out the phrase "one new man," mentioned only once in the New Testament, has become a slogan with different meanings.
"I certainly believe in one new man was well," Resnik said. "But I think the one new man, or one new humanity, comprises Jews and Gentiles in their distinctive roles and callings. It's not a new generic kind of abstracted man."
Despite his criticism of the book, Resnik acknowledges one fair critique. Resnik admits that sometimes Messianic Jews diverge from relating the message of the Messiah to the Jewish community.
"There's so many other tugs and dynamics in building a Messianic Judaism, sometimes out attention is divided," Resnik said.
More opposition to Telchin's book comes from an unlikely source: his daughter, Ann Telchin. She has set up a website not only criticizing each of her father's books, but has also questioned his educational and ministry credentials.
According to her publicist, "She (Ann) further affirms that she does not and cannot affirm or support her father's latest position as he articulates in his latest book, as she finds his treatise to be both unscriptural, historically inaccurate, and highly divisive."
The subtitle of Telchin's book is "A loving call to unity." His daughter who calls the book "one of the most anti-Semitic things I have read in a long, long time," doubts it will achieve such a goal.
"I think my father's latest book will hardly make for any unity," she says on the site. "It will, instead, divide people and put people on the defensive."