Monday, August 19, 2019

Why I Wrote "Kabbalah for Evangelical Christians"

Alfred D. Byrd

A major cause of division in our world is the abundance of systems of faith and practice within it. Tragically, members of each of these systems tend to stereotype, and be sterotyped by, members of other systems. This statement is no less true of Kabbalah and of Evangelical Christianity than it is of any other system. In the USA, both Kabbalah and Evangelical Christianity tend to be subjects of sensationalistic stories both in traditional media and on social media. These media, tending to focus on outrageous blooms of the plants of faith, overlook both the root and the shoot of these systems. Likely, many persons who make dogmatic statements about them are almost completely ignorant of their origin and of their intended purpose. Such persons' ignorance harms, not only members of the systems that they misrepresent, but also themselves. Stereotypes are two-edged swords as likely to wound the wielder as they are the persons against whom they are wielded. Against ignorance, we can only interpose truth.

I grew up and have long worshipped in the world of Evangelical Christianity and developed a fascination with Kabbalah as I encountered it while I was exploring Christianity's Jewish roots. Please understand that I'm only a reader of Kabbalistic literature, not a practitioner of the system. As I say in Kabbalah for Evangelical Christians, it's more than a lifetime's study for anyone. Still, I feel that I know enough of Kabbalah to give a beginner's explanation of it to my Evangelical Christian brothers and sisters — and to explain both systems to persons with only a stereotypical grasp of them. Anyone who replaces ignorance with any degree of knowledge has done worthy work.

Although many with just a superficial understanding of Kabbalah and Evangelical Christianity would say that no two systems of thought could be farther apart than they are, they're related in many ways. Foundationally, both have their origin in exegesis (reading out a meaning) of Hebrew Scripture. Each system of thought deals in its own way with Scripture's core teachings: creation (bereshit), the Fall, and redemption. Each system deals in its own way with theophany (the appearance of the invisible God in a visible form, particularly God's Chariot [merkavah]), and Moses' Law in its moral, civil, and ceremonial forms centered on the Temple (heikhal). Although each system takes its exegesis of Scripture in a radially different direction, both of them have at times reached surprisingly similar conclusions about God's nature and manifestations.

To make things clear to you, the reader, I've compared and contrasted Kabbalistic and Evangelical Christian teachings on like subjects. As I've said, both systems may have surprisingly similar teachings that you may not have at first expected. I've also put into the book sections on topics likely to lead the unwary to confusion: what's the true meaning of the Trinity (as much as anyone can hope to answer this question), why do Orthodox Jews not pronounce the Name of God (and why Christians shouldn't either), and what is the role of good works in a relationship with God. I've dealt with the role of sex in a religious setting — surely a topic open to misunderstanding if any topic is. Finally, I've dealt with the nature and practice of Kabbalistic magic — controversial even in the world of Kabbalah. I hope that I've brought a glimmer of clarity to what may've been darkness to a reader.

As I've said, Kabbalah is more than a life's study for anyone. What I've written is only the start of an introduction to a rich field of study. If you're interested in learning more of it, you can start with the books that I've listed in the bibliography of my work — the books that I used to prepare it. Still, no faith and practice is a matter of study of books alone. As I've learned within Evangelical Christianity, only by living one's faith daily can one make it grow and bear fruit to God's glory in a fallen world in which darkness only too often prevails. May the light of understanding expressed in good works born of faith be God's instrument in driving back darkness in a world desperately in need of redemption.

Two widely misunderstood and misrepresented systems of belief are compared and contrasted in Kabbalah for Evangelical Christians. You can read the book's opening sections for free by clicking on Preview.

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