For anyone interested in the recent kerfuffle about Christian BDS at the Presbyterian Church USA and the pamphlet “Zionism Unsettled,” Adam Rovner’s piece here in the Forward is a must read. What I saw in part and Rovner identifies with great precision is that anti-Zionism at the PCUSA is, yes, bound up with Christian supersessionism, but has less to do directly with the State of Israel or Zionism and anti-Zionism and more to do with rooting out heresy in the church. Rovner identifies that heresy as Dispensationalism, which you can see defined below, but which I would say speaks to the doctrine relating to the way Christian are supposed to be in the world.
I’m extracting below what for me was Rovner’s central argument:
If the criticism heaped on Israel by Zionism Unsettled is surprising, the authors’ scorn of Christian evangelicals is nothing short of shocking…The authors accuse Christian Zionists of “distorted ethics” and criticize evangelicals for their belief in what is called Dispensationalism.
Broadly speaking, Dispensationalism divides all of human history between Creation and the Day of Judgment into several epochs. Dispensationalism and its focus on “end time” scenarios remain essential to the theology of many evangelicals, including Hagee and his flock. For Presbyterians, however, Dispensationalism is nothing less than a grave heresy — perhaps the only truly heretical notion prohibited by Church doctrine.
No wonder, then, that Zionism Unsettled ridicules evangelicals for awaiting “God’s final blockbuster.”
Where do the Jews and Israel fit into this nasty squabble? Never fear, Zionism Unsettled explains that “with the coming of Christ…the old covenant” — that is, the one between God and the Jews — “has been replaced or superseded by the new covenant.” This is what is known as “replacement theology” or supersessionism. In other words, God still loves the Jews, He’s just not in love with them anymore. Plus He wants His promised land back.
Zionism Unsettled relies here on positions outlined by Dr. Gary Burge, a professor of New Testament at Wheaton College in Illinois. Burge, the author of two books that treat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in theological and historical terms, describes his role as a “consultant-contributor” to Zionism Unsettled. In a phone interview, Burge clarified what Zionism Unsettled characterizes as his support for “some form of replacement theology.” He prefers instead the term “fulfillment theology.” Burge distinguishes between supersessionism, which has historically denigrated Judaism, and fulfillment theology, which maintains “maximal respect” for Jews and Judaism.
So what the PC-USA vote teaches us, what Reverend Grimm’s Facebook posting teaches us, and what Zionism Unsettled teaches us is really nothing new at all. Certainly nothing new about American attitudes toward Israel. It’s the same old story of Christian supersessionism, Burge’s disclaimers notwithstanding. Only now, the church marches forward beneath the cross-topped staff of social justice while a benighted Jewry supposedly blindfolds itself to Israel’s human rights abuses.