How Should a Christian View Israel? Part One
By Eric Chabot, CJF Midwest Representative
Note: This will be the first part of a series on the topic.
Obviously, one of the most challenging issues within Christian apologetics is the accusation that in many cases, Christianity has been associated with anti-Semitism. Several years ago, I remember reading Lee Strobel’s book The Case for Faith. In one chapter he interviews John Woodbridge about Christian history. Woodbridge agreed that “One of the ugliest blights on Christianity’s history has been anti-Semitism.” Woodbridge readily conceded that, regrettably, “anti-Semitism has soiled Christian history”(The Case for Faith, pg 297).
There have been numerous books written on this topic such as Dan Cohn- Sherbock’s The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Christian Anti-Semitism, and Susannah Heschel’s The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany as well as Michael Brown’s Our Hands Are Stained with Blood. I know Christians sometimes can say “How in the world could any Christian be anti-Semitic? Ronald Diprose says the following: “Whoever denies that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah is in fact denying the gospel which was announced to Abraham (Galatians 3:8–16; Romans 1:1–5, 16–17)” (see Israel and the Church: The Origins and Effects of Replacement Theology, by Ronald Diprose, pg 182).
When a Christian or someone is accused of being anti-Semitic, we can break it down into these three categories:
1 Anti-Semitism can be based on hatred against Jewish people because of their group membership or ethnicity.
2. Anti-Zionism is criticism or rejection of the right of Jewish people to have their own homeland. I should note that not all Jewish people are supportive of modern Zionism. Also, Christians are divided on this issue.
3. Theological anti-Semitism: critical rejection of Jewish principles and beliefs.
I should also note that the Jewish community has at least three ideas that most, if not all, Jewish people have been socialized into:
(1) The Holocaust – to deny the Holocaust is to remove oneself from the Jewish people.
(2) The State of Israel – its right to exist and some allegiance to it.
(3) The rejection of Jesus.
Of course, many Jewish people don’t know why part of their identity is to reject Jesus as their Messiah. But the history of anti-Semitism has been a huge stumbling block.
Sadly, some very well-known Christian leaders such as John Chrysostom (Against the Jews. Homily 1) and Martin Luther’s The Jews and Their Lies contain statements that can be perceived as fitting into one of the anti- Semitic categories that were just mentioned.
Anti-Semitism is alive and well in many parts of the world. Given Israel is continually in the news, I have been wanting to do a series of posts on the topic. This will be the first part of a series of posts on how Christians might view Israel today. But why would a devout follower of Jesus care about Israel? As David Stern says:
“For years all the disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) were Jewish. The New Testament was entirely written by Jews (Luke being, in all likelihood, a Jewish proselyte). The very concept of a Messiah is nothing but Jewish. Finally, Yeshua himself was Jewish—was then and apparently is still, since nowhere does Scripture say or suggest that he has ceased to be a Jew. It was Jews who brought the Gospel to Gentiles. Paul, the chief emissary to the Gentiles was an observant Jew all his life. Indeed the main issue in the early Church was whether without undergoing complete conversion to Judaism a Gentile could be a Christian at all. The Messiah’s vicarious atonement is rooted in the Jewish sacrificial system; the Lord’s Supper is rooted in the Jewish Passover traditions; baptism is a Jewish practice; and indeed the entire New Testament is built on the Hebrew Bible, with its prophecies and its promise of a New Covenant, so that the New testament without the Old is as impossible as the second floor of a house without the first.”- David Stern, Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel, Kindle Locations, 963 of 1967.
What does it mean to say Israel was elected? Scott Bader-Saye says:
“Election is the choice by one person of another person out of a range of possible candidates. This choice then establishes a mutual relationship between the elector and the elected, in biblical terms a “covenant” (berit). Election is much more fundamental then just freedom of choice in the ordinary sense, where a free person chooses to do one act from a range of possible acts. Instead, the elector chooses another person with whom she will both act and elicit responses, and then establishes the community in which these acts are done, and then promises that for which the election has occurred. The content of these practical choices is governed by Torah, but there could be no such coherent standards of action without prior context of election, the establishment of covenantal community, and the promise of ultimate purpose.”– (see Scott Bader-Saye, The Church and Israel After Christendom: The Politics of Election(Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1999), 31).
What was Israel elected to do?
1. Be a Holy People (Deut. 7:6 [3x]); (Isa. 62:12; 63:18; Dan. 12:7)
2.Be a Kingdom of Priests (Exod. 19:6)
3. Be a Redeemed People (Joshua 4:23-24)
4. Be a Light to the Nations (Isa. 60: 3)
5. Bring the Scriptures to the world: “To them were entrusted the oracles of God” (Rom 3:2)
6. Be the Vehicle by Which the Messiah will Come into the World (Rom 15: 8-9).
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