A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part 3

A right eschatology does not liberate us from the present; it liberates us for the present.

An Aside: Apocalyptic language and metaphor

As Matthew Malcolm4 shares,

If you’ve encountered the opinion that unless we interpret the Bible “literally” we are not doing justice to it, this could be a useful resource:

The Charge of Replacement Theology

What I’m finding is that those who charge Amillennialists as “Replacement Theologians” are establishing a straw man argument. The non-Amillennialist does not rebut the actual arguments of the Amillennialist, chiefly, the remnant of Israel is One, namely Jesus. He is the True Remnant of Israel, the True Israelite: read this post for details.

Because Jesus is the True Israelite (the True Remnant of Israel), everyone who believes in Jesus the Christ (the Messiah) becomes one (i.e. there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift).

This means that both Jew and Gentile are joint-heirs with Christ. This is not replacement theology. This is exactly the way it was meant to be in the first place.

Another way to look at it: Because Jesus is the True Remnant of One of Israel, Israel is expanded to include both Jew and Gentile, hence, this is Expansion Theology.

OR if you would like to keep pressing the point, Jesus replaces Israel (the unfaithful son) as the Faithful Son, the True Israel and then all who are joined in Him by faith becomes the New Israel — the two becoming one new man in Jesus:

Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands—remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. ~

The BIG Question

The big question non-Amillennialists need to answer is,

How is Jesus not the True Remnant of Israel– a Remnant of One?

This is not a liberal / Conservative Discussion

Charles Spurgeon5 (a Premillennialist but not a Dispensationalist) explains,

Distinctions have been drawn by certain exceedingly wise men (measured by their own estimate of themselves), between the people of God who lived before the coming of Christ, and those who lived afterwards. We have even heard it asserted that those who lived before the coming of Christ so not belong to the church of God! We never know what we shall hear next, and perhaps it is a mercy that these absurdities are revealed at one time, in order that we may be able to endure their stupidity without dying of amazement. Why, every child of God in every place stands on the same footing; the Lord has not some children best beloved, some second-rate offspring, and others whom he hardly cares about. These who saw Christ’s day before it came, had a great difference as to what they knew, and perhaps in the same measure a difference as to what they enjoyed while on earth meditating upon Christ; but they were all washed in the same blood, all redeemed with the same ransom price, and made members of the same body. Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages. Before the first advent, all the types and shadows all pointed one way—they pointed to Christ, and to him all the saints looked with hope. Those who lived before Christ were not saved with a different salvation to that which shall come to us. They exercised faith as we must; that faith struggled as ours struggles, and that faith obtained its reward as ours shall.

Promises / Fulfillment

I have never read a persuasive argument for why we should have such a hard distinction between Israel and the Church. Because of the documentation I have presented, I am more convinced than ever that just as Israel is used in different ways (due to context – i.e. Israel as nation, Israel as true Spiritual Israel), the Church is used in different senses (i.e. physical representation of God’s people, the Church universal aka Spiritual Israel.

I do not see how we can get around this when there are promises made to Israel yet applied to the church.

Promises Made to Israel Fulfilled in the Church

Promise to Israel

Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, Which cannot be measured or numbered. And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There it shall be said to them, ‘You are sons of the living God. –

Fulfillment in the church

What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? As He says also in Hosea: ‘I will call them My people, who were not My people, And her beloved, who was not beloved.’ ‘And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God. –

Promise to Israel

Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’ –

Fulfillment in the church

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. –

Promise to Israel

On that day I will raise up The tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, And repair its damages; I will raise up its ruins, And rebuild it as in the days of old; –

Fulfillment in the church

Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. ‘And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’ ‘Known to God from eternity are all His works. –

Spoken to Israel, Applied to the Church
Spoken to Israel

And it shall come to pass afterward That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions. And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days. ‘And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: Blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, As the LORD has said, Among the remnant whom the LORD calls. –

Applied to the church

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place…’But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your young men shall see visions, Your old men shall dream dreams. And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days; And they shall prophesy. I will show wonders in heaven above And signs in the earth beneath: Blood and fire and vapor of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, And the moon into blood, Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved. –

