Jan 4, 2011

The Roman church continues its anti-Zionist, supersessionist rhetoric

In October 2010, at a special Vatican meeting on the Middle East, Cyrille Bustros, a native of Lebanon and a bishop in Newton, Mass., claimed, “We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people.”

This was part of the Greek-Melkite bishop’s comments during a recent news conference where attendees presented the final document that emerged from a Vatican synod of Middle Eastern bishops.

I’m not sure what scriptures Mr. Bustros is studying, but I know the Bible teaches that God’s covenant with Israel cannot be broken and that the Apostle Paul clearly illustrates a future for the actual Israel of the Old Testament. To me, it’s apparent that Mr. Bustros has not embraced the idea the Apostle Paul teaches that we are no longer Jew nor Greek or that our alliance is no longer with our nation, but our alliance is with Christ – Mr. Bustros is clearly Lebanese first.

The notion of supersessionism isn’t new thinking. Both Justin Martyr and Augustine are reported to take this position in their writings. But, when studied as a whole, the Bible clearly teaches that God has a plan for Israel and that plan includes the land that was promised. In Luke 21:24, God teaches us that “Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” This is an indication that Jerusalem will be restored. God also teaches us of the eternity of His promises in Romans 11:28-29, “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God's choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Supersessionism is the view that the church is the new or true Israel that has replaced or superseded national Israel as the people of God. If the Roman church has replaced Israel, then Mr. Bustros might be correct in his assessment that there is no exclusive right that Israel holds for the promised land. However, this simply isn’t the biblical case.

Because God does not break His covenants, those who say the church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people then have to deny the traditional and orthodox interpretation of the Old Testament and deny there is a prophesied future restoration for national Israel. They also have to claim that the New Testament reinterprets the Old Testament rather than is a continuation of God’s revelation of His will (Ezk. 36-37; Deut. 30:1-6; Jer. 30, 31, 32; Matthew 23:37-39; Luke 13:34-35; Acts 3:19-21; Romans 11).

Charles Spurgeon apparently felt that the future of Israel’s sure role in God’s plan was not considered enough by either theologians or the laity. He wrote, “I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this.”

In case that was too vague for some, the famous Old Testament scholar Walter C. Kaiser Jr., wrote succinctly, “To argue that God replaced Israel with the church is to depart from an enormous body of biblical evidence.”

When the Roman church takes an institutional position in favor of replacement theology (which it has), it simply is an expression of its anti-Zionist viewpoint and is clearly not aligned with the Bible. Whether viewed from a secular or spiritual viewpoint, the self-determination, and subsequent self defense, by the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland is part of the expressed plan of God.

Admittedly, there could be confusion on the part of members of the Roman church. The Second Vatican Council took the position that there existed an eternal covenant between Israel and God and that covenant was linked with the land of Israel. Yet, the Roman church has since issued calls for Israel’s withdrawal of occupied lands, removal of border barriers between Israel and the West Bank and support for a sovereign Palestinian nation. It naively stated that Israel would live peacefully and in security if it would only withdraw from conquered land it won in war. How could the Roman church believe this in light of the codified objective of Islamic groups to eradicate the nation of Israel? This call to return to pre-war boundaries is not biblical and goes against God’s desires (Joel 3:1-2; Gen. 15:18-21; Ex. 23:31a).

In all practicality, this is either an official departure from the Second Vatican Council or the Roman church is taking both positions in the polemic. Regardless, this is in opposition to the biblical position.

In his “12 Reasons Why Supersessionism/Replacement Theology Is Not a Biblical Doctrine,” Michael J. Vlach, Ph.D., points out that “the New Testament does not call the church ‘Israel,’ and nowhere does the New Testament state the nation of Israel has been permanently rejected by God.” He also states in his conclusion, “Various texts such as Matt. 19:28; 23:37–39; Luke 13:35; 21:24; 22:30; and Romans 11 refute supersessionism in that they teach or reaffirm the Old Testament expectation of a restoration of Israel.”

This shouldn’t surprise me because the scriptures teach that all nations will stand against Israel, and all will be defeated. In this case, all includes the United States. Unfortunately, I see it happening far sooner than I would have expected due to the influence of global anti-Zionist institutions, such as the Roman church, the United Nations and a spineless European Union.

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