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A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology [Paperback]

By Clark M. Williamson (Author)
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Item description for A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology by Clark M. Williamson...

Williamson challenges churches and theologians to become aware of the inherited ideology of anti-Judaism that has distorted their teaching, even on such key matters as Jesus, the Scriptures, the church, and God, and suggests a radical, constructive alternative to the "teaching of contempt".

Publishers Description

In this thought-provoking book, Clark Williamson challenges churches and theologians to become aware of the inherited ideology of anti-Judaism that has distorted their teaching, even on such key matters as Jesus, the Scriptures, the church, and God. Williamson bases his study on a wide range of confessional literature from Roman Catholic to Protestant doctrines. He demonstrates that both the people of Israel and the church stand in relation to God only by the grace of God and suggests a radical, constructive alternative to the "teaching of contempt."

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Presbyterian Publishing Corpor
Pages   45
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.92" Width: 5.98" Height: 1.05"
Weight:   1.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Sep 23, 1993
Publisher   Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN  0664254543  
ISBN13  9780664254544  

Availability  64 units.
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More About Clark M. Williamson

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Clark M. Williamson is Indiana Professor of Christian Thought Emeritus at Christian Theological Seminary.

Clark M. Williamson currently resides in the state of Indiana.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Jewish > Holocaust
2Books > Subjects > History > Middle East > Israel
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Clergy > Church Administration
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Theology > Theology & Doctrine > General

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Reviews - What do customers think about A Guest in the House of Israel?

