Christian Theology and Israel, Part 3

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?



About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Messianic Jewish, Replacement Theology, Supersessionism, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Christian Theology and Israel, Part 3

  1. Shoshana says:

    1. Yes, mainly because they believed it to be moot in the same, vague way most churches do.

    2. Yes, and YES.

    3. Am Yisrael– a light unto the nations, servants of Moshiach Yeshua when He reigns from Yerushalayim. Eretz Yisrael– home to Messiah’s throne in Jerusalem and all those who serve Him, and party capitol of the world 3 times a year.

    See, now you’ve got a response!! May your ego be a little less bruised as you say Baruch haShem. ;)

    Great blog…Shavua Tov!

  2. Shoshana:

    Thanks for comforting my bruised ego. I took a quick look at your blog (it’s late for me right now and I will take a longer look later). Very interesting.

    If you have time, email me at I’d be interested to know what city you are in and where you worship.

    Baruch HaShem.


  3. This is very nice and informative post. I have bookmarked your site in order to find out your post in the future.

  4. Pati in WA says:

    At my former church (evangelical), one of the elders “encouraged” more people to come to the adult sunday school where we were reading through the Bible. We had finished the OT, so he announced, “We’re done with the yucky part, so come join us for the fun part!” Aaarrguh!! My husband had to grab my hand to keep me from leaving right then, but we both knew it was only a matter of time before we left that church!

    I appreciate your working through some of “issues” with traditional church supersessionalist theology. It’s the first thing I point out to people when they ask me about what kind of church I’m looking for (usually they expect answers like, ‘one with a good youth program’ or whatever is in vogue). When I tell them: “one that isn’t based on replacement ideology,” I get very confused looks! The creation-fall-covenants-redemption-consummation may help me to get them to visual what I’m talking about.

    Enjoying your blog – L’Shanah Tovah!
    Pati in WA

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