It is not because you are the most numerous of peoples that Hashem set His heart on you and chose you—indeed, you are the smallest of peoples. Deuteronomy 7:7 (The Israel Bible™)
Rabbi Tuly Weisz, director of Israel365 and the publisher of The Israel Bible and Breaking Israel News believes that the rejection of replacement theology by contemporary Christians is a “prerequisite for all of the other stages of geula (redemption).” He told Breaking Israel News, “As a Jewish rabbi, I’m not comfortable telling non-Jews what they should believe and do. However, I do feel strongly that the time for the rejection of replacement theology is now, to bring about the continued stages of redemption.”
What exactly is replacement theology? Bob O’Dell, co-founder of Root-Source, a Christian portal for dialogue between Christians and Jews, believes that replacement theology exists on a continuum. O’Dell said, “This replacement could be as minimal as ‘the church is God’s preferred institution’ to the most aggressive form of replacement theology which transfers the entire calling and purpose of the Jewish people over to the church, while relegating the Jewish people to a place of hell on earth – without hope, without promise, and devoid of anything good, [without] any hope of redemption.”
Robbie Coleman of Zion’s Bridge Ministry used even stronger language to define replacement theology. “It is more than errant doctrine, which began late first century. It is a devised plan by God’s enemy to deceive His creation, to keep them from His protective covenantal blessings — the blessing through Israel to the nations.”
In advance of this past 9th of Av, a date in the Hebrew calendar that marks the destruction of the Holy Temples in Jerusalem and other tragedies in Jewish history, O’Dell and Ray Montgomery, a Root Source subscriber from New Zealand, put together a list of anti-semitic actions throughout Christian history.
O’Dell noted, “A careful examination of the list that we put together for the 9th of Av project makes it quite clear that certain key leaders within the Christian faith, from about 100 to about 400 CE, put forth an argument that the church had replaced Israel in certain ways.”
Coleman admitted that it’s difficult for many churches to face the consequences of centuries of replacement theology. “Today, many of the mainline denominations are not open to the discussion of replacement theology. I have found two reasons: ignorance or prejudice.
“The first group is somewhat naïve people that have accepted what has — and has not been — taught them. This has, at times, been expressed in the teaching of supersession theology [another name for replacement theology], which says that the new covenant supersedes the original covenant.
“The prejudiced group is generally pro-Palestinian and against the Jewish people. They take up causes that require the Jewish people to leave the land promised to them by God. They develop theology based on propaganda and lies, rather than a pure study of the Scripture. If people had read and understood the Bible, I don’t think such deception would have been established as doctrine,” Coleman asserted.
Tommy Waller, founder of HaYovel, an organization that brings Christian volunteers to Israel to serve Jewish farmers, also spoke to Breaking Israel News about the difficulty Christians may have facing the damage done by replacement theology. “It is difficult, anytime we’re admitting that we have done something wrong. Until we can take a position of humility, we’re not going to be able to tackle this situation and understand the harsh realities, having to face that the Holocaust was a reality, and even before that, the Spanish Inquisition and the pogroms and the Crusades and all these other horrific things done to Jews were a reality.
“These things have to be presented to us over and over again in order for us to overcome it. The first time I went to Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust museum) in Jerusalem, that was a wake up. I walked out of there literally undone, in tears. It was a horrific reality to understand. There are a lot of historical facts that incriminate Christianity. It’s not talked about. It’s not something that the pastor gets up and speaks about every Sunday, the need to repent. So it’s hard.”
Waller acknowledged a second reason why replacement theology is challenging for the church to fully grapple with. “There’s still anti-semitism in the church. There’s a hatred for Judaism, a hatred for Jews. It’s a sad statement, but there’s still an undercurrent of anti-semitism,” he said.
The church’s relationship to Israel and to Jerusalem poses yet a third difficulty. “Replacement theology has extracted everything about Jerusalem, about Israel, from our Bibles. Somehow that got taken away early on in Christianity and we just haven’t been able to come back to it,” Waller said.
Although much damage has been done in the name of replacement theology, Christian leaders Waller, Coleman and O’Dell agree that, at least in some circles, things are, in fact, changing for the better.
Waller elaborated on the specific way his organization is helping to heal the damage done by replacement theology. “The only way we can turn this around is first to admit that we were wrong and then for me, and for HaYovel particularly, putting our feet where our heart is, where our true intentions are to repent, has been very helpful to us and also helpful to the Jewish people that we’re serious about this repentance. It’s not just verbiage. We physically want to walk it out. The atrocities done to the Jewish people were done in a physical way, and obviously the reconciliation, the repair, the teshuva (repentance) also needs to be a physical reality.
“We have to introduce and encourage more congregations to come to Israel, meet the people that have been affected by this. Just coming here to Israel and just working in the fields, it’s part of teshuva – putting ourselves in a place of servitude and doing something good and not being resistant to God’s choosing the Land of Israel and the Jewish people.”
Coleman told Breaking Israel News, “An increasing number of ministries are arising to shed light on the truth of the issue.” He highlighted Christians United for Israel as “one that has continued to make a huge impact, with over one million adherents.” Coleman also noted the work of Christian Friends of Magen David Adom, Bridges for Peace, the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem and the Christian Friends of Israel, founded by Ray and Sharon Sanders whom he applauded for working for 30 years, “undoing the harm that has been done to the Jewish people in the name of Christianity.”
His own ministry, Zion’s Bridge, teaches, “the necessity of embracing our Hebraic roots and repenting for the error in our prejudices against the Jewish people, as well as God’s promises toward, and revival of, the Jewish nation, Israel. We travel to churches, exposing the fallacy of replacement theology and showing its errant foundation that was established with the founders of the Christian doctrine.
“By renouncing replacement theology, the church first of all must acknowledge that we’ve been wrong about Israel and the chosen people. We’ve been wrong and committed atrocities by thinking that God wanted to replace Israel with the church. Repentance is returning to God and His Word. We must ask why it could be that we have treated the ‘chosen ones’ with disrespect? If God has not rejected His people then, we are not allowed to either.”
O’Dell concluded on an optimistic note, “This thing is going to happen. It may be delayed. It may be resisted. It may be fought, but I firmly believe that God is saying to the churches that they must begin moving in the direction of actively renouncing replacement theology. Or else [they] risk missing out on the next big revival God desires to pour out onto the Christian world.”