Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The idea of "Replacement Theology" is false and does not serve the cause of gaining support for the nation of Israel

Is it true that a crucial failure of today's Church is not to be supporting the nation of Israel according to its importance in prophecy? Are we really inviting God's judgment on the Church and the nation for this failure?

I really don't think so. Correction: I don't know but I think the west is under judgment predominantly for lots of other offenses, and I'm less and less convinced of the arguments that put Israel at the center of prophecy. But I've also got to say that there could be some truth to it, but the case has not been made for it if so. Those who promote this idea are guilty of slanderous and divisive attitudes and a failure to put their views into a reasonable perspective so that reasonable people might be persuaded. Right now I don't think their perspective is reasonable.

I'm all for supporting Israel, I think it would be a disaster if we stopped, I think all the pro-Palestinian politics, in the government but also the churches, is as wrongheaded as it's possible to be, backing the wolf against the lamb as usual, utterly ignoring the stated objectives of Palestinian policies to destroy Israel. They don't want a State, they could have had one years ago if that was their objective, but it isn't, and they could have had a lot of help from Israel in developing it too. But they want Israel gone, period. And they've said so many times. And the blindness it takes to ignore all that is almost miraculous. Well, that's not a bad description really; it's certainly a spiritual condition in the end. So yes, I think God could bring us under judgment for failing to support Israel but not necessarily because prophecy requires it, just because it would be wrong.

But then I hear all this theological stuff about "Replacement Theology" which is supposed to explain why the liberal/left churches are pro-Palestine, and that doesn't sit well with me either. All you have to be to support Palestine over Israel is a Politically Correct Leftist who is ideologically committed to what they perceive to be the underdog without regard to how the underdog got into that condition. Which in this case is thanks to their Muslim leaders who want to keep them underdogs to get sympathy from the world and make Israel look bad. The fact that Israel has made itself a prosperous and successful nation is the Great No-No from the leftist point of view, and their success alone makes them the guilty party. This is so obvious it takes extraordinarily perverse thinking to overlook it. But the Left is wonderfully adept at that kind of thinking so what else is new?

I do suppose there must be some theological influence in the position of the leftist churches, but I also have to suspect it's more windowdressing than real motivation. The idea is that the Church has replaced Israel in God's promises and prophecies, but it makes no sense to abandon Israel even if the Church HAD replaced them in theological terms. What does that have to do with the political realities of the situation brought about by the deceitful policies of the Palestinian leaders? Replacement Theology is as nutty an explanation for taking the Palestinian side against Israel as the Leftist lies themselves.

Unfortunately the Right doesn't seem to think so; the main message we hear from the pro-Israel camp is that Replacement Theology is causing the churches to deny the importance of Israel in prophecy, to ignore for instance the immense significance of Israel's gaining of statehood back in 1948. It seems to me that their becoming a nation does have to be understood as fulfilled prophecy, and it's also hard to overlook the times when Israel defeated their enemies by what can only be considered God's hand; but I'd need to see a more rational exposition how it fits into prophecy than what we get from the Christian Right these days. What we're getting is a view of scripture that treats the opposing theology, which they dub Replacement Theology, as little short of anti-Semitic.

Again, as I say above, it is hard to see how anyone could rationally use such a theology to defend a political position that is inherently stupid; the real explanation has to be that the churches that support Palestine have simply been infected with leftist political correctness.

In my context here this is really a side issue, though it needed to be said. Once again the problem for me is the very idea of Replacement Theology itself, which strikes me as just plain bogus. There is no such thing, as I've said many times before. This is really just a slander of the Reformed tradition or Covenant Theology, which has the traditional view that the Church is the inheritor of the promises of God to Israel, and the Church is both Jew and Gentile.

The concept of Replacement Theology is offensive and slanderous.* It utterly misrepresents the theology it is labeling and it accuses innocent people of anti-Semitism in the process.

Again the provocation for my post on this subject comes from Jan Markell's ministry, Understanding the Times Radio, this time from her interview of Dr. David Reagan who recently wrote a book titled The Jewish People, Rejected or Beloved, in which he analyzes current issues with Israel in terms of Replacement Theology. Jan Markell has a lot of great topics that the Church does need to be aware of, but her commitment to this particular point of view is way off base and I wish she'd come to see that. Some time ago I did a post on her interview with Messianic Jewish guests Shelly and Scott Volk, which promotes the same offensive point of view that is being repeated in her interview with David Reagan.

