This is the eighth in a series of blog posts on my reading journey of Dr. Michael J. Vlach’s Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7).
Chapter thirteen of this book brings closure to many of the theological arguments that are used in support of supersessionism (i.e., replacement theology). Dr. Vlach pulls no punches as he clarifies why we cannot support this view:1
As a theological position, supersessionism has serious weaknesses. In regard to hermeneutics, the view of NT priority over the OT is flawed. It emasculates the OT’s ability to speak to the issues it addresses. In addition, the view that Israel was a type that has been superseded by the superior antitype, the church, is in error. Since the NT affirms a future for the nation Israel, Israel can hardly be superseded. Also, the supersessionist view that OT passages regarding Israel have been fully fulfilled in nonliteral ways is not convincing.
As for theological arguments, supersessionists have failed to show that Israel has been forever rejected by God. They also have not been able to offer a compelling case that the NT calls the church “Israel.” Supersessionists have also not shown how salvific unity between Jews and Gentiles rules out a future restoration of the nation Israel since equality in salvation does not rule out functional distinctions. Particularly weak is the argument that Heb 8:8-13 teaches that the church is the new Israel. This passage teaches the superiority of the new covenant over the old covenant, but it is not evidence for supersessionism. Supersessionists have incorrectly asserted that church inclusion into the new covenant means national Israel’s exclusion.
The issue of NT silence regarding Israel’s restoration is also not a strong point for supersessionism. First, it is questionable whether the NT is actually silent on this issue. According to Acts 1:6, the disciples expected a restoration of national Israel after they received 40 days of kingdom instruction from Jesus. Plus, I do not agree with the assumption that the NT has to repeat the details of the OT expectations in order for these expectations still to be in force.
Overall, the doctrine of supersessionism is unconvincing. I see no evidence that demands this view. Since the OT clearly predicted a restoration of national Israel, the burden of proof is on supersessionists to show that this expectation has been canceled or transformed. The proof texts, typological connections, and promise-fulfillment schemes offered by supersessionists have not proven this. I conclude, therefore, that supersessionism is not consistent with the biblical witness.
Let the buyer beware, there is an inherent danger with supersessionism. One that distorts the vision of the student of God’s Word; he’s at risk of losing sight of what has been promised. Reading Dr. Vlach’s book has given me a greater appreciation and a better understanding of the textual and doctrinal problems created by replacement theology.