We’re Moving Towards God, but Come from Different Faiths

October 2nd, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 24 comments

Thank you so much for your podcast and your books, your work is tremendously enlightening and has enriched my life immeasurably.

I grew up as an atheist and discovered God as an adult. I am struggling finding the right path for me to learn about God and follow his teachings.

My own family background is Jewish on my mother’s side, but my husband comes from a Christian background (but secular). We have started attending church because he is now also yearning to follow God’s word. I enjoy church and Bible study but feel somewhat uncomfortable there due to my Jewish background. However, I want to support my husband and show a united spiritual front to our children, and I want my children to grow up in a Bible-believing community, instead of around the toxic secular values that my husband and I grew up with in school and society.

What is the right path for me?

Sincerely,

Anita

Dear Anita,

Thank you for your warm and encouraging words.  We really appreciate hearing that we are adding value to your life.  We think that you are a wise and courageous woman. We say this without knowing you because you understand the importance of presenting a united front with your husband and of giving your children a spiritual reality and a safe community.

Little did you or your husband think that it would matter that two people, both of whom came from families with a secular mindset, had different religious backgrounds. Yet, like most couples who have blithely ventured down these perilous pathways only to discover eventually that it does matter, you too have seen the same. It sounds like you are both on a growth trajectory and that takes honesty, courage and strength.

We encourage you to allow the process to play out. While there are huge theological differences between Torah observant  Judaism and Christianity which we’d never try to blur, the truth is that when contrasted with an atheistic or secular worldview, they have much in common.

We discourage trying to raise your family as both Jewish and Christian.  Sometimes house-bound people try to look at the beautiful garden outside from the windows in two separate rooms. Unfortunately they spend so much  time darting from room to room that they actually spend very little time gazing at the garden. Far better to remain in one room and derive all the benefit possible through the windows right there in front of you.

Nonetheless, this might be  an opportunity for you and your husband to become more familiar with both religions. We don’t know where you live, the ages of your children or what church you have found but many churches we know appreciate the Jewish origins  of their faith. You can supplement church and Bible study with some Jewish sources (perhaps online) and begin to get knowledgeable about Jewish holidays and practices. Maybe there is a local synagogue you and your husband could occasionally visit as well. As with churches, you need to be careful to choose your guidance carefully—there is a great deal of nonsense available out there and there are both churches and synagogues that sadly have little to do with the Bible and God’s dominion over the world.

The important thing is finding a faith family with which you can affiliate as a family and in which each of you finds individual fulfillment as well as that warm surge of deep inexpressible happiness when engaged in something meaningful together with your family.

Initially, simply accepting the idea that there is a Higher Authority and rules for living is a major step. Recognizing that those rules for how the world REALLY works are formulated in God’s message to mankind which he presented to Moses on Mt. Sinai is next.  You and your husband ought to engage in a weekly Bible study together and into which you can include children as they reach appropriate maturity.  Way down the road, it is entirely possible that members of your family might choose different paths and you will need to figure out how to make that work, but right now you are at the very beginning of your explorations.

Meanwhile, we applaud the steps you are taking and your commitment to your family and its exciting spiritual odyssey all together down one spiritual path.

May you thrive in your journey,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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24 comments

David Gedigian says:

Just a thought for Anita and her family; why not find a Messianic Jewish congregation? In there, one word find the rich traditions of Judaism and the added belief that Jesus Christ is the Messiah as proclaimed.

Gregg Newton says:

Amen. I agree that a Messianic congregation would be perfect.

David Lawrence says:

Was thinking the same thing.

Glenda says:

What a great response. I loved it!

Deborah Purdom says:

I can’t help but wonder if a Messianic Synagogue wouldn’t be perfect for this couple. One does not have to forfeit their Jewish heritage, traditions, or identity, and Christians finally learn of the foundation of their faith. We love ours!

