Category Archives: Dispensationalism

Jerusalem: The City of God in Biblical Tradition

Jerusalem is the crucible of three world faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, Zionists deny history and the will of entire international community when they insist “Jerusalem is the undivided, eternal and exclusive capital of the Jewish people.”

The annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967 and the aggressive strategy of Palestinian house demolitions, illegal Jews-only settlements and the construction of the apartheid Separation Barrier have all created ‘facts on the ground’.  When challenged, Jewish Zionists and their Christian supporters claim a higher mandate than the United Nations for their exclusive claim to Jerusalem – the Word of God.

This paper will refute this view and demonstrate from the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures that Jerusalem was always intended to be an inclusive city of peace for all who acknowledge the One true God. Practical steps will be offered for ways in which people of faith can work together to resolve the present conflict.

1.  Jerusalem in the Hebrew Scriptures: A Shared City
The story of Jerusalem goes way back to the Book of Genesis. It is possible that Jerusalem was the home of the Melchizedek the priest and king who blessed Abraham in Genesis 14.  He is referred to as the ‘king of Salem’ which later became identified with Jerusalem. Mount Moriah, where Abraham offered his son as a sacrifice, is also identified in 2 Chronicles 3 as the same place where king Solomon built his Temple. While the right of residence in Jerusalem was always conditional of faithful obedience, God’s intention has always been that Jerusalem be shared. In Psalm 87 we have a beautiful picture of an international and inclusive city where residency rights are determined by God on the basis of faith not race.

 

“Glorious things are said of you, city of God:  “I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me— Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush — and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’ “Indeed, of Zion it will be said, “This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.” The LORD will write in the register of the peoples: “This one was born in Zion.” (Psalm 87:3-6)

It is a universal norm that where we are born determines our nationality and citizenship. The same applies in God’s kingdom. Spiritual new birth brings with it the entitlement to citizenship of Jerusalem on the basis of faith not race.

This psalm therefore rebukes and challenges the narrowness of nationalistic pride and prejudice. Similarly, in Isaiah 2, we learn that people of many different nations will come to Jerusalem and put their faith in God and walk in his ways. One of the glorious consequences of this is that Jerusalem will become associated with the end of war, and with peace and reconciliation between the nations.

“The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:3-5).

2. Jerusalem in the Christian Scriptures: A Heavenly City

So what place does Jerusalem fulfil within Christian tradition? There is both good and bad news. First, the bad news. Far from promising a prosperous future at the centre of a revived Jewish state or even a millennial kingdom, Jesus lamented the impending destruction of Jerusalem.

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.  Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” (Luke 13:34-35)

Quoting Psalm 118:26, Jesus displays the instincts of a protective mother concerned for the people of Jerusalem as if they were his very children. A little later, on Palm Sunday, Jesus expresses perhaps his strongest emotions toward the city and its fickle people:

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side.  They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44)

With the total destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE, stone by stone, the slaughter of tens of thousands of Jews and the exile of the remnant as slaves of Rome, Jesus’ sad prediction came true, to the letter. The Christian scriptures instead, look increasingly to another Jerusalem.

The focus of the New Testament shifts away from an earthly onto a heavenly Jerusalem which by faith in Jesus, we are already citizens.

“I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband… I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp.  The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it.”
(Revelation 21:2, 22-24).

In this one all consuming vision, God’s people now embrace all nations, God’s land encompasses the whole earth, and God’s holy city has become the eternal dwelling place of all who trust in Him.

3. Jerusalem in God’s Purposes: A Reconciling City
To summarize, in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, God reveals that he expects Jerusalem to be a shared, inclusive city of faith, hope and love.  The Scriptures also envisage a glorious future for Jerusalem. One that impacts and benefits the entire world. The vision is of an inclusive and shared Jerusalem in which the nations, including the Jewish people, are blessed.  Perhaps this is why, when Jesus rebuked the religious leaders for exploiting the international visitors to the temple, he quotes from Isaiah, “For my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” (Isaiah 56:7, cf. Matthew 21:13). But today, we have to live with the reality of a Jerusalem that is associated with apartheid and racism, with exclusive claims that can only be sustained by oppression and injustice, by military occupation, the denial of human rights, the disregard for international law, access to religious sites and freedom of expression. Living between Jerusalem past and Jerusalem future, what is our religious responsibility in the present? In June 2009, I helped write the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism endorsed and signed by the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem. The Declaration explains the reasons for their rejection of the exclusive Zionist claims to Jerusalem.

Statement by the Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches In Jerusalem[1]

‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.’
(Matthew 5:9)

“We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation…

We affirm that all people are created in the image of God. In turn they are called to honour the dignity of every human being and to respect their inalienable rights.

