Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church is now available in Korean and published by CLC. Further details soon.
In May, the Church of Scotland published a major report on Israel-Palestine entitled the Inheritance of Abraham. Under pressure from the Zionist Lobby, however, the report was swiftly removed from their website and a revision promised.
A ‘before and after’ comparison is both illuminating and depressing. It shows that what was promised would be a minor rewrite of the introduction, to provide “context”, actually became a major rewrite of the whole document.
It appears the Church of Scotland has censored itself and limited its own theological discussion under intense pressure from the Israeli ambassador, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Scottish Council of Jewish Communities and the Council of Christians and Jews.
- The section dealing with the writing of Mark Braverman has been heavily edited so as to remove his most penetrating comments on the Holocaust and Jewish ‘specialness’.
- A reference to Jerusalem as ‘the most contentious religious and political issue’ has been deleted.
- The quote from Ben Gurion (‘The Bible is our mandate’) has been removed.
- All references to the book of Joshua in relation to the occupation of the land have been removed.
- The reference to “the violence used to deprive some 750,000 Palestinian people from their homes” has been toned down.
- References to the State of Israel have been amended so as to dilute criticism of the state and to remove any suggestion that it is ‘an ethnic democracy’.
- The reference to Luke 4:25-30 (Jesus’ rejection by the Jews in Nazareth) has been deleted, along with the sentence ‘Jesus offered a radical critique of Jewish specialness and exclusivism, but the people of Nazareth were not ready for it’.
- The reference to Paul’s writings about the Jews in Romans 11 has been deleted, along with the sentence ‘No part of the New Testament gives any support to a political state of Israel beyond that to any other state. All are challenged to the same requirements for justice and the protection of human rights for all their inhabitants’.
The only part where the revised report has been strengthened is the very final sentence, where the Church of Scotland says it should urge the UK government to “remove existing illegal settlements” in addition to stopping further settlement expansion.
In no sense did the original report disenfranchise anyone from legitimate rights to citizenship in Israel and Palestine, merely the claim made by some Zionists that the Bible mandates an exclusive right to the land for the Jewish people alone.
On the contrary the Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence was always conditional. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23).
The following notes are a summary of chapter 4 of my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers.
They amplify and explain the significance and purpose of the Promised Land, its geographical boundaries, the conditions for residency, the nature of the Kingdom and concept of land in the New Testament.
A summary of the book as a whole is also available entitled Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions.
Marc Ellis has written a useful commentary on the Church of Scotland report Exile and the prophetic: the Church of Scotland weighs in
“Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land. The Lord Almighty has declared in my hearing: “Surely the great houses will become desolate.” (Isaiah 5:8-9)
The losers? Genuine interfaith dialogue between Jews, Christians and Muslims, willing to engage honestly with our sacred texts, openly share our theological convictions and aspirations for a just and lasting peace in Israel-Palestine based on justice, mercy and reconciliation.
The indigenous Church in Palestine are learning to our shame that they cannot rely on the wider church to advocate for them or speak biblically and theologically on their behalf.
Watch this space for the Kairos UK Report due in August. No doubt its authors will come under the same pressure.
BBC News: Church of Scotland revises controversial Israel report
Christian Today: Church of Scotland releases revised report on Israel
Christian Today: Church clarifies its position on Israel
Church of Scotland: The Inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land’
In no sense does the report disenfranchise anyone from legitimate rights to citizenship in Israel and Palestine, merely the claim made by some Zionists that the Bible mandates an exclusive right to the land for the Jewish people alone.
On the contrary the Hebrew Scriptures repeatedly insist that the land belongs to God and that residence was always conditional and must be shared. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers.” (Leviticus 25:23).
The following notes explain the significance and purpose of the Promised Land, its geographical boundaries, the conditions for residency, the nature of the Kingdom and concept of land in the New Testament. They are a summary of chapter 4 of my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers. You can download a copy of the chapter The Promised Land from the Nile to the Euphrates. A summary of the book as a whole is also available entitled Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions.
