Throughout the American heartland, often referred to as the “Bible Belt,” there is a prevailing religious philosophy known as “fundamentalism,” a name chosen to imply that it has a fundamental basis in the Bible. Its proponents also refer to their theology as “dispensationalism“ or “dispensational futurism.” Although this teaching is unscriptural in many areas of Bible understanding, it is quite enlightening to examine its views on one particular important subject: the Jews and Judaism. One of the most influential American dispensationalists was the late Dr. Jerry Falwell, and his views on the Jewish people and their religion are especially instructive since their proponents represent the leading opponents to the True Israel belief.
Wikipedia gives this synopsis: “Jerry Lamon Falwell Sr., August 11, 1933 – May 15, 2007) was an American Southern Baptist pastor, televangelist , and conservative activist. He was the founding pastor of the Thomas Road Baptist Church , a megachurch in Lynchburg, Virginia. He founded Lynchburg Christian Academy (now Liberty Christian Academy) in 1967 and Liberty University in 1971 and co-founded the Moral Majority in 1979.”
A very revealing look at dispensationalist philosophy concerning the Jewish people is found in the book, “Jerry Falwell And The Jews,” by Jewish author, Merrill Simon (Jonathan David Publishers, NY, 1984). Mr. Simon visited Dr. Falwell “numerous times” over a two-year period and recorded his opinions in a book of 172 pages. The Jewish interviewer was very satisfied, even glowing, over the answers to questions posed to Dr. Falwell. The important question, however, is whether this Christian leader was biblically correct, or only politically correct? Are his answers self-contradictory, as well as contradictory to the words of Scripture?
On page 7 we read, “Although there were some rough times for Israel under the Judges, under many of the kings, and under foreign rulers, God has never abandoned His people.” Yet on page 13 we read, “Israel is largely set aside” during this age. Is being “set aside” not a form of abandonment? Of course, the only Israel he knows is the Jewish people. Dispensationalists virtually ignore the divorce and Assyrian exile of the northern House of Israel; in fact, the Ten Tribes do not seem to even exist in their theology.
It is troubling that mainstream Christianity today seems to have lost its sense of mission and evangelism. The attitude of many modern evangelicals and fundamentalists is that evangelization—or proselytism, as now disparagingly labeled—is wrong. “We must accept each other as we are. We must candidly remain as we are.” (Dr. Falwell, p.18) What? Do dispensationalists want to consign unbelieving Jews to suffer in hell for eternity? No, of course they do not. A look at the Statements of Belief on evangelical and fundamentalist church websites shows that a vast majority of them have removed hell and final judgment from their list of beliefs. In its place many have adopted “two-covenant theology,” the belief that Jews are either “saved by their race” or “saved under their own law,” the Old Covenant. By either scenario, Jews, they think, are saved without Christ. In stark contrast to Dr. Falwell’s stated opinion, the New Testament affirms, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead…Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10, 12) In a sad irony, this is one of a number of fundamental facts of Scripture that are increasingly ignored or rejected by so-called “fundamentalists.”
Not a word is ever said in the entire book about the afterworld or a risk of hell for unbelievers. Instead, the great tragedy for non-Christian Jews is simply that they “have a missing dimension in their present lives.” (p.44) Is this life all that there is?
Falwell asserts that Jews are “very definitely” the Chosen People, but that God is using Gentiles instead. (p.9) One might then ask, Jews are chosen for what, then? Falwell asserts that “Israel and the Church maintain separate identities” and that this complete dichotomy always has and always will continue. (p.37) What then of the many thousands of Jews who converted to Christ and Christianity throughout the Church Age? A common teaching among dispensationalists is that a Jew who converts to Christianity suffers the loss of all of the covenant promises given to Abraham’s physical descendants. Some therefore counsel Jews not to believe in Christ! Are they saying that physical rewards in this life are more important than a person’s eternal salvation?
After telling us (p.9) that God is using Gentiles during this age, Falwell later says, “The Jewish people are key to God’s plan and purposes for the world.” (p.38) We are not here told any details of that vital or essential purpose, but popular teaching says that the Jews will be the world’s evangelists during the millennium. It seems that the dispensationalist view is that the Jewish people have no function at all during this age, and in God’s plans are limited only to the world to come. So if one might be wicked, immoral and unscrupulous, no matter, he is saved by his race!
Dispensationalists teach that during the Millennium “12,000 Jews from each of the twelve tribes” will be evangelists. (p.45) If so, where are each of these twelve tribes today? There is a palpable contradiction in this very important plank of their teaching, because while talking about the future twelve individual tribes, they also strongly teach that all twelve tribes amalgamated long ago into the Jewish people of today and therefore there are no separate tribes existing any longer.
Even more curious is Dr. Falwell’s statement, “The purpose of the New Testament Church is similar to that of Old Testament Israel.” (p.39) There is no New Testament believing Israel in his theology, which he believes does not exist, or if it does has forfeited all claim to Abraham and his covenant! Yet if, as he says, the Church is so “similar” to Israel, what does that say regarding our identity?
Falwell and dispensationalists teach that the people of Israel rejected Christ, and as a result they refused the kingdom of God and brought on “an interregnum,” or “no kingdom period” that was unforeseen by the prophets. Yet when it suits his purposes, he says virtually the opposite: “He [Christ] was, in general, well received by the common Jewish person.” (p.51) If Christ was so well received, then why an interregnum?
Falwell says that the Jewish people have a distinct “double identity,” of race and religion, but Jews are not a pure “race” and a third of Jews under age 30 are agnostic, so their identity is actually not so distinct.
Falwell asserts that the New Testament pronouncement that “all Israel shall be saved” is not true except in the Millennium. (p.41) Yet Scripture affirms, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27) It is a fundamental error to deny Divine judgment and the need for salvation. Modern theology has amended the Word of God to say instead, “after death, salvation without Christ and no judgment.” (see contra: Heb. 10:26-31)
Politically-correct but historically incorrect statements abound: “…the Gentile governor Pilate who sentenced him [Christ] to die.” (p.50) In fact, Pilate famously washed his hands of the matter: “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” (Matt. 27:24-25)
Bible believers who want to live under Godly government should be concerned when dispensationalists like Dr. Falwell say that they do not want America to have a Christian government, as Falwell phrased it, “I do not believe that such a ‘Christian republic’ will ever be established upon this Earth.” (p.119) In fact, they believe that the Jews will reign on earth during the millennium, not with Christ, but with a rebuilt Old Testament temple and salvation without Christ by animal sacrifices. Christians, they think, will reign off in heaven, despite the Bible clearly stating, “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Rev 5:10)
Political correctness overrides Scripture in dispensationalist theology, as can be seen as their beliefs change with the times. The dispensationalist “Anti-Christ” has gone from a Christian (Mussolini) to a Jew of the tribe of Dan, and finally now to an undesignated Muslim. When some years ago Baptist leader Bradley Smith said God doesn’t hear the prayers of a Jew, he quickly had to apologize and retract his statement. Apparently, some believe that God hears everybody’s prayers!
In a conversation with a dispensationalist years ago in Bible College, he said, “Jews practically believe the same as we do except they don’t accept Christ.” Is the Savior of the world really that unimportant? In that line of thought, we can sum up our analysis of dispensationalism with this revealing statement by Dr. Falwell: “We do not improve on Judaism, because it is the foundation for all Messianic fulfillment.” (p.17)