Friday, March 14, 2008

Is Traditional Reformed Theology Anti-Jewish? I.

It has been claimed by many Dispensationalists, from Hal Lindsay to Barry Horner, that the traditional Reformed teaching on the place of Israel today is basically 'anti-Jewish'. We wish to dissent, and shall, God willing, be reviewing Dr. Horner's book in due time.

Our present post is loosely based on Dr. Horner's appearance on Iron Sharpens Iron with Chris Arnzen on Monday, which we finally listened to last night. Since a fifty minute radio programme (we do not count the breaks) is plainly insufficient for the sort of in-depth analysis that the book must contain (we hope, as it's a little expensive on, and this blog has a tiny budget), we will save most of our comments for the actual book review in a few weeks' time.

It has been said that men like David Brown and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who held to a future for Israel, were exceptions that prove the rule, and much has been made of certain Dutch Reformed theologians. Well, as the title of this blog indicates, we are not from that tradition, but from the English Strict and Particular Baptist tradition. Our theologians are not Bavinck and Kuyper, but John Gill, Joseph Kinghorn, and J.C. Philpot. Since the Particular Baptists developed out of the English Puritan tradition, and had important links with Scottish Reformed Theology, we will also refer to these streams. Our argument will be that these streams of Reformed theology, following John Calvin, developed a Biblical position on the future restoration of the Jews, founded in particular upon Paul in the Epistle to the Romans. To keep this post to a reasonable length, we shall be taking the position that taking "All Israel" in Romans 11.26 as referring to the nation of Israel, rather than the Church, constitutes Reformed pro-Israelism (to use a rather ugly-looking word). Indeed, we have met some modern Reformed teachers (and argued with them in the seminary classroom) who DO teach a replacement theology. Bavinck certainly did, for one. But we find (and we can only speak in the main of traditional Darbyite Dispensationalists, having moved among the Plymouth Brethren for some time) that Dispensationalists tend to over-react to this continental replacement theology.

It has been said that it is basically anti-Jewish to interpret the Old Testament prophecies by the New Testament. we utterly fail to see why, as we view the Bible as one book given to the one People of God, in whom we Gentile believers have been grafted on by grace. But we shall develop this point in future.

Dr. Horner seemed to accuse Calvin of not only being anti-Jewish, but of anti-semitism in the Iron Sharpens Iron broadcast. He suggested that Calvin was responsible for having the Jews ejected from Geneva. In fact Geneva, like many Medieval cities, had already thrown out the Jews. In 1490 a rabid anti-semitic preacher arrived in Geneva and called on the city to eject the Jewish population. Sadly, the council agreed, and by the time Calvin arrived in Geneva the former Jewish quarter had been repopulated with 'Christians'.
Calvin himself, however, said in his commentary on Romans 11.26:
"When the Gentiles have come in, the Jews will at the same time return from their defection to the obedience of faith. The salvation of the whole Israel of God, which must be drawn from both, will thus be completed, and yet in such a way that the Jews, as the firstborn in the family of God, may obtain the first place." (emphasis ours)

Note that, although Calvin identifies the 'Israel of God' as the one people of God, he argues that in the Israel the Jews will have "the first place". We simply do not see how a man who said that in the Eschaton the Jews would have a pre-eminent place in the Church can be said to be anti-Jewish. Certainly the theories of replacement theologians have no support in John Calvin.

We have collected the testimonies of more than fifteen Reformed non-premillenialists, as well as of the Westminster Assembly, John Wesley and Adam Clark, all of whom hold to a future conversion of Israel, a view so prevalent in the 17th century that the Westminster Assembly mandated prayer for the conversion of the Jews in its Directory for the Publick Worship of God!

On a better note, on the show Dr. Horner bemoaned the fact that J.C. Ryle's book Coming Events and Present Duties was unobtainable. In fact it has been in print since 2001, but in an edition that combines it with another small book by Ryle on the same themes. This combined edition is called Are You Ready for the End of Time? , and it is available for £6.99 from Christian Focus. Ryle was an historic Premillenialist.

But since this post has already swelled beyond the modest dimensions we planned for it, we shall, God willing, continue next time.

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