Israel has consistently fought against any form of appeasement. To illustrate, a few years ago it's foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, challenged his nation's strained relations with its western allies lack of reality regarding the Palestinians by likening their vows of support to the appeasement of Nazi Germany in the 1930s and the subsequent failure to stop the Holocaust.
He told a seminar organised by the Jerusalem Post—"All the expressions and promises of commitment to Israel's security from all around the world remind me of similar commitments made to Czechoslovakia in 1938…many key leaders would be willing to sacrifice Israel in order to appease the radical Islamist militants and ensure quiet for themselves."
Yesterday this was discussed at length historically, with one conclusion was that if British and European history is anything to go on, war will ultimately determine this outcome. Today therefore, we're looking at the relationship between Israel and the Scriptures, as what we might draw from this.
An initial discussion must therefore be an understanding of a theology of Israel. There are different theologies. Replacement Theology at theological college was taught as Super-succession-ism—that Christ at the cross "superseded" the Old Covenant and at that point the Chosen People played no further part in the human processes of Salvation and lost their special place within the economy of God.
In this theological understanding of Israel, the nation state as it is today is just that. There is no spiritual significance or Biblical insight into modern Israel. It is no different to say Sweden or Romania or Pakistan or Japan or Peru or indeed Australia—all have historical roots in how they developed and understand their nation hood.
A very different approach is that Israel and the Scriptures are inextricably linked. Cited are the promises of God to His ancient people which are being fulfilled, even to the alarm of sceptics. We can cite the 1948 restoration of the Nation of Israel. We can cite deserts being turned into rich food producing pastures: 80% of Europe's oranges come from Israel.
Moreover, a parallel argument is made that Israel is the 100th smallest country, with less than 1/1000th of the world's population. It has a tradition of a highly educated population, and encourages its citizens in pursuing all modern scientific, medical, technological and agricultural innovations. This possibly has its roots in the founders of the modern State, who were often the highly educated refugees from war-torn Europe, who have strong ties to high-level scientific researchers who fled to America during and after World War II. This love of education, however, is not new to the Jewish culture and builds on centuries of an encouragement of scholarly pursuits.
The heart of the theological debate
The heart of the theological issue is whether the Jewish people ceased as God's Covenant people at the Cross. It is noteworthy that the very early church was ambivalent. The "Christ followers" never saw themselves outside of Judaism. The disciples worshipped in the Jerusalem temple and rural synagogues. Here "Christ followers" received Roman Imperial protection as Judaism was recognised as a legitimate Religion.
As the Christian movement in the years after Jesus' resurrection expanded exponentially, with their incessant claim that Jesus is Messiah, it came to include non-Jews (the Gentiles) as well, and a separation from the traditional Jewish religious practices was inevitable. The new Christianity also started to disrupt the economic activities in some cities, as the Acts of the Apostles illustrate (Acts chapter 23, verses 19f). Christianity was challenging both the ancient Roman religions and Judaism with its 'radical' new ideas. Inevitably, there was conflict with everyone in authority, and persecution of Christians followed.
Early Church fathers
The early Church Fathers document this as the start of the recognition of Christians as being different from Judaism as any other religion. Justin Martyr 160AD wrote of the Jews "The Scriptures are not yours, but ours". The Cappadocian Fathers (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus) were of one mind, strongly emphasising the Trinity, and castigating the Jews who rejected this Three in One God. Irenaeus Bishop of Lyons 177AD wrote "Jews are disinherited from the grace of God."
Tertullian, a great theologian on the deity of Christ 160–230AD, wrote his famous treatise "Against the Jews" saying that God had rejected the Jews in favour of the Christians. Augustine who attempted the first major systemisation of Christian theological thought, likewise rejected the Jews and stated that Christians were the inheritors of God's favour. This rejection was primarily based on Matthew chapter 27, verse 25 that Jesus' blood would be upon the Jews and their children. This is the basis upon which anti-Semitism is built. The Jews were deemed 'Christ killers'.
The Reformation produced the greatest hater of Jews to the C20th, Martin Luther. His writings against the Jews are couched in vile language. Academics who study the philosophy leading up to the Holocaust acknowledge that Luther's impact on German thought about Jews was probably the well-spring of Nazi ideology.
Christian instruction—brought down through the centuries to us and as taught in theological colleges/seminaries—is that the Covenant with the Hebrews (the Jews) passed from Judaism to Christianity at "Calvary". This is Replacement Theology. This affects every attitude we have toward Jews and the anti-Semitism witnessed over centuries.
What of God's heart for His people?
The question must therefore be asked, "What of God's heart for His people?" A large number of theological scholars and bible lovers affirm that there remains a place in God's heart for the Jews, as depicted in both Old Testament and New Testament passages.
The debate proceeds from the Old Testament resting upon the nature of God and His promises. Apostle Paul's writes: Romans chapter 11 verse 17 says Christians are "grafted in," Ephesians chapter 2, verse 13 Christians are "brought near" and Romans chapter 15, verse 27 Christians are "partakers."
These don't reflect a usurping of the Covenant or indeed a replacement at all. Christ followers are "joined into" what God had been doing in Israel to bring redemption to the world.
Moreover, this view holds that as in Romans chapter 11, verse 29 that God did not break his Covenant promises with Israel. Should this theological view "hold weight," then God has not dispensed with his chosen people, and the Jews retain a specific place in the economy of God.
Appeasement therefore holds weight where there is a theological position of Replacement Theology, as Israel is nothing more than any other nation state and a world weight will come upon them to acquiesce to the demands of world opinion. If however, the Jews retain a special position in the heart of God, then a very different philosophy will be espoused on the nature of appeasement.
Continued tomorrow ...
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html