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Deborah–
If there is a Messianic congregation near the couple concerned, it might well be perfect. However, if I may, I would like to correct one of your observations. While the Messianic commitment to Hebrew roots is tremendously admirable, their belief in Jesus makes them incontrovertibly Christian, not Jewish. That is after all what being a CHRISTian is surely all about? Whatever avenue Christians adopt to explore the Hebrew origins of faith is all meritorious and we feel privileged to participate in a small way in making this authentic material accessible to all. Warmest wishes,
Cordially
RDL

GINA CLEVELAND says:

Dear Rabbi and Susan,

I just heard of something called Lapid Judaism. I honestly don’t know much about it, but they clam to be a orthodox type Jewish synagogue yet believe in Yeshua. I can’t tell exactly what it is, but it claims to be different and not messianic but Jewish and are Jews. I would like to know your thoughts on this, because I have heard a Jew can believe in Yeshua yet still be Jewish and follow the Torah etcetera.

Warm regards,

Gina

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Gina–
While we modestly consider ourselves to be reliably authoritative on the Torah, on ancient Jewish wisdom and on normative Torah-based Judaism, we feel sure you can find better sources for information on the Lapid movement and on Lapid Judaism. Perhaps the adherents of those groups themselves? Devoting our lives, as we do, to building a practical (not theological) alliance between Bible believing Jews and Christians, we nonetheless still must tell you that what you have heard is incorrect; believing in Yeshua is not compatible with Torah Judaism. In fact, if there is any one thing which highlights Christianity’s distinctiveness and its separation from Judaism it is belief in Jesus. We feel confident that eventually on that Great Day of God’s choosing, whichever ladder we climbed, we shall all find ourselves in His embrace. But until that day, each must decide which ladder he wishes to climb. Warm regards,
Cordially
RDL

Jeremy Ramsey says:

I was disappointed to see your statement of discouragement of raising a family in both the Jewish and Christian traditions. As a Messianic Jew and leading my family in the Messianic Jewish traditions, I would advise that you choose your words more wisely. Jesus was a Jewish man and almost all of the first followers of Jesus were Jewish. If a person studies the foundations of both Christianity and Judaism, they will find the two as completely compatible.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Jeremy–
Thank you so much for taking the time and trouble to write such a thoughtful comment. We are sorry to have disappointed you but as you know, we definitely do not see our mission as massaging anyone with warm butter. Instead we remain committed to telling the truth even if it pains us and you.
We thank you for your advice to choose our words more wisely. Please allow us to try again with the hope that this will meet with your approval. We have enjoyed being the guests of many Messianic churches and we have appreciated the Biblical commitment of their congregations. Yes, Jesus was without doubt Jewish as were his first followers just as you say. However, after the Council of Nicaea nearly 1,700 years ago, Jesus was no longer just another Jewish rabbi. He became something quite different; something intentionally at odds with the Judaism from whence he sprang. Torah true Judaism and its adherents live, and when necessary die by the words “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the Land of Egypt, there is none other.” This is a huge incompatibility made increasingly clear the deeper one delves into the fundamentals of both Judaism and Christianity. Where we differ from you is that we know that studying the foundations of Christianity and Judaism will not reveal them to be completely compatible. Come, Jeremy, you can’t possibly believe that. If that were so, one and a half millennia of Catholic anti-Semitism was an illusion since Judaism and Christianity are completely compatible. Christianity would insist that its devotees eat only kosher food as is fundamental to Judaism, and observance of the Lord’s day would have to be on Saturday, the seventh day, for everyone. No, most assuredly the more one studies the foundations of both faiths the clearer it is that they are not completely compatible. Now were you to be talking about Bible-based Judeo-Christian values, those ethics, morals, and cultural conduct, of course those are very compatible and in any event far closer to one another than either is to the value set of the dominant Secular Fundamentalist culture of today’s urban atheists. We have chosen our words, as you advised, as wisely as we know how and emphasize that unless Jews and Christians stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the defense of Biblical values, western civilization is lost. We emphasize that since we are not tribalists, we look at the world more like a Bible-believing Christian than like an atheistic Jew such as George Soros but none of that is the same as saying as you did, that “If a person studies the foundations of both Christianity and Judaism, they will find the two as completely compatible.” With warmest wishes,
Cordially
RDL

