Replacement theology, or what is also termed supersessionism, is the view that the Christian Church has replaced, or transcends, the nation of Israel in God’s redemptive purposes so that the Church has become Abraham’s spiritual seed and fulfills the covenant promises God made to Israel. An extended definition can be located here.
Sam doesn’t care for the label “replacement theology.” He makes this patently clear in the first chapter of his book [5-7]. He considers the label “replacement theology” to be a pejorative leveled by those who dissent from his view of amillennialism. Sam would rather think of his theology as being a continuation of Old Israel in the New Israel, the Church . In a manner of speaking, his view of Old Israel/New Israel is like the caterpillar becoming a butterfly. The butterfly doesn’t exactly replace the caterpillar, but is rather a new phase of existence for the caterpillar.
I find his objection to the label “replacement theology” to be odd, seeing that the term describes his theology and is a legitimate, historical description of his position. Many theologians in Sam’s camp have employed the term to describe their theology. In fact, Sam mentions Marten Woudstra, Bruce K. Waltke, and Hans K. LaRondelle as examples and says he is “open to the idea” there are some of his contemporary ilk who speak in terms of the Church “replacing” Israel [31-33]. But his insistence, none the less, that the term “replacement theology” is a pejorative and results in a hermeneutically insensitive view that the Church has simply and willy-nilly replaced Israel in God’s promise  is not a compelling reason to reject the term in my mind. In a way, I am reminded of how Norman Geisler, who objected to the historical doctrines of Calvinism, yet wanted to cling to a few Calvinistic tenets, created an entirely new word, calminian, in order to define his views of salvation.
In all fairness, however, Sam doesn’t create new words and concepts empty of any historical meaning. He attempts to qualify his position in terms of fulfillment theology or continuation theology. Yet, no matter what term a person will choose to utilize so as to define his theology, if you teach that the Christian Church fulfills, continues, transcends, reforms, reconstitutes, absorbs, or whatever, the promises God made to Israel to establish the nation in their land in an eschatological kingdom that will reign over the entire earth, and the Christian Church is understood to have fulfilled all those prophecies and has become now the “New Israel,” you are still saying the Church replaces Israel. All of the qualifications you make to your terminology doesn’t change that detail.
Now, probably one of the key reasons Sam reacts so adamantly against his theology being label “replacement theology” is because he wishes to separate himself from the shameful legacy of Antisemitism in church history due in part to replacement theology. One of the shadows to darken Christ’s Church has been the severe mistreatment of the Jewish people for the last 1800 years in the name of Christianity, and a lot of the persecution was fueled by the idea the Church had replaced Israel as God’s people. Sam tries to minimalize the connection between Antisemitism and replacement theology, but the facts of history documented by both secular and Christian historians won’t allow for such a disconnection.
H. Wayne House writes in his article, “The Church’s Appropriation of Israel’s Blessings” found in Israel: The Land and The People, that the concept of the church taking Israel’s place in the prophecies of the Old Testament, is largely found only after certain events took place in the early church. Namely,
(1) after the Jewish people ceased to be the primary source from which the theology of the NT sprang. (This is particularly true after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.);
(2) after those who had learned from the apostles had died and new problems faced the largely Gentile church, such as having to deal with the confusion between orthodox Jewish Christians and heretical Jewish-Christian sects;
(3) after several non-Jewish Christian authors began to adopt the Antisemitism of their pagan counterparts. (That began to happen after the Bar-Kokhba defeat in 135 A.D. when Christians and Greek communities were massacred by the Jewish followers of Simon bar-Kokhba); and
(4) after the hermeneutics found in the NT was replaced by Greek allegorism. (Israel: The Land and The People, p. 79, also, 86, 87).
As the Christian Church grew and became more prominent through the centuries, theological Antisemitism festered. It was seen in the polemical sermons of many early church fathers like John Chrysostom and his Homilies Against the Jews and the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 decreeing that all Jews were to wear a distinguishing mark on their clothing. The Antisemitism even took the form of art in the iconic image of Ecclesia and Synagaga in stained glass windows and statues. H. Wayne House explains,
At the entrance of some cathedrals in Europe, one may observe female statues that are the personifications of Ecclesia (the Church) and Synagoga (The Synagogue). One notices that Ecclesia wears a crown, holding her head in a triumphant pose. On the other hand, Synagoga — her head bowed, having lost her crown, holding a broken staff, and wearing a blindfold — stands defeated and rejected. These personifications symbolize the consensus of the church from the middle of the second century A.D. to the present day, with few exceptions. (House, “The Church’s Appropriation of Israel’s Blessings” in Israel: The Land and the People, p. 77)
I would imagine some may argue that much of this Antisemitism was perpetrated by the Roman Catholic Church-state, but even the Reformers are guilty of Antisemitic ideas because a lot of replacement theology was kept intact as they brought over the amillennial eschatology of the Roman Catholic Church to their Protestant theology.
It is easy to see why they did this because the Reformer’s hero, Augustine, who in my opinion had the correct views regarding salvation, the fundamental debating point between Roman Catholics and Protestant Reformers, was also the developer of amillennialism as the eschatology of replacement theology. Laying aside Augustine’s amillennialism until a later post, suffice it to say, though Luther and Calvin and other Reformers returned the Christian Church back to the correct understanding of salvation, their reform of eschatological theology was not on the immediate agenda. Hence, the Antisemitic mindset lingered in the background.
There have been many reformed theologians who followed in the years after the Reformation who have written some rather harsh words against the Jews. Loraine Boettner is one who comes immediately to mind. I have personally benefited greatly from his book, The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, but when he defends postmillennialism in another of his books, The Millennium, his cruel words against Israel make him sound like a Protocols of the Elders of Zion conspiracy nut. He all but says the Jews had the Holocaust coming to them (See his The Millennium, pgs. 314, 315, 319, and 321).
Now, lest anyone thinks I am calling Sam and other Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians Antisemitic Nazis because they adhere to amillennialism or postmillennialism as derivatives of replacement theology, I am most certainly not. I respect many of those brothers, and if a knife fight broke out with some emergent types, I would trust these Reformed guys to have my back. My contention is primarily with historical clarity.
Additionally, many readers may think this historical survey is irrelevant. I need to deal with the text of scripture, for that is where the debate truly exists. I concur, and the bulk of my future rejoinders to Sam will interact with exegetical and biblical considerations. But let’s face it: Theology matters. The amillennial eschatology has historically been understood as replacement theology. There is no way getting around that point. Moreover, the history that has resulted from the theology of replacement/supersessionism/New Israel = the Church, has had some disastrous consequences over the centuries and that cannot be diminished just because one is unliking of the terminology.
I would certainly welcome readers to research the facts themselves. Sam mentions two important works tracing the history of replacement theology, Ronald E. Diprose’s book, Israel and the Church, as well as Michael Vlach’s book, Has the Church Replaced Israel?. One additional work is Barry Horner’s Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must be Challenged.