Will the Church Remain Silent or Take a Stand?

Tricia Miller, Ph. D.

As  Christian leaders, you know that we are living in tumultuous times –  both in society as a whole and in the church world in particular. As  leaders, we are called to understand the times in which we live, and  with that understanding, take appropriate action.

A significant element of these times in which we live is the alarming  rise of global antisemitism and opposition to the State of Israel, which  is fueled by the ever-increasing battle over truth in the media,  academia and government. A simultaneous and parallel battle for truth  within the Evangelical church divides those who identify as Evangelicals  over Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State.

With increased frequency and intensity, Jews around the world are  assaulted verbally and physically in ways that are far too reminiscent  of the 1930’s in Nazi Germany. Likewise, today’s Evangelical church  finds itself in a position quite similar to that of the German Church,  which was forced to choose between remaining silent in the face of great  evil or taking a stand for truth and justice.

Overall, the global Evangelical church understands the significance,  importance and necessity of Israel’s existence as a Jewish State.  However, there are powerful and influential voices within the  Evangelical world who are promoting narratives that have already, and  will in the future, undermine and subvert historic Evangelical support  for Israel.

In an interview with 100 Huntley Street’s  Maggie John on June 19th, 2019, megachurch Pastor Andy Stanley, senior  pastor of North Point Church in Atlanta and founder of the worldwide  North Point Ministries, defended his claim that parts of the Old  Testament are "obsolete and outdated." This claim is based on his belief  that the new covenant described in the New Testament has “replaced” the  covenant found in the Old Testament.

Stanley’s beliefs are further revealed in his recent book, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World,  published in 2018 by Zondervan. In his effort to promote a form of  Christianity that will make church more attractive and faith  “irresistible,” Stanley employs the kind of rhetoric that feeds common  negative Christian stereotypes about Judaism and Jews. Far too often  throughout church history, these same stereotypes and characterizations  have promoted and justified persecution and violence against Jews at the  hands of Christians.

Stanley’s beliefs and rhetoric, combined with his recent sermon series  that called on Christians to “unhitch” their faith from the Old  Testament – including the Ten Commandments – is nothing more than a form  of replacement theology. This faulty doctrine maintains that the Church  and Christians have replaced Israel and Jews in the purposes of God,  resulting in the conclusion that God's promises to Israel as a nation  and the Jews as a people are no longer in effect.

Replacement theology has been an essential part of the foundation of,  and justification for, historic antisemitism. And it now forms the  bedrock of much Christian opposition to the existence of Israel as a  Jewish State.

In May, I had the opportunity to speak about Israel at Fuller  Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. Fuller is an evangelical,  multi-denominational school that enrolls nearly 3,500 students from 80  countries and 110 denominations annually. The institution offers 15  master’s and advanced degree programs in English, Spanish and Korean.  The extensive effect Fuller has on the Evangelical world cannot be  overstated.

Unfortunately, for at least the last 30 years, Fuller has taken a strong  pro-Palestinian position in relation to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and  some faculty even oppose the right of Israel to exist. I know this from  first-hand experience as I am a graduate of Fuller.

The pro-Palestinian influence on campus has come through Arab Christian  students, ethics professors who misinterpret Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount  to support a particular agenda, and speakers from Bethlehem Bible  College, an influential purveyor of anti-Israel sentiment, rooted in  replacement theology.

So, I was not surprised when it was time for Q and A after my  presentation, that there would be students who – instead of asking  questions – would use the opportunity to emotionally proclaim all the  usual diatribes and false accusations about Israel and express their  complete support for the Palestinian cause. When I attempted to respond  to their comments, they either changed the subject or resorted to  personal attacks against me.

These two scenarios – the teaching and writing of Andy Stanley, and the  alarming anti-Israel position of many at Fuller Seminary – provide  graphic examples of the battle for truth within the Evangelical church  that divides those who identify as Evangelicals over Israel’s right to  exist as a Jewish State.

In such a time as this, may we strengthen each other as we stand for truth and justice, and as we stand against all forms of antisemitism and stand with the Jewish State!