A different type of “Replacement Theology”

I recently had a conversation with an individual who belongs to a mainline Protestant denomination that officially endorses Replacement Theology. Despite that theological position, this person considers himself to be a friend of Israel and gives as his reasons that it is a democracy committed to pluralism, tolerance, etc.

Of course, the recently passed “Jewish Nation-State Law” has him questioning all that, wondering if Israel really IS a democracy after all. During our discussion he hit me, as I knew he would, with a question about how I as a Christian could continue to support a country which engaged in, as he described it, “naked ethnocentrism” and “oppression of minorities” and so on.

I replied, as I’m sure he knew I would (he and I have known each other for a VERY long time) that I would continue to support Israel because the Bible says what it says and I’m the kind of guy who obeys my King when He gives me a command and doesn’t second guess a Being with infinitely more power, intelligence and vision than I have.

He responded, as he always does, by demanding to know where it says in the Bible that God has commanded His followers to support the modern Nation-State of Israel and I responded, as I always do, by pointing to the relevant passages including Romans 9-11 and also throughout the rest of the New Testament, particularly the Book of Revelation.

He responded, as he always does, by giving the standard Replacement Theologian answers about how when the New Testament talks about “Israel” it’s referring to “Spiritual Israel” which is “the Church” and I told him, as I always do, that mortal human beings don’t have the authority to interpret Scriptures to mean something totally different than what they very plainly say.

I was expecting him to respond in the same old way he always does…but he didn’t.

He hit me with something totally new that I’d never thought of before, and it really blew my mind. Maybe it’ll blow your mind too, and hopefully in a good way.

He said that the Jewish Sages and Rabbis, at least since the Second Century when they began writing the Talmud, have never ceased to reinterpret Scripture to mean something totally different than what it very plainly says. He pointed, quite correctly, to the example of Isaiah chapter 53, which describes Jesus Christ down to his sandal straps, yet the Rabbis claim, with nothing but their own self-granted authority to back the assertion up, that this passage actually refers to the Jewish People as a whole.

My friend pointed out that this was also a kind of “Replacement Theology” because the Rabbis have “replaced” Jesus in Isaiah 53 with themselves. So what, he asked, was the difference if some Christians “replace” the Jewish People with themselves in NT passages that refer to Israel?

I sat there in silence for several seconds like a deer in the headlights, trying to collect my thoughts. But before I could respond, he pointed a finger at my face and said “if this is how the Rabbis treat Scripture, and you Christian Zionists never call them out on it, then you can’t complain when some Christians treat Scripture the same way.”

Brothers and Sisters, I had no good answer to give him. I thought about that conversation a lot over the next couple of days and these are the conclusions I’ve come to.

For starters, there is no denying the validity of the point he raised. If Jewish Rabbis can take a messianic prophecy and “replace” the One it points to with something else and Christian Zionists don’t call them on it, there’s nothing to complain about when a mainline Christian theologian takes a prophecy about physical Israel or the “irrevocable” gifts and calling to it and “replaces” it with something else.

My second conclusion is that those of us who ARE supporters of Israel need to come up with an answer to this point, because my friend surely isn’t the only one who will ever make it. In fact, I’m fairly certain he didn’t come up with it himself, but rather heard it from someone else and was just waiting for an opportunity to use it on me the next time he had a chance. So this argument is in circulation, and we need to come up with a response

I pray for those who read this to be inspired with some good ideas.