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The God of Israel and Christian Theology [Paperback]

By Kendall Soulen (Author) & R. Kendall Soulen (Author)
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Item description for The God of Israel and Christian Theology by Kendall Soulen & R. Kendall Soulen...

Along with this first full-scale critique of Christian supersessionism, Soulen's own constructive proposal regrasps the narrative unity of Christian identity and the canon through an original and important insight into the divine-human convenant, the election of Israel, and the meaning of history. (Christian)

Publishers Description
With acknowledgment that Christian theology contributed to the persecution and genocide of Jews comes a dilemma: how to excise the cancer without killing the patient? Kendall Soulen shows how important Christian assertions-the uniqueness of Jesus, the Christian covenant, the finality of salvation in Christ-have been formulated in destructive, supersessionist ways not only in the classical period (Justin Martyr, Irenaeus) and early modernity (Kant and Schleiermacher) but even contemporary theology (Barth and Rahner). Along with this first full-scale critique of Christian supersessionism, Soulen's own constructive proposal regraps the narrative unity of Christian identity and the canon through an original and important insight into the divine-human covenant, the election of Israel, and the meaning of history.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Fortress Press
Pages   195
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.42" Width: 5.47" Height: 0.62"
Weight:   0.6 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 11, 1996
Publisher   Augsburg Fortress Publishers
Edition  New  
ISBN  0800628837  
ISBN13  9780800628833  

Availability  145 units.
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More About Kendall Soulen & R. Kendall Soulen

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! R. Kendall Soulen is professor of systematic theology at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, D.C.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > Middle East > Israel
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Pneumatology
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology

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

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Reviews - What do customers think about The God of Israel and Christian Theology?

very good assessment and conclusions drawn  Apr 17, 2007
Soulen's book will get you to rethink OT theology on a few levels. first is supersessionism and the place for Israel. Second, is God's dealing with mankind through the Promise(s) given to Abraham. This he says is a key to understanding many OT issues and passages and governs how God deals with Israel and the nations. Many other positive things to say, it is definetely worth the price, even though it gets a little thick in chapters where he traces the development of supersessionism (ie when talking about Rahner, Barth, etc). Not a long or hard read either.
Refreshing breath of air   Jul 13, 2005
One result of the Holocaust was Christianity's self-examination of its relationship to Israel and its contribution to anti-Semitism. Often, harsh criticism has been aimed at Christianity in light of these issues but there has not always been an attempt to offer an alternative understanding to help recover what seems to have been lost from Jewish-Christian relations. Soulen attempts to remedy this problem.

In the first part of his book Soulen correctly identifies the problem of supersessionism or the Church's belief of its superiority over Israel as the people of God. For Soulen, the standard model of interpreting the Scriptures (Old Testament) and the Apostolic witness (New Testament) developed over time into the belief that the Israel of old ceased to be important to the thinking of Christianity. And this unfortunate occurrence is highlighted in three pairs of thinkers: Justin Martyr and Irenaeus in the second century; Friedrich Schleiermacher and Immanuel Kant in the early modern period; and Karl Barth and Karl Rahner in the post-Holocaust years. Any self-examination on the part of Christianity must acknowledge this regrettable trend.

In his second part of the book, Soulen argues that supersessionism was the result of attempting to make the Scriptures center on Christ rather on the hope of the God of Israel as the Consummator of creation. Furthermore, Soulen presents the following proposition: the God of Israel works through his people Israel to bring about the consummation of creation, namely the eschatological shalom. If you accept Soulen's picture of the Scriptures, then you will not lose perspective on the permanent importance of Israel for the Church. What Soulen develops in this part of his book is the picture that both Testaments of the Christian bible underline the importance of Israel as the avenue through which God addresses, redeems and perfects his creation, for the Jew and for the Gentile.

Overall, I find it refreshing that Soulen endeavors to recast Christianity in light of what we have in the Bible rather than deconstruct Christianity and reinvent a new religion, as many current authors do. His reworking of our understanding of the valued place of Israel appears to parallel that of the early church, before the Fall of 70 CE, before Judaism and Christianity basically parted ways. If you are looking for an alternative model to consider regarding how the Church and Israel should interact, thus book is a good place to begin. You will come away a little frustrated as to what significance does Christ hold for Israel today. Soulen does tiptoe around that issue. But that question presented a problem for Paul (Romans 9-11) and so Soulen's work serves a good jumping off place to address the Messiah question from a Jewish perspective.
Changed the way I read the Scriptures  Oct 29, 2003
I've long sensed in my reading of the Bible that the writers of the New Testament books took their Jewish heritage and its meaning in God's interaction with the world far more seriously than later Christian exegetes have. The most striking example of this, of course, is the still pervasive opinion in Christendom that Saul/Paul renounced his Judaism in favor of Christianity, and advised others that Christian grace had nullified the Law of Moses. To paraphrase Soulen, Christian theology has chronically relegated Israel and God's interaction with Israel to a propaedeutic function, serving only to prepare for and foreshadow God's real work in Christ. Christian theologians have tended to interpret all of history within the economy of sin and redemption, with the result that God's distinction between Jew and Gentile is purely functional - a means to an end, namely Christ's redemption - and, therefore, after Christ being Jewish no longer has meaning in God's plan. To support this argument Galatians will inevitably be quoted: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." True enough, but in chapters 9-11 of Romans Paul explicitly rejects the collapsing of the Jew-Gentile distinction (and do we really want to argue that the distinctions "male" and "female" no longer have any significance in God's plan?).

