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Peter Hocken: Christian Repentance

Peter Hocken: Christian Repentance for sins against the Jewish people will lead the Church to the root issue.

…In his book, The God of Israel and Christian Theology , the American scholar, R. Kendall Soulen, has helpfully identified three forms of replacement or supersessionist thinking.
The first two are easy to understand. First, economic supersessionism, which means that Israel is no longer God’s chosen people, because this role was completed when Jesus died on the cross ; and secondly, punitive supersessionism, which means the view that God has rejected Israel because of their sin . But Soulen then points to a third form of replacement or supersessionist thinking that he calls structural supersessionism .

He finds this in all the ways in which the Christian Church has articulated her foundational narrative in ways that ignore the place of Israel and the Jewish people. For example, every presentation of Christian faith that goes straight from the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3 to the Incarnation and the New Testament is structurally supersessionist. Man sinned, so God sent his Son to die for sinners. Israel has become superfluous to the heart of the story. No mention of Abraham, no mention of Moses, Sinai or the Torah, no mention of the messianic kingdom. Soulen identifies two essential elements in divine revelation that are lost when the story of salvation is misunderstood in this way: the covenant alliance (I shall be your God and you will be my people) at the heart of God’s plan, and the complementary roles of Israel and the nations.

It is only as we repent for and correct this structural supersessionism that we can recover the fullness of the Messianic hope. Repentance for devaluing the centrality of the covenants of God with his people and for eliminating Israel from the nature of the “new covenant” in Jesus (in distorting the prophetic word of Jer. 31: 31, 33) will enable us to celebrate the new covenant in the “one new man” that prepares for the messianic banquet when “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 8: 11).

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