Barry Horner’s excellent work continues in Chapter 4, “Israel and Contemporary Examples of Christian Anti-Judaism in the UK.” While there are a few places in the chapter that I think a good editor could have made into more readable prose, nonetheless the information contained here is invaluable (and at times, infuriating).
Horner focuses on Colin Chapman and Stephen Sizer among other UK Christian writers. Colin Chapman has the distinction of writing the blindly one-sided book Whose Promised Land? I say the book is one-sided because in its pages it seems Israel can do no right and Palestine can do no wrong. Horner notes that in the fourth edition, revised in 2002, there is an appendix on Hamas which states their political platform with no criticism. How can Chapman not criticize Hamas, a group as anti-Christian as it is anti-Jewish? (Note: I am not implying that Chapman endorses Hamas, but that he did not find it important, in a book highly critical of Israel, to bother being critical about this terrorist, genocidal organization).
From Chapman we get such gems as:
Could it be that God is challenging the whole Jewish people to think again about their destiny as a people? What is the whole enterprise of settling Jews in the land and setting up a Jewish state doing to the soul of the Jewish people? Did God really intend that they should be a “peculiar people” forever and ever?
Interestingly, and Horner does not make this point, God does intend for Israel to be a peculiar people forever. How many times does God have to say forever before some Christian theologians will believe him? For example, and this is a common phrase in the Pentateuch, God says, “You shall do no work: it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings” (Lev. 23:31). Paul certainly seemed to think that the sacrificial death of Jesus was not the end of the law (Acts 21:24).
Horner catches these UK theologians on their own hypocrisy. In one section, Horner notes that these men believe in grace overruling law in God’s judgment on Christians. Yet when it comes to Israel’s covenant promise with God, they insist that even the promise to Abraham is subject to law before grace. That is, God will completely revoke his covenant with Israel, with Abraham’s descendants, if they do not follow his law (never mind Galatians 3:17, much less Genesis 12, 15, and 17). Horner’s argument is an elegant coup de grace, grace for Christians in God’s judgment, but only strict adherence to the law for Israel.
I will say more about Horner’s chapter 4 in a future post. There is much more to glean from this chapter. But let me finish by doing two things: (1) Summing up the fallacy of UK anti-Judaism thus far and (2) making you aware of a major Christian writer from modern times who spews vile anti-Judaism that makes Chapman and others seem mild by comparison.
Summary: The Fallacy of Legalism in Chapman and other UK Theologians
Irony of ironies. We Messianic Jews, who believe in Jesus and live Jewish lives, are at time accused of legalism (actually its not that often, and its only by a few). Judaism in general is definitely and frequently regarded as a legalistic religion, being a religion of self-effort according to many Christian critics.
And Christianity, especially of the Reformed variety, is allegedly superior because of the perfection of its doctrines of grace, the opposite of self-effort, in which all blessings are the result of divine initiative with no human effort. I might note that only extreme Reformed views so thoroughly eliminate human effort. The Bible uses many expressions about human initiative and effort, but extreme Calvinism prefers to interpret these as having a prior divine cause so that no real human effort is in view.
And the irony is that some of these UK theologians cannot see grace written all through the pages of the Pentateuch. They cannot see the grace in God’s promise to Abraham, “by you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). Instead, they focus on the passages in which God will evict Israel from the land if the nation does not follow God’s law.
Their reading of the Pentateuch is not only infuriating, it is selective. How could they be ignorant of the incredible grace that is in the law? How could they be ignorant of the forgiving way of God, who knows in advance that his people will fail (Deut. 30:1) and yet says to them:
If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there the LORD your God will gather you, and from there he will fetch you; and the LORD your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, that you may possess it; and he will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. –Deuteronomy 30:4-5
Yet Steven Sizer, another UK theologian, says, “The ethical requirements for continued occupancy are clearly outlined in the law.”
Sizer, admittedly, could have a case. He could say, though in fact he does not, that God will give the land back to the Jewish people, but that now is not the time, since Israel has not repented and come back to God.
That could be his case, and it would be a better case, though even that would go against the promise of the Bible. For in Ezekiel 37, God restores Israel first physically and then spiritually. Israel returns to the land in unbelief. How does Chapman maintain that Israel’s current unbelief disqualifies them in spite of the promise of Ezekiel 37? He says that Ezekiel 37 has no application to modern times but was a conditional promise which Israel failed to take hold of.
Horner is absolutely right. For these UK theologians, what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. God is full of grace regarding promises for Christians, but judges Israel according to the law without grace.
I would warn Chapman and Sizer and others in their vein, judge not lest ye be judged, for with the judgment you judge you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get.
Appendix: The Most Enraging Anti-Judaic Rhetoric I Have Seen in Modern Christian Writing
This doesn’t really fit with the theme from above, but I wanted to include it. Horner quotes a Christian theologian from modern times making the kind of statement I would expect to find in the early days of Germany’s rise into Nazism, when Christian theologians supported the anti-Semitism of the Nazis (such as in Kittel’s The Jewish Question).
Imagine a modern Christian, post-Holocaust, making the following statements:
To this day “Jew” is an opprobrious epithet even in our best countries. Read their long history. The sum of that history is not the fact that the Jews innocently suffered these centuries of woe; it is that they ever brought these woes upon themselves anew. Ever they keep acting as an irritant . . . They crucified their own Christ; to this day their hatred of the crucified stamps them more than anything else as “Jews”; their segregation is of their own choosing. The more they retain the character of “Jews,” the more does this appear…
Who would say such a thing? This is in R.C.H. Lenski’s The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, published in 2001 by Hendrickson. I did a little research online and I think this book is a reprint from the 1960’s (correct me someone if I am wrong) and is not as modern as 2001. I am elated to say the book is out of print and none of Lenski’s books, as far as I can tell, are in print anymore. Nonetheless, I found by googling his name that his commentaries are widely used and referenced. And this guy thinks Jewish people brought the Holocaust on ourselves?!
That is over the top. That is beyond a little mild anti-Semitism. That is the kind of deeply unethical pseudo-Christian talk that has discredited the name of Jesus to a world that is cynical and uninterested in the man from Galilee.
Does the opinion of Christian theologians about Israel really matter? I mean isn’t this just an academic issue? No, it is not. Rivers of blood have been shed in the name of such unethical theology. And God is watching and in spite of his love for mercy, he does judge with wrath those who refuse to spurn hatred and come to the light of love.