Part 7 — Burge’s Struggle with God’s Favor on Israel
I am continuing my critique of Dr. Gary Burge’s ‘Fulfillment/Replacement Theology’…
The third question Dr. Burge asks is the ‘thorniest’ of them all…
Dr. Gary Burge: “Does this mean that the Jewish State of Israel then possesses not only political significance, but theological significance as well?…Is there a covenant benefit that can be made today through Abraham on behalf of the modern state of Israel?”
This is why Burge constantly stumbles. He assumes, that if God blesses Israel in one way, He must extend all New Covenant blessings upon Israel—even in unbelief. Or he is thinking that the Abrahamic covenant—which doesn’t mention eternal life, as John chapter three does—guarantees the Jew everlasting life simply for being circumcised, despite unbelief?
It would appear, he thinks those who believe in natural Israel’s resurrection (Ez. 37), believe that along with the return to the Land, salvation is bestowed upon a Messiah-rejecting Israel. He argues passionately against a point that, as I mentioned before, no one is making among us, the Messianic Believers – to make his point: Israel cannot belong to the Jews. If indeed we believed this (that Jews obtain salvation through Abraham), why then have so many Messianic Jews moved from more comfortable nations, with better security, to Israel, if not to reach out people?
Moody Bible Institute’s Professor of Jewish Studies, Michael Rydelnik, agrees that Burge teaches, that “we [Messianic Jews and Christian Zionists] who believe that God will be faithful to His covenant promises to Israel also hold to a Dual Covenant Theology,” meaning, Jews go to Heaven based on Arbaham or Moses, not Yeshua. Rydelnik continues, “I and multiple others have told him this is not what we believe. Nevertheless, he keeps repeating this. I cannot begin to know why he persists in this allegation.”
Well, one reason could be that Dr. Burge’s motive is not theological at all—but political. In my opinion, he wants to delegitimize Israel in favor of the Palestinians. What other reason could there be for repeating something that is false—something that multiple theologians have pointed is not the Messianic or Christian Zionist position?
My question to Dr. Burge is: Can’t God be faithful to His covenant to Israel in her pre-belief state?
Moreover, can’t God bestow His blessings on Israel on behalf of the remnant of Jews who do believe? As Dan Juster pointed out in his presentation after Dr. Burge, unbelieving Israel is still set apart on account of the faith of the believing remnant. According to Ezekiel 36, as we return, we shall believe. He says in v. 24 that we will be gathered back to the Land of Israel, and then in v. 25ff he speaks about having a new heart, being cleansed of sin, etc. Does not the resurrection of the Messianic Movement—which came almost simultaneity with the resurrected nation of Israel—mean anything to Burge?
So, in answer to his question, yes, Israel has theological significance today, just as she always has had. Romans 11:29 states that God’s call on Israel is irrevocable.
Dr. Gary Burge: “The New Testament understands that the Abrahamic Covenant has come to fulfillment in Christ.”
These are two separate covenants. One made by God to Israel. The other by God through Yeshua to all who would believe—Jew and Gentile. Cannot God be faithful to one, and still honor the other? Even as Moses did not nullify Abraham, neither does Yeshua nullify Abraham.
The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. (Gal. 3:17)
Burge cannot see how secular Israel’s restoration could be a part of God’s redemption plan. His conscience is offended by the idea that God could bless those who do not profess explicit faith in Yeshua. And this offense is often, if not always, the root of replacement theology. “Its not fair that God is still blessing the Jews!” Replacement theology solves this by declaring, “We are the New Israel.” But Burge does see the arrogance in such a theology. He therefore embraces a ‘Fulfillment’ Theology, which he claims doesn’t teach replacement (although it clearly does!), saying that all the promises of the Old Covenant have been fulfilled in Messiah’s first coming. We will deal with this in a later blog.
Dr. Gary Burge: “Israel’s restoration will not be found outside of Christ.”
Amen! But according to the prophets, it includes the reestablishment of the secular state. And according to Ezekiel, as noted before, the physical state comes just before the spiritual revival (36:24-28). The vision in chapter 37 comes to the prophet in two stages. First, flesh coming on dry bones—symbolizing the regathering of Israel to the nation (which is only partial because they still are lifeless)—and then, the four winds filling the bodies with life—symbolizing the revival after returning to the Land. Sadly, Burge misses this, because he doesn’t regard Old Covenant prophecy as relevant—all was fulfilled in Yeshua, he believes.
Burge does believe in a future Jewish revival, but only because it is reaffirmed in the New Covenant (Rom. 11:25-26). He cannot take Ezekiel at his word (Ez. 36:24) unless Paul backs him up. But the Jewish prophets are just as much Scripture as Romans and Galatians.
I don’t know why he must conclude that the coming of the Jewish Messiah to the world sets aside God’s promise through Abraham to the Hebrew people. They are not mutually exclusive. Could it be that his anti-Israel political agenda has blinded him to God’s calling on the nation? He must reason, “How could God bless a nation that displaces Palestinian and bulldozes their homes?” Of course, he would need to then ignore Israel’s cries for peace with her Arab neighbors from 1948 to the present— and the fact that they have always been answered with war.