Spoken to Israel

And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel. –

Applied to the church

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; –

Spoken to Israel

My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. –

Applied to the church

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. –

Spoken to Israel

Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. –

Applied to the church

but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ –

Spoken to Israel

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah– –

Applied to the church

Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.’ –

Self-Condemnation of Dispensationalism

Charles Ryrie, in his early writings, makes this significant statement:

If the church does not have a new covenant, then she is fulfilling Israel’s promises, for it has been clearly shown that the Old Testament teaching on the new covenant is that it is for Israel. If the church is fulfilling Israel’s promises as contained in the new covenant or anywhere else in the Scriptures, then [dispensational] premillennialism is condemned. One might well ask why there are not two aspects to the one new covenant. This is the position held by many premillennialists, but we agree that the amillennialist has every right to say of this view that it is a practical admission that the new covenant is fulfilled in and to the church.

This is why I am not a Dispensationalist. This is why I am Amillennialist because everything I see revolves around Christ and the Amillennial position expresses that most clearly.

References

1See more about a Christological Focus in An Amillennial Rebuttal to Dispensationalism 2.
2The Greatest Challenge and Privilege of OT Preaching by Mike Bullmore Senior Pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Bristol, Wisconsin.
3Dispensationalists should “Re-interpret” by Bobby Grow and here is the article Bobby links to: « Sign this petitionMilbank on Gay Marriage »
Fundamentalist hermeneutics serves a secular, atheistic agenda
by Matthew Malcolm
4Apocalyptic language and metaphor by Matthew Malcolm
5Spurgeon, “Jesus Christ Immutable,” MTP, 15:8. via Charles H. Spurgeon and the Nation of Israel: A Non-Dispensational Perspective on a Literal National Restoration by by Dennis Swanson

See A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part One
See A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part 2
SEe A Gospel-Centered Manifesto Part 3

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (ESV)

10  Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be like the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured or numbered. And in the place where it was said to them, “You are not my people,” it shall be said to them, “Children of the living God.” (ESV)

22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? 25 As indeed he says in Hosea,

“Those who were not my people I will call ‘my people,’
and her who was not beloved I will call ‘beloved.’”
26 “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’
there they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” (ESV)

23 and I will sow her for myself in the land.
And I will have mercy on No Mercy,
and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’;
and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’” (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (ESV)

11 “In that day I will raise up
the booth of David that is fallen
and repair its breaches,
and raise up its ruins
and rebuild it as in the days of old, (ESV)

14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take from them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written,

16 “‘After this I will return,
and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen;
I will rebuild its ruins,
and I will restore it,
17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord,
and all the Gentiles who are called by my name,
says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.’ (ESV)

28  “And it shall come to pass afterward,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
29 Even on the male and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit.

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. 32 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls. (ESV)

2:1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place.

Acts 2:16-21

16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ (ESV)

and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.” (ESV)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (ESV)

27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (ESV)

16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people. (ESV)

“Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. (ESV)

15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (ESV)

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, (ESV)

20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (ESV)

Eschatology 101: A Christian and a Jew discuss Dispensationalism

Bill Moyers (on PBS) does an interview with a Christian (Timothy Weber, author of On the Road to Armageddon) and Jew (Michael Lerner) about the dangers of dispensationalism (video).

Transcript

BILL MOYERS: How many people belong to Christians United for Israel? Well, they say they have the support of 50,000 pastors and their congregations. And that would be no mean number. Let’s talk further now with two men who follow closely relations between American Christians and Israel.

Rabbi Michael Lerner is the editor of the widely read and quoted TIKKUN magazine, which he founded in 1986 as a journal of liberal and progressive Jewish thought. He holds doctorates in both philosophy and clinical psychology and has written 11 books, including JEWISH RENEWAL, SPIRIT MATTERS, and his most recent, THE LEFT HAND OF GOD.