I don't want to be offended by the "Christian Zionist" people, and certainly not by the Jewish Messianic Branch of the Church, I wish this problem would go away, but it isn't going away so I'm giving my view of it. I'm coming to think there is a trend there that amounts to modern-day Judaizing.

Anyway, to get to the interview with David Reagan:

Jan starts off stating that it seems the great prophetic importance of the situation of the State of Israel is being ignored by the majority of the churches, and that this has to do with their having embraced a wrong understanding of scripture. "The Church is silent" on these things, she says, "Instead they hear that the Church is the New Israel."

She could be right, as she says a bit later, that there has been a sea change in the attitude of the churches toward Israel in recent times, from a previous strong commitment to Israel, to strong criticism of Christian Zionism or the Church's defense of Israel. She lists a number of people who represent this point of view but I haven't studied them and wouldn't trust what I get from Wikipedia on them to be sure of what they stand for, so I'm not going to comment. Do they really hold a position that could rightly be called Replacement Theology or is this just the usual misrepresentation of the traditional Reformed theology that says the Church was always God's objective and that believing Israel was always the early form of the Church? I don't know, but I suspect the latter because of the attitudes I encounter among the "Christian Zionists." Just as a matter of fact I'm sure she's right that there has been such a change but what it's really about I'm not in a position to judge at this point. Again, I'm sorry to see Israel abandoned politically when politically they are not the villains in the drama.

"How do we wake up the churches?" Jan asks Reagan, who answers: "I'd do it from scripture because the scripture is very very clear that God has not washed His hands of the Jewish people, all people have to do is start reading Romans nine through eleven." OK, that's clear so far. He goes on: "Those three chapters are the most neglected chapters in Christian history because the Church has hated them with a passion because they teach that God still loves the Jewish people."

But that last statement is pure slander. What churches "neglect" those chapters in Romans? None that I know of. Let alone for the even more offensively slanderous reason that "the Church" has "hated" the Jews "with a passion because they teach that God still loves the Jewish people." This is just unbelievably slanderous and offensive. For one thing it makes no sense. Here he needs to document his accusations: WHICH Church, and quote them please. When he goes on with "He still has a purpose for the Jewish people and He's going to bring a great remnant of them to salvation when they place their faith in Jesus as their Messiah" there is nothing to object to, except the implication that there is any theologian who disputes this. If there is we need to be given the evidence.

He goes on "accounting for" this supposed hatred of the Jews in the Church:
This is something that is deeply rooted in Christianity. You take for example the King James Version of the Bible ...If you go back to the original and look in the Old Testament you will find many chapter headings that read like "God Makes Promises to the Church" and you read that whole chapter there's nothing in there about the Church, they are promises to Israel, but the translators were caught up in Replacement Theology, and they put that mentality into the scriptures in the Chapter Headings.
I have a hard time hearing The King James Bible knocked, which seems to be a favorite pastime of many people in the churches for many reasons these days. I'm afraid this angle on it is particularly offensive, because if there's one thing that's true of the King James scholars it's that they knew their Reformed Theology. They weren't "caught up in" what is here pejoratively and tendentiously being called "Replacement Theology," they knew that God's people Israel were the foundation or root of the Church, which He was building through the Jewish remnant of believers, that would be fulfilled in the coming of their Messiah when all who have faith in Him become grafted in to that Jewish root.

Reagan goes on with his prejudiced and false history of the Church:
This goes back really to the very beginning of the Church. As soon as the Church began to become more Gentile than Jewish the Gentiles turned on the Jews, and then Augustine systematized all this around 400 AD when he simply began to argue, as did others following him, that God had washed His hands of the Jews because the Jews were Christ killers, and they were labeled that over the ages and people were actually taught in the Church that they were to hate Jews, that they were to despise Jews, that they were to mistreat Jews.
Telling it like it is, this is a pernicious lie, in fact it is about three pernicious lies in one, one of which I dealt with in my post about the Volks, but I'll say more about all this after I've finished quoting Reagan.
And one thing we need to get straight about who killed Jesus. The Bible says there were more than the Jews involved in this. The Bible says point blank [sic] that it was the Jews, it was the Gentiles, it was the Romans, and you know who else it was? It was you and me. All of us have the blood of Jesus on our hands because he went to the cross and died for all of us.
And this is a pernicious half-truth which I also answered in that other post.

To try to be as fair as possible, first I'd say that it would help if both sides in this polarized conflict gave a bit here and there. Those who completely dismiss Israel as rejected by God --if there are any, and I'm not completely convinced of this yet because no evidence has been given for it -- need to see that Romans 9 through 11 says that's not the case; they also need to consider that perhaps SOME of the Old Testament prophecies don't apply to the Church but to earthly Israel, or perhaps even to both. They might also learn from the Reformers who didn't dismiss the Jews from God's plan.

