Last week my colleagues Daniel Lancaster, Ryan Lambert, Damian Eisner, and I went to Birmingham, Alabama, to attend an epic debate on the role of the Jewish people within the body of Messiah today.
The debate was held at Samford University and focused on two key questions: 1) Are the Jewish people still God’s covenant people? 2) If so, does that make them different than any other people? The discussion revolved around supersessionism and replacement theology.
The two debaters were Dr. N.T. Wright, research professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer, senior scholar and resident emeritus of the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute. Wright was on the side arguing “no” to both questions and Rabbi Kinzer on the other saying “yes” to both. I have high respect for both scholars, but on this topic, my colleagues and I sided firmly with Rabbi Kinzer.
Rabbi Kinzer brought forth evidence from the New Testament including a careful presentation of Romans 11:16, in which Paul calls all the Jewish people holy and argued for a literal restoration of Israel based on Acts 1:6 and 3:21. Surprisingly, N.T. Wright disavowed supersessionism right up front saying it was “a term I find singularly unhelpful.” However, when he argued that the Jewish people retain merely a memory of the nation’s holiness, it was evident that despite his dislike for the term that is exactly what he was teaching.
It was a historic night to have both of these theological heavyweights presenting together on the same topic. Just the fact that N.T. Wright would agree to have a discussion on this topic with a rabbi from Messianic Judaism shows how far the church has come in their acceptance of the movement in the last fifty years or so. Supersessionism has plagued the church almost from its inception, and it was good to see the topic debated in such a large venue. One thousand people attended from various denominational backgrounds. You can also watch the whole event online here. My prayer is that this debate will spark many more like it causing people to rethink replacement theology and God’s ongoing covenant with the Jewish people.