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The Seed of Abraham and the Middle East Crisis

Why am I writing so much about the seed of Abraham? After all, there are so many other issues that seem to be much more important when it comes to examining the Middle East crisis.  Let me be bold enough to say that how a person understands the biblical teaching on the seed of Abraham, determines how much he will grasp the theological implications of the Middle East crisis.

Does the seed of Abraham only relate to Jewish people?  Does it include Arabs and Christians as well?  Can one support the idea that those who call themselves the seed of Abraham are no longer the “true seed of Abraham” if they refuse to accept Jesus? These are essential questions any student of the Bible must come to grips with.  Too many erroneous sermons have been preached in the church concerning the identity of Israel causing confusion among churchgoers.

Unfortunately, this was one of the main issues espoused by Wheaton College NT professor Gary Burge in his recent lecture at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference, “The Theology of the Land According to the New Testament.” However, in his lecture Burge hardly referred to the land of Israel but instead set his scope on casting a dubious hue on the identity of  the Jewish people as the true seed of Abraham, and consequently no longer legitimate heirs of the Promised Land.

If a person can demonstrate that Jewish people today are not the true seed of Abraham, this teaching goes hand in hand with the belief God no longer has a present covenant with the Jewish people in which He has promised the Jewish people the Holy Land of Eretz Israel.

Burge, like many replacement theologians (the belief the Church has replaced Israel as God’s people), quotes a string of New Testament passages to support his view that DNA (aka Jewish ancestry) no longer matters, but faith is what matters most to God. Since Christians demonstrate true faith in the God of Israel by accepting the Jewish Messiah, then Christians must be the true seed of Abraham.

The next leap in Burge’s theology is to state even though the Jewish people are entitled to a homeland, there are no biblical covenants today that entitle them to this land.  Because of their failure to accept Christ, they have forfeited the divine land rights to Israel. What we are seeing today is a secular movement of the Jews returning to the land, but without the blessing of God or the fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

The Christian Tradition of Adverus Judeos in Connection with John 8

One of the passages used throughout the history of Christian doctrine to prove Jewish people are not the true seed of Abraham is John 8.  In fact, John 8 has been used by medieval theologians to teach that the Jewish people have been spawned by the devil. In John 8:44 Jesus tells the Jewish leaders He is speaking to that their father is the devil.

The devils display anti-Semitic stereotypes all too common in late medieval and early Renaissance art.

While Burge has not gone so far as to connect Jewish origins with the devil, he does use this passage to teach the Jewish people who do not believe in Jesus have been replaced by Christians.

Burge’s misinterpretation of John 8 puts him in the camp of those guilty of  Adverus Judeos. Adverus Judeos is described in Wikipedia:

“Adversus Judaeos (Greek kata Ioudaious, “against the Jews” or “against the Judeans”) are a series of fourth century homilies by John Chrysostom (deemed a saint by the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches) that have been circulated by many groups to foster antisemitism.  Steven Katz cites Chrysostom’s homilies as “the decisive turn in the history of Christian anti-Judaism, a turn whose ultimate disfiguring consequence was enacted in the political antisemitism of Adolf Hitler”. James Parkes called the writing on Jews “the most horrible and violent denunciations of Judaism to be found in the writings of a Christian theologian”. His sermons against Jews gave further momentum to the idea that Jews are collectively responsible for the death of Jesus.”

While Burge does not harp on the collective responsibility of the death of Jesus by the Jewish people, his denial of their covenant entitlement to the land of Israel and their replacement as the “seed of Abraham” by Christians is all part of the same tradition of Adverus Judeos. (more…)

The True Theology Taught at Christ at the Checkpoint 2012

Listening to the messages spoken at the Christ at the Checkpoint  March 2012 Conference one is quickly confronted with the  contradictory agenda of this event. In the CATC manifesto we read, “Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.” In contrast,  when one hears the messages posted on the CATC website, theology is anything but “secondary.”

Though three messianic Jews -Richard Harvey, Evan Thomas, and Wayne Hilsden -were invited speakers, the platform was heavily weighed in the direction of anti-Christian Zionist speakers. Therefore, it is hard to swallow the CATC’s manifesto’s claim that matters of theology are of “secondary nature.”