“This is a very fine and important book. All Christians who believe that Jesus favoured peacemakers, should read it and realise what terrible harm is being done in the name of Christianity. And all who are concerned about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict should read it to understand how Christian Zionism disables the US as fair minded mediator. European foreign policy thinkers should read it,because this distortion of US political space, puts a greater responsibility on European governments to stand up for justice and international law”
For more information see here
“Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.” (Romans 10:1-2)
Why is there such a close relationship today between the Christian Right, the American political establishment and the State of Israel? Why after 40 years, does Israel continue to occupy territory in Lebanon (the Sheba Farms), Syria (the Golan Heights) and Palestine (the West Bank) while Syria has been pressured to withdraw from Lebanon? Why is Israel allowed to retain nuclear weapons while Iran is threatened with a pre-emptive attack for aspiring to obtain nuclear technology? And how have Britain and America become the focus of so much hate in the Arab world and the target for Islamic terrorism – despite out commitment to the rule of international law, democracy and human rights? The answers to these questions remain inexplicable unless we factor in what is now probably the most influential and controversial movement amongst Christians today – Christian Zionism.
The Significance of Christian Zionism
Let me give you a flavour of the movement and their strategy from a recent speech given by John Hagee. Hagee is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church, an 18,000 member evangelical church in San Antonio in Texas. Hagee broadcasts a national radio and television ministry to Americans on 160 T.V. stations, 50 radio stations and eight networks into an estimated 99 million homes worldwide on a weekly basis. In 2006 he founded Christians United for Israel with the support of 400 other Christian leaders.
For 25 almost 26 years now, I have been pounding the evangelical community over television. The bible is a very pro-Israel book. If a Christian admits “I believe the Bible,” I can make him a pro-Israel supporter or they will have to denounce their faith. So I have the Christians over a barrel, you might say.
The assumption Hagee makes, that Bible-believing Christians will be pro-Israel, is the dominant view among evangelical Christians, especially in the USA. In March 2007, Hagee was a guest speaker at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference. He began with these words: “The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened.
There are 50 million Christians standing up and applauding the State of Israel…” As the Jerusalem Post pointed out, his speech did not lack clarity. He went on to warn:
It is 1938. Iran is Germany, and Ahmadinejad is the new Hitler. We must stop Iran’s nuclear threat and stand boldly with Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East… Think of our potential future together: 50 million evangelicals joining in common cause with 5 million Jewish people in America on behalf of Israel is a match made in heaven.
The Unity Coalition for Israel, which brings together over 200 different autonomous organizations, is the largest pro-Israel network in the world. They claim to have 40 million active members, and lobby on behalf of Israel through 1,700 religious radio stations, 245 Christian TV stations, and 120 Christian newspapers.  Besides, Christian’s United for Israel, the other three largest Christian Zionist organizations are the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, Christian Friends of Israel and Bridges for Peace. A powerful lobby movement? You bet. Christian Zionism is undoubtedly a dominant force shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East.
What about your Presuppositions?
Discovering what the Bible has to say about the relationship between Israel and the Church, in history and prophecy, is not just an academic exercise. What we believe and understand affects how we behave and act. Let me illustrate. If you believe the Bible predicts an imminent war of Armageddon with Israel and the United States on one side and the Islamic and Communist world on the other, then you will not lose any sleep over the stalled peace process. And when you read about yet more bloodshed and suffering in the Middle East it will confirm what you already think is going to happen.
However, if you believe peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East is not only possible, but also God’s will; that the UN Declaration of Human Rights is based on Judeo-Christian principles; and that the consistent implementation of international law should form the basis for our diplomacy in the Middle East, then you will act to achieve peace with justice. Our presuppositions not only shape our beliefs but also our actions.
Postponement or Fulfilment?
Why does this subject arouse such strong emotions among Christians, and evangelicals? Because the very gospel is at stake. The question to have at the back of your mind as you read further is this: Did the coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection and the founding of the Church, fulfil or postpone the biblical prophecies concerning Israel? Is the Church central to God’s purposes on earth, or a temporary side show? In answering this question, evangelicals tend to fall into one of two camps – covenantalists and dispensationalists. Now there are variations of each, but if you haven’t heard of the terms before, you are not alone. Most evangelicals don’t necessarily know which they are.
Covenantalism or Dispensationalism?
Covenantalists tend to see the coming of Jesus as the fulfilment of the promises made to Israel while dispensationalists tend to see it as the postponement of those promises. Covenantalists believe the Bible teaches that God has one ‘chosen people’ called out from among the nations. Dispensationalists believe the Bible teaches that God has two separate and distinct peoples – the Church and Israel. They believe that the biblical promises made to the ancient Israelites apply to their Jewish descendents today. If Covenantalists emphasize the continuity within God’s progressive revelation, Dispensationalists emphasize the discontinuity, distinguishing seven ‘dispensations’ in biblical history when God has tested mankind in a different way, and each time they have failed. They believe the present Church Age or Dispensation of Grace will fail and soon come to an end. Then during the Millennium, Jesus will reign as King of the Jews in Jerusalem and the unfulfilled promises of the Old Testament will be realised.
