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: