by Michael Nissim (Translated from Hebrew by Annie Nissim)
Dr. Michael Rudolph is a senior member of Tikkun Ministries. He is an elder in a Tikkun congregation and has served as a congregational elder together with Asher Intrater. He is part of the Tikkun America Executive Team, a Tikkun regional council leader and is considered an emissary of Tikkun. He also established and managed a theological college for Tikkun.1
Rudolph testifies to a long history with Daniel Juster and considers Juster his spiritual mentor.2 Together, they wrote a book of Messianic Jewish Halacha (http://www.tikkunamerica.org/halachah.php), and entered into covenantal relationship, as is the Tikkun custom. He also holds important roles in the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations), an organisation established by Juster.3 Therefore, when a person who is so deeply involved in Tikkun and managed one of their colleges presents a paper outlining his stance on the subject of salvation, we should expect that his theology faithfully represents that of Tikkun.
Indeed, in a paper that he wrote, Soteriology and Wider Hope, Dr. Michael Rudolph lays out his teaching concerning the salvation of the Jews and quotes Juster4 extensively in order to verify his position and to show that his views concur with those of ‘our Shaliach’ (apostle), Daniel Juster. It is Rudolph’s article that we will be reviewing here.
The substance of Rudolph’s teaching is as follows:
Already, in the first paragraphs of his article, Rudolph throws a smoke screen around the subject of salvation in the Scriptures. He notes that the demons also believe (James 2.19) but are not saved. From this we can conclude, according to Rudolph, that the salvation formula (those who believe are saved and those who do not - are not) is not quite as simple as we thought:
“So the formula for salvation is not as simple and straightforward as some would have us believe, because it has to do with the condition of the heart, and no one but God can read hearts. And as you begin to consider this subject, the mysteries and questions surrounding salvation grow and grow.”
The loophole that Rudolph is using here is that the demons believe and yet are not saved, and the conclusion drawn is that the issue of salvation is clad in “mysteries and questions [that] grow and grow”. His goal is quite clear — he is seeking to blur a clear subject.
In the above quote, we saw that Rudolph states, “no one but God can read hearts”, but this supposed humility comes at the expense of truth, because it conveys the impression that we have no Scriptural basis to judge whether or not someone is saved. But we do have a Scriptural basis by which we may judge,:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already.” (John 3:18)
Therefore, if a person does not believe in Yeshua, we can know with certainty that he is not saved, and that — without having to take the place of God and assert that we know the hearts and minds.
Rudolph goes on to quote Juster as making the same argument where, according to him, insisting on Scriptural principles makes us into narrow-minded judges:
“The Narrow Hope view [by which you have to believe in Yeshua in order to be saved] provides us with difficulties. It too easily thinks that we can judge who is and who is not “saved” on an individual basis. It involves a judgment of the unseen heart.”
So again, according to these statements, anyone who believes that you can be saved only through faith in Yeshua is, “judging the hearts”. It follows from Rudolph and Juster’s arguments that after death, God may judge those who did not believe in His Son and find that some of them are worthy of salvation based on the state of their heart.
But on this subject also, the Scriptures are clear. Without taking the place of God, we know with certainty that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?” (Jer 17:9) and, “YHWH looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, that did seek after God. They are all gone aside; they are together become filthy; there is none that does good, no not one.” (Ps 14:2-3). It is therefore impossible to argue that salvation may be obtained on the basis of the condition of one’s heart (Is 64:6).
Changes in the Presentation of the Gospel
Juster continues to explain why the Narrow (biblical) view is problematic in his eyes:
“I see no gain in holding this position over against the Narrow Wider Hope view. For one thing, it makes us so narrow that others will unnecessarily dismiss us as bigots.”
Apparently, the way in which we may be perceived by others is a central consideration in the choice of his position (Gal 1:10).
Also as far as Rudolph is concerned, the Gospel, as it stands, is not so successful:
“The evangelical approach of offering the choice of eternal life or a Hell-fire death assumes things that are typically not true of Jews… The consequence of this is that offering a Jew salvation if he will come to Yeshua generally does not produce a positive response.”
Therefore, according to Tikkun, the Gospel should be presented differently, so that it might fall more comfortably on Jewish ears.5
According to Rudolph, the words of Yeshua in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you…” should be interpreted as follows:
"The baptism spoken of here, of course, refers to the mikveh commonly known among the Jews; “all things whatsoever I commanded you” refers to what else if not faithfulness to the Torah. This is “a Torah-faithful approach to God that is completely familiar, and completely Jewish.”
“This approach is received more positively by the Jewish people because it does not seek to entice through a carrot of salvation, and does not threaten anyone if the Gospel is rejected.”
In this way, the stumbling block of the cross is done away with, when in its place, Jewish elements like the mikveh and Torah keeping, by which “no flesh will be justified”, are restored and re-offered as an alternative and incentive. The problem is that this is no longer the Gospel.