Killing the Guest  Jun 12, 2007
Clark M. Williamson explores the historical and theological origins of Christianity's anti-Judaism and offers modern theological reconstructions in his book, A Guest in the House of Israel. Though there has been continual revision of both Jewish and Christian theology in the wake of the Shoah, Williamson attempts a reconstruction of Christian theology specifically engaging the responsibility the church has had historically on the suppression of Judaism. He argues the church needs to continue to modify its teaching, attitude, and behavior regarding its paternal religion by reformulating the very language it uses to teach its faith. The misconceptions borne out of Judeo-Christian rhetoric in ancient texts have been a primary source of the shaping the tenuous of relations between these two faiths. Williamson examines these texts, mainly the New Testament and a few patristic authors, to demonstrate the church's historical inability to critically understand these documents in their original contexts. In order to do so, he investigates both the religious and scholastic beliefs surrounding the most critical issues of Christian theology; the identity of Jesus of Nazareth, Paul and his writings, authority of scripture, conceptions of God and covenant, and more. Because the church's grasp of texts and teaching has been historically so misunderstood and misguided, Williamson offers his suggestions on how the modern church can find ways to be more attuned to the basic imperatives of Christian faith, rather than being influenced by the long history of the anti-Jewish "sickness" found within its history and theology.
Williamson begins his work attempting to "dismantle" the anti-Jewish overtones throughout Christian theology stating, "the primary business of theology is to bring the church to self-understanding and self-criticism and thereby to change its practice, which means, first, to change its speech... (which) is itself a form of human behavior in need of correction" (p.3). Among these anti-Jewish linguistic overtones, he argues that Christian language often suggests a dichotomous relationship with Judaism. Christianity is said to be new, while Judaism is old. Christianity is love, while Judaism is law. Christianity is spirit, while Judaism is flesh. Examples abound. Recognition of how destructively these stereotypes have been forced upon Jewish communities throughout history calls the church to reformat its language and teaching in order to live up to its fundamental imperative to love ones neighbor.
To Williamson, these are not mere semantic concerns, but deeply rooted beliefs that have historically caused Christians to project that sense of "oldness" onto the Jewish minorities of the Western world via social constraints such as legal restrictions, geographical ostracism, and even the very clothing Jews have been required to wear. Furthermore, while many of these medieval forms of religious oppression are no longer apparent in modern society, there remain subtler forms of Christian triumphalism in its perceived obligation to convert Jews to their faith. Today much of this begins at the pulpit where texts are read and interpreted to a congregation. The language used, both within the text and by the speaker, becomes critical to the audience's understanding of their Christian responsibilities. In order to positively change this language, the church must honestly face their anti-Jewish history so that it can critically reinterpret their sacred texts and teachings. Two important steps in this process must be the recognition that both Jews and Christians hold the same religious mission, to hallow God's name, and the elimination of anti-Judaism from Christian education in both churches and schools.
The setting of the gospels in Israel, among Jewish neighbors who reject their savior, Jewish religious leaders who hand their king over to be crucified, and Jewish disciples who in crisis abandon their messiah has long been a story used by Christians to define themselves in contrast to Judaism. Biblical scholarship over the past century has called into question the historical validity of much of these gospel accounts and therefore calls the church to reform the theology based upon them. Williamson does not suggest changing the text itself, but promotes better education of the laity on these critical issues. One example given is the portrayal of the events surrounding Jesus' execution. Recent scholarship suggests that such a person as Jesus would have been swiftly executed by Roman officials rather than the tentative trial portrayed in the four gospels. Williamson calls us to recognize the responsibility for the death of Jesus was shifted from the Romans to the Jews as a means of ancient religious rhetoric meant to reassure Christian identity. He goes on to examine the Jewishness of Jesus, his teachings, and the manner in which he is portrayed in efforts to identify and cleanse anti-Jewish misconceptions within the fundamental Christian story and offer a useful theological reconstruction of Yeshua ha Nostri.
The very language used for the "New Testament" and the "Old Testament" sends a distorted message of the nature of covenant. A proper understanding of the Christian covenant between man and God suggests that it has been one grafted onto the covenant of the Jewish people, not one of replacement. It is this conception of covenant that gives rise to the title of the book, A Guest in the House of Israel, in that Christians are those guests who find themselves within the religious tradition of another. The misunderstanding of the idea of the Christian covenant, a superior replacement to the "Old," is identified as a critical source of Christian anti-Jewish teaching that needs to be corrected and shaped in the image of Jesus' instructions.
The extent to which early Christian texts were affected by cultural conflicts and used as cultural-religious polemic is becoming readily more apparent in historical scholarship. This realization is a troublesome one because it causes us to reflect on how the later history of religious tensions, including our own today, has become influenced by these weighted texts. The formation of Christian scriptures was a lengthy, variegated process with many departures from our current editions, which are fraught with assumptions in translations that can often color the text in disturbing ways. Williamson argues that in order to combat this, the church needs to have better study Bibles with clearer and more critical annotation that identifies and pacifies anti-Jewish rhetoric. This delicate maneuver, however, can never be perfect and will need to be constantly reexamined with care and acknowledgement of its lay audience.
Williamson's work is an important work in Christian theology for its day and age. He is at his best when he willingly confronts the historical conflicts and origins of our theological heritage identifying the diseased parts of the Christian body and calling our attention to them. This work is to be praised for its attempts to reconcile modern Christian theology in light of its troubled anti-Jewish past. The wide range of topics that Williamson seeks to include in this post-Holocaust church theology is likewise admirable and should serve as a provocative starting point for later theological discussion.
Unfortunately, some of Williamson's greatest strengths end up undermining the goal of his project as well. His explanation of process theology, which he feels is more useful in explaining the Problem of Evil in Post-Holocaust theology, is confusing at best and seems to assume a more nuanced understanding of process theology than perhaps it should. His dismantling of anti-Jewish Christian theology is so wide-ranging that it dismantles far more than he might have intended. He only lightly mentions that anti-Judaism is but one form of oppression prevalent within Christian history and teaching. What sort of a task would Williamson have if he were to dig into the centuries of Christian sexism, racism, triumphalism, and more? What Christianity would we have remaining, but the briefest of maxims already inherent in many other faiths? Though he attempts a careful surgery in each chapter, identifying and removing anti-Jewish elements within Christian history and theology and then stitching them back up to heal, one may be left feeling that the multiple surgeries do not heal the patient, but kills it instead. One example of this is where he identifies the anti-Jewish statements within the gospels as common religious rhetoric of the time and that we ought not to apply such sentiments to our current theology. Is this rhetoric on par with that which is found within the Gospel of John testifying to Jesus' divinity over and against the Greek gods? If so, might this require a dismantling of Jesus' divinity as well? Additionally, in identifying a multitude of difficult issues within the New Testament, Williamson travels a challenging road through Christian theology that leaves the reader unclear on basic notions of divine revelation in scripture. He does not effectively illustrate just how much stock we ought to place in a text that requires such extensive annotation. This could have the undesired effect of leading readers outside some of the Christian boundaries Williamson is writing to and from.
It is sad that only in the wake of such an event as the Shoah do such themes become so apparent to theologians to correct our common historical and theological assumptions about the nature of the church's place in the house of Israel. Williamson has taken on a great task in seeking to do so in a thorough and critical analysis. His historical and theological deconstruction of anti-Jewish notions within the church undergirds his conviction to fundamentally alter the language with which such issues are approached. But where Williamson gets theologically reflective, stating general Christian beliefs and speaking of the grace of God is an uneasy departure from an otherwise strong representation of our intertwined religious histories. The theological reflections seem forced and we are left wondering whether Williamson has killed or healed his Christian patient in this regrettably required surgery.
What price political correctness?  Jul 13, 2005
If anything, the Holocaust has forced Christianity to reexamine its position concerning the place of Israel in God's plan of salvation. In the course of closely probing this point, Christians also have been led to identify and address the anti-Semitism inherent in its history. As a result, we have a movement called `Post-Holocaust Theology.' Williamson's book is a good example of this movement. He rightly identifies the problem of supersessionism or the Gentile feeling of superiority in the Church as compared to non-Christian Jews. In other words, after the early Christians split from Judaism, the former entity looked down upon and disregarded the latter entity.

