Anti-Jewish Sentiment in Protestant Christianity (Pt. 4 of 4)

In this series, we have traced Protestant anti-Jewish sentiments from their source at the Reformation down through the centuries, exploring the damage they have caused. This concluding article examines how these same beliefs still manifest today, and how we as followers of Messiah must take action to heal the ancient wounds of anti-Jewish sentiment.

Recent decades have seen the rise of a new form of anti-Semitism: anti-Zionism.1 According to the Anti-Defama­tion League, anti-Zionism rejects the idea of a Jewish nation, denying Israel’s basic rights to existence and self-defense.2 The inherent anti-Jewish nature of anti-Zionism is evidenced by a resurgence of ancient anti-Semitic tropes (such as those held by Luther) used to criticize the state of Israel, as well as by a significant increase of attacks and hate crimes against Jews worldwide.3 Though the majority of American Protestants today support the Jewish State, researcher Dexter Van Zile reports that “there are unmistakable signs that anti-Israel activism is gaining traction within evangelical Protestantism” due to the significant inroads being made by “supersessionist [replacement] theologians, liberal activists, and Palestinian Christians.”4

One such supersessionist theologian is Reformed Baptist teacher John Piper (1946–), who demonstrated how replacement theology and Christian anti-Zionism are intertwined. Echoing Calvin’s teachings that Israel refers not to Jews but to the Church, Piper stated that the Abrahamic promise to the Land of Israel belongs to “true, spiritual Israel”—the Church—not to the Jewish people, making Gentile believers literal inheritors of the Promised Land.5

A newer type of replacement theology, Palestinian Liber­ation Theology (PLT), goes so far as to completely deny the Jewish people’s chosenness, claiming that God never made promises to the Jews at all.6 PLT’s creator, Palestinian Episcopal priest Naim Ateek, even states that portions of the Old Testament are “racist” and “must be de-Zionized.”7 Theologies such as these have fueled anti-Zionism among many liberal Protestant groups, including the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). In a General Assembly, its committee members condoned war crimes8 against Israeli Jews by rejecting a resolution to “condemn[] the militarization of Palestinian children to be used in attacks on Israeli citizens.”9

In the wake of the October 7th massacre of Israelis by Hamas, a November 2023 report indicated, at first blush, that these anti-Zionist trends have not found a strong foothold among American Christians, with only 23% viewing Israel negatively (21% among Protestants). However, anti-Zionism in younger generations is roughly double, with 42% of those aged 18-29 viewing the Jewish state negatively, and only 47% viewing it positively.10

These numbers mirror anti-Zionist trends in American society at large, which have fueled a 361% increase in American anti-Semitic incidents, including vandalism, harassment, and even physical assault.11 Historically, Pro­testantism has followed the trends of the rest of society, increasing in anti-Jewish sentiment as worldwide anti-Semitism increased. Will today’s Protestant Church again join hands with those who would harm the Jewish people, or will it finally break the pattern and stand up against anti-Semitism?

During Protestantism’s five-hundred-year history, anti-­Semitic and anti-Jewish sentiments have been handed down generationally, ingrained in Protestant thought. Even among those who love the Jews and seek their salvation, such ideas have lingered undetected in their beliefs, and these same theologies continue to grow today. So what makes systemic anti-Jewish sentiment in Protestantism such a pressing issue? Is it more weighty than other doctrinal faults of Christianity? This topic is of vital importance because all God’s plans hinge on Israel, and they will not move forward until the Jewish people receive their Messiah (Mat. 23:37–39). If believers are to be “hastening the coming presence of the Day of God” (2Pe. 3:12, mjlt), the Body of Messiah must work to effectively bring the Good News to the Jewish people.12 As long as Christians participate in anti-Semitism or claim that God has set aside or replaced Israel, Jews will be hardened and their souls will be lost. When the whole of the Jewish people are saved, however, their acceptance will bring “life out of the dead” (Rom. 11:15, mjlt), even bringing new life to the Church.13