Soulen demonstrates convincingly that supersessionism is not a new phenomenon, but permeates Christian theology almost from inception. While it is a bit discouraging to see that our most influential Christian theologians harbor crucial contradictions within their construal of the Biblical narrative, in this case it seems true that a problem well defined is a problem half solved. Soulen recontextualizes the economy of sin and redemption within the larger economy of creation and consummation, which enables a more coherent and consistent reading of the Biblical narrative, and holds great promise for the restoration of continuity between the Old and New Testaments.

Taking note of the review above questioning Soulen's comments on the centrality of Christ in the Biblical narrative, I would contend that Soulen's recontextualization does not minimize Christ's work, but rather clarifies how Christ's redemption victoriously accomplishes God's original intentions for God's creation. The bold thesis is that sin did not thwart God's purposes for creation, or cause God to resort to "Plan B." This is not to say that Christ's crucifixion was part of God's original intentions, but rather that, while Christ's crucifixion and resurrection were made necessary by humanity's sin, our sin and God's redemption have been beautifully, mysteriously taken up by God into God's original creative purposes.

Highly, highly recommended reading.

A Nice Explanation of Supersessionism  Aug 3, 2003
Soulen's work is a nice introduction to the issue of supersessionism from someone who disagrees with this doctrine. The best part of this work is his categorization of the three main types of supersessionism: (1) punitive (Israel is rejected because of disobedience); (2) economic (Israel's special role has expired with the coming of the church); and (3) structural (the Hebrew Scriptures are ignored).
Soulen also does a good job of showing how theologians such as Kant and Schleiermacher have contributed to the view that God is forever done with national Israel.
The reader should be aware that this book is mostly historical and philosophical. It does not grapple with keys texts such as Matthew 21:43; Galatians 6:16; and 1 Peter 2:9-10. Thus, someone looking for a biblical examination of supersessionism will need to look elsewhere. Still, for an overall introduction to supersessionism from a historical point of view, this is a good book to get.
Unity at what price?  Jan 12, 2002
I agree with Dr. Soulen completely on his assessment of the problem. Supersession is simply incorrect doctrine. I agree with all of his analysis of the latent problems that exist in supersessionist doctrine. I am completely in favor of unifying the content of all of the Scriptures, Old and New Testament.

I disagree strongly with Dr. Soulen's new interpretive scheme that accomplishes these goals, however. I do believe there is a way to unify the Scriptures, and to reconcile Old and New Testament, Law and Grace, Israel and the Church. But Dr. Soulen believes it is necessary to see God _primarily_ as consummator rather than redeemer, while I would propose that the secret to unifying the scriptures is to see him as the revelator.

Anyway, the field is complex and would be difficult to cover in a short review. The following two quotes from the concluding chapter of Dr. Soulen's book will have to suffice to illustrate the implications of his approach:

Page 172:

"The church is commissioned to make disciples of all the nations... It has no comparable commission to seek the "conversion" of the Jewish people. This is especially true of the gentile church. Nothing in the Apostolic Witness [the New Testament] remotely suggests the validity of a gentile-Christian mission to non-Christian Jews. Christians should not hide or minimize their faith in conversation with Jews. But the church, above all in its gentile portion, should cease organized mission efforts among the Jewish people. Instead the church of the Gentiles should seek to live before the Jewish people in such a way that Israel can reasonably infer that here the nations of the world truly worhip the God of Israel and in this way manifest the truth of its gospel. (see Rom 11:13-14)."

Page 175:

"The unity of the Christian canon is not best unlocked by insisting that everything in the Bible points toward Jesus Christ... Without doubt everything turns on Christ, but not everything concerns Christ."

I am trying to be fair in extracting enough of the above passages to show that Dr. Soulen is not completely one-sided. If I had left out some of those sentences, of course the passages would have seemed more extreme.

Nevertheless, I disagree with Dr. Soulen on these specific points and several others. I do believe that the unity of the Scriptures is best unlocked by showing how everything points toward Jesus Christ. I believe the Scriptures document the gradual revelation of the nature of God, for his own glory. I believe that Hebrews 1:1-4 states that Jesus is the final Word of revelation of God's character.

I think it is possible to see the Scriptures this way and still avoid the problems that Dr. Soulen (correctly) decries, those of triumphalism and latent gnosticism.

Despite our disagreement, the motivation segment of this book is right-on, and I am glad that Dr. Soulen has exposed these problems as well as he did. I hope this can be the beginning of further discussion of ways to resolve these issues.


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