Theology Like a House of Cards

Nothing seems more precarious than a house of cards. I confess I’ve never been able to build one beyond the first three or four cards.

The problem with a house of cards is that the slightest breeze or tremor knocks the foundation out and gravity takes over. Don’t breathe too hard. Don’t upset the table.

Supersessionist theology is like that (supersessionism is the al-too-common Christian belief that the Christians have replaced the Jews as God’s people).

Even in my days worshipping in Baptist churches, where the people tend to be pro-Israel, I experienced and was inculcated with a way of reading the Bible that is like a house of cards. And if well-meaning, pro-Israel people are infected with this method of viewing holy writ, how much worse must things be in the churches that are less sympathetic to Israel and more inclined to supersessionism.

That method of reading the Bible has simple rules: (1) Assume that the text is always about you and people like you, (2) Make timeless principles out of everything, (3) Interpret promises made to Israel as being for Christians like you.

Once you start on this road of interpretation you build something flimsy and easily toppled.

Like a house of cards built where there is a gentle breeze, this way of reading the Bible is self-defeating.

It is self-defeating because the Bible is constantly contradicting and challenging an anti-Judaic reading.

You read in Genesis 12, “I will bless those who bless you . . . and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

And you repeat over and over the mantra, “The Bible is the inspired word of God.” But when you read this verse you are forced to say, “This verse, inspired by God, is no longer true. There is no way God’s vehicle for blessing is the Jews. It has to be the Christians.”

You read in Isaiah 54, “This is like the days of Noah to me . . . I have sworn that I will not be angry with you and I will not rebuke you.”

And you think, “God’s word is true but this verse does not mean what it says. God is angry with the Jews. He has rejected them.”

You read in Jeremiah 29, “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans for welfare and not evil.”

And you think, “The Bible is verbally inspired but these words need to be reinterpreted. They should be a promise for Christians and not for Jews. After all, they are on posters in the Youth Room of our church.”

And you read Paul in Romans 11, “God has not rejected his people . . . as regards the gospel they are enemies for your sake; but as regards election they are beloved.”

And you think, “Dare I tinker with Paul? I mean, Isaiah is one thing, but Paul? Yes, to keep my anti-Judaic theology alive I must follow the trend and interpret this verse too as being a blessing for Christians. I know it strains all manner of principles of interpretation. I don’t read the newspaper this sloppily, but, man, I have a theology to defend.”

I like what Charles Spurgeon said from the pulpit of the Metropolitan Tabernacle (cited in yesterday’s post about Barry Horner’s book):

. . . if there is anything promised in the Bible, it is this. I imagine you cannot read the Bible without seeing clearly that there is to be an actual restoration of the children of Israel.

It is time to deconstruct the Christian, anti-Judaic house of cards. You will feel so free when you do. And the Bible will become an open book to you instead of a mere support system for a handful of Pauline texts quoted out of context. Try it and see.

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About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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