Dr. Timothy Weber is himself an evangelical Christian. Once a Baptist now a Presbyterian, a teacher and historian of religion, he taught at Denver Seminary and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, among other schools. He’s known as an innovator in graduate theological education and the author of LIVING IN THE SHADOW OF THE SECOND COMING and this one, On the ROAD TO ARMAGEDDON: HOW EVANGELICALS BECAME ISRAEL’S BEST FRIEND. Welcome to you both.

These people seem to be on a roll. They look as if they believe the future belongs to them. Right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: This is one group in a long line of similar groups that– began to organize in the late ’70s and early ’80s which combined a firm belief of Bible prophecy and a particular political agenda that has gained more and more power as the years have gone on.

BILL MOYERS: How do you account for the fact, rabbi, that there were more political actors among them than there were preachers?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: I think that that movement has three different parts to it. And one part is those people whose primary agenda is conservative politics in America and are using the issue of Israel as another part of their support for conservative politics. And if the United States moved away from Israel, they might move away from it. The second part are people who are dispensationalists, who believe that getting Israel into a huge battle with the Arab states is going to be good for bringing Jesus back onto our planet. And-

BILL MOYERS: Dispensationalist is a theological concept.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Right. It’s a theological concept. Then there are an awful lot of people who genuinely care about Jews; decent good people in this movement who, unfortunately, are being manipulated for a political agenda that is very, very different and, in my view, not at all in the best interests of the Jewish people or in the best interest of Israel.

BILL MOYERS: Before we go any further, give me a shorthand definition of dispensationalism.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Dispensationalism is a particular way of reading Bible prophecy which divides the Bible into two stories. There’s a story about God’s earthly people, Israel. And then a story about God’s heavenly people, the Church. And the basic premise of dispensationalism is that all Bible prophecies concerning earthly events applies to the Jews. And all of those events will be fulfilled literally in the End Times. So, Israel must be returned to the land. They must stay in the land. Without Israel in the land, there can be none of the other events prophesied in the Bible. There can be no rise of Anti-Christ. There can be no rebuilding of the Temple. There can be no Battle of Armageddon. And there can be no second coming of Jesus Christ. So everything is riding on the Jews, getting them there and keeping them there in the Holy Land.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: But I think– but what you have to add in there is that when this is a step in the process that they see towards the end of end times in which the Jews will be cast down into eternal damnation and to the fires of hell. And only those Jews who convert to Christianity will be okay. And everyone — all the rest of us so they’re welcoming us now — with open arms and saying, “Oh, we love the Jewish people” But they love the Jewish people literally to death because they they want see those of us who stay Jews burn in hell but not– not right away. They don’t imagine it will happen right away. So there’s a staged process. And this is the first stage in the process that will eventually lead either to us converting totally to Christianity or burning in hell. So it’s not a really great future for the Jews that those theological people have in mind.

BILL MOYERS: If what you say is so, and I think you probably agree with it, I read your book.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes. Yes.

BILL MOYERS: Why does this play in Israel?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, there’s– this is the other–

BILL MOYERS: They are being used, right?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Yes. This is the other terrible part about the role that Christian Zionists play. Because they’ve been aligned with the most right-wing elements in Israel and the most right-wing elements in the American Jewish community– that have gathered together in the Israel lobby. And the Israel lobby includes AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, and many other of the Israel-is-always-right organizations in the Jewish world have played the role of supporting the most reactionary policies in Israel. And that–

BILL MOYERS: Isn’t this an act of survival?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, they think it’s survival. But, in fact, for a very large number of Jews today, both in Israel and in the United States, recognize that the policies that Israel has been following has actually been destructive for the long-range survival of Israel. And so they are an element, the Christian Zionists are really an important element in the Israel lobby today, pushing the United States towards support of the most conservative and unloving policies.

BILL MOYERS: As you watched the film, were you concerned that the thread that seemed to run throughout it, that connected the political wing of the movement and the theological wing of the movement, was the belief that a confrontation with Iran is not only inevitable but desirable? Did that hit you?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: It’s easy to make that connection and to see that. As an historian, I’m struck by the fact that in previous attempts to understand Bible prophecy Iran did not show up on anybody’s radar screen. As history takes these unexpected turns the Bible teachers, the preachers, the dispensational theologians, they adjust the scenario to fit. In some ways, Iran is playing the role that the former Soviet Union used to play as the great evil empire in the world. In short, dispensationalists know how to change the subject, when it’s necessary.

