EDITOR'S NOTE: Originally I wanted to address the whole of Piper's article but the more I wrote and researched, the longer my response became. For that reason today I will only address one of his arguments and hopefully Michael and I can cover the rest in a future podcast. For now, we will look at Piper and his argument concerning the covenant between God and Abraham/Israel.
Recently David Brickner of “Jews for Jesus” and John Piper had a written debate on Christianity Today regarding the “divine right” of the modern day Jewish people to the Promised Land. Though I do not agree with everything he says, I am at least thankful for David Brickner's response to John Piper's theology on this subject. As for John Piper there is not much I can say. He claims to desire the salvation of all Jews, nor promotes an anti-Semite agenda but unfortunately there comes a problem when you examine his arguments. His careless look at Scripture is slanted towards replacementism; which believes that God has done away with the nation of Israel because of her rejection of the Messiah and assigned her promises to the Church. Although Piper says that he is not against Jewish people, this sort of theology has racist and anti-Semitic roots. I pray that Piper re-looks at his views, as such doctrine can lead to greater errors.
John Piper’s strongest argument to the Jew's divine right is summed up in his own words: “A non-covenant-keeping people (…) does not have a divine right to hold the land of promise while they are living in rebellion against the God who promised it to an obedient people.” This statement is confusing in light of the fact that Piper does not reject the notion that the Lord gave the land to the Jewish people. He quotes Psalm 105:10-11, Genesis 13:15 and Genesis 17:8 as proof. He even states this in other articles. In Do Jews Have a Divine Right in the Promised Land? he says: “Nor do I deny that God promised to Israel the presently disputed land from the time of Abraham onward.” If this is the case, then why does Piper refuse to acknowledge the right of the modern day Jews to the land of Israel? In my opinion this is comes very close to doublespeak.
Let's examine this. Is Israel's right to the land dependent on their works? This is the crux of Piper's argument; time after time in many articles he continues to call Israel a “covenant breaking people”. But what exactly is this covenant? In order to understand what Piper is talking about we must go to Genesis 15, where we see God making this covenant with Abraham. Upon reading this text we find the fatal flaw in Piper's argument. More specifically let's look at verse 18:
“On the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying...” (heavy emphasis mine)
You see, Abraham NEVER made the covenant with God! Yahweh was the one who made the covenant and He made Abraham fall asleep before he could sign it! How is it possible for Abraham to break a covenant that he did not make? This covenant was based upon God's faithfulness, not upon Abraham's.
John Piper takes pride in Abraham's faithfulness. But though Abraham did walk with the Lord and was obedient even to the point of sacrificing his own son, he also often doubted and disobeyed God. I would even argue that Abraham was probably the biggest covenant breaker of them all! Was not the conception of Ishmael the biggest sign of rebellion before the Lord, especially in light of His promises to Abraham? A wicked work of the flesh indeed! But despite all this, God did not rescind His promise to Abraham. The promise stood, not because Abraham was the best candidate, but because it is God who is faithful.
You see, it is a picture of our salvation. God saves us not because we are special (in fact, we frequently sin against Him) but because He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins if we confess them. If we want to say that God’s promise to Abraham is conditional and based upon Abraham's and Israel’s works then we would have to say the same thing about our salvation. If Israel has no right to the land they are in because of their disobedience, then even moreso the church is undeserving of the grace that God has bestowed upon her! Just look around! More and more pastors are leading people into errant doctrine, ear tickling sermons and heretical dialogue. Many denominations are ordaining homosexuals (despite God’s warning against such people in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11), and liberal scholars are rejecting the inspiration of the Bible.
If Piper's theology regarding God's promises to Israel is correct then it must be applied to the church since in a sense we are grafted into (not replacing) the promises given to Abraham (Romans 11). This would make our salvation works-based, and I think Piper would disagree with justification by works. We are justified the same way Abraham was: by faith in God's faithfulness. As Hebrews 11:6 tells us “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Mr.Piper, when the Lord makes a promise He keeps it, despite what anyone else does. I implore you to relook at Scripture and see how God promised not just Abraham’s blessing but also our blessing through him. This blessing ultimately came through the Messiah-ship of Jesus and that covenant has always been kept because of God’s faithfulness, not because of ours. If God can't keep His promise of the land belonging to Israel (despite their wickedness) then how can He keep the promise He has made to us (despite our wickedness)? While the viewpoint you have is seemingly indifferent concerning the nation of Israel, it has its beginnings in and can lead to an anti-Semitic mindset. Please remember another promise God made to Abraham:
I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Let us take this seriously. I do not wish to find out what kind of judgments God has in store for those that curse his people. Let your yes be yes, and your no be no. Don't say you believe one thing, then claim the opposite. We should make sure that blessings and curses do not flow from the same mouth.
David Brickner on Christianity Today: Do Jews Have a Divine Right to Israel's Land? http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/john-piper-david-brickner-israel.html?paging=off
John Piper's Response to David Brickner: How to Treat a Rebellious Israel
Articles by John Piper on Israel (mentioned in Brickner's Article):
A great article fromHebrew4Christians (http://www.h4cblog.com/) on the subject:
Links on Supersessionism (Replacement Theology):
Has the Church Replaced Israel? - Calvin Smith vs Stephen Sizer:
Israel the Church and the Jews by James Jacob Prasch:
More links to come!