Sid: My guest by way of telephone is Dr. Michael Brown. He’s president and founder of Fire School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina just outside of Charlotte. I recently conducted a debate between Dr. Michael Brown, a Jewish believer in the Messiah, and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, that many consider as the most famous, or the most prominent traditional rabbi in America. The subject was “Who is Jesus?” absolutely high adventure. Very few Christians have ever heard the arguments that traditional rabbis have as to why Jesus is not the Messiah. Why? They don’t want to stop a Gentile from believing in Jesus, but there are literally rabbis that have spent a third of their life just studying to prove Jesus is not the Messiah. Their arguments are very very credible if you have never researched these facts, but if you research them there are good answers to good objections. So that’s why we had the debate “Who is Jesus?” I have on the telephone right now Dr. Michael Brown. Mike why would a traditional rabbi with so much credibility as Rabbi Shmuley Boteach even be party to a debate like this?
Michael: That’s the question that many Jews ask Shmuley as well. I really have to commend him for doing what he feels is right. I’ll explain his motivation in a minute because we’ve actually become good friends, and we’ve spent many good hours together on a personal level. We do honor and esteem each other as fellow Jews. You see the normal Jewish view would be this:
- Don’t give these guys a platform. They’re just missionaries don’t give them a platform.
- To engage them in debate is to give credibility to their position and to acknowledge them.
- There’s a bad history of forced debates in the Middle Ages where Jews had to debate the Christian oppositions. So the history leaves a bad taste in our mouth.
- These things stand against positive Jewish Christian relationships.
- Why give them any opportunity to influence people at all.
So based on that, Shmuley has had strong resistance “Don’t do these debates.” The reason he does them… when he was at Oxford University and headed up a very large student group “L’chaim” there, a Jewish student group. He brought in all kinds of foreign dignitaries and different people to speak to the students. He also debated almost everybody on any subject. It didn’t matter what their position, if it was in his mind a wrong position or an anti-God, or anti-Jewish, or anti-moral position. He’d debate Oxford professors and this and that. So a lot of this is in his blood and he believes that Judaism has to be able to survive in what you could call the market place of ideas. In other words, if you go back words, if you say we’re not going to discuss this, that’s only going to hurt the cause; rather Judaism has be able to come into the public forum defend its ideas, defend its views in such a way that it has nothing to fear and nothing back down to.
Sid: You know Mike the debate almost didn’t happen because Rabbi Shmuley showed up we were doing shows, and he walked in and said “I’m ready for lunch. Where’s my kosher lunch?” and he asked someone that didn’t realize that we had set aside a kosher lunch, and they said “Well we don’t have any kosher lunch here.” With that he thought “I’ve been betrayed” and he goes stomping out, and who does he walk into? He bumps into you. What happened Mike?
Michael: Well you I travel a lot just like Shmuley. You don’t like it when you arrive somewhere and things are not setup properly, you kind of feel slighted. You were doing what, I think 10 different shows that day, and didn’t have the ability to coordinate picking up every last person at the airport, etc. You had been conscientious enough to have 2 kosher meals waiting there for Shmuley, I guess for lunch and for dinner. Yeah, the wrong person was asked, so he just felt he’s been slighted; wasn’t even betrayed he just felt “Look I come all this way my own time, there’s no reason to do this, but solidarity with Mike, and being willing to do these debates. Now I get here and I’m not even being treated properly.” So I showed up and we went out for a kosher lunch together. I said “Hey Shmuley I’m with you whatever you want to do I’ll stand with you, it’s just fine.” He said “No let’s go ahead and do the debate I’m here.” So I was pleased he did it…
Sid: I imagine he felt better when he found out it was a misunderstanding, and we did have a kosher meal for him.
Michael: Absolutely. Yeah in fact we enjoyed that for dinner. We went to a restaurant and he got his kosher meal…
Sid: What did he think afterwards between you and me, what did he say about me because that was the first time we met, and the debate?
Michael: The debate, first he really enjoys doing them. We’ve done a series of face to face debates probably in front of more than 4000 people at least in the last 2 years. So they’ve really drawn people in different settings from college campuses to hotel auditoriums. He really enjoys doing them because of the intellectual stimulation. He misses the debating atmospheres he had at Oxford. So for him every debate is an intellectually stimulating thing and he thoroughly enjoys it on that score. Once he was on he liked you as an individual, he thought you spoke well and he was positively impressed with you. Overall, everything got straightened out well, and he had no regrets about the debate felt positive about it, and felt it was good sharp and intellectually stimulating.