BILL MOYERS: But to them — to the religious folks, Iran is an agency for war. To the political folks, Iran is a threat to Israel for its national security reasons. Isn’t this a combustible combination?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Absolutely.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: It’s bad for the world. It’s bad for the Jews. It’s bad for Israel. And it’s bad for the United States.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: This kind of a world view — as either they dominate us or we dominate them — has led us into this terrible– quagmire in Iraq. And most Americans now believe that we made a terrible mistake going into that war. Now the president believes that he can do a different kind of war in Iran. But I think that he’s not going to be successful in containing that war either, just as he failed in the Iraq War. So it’s bad for the United States. It’s bad for Israel because this will further enflame the Islamic world against Israel. Because the primary reason being given by Christian Zionists, by the Israel lobby for the need to take out Iran is protect Israel. So–

BILL MOYERS: Ahmadinejad himself has enflamed the, as you say, the worst instincts in the Muslim world, right?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Yeah, he claims they’re the best allies. Ahmadinejad is really one of the best allies of the Christian Right and and of the Jewish Right.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, Islam has its own view of prophecy of the end days. And the president of Iran certainly speaks to that and speaks the language of Koranic prophecy to his own followers. Many people in this country, many political analysts don’t get it yet.

BILL MOYERS: Don’t get what?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: The fact that he is operating out of a particular view of what the future will be like and what role he can play in bringing about the return of the Mahdi, a kind of messianic figure who will turn the world Islamic.

BILL MOYERS: So you’ve got two apocalyptic world views heading toward a collision.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: And how do you negotiate two apocalyptic world views? How do you compromise? This is the danger that we’re in.

BILL MOYERS: When both believe that they speak for God or God speaks through them.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Right?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Right. The alternative is to create a different world view. And this is the problem that the United States and those of us who are liberals or progressives in the United States and in the Western world have not been able to articulate an alternative world view, in part because we’re so largely secular and because we don’t understand that there is some spiritual foundation to the yearnings of people all over the world for something other than global capitalism, for something other than the globalization of selfishness. And that is seen as what America has to offer the world, each one for herself or himself. We need an alternative. We need an alternative that can speak to the hunger that people have for a framework of meaning and purpose to their lives and the hunger that they have for loving relationships that are not based solely on looking out for number one.

BILL MOYERS: The hunger I don’t deny. But as Dr. Weber just said how does a progressive world view, a more loving world view, compete with two apocalyptic faiths that believe God has set them on a course which can only be consummated in violence?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, this is why I emphasize the fact that there are a lot of good Christian Zionists and a lot of good people in the religious right who are not primarily committed to the conservative agenda and to the support of global military interests of either the United States or Israel, but are actually coming from a different place. Their base can be split from their top if there is a reaffirmation of a loving world view.

BILL MOYERS: But there is no evidence, I mean, there are evangelicals who have actually signed statements to the president saying “we don’t agree with these people. We believe in a two state solution in Israel. We have empathy and sympathy for the Palestinians.” But they don’t have the clout that the–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes. They’re not organized. And when you’re not organized in this kind of an environment, you end up bringing up the caboose. I mean, you’re at the end of the train. It’s important to recognize that only about a third of American evangelicals would identify with a dispensational world view. This is–

BILL MOYERS: The end times theology.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: A third–

BILL MOYERS: –what? Twenty–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Maybe 20 million, 25 million. That leaves an awful lot of other evangelicals who are Bible believers, who have a very warm spot in their heart for Israel. Let’s face it. Evangelicals grew up with maps of Israel on their Sunday school wall.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, exactly. I did, too.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: And the whole–

BILL MOYERS: You love the Bible, you love Israel.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. And the whole story of Jesus and the whole story of his ancestors were in the Holy Land. This is sacred space. And evangelicals know that. And they tend to love Israel because of it. In other words, evangelicals love Israel not just because of a specific prophetic scenario but for all kinds of other reasons.

