Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land

By Berry, Everett | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, September 2018 | Go to article overview

Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the Land


Berry, Everett, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Israel Matters: Why Christians Must Think Differently about the People and the hand. By Gerald R. McDermott. Grand Rapids: Brazos, 2017,135 pp., $17.99 paper.

Beeson Divinity School's Anglican Chair of Divinity Gerald R McDermott offers this compact volume so readers can explore an alternative to the sharp polarities that exist regarding the longstanding debate about how Israel fits within the larger corpus of Christian theology. The book is a primer on McDermott's thoughts which he began to flesh out in an earlier anthology entitled The New Christian "Zionism (IVP, 2016). What readers discover is that McDermott believes the Jewish people not only had a distinct identity within redemptive history; they also retain unique roles in the present. Their existence today is indicative of God's faithfulness to preserve them as his chosen people. And Jews who embrace Jesus as Messiah now are part of a remnant that will one day enter the eschatological future to inherit a Christocentric political kingdom in the land of promise.

Previously, McDermott affirmed a supersessionist position that saw true Israel as being subsumed into the church. Then, for a time he considered the viability of certain versions of dispensationalism but was uncomfortable with some of its theological extremes. After much soul-searching and study, he decided that an Israel-centric position that eschewed supersessionism and avoided the perils of dispensational sensationalism was the best option.

McDermott explains the basic ideas of his position in nine concise chapters. The first surveys how supersessionism permeated the history of Christian thought beginning with the early church, continuing throughout the Reformation, and taking more extreme turns after the Enlightenment. Subsequently, in chapter 2, McDermott argues against the popular idea that the NT equates true Israel with the church. Chapter 3 then highlights points in Christian history where concern for the theological relevance of Israel actually gained noticeable attention. Next, McDer- mott uses chapter 4 to discuss how Israel is central to the storyline of the ОТ. This discussion sets the stage for chapter 5, where he contends that all of Israel's earthly, physical, and territorial hopes which were encapsulated in the biblical covenants carry over into the teachings ofjesus and the apostles.

From here, McDermott shifts gears, so he can respond to controversial questions about Israel as a modem state. Chapter 6 addresses political inquiries about the ongoing Palestinian conflicts and contemporary objections to all forms of Zionism. Chapter 7 answers questions concerning the ways in which features of the old covenant should be interpreted against the theological backdrop of the new covenant in Christ. …

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