Sunday, August 31, 2014

Replacement Theology

Replacement theology is a bad name for a perfectly good doctrine. Of course, that would explain why it is known as Replacement theology by its detractors. The true name is Covenant Theology. Covenant Theology (CT) pronounces that God, in his sovereignty, has made a covenant with humankind. This covenant is known as the Covenant of Grace. It is known as such because at its very core it is gracious. God had entered into covenant relationship with humanity in the Garden (the Covenant of Works), and in this covenant he promised to give life to Adam if he obeyed him and to give death to Adam if he disobeyed him (the same principles that apply to us today, assuming to obey is to accept Christ as Lord and to disobey is to reject him). Then when Adam broke God's covenant and had the punishment incurred on all humanity, God graciously entered into covenant again with humankind. This second covenant is the Covenant of Grace, by which God has chosen to redeem a people for the glory and honor of his name. The overarching Covenant of Grace is renewed, clarified, made better, etc. by the remaining covenants in Scripture. This Covenant of Grace includes and sees its pinnacle in the New Covenant, which was not like the Old Covenant, insofar as this covenant is the once and for all atonement for sin, restores humanity's nature, and empowers that covenant people with the Holy Spirit. Thus, with CT we can see the beautiful plan of God being completed from Genesis chapter 3 all the way to Revelation 22. The totality of the Scriptures is the story- the one, unified story of our salvation, of God's covenant with his people.
This is precisely why "Replacement theology" is a bad name for covenant theology. It is assuming, from the beginning, that there is no such story, singular and unified, that exists in Scripture, or at least that if it does exist in Scripture it is wildly different from what CT posits or what is even, perhaps, the plain message of the text. Indeed, CT's detractors say that CT is Replacement theology because the Church replaces Israel. The problem here is that this too is assuming a lot. First, it's assuming that Israel and the Church are utterly distinct. Did the Church exist before Christ? They say no. But if we are going to be honest with the Biblical text we must answer, yes. The Church was present. "Woah! Daniel, how can you say that? How could the Church exist before Christ?" I answer that question with a question. What is the Church? The Church is the body of believers that God has chosen to bless the world through the spread of his fame to the nations, to the end that they will be saved from the wrath to come, glorify and praise God, and enjoy him forever. Tell me that didn't exist in the Old Testament and I will tell you that you are not reading the text. Israel is repeatedly told that they were to be a light to the nations, that they were there to bless the nations, that they were there to make the nations jealous for their God. This is precisely the mission of the Church, but there are those willing to say that the Church not only exists separately from Israel, but also that Israel still has that mission. How can this be if they (that is, the Jews) do not serve the one true God, revealed ultimately in Jesus Christ, his record (the OT and NT), and his Church? Is Israel (if one can really argue that Israel truly exists in any authentic way outside the Church) to be a light to the world? What about the Church? Did not Christ appropriate that to us, thus linking the Church with Israel's mission?
Is it "replacement" if the entity changes it's name? Is it replacement if God's place was for a particular people and not just for a particular people group? How can it be replacement at all if we believe that God has and always will have a (singular, one) people by which the nations will be blessed?
Romans 9 answers the question directly. The Jews in Rome had faced some hard times lately and had been asking if the Messiah was supposed to make things better, then why, after he had come, had things gotten so much worse for the Jews? Why were they not accepting the Messiah? Why had they been persecuted in Rome? Wasn't the Messiah supposed to defeat the empires of the world so that they Jews could be free? Paul says no. The Messiah did make everything better for Israel- for true Israel. You see, Paul said, that not everyone from the people group known as Israel were the true chosen people of God, that is Spiritual Israel or True Israel. Indeed, the Israel of God has always been his people, chosen by him since before the foundation of the world. He chose one brother over another though they were from the same father, he chose one twin over another even though they were, ultimately, from the same ovum. He chose one and not the other based entirely on his goodwill in order that his purpose of election might continue.
But what about the nation of Israel? What were they? My answer is that they are the Visible Church to our Invisible Church. Some within the Visible Church are not elect: they do not believe, they merely act like they believe, while in their heart they remain rebellious and cold towards God. The Invisible Church is the true Church within the church at large just as True Israel was the true Israel within the nation of Israel at large. This True Israel or Spiritual Israel or the Israel of God, this body has always been God's chosen people, his covenant people. Though those around us (our families and the nation of Israel in the OT) enjoy the benefits for a time, ultimately only the true believers, the true covenant community will savor and enjoy God forever. Only they are his covenant people.
Can we, then, honestly say that anything has been replaced? Is this a fair name? Absolutely not. Praise God that he is the faithful God who does not break covenant with his people!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Absurd a Claim: Why Do Christians Rejoice About This?

The most absurd claim I have heard in months has been coming from the mouths of Christians, both the layman and the intellectual. I am utterly appalled that they would do so: they are truly denying that they serve the one true God. Indeed, when they utter this claim they are in effect saying, "Sorry, you all actually did have it right 2,000 years ago." I am offended in the utmost to hear my Christian brothers and sisters proclaim such blasphemy.