BILL MOYERS: That’s a very important point to remember.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: So growing numbers of evangelicals are recognizing that very thing. Bill referred to a letter sent to the president this summer signed by 30 evangelical heavyweights, presidents of seminaries and leaders of denominations and very well-known authors and spiritual leaders. And their point was we don’t want you to believe that groups like Hagee’s speak for the vast majority of us. We recognize that sometimes the best friend, the best advice that friends of Israel can give is to cooperate, is not to just endorse everything that happens but to encourage justice and peacekeeping and so on. And so you have this one group of evangelical leaders who are speaking for, I think, a much larger group that is encouraging a different approach.

BILL MOYERS: I can’t see that they are having any impact.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Not yet.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Not yet.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: No.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: History isn’t over. And —

BILL MOYERS: It may be sooner than you think.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well– I’m hoping we have a few more years here. And I think in the 21st Century the growing wisdom of the American people and of all people is that our well being depends on the well being of everyone else on the planet, and I think that the Israeli population increasingly are coming to understand that their well being depends on the well being of Palestinians and of the Arab world. That there’s that fundamental interdependence.

BILL MOYERS: But if you lived in Israel and none of the governments around you recognized your right to exist, and if, in fact, you heard Ahmadinejad– proclaiming the apocalyptic consummation of history on his terms, wouldn’t you welcome the support of John Hagee and these people no matter what ultimately they think happens to the Jews? Wouldn’t it be an immediate factor of survival?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Well, I think it’s a mistaken view of survival. In other words, yeah, they’re —

BILL MOYERS: From your standpoint over here.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: They’re coming in there and they’re saying, “Right on, Israel, when you cut off food for the people in the Gaza Strip right now. Cut off water, cut off electricity, and just starve them out of their Hamas.” But anybody with understanding of human dynamics knows that that’s not going to lead to reconciliation. It’s just going to lead to further anger and further willingness of people to give their lives in murderous assaults on Israel. So it’s not really being helpful.

Now, yeah, there are a fair number of opportunists in Israel who say, “You know, we’ll deal with the second coming of Jesus and being burnt in hell when that happens. Right now we’re glad to have their support on the politics.” But what I’m saying is the politics is the wrong politics. It’s not helping Israel. It’s actually pushing the most reactionary elements in Israel.

BILL MOYERS: Dr. Weber, there was a CNN/Time poll that said only 36 percent of all Americans believe the Bible is God’s word. Only one third of all Americans believe the Bible is God’s word and should be taken literally. But 59 percent say they believe that events predicted in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Christian New Testament, will come to pass. How do you explain that?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Paul Boyer, who is a now-retired historian from the University of Wisconsin, wrote a book called WHEN TIME SHALL BE NO MORE. And he studied this phenomenon, called prophecy belief in America. And he explained that the influence of this group, of this perspective, of dispensational perspective goes way beyond the confines of its own boundaries. He said if you view America in terms of this issue in concentric circles, you have this core maybe 20 million of really dedicated dispensationalists who give you chapter and verse, who can give you– draw the battle maps of the future and everything.

Then outside that core is another group of evangelicals, many millions more who believe in the Bible, who believe that it has something to say about the future. They’re just not exactly sure what it is. And therefore, they defer to the Bible teachers who seem to know. They listen to them. And a lot of the dispensational vocabulary filters out to that broader evangelical world of Armageddon and Rapture and the like.

And then more significantly, beyond that, you have a group of mainly secular people who don’t give the Bible much mind at all but who, during times of apocalyptic threat will give the Bible teachers a listen. Because of the fear that is so — I mean, this movement would not be strong if the newspapers every morning didn’t seem to support their world view.

BILL MOYERS: You mean with all the news of calamity and–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Calamity and disaster, threats, potential disasters, war. This is how they said it would look and this is how most people see the world today.

