Some time back I wrote a series of reviews of Barry Horner’s Future Israel. Fantastic book (get it here). If you are curious what to think about the whole Israel question, why not let a Reformed Christian thinker give you a pro-Israel point of view. I mean, if a Reformed pastor can be pro-Israel, so can you, right? Under categories, click on “Barry Horner” to read about his book.
This reflection comes from one of Horner’s appendices, in which he gives us a snapshot of a discussion between two theologians in the 1920’s and the 1930’s about supersessionism (a.k.a. replacement theology, the idea that Israel is superseded in God’s plan by either the Church or by the person of Jesus). Too bad the whole Christian world couldn’t repudiate supersessionism in time to take away impetus for the Final Solution in Europe…
Philip Mauro was a Calvinist thinker who died in 1952. He believed that God’s promises to Abraham were conditional (contra many theologians) and predicted that Jerusalem would not belong in Jewish hands again (too bad he isn’t around to back-pedal on that, cf. Barry Horner, Future Israel, pg. 63).
In an appendix to Future Israel, Barry Horner considers a theological conversation of sorts from 1929 and 1936. Philip Mauro wrote The Hope of Israel in 1929, a book denying Israel’s continuing role as God’s Chosen People (and cited on Preterist websites even now). He considered Deuteronomy 28:63-64 to settle the matter:
And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you; and you shall be plucked off the land which you are entering to take possession of it. 64 And the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other; and there you shall serve other gods, of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.
Mauro said that the disobedience of this “odious kingdom” resulted in “the end of their history as a nation” and that the defeat handed to them by the Romans in 70 C.E. was something from which Israel would never come back.
Wow! Odious? Those odious Jews? Remember, this was said in the name of Christ posing as theology in service to the Jewish Messiah!
Mauro went on to interpret Romans 11 as saying the very opposite of its true message: that Israel as a nation has ceased to be God’s people and the only hope that remains for Israel is personal salvation for any individual Jew.
Enter Samuel Hinds Wilkinson, of the Mildmay Mission to the Jews, who wrote in 1936 to oppose replacement theology a little book called The Israel Promises and Their Fulfillment. Wilkinson was a good example of the right-headed early mission movement in Europe to Jewish people. I know that mission movements to Jews have come into disfavor in our day. It is sad, though, because once they were such a thing of beauty, a return out of the darkness of Christianity-in-denial-of-Israel. The Holocaust wiped out the result of many great pioneers and thinkers who sought to bring the Church to a realization of the importance of the Jewish people for the Jesus-faith. Yes, estimates of Jewish Christians (theology had not yet progressed to what we would call Messianic Judaism) killed in the Holocaust exceed 100,000.
Wilkinson argued brilliantly that Mauro misunderstood the law, thinking that God’s law for Israel lacked grace. This is something so few Christians understand. The law of Moses has no less grace than the New Testament. Jewish tradition understands the law to be given with grace (a common rabbinic dictum is that God’s mercy overpowers his judgment).
People who don’t understand that the law is filled with grace are generally people who have read only a little or on the surface in the first 80% of the Bible (the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible, which is 80% of the book Christians say they believe).
Wilkinson explained it all beautifully in a thought that I hope warms you as it does me. This is the kind of God I believe in. How about you?
The root of solemn consideration raised by Mr. Philip Mauro’s book, in and by which he challenges the assurance to God’s chosen people Israel of a national restoration, conversion, and beneficent mission, will be exposed if we ask the question: Did Law precede Grace or Grace precede Law? This is indeed a vital question: for indisputable the original promises to Abraham, recorded in Genesis 12, we given unconditionally. No one was bound by these promises but the One Who made them. No terms were imposed. No mediator was present (Gal. 3:20). Whatever those promises were, whatever kind of fulfillment they required, those promises and that Covenant which ratified them, in particular the grant of a specific territory as an everlasting possession, were unconditional and undeserved. We are told that Israel was not thus chosen for Divine love and favor because they were more numerous than other peoples: for they were the “fewest of all peoples” (Deut. 7:7-8): nor was their territory granted to them because of their righteousness, for they were a “stiff-necked people” (Deut. 9:4-6). And this unconditional Covenant and all that it included and involved antedated the Covenant of the law by 430 years. And the legal Covenant “which was 430 years after, cannot disannul it, that it should make the promise of no effect” (Gal. 3:17).
If the sanity of Wilkinson’s graceful theology is a fresh breath of air to you, check out my September 24, 2008 post, “Anti-Pro-Semitism?” and read a little of Stephen Sizer’s “Christian” denouncing of Israel and naïve love affair with Muslim terrorists. It will make you long for more men like Wilkinson in this crazy world we live in.
Here is a great blog exposing Stephen Sizer’s errors: http://seismicshock.blogspot.com/ and here is an article about Sizer preaching a sermon for Christmas 2007 comparing an Iranian delegation coming to Gaza to fund the terrorists of Hamas to the coming of the Magi in the Gospel of Matthew (I wish I were making this up): http://seismicshock.blogspot.com/2008/09/stephen-sizer-and-iranian-money.html