Responding to the Critics

Theological Airheads

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On, August 19, 2002, I watched the John Hagee program out of San Antonio, Texas. Hagee was delivering the third in a series of lessons, and this one was entitled, Israel and the Church, and, boy, was he ever stirred up!

Hagee spoke at length of Replacement Theology, castigating the idea that the church is the fulfillment of Israel’s promises. (article on Replacement Theology) The longer he spoke the more heated he became, until he finally said that if you believe the church is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel, then you are a “theological air-head!”

And how does Hagee know that the church is not the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel? For two reasons. First, because the Bible has to be interpreted literally or it makes no sense at all. Second, based on the first, Israel remains God’s chosen people.

Hagee spent a lot of time chiding Bible students, “Who say, ‘I think it means this or that.’ I don’t care what you think it says, I want to know what it says, because it says what it means, and means what it says!” He then went off on a tear condemning what he called the allegorical method of interpretation brought into the church by the Greeks (I really found this fascinating, for it demonstrates that Hagee does not grasp the Hebraic world view, in spite of his insistence that he does. It is Hagee that has, in truth, adopted the Greek/Platonian world view with its literalism, yet, he condemns the very world view that he unwittingly espouses!)

About this time, it really got interesting. As he heatedly lambasted the “allegorical method of interpretation” he said, “I am going to show you that the Abrahamic Covenant included the spiritual promises of the church.” This struck me as rather odd, given his rejection of the spiritual aspect of the promises, so I perked right up.

Here is how Hagee said he was going to prove that the Abrahamic Covenant included the church. He said Jehovah promised to make the seed of Abraham “as the stars in the sky.” He emphasized that referent. For a moment I was somewhat lost as to how this reference proved the spiritual promise to Abraham, i.e. the church. I did not have to wait long for his explanation.

Hagee called on his audience to “pay particular attention to what I am about to say, because I am about to prove to you beyond a doubt that the church was promised to Abraham.” He reiterated that God promised to make Abraham’s seed as the stars of the heaven. Now watch, said Hagee, “What are stars for?” He then quoted Genesis 1:17: “God set them (The sun, moon and stars, DKP) in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness.”

Now you might be like me at this juncture. I had just heard Hagee condemn, in very powerful language, anyone that allegorized the Biblical language. So, as he quoted Genesis 1:17-18, after saying he was going to prove that the church was the spiritual promise made to Abraham, I was a bit perplexed as to why he would quote from Genesis! Here is his explanation.

“Watch what God said,” Hagee continued. He says that “the stars were to give light,” and, said he, “Jesus said to the church, ‘You are the light of the world!’” Further, “God said the stars were to rule over the day, and Paul said Christians sit on thrones, and we reign with Christ!” Finally, God said that stars divide the light from darkness, and Christians are to discern good from evil.

So there you have it! We know that God promised Abraham that He would establish the church because He promised to make Abraham’s seed like the stars, and since the stars give light, rule over the day (but, of course, stars don’t rule over the day), and divide light from darkness, then this must refer to the church because Christians give light, rule, and discern right from wrong.

Excuse me. What happened to the, “The Bible says what it means, and means what it says” mantra? If what Hagee presented is not allegorical, perhaps I don’t know what allegorical interpretation means. And, wasn’t Hagee giving what he thinks the text means? Does Genesis 1:17 actually speak of Christians after all, or does it give meanings that are being applied allegorically by Hagee to the church? What in the world happened to Hagee’s literalism? Hmmm? By the way, the referent to the stars is a referent to the numbers of the children of Israel, as is easy to establish by doing a concordant study of how that term is used of Abraham’s seed. “Like the sand of the sea, and like the stars in the sky” is a metaphorical reference to “numberless” (Cf. 1 Kings 4:20f)

I thought it was interesting, but of course I can’t read too much into it, that as the camera panned the audience, I spotted several people with what seemed like perplexed looks on their faces. If they were agreeing with Hagee, their body language and facial expressions did not communicate that. It can only be hoped that there really were some thinking people in the audience that picked up on Hagee’s allegorical, spiritualizing interpretative presentation, and compare it with his condemnation of those who don’t even do what he did!

I have no way of knowing if, or how much, Hagee is aware of the preterist view. However, it was more than obvious that he was angry at someone, at anyone, that would dare not take the Bible literally, that would suggest that Israel is not still God’s chosen people, and that the church is the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel. Yet it was apparent to me that Hagee was desperate in his presentation, misguided in his interpretation, and faulty in his logic.