Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Anti-Semitism and Dispensationalism

by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr., Th.D., Director,

Dispensationalists have a strong commitment to Israel at all costs. Their commitment to Israel is so all-controlling that they even posit a millennial age in which Israel will dominate all other nations — reducing even to the lowest level those nations committed to Christ during that time. Herman Hoyt, past president of Grace Theological Seminary writes:

“The redeemed living nation of Israel, regenerated and regathered to the land will be head over all the nations of the earth. . . . So he exalts them above the Gentile nations. . . . On the lowest level there are the saved, living, Gentile nations.” (Herman Hoyt, “Dispensational Premillennialism,” in Robert G. Clouse, The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views [Downer’s Grove, Ill: Inter-varsity Press, 1977], 81).

This is, of course, a form of racism (race determines priority) and even could be described as “anti-Gentilism” (race determines exclusion).

Yet, they deem as anti-Semitic any eschatological view that applies Israel’s covenant promises to the church and sees the church as the final phase in God’s redemptive dealings with man. Hal Lindsey even wrote a whole book on the subject titled, The Road to Holocaust. In their view non-dispensational theology is not only biblically deficient but morally corrupt.

For instance, Tim LaHaye associate, Thomas Ice, has written that “historically replacement theology (the church replaces the Jews as the new or true Israel, and Israel has no future as a distinct nation within God’s plan) has been the theological foundation upon which anti-Semitism has been built within the confines of Christianity. (Ice, “Hal Lindsey, Dominion Theology, and Anti-Semitism,” Biblical Perspectives, 5:1 [Jan.-Feb., 1992], p. 2).

Their moral charges against non-dispensational theological systems fail miserably for two significant reasons (among several dozen more):

First, dispensationalism inadvertently involves the New Testament itself in anti-Semitism. How so?

They frequently cite the standard academic works on anti-Semitism that link “replacement theology,” “supersessionism,” or “church fulfillment theology” with this sinful form of racism in history. Sadly, they do not carefully read those academic works which they so excitedly quote. These book invariably trace anti-Semitism back to the New Testament itself! We see this in the following titles of books and academic articles:

• Gregory Baum, Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic? A Re-examination of the New Testament. Rev. ed. Glen Rock, N.J.: Deus, 1965.
• Norman A. Beck, Mature Christianity in the 21st Century: The Recognition and Repudiation of the Anti-Jewish Polemic of the New Testament (Rev. ed.: New York: Crossroad, 1994).
• John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of Anti -Semitism in the Gospel Story (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995).
• Dan Cohn-Sherbok, The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of Anti-Semitism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992).
• T. A. Burkill, “Anti-Semitism in St. Mark’s Gospel,” New Testament 3 (1959): 34–52.
• W. R. Farmer, Anti-Judaism and the Gospels (Harrisburg, Penn.: Trinity, 1999).
• Riemund Bieringer, Didier Pollefeyt, and Frederique Vandecasteele, eds., Anti–Judaism and the Fourth Gospel (Louisville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox, 2001).
• L. T. Johnson, “The New Testament’s Anti-Jewish Slander and the Conventions of Ancient Polemic,” Journal of Biblical Literature 108 (1989): 419–41.
• R. R. Ruether, Is the New Testament AntiSemitic? (2d. ed.: Glen Rock: N. J.: Paulist, 1965).

Such works argue that Christianity’s claim that Christ is the only way of salvation – and even that he is the Jewish Messiah, are anti-Semitic and must be removed from Scripture!

Second, to make matters worse: dispensationalism ends up encouraging current-day actions that will (they admit!) lead to a wholesale slaughter of the Jews. What do I mean?

Dispensationalists delight in Israel’s 1948 re-establishment as a nation. They rejoice in the great number of Jews who have already and will yet return to Israel. They gladly encourage modern Israeli policies that draw Jews back into the Land. The excitedly look for the rebuilding of the Jewish temple — by Jews who have returned to the land of Israel.

