In light of some of the recent discussions of supercessionism, I want to probe one key question that I think pertains to the possibilities and scope of a non-supercessionist Christian theology. This question is whether or not Jews should continue to become Christians, or more accurately, be exhorted to themselves become followers of the Messiah.
Clearly, as John Howard Yoder argues in The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited, the early Christians did not see themselves as breaking with Judaism in the sense of starting a new religion, rather they saw themselves as standing within Israel and calling all Israelites to become followers of the Messiah, whose apocalypse had inaugurated the promised kingdom of God. The question then remains whether or how those who remain within ethnic and religious Israel continue to be “God’s people” in some sense “alongside” the church in a way that allows us to affirm the place of Israel and the practice of Judaism within God’s salvific economy. The reason this question is so pressing has much to do with the historical relations between the largely Gentile church and the Jewish people in Medieval and Modern history. In light of the devastating effects of theologies of supercession, is there a non-supercessionist theology that Christians can affirm that allows Christians to view Judaism as in some sense, continuing to exist in God’s salvific economy? This is the question that is being probed in many sectors of Christian theology.
The question, however is not whether or not the fallout of the Jewish-Christian schism has produced a situation in which the call to Jews to become followers of the Messiah has become historically complexified and problematized. Clearly it has. The question however, from the standpoint of Christian theology, is that, regardless of this historical contingencies — including radical Christian unfaithfulness and anti-Semitism — that have ensued in the relationship between the Christianity and Judaism is it still appropriate for the church to call on Jews as well as Gentiles to become followers of Jesus the Messiah? Given the testimony of the early Church I cannot see how we can answer in the negative to this question. An essential element of our christological confession is that the salvation of God, God’s presence is located in Jesus and our covenantal union with God and election as God’s people are tied up with whether or not we are followers of this particular Nazarene. If we want to answer the question “Should Jews be called to follow the Messiah?” with a “no” then I think we need a really good theological reason, and I am at an utter loss to find one