Easter and Jewish theology
A few years ago some US evangelical leaders set out a 'statement' which in my view overstated their case in two core areas.
The 'statement' was sponsored by the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and affirmed by 'dozens of prominent evangelicals' as published in Christian Today http://www.christiantoday.com/ and subsequently detailed in the New York Times and comment given in Assist News http://www.assistnews.net/.
In short, it states that Jewish people need the Gospel and Jesus Christ to receive eternal life. Although it expresses friendship and love for the Jewish people, it unapologetically declares that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ.
It reads in part: “We want to make it clear that, as evangelical Christians, we do not wish to offend our Jewish friends; but we are compelled by our faith and commitment to the Scriptures to stand by these principles. Salvation is only found in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the World.”
Some of the key declarations made by the statement include a stand against injustices against the Jewish people, that only through Jesus that all people can receive eternal life (Acts chapter 4 verse 12), it is deceptive for followers of Jesus Christ who were born Jewish to continue to identify as Jews (Romans chapter 11 verse 11), and that increasingly, Jewish evangelism is being marginalised and even dismissed as irrelevant, inappropriate, unethical or deceptive by some segments of the church.
Since then similar ideas have been published – in my view they fail in that, firstly, without realising it, it purports 'Replacement Theology' which is a popular term for the notion that God's promises to the heirs of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were conditional and therefore abrogated by Israel's disobedience. According to this theology, the Church stepped in as the true "Israel of God" and possessed the spiritualised, redefined covenants of promise.
Replacement Theology historically leads directly to anti-semitism and, this was the prime factor in the numerous pogroms over the past 2000 years leading eventually to the holocaust, all by well-meaning, good Christian people. The Australian government has not been blameless as, in the late 1930's, they refused entry to Jewish refugees from Germany, however in the post war era welcomed many holocaust survivors.
Second, such ideas carries with it a Scriptural bias. The 'statement' (and similar since) says nothing about the Jewish people retaining a special place in the economy of God. This is supported by numerous biblical announcements on this subject, two of which are: Psalm 105 'He remembers His covenant forever'; and Romans 11 'They are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable’.
God’s covenant with Abraham, is just as unconditional and everlasting as His covenant with the Church as is stated in Titus 3 The Lord 'saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.'
God’s covenants with Israel and with the Church are based on His promise, not our performance.
The Old Testament Israel and the New Testament Church both stood, and still stand, by His Grace. Further, I also caution that a fundamental tenet of the Koran is that both Israel and the Church failed. Muslims hold they have “replaced” both the Jewish faith and the Christian Church.
The logical conclusion of Replacement Theology, is that if God could replace Israel, in spite of His unconditional, everlasting promises, then He could replace the Church!
The 'statement' and its inherent support of Replacement Theology is insensitive and theologically misdirected. Had they forgotten that Jesus himself was a Jew and moreover Simeon the Jew of this new born Messiah, Luke chapter 2 verse 32 'A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel'. There is a theological Jewish messianic movement that interprets this in direct antithesis to the 'statement' (and like kind).
“Replacement Theology along with a weak view of the authority of Scripture, leads directly to the possibility that the Koran is right. Where are these people coming from?”
Are these same Evangelical leaders issuing similar statements on Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, the Baha'i, Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons ...... Why only the Jews?
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html