For those who have not read them, it is best to go back and read Parts 1 and 2 to understand what is being discussed here.
A quick summary and catch-up: I have been reading R. Kendall Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology for a class. He brilliantly notes a problem in Christian Theology, a problem that can be fixed without abandoning fundamental doctrines. The problem, as many theologians have noted, is supersessionism (the Church supercedes Israel) also know as Replacement Theology.
He identifies three kinds of supersessionism:
1. Punitive supersessionism–God is done with Israel and is punishing Jews. The Church may take an active part in helping God torment the Jews. If you’ve studied Church history and Jewish history, you’re all too familiar with this one (Crusades, Inquisitions, Pogroms, Ghettos, expulsions, the complicity of churches in the Holocaust, etc.).
2. Economic supersessionism–God is done with Israel and is now working exclusively with and through the Church.
3. Structural suppersessionism–The most subtle and hardest to eradicate. This view upholds Israel’s continuing place while subtly ignoring the centrality of Israel in this age and in the Bible.
The culprit behind structural supersessionism is what Soulen calls the Standard Canonical Narrative. That is a story about how the Bible hangs together. The SCN (as we will call it) is simple:
Redemption (Yeshua’s work on the cross and through the resurrection)
Consummation (God bringing all to perfection in the Age to Come)
What ever could be wrong with what seems like such a straightforward way of reading the Bible and seeing it fit together? The problem is that the SCN basically needs only Genesis 1-3 and the New Testament. What is the point of Genesis 4 through the end of the Old Testament? The whole history of Israel is basically just preparation and signs leading up to redemption. God’s work through Israel is sort of a footnote in history now that Yeshua has come. Some have said I am exaggerating to call Israel a footnote in Christian theology. I have a lot of experience in churches, even churches that are favorable to Israel. Believe me, the Old Testament is a footnote, except Genesis 1-3. I could (and may) write about practical ways the Old Testament is disrespected in churches.
So, I promised to throw my hand in the ring with a suggestion for improving the SCN. I was totally disappointed with Soulen’s suggestion for a better Canonical Narrative. So, at last …here it is:
Now a little more explanation:
Creation (Not yet perfect, but good. God obviously has a plan to make perfect, Trees of Life and Knowledge.)
Fall (out of intimacy with God and into need for redemption).
Covenants (God’s working through the nations and Israel, especially Israel, to bring about both redemption and consummation).
Redemption (through Yeshua’s death and resurrection, has begun but is still being completed. Yeshua came from Israel).
Consummation (when Yeshua returns, will center in Israel and include the nations).
What is the difference, you might ask? What have you really added?
1. God’s work in human history and society is not a footnote. It is God’s work in this world. Gnosticism values the spiritual and disavows the physical. We are not Gnostics. God’s work in the world, through people, nations, and families, is vital.
2. God has worked not only redemption through Israel (virtually all Christian theologians agree with that). He is also working out Consummation (the perfecting of the world) through Israel even now. What God does in Israel in 2007 matters and is no footnote. The Age to Come will be centered in Israel. Israel is still God’s people (Rom 11).
Anyway, a few questions for discussion. I’d love to see your (brief) answers:
1. Have you ever felt that the Old Testament was disrespected in a church you attended? Why?
2. Do you agree that Israel is still God’s people? Do you believe God is working through Israel even now?
3. What will Israel’s role be in the Age to Come?