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Not only has anti-Jewish sentiment discouraged many Jews from following Yeshua, but the acceptance of these ideas also calls into question the basic tenets of our faith. If God’s promises to Israel are “spiritualize[d] away,” other promises such as the resurrection could be just as easily dismissed.14 Likewise, if God could set aside Israel in favor of a new chosen people, He could one day do the same to the Church.15 Given the troubling history of Christian theology surrounding Israel and the harm these theologies have caused, Christians must reexamine—in light of Scripture—all of their beliefs and attitudes about the Jewish people. No belief can be taken for granted. Now is the time for the Church to seek forgiveness for its anti-Semitism, and to emphasize bringing the Gospel “to the Jew first” (Rom. 1:16), so that Messiah’s brothers by flesh will become His brothers by faith.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

  1. Prager, Dennis. “If You Hate Israel, You’re No Friend of the Jews.” PragerU, 16 Dec. 2019. (Accessed 13 Jul. 2023) ↩︎
  2. Anti-Defamation League.  “Myth: Anti-Zionism or Criticism of Israel is Never Antisemitic.” (Accessed 27 Mar. 2024) ↩︎
  3. Ibid. ↩︎
  4. Van Zile, Dexter. “Evangelical Anti-Zionism as an Adaptive Response to Shifts in American Cultural Attitudes.” Jewish Political Studies Review, vol. 25, no. 1, 2013, pp. 39–64: p. 40. (JSTOR, Accessed 5 Jan. 2024) ↩︎
  5. Piper, John. “Israel, Palestine and the Middle East.” Desiring God, 7 Mar. 2004: sections 3 and 6. (Accessed 13 Jul. 2023) ↩︎
  6. Neese, Shelley. “Palestinian Liberation Theology.” The Jerusalem Connection Report, 17 Mar. 2009. (Accessed 21 Feb. 2024) ↩︎
  7. Ateek, Naim Stifan. A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation. United Kingdom, Orbis Books, 2008, 56. (Google Books, Accessed 21 Feb. 2024) ↩︎
  8. International Committee of the Red Cross, Statute of the International Criminal Court – Article 8, Article 8(2)(b)(xxvi) and (e)(vii) (Accessed 21 Feb 2024) ↩︎
  9. Jones, Rick. “Middle East panel continues support for rights of Palestinians.” PCUSA, 19 Jun. 2018. (Archive.org, Accessed 13 Jul. 2023) ↩︎
  10. Lifeway Research, “American Christian Views on the Israel-Hamas War,” pages 36-37, 96. (Accessed 21 Feb. 2024) ↩︎
  11. Anti-Defamation League. “U.S. Antisemitic Incidents Skyrocketed 360% in Aftermath of Attack in Israel, according to Latest ADL Data,” 9 Jan. 2024. (Accessed 27 Mar. 2024) ↩︎
  12. Stern, David. Messianic Judaism: A Modern Movement With An Ancient Past (A Revision of Messianic Jewish Manifesto). Messianic Jewish Publishers, 2007: 260–261. ↩︎
  13. Ibid., 261 ↩︎
  14. Brown, Michael L. Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the Church and the Jewish People. 2019 ed., Destiny Image Publishers, 2019: 205. ↩︎
  15. Ibid., 178 ↩︎
1 reply
  1. Michael
    Michael says:

    I’ve really enjoyed this 4-part series, it’s really appreciated and much needed in these times we’re living. I received in in the mail/your newsletter(s) and read them. I have a very close friend/brother who is a blood-borne/Mesianic Y’hudi and his Grandfather was in the Holocaust. He told me of many stories/experiences his Grandfather experienced while in the camps….absolutely horrendous. Anti-Jewish Sentiments are everywhere. It’s even infiltrated many who claim to be Y’hudi–Gentile believers in the Hebrew Roots/Sacred Name Movement. You have a video ‘Could Messianics Be the Synagogue of Satan?’ that hits the nail on the head. We’re using our Messianic Mo’adiyim Devotional Book to count the Omer at this time–its a real blessing! Love from our family to your’s!

    Reply

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