Tuesday, 3 March 2009

On the Place of the Jews

I'm currently doing some work on Brian Brock's excellent 'Singing the Ethos of God', and he has a superb section on 'Luther, the Jews, and the Problem of Supersessionism'. And it got me thinking about how I might want to articulate the relationship... So, here goes... (gets ready to duck!)

OK so what do I think about Jews and Gentiles? I think the problem comes when we have an insufficiently realised eschatology. If we make participation in the kingdom of God all about what happens to us when we die, then we end up in a ridiculous, fruitless and harmful discussion about whether Jews can get to heaven without naming Jesus as Lord. However, if participation in the kingdom of God is about participation in ‘your kingdom come, your will be done on earth, as in heaven’, then it is about seeing the eternal kingdom breaking into the present through the activity of the people of God. Christians believe that the kingdom comes definitively in the person of Christ, but that the effects of Christ’s death and resurrection resound backwards and forward in time, across all races, calling and shaping the people of God. To give one’s allegiance to Christ is to give one’s allegiance to God as revealed in Christ, it is to reverse idolatry and give worship to the one on the throne in heaven, it is to take a stand against the principalities and powers of this earth, it is to refuse the mark of the beast and receive the mark of the Spirit. But, where does this leave the Jew who also directs their worship to the one on the throne in heaven? I suggest that it leaves them standing with the Christian, participating in the coming of the kingdom of God to the earth as idolatry is challenged and Yahweh is worshipped. Is Christ good news to the faithful Jew? Yes of course, because in Christ God is most fully known. Does lack of allegiance to Christ obviate allegiance to the one on throne in heaven? No of course not. Has the Christian church become the people of God? Yes. Are non-Christological Jews excluded from participaing in the coming kingdom of God? No.


Iain Stephenson said...

I am just about to go out so i can't muster a theological in depth reply, all i have time to say is, i think you might be getting a bit wet over there in the rain Simon. But as i am very interested in Generous orthodoxy, i will still talk to you.

simon said...

I think the difficulty with this approach is that it doesn't take account of the complexity of the New Testament material set against the background of the complexity of the context in which it arose.

Many groups josstled in Judea to describe and define who was the 'true' Israel - sadduccees, pharisees, essenes, other groups that are mere shadows on the screen of history now - and, of course, the followers of Jesus.

Jesus redefined Israel over against pharisaic definitions. As the followers of Jesus spread out from Jerusalem, they too wrestled with who to share the message with and how those who were not Judeans could be part of the movement.

There is a case for suggesting that Judaism as we have it today is the product of the regrouping of Judean people frollowing the Bar Kochba revolt and codification of scribal tradition that happened over the second to fourth centuries after Christ.

I believe those who follow Jesus and live as his disicples are God's Israel. How others relate to that is beyond me!