For instance, The Tim LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible exults: “the regathering of a people once scattered among the nations of the world is evidenced that God is at work in fulfilling His prophetic word” (p. 1080). On the same page it continues: “the most exciting, documented evidence that the Lord’s return could be close at hand is the activity surrounding preparations for the rebuilding of the temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.”

Another book focusing on the rebuilding of the temple does the same. Don Stewart and Chuck Missler dedicate their book, The Coming Temple (1991): “To our wonderful friends in Israel this book is lovingly dedicated.” In still another work Ready to Rebuild (1992) on p. 25 we read: “Today many Christians are excited about the very real potential for the rebuilding of Israel’s Temple in Jerusalem.”

But even while encouraging Jews to return to Israel, dispensationalists teach that “Zechariah predicts that two-thirds of the Jewish people in the land will perish during the Tribulation period.” (LaHaye Prophecy Study Bible, 1101). John Walvoord, in his Prophecy Knowledge Handbook (1990, p. 332) states of Zechariah 14:8–9: “This prophecy will be fulfilled in the Great Tribulation when two out of three of the Jews in the land attempt to flee their persecutor, the future world leader, will perish, and only one-third will escape.”

Should they not be warning Jews not to return to Israel? Would not it be more wise and compassionate to warn Jews what will befall them after they return?

Dispensationalism is trapped in a Catch-22: On their theological view of Israel and their eschatological view of history, they must encourage Jews to return to Israel. But on their exegetical understanding of prophecy, they know that after they have returned, fully two-thirds of them will be destroyed. This should be deemed a form of anti-Semitism!


Anonymous said...

Dr. Gentry,

I see your point. But if anti-semitism and persecution of Jews becomes a major problem again in the future, does it matter where they are living? When Hitler persecuted them, there was no "Israel" and most Jews were scattered throughout Europe in numerous countries. Yet look what Hitler managed to do. I have read statistics that almost two-thirds of Jews died in the holocaust, which occurred only decades ago.

So, as I see it, whether the majority of Jews live in Palestine or if most live scattered all over the world, if a world-wide movement against them occurs again, it won't matter where they are living.


Anonymous said...

In addition to this, I see an issue with regard to the term 'replacement theology'. For those who believe in a premillenial eschatology, when the remaining 1/3rd of jews recieve Christ after the rapture, won't that mean that they become Christians?

So, according to Dispensationalism:

The Jews rejected Christ, then the Christians replaced them whilst the Jews were set aside, then the Christians all get raptured and then, after most of them are wiped out, the Jews become Christians? Right?

I dunno. My understanding from Romans is that we as believers are all grafted into the olive tree, both Jew and Gentile under the New Covenant in Christ. If anyone can be accused of 'replacement theology' it's the dispensationalists.

Just a thought.....

Steve said...

Thanks for your comment. Good thought, but unfortunately it is mistaken.

It is mistaken both theologically and exegetically. That is, it is mistaken in terms of what dispensationalists themselves teach (theologically) and in terms of what the Zechariah 13 passage itself states (exegetically).

Walvoord in his Prophecy Knowledge Handbook (p. 332) states: “It was prophesied that two-thirds of Israel in the land will perish.”

Zechariah 13 is dealing with “Jerusalem” (Zech 13:1) and “the land” (Zech 13:2). In fact, the very verse in question (Zech 13:8) expressly declares: “And it will come about in all the land," Declares the Lord, "That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it.”

Ken Gentry

Kyle said...

Hi Dr. Gentry, thanks for your great blog and all these useful resources on understanding the problems with dispensationalism. I did have one question that I haven't seen addressed elsewhere on the site. How do you deal with Romans 11:25-32? This is one of the few passages that seems to back up the dispie ideas, but while I suspect I'm reading it wrong I can't find much of anything offering a non-dispensational interpretation of this passage. Any help would be much appreciated, thank you!