Passion For Israel
by Dan Juster, Director, Tikkun Ministries International
A Serious Gap in Historical Knowledge
Fact: In past generations, there was deep and wide support for the Jewish people from Evangelicals. That this is not widely known is one of the sad (or perhaps even deliberate) revisions of church history. Evangelicals embraced the Jewish people as God's elect people and supported their return to the Promised Land. Both Jews and Christians need to know this amazing history.
Today there is a new embrace of "replacement theology" among Evangelicals. This is the theory that asserts that the Church is now the Israel of God and has replaced the Jewish people as God's elect chosen people. In my booklet based on lectures I gave in England, "Inclusion Versus Replacement"*, I spoke of addition or enlargement theology - not replacement, as the key to understanding how the promises apply to gentile Christians. Some now claim that the commitment to the election of the Jewish people and their return to the Land is the product of the errant theology of John Nelson Darby from the mid to late 19th century. Darby founded the theology that we today call Dispensationalism. This article will not respond to Darby's theology, for I have already done so in two of my books (Israel, the Church, and the Last Days and Jewish Roots).
In addition, Jewish leaders frequently claim that the Christian support for Israel is shallow and a cover for seeking their conversion. When the Jewish people do not convert, this support will be lost. This response is largely driven by liberal Jewish reactions to Christian conservative viewpoints in social policy and theology. These claims are also false. The first is an outright egregious misreading of history and the second is contrary to the basic theology of those Christians who have supported the Jewish people and the return to the Land.
To deal with these issues, I am pleased to announce the publication of my new book by Lederer Publishers, entitled Passion for Israel. I believe that this little book destroys the false historical narratives that are common among replacement Evangelicals and among Jews. The rest of this article will summarize my findings.
The Puritan Roots of Support for Israel's Restoration
The Evangelical support for Israel is broad, deep and historically rooted. The Evangelical movement derived from these streams. I am using the term "Evangelical" broadly, to describe all who fit the definitions of the National Association of Evangelicals in the United States and the World Evangelical Alliance. This encompasses Pentecostals and Charismatics as well. It includes all who have a high view of scriptural inspiration and authority, and a classic Protestant understanding of Bible doctrine.
I trace the Evangelical Christian movement to the Puritans and their influence on the German Lutheran Pietists. The Puritans were a "back to the Bible movement." As such, they read the Bible in a straightforward way. Two important aspects determined their theology on Israel. First, they read Romans, chapters 9-11 with great care, noting that Romans 11:25-31 teaches the continued election of the Jewish people, though they are enemies of the Gospel. To the Puritans, the text clearly taught that the gifts and call of God to the Jewish people, as yet unconverted to Jesus, were irrevocable. From the same text they looked toward the general conversion of the Jewish people to faith in their King and Messiah at the end of the age.
Secondly, they read the Old Testament straightforwardly. Even though the Puritans applied the promises to spiritual Israel, the Church, they did not do so in a replacement way. The promises were still taken to apply to ethnic Israel. This led several to believe in the Jewish return to the Land. These views eventually influenced political leaders, even those outside of the convictions of Evangelicals. Here are just a few of the key Puritans who promoted these beliefs.
In his book, Revelation of the Revelation, Thomas Brightman (1562-1607) argued that there was nothing more certain than the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem. Thomas Giles in 1608 wrote The World's Resurrection, of the Calling of the Jews. Others who supported the basic themes included the famous Puritan writer, Samuel Rutherford, author of Rex Lex (Law is King). There are far too many others to name them all, but I especially want to include the famous narrative poet, John Milton. In Paradise Regained, Milton argued the same view. The founder of Harvard, Increase Mather, should also be included. Pro-Israel views even influenced John Adams, the second president of the United States, who spoke of his hope for the establishment of Israel in his day.
From the Puritans to the Lutheran Pietists and Moravians
From the Puritans, the "restoration of Israel" views spread to the Lutheran Pietists (the forerunners of the Evangelicals). This influenced Ludwig Von Zinzendorf, the Lutheran who was later to lead the Moravian movement. The theology also spread to Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists in Britain, and Lutherans in Scandinavia. My own Norwegian relatives embraced this theology long before Darby wrote anything. Anglican Bishop, Joseph Butler wrote The Analogy of Religion, a text many have considered the greatest apologetic textbook defending Christianity. This book, used as the basic text in theological schools for 150 years, argued forcefully for the Jewish return to the Land. That was in 1732! By 1840, this was the consensus of British theology and led to the effort to establish a Jewish Anglican bishop in Jerusalem to prepare for that return. The church of that bishop is today's Christ Church at the Jaffa Gate in the Old City. There is so much more to the story. It is quite amazing! Without this Christian support, I do not believe there would be an Israel today. Key Christian leaders were involved in the policies that led to the State of Israel, the training of the Israel Defense Force before World War II and a great deal more.
In addition, the commitment to the Jewish people was deep and unconditional. Jewish conversion was not expected in large numbers until the end of this age. Therefore, disappointment in the response to the Gospel had no negative effect on that support. The present Jewish suspicion is unwarranted. This is a 450 year history that must be more widely known. In order to set the record straight and counter the false narrative being touted by some Evangelical leaders today, I recommend my book to all Christians and Jews.
*"Inclusion Versus Replacement" is sold on the UK Christian Friends of Israel website: http://www.cfi.org.uk/inclusion-versus-replacement-a-reformed-theology-for-the-church.html
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