Background: Wider Hope and Unconscious Mediation
The ‘Narrow Wider Hope’ that Tikkun holds to, is one expression among a few of the ‘Wider Hope’ doctrine. Rudolph explains Wider Hope, and its different variations, thus:
“[Wider Hope is] whether or to what extent there is biblical latitude for an individual’s eternal life with God other than what is most commonly taught in evangelical and Fundamentalist circles – that to be saved, a person must, during his lifetime, confess the historic Yeshua as Lord and savior, and be baptized. This latitude, should it exist, is what theologians call “Wider Hope.””
There is a reason that the words “during his lifetime” are part of the formula of salvation in the ‘Wider Hope’ scheme. In the past, there was no question as to whether a man needs to believe “during his lifetime” or not, because it was clear to everyone that every warning in the New Testament concerning lack of faith, is spoken in regard to this life. “It is appointed to man once to die and after this, the judgement.” (Heb 9:27) When it is said that you must believe in order to be saved, it was clear to all that the intention was faith before death.
But the presence of the words “during his lifetime” in this formula, stands in line with the doctrine of Unconscious Mediation, which is widespread in Torah-Messianic circles in the US in general, and in Tikkun and the UMJC in particular - two organisations that were founded by Juster. The doctrine of Unconscious Mediation teaches that even a man who did not believe in Yeshua may enjoy the fruit of Yeshua’s work on the cross, because God will show him grace by virtue of the work of the Messiah, and will account the atonement of the Messiah to him without explicit faith in Him. Therefore the doctrine of Unconscious Mediation and the doctrine of Wider Hope, in all their various forms, go together like hand in glove. They create a way to bypass the apparent rigidity of the gospel.
This is the background for Juster’s use of expressions like “consciously and explicitly makes a decision for Jesus” and “If a person still believes that a conscious, explicit response must be made for Jesus before death”, and the like.6
According to Juster’s perception, and others in his organisations, it is possible somehow to believe in Yeshua unconsciously and implicitly during this life, and still to be saved. We might conjecture, if this is the case, that the gaps of knowledge and faith will be filled in after death. And indeed, an example of this thinking is found in the words of Tony Eaton,7 UMJC former treasurer who was ordained as a Messianic Rabbi by this organisation:
“The day is going to come in the judgment when all these devout Jews are going to come before the Messiah, and when they approach Him, they're going to look at Him and say, 'Didn't I know you?' and He'll say, "Yeah, you did, you just didn't know my name.”8
The Advantage of "Faith In This Life"
Because the possibility exists, according to Tikkun, to be saved even without expressly believing in Yeshua “in this life”, the question naturally arises whether there is any advantage in believing “in this life”, before death? The answer is yes. The advantage of faith “in this life”, according to Tikkun, is the assurance of salvation.
Rudolph quotes clear verses about the conditions for salvation (Luke 13:23-24, John 10:9, John 14:6, Acts 4:12) and inserts small changes to their interpretation that are easily missed at first glance. These small changes redefine verses that actually determine the conditions for salvation and portray them as though they were speaking about the means of receiving assurance of salvation — a change that seems mild but is actually significant. In this way he alters the definition of these verses and opens the possibility for other ways to be saved, while faith in Yeshua ‘in this life’ is relegated, according to him, to a way of being certain that you are saved.
In the following paragraph, we will see how he introduces subtle changes of this type at least three times:
“These Scriptures tell me what a person must do in order [notice:] to be certain of having eternal life… The John Scriptures state that Yeshua is the door to salvation and the only way to the Father; they promise that anyone who enters the door (i.e. declares faith in Yeshua) will be saved.
The Acts Scripture states that there is only one name – Yeshua’s name – through which [notice:] salvation is a certainty. This is a commitment by God [again, assurance of salvation] that if we call upon Yeshua for salvation (i.e. declare faith in Yeshua), we will have it.”
Did you notice the change of definition? According to Rudolph, there is no other name by which we may be sure that we are saved. This differs from what is written in the verse itself. He has changed the meaning of the verses to make them suit the new definition that he seeks to give them. While the change appears mild, it is in fact significant.
And so also does Juster. Rudolph quotes Juster bemoaning the fact that on a Larry King television show, the interviewee stated that one must acknowledge Yeshua ‘in this life’ in order to be saved. I myself saw the interview in question and was proud of the way the interviewee spoke the truth so clearly. But Juster thinks that Yeshua should have been presented as the way to be certain, and that other options of salvation should have been left open. In his words,
“Jesus was presented as the only way, and this meant explicit confession in this life in every case. Instead, [the interviewee] could have asserted that Yeshua was the way to salvation [notice this time Juster doesn’t say “the only way”] for Jew and Gentile, and the way to [notice:] assurance for one’s eternal destiny. At the same time he could have said that God would mercifully judge all who sought the truth and to live according to righteousness in dependence on His grace. This is the basic teaching of the Judaism of the Siddur”
Thus, Juster also defines faith in Yeshua “in this life”, as merely a means by which a man may have “assurance for his eternal destiny”, but it is not, perish the thought, the only means of salvation. This he does, because to think that an “explicit confession in this life in every case” is the only way of salvation, is bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and we wouldn’t want to be viewed in that light. Therefore, we should adjust the Gospel to suit the “Judaism of the Siddur”, according to his words. As we demonstrated in the article Juster and the Salvation of the Jews, he sees the Judaism of the Siddur, without faith in Yeshua as the Messiah, as a legitimate means of salvation for Jews.