Covenantalists tend to regard promises relating to the Land, Jerusalem and the temple as annulled or fulfilled in the Church. Dispensationalists tend to see them as still in force and either being, or about to be, fulfilled in Israel today. Covenantalists tend to be neutral or positive about the future before the return of Jesus being either amillennial or postmillennial. Dispensationalists tend to be premillennial and pessimistic about the future.
Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions summarises the book.
A set of Seven Bible Studies can be downloaded here.
 John Hagee, The One Jerusalem Blog, 25 January 2007. http://www.onejerusalem.org/blog/archives/2007/01/audio_exclusive_12.asp <Accessed March 2007>
 “Christians for Israel” Editorial, The Jerusalem Post, 14 March 2007. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1173879085796&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull <Accessed March 2007>
 The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press and The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, “Many Americans Uneasy with Mix of Religion and Politics,” August 24, 2006. The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, http://peoplepress.org/reports/display.php3?PageID=1084 <accessed March 2007>
 The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, “Americans’ Support for Israel Unchanged by Recent Hostilities,” July 26, 2006. The Pew Research Center, http://pewresearch.org/reports/?ReportID=37
 http://www.israelunitycoalition.org/about/index.php <Accessed March 2007>
 See Robert Jewett & John Shelton Lawrence, Captain America and the Crusade Against Evil (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2003); Timothy Weber, On the Road to Armageddon: How Evangelicals became Israel’s Best Friend (Grand Rapids, Baker, 2004); and John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, ‘The Israeli Lobby’, The London Review of Books, 23 March 2006, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n06/mear01_.html
 See chapter 7 and the glossary for an explanation of these terms.
A Chinese version of Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions, based on my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers is now available.
The Chinese version was kindly translated by Lo Yuk Fai. Presentations in Chinese were delivered recently for Macau Bible Institute, Sawtow Christian Church Hong Kong and All Saints Cathedral, Kowloon.
See more photos of recent visits to China here
On September 12th, following the tragic news of the murder of Ambassador Stevens, together with members of his staff, sheltering in the US Consulate in Benghazi, a grief stricken Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton asked a simple question. A question that was on the lips of many Americans: “How could this happen in a country we helped liberate, in a city we helped save from destruction?” Andrew Bacevich, writing in Newsweek, asks,
“Why the Arab anger against the United States? Why the absence of gratitude among the very people the United States helped save, in the very countries Americans helped liberate? The way Secretary Clinton frames the question practically guarantees a self-satisfying but defective answer.”
The question, he argues, is predicated on three propositions that are regarded as sacrosanct by most US politicians and policy makers.
“First: humanity yearns for liberation, as defined in Western (meaning predominantly liberal and secular terms). Second: the United States has a providentially assigned role to nurture and promote this liberation… Third: given that American intentions are righteous and benign (most of the time) – the exercise of US power on a global scale merits respect and ought to command compliance.”[i]
I would add a fourth proposition, assumed as self evident, especially among Evangelicals, that, as God’s ‘chosen people’ the security of the State of Israel is synonymous with US interests in the Middle East and her God ordained role.
The problem is that the Arab world and Muslims, in particular, do not only not share these propositions, they repudiate them theologically. It is not that they do not aspire to political freedom from despotic rulers and oppressive governments. The Arab Spring has shown that many do indeed hunger for freedom. The problem is, observes Bacevich, “that 21st century Muslims don’t necessarily buy America’s 21st century definition of it – a definition increasingly devoid of moral content.”
Freedom of speech is assumed sacrosanct even if it offends those of other religions. Whether the movie, Innocence of Muslims was indeed responsible for sparking Muslim outrage and the subsequent violence against US interests is irrelevant. The promotion of the film by Fundamentalist Christians and their antipathy toward Islam certainly is. What we tend to ignore, while Muslims cannot forget, it the simple fact is that for more than 100 years, Christians in the USA and Europe have sponsored, defended, funded and sustained the Zionist enterprise in preference to developing normative relations with the Arab world.
“We are in the middle of a world war. I tell everyone to read Colin Chapman and Stephen Sizer”.
“He thanked Stephen for his courageous and important work in the Middle East and for his encouragement to his own church in Beirut.”
Revd Nabil Shehadi, RIBA, MA
Vicar, All Saints’ International Congregation
Alpha Adviser for Lebanon/Alpha publishing
Archbishop of Canterbury’s personal representative
to the Oriental Orthodox Church