Facing Replacement Theology: Part 1 :: By Paul J. Scharf
Have the blessings God promised to the Chosen People of Israel been redirected to all believers in the church? Will the church receive the prophetic future God promised the Jewish people repeatedly throughout the Old Testament?
People who answer yes to these questions hold to a position referred to as Replacement Theology, or Supersessionism.[i] This influence is growing today, and it’s important to ask, “What should we who love Israel—and God’s future plan for Israel—do about it?”
Many churches today appear less focused on the elements of Dispensational Theology, which is rooted in understanding “the distinction between Israel and the church,”[ii] based on literal, biblical interpretation. In contrast, Supersessionism uses allegorical rather than literal interpretation when dealing with Israel’s future.
Is it possible to get a pulse on what is actually happening in our Christian circles?
For answers, we turned to four experienced Christian leaders who are highly qualified to address these questions from historical, theological, global, and practical perspectives.
From the Front Lines
Dr. Jimmy DeYoung, Jr., president of Prophecy Today, is a prophecy teacher and Middle East expert. He provides content as a radio host through Prophecy Today Weekend and Prophecy Today Daily— “examining current events in the light of God’s prophetic Word” and carrying on the work of his late father, Jimmy DeYoung.
He reaches people on more than 400 radio stations weekly, along with operating prophecytoday.com’s Internet radio livestream. In those roles, including conducting prophecy conferences, he interacts with many types of people. “I think the biggest indication is, over the years, churches are changing,” DeYoung stated.
“There are a lot of inquiries that come to the program. There are people who listen who don’t understand why we focus on the Jewish people so much. People need an explanation—why is this important to us? I think you are seeing that more and more.
“That may mean we need to alter some of our methods—and take a step back in order to better serve some listeners. It really gets back to teaching basic theology,” DeYoung said.
But there are still great opportunities for solid Bible teaching. “We’re picking up stations,” he observed. “We stay consistent with what we teach.”
A Seismic Shift in the Seminaries
“I think what we’re seeing more of is, within our theological realm, that people are intimidated,” said Dr. Charles Dyer, professor-at-large of Bible for Moody Bible Institute and host of The Land and the Book on Moody Radio.
“They want to be accepted as scholars, and the basic thing is, ‘Well, you cannot take the Bible literally, or you’re not scholarly.’ Now you have the foundation for Replacement Theology,” Dyer said.
Dr. James Fazio is dean of Bible and Theology and professor of Biblical Studies at Southern California Seminary. He is also finishing a doctorate in history at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in which his focus is on John Nelson Darby, a 19th-century Plymouth Brethren leader who is considered the father of modern Dispensationalism.
Fazio sees Replacement Theology’s growing popularity as much more of a seismic shift than a simple growth spurt. “Dispensationalists,” he said, “have always claimed the majority position based on the grass-roots following—the church following. Dispensational Theology was very accessible. It was popular. That script has flipped. What was going on in the academy yesterday is what is bearing out in the church today.”
Fazio noted that, for many years, the influence of Reformed Theology has been growing in seminaries and in Christian publishing and “has now trickled down, and it is sweeping across the churches.” He sees this as a marked change from the middle of the past century. Many dispensational schools were still flourishing then—but the last of the preachers trained in that time are now concluding their ministries.
“I think [Replacement Theology] is growing because of what’s coming out of seminaries,” Dyer stated. “Those who are graduating know very little of the Bible. They grew up in churches that didn’t teach the Bible. Sadly, what I’m seeing in churches is the Bible is being taught less and less.”
Fazio also sees a parallel between the leftward movement in our culture and movement away from the literal interpretation of Scripture.
“Today, Dispensationalism—that dreaded word and the stigma attached to it—is very much like capitalism. That word is anathema to most people—even if we need it and rely upon it for how we function as a society. That shows the power of the cultural sway. The movement that is sweeping across the churches is absolutely Reformed, amillennial—and it has displaced premillennial Dispensationalism.
“If we think that we can just get in churches and have sort of a popularist movement, we don’t have the next generation. We have a fleeting moment,” Fazio said.
Reposted from the January/February 2023 issue of Israel My Glory.
Used by permission of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.
Paul J. Scharf (M.A., M.Div., Faith Baptist Theological Seminary) is a church ministries representative for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, based in Columbus, WI, and serving in the Midwest. For more information on his ministry, visit sermonaudio.com/pscharf or foi.org/scharf, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
[i] For a fuller treatment on Replacement Theology, see Paul Scharf, “The Danger of Replacing Israel” (three-part blog), foi.org/2021/09/24/the-danger-of-replacing-israel-part-1.
[ii] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism, rev. ed. (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2007), 48.
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