We affirm that Israelis and Palestinians are capable of living together within peace, justice and security.

We affirm that Palestinians are one people, both Muslim and Christian. We reject all attempts to subvert and fragment their unity.

We call upon all people to reject the narrow world view of Christian Zionism and other ideologies that privilege one people at the expense of others.

We are committed to non-violent resistance as the most effective means to end the illegal occupation in order to attain a just and lasting peace.

With urgency we warn that Christian Zionism and its alliances are justifying colonisation, apartheid and empire-building.

God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear. The struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently.

‘What does the Lord require of you, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’ (Micah 6:8)

By standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace – and working for peace makes us children of God. ”

On Palm Sunday, the Apostle Luke tells us,

“As he [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42).

I believe Jesus continues to weep not only over Jerusalem, but also for all his children in the Middle East. I believe he weeps , for those who promote a theology of war and conquest that contradicts the model Jesus has given us in Himself.

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

May God give us the courage and strength to fulfil this role.

Paper to be delivered at the International Conference on Jerusalem, 26-27 February, Doha, Qatar.

A longer version of this paper is available here.

For a more detailed paper on the place of Jerusalem within biblical tradition, based on my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers, see here.


[1] http://imeu.net/news/article003122.shtml

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Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions

After extensive field testing in the UK, USA and in the debate with Dr Calvin Smith on Revelation TV, “Has the Church Replaced Israel“, I have revised and enhanced my paper ‘Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions’ The pdf version contains additional illustrations.

1. God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who curse Israel

Promise Fulfilment
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 28-29)
“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore… and through your seed all nations on earth will be blessed…” (Genesis 22:17-18)

This popular assumption is based on Genesis 12:3. First, note that the promise was made to Abram (that is, Abraham) and no one else. Second, there is nothing in the text to indicate God intended the promise to apply to Abraham’s physical descendants unconditionally, or in perpetuity. Third, in the New Testament we are told explicitly that the promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in those who acknowledge Him as their Lord and Saviour. God’s blessings come by grace through faith, not by works or race (Ephesians 2:8-9). Continue reading

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Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions

Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions

(download a pdf of this study)

1. God promises to bless those who bless Israel and curses those who curse Israel

This popular if misguided assumption is based on Genesis 12:3. It shows how vital it is we allow Scripture to interpret Scripture. First, the original promise was made to Abram (that is Abraham) and no one else. Second, there is nothing in the promise to indicate God intended it be applied to Abraham’s physical descendants unconditionally, or in perpetuity. Third, in the New Testament we are told explicitly that the promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and in those who acknowledge Him as their Lord and Saviour. God’s blessings come by grace through faith, not by works or race (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Promise Fulfilment
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:2-3). The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ… There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:16, 28-29)
“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore… and through your seed all nations on earth will be blessed…” (Genesis 22:17-18)

Continue reading

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With God on our Side: US Tour Photos

View the highlights of the With God on our Side US tour here or on Flickr. See also photos taken on the first WGOOS US tour here

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With God on Our Side: Porter Speakman Interview

Porter Speakman Interview from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Porter Speakman shares about his new film “With God on our Side” For more information see withgodonourside.com

“With God On Our Side takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God’s chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians, leading to great suffering among Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatening Israel’s security as a whole.

This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians.”

The title for our film, “With God on Our Side” was inspired by the verse:

…while Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, “Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies’?” He said, “Neither. I’m commander of God’s army. Joshua 5:13-14a (The Message)

We believe this verse is still true today, that God does not take sides with certain people groups, nations or agendas. Rather He is for all people. Throughout history, those who have claimed God was on their side have used it to justify atrocities done in the name of Jesus. We believe once again certain Christians are approaching the people in the Middle East claiming God is on their side in a way that disregards human rights and gives unilateral support to a secular State, elevates one people group over another while using the Bible as justification. We believe there is a better way, a way of justice, peace and love for Jews and Palestinians. One that is inclusive, not exclusive. That is the heart of God.

See http://www.withgodonourside.com

The issues surrounding the situation with Israel and Palestinians whether they be Historical or Political bring up very passionate displays of support and activism on all sides. However, it has been my experience that when theology, whether it be Islamic, Judaic or Christian is mixed in with these issues, these passions spill into a new level and becomes a “holy war” in itself.

As a Christian, I wanted to look deeper at Christian approaches into some of these issues and at a theology called Christian Zionism. Although many Evangelical Christians in the United States may not know what Christian Zionism is, most would adhere to some of the basic beliefs Christian Zionists have toward Israel, the Jewish people and the End Times. That supporting Israel is a mandate for all Christians and that support also meant political support for the State.

