The Rabbi Is Wrong on a Couple of Points by Bob Hyatt

I don’t find myself much in agreement with Southern Baptist Al Mohler, but… Rabbi Shmuley Boteach (most famous as a spiritual director of sorts to Michael Jackson) has responded on the Huffington Post to a tweet by Mohler. Mohler’s offense? Offering Jesus to Anthony Weiner.

Mohler tweeted “Dear Congressman Weiner: There is no effective ‘treatment’ for sin. Only atonement, found only in Jesus Christ.”

To which Rabbi Boteach responded:  ”I hear you, Rev. Mohler. But I seem to recall many sexual scandals involving evangelical ministers that would seem to undermine the premise that salvation through Jesus Christ grants immunity to sexual sin.”

Say what now?

Does the Rabbi really mean to suggest that Mohler was offering an “immunity to sexual sin”??

He goes on to take Mohler to task for “proselytizing” via tweet and to lay out an interesting theory of redemption, namely- atonement and redemption are a product of what we do, and are impacted not in the least by our “faith.”


Proselytize? Please- a shout out on twitter hardly counts as that- amidst all the cat calls, condemnation and kerfuffle, and it’s Mohler, trying to speak what he sees as the bottom line for the man’s soul that gets everyone’s knickers in a twist? (Read the comments that follow the article- knicker are truly twisted good. Lots and lots of atheist and agnostic wedgies, in fact.)

Maybe it’s the fact that Weiner is Jewish and Mohler a Christian? That’s an interesting form of reverse religious bigotry… to say that a Christian can’t recommend the only lifeline he knows and trusts to anyone who’s *not* already of the same faith. This has truly become the post-modern unforgiveable sin: To offer what you believe is true to someone who doesn’t already agree with you.

To the Rabbi’s points, though-

1. He says: “I seem to recall many sexual scandals involving evangelical ministers that would seem to undermine the premise that salvation through Jesus Christ grants immunity to sexual sin.” A complete straw man- who ever said faith in Jesus brings immunity to sexual sin??? Not me. In 40+ years  of Christianity, Bible College, and Seminary I’ve never heard a *single* suggestion that it would. Forgiveness and moral/ethical maturity are separate (though related) matters. David’s Judaism didn’t save him from temptation and sin with Bathsheeba, and no one’s faith in Jesus gives anyone a free pass from temptation.

2. More to the point- Mohler wasn’t suggesting a way Weiner could gain immunity- rather, a path to redemption, and relationship with God. *It’s okay if you disagree with Mohler’s idea about that path*- please just understand what he was and wasn’t saying- disagree, but at least show you are disagreeing with what he said and not your misunderstanding of it.

3. You are free to believe that “Redemption comes about not through anything we believe but how we behave” and “Redemption is never a function of belief and always a function of deed. ” but this is NOT the core message of the faith that Mohler and I  happen to share- and quoting Jesus in that context doesn’t mean He believed it either. Jesus’ point is that you know the kind of “tree” you are dealing with by the results of its life- in other words, an apple tree produces apples BECAUSE it is an apple tree, not the other way around. A tree does not BECOME an orange tree or an apple tree by producing either oranges or apples. Jesus is in that passage giving a test by which you can know the reality of someone’s relationship with God, not a means by which one can come into that relationship (ie thru good works/”fruit”).

4. The idea that our redemption and entrance into relationship with God is based not on what we do but on what Jesus did is the core essence of the Good News of Christianity- and good news it is. If my redemption were based on how well I toed the moral line, if my good works outweighed my bad- I’d be in a world of hurt, and so, I suspect, would most of those reading this.

5. I appreciate Rabbi Boteach quoting Jesus- but I think the conversation in John 6 would be more relevant on the issue of what God is really looking for from us: “They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.” (speaking of Himself)

6. The idea of belief bringing redemption isn’t a Christian one though- I’m surprised to hear the Rabbi talk as he has here. It makes me wonder about the last time he read Genesis 15:6: “And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.”

Bob Hyatt is a contributing editor for Next-Wave and is the leader of Evergreen Community in Portland, Oregon.

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