Thursday, April 10, 2008

More thoughts on 'Future Israel'

We must say that, broadly speaking, we are in agreement with Dr. Horner concerning the future restoration of the Jews to faith in Messiah, and to the Land promised to Abraham. It is for this reason that our disagreements are so important.
Our first major disagreement is concerning the historical pedigree of a theology that denies one or both of these points. Horner traces it it Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD), yet it is much more sensible to trace it to Justin Martyr (c.100 - 165 AD). Heavily influenced by Greek philosophy (Justin had in fact been a philosopher before his conversion), Justin called himself a Samaritan, having been born, though to Greek parents, in Samaria. Like the people among whom he was brought up, Justin seems to have been less than fond of the Jews, and in his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Justin gives what is probably the first formal expression of a 'replacement theology'.
Justin's importance is further confirmed by the fact that Easter Orthodox theologians and priests have historically held to Replacement theology, when we know from experience that they tend to have a fairly low view of Augustine as a Latin Father. Justin, however, was from the East and wrote in Greek, both things that would recommend him to the Eastern Orthodox. His early date, having died nearly 200 years before the birth of Augustine, and before the split between East and West began to develop. It is therefore most likely that Augustine picked up his views from Justin.
As David Brown noted in his excellent The Restoration of the Jews (a work that we prefer to Dr. Horner's), Justin was a pre-millennialist as well, while Augustine was Amillennial in his teaching. But the question of the future of the Jews was thought by all in the Patristic period to have been settled by Justin. In all of the debates about the Millennium, it was assumed by both sides that the Jews were eternally rejected as a nation.
We do not excuse Augustine. If Justin Martyr, as James White has said, knew Greek philosophy better than he knew the Bible, Augustine read his Bible. Unfortunately he read it under the guidance of Ambrose of Milan, who was quite anti-semitic. Nevertheless, to trace what was already in Augustine's time the accepted view to the bishop of Hippo is simply bad historical theology.

Secondly, and probably our greatest disagreement with Horner, Horner connects the conversion of the Jews, the restoration to the Land, and the restoration of the Temple and its attendant system of worship. With the first two we concur, from the last we strongly dissent.
It is our belief that it is the linking of these three positions as if they were an unbreakable chain that has done most to discredit the doctrine of the restoration of the Jews to the land in the eyes of most of the Church. That the sin-offerings and burnt offerings shall be offered again, that the priesthood of Levi shall be instituted once more, at these things the mind of the Christian who has read the Epistle to the Hebrews instinctively revolts.
Now this was quite acceptable to the dualism of the Darby-Scofield brand of Dispensationalism, which could say:
"Comparing, then, what is said in Scripture concerning Israel and the Church, he finds that in origin, calling, promise, worship, principles of conduct, and future destiny that all is contrast." (C.I. Scofield: 'The Jew, the Gentile, and the Church of God')
Scofield could have the Jews sacrificing in their Temple, while the Church was in heaven with Christ:
"Just as distinctly as Israel stands connected with temporal and earthly things, so distinctly does the church stand connected with spiritual and heavenly things." (Ibid.)
And this carnal dispensationalism, in which Israel and the Church were portrayed as different in every single way, has also disgusted the Christian who refuses to admit its dualistic overtones. In fact the condemnation of this form of dispensationalism is writ in the fact that most modern dispensational scholars, such as John MacArthur, have rejected it for a position closer to the Premillennialism of Bonar and the later Spurgeon.
But neither this dualism nor the restoration of the types and shadows of the ceremonial law are necessarily connected with the restoration of the Jews to the Land. It is entirely conceivable that the temple of Ezekiel's vision is entirely spiritual and typological, whilst the restoration of Israel to the Land is physical and literal. Thomas Goodwin, following John Brightman, the first writer in the post-Reformation age to notice that the Bible expressly foretells the restoration of Israel to the Land as well as to God, saw the Second Coming as following the Millennium (at least in his exposition of Revelation). But neither man saw the restoration of the Temple in Jerusalem as a necessary part of this restoration - and neither do we.

More thoughts, God willing, next time.

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