An Open Letter Of Hope To Gregory Magarshak, Man of Many Questions

Greetings, Gregory!

It’s been more than five years since you were on this blog, so when I met you in San Antonio last week, I didn’t realize it was you. We didn’t exchange our last names, so you didn’t know it was me, either. I had trouble sleeping after our conversation, though, which I think had something to do with my unconscious trying to wake up a memory in my conscious mind, and early last Saturday morning I realized with quite a sense of surprise that it was you. I was able to confirm it by finding your photo on your website.

Maybe you’re still not sure which interaction I was talking about. We were both at the EPS Apologetics Conference. Gary Habermas had just finished his talk on 1 Cor. 15:3-6, and you started in on a conversation with him. I came up to Gary, too — and all I wanted to do was say something to him about Spartan football this year, as he and I both graduated from MSU, and Spartan sports happens to be the thing we find talk about more than anything else.

with-greg-mCraig Hazen asked us to move to another room. I followed along for what I thought would be a brief exchange of Spartan football quips, but which turned out to be more than an hour of conversation with Gary and you. Greg Koukl joined us part way through.

Rodney Lake, my Thinking Matters friend from New Zealand, was there for a while, too, and he snapped this photo. And now you know that was me there with Gary, Greg. and you.

Usually an open letter is for a public person, which you are in a way, for people who were on this blog at the time. We knew you pretty well, actually — you left more than 300 comments here, back in the day. You asked literally hundreds of questions. Since you didn’t respond to my email last Saturday, and since I still want to get a message across to you, I’m using this means to do so.

Questions From a Seeker

When I joined the conversation Gary whispered to me, “He is a seeker.” As the conversation progressed (and of course I still didn’t know who you were) I began to wonder. You asked question after question after question. You couldn’t wait for the answers. At one point Greg Koukl stopped the conversation and asked you to allow us to finish our sentences without interrupting so often. I had said something to the same effect, briefly, before Greg was there.

And I thought, if a person really is a seeker after knowledge and understanding, that person does not repeatedly interrupt Gary Habermas. You and I both know his stature as scholar on the resurrection. Someone who wants to understand will listen to a person who has that kind of knowledge. So I wondered.

But maybe you really are seeking anyway. You’re troubled by many questions — so many that they cannot stop themselves from tumbling out, one after another. This is not the first time for you. You still have tons of questions.

Asking Questions, Seeking To Make Sense Of It All

Yet I didn’t get the sense last week that you were trying to tear down Christianity as a belief system; you were trying to make sense of it instead. I think you want it to make sense, but you just don’t know how it all fits together, especially how it connects with your existing beliefs as a practicing Jew. What place does the law have in the life of a Jewish person who converts to Christianity? Is the Bible clear on it?

I think it is, but then I’ve never been in your position. I know who has, though. Jesus’ disciples were all practicing Jews. They followed him without having all their questions answered. The difficult place of the law in the life of a Jewish believer in Christ wasn’t even brought up for discussion until Acts 15 (foreshadowed by Acts 10 and a couple of very brief statements by Jesus). This was no sooner than five years after Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, at the earliest possible date.

Follow Jesus — Because He’s Worth Following

They didn’t have the answers to all their questions, but they followed anyway, because knew there was someone there immensely worth following. (I know you don’t put much stock in the gospel of John, but I still think Peter’s comment in John 6:68 is instructive. He was undoubtedly as confused as the rest of the crowd there that day (and they were very confused at that point). Jesus wondered if the disciples would leave along with the rest. Peter answered (paraphrased) “Where else would we go? You’ve got the answers for life we’re looking for.”

As they continued to follow they continued to learn.

Another man came up to Jesus once and asked, ““Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

Jesus answered, “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” The account, which Gary brought to your attention last week, too, goes on:

He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  (Matthew 19:16-22)

I’ve had enough interaction with you, Greg, to be pretty sure you won’t even be content with the answers you receive, even answers given by a scholar like Gary Habermas. But I think you might be able to recognize the greatness of Jesus Christ, enough to recognize he is worthy of both your trust and your hope. But if you’re not sure of that, maybe you can at least see that he’s worth following.

