(Reviewer's note. Horner repeatedly refers to supersessionist theology. When I am directly quoting him, I will use his spelling - supercessionist or supercession. Supersessionism believes that the Church has permanently replaced Israel and there is no eschatological future for Israel as a nation. Supersessionism, also known as Replacement Theology, is a doctrine that cannot be accurately supported from Scripture.)
In his Personal Introduction, Horner wrote, "I do not hesitate to confess my disturbance at that opinion, held by many Calvinists (though by no means all), which declares that the Jew today, on account of stubborn unbelief, is covenantally and eternally persona non grata in the sight of God. Perhaps most disturbing of all in this regard has been an evident form of theological anti-Judaism among a considerable number of those holding to Reformed convictions. In conversation, quite a few by their derogatory manner have inferred that they would be delighted if the Arabs would push Israel into the Mediterranean Sea, repossess Palestine, and thus vindicate their eschatology" (xvii-xviii). In footnote 6 (xviii) Horner quoted Stephen Sizer in a debate, "...the present brutal, repressive and racist policies of the State of Israel would suggest another exile on the horizon rather than a restoration."
Chapter 1. Israel and Christian Anti-Judaism in Contrast (beginning on p. 1). Horner discussed two prominent theologians who view National Israel as having "No Distinct Eschatological Hope." These are Aurelius Augustine and John Calvin. Horner wrote, "Consequently, the Augustinian legacy kept the Jews dispersed, disgraced, and depressed - except for the hope of their individual conversion, or until their national conversion at the end of this age when they would then become absorbed into the one true, holy, catholic, apostolic church. Hence, such a scattered preservation in no way anticipated any distinctive eschatological hope for the Jews" (p. 5). Then he discussed theologians who view National Israel as having a "Distinctive Eschatological Hope" - Horatius Bonar and C. H. Spurgeon.
Chapter 2. Israel and Centuries of Christian Anti-Judaism (beginning p. 15). Horner outlined The Early Church to 135, The Patristic Period, The Medieval Period, The Reformation Period, The Seventeenth-Century Puritan Period, The Eighteenth-Century Evangelical Period, The Nineteenth-Century Gentile Missionary Period, and The Jewish Missionary Period.
In the Patristic Period, "Whereas the Gentiles had originally understood themselves as grafted into the blessings of Abrahamic Judaism, now they asserted the church to be the new, superseding, spiritual Israel" (p. 18). Chrysostom, a marvelous preacher, nevertheless wrote a series of Eight Homilies Against the Jews. Concerning Chrysostom, James Parkes wrote,
There is no sneer too mean, no gibe too bitter for him to fling at the Jewish people. No text is too remote to be able to be twisted to their confusion, no argument is too casuistical, no blasphemy too startling for him to employ.... On the strength of Psalm 106:37, he states that they "sacrificed their sons and daughters to devils: they outraged nature; and overthrew from their foundations the laws of relationship. They are become worse than the wild beasts, and for no reason at all, with their own hands they murder their own offspring, to worship the avenging devils who are the foes of our life.... The synagogues of the Jews are the homes of idolatry and devils, even though they have no images in them. They are worse even than heathen circuses.... I hate the Jews for they have the law and they insult it" (Horner, p. 21, quoting James Parkes, Conflict of the Church and Synagogue, 163-164, 166).
Sadly, the supersessionist theology systemized by Augustine and polemicized by Chrysostom became mainstream. The evil agenda of the Nazis against the Jews had its theological basis in Church History. Horner wrote, "...the thread of this problem is traceable through the main corridors of Christian history, both Catholic and Protestant, to the second century when Justin Martyr, then Ambrose, Chrysostom, Augustine, Jerome, and on through Gregory the Great, established dominant supercessionist theology (p. 35). Horner quoted Clark Williamson:
All the literature one reads on the final solution leaves the clear impression that the pervasiveness of classical Christian anti-Jewish theology was a significant factor in the success of Hitler's program. Where it did not directly contribute to support for Hitler's policies - and it often did - it created an apathy toward Jews that was equally decisive in permitting the Holocaust. The great majority of the German people did not actively support or actively oppose Hitler; they were merely indifferent (Clark Williamson, Has God Rejected His People?, p. 134, quoted by Horner on p. 35.)
Horner confirmed the present-day effects of "this disastrous theological heritage" as reported by Melanie Phillips, a Jewish columnist with the London Daily Mail in 2002. She attended a discussion group of Jews and Christians "concerning the churches' increasing hostility toward Israel." Phillips was surprised when the Christians present openly confessed that
the Churches' hostility had nothing to do with Israel's behavior toward the Palestinians. This was merely an excuse. The real reason for the growing antipathy, according to the Christians at that meeting, was the ancient hatred of Jews rooted deep in Christian theology and now on widespread display once again. A doctrine going back to the early Church fathers, suppressed after the Holocaust, had been revived under the influence of the Middle East conflict. This doctrine is called replacement theology. In essence, it says that the Jews have been replaced by the Christians in God's favor, and so all God['s promises to the Jews, including the land of Israel, have been inherited by Christianity. (M. Phillips, "Christians Who Hate Jews," The Spectator (16 February, 2002.)
