In my latest book, Constructing a Theology of Isolation, I analyze how the Church Fathers of the first five centuries of the Christian era, through a combination of the interpretive tools of supersessionism and purposeful dismissal of historical context, attempted to create a theology of isolation aimed at both the Jewish people and the Jewish religion. In short, the Jewish religion was not just superseded by Christianity, but the Jewish people, seen by the Fathers as solely responsible for the deicide of the Christian God, were forever isolated from human society and divine grace. These writings set the stage for another 2,000 years of Jewish ghettos, Jewish pogroms, charges of “blood libel,” and portrayal of the Jewish religion and the Jewish people as societal pariah. They were, in fact, isolated.
This was an isolation imposed on the Jewish people by a religion bathed in the language of grace and forgiveness. This isolation has caused untold misery that has reverberated around the world and has seeped into the cultures of peoples that have no history of Christian history. But it has been strongest in “Christian” lands.
The question, then, that has occurred to me is this: What would cause a people to create a self-imposed isolation—an isolation that sits alongside a biblical text that they love, believe, and obey? “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28.19-20).
I am suggesting that it is possible that we as Adventists are, by the actions of the leadership over the past two years, heading headlong into a deserted land—isolated if you will—from which it will become increasingly difficult to fulfill the Great Commission.
If the Christian faith is in fact principally about grace and forgiveness, how exactly is that being reflected in our treatment of those who are fighting for justice and grace?
Roger S. Evans, PhD, is Professor of Historical Theology and Chair of the Department of History at Payne Theological Seminary.
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