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founder of the worldwide North Point Ministries, defended his claim that parts of the Old Testament are "obsolete and outdated."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!