Two posts will conclude a series on judging.¹ These will briefly evaluate (assess, judge) one of Three Views on Israel and the Church—which happens to be a book title (see below). The particular judgment on these Christian scholars’ views is important to me in several respects:
- I want to challenge myself in a scholarly thought process: I want to be able to think through something with a clear head and without prejudice, inasmuch as that kind of thing is even possible.
- In December, a dispensationalist preacher showed gracious patience with me throughout a good conversation. He has judged a few things quite differently from the way I’ve judged them. I want to give his doctrines, previously relatively unfamiliar, some attention.
- I actively pursue an overarching philosophy that sees God’s Kingdom as inherently different from, and opposed to, the governments of humans, including those of the U.S. and current-day Israel.
- . . . and probably more
Three Views on Israel and the Church: Perspectives on Romans 9-11
Jared Compton and Andrew Naselli, eds. (Kregel Academic, 2018)
Briefly stated, here are the three views:
- One position holds that Romans 9-11 promises a future salvation and role for national Israel (argued in this book by Michael Vlach).
- Another view argues that Romans 9-11 promises a future salvation but not a role for ethnic Israel. For these theologians, Israel therefore plays a typological role in biblical theology even while maintaining a special status (argued by Fred Zaspel and Jim Hamilton).
- The third view holds that Romans 9-11 does not promise a future salvation or role for ethnic Israel at all (argued by Ben Merkle).
I began with the Vlach chapter. He asserted out of the gate that “national Israel remains strategic to God’s purposes and does not lose its significance with the arrival of Jesus and the church” (21-22). Vlach’s overarching affirmation is that God’s promises, as stated in the Torah and in Israelite prophecy, (1) are explicitly and forever connected with the people of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants,² and (2) are not transcended by/in the church of Jesus Christ. He makes a particularly large hermeneutical pole-vault in asserting that “Jesus’s role . . . involves the restoring of Israel as a nation” (23).
Vlach engages in some exegesis and valid word-study analysis, for instance, with some good commentary on the NT use of the prepositional phrase ἄχρι οὗ | achri hou, which he finds indicative of Israel’s future conversion to belief in Jesus. Should the living Jews come to believe, terrific! This phrase does seem to suggest that. Vlach also evidences some contextual awareness, yet he is not above prejudice: he finds, without evident regard for grammar, syntax, or other structural textual elements, that the Romans 9:6 statement that God’s word has not failed is a “springboard” for the ensuing material. His treatment of God’s “selectivity” and the “remnant” is unconvincing. While I agree with Vlach that Paul suggests God has not abandoned Israel (38), he jumps to a conclusion in stating “the remnant is not all there is to God’s plans for Israel” (39).
In dealing with this view, to which I’m naturally opposed, I remain virtually unmoved. I’m still a trifle surprised that many could hold the view that all of ethnic Israel will ultimately be saved. At least none of the three is overtly pays attention to today’s political Israel!
I’ve mostly enjoyed being challenged by coming into contact with these distinct views, articulated well by their representatives. I confess, though, that I don’t believe I achieved much of an open mind in this investigatory exercise. Frankly, in scanning, I found little to convince me that I should pay rapt attention to a different view, so these are merely some evaluative comments from my current vantage point.
² When he adds “new covenant” (emph. mine, bc) alongside Abraham and David, I am unclear on whether he might be distinguishing Jeremiah’s verbiage (31:31-41) from that commonly associated with Jesus of Nazareth.