Supersessionism

From Academic Kids

Supersessionism is the traditional Christian belief that Christianity is the fulfillment of Biblical Judaism, and therefore that Jews who deny that Jesus is the Messiah fall short of their calling as God's Chosen people.

Thus, according to supersessionism, the Jews are either no longer considered to be God's Chosen people, or their proper calling is frustrated pending their acceptance of Jesus as the promised Messiah.

Critics of a complete replacement theory, the first alternative just mentioned, might reason that the "chosenness" of the gentile believers in the Messiah is an engrafting into the promises made to Israel. If the Jews can be rejected, then the chosenness of the Church is also reversible (were the Church to reject God), since its basis is in the former. However, if the election of the Christian Church is not reversible, then neither is the election of Israel, which is its basis.

The traditional form of supersessionism does not theorize a replacement; instead it argues that Israel has been superseded only in the sense that the Church has been entrusted with the fulfillment of the promises of which Jewish Israel is the trustee. All Western Christian sects and denominations have held some version of this belief, which has served not only as the explanation for why believers in Christ should not become Jews, but is also the rationale for attempting the conversion of Jews to Christianity. However, since The Enlightenment, a growing minority of Christians have questioned this doctrine.

In the 20th century certain hierarchs of the Roman Catholic Church issued a number of theological position papers which appear to reject this concept outright, and affirm that the Torah is a valid path for Jews to achieve salvation, that their covenant with God is still valid, and that the Jews of modern times are a direct unbroken continuation of the ancient Children of Israel. This view is not accepted by all Catholic theologians, and it is rejected outright by traditional Catholics though it has been reaffirmed several times by various Catholic hierarchs. The Catholic Church still proclaims Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, and recently affirmed the necessity of Jesus for salvation in the declaration Dominus Jesus. However, although salvation comes from the Church, the current teaching of some hierarchs is that persons outside the Church, and particularly the Jews, can receive salvation through the semina verbi contained in their religious traditions.

Several liberal Protestant Christian groups have formally renounced supersessionism, and affirm that Jews, and perhaps other non-Christians, have a valid way to find God within their own faith. In addition, many fundamentalist Christian groups, including conservative Evangelical Protestants and Anabaptists, have renounced replacement theology, though these groups still hold that faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to God (citing usually John 14:6). Other conservative and fundamentalist Christian groups hold supersessionism to be valid and replacement theories are sometimes held, however, and the debate continues.

Conservative Christian groups that reject supersessionism are usually dispensationalists and hold that at a future time God will return his focus to the Jewish nation, citing the book of Romans chapter 11.


Contents

Supersessionism and Covenant Theology

Covenant theology, a dominant theological schema within historical Calvinism, has as one of its core teachings the idea that the Old Testament nation of Israel is ultimately representative of the historical Christian church. The idea is that God's original purpose was to create for himself one covenant people, which was to be found in the visible people of Israel in the years before Christ, and to be found in the visible church in the years after Christ. Because of Christ's central role in keeping God's side of the Covenant, most Calvinists would argue that the Jewish race is no longer considered the "people of God" since they do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. So while the Jews are still considered "blessed" (because they have the Old Testament) they are, in the end, no different to unbelieving Gentiles in their position before God.

Not all Calvinists embrace Covenant theology, most notably those who hold to Dispensationalism.

Relevant New Testament passages

  • Romans 2:28-29 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
  • Romans 9:6-8 But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named." This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.
  • Galatians 3:29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.
  • Revelation 3:9 Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but lie - behold, I will make them come and bow down at your feet and they will learn that I have loved you.

See also

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