Israel and the Church: The Origin and Effects of Replacement Theology. By Ronald E. Diprose. Waynesboro, GA: Authentic, 2004. 265 pp. Paper, $18.00.
In the Preface, Diprose says that in Christendom, “During the early centuries, Israel was thought to be a renegade nation that should be treated with contempt. However, after the Shoah [the desolation, that is, the Holocaust] and the birth of the modern State of Israel in 1948, a new view developed according to which Israel’s status as a visible, elect nation exonerated its members from the need to exercise faith in Jesus Christ in order to be saved” (pp. xiii-xiv). Diprose rejects both of those views.
According to the author “the logic of replacement theology required that much of the OT be allegorized. Only in this way could the church be made the subject of passages in which the nation of Israel is addressed” (pp. 169-70).
Disprose says that the result of replacement theology on ecclesiology is that “instead of being called elders, local church leaders began to be called priests in order to comply with the new concept of Christian ministry as sacrificial” (p. 170). He continues, “At the same time…the crucial importance of faith in Christ for personal salvation [was] neglected” (p. 170).
In the appendix, he points out the Jewish-Christian dialogue has not led to a Biblical position on soteriology. A colloquium held in Rome in November 1986 concluded that the Jews were eternally saved apart from faith in Jesus (Yeshua), though Gentiles needed to believe in Him. Diprose comments, “What should concern us as Christian theologians is that Christian partners in dialogue tend to negate the belief that Jews need to believe in Yeshua in order to be saved” (p. 186). “While this solution might appear attractive at first glance, it involves a selective use of the NT and hence is not an option for those who take seriously the canonical status of the NT writings in which faith in Yeshua is essential for salvation” (p. 187).
It is heartening to see how often the author refers to the need of faith in Christ in order to be saved. He does not speak of commitment, obedience, or following Christ in order to be born again. (He does mention “the call to repentance” on p. 187, but it is not clear how he understands repentance and whether he considers it a condition for everlasting life.)
Realized eschatology is also a direct outgrowth of replacement theology according to Diprose (p. 168). He suggests that both should be rejected.
When I did a bit more digging on the internet, I found that realized eschatology has links with preterism and even to prosperity theology. Much of what is going on in the emerging church is related to realized eschatology and thus, I imagine, there may be some, if not many, in the emerging church that hold to replacement theology.
I very strongly recommend this book. It is an outstanding work.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society