Barry Horner, Future Israel: Part 4

I have just finished chapter three of Barry Horner’s fine book. I see here a few things about Horner that are short-sighted, and I will mention them in my summary below, but this book is such a refreshing breath of fresh air, I’d rather emphasize the positive. Barry Horner has written a book that deserves wide attention. Besides God, Israel is the most frequent and important topic in the Bible. Remember what Charles Spurgeon said, “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” (see Barry Horner, Future Israel: Part 2 for the Spurgeon quote).
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Horner’s third chapter is called “Israel and Contemporary Examples of Christian Anti-Judaism in the US.” It is not an extensive chapter, though it is long because he quotes at length from and critiques an open letter written on the Knox Theological Seminary’s website.

Horner’s first example is Albertus Pieters (1897-1987), a former professor at Western Theological Seminary, whom Horner says is respected and widely quoted in Reformed circles. Pieters provides a number of alarming statements:

God willed that after the institution of the New Covenant there should no longer be any Jewish people in the world–yet here they are! That is a fact–a very sad fact, brought about by wicked rebellion against God. –The Seed of Abraham, 1950, p. 123.

How is it possible to believe that still prophecies of divine grace to be fulfilled in a group upon which the wrath of God has come “to the uttermost”? –a reference to 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, ibid. pp. 123-124.

There are at present people in the world who are called, and who call themselves, “The Jews”. — (He goes on to argue that they are not a continuation of God’s people), ibid. p. 132.

Ignorant that their separateness from the rest of the world was in the divine purpose temporary, they strove to render it permanent. Thus, that which had been in itself good and holy became through their error a source of poison in the life of the world; and “The Jew” became the great persistent international problem. –ibid. p.134.

[When the Jews are saved] . . . They will then also lose their distinct existence by absorption into the Christian Church. –The Ten Tribes in History and Prophecy, 1934, p.109.

I doubt that Albertus Pieters is much of an influence on most of you. So my point is not to infuriate us with citations from a man otherwise to be respected. Rather, I think Horner uses him as an example because this type of thinking still exists in Reformed Christian circles.

Consider some of the points Pieters has made and ask yourself how many Christians would agree:

1. Jews are supposed to believe in Jesus and become Christians, shedding their Jewish identity.

2. God has put a curse on the Jews, exposing them to wrath (e.g., Crusades, Inquisitions, ghettos, pogroms, Holocaust), because they rejected Jesus.

3. The people who call themselves Jews now are not really a continuation of God’s people, but are part of a newer, dangerous, false religion called Judaism.

Regarding the first of these points, I would say that to a degree all of Christendom has this tendency, to want to obliterate Jewish identity when a Jew comes to faith in Jesus. I think the Jewish mission organizations do this. I think churches do it. I think even Horner does not go far enough in recognizing the ongoing necessity of Jewish covenantal obedience to the covenant at Sinai (I will say more about this below).

Don’t know what I mean? Let me ask you, if you had a Jewish person who believed in Jesus at your church (I’m speaking here to Christians), would you be a little appalled if they refrained from eating ham at the Wednesday night church supper? If they did not come to a Saturday church workday? Would you or someone else in your church say to them, “But you are a Christian now and this is the New Testament; you are not supposed to keep the law anymore”?

Horner goes on with more quotes from Lorraine Boettner, Gary Burge, O. Palmer Robertson, and a host of theologians who signed “An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel.” This open letter is not, as far as I can tell, online anymore. But signatories included notables R.C. Sproul, Michael Horton, O. Palmer Robertson, and Bruce Waltke.

Horner’s goal in this chapter is to expose the anti-Judaism prevalent in Reformed theological streams. And he does.

He also reveals in a few places his own short-sightedness. On page 49 he attempts to refute the anti-Judaic notion than the New Covenant makes the old one obsolete. In doing so, however, Horner only goes half-way. He says, “But the new covenant obviously abrogates the old Mosaic covenant, not the Abrahamic covenant.”

Says who? In my reading, the New Covenant of Jeremiah includes the Mosaic covenant, since it says: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” (Jer. 31:33). What law could it mean? There is no Abrahamic law. But there is a Mosaic one.

And the continuing validity of the Torah of Moses is confirmed in Ezekiel’s vision of Israel new heart and new spirit, in which Israel will “walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances” (Ezek. 36:27). The only statutes are the ones Moses taught.

And Jesus affirmed it as well in Matthew 5:17-19. And Paul affirmed it, as even Horner admits on page 65:

How is it possible for the Council of Jerualem’s decision (Acts 15:1-35) to be construed as teaching the abolition of circumcision for the Jewish Christian? Paul later upheld the participation of Jewish Christians in distinctive Jewish practices (Acts 21:17-26).

But still, far be it from me to complain about Horner’s shortsightedness when the truth is he sees farther than most pastors and theologians into the centrality of Israel in God’s plan. If, looking out from his very biased, anti-Judaism milieu, he is able to see this much, then I am heartened.

God is still working on all of us (yes, I include myself in that). We are all on a continuum from error to truth. We’ll only get to the unvarnished truth in the World to Come.

Until then, I can only hope that the force of Horner’s book and his words will be a source of conversion for many thousands of Christian thinkers.

My recommendation for those of you who love Israel is that you buy several copies of Horner’s book and give them to pastor friends, seminary professors, and so on. Seriously, I mean you really should do that, so go to THIS LINK and get started.

About Derek Leman

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