Sid: Okay. There’s something you’re aware of, it was in the intellectual arena. Although it’s important for people to think for themselves and have the facts, I decided at the end of each show I would talk about something that is not a debatable thing, and that is intimacy with God, knowing God for yourself. So it’s almost like on our show It’s Supernatural I use miracles to grab someone’s attention so they can hear the gospel. That’s what too me, the exciting thing about the debate because we had to grab the attention of Christians, Muslims, non-believers, and anything Jewish people. I mean it’s a fascinating thing when 2 Jewish people go at and one says “I bet my life Jesus is the Messiah” and the other one says “I bet my life Jesus is not the Messiah.”
Michael: You know here’s the other side of it Sid that needs to be considered. You know we rightly commend Shmuley for going against resistance and opposition to do these debates. He’s definitely to be commended for it intellectually and spiritually for doing what he does. Let’s flip this around Sid, the majority of your viewers are probably believers, the majority of your listeners are probably believers, and we as Jewish men who love Yeshua were not afraid to bring on a very sharp, a well-spoken, well-educated man to have him challenge what we believe in public. In other words, we have nothing to be ashamed of, we have nothing we’re afraid of, we don’t have some system that we erected and it’s all a house of cards and you blow on it and it comes falling down. For years I have been looking for people that were willing to have public debate and dialog. See when I first came to the Lord I was challenged left and right “Well you don’t know anything how can you teach, how can you explain things” and I’m sure they would have debated me in a heartbeat, but once began to learn and understand and be able to give more support to my position intellectually and academically, suddenly the debating challenges seem to dry up. So we need people to understand, and anyone listening that doesn’t know the Lord this is an open book, this is not secret system where you get initiated somewhere, or like the Mormons where “We don’t tell you the whole story up front, cause if we told you the whole story up front you’d never believe it you’d run from it.” This whole thing is open and Jesus would say “Come and see, come and see” the psalmist said “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Last night my wife was watching the old Ben Hur video and that’s an extraordinarily powerful Christian witness. At the end of the movie when Ben Hur’s mother who’s a leper is miraculously healed by the Lord and there’s that sense “He’s real this thing is real!” Sid you and I have experienced that not just when we first got saved, but in different ways through the years. Sometimes you breakdown crying because “He’s real look at what the Lord has done,” it’s not a matter of we have this ancient faith and these historical documents about someone that died and it’s a good story. We’re talking about someone who is alive today.
Sid: Listen every time I speak Jesus shows up, and miracles happen, and I have to tell you, like yourself, I’ve been a believer now over 30 years. It never gets old, it’s the most exciting thing… I live to see God demonstrate His greatness.
Michael: Sid if we don’t have an ongoing experience with God, I don’t mean that we don’t have struggles and problems, I don’t mean that we push a button and automatically get millions of dollars and perfect health and never have a battle. If we are not walking with God, if we cannot tell someone what He is like and who He is, if we don’t have a living testimony something’s missing and it’s not on God’s part. He’s saying “Come and swim in the waters of My life.” That’s one thing I love just to talk to traditional Jews about “Okay you be very sincere, you may be very devoted, I’ve given you my arguments for what I believe, why not ask God to show Himself, why not ask God to speak and act” because that ultimately is the thing that’s going to settle all arguments when God Himself works in someone’s life. What can they say when they’ve had an encounter with God?
Sid: Now what does a rabbi or a traditional Jew say when you say “Ask God” what would he say to that?
Michael: Generally speaking they would feel that to ask for revelation is to go against what is written, to go against tradition. They would say God gave us the rabbis, God gave us the Talmud, God gave us the traditions, and we shouldn’t ask outside of that. Everything we have is self-sufficient it was good enough for my father, my grandfather, for his grandfather it sustained us through the holocaust, it sustained us through the inquisitions and the crusades. So we have been explicitly told not to worship idols, we were explicitly told that Mt. Sinai when God revealed Himself there was no form so don’t make a form of a man…
Sid: I tell you what, we’re out of time.