BILL MOYERS: It seems to be on the front page of THE NEW YORK TIMES playing out what they’ve read in the Bible.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: I think the dispensationalists are onto something. They have a sense, they just have the wrong analysis of why it’s all going to end.

BILL MOYERS: But what do you mean they’re onto something?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: They are onto the growing depression that people are feeling, a deep emotional depression in the United States — a lack of any hopeful picture of what the world could be. And that failure is not a failure of dispensationalists, it’s a failure of the mainstream political framework in this country that– to address the major questions facing the world in the 21st century.

BILL MOYERS: Isn’t that why John Hagee is providing political leadership? I mean, the fact is John Hagee is providing not only theological guidance, he’s providing political leadership to these people, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes, yes, he is. But if you listen carefully to his message, it is a message, in many ways, at war with itself. Because on the one hand, as you just pointed out, evangelicals at the core of evangelical religion is the belief that change is possible. Evangelicals believe in conversion. They think–

BILL MOYERS: Born again.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: They think that enemies can be made friends and that bad people can be made good through the grace of God. And so they preach that. And you hear in some of the language of Haggee’s followers that we need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Then in the next– in the next breath they say, “But we don’t think it’ll do any good.”

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: No, and that we’re going to make– support those who want to make war for Jerusalem. And that–

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. So how does that fit?

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: — But they also are very questionable from my standpoint in the way that they read the Bible. Because they’re literalists when it comes to some issues and very much ignoring other issues. For example, they say that the Jewish people were promised the holy land from God through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They neglect to mention that the Arabs descended from, or believe they descended from one of the children of Abraham, Ishmael. And that that land was twice promised. It was promised to Jews and promised to Arabs. Why to two? So that we could become a model of how to reconcile. But we haven’t done that yet and we need to do that.

BILL MOYERS: So is there a different way in your judgment these conservative Christians could help the people of Israel whom historically and biblically they were taught to love and to appreciate without supporting the right-wing elements in Israel that want to crush the Palestinians?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, many evangelicals are calling for exactly that. They’re looking for another way. And I-

BILL MOYERS: And they’re not all like John Hagee. So many people think that all evangelicals are alike in the same way they think all Muslims are alike, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. And there are variations within the evangelical community. What I hear on the one hand, we have certain fellow believers who view the future in very well-defined ways and who or absolutely convinced that there’s nothing that anybody or anything can do about it. And yet we also have the clear teachings of Jesus about being peacemakers, about caring for the world, about loving your enemy. How do those two things go together? So there’s that deep biblical tradition that evangelicals can draw on to find another way.

BILL MOYERS: Here it seems to me is the fundamental issue. You heard all of the talk in the film about Islamofascism. People are genuinely concerned about terrorism and terrorist states. So how do we make a distinction between fighting terrorists and terrorist states without enflaming the religious passions? How do we do that?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, I think it’s important to recognize that dispensationalists are not the only ones who are worried about these issues. When you have the president of France and leaders in Germany who are warning Iran that there will be war if they do not stop what they’re doing, these are not dispensationalist-inspired people. I mean, the world is–

BILL MOYERS: Neither is Norman Podhoretz and Bill Kristol and people like the neoconservatives in this country.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: –the neoconservatives in this country.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right. And so the wind is blowing in a particular direction and it’s very hard to redirect it. There is an evangelical past that is much more positive, much more world changing, much more embracing diversity and even tolerance in some ways than seems to be in the public eye today. And many evangelicals are beginning to rediscover who they are in that in their past. They’re saying we can be about our father’s business only if we take concern for people who are poor. The world that God has made is getting destroyed. We need to take care along those lines. And-

BILL MOYERS: But these people you heard had no sympathy for the Palestinians.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: No, absolutely not.

BILL MOYERS: They see the Palestinians as part of the problem, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Yes. It– it-

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: This very week the WASHINGTON POST revealed a poll that it had done that shows that a majority of Americans now favor cutting favor for the war in Iraq. That’s a very big shift from where the majority of Americans were only five years ago in relationship to this war. Change is possible. Fundamental changes in world views are possible. And it is possible to create a different understanding of the Islamic world, one that doesn’t put them all together in one evil category just as it’s possible to understand that there are evangelicals who are very hurtful in their world view. And there are evangelicals who are very loving in their world view.