After listening to the message of  Wheaton College’s New Testament professor Gary Burge, it is safe to say the anti-Christian Zionism message, more commonly known as “replacement theology,” was the theology featured at the  Bethlehem get-together.

Furthermore, one of the conference’s goals as stated on the CATC website is to , “Create a platform for serious engagement with Christian Zionism and an open forum for ongoing dialogue between all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum.” Once again, despite this stated goal, the speakers were focused on espousing replacement theology as the only theology rather than engaging in a two sided dialogue with Christian Zionism.

The Overarching Anti-Christian Zionism Theology at CATC

I find it curious that despite the claim of “serious engagement with Christian Zionism,” the CATC manifesto declares  that regardless of any “engagement” or discussion, CATC is committed to an anti-Christian Zionism message:

  • Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.
  • Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.

The first statement denies that the Jewish people are  beneficiaries of the blessings of the Abraham Covenant as found in Genesis 22:16-18:

“I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,  I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

It becomes more clear from the messages of the CATC speakers that Jews must accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord to enjoy the privileges of covenant God made with Abraham.

The second statement strikes at the heart of Old Testament biblical theology in which the Hebrew prophets served as the voice of the Lord promising the people of Israel, the land of Israel. Despite the fact God removed the Jewish people from the land in Babylonian Captivity, the Lord brought them back to the Promised Land.  The prophets were very clear on the fact Israel’s removal from the land did not mean they lost the title deed to the land but were disciplined via a temporary exile from the Promised Land.

The Jewish people were in the Diaspora since the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Once again, God has brought the Jewish people back to the land in order to bless them with a homeland and to deal with nation to bring them in humility to faith in the Jewish Messiah Jesus.

Therefore, In the heart of the CATC manifesto, the framers of this document make it clear the CATC is anti-Christian Zionism in its theology. What other conclusion can one draw?  Regardless of the presence of three messianic Jews on the platform, the CATC manifesto reveals the true theological hand of its organizers. It’s too bad the CATC could not solely focus on the poor state of Palestinian Christians without also advocating a biblical rejectionist theology towards the State of Israel. (more…)

Rabbis Charge Wheaton College NT Professor Gary Burge with Anti-Jewish Bias in CATC Lecture

In today’s repost I am including an excellent article written by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein, the Wiesenthal Center’s Director of Interfaith Affairs. Rabbi Cooper and Adlerstein have made some valuable and insightful comments on Gary Burge’s lecture which hegave last month at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem last month.

I find it disturbing that it takes two rabbis to take up the clarion call of pointing out Burge’s anti-Jewish bias while the voice of evangelical leaders who claim to be friends of the Jewish people and supporters of Israel remain silent. I am honored to include this article from The Times of Israel on my blog. I encourage you to share this blog with others. If evangelical leaders want to remain passive regarding the current Evangelical Intifada, then let’s take this cause to the wonderful people attending evangelical churches who proudly declare their support for Israel.

Jeers and loathing in Bethlehem

Polls in the United States show sustained support for Israel despite relentless campaigns to demonize the Jewish state. Evangelical Christians, who have stood by Israel through thick and thin, are being lobbied by the Palestinians and their allies to drop their support for Zionism and embrace the Palestinian cause.

A presentation by Gary Burge to hundreds of evangelicals who gathered last month in Bethlehem at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference (CATC) shows that some Palestinian boosters are willing to take us back to the darkest days of Adversus Judaeos.

(more…)

Who is the Seed of Abraham? CATC2012 Part Two

It was 1970 and I was twenty three. I had just entered Dallas Baptist University as a religion major. I had been following Jesus as my Messiah and Lord for about a year and was anxious to start Bible College and pursue a path to seminary for ministry training. I couldn’t wait to learn more of the Bible and gain a deeper knowledge of God’s dealings with and promises for the people of Israel.

Boy was I surprised!  I enrolled in one theology class and an additional seminar in biblical interpretation (aka hermeneutics). As I soon discovered my professors held to a theological system called “amillennialism.” They believed the messianic kingdom promised by the Hebrew prophets to Israel had arrived on earth and was here in its fullest form in the Church.  I couldn’t believe my ears.

