Switching Horses in Mid-Stream
By Andrea Chester
A few years ago, I faced a crisis of faith. My sister, who has always been able to think “outside the box,” asked me a question that threw my neatly arranged religious concepts into total disarray. I had to scramble for answers to questions I had never asked before. And, because my faith was one of the most crucial elements of my identity, I knew that, whatever I found out, it would change who and what I was.
First of all, I had to reflect on what I had always believed. I was reared in a rather ordinary Christian home, with God alone as the very core of my faith. Somehow, I never completely anchored my belief system in Jesus, and never thought him equal with God. I considered him to be vastly more than an ordinary human, but I struggled with how to define “more.”
In college, I migrated from the staid worship services of my youth in the Methodist church to the joyous, praise-filled worship services of the Charismatic movement. It felt warm, the way I imagined worship SHOULD feel. I thought I had come home, but it was just a stop-over in the journey.
When my children were young, I started watching Herbert W. Armstrong and his son, Garner Ted Armstrong. They had some insights I’d never encountered before. I learned that the Sabbath and the Jewish Festivals had some present applications to me, a non-Jew.
I attended the Church of God International for several years. From there, it was just a short step to Messianic Judaism….but questions were beginning to bubble up to the surface of my mind. I had learned that many Christian customs were pagan, just dressed up in Jewish clothing. Then why were those customs quietly endorsed in the Messianic services?
By that point, although Jesus was still a central figure in my faith, I was beginning to wonder just where he was supposed to fit. That’s when my sister asked me a simple question: what would it do to my faith if Jesus was only a man?
At first, I was aghast…. What could she be saying? He was Messiah! He had died for my sins…no ordinary man would, or could, do that! I shoved those pesky little doubts into the dusty recesses of my thoughts, but they wouldn’t stay there.
Where could I look for unbiased answers? My understanding of Jesus was entirely from a New Testament standard. I knew that pastors and Christian theologians would point me towards the traditionally used Old Testament prophecies, “proof texts” about his birth and death. Suddenly, that wasn’t acceptable to me. Stretching Isaiah’s words to fit a man born several hundred years later seemed like believing those generic astrology columns in magazines. Then, it occurred to me.
I had known several Jewish people while I was growing up, but my personal experience with Judaism was in Messianic synagogues. Everything I knew included the “Jesus factor.” I had never asked a religious Jew why he didn’t believe.…
Through the marvels of the Internet, I found an orthodox Jew in Michigan and an orthodox rabbinic student in Monsey, New York, and asked them for some answers. Bless their generous souls, they must have sensed the anguish in my questions, because they helped me re-examine familiar Biblical concepts, without the Christological focus.
I learned about basic discrepancies between what the Hebrew Scriptures said about God and what the New Testament said about Jesus. My mentors guided me through dozens of Scriptures that I’d always viewed from a Christian perspective. Taken in their original context, they didn’t say what I’d always been taught they did. It was like jetting between a foreign country and my own, day after day.
“Jet lag” set in, making me feel disoriented, frustrated, and as though I didn’t really belong anywhere. Eventually, I found out that I did belong somewhere.
So, who and what am I? I am bas Noah.….
B’nai Noah is the oldest religion on Earth, with laws dating back to the time of Adam and Eve. There’s a lot of confusion about us, and, unfortunately, some hostile curiosity. Here’s a bit more of what I discovered.
- Who are the B’Nai Noah? Right now, we’re a loosely connected group of people who believe in the one true God. Although our numbers are growing, there aren’t many congregations of us. We recognize that humans are directly responsible to the Creator, without the need of a mediator. We are not Christians, we aren’t Jews, and we’re not a cult. Our name comes from the Hebrew for Children of Noah. We acknowledge Torah’s primacy, and long for the appearance of Moshiach (Messiah).
- What do we believe? There are seven universal laws, mandated for all humans. They’re the foundation for any other system of laws in the Bible, including the Ten Commandments. The seven divine decrees are:
- 1. Do not worship idols. (This includes ascribing God-hood to a human or adopting pagan customs to worship Him. This is the one command that many religions transgress without even knowing it. See the note below.)
- 2. Do not blaspheme the Name of God.
- 3. Do not murder.
- 4. Do not have forbidden sexual alliances. (Incest, rape, and adultery are all prohibited. Homosexual behavior is also forbidden.)
- 5. Do not steal.
- 6. Do not eat the limb of a still-living animal. (The modern application of this is don’t mistreat animals.)
- 7. Establish courts of justice.