What are they saying that has got you so riled up, Daniel. Well, friends, let me tell you. In a recent news article, The Inquisitr reports that some Hamas terrorists were complaining about their missiles not hitting their targets by saying, "We do aim them, but their God changes their path in mid-air." This is absolutely the most absurd claim I have heard in over a year, perhaps longer. Why? you ask. Let's think about this for a moment.

Muslims believe in one God. Indeed the first of the Five Pillars of Islam is the Shahadah. The Shahadah states that there is only one God, Allah, who is alone to be worshipped, and Muhammad is his prophet. (More concerning basic Muslim beliefs and the Shahadah can be found here.) So if Allah is the only God and he alone is to be worshiped, why on earth would a Muslim ever confess that the god of the Jews was powerful enough to contend with those who are doing the will of Allah?! It is absurd in the highest to think that these Muslims would even think about confessing, even through a ill thought out complaint, that the god of the Jews was powerful enough to thwart their holy efforts. (For those reading who actually know anything about Islamic beliefs, yes I am aware that what these terrorists are doing is not in a true Islamic spirit and that what they're doing is not true Jihad, which is always self-defense. But, at the very least, we are surely aware that they confess the Shahadah, and the other Pillars.) For that Muslim would have surely committed blasphemy and, if he were unintelligent enough to commit blasphemy in front of men who will decapitate a man or woman over what even hints at blasphemy, they certainly don't seem intelligent enough to fire a rocket either, which might explain why they aren't hitting many of their targets. So, as far as this alleged statement about their god changing the directions of their missiles, we must conclude this was a poorly thought out piece of Israeli propaganda. Now, don't hate on Israel for putting out propaganda; everyone does all the time. It's become a dirty word in recent years, but honestly, it's just an attempt to encourage the populace to support the government or state. Nevertheless, it is still clear that this is not an authentic statement.

As for the Christian response to this statement, few have taken into account the facts, but even who have who also rejoice that the god of the Israelis changes the missiles directions is actually committing blasphemy themselves. How? I'm glad you asked.

John 8 records a conversation between Jesus and the Jewish Pharisees. "Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” So the Pharisees said to him, “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” They said to him therefore, “Where is your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also."

What does the text say? It says that Jesus proclaimed himself to be the Gospel: "I am the way of salvation (that is, the light)," says Jesus, "To get to the Father, one must follow me." But the Pharisees reject him, saying that he is not the light of the world. He is not the Father's anointed. He is not God. He is not Yahweh. But he says that he is indeed who he says he is, even if he is the only one saying it; they do not know where is came from nor where he is going, but he does. Both he and the Father testify about who he is and why he was sent. They still do not understand and ask him who his Father is. (What does just this tell you about the god of the Jews, if they have to even ask who the Father is?) Jesus rebukes them saying, "You know neither me nor my Father." He takes it a step further, "If you knew me, you would know my Father also."

To truly know who God is, one must know Christ, because Christ is God, made flesh to reveal to man the nature of the Triune God. One cannot know the Father without Christ, cannot have the Spirit without Christ, and so cannot know God at all if s/he rejects Christ. If a Christian ever says that the God of the Jews changes the trajectory of a missile or heals a person or does any miracle of any kind, indeed if he even exists, then that Christian is conceding that Christ was actually wrong: you can know God without him. Indeed, he is saying that Christ was not God at all. You see, when Christians speak about Christ being God, they mean that Christ is Yahweh. The Father is also Yahweh. Yes, the Spirit too is Yahweh. Three but one. The great doctrine of the Trinity. To reject Christ is to reject Yahweh. To not know Christ is to not know the Father, to not know Yahweh. To not have the Spirit, who is given by Christ, is to not have (or serve) Yahweh. There is no getting around it for the Christian: Either the Jews serve Yahweh and we serve the crazy, blasphemous, 2,000 years dead Jesus, or we serve Yahweh and they serve yet another idol, another golden calf they have made for themselves. They rejected God's revelation of himself; they rejected God by rejecting Christ.

Brothers and Sisters, we must recognize the need for the Jews to know Christ. They are hopelessly lost in darkness so long as they reject the Light of the World. We must continue to pray for them, but we cannot propagate this blasphemous word that has recently become popular among Christians, evangelicals in particular. Pray for them. Pray for Hamas. Pray for Peace, which comes only through the God of the Gospel and the Gospel which he has sent.

Read more about this claim at http://www.inquisitr.com/1364461/israel-miracle-gaza-strip-hamas-complain-their-god-changes-the-paths-of-our-rockets-in-mid-air/#2UTXOtkpy0QJ9w2Y.99
You may also read up on Islam's basic beliefs at  http://en.islamway.net/ and http://en.islamway.net/article/8764/the-shahadah-confession-of-faith-in-islam

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