I also saw that once people understood the political and historical consequences Christian Zionism has on people in the Middle East, they began to question some of the things they have always just taken for granted.

There are several purposes for making this film:
To bring a different perspective to some of the historical, political and theological viewpoints we just taCase for granted involving Israel and the Jewish people.

To look at the consequences Christian Zionism has on the local people in the Middle East, especially Palestinian, who are most directly influenced by Christian political support for the State of Israel and it’s policies, which are then defended using the Bible.

To raise awareness that there are Palestinian Christians, and these consequences affect them as well Muslim Palestinians.

We believe there is an alternative approach to Christian Zionism. An approach that sees both Jews and Palestinians as equal in God’s sight and one that promotes reconciliation, justice and peace.

We recognize that most people who adhere to a Christian Zionist theology have the best intentions in mind. They love and support Israel and the Jewish people out of sincere hearts and what they feel is the Biblical approach to this situation.

We also recognize that being “Pro-Israel” in the minds of most Christian Zionists is not synonyms with being “Anti-Arab”. However, this is why it is important to look at what we believe alongside with how it affects people. Good intentions can still have devastating effects. Some of the most tragic events in history have occurred from a bad interpretation of biblical texts and understanding of who God is. Any approach to the Middle East must be one that sees the needs of all people, not just one, because at the heart of who God is the God of love who commands us to love one another, whether that be our neighbor or someone we consider our enemy.

These are not easy issues to look at and we are all continuing to learn. However we feel it is important to ask questions and we believe no topics are off limits, when the goal is truth.

The “Key Issues” section of this site has some general information on Christian Zionism, History, and Current Events. These are just small snippets of information on subjects addressed in our film. For those who want to learn further, we strongly recommend looking at our resource page for further studies. We also strongly recommend that books from people offering differing perspectives be read.

Porter Speakman, Jr.
Director / Executive Producer “With God on Our Side”

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Blessing the Children of Abraham: An Annotated Bibliography

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)

Various  attempts have been made in recent years to broaden the definition of anti-Semitism to both criticise those engaged in evangelism among Jewish people as well as those who question the continued Israeli occupation of Gaza, the Golan and the West Bank. Neither is necessarily true although it sometimes is.

However, articles such as  “Anti-Zionist Attacks on Church and Messianic Group” (since removed from Moriel’s website but still endorsed by them) appears on a website associated with Christian Friends of Israel. They blame my writings for attacks against Jewish people and Christians here and abroad.

Jacob Prasch states, “We additionally agree that articles citing Sizer’s anti-Zionist and anti-Christian Zionist propaganda republished in radical Islamic publications are contributing to the incitement of Moslem attacks on churches in the UK are excellently written… But now he stands publicly accused by some sources (none published by Moriel) of having his articles against Christian Zionists used to help incite attacks on churches in the UK in the same manner radical Moslems attack churches in Islamic countries.”

Besides being economical with the truth (Moriel did publish the above article – it was accessible on 10th March 2009) these allegations are unproven and defamatory. Nothing could be further from the truth. When ever I am invited to speak, especially at interfaith gatherings, I present a Christian perspective that repudiates the use of violence to resolve injustice, and instead calls for active peacmaking efforts with the purpose of achieving reconciliation.

In Zion’s Christian Soldiers, I stress that it is important to distinguish between Judaism, Israel and Zionism as well as repudiate the use of violence to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

“Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognised by the international community…”

In Christian Zionism, I distinguish between three strands of Christian Zionism – Messianic, Apocalyptic and Political. Messianic and Jewish Christian organisations that are primarily evangelistic, such as the Churches Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ), Christian Witness for Israel (CWI) and Jews for Jesus (JFJ) must be distinguished from those primarily having a social or political ministry, such as Bridges for Peace (BFP), Christian Friends of Israel (CFI), Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) and the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). I am in the process of revising the book as the emphasis of some of these agencies has evolved over time and new ones have emerged such as John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and Mike Evans’ Jerusalem Prayer Team.

How big is this movement? The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life estimates there are 20-40 million supporters in America. The Unity Coalition for Israel draws together over 200 different organizations and claims 40 million active members. John Hagee has weekly access through TV and radio to 99 million homes in 200 countries. Hagee is just one of thousands of other pastors, television evangelists, authors and politicians who identify with Christian Zionism.

Whether they welcome it is another matter, but I endorse those ministries committed to presenting the good news of Jesus Christ to Jewish people, defending the existence of a safe homeland for the Jewish people, combating anti-Semitism and enhancing the understanding of the Gentile church as to our Jewish origins.

