Some thoughts on Dual Covenant Theology

For those who are not familiar with the term, “Dual Covenant Theology” is the belief that although non-Jewish people need to accept the substitutionary sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross in order to be forgiven for their sins and thus be able to enter the presence of a Holy God in Heaven, Jewish people have their own separate arrangement with Him and so they don’t need the Gospel. Most Christian Zionist organizations and individuals would, if asked, flatly deny that they hold to this belief, but something happened recently which raises the question about whether or not such denials should be taken at face value.

I am speaking of the recently held public debate between Rabbi Schmuley Boteach and Dr. Michael Brown on the subject “Is the New Testament Anti-Semitic”. Before the actual debate was held these two men got warmed up by writing op-eds in the Jerusalem Post. In his op-ed, Boteach called Brown a “dinosaur” for being among those Evangelical Christians who still believe that Jewish people need to accept the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Brown flatly denied this in his response. Neither mentioned the term “Dual Covenant Theology” but that’s what they were arguing about.

Here’s what I think.

In my years of meeting with groups of Gentile Christians, Messianic Jews and “others” who come to Israel to show their support for the Jewish State and People in various ways, I have encountered many people who are not sure about what they think on this issue. Frankly, many appear to have never given it much thought at all.

This is, in my assessment, a symptom of the catastrophic level of Biblical illiteracy among the vast majority of people, both Jews and Gentiles, who identify as followers of Jesus of Nazareth. The more familiar with the Scriptures one is, the more ludicrously absurd Dual Covenant Theology will seem. But, sadly, many Believers are not very familiar with their Scriptures, leaving them wide open to the suggestions of charismatic people who sound like they know what they’re talking about.

Additionally, some Christian groups who are active in Israel, particularly those who are active in the West Bank, have embraced the culture, clothing, attitudes and theological language/nomenclature of Israel’s Modern Orthodox/National Religious community to such a degree that although they might not have explicitly declared their belief in Dual Covenant Theology, it’s easy to imagine that they’ve implicitly embraced it, perhaps without even fully realizing what they’ve done.

Other Christian groups HAVE made explicit statements endorsing Dual Covenant Theology and urged others to do the same. I have confronted some of these people to their face and asked them how they explained Scriptures (including the very words of Jesus Himself) which flatly repudiate this heretical idea. Their responses ranged from faux bewilderment at what they described as my dogmatic refusal to embrace their “enlightened” reinterpretation of those Scriptures to sneering contempt at my insistence on “actually believing” that the Bible can and should be taken literally (or even seriously.)

Under these circumstances, it’s not difficult to imagine how Boteach and other Jewish leaders, both in Israel and the Diaspora, might come to the conclusion that those of us who still assert the need of Jewish people for the Gospel of Jesus Christ the same as non-Jewish people need it are “dinosaurs” while the majority of the Philo-Semitic/Christian Zionist/Hebrew Roots movement has discarded this idea. The fact is, segments of that movement HAVE outright discarded it, while others have merely downplayed it’s importance and/or called it into question.

However, the deeply ambiguous grey area in which most groups operate allows Brown’s denial that a majority of Evangelical Christians have embraced Dual Covenant Theology  to also appear to possibly be true. Because while most Philo-Semitic/Christian Zionist/Hebrew Roots folks would flatly deny that they have adopted Dual Covenant Theology if you asked them, it’s often considered impolite and “divisive” to raise this issue and so getting an explicit statement repudiating Dual Covenant Theology and/or asserting the need of Jewish people to accept the Gospel is also difficult. So many groups and individuals just kind of keep quiet on the issue, avoiding controversy and getting along with everyone including the Israeli government, the Jewish communities in Israel and the Diaspora, and even Israel’s Believer community.

It might surprise you to hear that I actually think there’s some utility to this situation, for now. There’s much work that needs to be done which requires everyone to put this issue to one side for a season and operate under a curtain of plausible ambiguity. However, make no mistake, this season WILL come to an end and there will come a day when the need Jewish people have to embrace the Gospel of THEIR Messiah will be impossible to set aside, even for tactical/temporary reasons.

In this context, Revelation 3:15-16 is relevant;

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. “

If you’re among those who need to operate in ambiguity for now, fine. But it would be wise to invest some serious thought and prayer into the question of what you’ll do when this season comes to an end and you have to take a stand, one way or the other.