Dr. Gregory Hagg
Dr. Gregory Hagg, in his chapter, A Survey of Positions on Israel Currently Taught at Evangelical North American Theological Schools, presents a summary of a survey he conducted of approximately seventy different Christian educational institutions across the United States, examining the shift in theological perspectives in American seminaries concerning Israel over the last two decades. He has observed a waning of support and interest in Israel.
Hagg sent a list of ten questions to seventy institutions and does an excellent job of summarizing the results of the survey; supplying both analysis and some excellent suggestions for how pastors, seminary professors, and leaders within the church might help motivate those they lead to engage in Jewish evangelism and prayer for the Jewish people.
Here are some excerpts from his chapter. Read the full chapter, and more: Buy it here >
How is it possible that in just over two decades there has been such a significant shift in the theological perspective on Israel in our churches? Many have noted that there are fewer and fewer churches that teach about Israel, whether the past, present, or future. Many pastors are suggesting that there can be no consensus on the future of God’s ancient Chosen People, so it is far better to avoid the issue than to run the risk of dogmatically proclaiming what, they say, is shrouded in mystery. There are just too many views on eschatology out there
Not only is there confusion, but there is also ridicule. Who wants to be characterized by old style Dispensational charts and graphs and timelines? To be lumped together with those who have popularized a certain eschatology and then skewered by critics is not desirable.
The burden of this chapter is to present a simple survey of the role Israel and the Jewish people might have in the theological thinking of Christian academic institutions in the United States. Could it be that the shift in the pulpit has come from a shift in the classroom? Are there observable trends in the theological education within some of the most prominent seminaries in America?
This survey was prepared by one who affirms the consistent theological perspective that is represented in this volume. The data collected comes from two primary sources: the stated curricula for each of the seminaries surveyed and the personal responses to a survey by leaders in those institutions.
Originally, the study was to be limited to the most evangelical of the seminaries in North America, but after further consideration, the list was expanded to include approximately seventy schools. This assured a fairly good cross section of institutions which would be traditionally thought of as conservative and evangelical. However, the list also included some schools not known for their commitment to evangelical positions.
The academic deans of each of the seventy institutions (or individuals who were delegated by them in a few cases) were asked to participate in this survey, the details of which will follow. The other primary source of information came from the official websites of each of these seminaries.
Results: Changing Attitudes or Not?
One question focused on any observable change in attitudes over the past decade concerning the Jewish people. The question is based upon the assumption that there has been a trend away from general support for the nation of Israel as mentioned above. Of the fourteen responses, only two (14%) indicated that there has been a “more supportive” attitude toward Israel among the faculty members. This was from two schools that are generally regarded to hold to a strong premillennial eschatology as indicated in their doctrinal statements, reputations, and this survey.
It was apparent that an increase in support has not occurred among the faculty of other schools as ten of the fourteen (71%) said that this attitude remained the same. Of these schools nine of the ten (90%) were labeled by the respondent as premillennial in a following question. Only one was said to be amillennial in orientation, one did not respond, and one checked “other” on that question.
It was the latter seminary that also said the faculty had changed to a “highly critical” view of Israel. It is interesting to note that the one who responded to these questions provided additional comments at the end of the survey indicating that the general views of his school did not really represent his own personal positions. The school was characterized as a “mainline institution” which would not have an official policy on the issues raised in the survey. He also implied that while most of the faculty members are pro-Palestinian, they kept this to themselves rather than teaching a political view in class.
Results: How Material on Israel is Presented
Essentially, nine (65%) seminary leaders said that a “mix of lecturers” or “other” methods were used to address this issue on their campuses. There were three (21%) who said only “lectures by pro-Israel Jewish Christians” took place in their schools. Each of these was dispensational and premillennial. One respondent, who is also a professor, stated that the Arab-Israeli conflict comes up in classes and on trips to Israel. In the classroom the professor tries to give a fair and balanced presentation using YouTube clips from both sides of the issue. One other dean was not certain, but he assumed that a balanced perspective was given in classes. One of the clearly less conservative seminaries stated that this is not a major issue on their campus. It seems obvious from these responses that the attempt is being made to give both sides in most schools.