One Step At a Time

How do you do that? The same way Jesus’ disciples did: one step at a time. I don’t know the second step for you, but I have a first step to recommend: Pray.

Pray tentatively, if that’s all you can decide to do. Pray something like this: “Jesus, I am questioning, I am seeking, and I want to know the way to life. I think you might be that way, even though I still have all these questions. For now I’m willing to set those questions aside, though, long enough to say, if you’re really God revealed in the flesh, would you reveal yourself personally to me? Would you guide me to the life I’m looking for, and the answers I seek?”

That’s the first step. I strongly recommend you take it. If you have questions for me about anything else here, I will simply say, “Have you taken the first step?” If you have further questions beyond that, we’ll consider dealing with them as they come. (If you find you’re blocked and can’t comment, look back through your emails from last Saturday morning and you’ll find one from me you can reply to and I’ll figure out what to do about it.)

I cannot commit to another long round of questions and answers, partly because of the time it takes and partly because I don’t think that’s what you need most. You need to follow Jesus Christ. He’ll guide you the rest of the way, if you’ll let him.

Image Credit(s): Véronique Debord-Lazaro, Rodney Lake.

Comments

  1. scbrownlhrm

    Yet I didn’t get the sense last week that you were trying to tear down Christianity as a belief system; you were trying to make sense of it instead. I think you want it to make sense, but you just don’t know how it all fits together, especially how it connects with your existing beliefs as a practicing Jew. What place does the law have in the life of a Jewish person who converts to Christianity? Is the Bible clear on it?

    A few (possible) disagreements (perhaps) but still helpful on many levels: http://www.torahresource.com/ There’s several resources and online articles (searchable also) and, perhaps, the 5 Volume set of Studies in the Torah by Tim Hegg at http://store.torahresource.com/Studies_in_the_Torah_Deuteronomy_p/st593.htm might offer something of interest.

    A few items from their “About” page (excerpts only) read as follows:

    Biblically Based: We accept the Scriptures, both the Tanach and the Apostolic Scriptures, as the sole basis for faith and halachah (practice). It is our purpose, then, to see that the materials we produce are in harmony with what the Bible teaches.

    Torah Communities: A Torah Community may be defined as a community of people who are believers in Yeshua and who desire to live out their faith in accordance with the Torah (Five books of Moses) as taught and demonstrated by Yeshua.

    We affirm without reservation that Yeshua is Immanuel, “God with us,” and that being the promised Messiah, He is worthy of our worship as the eternal, uncreated Son of God.

    We consider the Torah to be the gift of God to all His children (Jew and non-Jew alike), being God’s eternal and unchanging revelation and instructions in righteousness.

    TorahResource fully affirms justification through faith alone in the Messiah Yeshua.

    Once justified, God sanctifies us unto Himself through the work of the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Scriptures.

    We labor in producing materials and teaching classes (through TorahResource Institute) in order to help Torah Communities become established and well-founded in following in the footsteps of Yeshua our Messiah.

  2. scbrownlhrm

    FWIW, an interesting excerpt:

    A clear difference of perspective has evolved within Messianic Judaism of our times. Some have taken the position that Messianic Judaism should be reserved primarily for Jewish people, encouraging non-Jews to remain as faithful members of the Christian Church. Others have taken a middle position, teaching that the Torah has a primary application to Jewish people, but that Gentiles are invited (and even encouraged) to espouse some of the Torah in solidarity with Jewish believers.

    At TorahResource, we believe the Scriptures (both Tanach and Apostolic Scriptures) are clear in stating that the people of God are one people, and that the Torah (the teaching of God) is applicable to all who are in Yeshua, regardless of their ethnicity, gender, or station in life. This position has become known as “One Torah,” which TorahResource affirms without reservation.

    Again, I’m not entirely familiar with all of TR’s content, however, the reason TR came to mind when I read Tom’s article here is that I have used TR quite often for data-gathering on other topics in the past as there are some Hebrew and Jewish “subtleties” which their content is helpful for.

    Hope it offers something helpful.

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