An Evangelical View Of The Current State Of Evangelical-Jewish Relations -- By: Marvin R. Wilson

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 25:2 (Jun 1982)
Article: An Evangelical View Of The Current State Of Evangelical-Jewish Relations
Author: Marvin R. Wilson

An Evangelical View Of
The Current State Of Evangelical-Jewish Relations

Marvin R. Wilson*

One of the positive religious trends that have recently been building momentum in this country is that of evangelical-Jewish relations. Representatives of both communities are now making a conscientious effort to view each other seriously rather than superficially. The cartoondike images and all-too-familiar caricatures that evangelicals and Jews so long held for each other have begun to disappear. A new era of interfaith relations now appears to be under way.

The genius of personal encounter has been the key to the realization of this new state of affairs. In this vein Martin Buber well stated, “All real living is meeting.” Accordingly evangelicals and Jews are now entering each other’s communities with greater frequency. There each is discovering a new and firsthand appreciation of the other. Evangelicals and Jews are having in-depth conversations on many of the deepest issues of faith and life.

It is clear that this new—and, I must add, delicate—dimension of interfaith dialogue has yet a long way to go. But the strides made since the late 1960s have been enormous. Church historian Martin Marty drew national attention to this matter well before the decade of the 70s had ended. Marty observed that for the year 1977 the deepening of evangelical-Jewish relations in this country and in regard to Israel was “the most significant religious trend in the United States.1

To many, this recent development on the interreligious scene may come as a surprise. Indeed, significant interaction with the Jewish community has never been one of the hallmarks of mainstream evangelicalism. History shows that both groups have largely remained aloof since Church and synagogue parted company centuries ago.

It is my purpose therefore to address the subject of the current state of evangelical Jewish relations. I fully concur that there is increasing evidence of a new evangelical-Jewish awareness in America. My aim will be to discuss the scope and shape that this interfaith activity is taking, then to explore the motivating factors behind it, and finally to develop a prospectus for the future. The main emphasis will be on the interaction taking place within mainstream evangelicalism, which is predominantly Gentile, rather than the activities of the so-called Jewish-Christian missionary movement.

It should be stressed at the outset that I do not speak for all evangelicals. We evangelicals, like Jews, are considerably diverse as a people. Neither is part of a fossilized or monolithic movement.2 To be sure, though evangel...

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