A Review of "Torahism: Are Christians Required to Keep the Law of Moses?" by R.L Solberg
Only by accurately and honestly reporting the views of those with whom we disagree can we then properly address and refute them. This is the approach Solberg has taken.
I often experience what might be called “mistaken theological identity.” My calling as a Scholar-in-residence for 1517 is to produce podcasts, write books, and post online content centered around the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament.
As I like to say, “I teach the gospel with an Old Testament accent.”
Because the vast majority of my work is focused on the Hebrew Bible, those who are interested in these Scriptures will naturally be inclined to see what I have to say. Among them are folks who fall under the very broad umbrella of Torah-observant Christianity or the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM).
This is where the “mistaken theological identity” occurs. At least initially, many people who are part of such groups will assume that I also am a Torah-observant Christian. After all, I read Hebrew and write about Hebrew. In my teaching and books, I am constantly directing students and readers back to the Torah as the foundation of the entire Bible. And I studied for several years with Jewish scholars at Hebrew Union College.
Sooner or later, however, a question will arise (usually on my Facebook page) about kosher laws, the Sabbath, or keeping the feasts. In my answer, it will become very evident that my true theological identity is a traditional, creedal Christian who confesses that, because we live in the new covenant given by Jesus the Messiah, we are no longer obligated to keep the laws that were specifically given to Israel under the old covenant. Inevitably, disputes will then break out online—sometimes heated, sometimes calm—about the extent to which Christians are obligated to keep the Law of Moses.
Now, because such questions and disagreements have been increasing both in number and intensity over the last few years, I began to hunt for an orthodox, biblically-based, apologetic resource to which I can steer people who struggle with these Law-related questions, or (as is also common) have family members who are involved in Torah-observant Christianity.
If someone had already invented this “wheel,” I was more than happy not to reinvent it.
How delighted I was, therefore, not long ago, to become acquainted with the work of R. L. Solberg. He is an author, apologist, and adjunct professor of theology at Williamson College who has devoted the last few years to producing significant resources—books, articles, and videos—that address what he labels “Torahism,” which is Solberg’s term for the broad camp of those in the Hebrew Roots Movement, Torah-Observant Christianity, etc.
A few weeks ago, Solberg was kind enough to invite me to participate with him in a YouTube conversation on the Torah, Christ in the Old Testament, and the Christian’s relationship to the Law. You can view that conversation here.
Since our conversation, I have explored more of his videos; studied his book Torahism: Are Christians Required to Keep the Law of Moses?; and read much of his polite engagement online with those who disagree with him.
Three observations about Solberg and his work have impressed me and encouraged me to direct others toward his resources.
First, his scholarship produces much more light than heat, which is a rare commodity these days on any contentious issue. His goal is gracious persuasion by means of the Scriptures and clear reason, not attacking, rabble-rousing, or theological “gotcha-ism.” To that end, Solberg does not attack a straw man; he is fair and accurate in his description of the beliefs and practices of Torah-observant Christianity. His book, Torahism, which is a must-read for anyone interested in this subject, includes numerous quotes directly from those in the movement. Only by accurately and honestly reporting the views of those with whom we disagree can we then properly address and refute them. This is the approach Solberg has taken, both in his book and in his videos. And I applaud him for it.
Since he is the end, then anything that attempts to make a new beginning of the law upends the work of Christ.
Second, he is not producing materials that require a Ph.D., knowledge of six languages, and a vocabulary of five dollar words. He is addressing the person in the pew who has some acquaintance with the Scriptures and wishes to learn more. His videos are not only highly produced but very easy to follow. His book presents biblical teachings in a logical, easy-to-read format that covers everything from defining what Torah and Torahism are; to questions about whether the Law was abolished; to whether Christmas and Easter are pagan holidays.
Third, as indicated above, Solberg uses the Scriptures to present responses to issues relating to Torahism. Should Christians still be observing the Sabbath? Are we free to eat pork or does that displease God? Are Christian parents obligated by the Law of Moses to circumcise their sons? The Scriptures address all these questions. Solberg guides us to their answers, provides contextual interpretation, and points us, again and again, to the fulfillment of the Scriptures in Christ.
For those three reasons, and plenty more, I am grateful for the labor of love that prompted him to invest so much of his work in helping others who seek to understand the Bible and live a life of freedom in the Gospel.
Speaking of the Gospel, that is the core issue on all matters related to Torahism. Paul says, “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1). Free from what? From the Law of Moses. Paul also says, “Christ is the end of the law” (Rom. 10:4). Since he is the end, then anything that attempts to make a new beginning of the law upends the work of Christ. At issue, therefore, is not merely the interpretation of this or that passage of the Bible. This concerns the Gospel itself. And there is no more important concern than that.
Therefore, I am deeply grateful for the ongoing work of R. L. Solberg. If you wish to read his book, Torahism, it can be purchased here. You can also view Solberg’s YouTube videos here.
May the Lord of the church continue to bless his research, writing, and teaching for the sake of the Gospel.