Since there are over 40 centers of Judaism-Christian Studies, mainly at Catholic and Lutheran institutions. I was waiting for an Evangelical college to open a center, especially with all the interest in Christian Zionism. Or if Rabbi Riskin was looking for a dialogue partner, he needed to set up such a center with Evangelicals. It turns out that one started two years ago. The Center for Judaic Studies was established in 2009 at Liberty University, which was founded by Jerry Falwell, with Randall Price as its director. Judaism for them is part of their Christian Zionist vision.
Liberty University’s late founder and chancellor Dr. Jerry Falwell had a vision for a school that would promote the recognition that Israel and the Jewish people are part of God’s global will. As a Christian Zionist, Dr. Falwell was both lauded by the Jewish community for his unqualified support for the Jewish state and feared for his uncompromising evangelical commitment (which they rightly interpreted as calling for Jewish conversion to Christ).
The need for the Center for Judaic Studies is both biblical and practical. Biblically, the divine program revealed in scripture is centered on Israel and the importance of the Jewish mission (the choice of one people to bless the rest of mankind). The proclamation of the Gospel to the Jewish people is bound up in the very nature of the gospel itself: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
The theological perspective of the Center for Judaic Studies conforms to and upholds the Liberty University statement of faith. It also upholds the biblical teaching that the Abrahamic Covenant with the Jewish people (Genesis 12:3) has continuing validity, while understanding that both Jew and Gentile share in the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant made with Israel (Jeremiah 31:31) and inaugurated by the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah (Hebrews 9:15).
The director Randell Price has an earned PhD and appears to be like an OU or Targum type scholar. He has credible books like an introduction to the Dead Sea Scrolls in simple language, apologetic books that present Biblical Archeology that only present the data that supports the Bible and none of the data that does not, as well as not very academic works seeing the Bible played out in Israeli politics.
One blogger picked up on the last element as non-academic. But does that effect the rest of his scholarship at the center? So I decided to look at his online syllabi and his course list.
The courses in Jewish History and Israeli History are like the reading lists of an old rabbi, using the textbooks of the 1960’s as the basis along with some very new material such as Post-Zionism and cultural history, as well as arbitrary biographies. I have had to evaluate worse syllabi from Jewish schools.
Biblical Archeology is, as to be expected, highly conservative and apologetic running the gambit from K. Kitchen to William Dever.
The course on Antisemitism seems to lay the blame at the Catholic Church and disassociates Evangelicals from their Lutheran and Huguenot ancestry as well as skipping over Protestant and Evangelical Antisemitism in the US. But it may be worth it for assignments worth one quarter of their grade to accept that Antisemitism must be stopped and in their other reading to learn that there is no Biblical support for Antisemitism. They read works like Barry Horner, Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2007, which assumes that Armageddon is coming and Jews will not convert until after the battle so respect them now by fighting Antisemitism.
Is this good for the Jews? Should I take it seriously? Should I contact them and offer to help their students continue their education in Judaic Studies?
Ah, but it might start something serious if one of the graduates of this Center for Judaic Studies would graduate to an MA in Jewish Studies from an accredited program or spent a year at Hebrew University…
When I was a freshman in college (1984), Jerry Falwell gave a speech at Princeton. During the question-and-answer part, someone asked if he agreed with the then-recent statement from Bailey Smith, the head of the Southern Baptist Convention, that “God does not hear the prayers of the Jews?” After some hemming and hawing, Mr. Falwell answered affirmatively.
Is theology disjoint from interfaith relations? I find it hard to reconcile this positive attitude towards Zionism, necessarily rooted in the chosen-ness of the Jews and the eternal covenants between God and Abraham, between God and Bnei Yisrael in the Desert, and the attitude he expressed above, which implies a detachment of God from the Jews in the post-Crucifixion world. One is dispensationalism, the other is its opposite, supersessionism, no?