Replacement Theology: Critical Issues Concerning the History, Doctrine, and Dangers of Replacement Theology. By David Dunlap. Port Colborne, ON: Gospel Folio Press, 2012. 146 pp. Paper, $10.00.
As the subtitle indicates, David Dunlap addresses historical, doctrinal, and practical concerns with Replacement Theology.
Dunlap defines Replacement Theology as the view that “the Church has permanently replaced or superseded Israel as the people of God. The Church will inherit all these Old Testament promises” (p. 16). Dunlap argues that Replacement Theology is a serious error.
As a Dispensationalist, Dunlap affirms God’s future plans for Israel. For example, he takes the New Covenant as evidence that Israel has a future: “[I]n a careful study of the New Covenant, it soon becomes obvious that many of its spiritual and material provisions can only be fulfilled by national Israel in the future millennium. By their very nature, it is impossible for these promises to be fulfilled today in the Church” (p. 58). JOTGES readers will heartily agree.
Doctrinally, Dunlap presents some Biblical reasons for why “God is not yet finished with Israel” (p. 43). For example, he surveys the unfulfilled promises and covenants made with Israel (pp. 72-78), the prophecies about her future re-gatherings (pp. 78-79), her special relationship to the land (pp. 87-103), and, most of all, God’s special love for Israel (pp. 105-113). Dunlap also addresses a number of “problem” passages used to challenge the Dispensational view (pp. 50-51).
Historically, Dunlap traces the roots of Replacement theology from the Church Fathers through to Reformation figures such as Martin Luther. And he also treats the rise of Zionism and the establishment of the modern state of Israel.
Practically, Dunlap explains how Replacement theology fueled anti-Semitism. For example, here is a vile quote from John Chrysostom (considered a saint by Catholics and Orthodox):
The Jews are the most worthless of all men. They are lecherous, greedy, and rapacious. They are perfidious murderers of Christ. They worshipped the devil; their religion is a sickness. The Jews are odious assassins of Christ, and for killing God there is no expiation possible, no indulgence or pardon. Christians may never cease vengeance, and the Jews must live in servitude forever. God always hated the Jews. It is incumbent upon all Christians (their duty) to hate the Jews (p. 63, Quoted from Discourses Against Judaizing Christians, vol 68, Fathers of the Church, trans. Paul W. Harkins [Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1979], p. 31).
Given this kind of evidence, Dunlap convincingly ties Replacement Theology to anti-Semitism.
Other practical concerns include Replacement Theology leading to errors such as Christian statism (e.g., Christian Reconstructionism, p. 28 ) and an allegorical reading of Scripture (pp. 24-25).
JOTGES readers will appreciate that the author affirms salvation by faith alone, the eternally security of the believer, and the pre-Tribulational rapture of the Church. They will not necessarily agree with how Dunlap defends the pre-Tribulational rapture, i.e., by denying that believers can suffer any judgment for sin, he argues therefore that they cannot experience the Tribulation: “The Bible teaches that once a person has been saved by faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ, he will never again suffer judgment for his sins, neither in this age of grace nor in the future tribulation period…If Christians are to bear, in some way, judgment and divine punishment for our sins, then the death of Christ on the cross was in some way insufficient and inadequate” (p. 119). By contrast, JOTGES readers will affirm that Christians can suffer God’s temporal judgment for sin, even if they will never experience God’s eternal judgment for sin (at the Great White Throne), and even if they will be raptured before the Tribulation begins. After all, there will be people who come to faith during the Tribulation (e.g., the sheep of Matt 25:31-46).
This book is easy to read and filled with good information. Each chapter has a clear topic and purpose (though it would help if they were numbered). However, the overall structure of the book can be haphazard, with chapters moving back and forth between topics in Biblical theology, church history, and modern history. It would have been better to present the Biblical issues first, then address the historical issues separately. It would also help if there were subject and Scripture indexes. But these are minor complaints about a worthwhile book. Recommended.
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society