Chapter 3. Israel and Contemporary Examples of Christian Anti-Judaism in the US (beginning on p. 37). Albertus Pieters (1897-1987, former Professor of Bible and Missions at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan (Reformed Church in America) espouses an Augustinian eschatology. Here are two quotations from his book, The Seed of Abraham: A Biblical Study of Israel, the Church, and the Jew.
God willed that after the institution of the New Covenant there should no longer be any Jewish people in the world - yet here they are! That is a fact - a very sad fact, brought about by their wicked rebellion against God. (p. 123, as quoted by Horner, p. 37.)
Ignorant that their separateness from the rest of the world was in the divine purpose temporary, they strove to render it permanent. Thus that which had been in itself good and holy became through their error a source of poison in the life of the world; and "The Jew" became the great persistent international problem (p. 134, quoted by Horner, p. 39).
Loraine Boettner (1901-1990). According to Horner, Boettner's book, The Millennium, ... "contains not only the most emphatic and categorical expressions of supercessionism, but also declarations on the destiny of the Jews that reflect theological anti-Judaism" (p. 41).
With the establishment of the Christian Church Judaism should have made a smooth and willing transition into Christianity, and should thereby have disappeared as the flower falls away before the developing fruit. Its continued existence as a bitter rival and enemy of the Christian Church after the time of Christ, and particularly its revival after the judgment of God had fallen on it so heavily in the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersal of the people in 70 A.D., was sinful. (The Millennium, p. 313, quoted by Horner, p. 41.)
The continuance of this bitterly anti-Christian racial Group has brought no good to themselves, and there has been strife and antagonism in practically every nation where they have gone. They have not been a happy people. One only need think of the pogroms in Russia, the ghettos of eastern Europe, the many restrictions and persecutions that they have suffered in Italy, Spain, Poland, and other countries, and in our own day the campaign of extermination waged against them in Germany by Hitler. At the present time we see this problem in a particularly aggravated form in the Near East, where the recently established nation of Israel has ruthlessly displaced an Arab population and seeks to expand further into surrounding regions, some 900,000 Arabs in refugee camps around the borders of Israel being one of the chief continuing causes of bitterness. . . . The mere fact that these people are Jews does not in itself give them any more moral or legal right to Palestine than to the United States or any other part of the world. (The Millennium, p. 314, quoted by Horner, pp. 42, 43.)
Immediately thereafter, Horner commented, "The language here is loaded with anti-Jewish innuendo. Furthermore, avoidance of mentioning culpability on the part of the Gentiles concerning European persecution is astounding, while the nuanced blame of the Jews for their sufferings is extremely shameful. Hence the Jews have only themselves to blame for their troubles, as well as a hopeless future" (p. 43)
"Gary Burge, professor of NT at Wheaton College Graduate School, has aligned himself with the pro-Palestinian and anti-Judaic movement that vociferously opposes the modern State of Israel, derided as unjust, carnal Zionism." Horner proceeded to quote from Burge's article, "Christian Zionism, Evangelicals and Israel, on a now-defunct website. Not to worry, for Al Jazeerah was happy to post it!
But the most important critique - and here I think we discover the Achilles' heel - is that Christian Zionism is committed to what I term a "territorial religion." It assumes that God's interests are focused on a land, a locale, a place. From a NT perspective, the land is holy by reference to what transpired there in history. But it no longer has an intrinsic part to play in God's program for the world. This is what Stephen pointed to in his speech in Acts 7. The land and the temple are now secondary. God's wishes to reveal himself to the entire world. And this insight cost Stephen his life. (Quoted by Horner on p. 45, reproduced here from Al Jazeerah's website.)
In the remainder of this chapter, Horner refuted Burge's view that the arrival of the Christian era abrogates the Abrahamic land promise (46-48). He also said, "Here Burge makes an assertion with regard to the new covenant that I believe is fundamentally in error. With many theologians he rejects the belief 'that modern Israel inherits the land promised to Abraham,' and he bases this on 'a new covenant that abrogates the old.' But the new covenant obviously abrogates the old Mosaic covenant, not the Abrahamic covenant (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:7-13)" (p. 49).