I raised my hand in my hermeneutics class, “Professor, have you been to downtown Dallas lately?  The last time I was there I observed strip clubs and several ‘ladies of the night’ out on the streets selling their talents. And not only that, according to the Dallas Morning News, there are a rash of homicides in Dallas.  Isn’t it also true that this is the city in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? I am not buying your teaching that the kingdom of God is here on earth right now especially in Dallas.  Furthermore, several churches in downtown Dallas are still practicing racial segregation. Where is the kingdom of God?  Certainly not in the church and not here in Big ‘D’!”

My professor was shocked by my outspokenness. Perhaps he’s never met a Jewish person who was courageous enough to challenge his beliefs.

The professor continued to argue the kingdom of God is realized in its fullest in the church. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, “Do you mean to tell me that churches where racial segregation is still practiced here in Texas and where antisemitism still exists is a manifestation of God’s promised kingdom?  According to Revelation 20:2 the devil is supposed to be thrown into a pit and bound for a thousand years with the result that justice and righteousness will rule the earth under the rule of the Messiah. Either the thousand years are up and Satan is on the loose or he’s a Houdini and escaped his shackles. I still don’t get it. Maybe the kingdom of God is here, but God forgot to include Dallas.”

 

I was getting upset.  These Christians were living in a dream world if they thought we were living in the kingdom of God on earth as described in the fourth chapter of prophet Micah:

 

In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.

I boldly declared, “If we are in the kingdom of God right now, then where are the promised fulfilled to Israel? Only three years ago the Six Day War was fought in the holy land, and Israel is still surrounded by her enemies. Where are God’s promises to the Jewish people to have the Messiah ruling His kingdom from a throne in Jerusalem? Professor, you are ignoring the prophetic message that Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel and all the Hebrew prophets uttered to the Jewish people throughout the centuries.”

With even more boldness [or chutzpah) my Bible teacher said, “The church is Israel, Louis. Christians are the true seed of Abraham. The church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. God is finished with Israel as a nation and only works with them on an individual basis regarding personal salvation. He will offer Israel a chance to accept Jesus when He returns. The Lord does not deal with Israel as a nation anymore.  We as Christians are the true Jews. We are spiritual Jews.”

I was ready to plotz.   I was not about to let my professor’s last statement go unanswered, “You’re telling me you’re Jewish. You’re about as Jewish as a ham sandwich on Wonder bread with mayonnaise.  With all due respect professor, but you’re making God out to be a liar. He promised Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 to make him a great nation, to give him the land of Israel and to bless the world through him as the father of many nations as described in Micah 4:1-4.  Now you’re telling me Jews are no longer Jews, but Christians are the true Jews.  God lied to Abraham and everyone else in the Bible. The word church or ekklesia is not even in the Jewish Bible.  Is this what Christianity teaches . . . that God pulled off a bait-and-switch regarding His promises to Israel? (more…)

Who is the Seed of Abraham? CATC 2012 Part 1

At the recent Christ at the Checkpoint conference in Bethlehem, an array of pro-Palestinian Christian speakers shared their thoughts on the current status of the Palestinian Christian  Church, their opposing views to Christian Zionism and their own theological stance commonly known as replacement theology.  Munther Isaac, Instructor, Vice Academic Dean and Choir director at Bethlehem Bible College, delivered a message entitled, ” A Palestinian Christian Perspective” in which he referred to himself both as a person of Arab descent and since he is a follower of Jesus, claimed to be one of the “seed of Abraham.” Then in his message he took a theological leap to refer to himself as part of Israel, the true spiritual Israel.

The belief that Christians are members of the seed of Abraham is nothing new in Christendom.  While several verses are found in the New Testament referring to followers of Jesus as the “seed of Abraham,” most evangelicals commit a theological error by referring to themselves as the “true Israel.” 

It is my contention no verses exist in the New Testament can be found  where Paul or any other New Testament writer refers to Gentiles as anything other as “gentiles.”  Listen to Paul in Romans 1:5:  Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes fro faith for his name’s sake. Then again in Romans 11:11: 11 “Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.

In Romans 11:11 Paul makes a distinction between Gentiles who follow Jesus from Jewish people or members of the nation of Israel.  In Romans 11:13 Paul speaks to gentile converts to Christ and refers to them as “gentiles” and not spiritual Jews or members of spiritual Israel:  I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I take pride in my ministry.

Once again Paul distinguishes Gentile followers from the Jewish people in Romans 15:27: They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews’ spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.  (more…)

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