BILL MOYERS: So Timothy Weber, are evangelicals still Israel’s best friend when you saw what you saw?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Well, they certainly think they are Israel’s best friend. But I think evangelicals are realizing that there’s more than one way to be a friend to Israel. Whether in the long run the kind of support that– groups like Hagee’s group really brings to Israel, I tend to agree with the rabbi here, that this kind of support could really backfire. But when American evangelicals support those who want to rebuild a temple in Jerusalem by tearing down the Dome of the Rock-

BILL MOYERS: That’s because the Bible seems to indicate that when the Jews come back to Israel, they will rebuild the destroyed temple-

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: –and it will be built upon the– on the very place that-

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That’s right.

BILL MOYERS: –in the meantime the Muslims have built a sacred mosque.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: There this is not a friendly act, according to anybody.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: And they forget the Isaiah prophecy that “my house will be a house of prayer for all people.”

BILL MOYERS: But this is combustible, isn’t it? I mean, when both tenants want the same property.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Yes. And say that God gave that property to them. And that their own — the ultimate vindication of their religion depends on that piece of ground, then compromise is very hard.

BILL MOYERS: And both of you seem to be saying that politics truly enflames religious passions when they become so intertwined, as we’ve seen, right?

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: That and the other way around as well. Religion enflames politics and politics enflames religion.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Politics was never separate from religion in the Bible. And I don’t believe that there needs to be a separation between our highest ideals that come from the religious world and our commitment to implement them in the political world. It’s only when we try to implement them in an exclusivist way that says, “You have to believe in my religion and my particular vision of God”– that we run into deep trouble.

BILL MOYERS: Rabbi Michael Lerner and Dr. Timothy Weber, thank you both for being with me for this discussion on THE JOURNAL.

RABBI MICHAEL LERNER: Thank you for having us.

DR. TIMOTHY WEBER: Thank You.

Israel Part Four

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus refers to Himself—in relatively rapid succession—as the greater temple (12:6), a greater Jonah (12:41), and a greater Solomon (12:42). In other words, He is the greatest Prophet, Priest, and King, and thus “the ultimate” of every institution that comprises the distinct character of Israel. To reiterate the point you make above, He essentially identifies Himself as the New Israel.

In A House for My Name, Peter Leithart elaborates on this theme: “In Pilate’s Praetorium, the Jews renounce Jesus, choosing death over life. But the Israel of God is never dead for long. Israel has died before. . . . But when Old Israel dies, Yahweh, the Lord of life, brings a New Israel from the grave. The death and resurrection of Jesus, who is the true Jacob and Israel, who is the temple flowing with living water, is the sign that a New Israel will be born. The Jews have rejected their King and destroyed their temple, but out of their dead bones the Spirit brings forth living stones for a holy house, an army that cannot be numbered.” (Peter J. Leithart, A House for My Name: A Survey of the Old Testament (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2000), 262-63

Eric Adams is currently forging a series of short articles about being Jewish. I have posted them below with their original links.

What about ?

Eric writes,
I have been skimming Christ’s Prophetic Plans, which is a primer on Dispensational Eschatology. I would like to write a review or a response at some point, but I can’t let this pass:

Richard Mayhue asserts, “Furthermore, never in the whole New Testament is ‘Israel’ ever called ‘the church'” (page 82).

This is patently false. Stephen refers to Israel as the church in his sermon:

“This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you” ().

“The congregation” is the Greek word, ekklesia, which is the word for the church. Thus, Stephen calls Israel the church.

So, whenever you find yourself listening to a Dispensationalist wax eloquent about how Israel is never called the church, simply ask, “What about ?”

See here for the original article.

Was Ruth a Jew?

In my previous post, I argued that the fatal flaw of Christ’s Prophetic Plans is that the authors assume that Israel/Jew is defined strictly by ethnicity. In the next few posts, I want to explore the ramifications of such a presupposition.