But the other side really does have to give on a number of points. They need first to acknowledge that the covenant with Abraham is a covenant of faith that is now the heritage of the Church. If there is an argument that it ALSO applies to earthly Israel, then make that argument, but to deny that Christians are the legitimate heirs of Abraham isn't going to gain them any credibility.

It would also help a great deal if they'd acknowledge that most of the Old Testament references to Israel DO apply to the Church, instead of holding on to their dogged literalist view that they can only apply to earthly Israel. It has seemed to me for some time that some of the passages could very well apply to earthly Israel but there is simply no doubt that most of them look forward to the Church in the time of the Messiah, and ignoring this doesn't do the Zionist cause any good. After all, what was Israel meant to be but the People of God, and what is the Church but the People of God established by faith in the Jewish Messiah?

Instead of bullishly insisting that the Church has been wrong all these years about the Church in the Old Testament, show us that there are at least a few places where earthly Israel is meant or also meant. I would think that could be the case, and it may even have been spelled out by some theologians that I don't know about. But first give up this wrongheaded notion that it's wrong to apply the references to Israel to the Church, which they call Replacement Theology. Which it isn't. It's Continuation Theology if anything, or even Fulfillment Theology: it's what was always intended by God's establishment of Israel as His People: a body of Believers! Unbelieving Jews are NOT true Israel, EVEN IF God still has His hand on them and has plans for them to become believers. Before we're saved we're all "children of wrath," remember?

If you want people to support Israel, stop insisting on your end times theology and focus on the practical situation of Israel; that and the clear message of Romans nine to eleven, which doesn't have to be embedded in a nest of slanderous accusations, ought to be enough to rally support.

Also consider that the traditional Church is not the rabid Jew-hating institution they sometimes make it out to be --excepting of course Roman Catholicism because they promoted the pogroms and all kinds of violence against Jews and others, and had a big part in the Holocaust too. It's irresponsible to impute attitudes to "the Church" without being clear which "Church" you are referring to, and without quoting anyone to prove your point.

The claim that Augustine promoted hatred of the Jews turns out to be just plain wrong. I looked up his views and found a recent book on the subject that says he made a case for the continued existence of the Jews as a recognizable body as witnesses to Christ, and strongly defended the understanding that God would bring the Jews to faith at the end. He said nothing whatever to promote anti-Semitism, with which he is absurdly and falsely charged. The early church fathers, of which Augustine was one of the most prolific writers, devoted themselves to theological arguments about doctrine, and Augustine was one who took apart Judaism, no doubt in pretty insulting terms, but it would be ridiculous to confuse a doctrinal argument with a hatred of the people who hold that doctrine. Arianism was also dissected by the church fathers, and all the other heresies, without any hint of hatred toward the people holding those views.

If later ignorant people used such intellectual work to support their anti-Semitism, that can't be blamed on Augustine.

Another thing that's wrong in their thinking is the apparently entrenched idea that when the Church started to be called Christians at Antioch, that marked a switch from the Jewish- dominated Church to a Gentile-dominated Church that supposedly unleashed hatred of the Jews. There isn't the slightest reason to believe this, and I pointed this out in the post about the Volks that I've linked above. I also quote Matthew Henry's understanding of that event as the point where ethnic identities should have been melted into the Christian identity, "no more Jew nor Gentile but all one in Christ Jesus." And historically that is probably what happened. Instead today we find modern-day Jewish believers falsely making it a cause for accusing the Gentiles of anti-Semitism and promoting the very division in the Church that event should have ended.

*Here's Replacement Theology Dot Org a website I just found that's dedicated to explaining what is wrong with the concept of Replacement Theology:
What is Replacement Theology? It is a pejorative term used by a growing number of misinformed Christians who unwittingly misrepresent the views of fellow believers. The purpose of this web site is to encourage Christians to cease using this unkind term, for it is theologically inaccurate, divisive, incendiary to honest Christian discourse, and overtly offensive.

...“Replacement Theology” is often used to discredit Reformed or Covenant theologians by ascribing to them a view that they do not hold. When carelessly repeated, the phrase “Replacement Theology” propagates this flawed definition. Furthermore, it drives a wedge between fellow Christians. Damage to the unity of the body of Christ occurs when well-meaning, but misinformed people haphazardly employ the term. It is often done to advance their own theological theory of biblical or end-times interpretation.