Bible

Synagogue shooting in Poway and Replacement Theology, ideas do have consequences

A recent event and its chronological closeness to Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom Hashoah, prompted this specific blog. The recent event was a synagogue shooting that occurred in Poway, California. A young man went into a synagogue and started firing on the people inside, killing and injuring individual Jews who had come to worship. Now, this isn’t the first time that a synagogue shooting has occurred here in the United States. In fact, incidents of synagogue shootings are up statistically from previous years. What was significant about this shooting was the background of the young man who did it - so significant that the Washington Post noted it in their article. He was in the tender of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. And he wrote a manifesto where he repeated elements of an anti-Semitic theology called “Replacement Theology.”

A few disclaimers need to be given here as many of my apologist friends are of a reformed theological persuasion and I believe to them to be godly proclaimers of the gospel of Jesus Christ and individuals with a love for the Bible. I also do not believe that every member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church desires to bomb synagogues or hurt Jewish people. In fact, I would not be surprised to learn that most of them would like to see Jewish people embrace Jesus.

However, to argue that there is no connection between Replacement Theology and the conduct of this young man is to ignore the fact that ideas in theology have consequences. I’m not sure that theologically or logically I can make the argument that there is no connection between theological ideas and the activity of individuals. So let us say that this is a moral act that had theological underpinnings which need to be discussed.

One of my concerns with some of the thinking that goes on in the reformed theology camp is its reliance upon systematic theology above and even against biblical theology. Biblical theology is very clear that the promises given to Israel were given specifically to Israel, not to the church, and it distinctly distinguishes between the Church and Israel. One way to look at this is that Israel and the Church are two aspects of the people of God; this view may give an option to my more reformed friends that will allow them to preserve a level of reformed thinking but still be biblically accurate.

Let me begin by illustrating a few of the distinctions made between Israel and the Church that indicate they cannot possibly be the same entity.

Israel Israel is a nation chosen by God and sustained by covenant promises (Deut. 7:6-9).2 In God’s program for Israel, His witnesses comprised a nation (Isaiah 43:10).
The Church The Church is a called-out assembly of believers who have been baptized into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13). In God’s program for the Church, His witnesses are among all nations (Acts 1:8).

 

Since the composition of and programs for the Church and Israel are distinctly different, they cannot possibly be the same entity. My reformed friends need to come to grips with this basic reality in whatever way possible. I’m sure there must be a way that they can do this theological activity.

My second concern is an over-reliance upon the church fathers. My concern here is that the church fathers did carry with them the infection of anti-Antisemitism. An over-reliance upon their documents without critically applying biblical theology imports anti-Antisemitism into the church. Let’s look at a few quotes by some of the church fathers. One of the most influential church fathers was Augustine of Hippo. He states clearly, “How hateful to me are the enemies of your Scripture! How I wish that you would slay them (the Jews) with your two-edged sword, so that there should be none to oppose your word! Gladly would I have them die to themselves and live to you (Confessions 12.14)!” Of course, he’s not the only church father to make exceedingly anti-Semitic remarks. 

John Chrysostom is noted for his flaming anti-Antisemitism. In his work, Against Jews, he writes, “The synagogue is worse than a brothel…it is the den of scoundrels and the repair of wild beasts…the temple of demons devoted to idolatrous cults…the refuge of brigands and dabauchees, and the cavern of devils. It is a criminal assembly of Jews…a place of meeting for the assassins of Christ… a house worse than a drinking shop…a den of thieves, a house of ill fame, a dwelling of iniquity, the refuge of devils, a gulf and a abyss of perdition… I would say the same things about their souls… As for me, I hate the synagogue…I hate the Jews for the same reason (Hay 28).”

You can see the problem with importing the theology of the church fathers wholesale without a critical ear. It would be an oversimplification to say that Replacement Theology in the anti-Semitic sentiments of the church fathers caused the synagogue shooting in Poway, California. But what we can say is that these anti-Semitic ideas are antithetical to a sound Biblical theology of Israel and the Church, and that some way must be found to steer clear of Replacement Theology. We must weigh the words of the church fathers on a different scale than the words of Scripture. I would urge all Christians, including my more reformed friends, to join me in this great enterprise.

 

Hay, Malcom. Thy brother’s blood: the roots of christian anti-semitism. Hart Publishing, 1975.

Who is Jesus

It may seem strange, since the name seems to be known by almost everyone, but given the various religions and cults out there, “Who is Jesus?” is one of the most contested questions; it is also one of the most important questions that a person can ask. First of all, we must realize that since Jesus is central to the New Testament Scriptures by direct reference, and to the Hebrew Scriptures in terms of his Messiahship (although this Messiahship is contested by Rabbinical Judaism), this is not strictly a secular historical question. It must be noted that I say “secular historical question” slightly tongue-in-cheek, since I believe all history to be grounded in God. But we do acknowledge that there is biblical history recorded in the Scriptures as well as history that is not directly recorded in the Scriptures. Therefore, any attempt to answer who Jesus is cannot be confined to merely extra-Biblical historical sources, and here we will examine a passage of Scripture to answer our question of who Jesus is.