If Israel is defined strictly by ethnicity, then no one could ever become a Jew. You were either born a Jew or you were not. Nothing that you ever did would change that.

What about Ruth? Ruth was a Moabite; she was not born a Jew. If Israel/Jew is strictly an ethnic designation, then Ruth could never become a Jew because no one can become a Jew. She was a Gentile who got in on the promises.

However, this is not what the Scriptures teach. Ruth herself claimed, “Your people shall be my people” (). She saw herself becoming part of Israel. She became a Jew.

The only way this is possible is if Israel/Jew is not strictly an ethnic designation. In the Bible, Israel/Jew is a religious designation with ethnic implications.

Was Ruth a Jew? Not by birth, but by conversion, Ruth became a Jew. She was grafted into Israel, and both she and all of her progeny became Jews.

See here for the original article.

Was Boaz a Jew?

The most fundamental error that Dispensationalists make is in restricting their definitions of Israel and Jew to ethnicity. One who is born a Jew is always a Jew, and nothing can change this. Likewise, no one can become a Jew because blood alone determines whether one is a Jew. Blood alone defines Israel.

Dispensationalists continually pound this pulpit, yet they show little awareness of the difficulties surrounding such a definition. Specifically,
How much Jewish blood makes someone a Jew?
In a mixed marriage (Jew + Gentile), does it matter which party is Jewish?
I will deal with both of these questions in the next few posts.

Matrilineal Descent?
In a mixed marriage, does it matter which party is Jewish?

Some branches of Modern Judaism define Israel/Jew partly according to matrilineal descent. That is, one is a Jew if their mother is a Jew. Thus, a Jewish mother begets Jewish children, regardless of the ethnicity of the Father.

The problem with defining Israel/Jew according to matrilineal descent is that this excludes some famous Jews, such as Boaz.

Boaz’s mother was Rahab, who was a Canaanite. She was not Jewish, and thus, according to matrilineal descent, Boaz was not a Jew.

Also, Boaz married Ruth, who was a Moabite. Thus, their son, Obed, was not a Jew, according to matrilineal descent.

Technically, neither Judah nor any of the other sons of Jacob would be Jews, as Leah, Rachel, Bilhah, and Zilpah were not Jewish. Thus, according to strict matrilineal descent, none of the twelve sons of Israel were Jewish.

Of course, Modern Judaism has an answer for this dilemma, which I will explore in a future post.

Also, I know of no Dispensationalist who defines Israel/Jew according to matrilineal descent. I am not suggesting or implying this in any way.

I am simply ruling out defining Israel/Jew according to strict matrilineal descent.

See here for the original article.

Was Jesus a Jew?

Dispensationalists consistently emphasize that God made promises to the Jews, and these promises must be fulfilled for the Jews.

This raises the question: Who are these Jews who will inherit the promises?

Dispensationalists insist that a Jew is someone who is ethnically descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. Blood alone defines Israel.

This raises the question: Is Israel defined by matrilineal descent (through the mother) or by patrilineal descent (through the father)?

In my previous post, I demonstrated that matrilineal descent alone is an invalid way to define Israel/Jew. This eliminates Boaz, Obed, and technically, even Judah, from Israel because their mothers were not Jewish.

Patrilineal Descent?
What about patrilineal descent?

This seems to make more sense. All genealogies in the Bible trace the male line. The promises were given to males and renewed with males. The male descendents were circumcised. Patrilineal descent seems more Biblical.

However, patrilineal descent alone is insufficient to define Israel/Jew because of one obvious exception: Jesus.

If being a Jew is defined by one’s father, then Jesus is not Jewish because his Father is not Jewish.

As Archie Bunker once retorted when reminded that Jesus was Jewish: “Yes, but only on his mother’s side.”

This one enormous exception means that patrilineal descent alone cannot be used to define Israel/Jew.

See here for the original article.

38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. (ESV)

38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. (ESV)

38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. (ESV)

16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. (ESV)