Monday, June 30, 2008


The latest issue of SCP Journal contains an article unpacking Dispensationalism which demonstrates that the disagreement in the Catholic Church over dual covenant theology may be grounded in this Protestant theology. In the article, "Lewis Sperry Chafer, the founder of Dallas Theological Seminary...elaborated on [the] dichotomy between Israel and the church,

The Dispensationalist believers that throughout the ages God is pursuing two distinct purposes: one related to the earth with earthly people and earthly objectives involved within Judaism; while the other is related to heaven with heavenly people and heavenly objectives involved, which is Christianity.

The article's author, Stephen Sizer, says further:

Convinced that a nuclear Armageddon is an inevitable event within the divine scheme of things, many evangelical dispensationalists have committed themselves to a course for Israel that, by their own admission, will lead directly to a holocaust indescribably more savage and widespread than any vision of carnage that could have generated in Adolf Hitler's mind.

As I read through the article which notes other Jewish influence on Evangelical Protestantism, I kept considering claims made in a book Steve has encouraged me to read on countless occasions--one which I completed not long ago--JEWISH INFLUENCE ON CHRISTIAN REFORM MOVEMENTS by Louis Israel Newman. The copyright date is 1925, so these ideas have been floating around throughout the last century, and are not novelties.

I had a heck of a time getting through the first 200 pages of this book, and can't tell you how many times I fell asleep after reading a page or two. Exciting it surely is not. However it did become a bit more interesting when the various heresies, such as the Waldensians, the Cathars, the Pasagii, the Hussites, and the Lutherans are discussed from the point of view of a Jew who is documenting the impact of the Church on his own people.

A large section is devoted to Michael Servetus, from whose theories Unitarianism derived. The impact of Jewish Theology on this movement is significant.

Newman is remarkably tolerant of what I can only conclude was extensive pressure to convert placed upon the Jews by the Roman Catholic Church. As he tells the story, I repeatedly envisioned myself, a Catholic, attempting to live under such persecution. From this perspective, I concluded that much of what passes in some minds as Jewish persecution of the Church was no more than I would have done under similar circumstances. The Jews were trying to survive as Jews while the Catholic Church was doing its best to prevent that from happening. Arguments offered in defense of this pressure ring hollow today.

Since Vatican II we grasp tolerance of other religions as imperative. The alternative formed a large part of our history, and looks inappropriate and unreasonable now. Arguments to justify that persecution of the Jews ring hollow from my experience of living here in America. Should the Jews become politically powerful and attempt the same tactics, most Christians today would find them sufficient cause for inciting revolution. We have come a long way since the disagreements of the Inquisition.

In debating how to blog this book, I concluded that citing the various underlined passages would require either long explanations or a great deal of typing to reproduce a clear picture, so I'm not going to do it. I will conclude by saying that what, before reading the book, appeared to be a random rise of heretical ideas over the centuries, now appears to have a distinct base in Jewish theology, and that Protestantism owes a much greater debt to Judaism than is ever acknowledged.

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