Williamson addresses some important topics including Jesus of Nazareth, Paul and covenant. He writes well and readers well have a good sense of one alternative to traditional thinking regarding the relationship between the Church and Israel. But I must disagree that past sins require Christians to give up the message of the gospel for the sake of political correctness. Williamson adopts the position that any theology that remains unchanged in light of the Holocaust must be treated with suspicion. Furthermore, his insistence that we should say nothing that we would not say `in the presence of burning children' is more emotion than scholarship. Ultimately, Williamson comes down to a dual covenant theology. The Jews are saved by following the Torah and Christians are saved by Jesus' death and resurrection. But must we relinquish the message of the gospel to downplay the differences between Jews and Christians? Even prominent Jewish scholars like Jacob Neusner are quick to point out that we must acknowledge our differences before any real dialogue can take place. Williamson could have strengthened his argument had he not been so reluctant to confront scholars who disagree with his position.

In summary, Williamson's book is a good place to find information on a critically important topic for Christians; unfortunately he avoids genuine dialogue by taking a political correct stance.
Being good guests...  Dec 31, 2003
Clark Williamson, a professor emeritus of theology at my seminary, devoted much of life to Jewish-Christian relations and dialogue. The manner in which Williamson went about this is different from many; rather than relying solely on dialogue and exchanges in debate and conversation, with the occasional generic interfaith service thrown in for good measure, Williamson calls upon the Christian church to reorder its own thinking in light of a history of anti-Judaic and anti-Semitic sentiment that has been present from the time of the early Church Fathers to the aftermath of the Holocaust.

No theologian or minister today can operate in a Christian framework that does not address the Holocaust in some way, even if that is to simply ignore it as irrelevant. Needless to say, Williamson would have strong words against this option. What Williamson puts forth in this text is an advanced theology and ecclesiology of the church in a post-Holocaust (often called post-Shoah) context.

Williamson discusses many of the major areas of systematic Christian theology in turn: Christology, creation, revelation, authority of scriptures, etc. This is not, in the end, Williamson's magnum opus of systematic theology (that will come several years later in his text 'Way of Blessing, Way of Life', a more complete and tightly argued systematic theology). However, this text deals with, in one volume, the major ideas of Christian thought in an intentional post-Holocaust framework. Williamson sets the stage with his first chapter, discussing the importance of recognising the continuing undercurrents of anti-Judaic thinking that circulate in the church today, as well as the ways in which one can address the gospel in appropriate and careful ways to take into account both its own origins and the continuing life in covenant with God that the present Jewish people represent.

It is astounding the number of times that people seem to forget that Jesus, Paul, the twelve apostles, and the other very foundations of Christianity all were from the Jewish faith. Reading the gospels and apostolic literature as anti-Jewish is to miss the internal-dialogue context of the writings -- this was writing within a community, not from without, and it was writing from a standpoint of insecurity on many levels, trying to forge an identity. In particular, if one is going to continue to worship and honour the God of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel and Leah, how can one disrespect (or worse) the people of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel and Leah?

However, this simple recognition is insufficient to overcome the centuries of strained relationships, usually with dominating Christendom oppressing to the point of death and destruction of whole communities the Jewish people. A new awareness of the tendencies toward exclusion and oppression needs to woven into the very fabric of Christian life, worship and witness. Christians must remember, as adopted children into the covenant, that we are guests in the house of Israel, and we must begin to honour our hosts, our ancestors, as friends.


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