As I flew to the Voices of Orthodox Women’s board meeting last week I sat by another Christian. She asked me what church I went to, and I barely got the word Presbyterian out of my mouth when she asked, “Why do Presbyterians hate Israel so much?” I stumbled over words as I tried to explain to her some of the things about my denomination.
I thought of this last weekend as I continued the class I am leading at church on issues coming before the General Assembly. The subject was the Middle East issues.
I gave out several handouts as I always do. One of them was simply a long quote from a book written by the Torrance brothers. Most people in the Presbyterian Church have heard of theologian Thomas F Torrance who translated Karl Barth’s Dogmatics. And many Presbyterians have enjoyed Professor James B Torrance as a teacher. I had Systematic Theology II from him. My all time favorite class.
But probably not that many have heard of Rev. David W Torrance who was not only a Pastor in Great Britain but like his brothers studied under Barth. The quote is from a chapter written by David Torrance, “The Mission of Christians and Jews.” The book is A Passion for Christ: The Vision that ignites Ministry.
This is the quote:
“In what way does God confront the nations and peoples of the world today through the Jews?
1. Their remarkable preservation through history, scattered as they have been across the world and persecuted time and again in the most horrific ways, points to the miraculous hand of God who has set them apart for himself and promised, ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the lord, ‘will the descendents of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me (Jer 31:36). Their preservation points to the hand of God.
2. The very presence of the Jewish people today recalls us to their origins-to the great things which God has said and done in Israel and which are witnessed to in the Old and New Testaments.
3. The continuing presence of the Jewish people today-particularly their presence back in the Promised Land-reminds us that we and the nations have to reckon with a living, personal God. He is a God who acts in space and time, a God of judgment as well as mercy.
4. Their presence in the promised land reminds us in this twentieth century [and 21st ]that our destiny is not in our hands. The nations do not hold their destiny in their own hands. It is not in the hands of their governments. Our destiny is in the hands of God who personally intervenes in history challenging the nations to humble themselves and to obey him, even as he challenged Pharaoh of old.
5. The modern history of Israel reminds us that God is over-ruling the continued sin of this world, as he fulfils his purposes of love and redemption. All history is leading up to the consummation of God’s purpose for this world, when he himself will come in Christ and the nations must meet with him and render account to him.
Israel’s return to the land of promise, following as it does an attempt under Hitler to obliterate everything Jewish, reminds us not only that God is the Lord of history but also that events seem to be moving on fairly fast toward the ultimate goal of history. Israel continues to be God’s covenant people and God continues to speak through the Jewish people and through them to show his glory to all who have eyes to see.”
David W. Torrance, “The Mission of Christians and Jews,” A Passion for Christ: The Vision that Ignites Ministry 123-124.
If you are interested in the book you can order it from The Layman on Line