When barbaric acts are committed (see Paris, January 2015), the human mind wants to know why. What are the root causes? For too many Western leaders, this line of thought becomes dangerous, moving into an effort to “understand” terrorists, rather than concentrating on defeating them.
However, another kind of root cause is vastly more important, because it at least gives us the foundational background to understand why we are where we are.
And I’m not talking about Arab Muslim anti-Semitism.
I’m talking about the Christian West.
Often, my Jewish friends ask me why too many Christians don’t like them. I believe their assessment is on-target, by the way.
My answer is in two parts:
• As Sir Martin Gilbert said in 2006, too many people simply don’t like Jews. It’s true, unfortunately. There are many causes: perhaps a Christian learned anti-Jewish stereotypes at home. Perhaps (bizarrely) from the pulpit. Perhaps in another area of life. The fact is, too many American Christians (specifically, evangelicals) harbor anti-Semitic attitudes.
• The more pressing problem, in my view, has to do with biblical worldview. Replacement Theology — the view that because Jews do not accept Jesus Christ as the Messiah, God has somehow “transferred” His promises to the Jews to the Church — is a scourge in the American church, and few want to acknowledge that. It’s easier to trot-out the discredited statistics (“Over 70 million evangelicals are pro Israel.” Question: Where are they?). But bad Bible teaching has marginalized the Jews and their history, much like the so-called “German Christian Movement” did pre-Hitler, when much of the Old Testament was sanitized from curriculum and sermons in German churches.
But why is that? How did that happen?
I believe we have to go back to Enlightenment Europe and the Dawn of Darwinism.
It is a little-known fact that Charles Darwin had a great deal of help in marketing/mainstreaming his philosophy of naturalism to wider audiences. The reclusive, beetle-browed Darwin could never have exported his worldview without the help of a dozen friends, including Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer.
In fact, these men met monthly for dinner in London, for 30 years, in part to develop ways of influencing the masses to believe in naturalism or, more precisely, to stop believing the biblical accounts of origins.
Here I am not arguing for a particular origins worldview; that’s a subject for another time. What I am stating is that the drive to make Genesis 1-11 myth or allegory paved the way for the deconstruction of Genesis 12-50, the great and marvelous beginnings of the nation of Israel.
This single line of attack is most responsible for the anti-Semitic attitudes in the Western church. When one considers the relentless efforts of influential clergy like John Shelby Spong, Brian McLaren, and Marcus Borg to relegate Genesis to something other than factual history, one can then begin to see how such views have filtered-down.
Tony Jones, for example, announced two years ago that he simply no longer believes in Original Sin. No real explanation; he just chooses not to believe it. The Fuller Seminary professor has influence with Millennials, in particular, and this type of thing is only going to get worse. For one thing, no national evangelical leader will publicly challenge such views.
It shouldn’t be difficult to see that attacking the veracity of the historical accounts in the Old Testament (the Hebrew scriptures) undermines the specialness of the Jews and their history. This is at once diabolical and subtly clever. Consider the teachings from the Methodist church, going back several decades.
In a publication called “Adult Student” (April, 1951), we read, concerning Genesis:
“The second section, Chapters 12 through 50, is made up of hero stories out of the semi-legendary past of the Hebrew people.”
This is an extraordinarily big lie, yet it infiltrated the church as early as 1951 (and such thought had been incubating in seminaries much longer than that). Is it hard to see how such teaching undermines confidence in the Bible?
When I talk to people who believe the biblical accounts are factual history, they tend to also be pro Israel. The reverse is also true.
It began in earnest, though, with the X-Club. And not just Darwin and Huxley (“Darwin’s Bulldog”).
The English mathematician (and X-Club member) Thomas Archer Hirst was especially influenced by Robert Chambers’ book, Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation, which sought to undermine Genesis.
Hirst (along with fellow X-Clubber, the Irish physicist John Tyndall) wrote in his journals and letters that Vestiges presented a plausible case for evolutionary thought over Genesis. At best, they believed Genesis to be allegorical.
Ironically, famous American clergy like Henry Ward Beecher enthusiastically embraced Darwinism, with Beecher hosting Herbert Spencer for a watershed lecture tour of America in 1882. Certain influential American clergy wanted to believe in evolution. By extension, they then polluted their congregations’ understanding of the specialness of the Jewish people.
One American preacher gets it. John MacArthur, in his book, The Battle for the Beginning, says it well:
“If Genesis 1-3 doesn’t tell us the truth, why should we believe anything else in the Bible? Without a right understanding of our origin, we have no way to understand anything about our spiritual existence. We cannot know our purpose, and we cannot be certain of our destiny. After all, if God is not the Creator, then maybe He’s not the Redeemer either. If we cannot believe the opening chapters of Scripture, how can we be certain of anything the Bible says?”
MacArthur also expands the importance of this topic, and in doing so, touches on another aspect of this: the Bible’s predictive prophecy, of which Israel and the Jews play the dominant historical role:
“It [the Bible] is as true when it tells the future as it is when it records the past.”
How sad that much of Christianity is missing the point by not believing this. The embracing of the philosophy of naturalism is the cause.
Although at first glance, such thought seems to more directly impact pure scientific agendas (“evolution must be true”) it is in fact more an attack on the very history of the Jewish people and the overall Bible. This impacts the individual much more than talk of biology and the age of stars.
If the Bible is not true in its history, then it follows that its philosophical elements are likewise faulty. For the Christian (and this is especially true of young people, who are not stupid and can reason quite well), this casts doubt on the very foundations of the faith, including the resurrection of Christ.
Simply put, if a loving Creator does not in fact exist, then you’re on your own, pal. And that is a profoundly horrifying thought.
Such teaching also grossly undermines support for Israel, because for one thing, if the Jewish claims to the land of Israel are invalid historically, why is their case stronger than, say, the Palestinians?
This is where we are, and the American church is heading off a cliff theologically, with too many of them embracing Darwin’s philosophy of naturalism (at complete odds with the Gospel itself, which is all about the worth of the individual). A twin error is Replacement Theology.
We have the X-Club, the German Higher Critics, and an enamored 19th century American clergy community to thank for it.