"O. Palmer Robertson is Principal of African Bible College, Uganda, Professor of Theology at African Bible College, Malawi, and Visiting Professor at Knox Theological Seminary, Florida." In 2000 he wrote The Israel of God: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. On pp. 27-28 he wrote "Clearly the plight of the Jews after the horrors of the Holocaust must be fully appreciated. Yet the tragic circumstances of the residents of the land displaced during the twentieth century must also be appreciated" (as quoted by Horner, pp. 55-56). Horner proceeded to comment, "Then is attached a near half page footnote that focuses on an instance of alleged Jewish brutality toward Palestinians in 1948 according to Naim Ateek in his A Palestinian Theology of Liberation (Israel of God, p. 28). But there is no mention of the savage assault by the surrounding Arab states on Israel the day following the establishment of the State of Israel according to the United Nations charter, also in 1948. The tilt of sympathy, here and elsewhere, cannot be avoided" (Horner, p. 56).
In the last portion of chapter 3, Horner devoted considerable space to debunking "An Open Letter to Evangelicals and Other Interested Parties: The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the Gospel." This was originally posted in 2002 on the website of Knox Theological Seminary. [Editor's note: To my knowledge, it is no longer to be found there, but it has been preserved by Michael D. Marlowe. It is also preserved on the website if Americans knew - what every American needs to know about Israel / Palestine, a pro-Palestinian, anti-Jewish website.] The letter began this way:
Recently a number of leaders in the Protestant community of the United States have urged the endorsement of far-reaching and unilaterally political commitments to the people and land of Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, citing Holy Scripture as the basis of these commitments. To strengthen their endorsement, several of these leaders have also insisted that they speak on behalf of the seventy million people who constitute the American evangelical community (quoted by Horner, p. 67).
Horner responded, "By way of contrast, this 'Open Letter' tends to oppose the people and land of Israel.
It is good and necessary for evangelical leaders to speak out on the great moral issues of our day in obedience to Christ's call for his disciples to be salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-16). It is quite another thing, however, when leaders call fro commitments that are based upon a serious misreading of Holy Scripture. In such instances, it is good and necessary for other evangelical leaders to speak out as well. We do so here in the hope that we may contribute to the cause of the Lord Christ, apart form whom there can never be true and lasting peace in the world (John 14:27) (quoted by Horner, pp. 67-68).
To this Horner replied, "Quite the contrary, I believe that the historic Reformational eschatological repudiation of Israel is based on a Gentile, Augustinian, and Roman Catholic tradition more than clear exegesis, and as such wrongly filters Scripture through this doctrinal grid. In fact, it can hardly be said that the ethical fruit of this eschatology has contributed toward 'true and lasting peace in the world.' The record of history shamefully indicates quite the opposite result" (p. 68).
The tenth and concluding point of the "Open Letter" begins as follows:
10. Bad Christian theology regarding the "Holy Land" contributed to the tragic cruelty of the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Lamentably, bad Christian theology is today attributing to secular Israel a divine mandate to conquer and hold Palestine, with the consequence that the Palestinian people are marginalized and regarded as virtual Canaanites" (Deut. 20:16-18; cf. Lev. 27:28-29). This doctrine is both contrary to the teaching of the New Testament and a violation of the Gospel mandate (Matt. 28:19). In addition, this theology puts those Christians who are urging the violent seizure and occupation of Palestinian land in moral jeopardy of their own bloodguiltiness. Are we as Christians not called to pray for and work for peace, warning both parties to this conflict that those who live by the sword will die by the sword? (Matt. 26:52). Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring both temporal reconciliation and the hope of an eternal and heavenly inheritance to the Israeli and the Palestinian. Only through Jesus Christ can anyone know peace on earth.
To this, Horner replied,
When one considers what the Crusades in the Middle Ages were about, it becomes quite astonishing that such an argument as this is offered. To begin with, it was the "bad Christian theology" of establishment Gentile Christianity that moved the armies of Western Europe to attempt a military recovery from Islam of the land of Israel, more familiarly regarded as the Christian holy land. We can be sure that there was no intent here to enable the dispersed Jews to return to their land; such a concept was unthinkable. Moreover, how disgraceful was the resultant persecution of the Jews by crusader bands traveling through Europe en route to the holy land so as to recapture Christian holy sites. "The leader of the First Crusade, Godfrey Bouillon, who had sworn to avenge the blood of Christ on Israel and 'leave no single member of the Jewish race alive', burnt the synagogue of Jerusalem to the ground, with all the Jews inside" (here Horner quoted R. S. Wistrich, Antisemitism: The Longest Hatred (New York: Pantheon, 1991), 23-24). Here was the outworking of supercessionist theology that is rightly to be associated more with essential Augustinian, Medieval, and Reformed eschatology.
(Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Used by Permission.)
Published May 18, 2011
Updated June 22, 2015