The error of embracing Dual Covenant Theology
More and more Evangelical leaders seem to be following the lead of John Hagee in his assertion that Jews do not need to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior in order to be saved. Hagee argues, incredibly, that Jesus never even claimed to be the Jewish Messiah.1
Others argue that Jews have their own special covenantal relationship with God and can therefore be saved by observing the laws of the Torah.2 This view is called Dual Covenant Theology. It has been embraced by most of the non-Evangelical Christian community. It is also the viewpoint of many Catholics. For example, in 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document called “Reflection on Covenant and Mission” in which they affirmed that “Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God.”3
There is tremendous pluralistic pressure these days to waffle on the issue of whether or not the Jews need Jesus. When Larry King interviewed Joel Osteen, pastor of America’s largest church, he asked if Jews must believe in Jesus in order to go to Heaven. Osteen replied, “I’m very careful about saying who would or wouldn’t go to Heaven. I don’t know.”4
The Stance of Scripture
He doesn’t know? What did the Apostle Paul mean when he wrote that the Gospel is “for the Jews first”? And what did he mean when he stated that his heart’s desire and prayer to God was for the salvation of the Jewish people (Romans 10:1)? In fact, he went so far as to state that he himself would be willing to be lost if it would mean the salvation of his “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3).
The Evangelical Counter-Attack
In 1989 a group of Evangelical theologians decided to address the growing ambivalence about the relevance of Jesus to the Jews. They issued the “Willowbank Declaration on the Christian Gospel and the Jewish People.” In it they denied that “any non-Christian faith, as such, will mediate eternal life with God.”5
The statement was denounced by Jewish and Christian leaders as “politically incorrect,” which, of course, it was. But it was biblically correct, which is all that matters.
In March of this year the World Evangelical Alliance decided to address the issue again in a document entitled “The Gospel and the Jewish People.” It is a biblical statement that expresses the truth in love. This important document reads as follows:6
“As Evangelical Christians, we want to express our genuine friendship and love for the Jewish people. We sadly acknowledge that church history has been marred with anti-Semitic words and deeds; and that at times when the Jewish people were in great peril, the church did far less that it should have.
- “We pledge our commitment to be loving friends and to stand against such injustice in our generation. At the same time, we want to be transparent in affirming that we believe the most loving and Scriptural expression of our friendship toward the Jewish people, and to anyone we call friend, is to forthrightly share the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.
- “We believe that it is only through Jesus that all people can receive eternal life. If Jesus is not the Messiah of the Jewish people, He cannot be the Savior of the World (Acts 4:12).
- “We recognize that it is good and right for those with specialized knowledge, history and skills to use these gifts to introduce individuals to the Messiah, and that includes those ministries specifically directed to the Jewish people (1 Corinthians 9:20-22).
- “We deplore the use of deception or coercion in evangelism; however, we reject the notion that it is deceptive for followers of Jesus Christ who were born Jewish to continue to identify as Jews (Romans 11:1).
- “We want to make it clear that, as Evangelical Christians, we do not wish to offend our Jewish friends by the above statements; but we are compelled by our faith and commitment to the Scriptures to stand by these principles. It is out of our profound respect for Jewish people that we seek to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them, and encourage others to do the same, for we believe that salvation is only found in Jesus, the Messiah of Israel and Savior of the World.”7
Now, that’s what I call “Evangelical Faithfulness!” And I praise the Lord for it.
- John Hagee, In Defense of Israel: The Bible’s Mandate for Supporting the Jewish State (Lake Mary, Florida: Front Line Press, 2007), pp. 132, 136, and 143.
- For an excellent summary of the origins of Dual Covenant Theology, see Joseph P. Gudel’s article, “To the Jew First: A Biblical Analysis of the ‘Two Covenant’ Theory of the Atonement,”
www.inplainsite.org/html/two_covenant.html. Accessed on May 1, 2008.
- Stan Guthrie, “Why Evangelize the Jews?” in Christianity Today, March 25, 2008,
http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/march/31.76.html. Accessed on April 15, 2008.
- CNN Larry King Live, Interview with Joel Osteen,
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0506/20/lkl.01.html. Accessed on April 29, 2008.
- “The Willowbank Declaration,” www.lcje.net/willowbank.html.
Accessed on May 1, 2008.
- World Evangelical Alliance, “The Gospel and the Jewish People — An Evangelical Statement,”
www.worldevangelicals.org/news/view.htm?id=1732. Accessed on April 28, 2008.
- Americans signing this document included (among others), Dr. Mark Bailey, President of Dallas Theological Seminary; Joel Belz, founder of World Magazine; Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship; Stephen Strang, publisher of Charisma Magazine; and Dr. Lon Allison, director of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. There were many signatories from other areas of the world. A complete list can be found at the website quoted in note 6 above.