Two Outright Denials
We will give two more clear examples of the way in which Rudolph denies the Gospel.
Rudolph quotes the following verse:
“And the witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life; he that has not the Son of God has not the life.” 1 Jn 5:11,12.
And here is the explanation that Rudolph gives for this verse:
“The Scripture [above] does not, however, explain what having Yeshua means or how we acquire Him.”
It’s interesting that the head of a theological college is unable to explain the meaning of “having Yeshua” and that he has no clue from the Scriptures as to how we may “obtain” Yeshua. Do the Scriptures not explain such things as these, but rather leave us in complete darkness?
A second example. Rudolph gives many references (link)9 to verses that speak about salvation in contrast to perdition and says the following:
“While these Scriptures indicate that faith in Yeshua results in eternal life, they don’t address what happens in cases where faith is absent, or where there is faith in God, but no recognition of Yeshua.”
This is an unsurpassed denial of such a simple biblical truth! Even the verses that he took the trouble to list, state that “He that does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16, the context is the Gospel) and “that whoever believes on Him should not perish” (that is to say that those who do not believe will perish - Jn 3:16), and that’s without mentioning other verses from the Scriptures.
Dr. Rudolph, however, does not know what to say about what will happen to those who do not believe, because according to him, the Scriptures “don’t address what happens in cases where faith is absent.”
And what is that faith in God that he refers to, that has “no recognition of Yeshua”? It is clearly written that “whoever denies the Son, the same has not the Father: he that confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 Jn 2:23). This leaves no option for one without the other.
Does it matter whether a person is saved?
It’s no wonder, then, that the matter of people’s salvation does not bother Rudolph in the least. As he himself states:
“I had reached the same conclusions about salvation some time ago… For a long time now I have refused to refer to any individual as saved or unsaved.”
The refusal to regard an individual as saved or unsaved is a direct result of his denial of the Gospel. Rudolph’s approach is directly opposed to that of Paul, who became all things to all people, and was prepared to sacrifice his own personal salvation - everything - “if by any means I may provoke to jealousy them that are my flesh, and may save some of them” (Romans 9:3, 11:14, 1 Cor 9:22). The matter of their salvation disturbed Paul day and night. But not Rudolph:
“So whether [any person] is saved or unsaved never becomes an issue in my ministry.”
Rudolph summarizes thus:
“My conclusion… is that there is only one [notice:] certain way to have eternal life, and that is through faith in Yeshua as evidenced by our willingness to call Him by name, confess Him publicly, submit to water immersion, and follow Him in Torah obedience through the leading and power of the Holy Spirit. I also conclude that anyone who has eternal life has received it through Yeshua, but I cannot conclude from the Scriptures that anything short of a conscious and deliberate acceptance of the historic Yeshua precludes God from granting a person eternal life in an exceptional situation;”
When he says that everyone who has eternal life received it through Yeshua, he is referring precisely to those instances where people received salvation from Yeshua, as it were, without believing in Him (Unconscious Mediation). He continues to describe how he himself would guide someone who is seeking salvation without Yeshua:
“if he wants [notice:] to be sure of having eternal life [then he must accept Yeshua as Messiah and Lord. Good. but…] If he struggles against accepting Yeshua and asks if there isn’t some other way, my response is that confessing Yeshua in faith is the only authorized way and the only sure way [notice how much he avoids saying that He’s the only way]. If he persists in seeking another way, I tell him that I am not authorized to help him in it, and I ask him if he is willing to gamble his eternal life on some other route.”
That is to say, there is a case here where someone heard about Yeshua, heard about His atonement, and received some version of the Gospel from the mouth of Dr. Rudolph, who is supposed to be learned in the Scriptures, and still Rudolph finds place to speak to him about another route. He will still not clarify to him that now, after he has heard about the Messiah and His work, he will have no choice but to receive the testimony that has been presented to him, or else he will perish eternally. No. He will leave him with a thread of vain hope that he might be saved by another route, even if that route is a kind of gamble with lower chances of success.
It is possible, then, to be saved without believing in Yeshua, even after hearing about His work on your behalf. This is the theology of the Tikkun leaders.
According to the theology of Tikkun leaders, Rudolph and Juster, there is no need to believe in Yeshua in this life in order to be saved. Faith in Him is merely a way to be assured of salvation.
The Tikkun organisation is promoting a different gospel, which is not the Gospel of Yeshua the Messiah.10
5 1 Cor 1:22-24; 1 Cor 2:1-2; Gal 6:14
6 Salvation and Jews who do not Know Yeshua, Jewish Roots, Daniel Juster.
9 Matthew 19:16, Mark 16:16, Luke 7:50, John 3:16, Acts 2:21 and 16:30-31, Romans 10:1, 9, and 13, Ephesians 2:5 and 8, and Titus 3:5
10 2 Cor 11:3-4; Gal 1:6-9