The foundational thing we must know is that Jesus is not merely human, but also deity, or God, the Eternal God. To believe that God is not eternal would be difficult to maintain under any doctrinal conception of God held by the monotheistic religions. Moreover, if God were not eternal, He could not be the first cause of all things or the creator, since something would have preceded His existence; so, it is logical that God would be eternal if He was indeed the creator. You can see how the eternal nature of Messiah contained in Micah 5:2 thus points to Jesus being deity:

 

Phrase  in Hebrew

Translation in English

וְאַתָּ֞ה בֵּֽית־לֶ֣חֶם אֶפְרָ֗תָה צָעִיר֙ לִֽהְיוֹת֙ בְּאַלְפֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֔ה מִמְּךָ֙ לִ֣י יֵצֵ֔א לִֽהְי֥וֹת מוֹשֵׁ֖ל בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וּמוֹצָאֹתָ֥יו מִקֶּ֖דֶם מִימֵ֥י עוֹלָֽם׃” 

Micah 5:1, BHS/WIVU

““But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”” (Micah 5:2, NKJV)

 

I have taken the liberty of including Micah 5:2, or rather, Micah 5:1 in the Masoretic text in both Hebrew and English. It states that Messiah’s goings forth were “from everlasting.” I will not take the time here to demonstrate that the Hebrew word עוֹלָֽם carries the connotation of eternal-ness. For that you can go to the website and see a message that deals with this very topic. While there are many ways to demonstrate that the Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus is God, Micah 5:2 succinctly points out this truth. Let us look at the argument more clearly:

•      God is eternal, and this is an essential characteristic of His nature;

•      Messiah is Eternal;

•      It follows that Messiah is God.

Groups such as the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement (I have written in more detail on this cult in other blog posts) may have some division on this issue, but the Scriptures certainly do not. Modern Rabbinical Judaism also denies the deity of Messiah, but it must be noted that the Judaism of the Second Temple Era would have had far less trouble with this concept. There are clearly verses pointing to Messiah having a nature that is not merely human, and acknowledgments of verses which point to His deity. Likewise, Islam denies the deity of Messiah quite clearly: “And say: (All) praise is due to Allah, Who has not taken a son and Who has not a partner in the kingdom, and Who has not a helper to save Him from disgrace; and proclaim His greatness magnifying (Him).”[1]

Any depiction of Jesus which does not take into account His deity paints a false view of Jesus, and thus falls short of the truth. This fact provides a strike against the Black Hebrew Israelites. Additionally, it shows that Islam, while it honors Him, denies the truth of Jesus. Finally, this truth highlights the failure of Rabbinical Judaism to acknowledge the Messiah for which it waits.

 

[1] M. H. Shakir, ed., The Quran (Medford, MA: Perseus Digital Library, n.d.). Surah 17:111.

The Theology of power

This week we have been terribly busy trying to raise up our support team to keep this ministry going. In the midst, it has been interesting to see how the Lord orchestrates different events during my week, such as an event this week and one last week which were knit together in such a way as to demonstrate the need for discussing the politics and theology of power. Last week, as I was preparing to work out, I heard a snippet from Fox News pointing out how it appears those in Washington are less respectful of the rule of law. Then, while preparing my Monday night broadcast this week, I dealt with a cult called the Black Hebrew Israelites (which practices a form of racism by believing that the black people will come to power and force the subjugation of white people, including Jewish people, many of whom are lighter skinned). These two instances lead to the question: for what purpose does God give authority to individuals and groups? Having a well-articulated understanding of the Judeo-Christian* worldview is important in getting to the right answer.

Two points need to be made and upheld. First, authority over others must be exercised with love and respect. In the Gospels, Jesus is terribly clear on this: “Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39, NKJV).’” We see this same basic principle in God’s choosing of Israel: “Now the LORD had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great, and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:1–3, NKJV).’” Clearly, He is stating that “in you [Israel],” all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Therefore, the purpose for which God chose Israel was to be a channel of blessings to others -  never was Israel chosen for itself. Plainly, God giving Israel a special status was for the benefit of others. Likewise, when any authority over others is given, it is meant for the benefit of the subjects.

Second, the exercise of authority for the sake of raw power is unholy. The exercise of authority within a Judeo-Christian worldview must be in line with God’s two great Commandments which are loving God and loving our neighbor, or in the spirit of Torah (which is love, according to Christ in His Gospels, as previously stated). Indeed, we must be clear to define love: love is seeking the ultimate good for the one loved. It is not seeking their temporary happiness. Unfortunately, our culture has begun to worship happiness as opposed to good. Moreover, the command to love one’s neighbor is subordinate to the command to love God, which must be the case, as only in loving according to God’s commands is the ultimate good of an individual realized. While humans made in God’s image have the capacity to love, that capacity is tainted by their own natures. Though some who are unsaved have moral knowledge by general revelation and the image of God within them, they are apt to err and make mistakes about the ultimate good if not properly guided. Therefore, the saying is true, that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Power is to be exercised for the ultimate good of others, as defined by God, and not for raw power.

Let us apply these principles to the two situations. First, Washington (that is, the United States government) was never created to tyrannically reign over US citizens in the name of making them do good or, more accurately, what appears to be right according to a faulty worldview and agenda. Let me unpack this idea a little: the US government was never designed to be a nanny dictating to US citizens political correctness (which, by the way, is not genuine love). The founding fathers designed the rule of law to rein in the government since they understood that because of man’s fallen nature, power corrupts. Washington’s submission to the rule of law would be loving to US citizens. Ignoring the rule of law and proper conduct is an abuse of authority, and thus unloving to US citizens.

Now to the cult, the Black Hebrew Israelites. Their philosophy is based on past victimization and racism. Having suffered evil never gives anybody the right to tyrannically rule over another. Since the purpose of authority is to exercise love, groups that claim an oppressed status have no more right to authority than groups that do not claim an oppressed status. The BHI cult reflects a politic of victimization, which is contrary to a proper theology of power. God gives the right to rule as He chooses, for the good of all. Serving in love is the way to gain power in its proper sense and respect. Jesus said it when He stated, “And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, ‘If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all (Mark 9:35, NKJV).’”


 

*For those who would object to the word ‘Judeo-Christian,’ it must be pointed out that Jesus and His disciples were practicing Jews, and that ethical monotheism came to the world through the Jewish people.