Monday, April 14, 2008

Yet more thoughts on 'Future Israel'

We have now finished reading Dr. Barry Horner's book Future Israel. Now, we are agreed with Dr. Horner on the following points:
1. God has not finished with national Israel.
2. The Jews are to be restored not only to faith, but also to the Land.

We are disagreed with Dr. Horner on these other points:
1. Only a premillennial eschatology can properly reflect this.
2. There will be a restored Temple in Jerusalem.
3. All our efforts to reach Israel as a nation with the Gospel will ultimately be unsuccessful. Israel as a nation will only be converted by the Second Advent of Our Lord.

The thesis of Dr. Horner's book seems to us to be that Christians have historically failed to live up to our responsibility towards the Jews (with which we agree), and that only a Judeo-centric premillennialism (as opposed to an Augustinian amillennialism) can correct this imbalance (with which we disagree).
The trouble is, Dr. Horner seems to cherry-pick history to prove his second point. So, on pages 150 to 151 we have effectively one page dealing with 'Israel and Judeo-centric Premillennialism up to the Reformation'. In it Horner makes the bald assertion that patristic premillennialism was Judeo-centric,
"as will be demonstrated, chiliasm and subsequent premillennialism have continued to uphold a closer identity with the perpetuation of the Jewish people as a nation with a distinct eschatalogical hope" (P. 150).
Yet there is not one quotation from the pre-Reformation period to back up this statement, not one name cited. Contrast this with David Brown in his 1861 volume The Restoration of the Jews (reprinted with a lengthy foreword by Steve Schlissel as Hal Lindsay and the Restoration of the Jews [Edmonton, Still Waters Revival Books, 1990] It is this edition that we quote from), where Brown takes up an entire chapter of 12 pages dealing with the same period. In this chapter he states:
"Although the primitive Church is known to have been divided from the very first on the question of the Premillennial Advent and the Personal Reign of Christ on the earth, it is a curious fact, and one that will probably startle my readers, that the national and territorial restoration of the Jews not only never entered into the controversy at all, but seems not to have been believed in by either of the parties" (P. 71).
Brown then proceeds, through quotations from the Fathers, to prove his case. Since Dr. Horner offers nothing but an unproven assertion, we will stick with Brown until shown that he was wrong.
What about Dr. Horner's "as will be demonstrated"? The trouble is, what he demonstrates is not really relevant to the question in hand, but is something that no-one denies, namely that post-Reformation Premillennialism has often held to the future restoration of the Jewish people. But to read this back into pre-Reformation Premillennialism without a single quotation or even reference to an author to back it up is simply bad scholarship.

We have already referred to Justin Martyr, and we have done this with good reason. Justin was not only probably the first anti-semitic writer in the Church (as Carsten Theide says), he was also explicitly postmillennial. Yet in Justin's theology the Church (viewed as a Gentile, or predominantly Gentile body) is explicitly said to have replaced Israel. What is more, Justin is not unusual, but entirely representative. David Brown cites from Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian and Lactantius to prove his point.
"Now I have shown a short time ago that the church is the seed of Abraham; and for this reason, that we may know that He who in the New Testament “raises up from the stones children unto Abraham,” Matt. iii. 9. is He who will gather, according to the Old Testament, those that shall be saved from all the nations, Jeremiah says: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that they shall no more say, The Lord liveth, who led the children of Israel from the north, and from every region whither they had been driven; He will restore them to their own land which He gave to their fathers.”"
Irenaeus wrote when he applied the prophecies that speak of the restoration of the Jews to the state of the Church in the Millennium (Quoted Brown, P. 76. See Adv. Haer. Bk. V, Chapters xxxii, xxxiv). Unless Dr. Horner or anyone else can prove that we are wrong by one unambiguous citation from the Fathers or another non-heretical pre-Reformation source, we will continue to believe that there was no such thing as Judeo-centric premillennialism before the Reformation. As it is, it seems to us that Dr. Horner has read post-Reformation premillennialism back into the period before the Reformation. That is, he has begged the question of whether or not premillennialism is naturally Judeo-centric.

Next time, God willing, we shall continue with these thoughts.

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