Jeremy Ramsey says:

Thank you for your thoughts and I obviously disagree with your comments in many aspects and would advise a dash of humility in your words. To compare all Christians to Catholics is a false pretense at best and has caused too many people to fall away from the Christian faith. Jesus’ comments in the Gospels indicate that he put himself at the same level as God. Legalism of theologians over the years, especially those of the Catholic faith, have nothing to do with my study and belief. We are all free to choose the paths that we feel are best, so I will simply agree to disagree with you, but to answer your question, yes, I do believe the Jewish and Christian faiths are completely compatible. A theological debate online is obviously not the best format, so hopefully the Lord may have our paths cross in person to continue our discussion someday.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Jeremy–
Thanks for continuing the conversation but to satisfy the demands of veracity, it is necessary to be particular about your letter. This is the second piece of advice you have proffered. You first advised me to choose my words with wisdom and herein you advise me to adopt “a dash of humility”. Jeremy, humility doesn’t require me to be cowed by specious arguments. You must know that I never compared any Catholics of any Christians. Please reread my response to you. Second, please reread my entire response to you. Finally, you finish by saying, “…but to answer your question…” Jeremy, I did not ask you any question. I stipulated as clearly as I could that to argue as you did that “If a person studies the foundations of both Christianity and Judaism, they will find the two as completely compatible” is simply nonsensical. To anyone with eyes in their head, these are two admirable, distinct, and separate religions. They are two different belief systems, with to be sure, many common features flowing naturally from them both being rooted in the Tanach, the Hebrew Scriptures. In spite of your two-fold exercise of giving me advice, will refrain from offering you any because as most people know, little is less welcome than unsolicited advice. Finally, as you correctly say, ‘we are all free to choose the paths that we feel as best’. Indeed we are but then calling those beliefs Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism is unreasonable. I can believe whatever I choose but I cannot redefine a religion with established directions and dogmas going back millennia. I fear that may be what you are inadvertently doing. Nonetheless, I appreciate your thoughtful correspondence and I wish you and your family growth and happiness in your own spiritual odyssey. I am sure we both can agree that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is great.
Cordially
RDL

Lynda Miller says:

When I watched your show the first night, I always found the Old Testament was very tedious to read, especially Deuteronomy and Numbers. Now I look forward to reading all the books that I once felt were very overwhelming to understand. You have spoken from the book of Numbers and Deuteronomy many times and both have become a treasure trove of blessings to me. I appreciate so much a better understanding of the Old Testament and how much it relates to our present daily life. Studying the scriptures is the key to a better and more fulfilled life. I wish that more people would recognize this fact!

Susan Lapin says:

What an absolutely lovely message to greet us when we turn on our computers, Lynda. You have encapsulated what we hope to do with our writings, TV shows and other resources. Thank you so much for letting us know that we are making a difference.

Randy Gabbert says:

My thought on the matter is that every person who truly and sincerely call out to God will receive an answer. God responses to an open and contrite heart! The key is being patient in the journey, ever listening for his still small voice and being prepared to willfully respond!

Having been raised as a Catholic, I had little knowledge of the Jewish people, Judaism or the Jewish state, Israel. At a point in time, I was told by a housemate that “the Jews stole the land from the Arabs.” It led me to investigate the birth of Israel, which immediately thrust me into a search through Jewish history. Over time I discovered that the Hand of G-d was upon the state of Israel and Jews, both within the Holy Land and those scattered across the globe.
I found great riches within those observing diligently the Torah’s G-d-given commandments (teachings). In Christianity we are taught that Judaism is the root of the tree onto which we are grafted. Jesus, the Messiah, as we believe, lived as a Jew. The apostles and the Biblical authors, Matthew, John, Paul and Mark were Jews. Once again, our roots as Christians are made evident. Should we not take advantage of the abundance of wisdom the Jews have acquired through ages of persecution and struggle, while they were being guided by the Holy One, Blessed be He?
Jew and Christian can learn from each other. The primary objective is coming to a live a G-d-centered life, incorporating the morals and virtues which elevate the soul of an individual. Sin leads to a separation, a departure, from the graces of G-d. Whether by faith, as a follower of Christ might emphasize, or by guarding G-d’s laws and statutes, as a Jew might prefer, the imperative “to do” and “to listen, hear”- to obey G-d’s directives in order that His Spirit might dwell within us, should be central to any fruitful relationship.
[Edited]

