What is Replacement Theology?

Replacement Theology is the notion that the covenant God made with Abraham and the Jewish people has been nullified by God and now belongs to Gentile Christians. Thus, in this view, the Church has replaced Israel as the chosen people of God. Other terms for Replacement Theology are Triumphalism (the Gentile Church has triumphed over her Jewish spiritual fathers) and Supersessionism (The Gentile Church has superseded Israel and the Jewish people).

Paul the Apostle Warned Us about Replacement Theology

Paul the Jewish Apostle specifically warned Gentile Christians in his letter to the Romans about the disastrous consequences of boasting that Gentiles somehow replace Jews:

I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.” (Romans 11:1-2)

“For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. (Romans 11:16-21, NKJV).

Parable Explanation:

Speaking to Gentile Christians, Paul warns them not to feel superior. Abrahams’s faith is like the root of a productive tree and the Jewish people are the tree’s natural branches. Because of faithlessness, the Jews were the broken branches. Gentile believers have been grafted into the tree like a wild olive shoot. Both Jews and Gentiles share the tree’s nourishment based on faith in God. – explanation taken from the Life Application Study Bible by Tyndale publishing.

Early Church Fathers did not Heed Paul’s Warning

Replacement Theology began with the church fathers around the time of Justin Martyr (ca. A.D. 160). Until that time, the church had seen itself as an extension of ‘Israel,’ or the Jewish people.

Influences on Hitler

Not surprisingly, Martin Luther’s ideas concerning the Jews were quoted in Adolph Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, as a basis of support for his antagonism against them.  Replacement Theology was proclaimed in church pulpits across Europe centuries before Hitler’s rise to power.  When He did come to power Hitler had a long line of church leaders willing to stand with him to bring the final separation between the gentile church and Jews.  The Holocaust was the natural result of the practice of Replacement Theology throughout church history.

Replacement Theology is in Vogue Once Again

Replacement Theology, for the most part, became dormant after the Holocaust but has made a daring comeback in theological institutions and churches today.  The majority of churches in England have adopted a theology of replacement and American mainline and Evangelical churches are following their lead.

What Can I Do About It?

You can help educate yourself and others about Replacement Theology and the dangers it poses to increasing anti-Semitism and condoning violence.

For Further Reading: