Q: #165. What is replacement theology?
By: Steve Shirley
A: "Replacement theology" (also called "Supercessionism") teaches, in short, that the "Church" has now "replaced" Israel as God's chosen people. Because the Jewish people rejected Jesus as the Messiah, God chose to "replace" them in His redemptive plan with the "Church." As a result, God terminated His covenant with Israel as well as all of the promises and blessings He gave them in the Old Testament and made a new covenant with the "Church," transferring His promises and blessings to it.
This theological viewpoint was first developed by Justin Martyr (100-165 A.D.) as he became the first to refer to the "Church" as "the true spiritual Israel." By the time of Irenaeus (130-200 A.D.) this theology was well established. Today, this theological point of view is chiefly held by reformed theologians and Presbyterians, as well as some Methodists and Baptists.
Another name that is often used for "replacement theology" is "covenant theology." Covenant theology basically views God's dealings with man throughout all of time in a series of 3 successive covenants: redemption, works, and grace. That the "Church" has now "replaced" Israel is a key characteristic of their view of the Bible. This is in contrast to "dispensationalism" (See: Q: #161), which generally views God's dealings with man throughout all of time in a series of 7 successive "dispensations." A key characteristic of their view of the Bible is that God has two distinct "people": Israel and the "Church," and the "Church" has not replaced Israel, but rather, His promises with Israel are still in effect and separate from the "Church."
The main problem with this theory is that over and over again, history has shown us that God still has His hand of blessing on Israel and its people. For example, despite numerous attempts to wipe them out (i.e. the Holocaust), the Jewish people supernaturally survive. Another key example is that after many, many years, Israel again regained status as a nation in 1948. Another huge problem that is inherent in this theology is that it is often used to promote anti-semitism. By teaching that God has now rejected Israel in favor of the "church," this has given fuel to those who have persecuted Israel over the last 2000 years.