Vlach on Supercessionism

Dr. Michael J. Vlach, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at November’s annual ETS meeting here in San Diego, has written some really helpful stuff on the issue of Israel and the church. His latest contribution is a fascinating paper he presented at ETS entitled “Variations within Supercessionism.” You should give it a read. 

Vlach, who is a professor of systematic theology at The Master’s Seminary, defines supercessionism as “the view that the New Testament church is the new and/or true Israel that has superceded the nation Israel as the people of God.” In his paper, Vlach goes on to explain three distinct forms of supercessionism: 

  • Punitive Supercessionism: which emphasizes Israel’s disobedience and punishment by God as the reason for the nation’s displacement as the people of God

  • Economic Supercessionism: which focuses on God’s plan for the people of God to transfer from an ethnic group (Israel) to a universal group not based on ethnicity (church)

  • Structural Supercessionism: which, according to Richard Kendall Soulen, greatly minimizes the OT Scriptures and the contribution they should make to one’s understanding of God and redemptive history

According to Vlach, supercessionists can also be categorized according to their view of Israel’s future: 

  • Strong Supercessionists: deny a future salvation of Israel

  • Moderate Supercessionists: affirm a future salvation of Israel

  • All Supercessionists: deny a future restoration of Israel in which the nation will be restored to its land and given a unique role as a light to the nations.

As Vlach concludes, supercessionism is not a one-size-fits-all kind of perspective. Whether you affirm supercessionism or reject it, understanding it more precisely should prove to be very helpful.

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Matt,

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Additionally I would agree with Walter Kaiser who said, “To argue that God replaced Israel with the church is to depart from an enormous body of biblical evidence.”

    I had Dr. Vlach for a doctoral seminar back in July and found his comments and insights extremely helpful and clarifying on a number of issues. He has done an enormous amount of work in this area and I hope he will soon publish his doctoral dissertation which is entitled “The Church as a Replacement of Israel: An Analysis of Supersessionism.”

    For those who want to get a small taste of his larger work I would recommend his paper “12 Reasons Why Supersessionism/Replacement Theology is Not a Biblical Doctrine.” It might be available somewhere on his web site.

  2. Posted by David R. McCrory on December 4, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    Thank you for this post. As a covenant theology advocate, I don’t read much from “the other side”. But Dr. Vlach’s summary appears accurate, and describes the various positions within covenant theology’s understanding of Israel as a nation state and it’s universal (spiritual) equavilant. I may try to read a little more of his work.

    Thanks again.

  3. Posted by Scott Christensen on December 5, 2007 at 11:34 am

    Has anyone read Barry E. Horner’s book “Future Israel” (B & H, 2007)? MacArthur states that it is the best work on Israel’s future that he has read.

  4. Matt,

    This issue is one that I’m both interested in and unclear on. I am enjoying the paper by Dr. Valch on supercessionism.

    I’d also be interested in hearing you articulate the other side of this issue. For instance, what specifically do you belive about the future of Israel??? I know there are many variations on the dispensational side, and to be honest, I’m sort of clueless on both sides.

  5. I meant “Dr. Vlach.”

  6. Posted by Matt Waymeyer on December 5, 2007 at 9:57 pm

    Gavin,

    I appreciate your interest in this issue. I am a bit under the pile right now, but perhaps some time in the near future, Paul Lamey and I can post a list of resources, both on-line and published works, that provide what we believe is a biblical perspective on the future of Israel. In the meantime, later today I will email you something I’ve written on it to get you started.

    By the way, just so everyone is clear, Dr. Vlach rejects the teaching of supercessionism. The purpose of his paper was not to refute it, but rather to simply set forth the variations within the view, which I thought was very helpful. If you want to know why Dr. Vlach believes supercessionism is unbiblical, the article Paul mentions above will give you an overview.

  7. Posted by Matt Waymeyer on December 5, 2007 at 10:08 pm

    Scott,

    I just picked up a copy of Dr. Horner’s book. I’ve skimmed it and it looks very good, but I haven’t had an opportunity to dig in yet. I would be interested to hear from someone who has read it.

  8. Posted by Caleb Kolstad on December 6, 2007 at 2:09 am

    I just finished Vlach’s fine article… That was a very honest and helpful read. In some regards Historic Pre-mill and Mild supersessionism are not that far apart…

    I started FUTURE ISRAEL… It could almost be subtitled the ethics of eschatology.

    The times where i have found myself not fully agreeing with Horner have been few. It is a book that builds on each chapter of information…I think one needs to keep that in view.

    Caleb

  9. I must add the Postmills believe in the future salvation of Israel, based on Romans 11. What we deny is that any race of people can be considered “chosen of God” if they reject Christ. (Plus we deny a future earthly millennium).

  10. What Puritan Lad has just described is consistent with what can be called “moderate supersessionism.”

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