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Seminary, defines supercessionism as “the view that the New Testament church is the new and/or true Israel that has superceded the nation Israel as the people of God.”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.