The God of Israel and Christian Theology

The God of Israel and Christian Theology

The God of Israel and Christian Theology

The God of Israel and Christian Theology

Synopsis

Along with this first full-scale critique of Christian supersessionism, Soulen's own constructive proposal regrasps the narrative unity of Christian identity and the canon through an original and important insight into the divine-human convenant, the election of Israel, and the meaning of history.

Excerpt

The God of Israel is the firm foundation and inescapable predicament of Christian theology. Pursued without reference to the God of Israel, Christian theology is hopelessly exposed to the charge of being mere vanity, for the gospel about Jesus is credible only if predicated on a living God who “gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom 4:17). But pursued with reference to the God of Israel, Christian theology is immediately engaged in a fight for its life, pressed on every side by perplexities and difficulties with which it must wrestle but which it cannot master. Not least among these perplexities is that Christian theology serves an overwhelmingly gentile church that exists alongside another community, the Jewish people, which also glorifies the God of Israel but which cannot hear the gospel tidings of the living God.

There is, of course, a third option, that of lukewarm Laodicea. The theology of Laodicea is neither hot nor cold because it is afraid to abandon the God of Israel altogether but unwilling to embrace perplexities it cannot master. There are, perhaps, just two main epochs when Christian theology has been almost wholly deprived of the seductive comforts of Laodicea and has had to wrestle with Jacob’s angel in full recognition that its life was at stake.

The first period coincided with the great trauma of the early church’s initial separation from the Jewish people. The possibilities of this initial period, grappled with above all by Paul in Rom 9–11, were soon foreclosed. An increasingly gentile church sought relief from its quandary by declaring itself the “new spiritual Israel” that had superseded the old carnal Israel in God’s election and design. For the next two millennia, during which the gentile church became ever more at home in the cultures it dominated, this teaching of supersessionism was seldom challenged. “For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev 3:17).

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