Mary says:

I love your response. Having faith in the one true God, good fellowship, good teachers, and studying the Bible at home will bring you to the right place spiritually.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Dear Mary
Thanks for writing. Progress and growth are always better than stagnation.
Cordially
RDL

Trish says:

I agree with the good Rabbi. My husband is a former Catholic, since turned Protestant. In my journey, I am Christian in that I believe in Jesus, but practice Judaism. We regularly attend a Christian congregation as well as study with our local Chabad group and we have a weekly Bible study with others like us. We consider ourselves a mixed-religion family, but our faith and shared values are our uniting thread. With mutual respect for each other’s belief systems, and working together, it can be a source of blessing and not turmoil.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

How fascinating Trish–
You highlight the infinite variety that exists among God’s children to whom He gave the gift of choice.
May your spiritual odyssey lead you upwards and onwards
Cordially
RDL

Thomas J. Mitchell says:

Certainly everyone is free to choose. Needless to say, this post has opened a hornets nest of opinion. OK, my not-worth-two-cents opinion: Study carefully the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, especially Lev. 19 and the last few chapters of Deuteronomy. Then see if your church or Synagogue’s teachings measure up.

EMMANUEL DEMORDZIE says:

I am very happy to have come across your video and I followed up to this page. I think its mind blowing reading your discussions. I love it so much.
To the best of my knowledge regarding the teachings of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whom we also called Yeshua he said by repeating somany this from the Old Testament about the first and the great commandment, which I believe every believer in God must do for rest of is life. This commandment says that YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND WITH ALL YOU SOUL AND WITH ALL YOU MIND. YESHUA is a reformer and so if you see him so you will really see what he has fulfilled in the Old Testament and what he has set in motion as the Father has directed him.

I must state here that going to church and believing in Jesus alone does not make you a christian. If the spirit of the Father and the Son is not in you , you are not yet a christian. Every Bible believer must need be baptized by the Holy Spirit for Our God The Most high is SPIRIT and Jesus Or Yeshua is the express image of GOD and Yeshua is GOD incarnate. For this reason those who worship Him must do so in spirit and TRUTH. This is what I learnt and have been studying from the Bible.
I also believe I have a lot to learn from your discussions.

Emmanuel Kwame

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

Thanks for writing Emmanuel,
And I commend your commitment to your faith. You discuss some details which, as a Jewish rabbi, I don’t understand. For instance, are you saying that you yourself have no say on whether or not you are a Christian? It depends on something outside of you? Anyway, I am happy you feel that you have a lot to learn from our work here at Rabbi Daniel Lapin.
Cordially
RDL

I wonder if the story of Abraham and Lot, the disciple of Abraham and Sarah, was prophetic. I wonder if the accounts of Isaac and Ishmael and their two different mothers, but the same father, was prophetic. I wonder if the lives of the 10 sons of Jacob that sold the 11th, Joseph, into slavery was prophetic, and who are these brothers? I wonder if the eventual separation of Abraham and Lot was prophetic. I wonder if the reunion of Isaac and Ishmael at the death of their great, world-changing father was prophetic. I wonder if the reunion of all 12 sons of Jacob was prophetic. I also trepidatiously wonder what we will all learn when we look back on the Almighty’s workings from the view of His transcendent and uncreated throne. I am sure that terror will grip every part of my eternal being. I look forward to the tears and love that the 12 brothers reunited via famine to fulfill the prophetic dreams of him who was once the youngest shared on that fateful day. I wonder if the level to which we realize the terror of the impending white throne judgment in this life will determine how much of that (perhaps currently happening) reunion we will have the honor of being a part of in this life now. I do not know for sure, but I do enjoy pondering these things in my heart. Genesis 37:11, Luke 2:19. With imperfect love, Mark

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