Note: Many common religious themes are pagan in origin. See if you recognize these scenarios. A human virgin gives birth to the child of a god, whose destiny is to redeem mankind. The redemption requires the bloody death of this sinless human/god hybrid. However, most of those for whom this sacrifice is offered don’t even recognize what’s happening, making it even more poignant and unfair. The redeemer’s followers commemorate his life and death by eating a special meal, including the mystic elements of his body and his blood. (Big no-no there….Eating/drinking blood and human sacrifice are explicitly forbidden in the Torah, and human flesh is NOT kosher!) In many pagan myths, the savior is resurrected from the dead. A wonderful resource for more information is www.jewsforjudaism.com.
(Many of us are still struggling with how to integrate these truths into the framework of our lives and families. Many of us still live in predominantly Christian families, and we aren’t sure how to handle holidays and the questions of our loved ones. Relax. God is in charge. The first, most important, step is realizing that Jesus isn’t God.)
- How do B’Nai Noah fit into traditional Judaism? With all respect…. From my understanding, traditional Judaism actually fits into B’Nai Noah, not the other way around.
Oddly enough, most Jews know little about us, and view us with a mixture of suspicion and amused tolerance. Mosaic law is built on the B’Nai Noah foundation, with additional commandments distinguishing Jews from the rest of the world. “A peculiar nation,” Jews are the priesthood and the rest of humanity is the general congregation. We’re all necessary to the ordained function of society.
God’s original code was given in Adam’s day, and reiterated right after the Flood, as evidenced by the name, children of Noah. All three great monotheistic religions had their beginnings in us; Abraham was bar Noah.
- How do religious Christians view BN? Most Christians don’t know we exist. Others consider us traitors, turning our backs on God’s salvation. However, more Christians are beginning to recognize that most of the claims about Jesus don’t fit Torah. Notice, I said claims about him, not the claims he made. It’s hard to be certain about what he did or didn’t say, since it was 2000 years ago.
- Why “become” BN? Because I cannot, in good faith, worship as a Christian any longer. I believe I am as much God’s daughter as Jesus was His son. I think he was a good man, whose teachings and sayings have been perverted and twisted for various purposes. I no longer accept the murder of that young Jewish man, 2000 years ago, on a Roman cross, as the substitutionary death for my sins. I earnestly believe that each of us will stand before the Throne of Judgment to answer for ourselves, not with Jesus as our proxy.
There’s some excellent moral teaching in the New Testament, but there’s also a strong pagan influence. I now regard it as a commentary, but not the infallible, fully inspired Word of God. Unfortunately, there’s proof that many NT passages have been changed and re-written several times. Those changes cannot be explained away as mere “translation errors.” Many former Christians choose to disregard the New Testament entirely. (As one rabbi put it, Jesus has become irrelevant to my way of worship.)
- Why not convert to Judaism? The righteous of all nations have a share in “Heaven.” There’s no need to convert to Judaism.
Now, back to who this Bas Noah is. I still struggle with how to apply what I’m learning. In some ways, I guess I’ll always speak with a “Christian accent.” Listen to me for a while, and you can tell from whence I came.
I’m grateful to all those who taught and prodded and challenged me to think and grow in my Bible knowledge. My grandmothers and my parents taught me a strong, valid system of morals and values, and a reverent love for the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. My sister’s thoughtful question sent me searching for ever deepening answers. I don’t regret that I was a Christian, but I have learned why I can’t be one any longer.
I no longer depend on a man-made structure to support my worship of God. Torah is my text, and observant Jews are some of my trusted teachers. I’m not sure who Jesus was, but it isn’t very important to me any longer. Because of him, many non-Jewish people believe in God and long for Moshiach [in English, Messiah], so he did whatever God put him in the world to do. (In fact, the great rabbi and scholar, Maimonides himself, said that.) I don’t discuss religion with people anymore. I speak freely about God, but not “religion.”
Sometimes, I feel quite lonely in this adventure. My sister has become a full-fledged Jew. My mother was firmly bas Noah the last few years of her life. My children are still in various stages of Christianity, and my husband doesn’t talk about the things of God very much. I surely could use a community…. Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for grabbing a cup of coffee and a Danish and sitting down to talk things out!
Thank God for the Internet! I have learned a great deal from Vendyl Jones’ website, Ask Noah, Jews for Judaism, and from several books. One of the best, clearest, and most comprehensive of those books is Michael Dallen’s The Rainbow Covenant.
As God brings us closer to the time of Moshiach, there will be more and more “righteous gentiles” learning about true worship, “unlearning” unacceptable practices. We, in this generation, are watching an exciting chapter of history unfold. May we see redemption speedily, and in our time!