Thursday, August 19, 2010

Questions for Placement on the Continuum of Supersessionism

In the midst of reading various Christian and Jewish articulations of the relation between church and synagogue, Christianity and Judaism, New Testament and Oral Torah by scholars like Peter Ochs, Robert Jenson, David Novak, George Lindbeck, Michael Wyschogrod, and others, I've been reflecting on helpful ways for discerning one's own placement on the continuum of Jewish-Christian understanding. After the Shoah (Holocaust) Christians are and ought to be determined to discover new and more faithful understandings of the church's relationship with Judaism and with Jews who do not confess Jesus as Messiah. The chief historical enemy in this task is supersessionism, whose rejection and replacement is of the highest order for the church's faithfulness in relation to the Jewish people. Many (I would say most, but that would apply to mainline theological scholarship, but not necessarily local congregations, ordinary believers, or evangelical scholarship) are eager to affirm this rejection, but few are agreed on what should replace it, that is, what view Christians should adopt toward Torah-obedient Jews who do not recognize Jesus as Messiah.

Given this complex of challenges and corrections, below are some straightforward questions meant for reflection and exploration in determining one's theological placement on the continuum of supersessionism, in no particular order of importance:
  • Should Christians evangelize Jews?
  • Should Jews be baptized into Christ?
  • Does Jewish covenantal identity have significance in distinction from other peoples?
  • Does Jewish covenantal identity have theological or salvific significance?
  • Should baptized, Jesus-confessing Jews continue in Torah obedience and marked-out patterns of Jewish identity?
  • Should baptized, Jesus-confessing Jews continue in membership and attendance at synagogue?
  • Do Christians worship the one true God of Israel?
  • Do Jews worship the one true God of Israel?
  • Can Jews and Christians worship God together?
  • Do Jews today possess or retain the covenantal identity given to Abraham and promised to his descendants?
  • Are the Jewish people as a whole today properly called Israel?
  • Is the church properly called Israel?
  • Are the Jewish and Christian claims of Israel's identity mutually exclusive?
  • Does the church replace Israel as God's elect covenantal people?
  • Is the new covenant in Jesus Christ an abrogation of the old covenant?
Some of the questions may sound loaded, though I don't intend them that way. Neither do all of them have to be answered in one way or the other in order to be adequately "non-supersessionist." These are simply some of the questions I find myself confronted by in continuing to struggle through this difficult issue.

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