“I ask then: Did God reject his people? By no means! I am an Israelite myself, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew.” (Romans 11:1-2)

That is why I have willingly contributed to Messianic conferences in South Africa and Israel, debated with Jewish rabbis and academics, dialogued with Zionists on radio and theological colleges as well as have met with representatives of agencies such as CMJ and CWI, for example, on a regular basis.

My books have been endorsed by Jewish academics such as Dr Jeff Halper, Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok and Professor Norton Mezvinsky

Jeff Halper writes,”Everyone loves peace, but not everyone loves peace-makers. The work of people like Stephen Sizer is crucial to peace-making. “Peace” is not merely a goody-goody term that we use on Christmas or Passover. It has to do with hard realities like conflict, injustice and suffering, all of which require not only good will, but an analysis which identifies the causes of the conflict and offers a way out. Hardest of all, peace-making requires self-reflection, self-criticism and the ability to see the viewpoint of the Other, the “enemy,” especially when “your side” is involved. And one more thing is essential to peace-making: an ability to reach out, even to your detractors, so that a common ground of action can be established.

In all these things my fellow peace-maker Stephen excels. Over the years he has shown both courage and good-will, but most important, in my mind, he has provided us with tough analysis, primarily around issues dealing with Christian Zionism, a fundamental obstacle to a just peace in Israel and Palestine, that helps us get to the foundations of the conflict in order to resolve it. One would think Stephen’s work would be appreciated by everyone – Christian Zionists excepted, (although a sizeable number of critical Evangelicals do support his analysis). His seminal book, Christian Zionism, accompanied by films and presentations, provides an authoritative de-bunking of the spurious theology underlying that school’s seemingly “pro-Israeli” positions which make genuine peace-making so difficult.

Why Stephen is attacked and demonized by the organized Jewish community is an absolute mystery to me. After all, Christian Zionism is supremely anti-Semitic: at the End of Days those Jews who do not accept Jesus die. Indeed, the Jews are sacrificed in the battle of Armageddon; witness Pat Robertson’s outrage at Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert when he ended the attack on Lebanon in 2006, an attack that, in the eyes of Robertson and other Christian Zionists, was supposed to trigger Armageddon – no matter what befalls the Jews/Israelis. Jewish demonization of Stephen, rather than of the Christian Zionists, who Jewish and Israeli leaders cynically consider our allies,” demonstrates nothing more than bad faith. It is perfectly acceptable, apparently, to be anti-Semitic if, like Robertson, you are “pro-Israel.” Simply professing a doctrine in which the Jewish people is exterminated and disappears is no crime, in their view, as long as it somehow serves short-term Israeli interests (and Stephen shows that Christian Zionism does not serve Israeli or Jewish interests in any way).

Ironically, then, it is the peace-makers – anti-anti-Semites like Stephen and even critical Israeli Jews like me – who are the enemy. If that is the case, then all the protestations of the Jewish community against anti-Semitism are hollow. What they really mean is, be anti-Semitic by all means if you combine that with a pro-Israeli position, but woe be unto those who fight such an anti-Semitic creed as Christian Zionism because by opposing Christian Zionism you are somehow opposing Israel. In attacking Stephen in his criticism of Christian Zionism, Jewish leaders have gone so far as to define “pro-Israeliness” in anti-Semitic terms.

But peace-makers are themselves tough people, willing and able to face down bigotry and bad faith. Indeed, this willingness and ability are what makes us peace-makers. To the organized Jewish community I would only say, as an Israeli Jew: remove your moral and intellectual blinders so as to be able to differentiate your true (if critical) friends from your true enemies.” Jeff Halper, Jerusalem, April 8, 2009.

My books have also received critical but constructive reviews from David Pawson and Tony Higton.

“my fellow Zionists… will be disturbed by my agreement with much of Sizer’s criticism of this position.” (p. 19). “I am grateful to Stephen Sizer for drawing attention to the legitimate criticisms of dispensational Zionism. He has rendered a service to the cause of Zionism which was needed.” (David Pawson, Defending Christian Zionism, p. 39)

“After years of sparring, Stephen Sizer and I met up and found we had wide areas of agreement. Having worked in Jewish ministry for seven years, half of them in Jerusalem, I have seen the best and worst of Christian Zionism. Insofar as it combats anti-Semitism, defends the existence of a safe homeland for Jewish people, promotes evangelism among Jewish people, and supports reconciliation in the Holy Land, it is good. However, Sizer is right to criticize the serious failings of some Christian Zionism. I agree with him in rejecting the following errors which are held by many Christian Zionists:

  • Lack of godly compassion for the Palestinians, and of concern for their human rights and about their legitimate aspirations.
  • A negative attitude toward Palestinians, and Arabs in general, to the point of racism.
  • Uncritical support for Israel (a secular, sinful state like any other), justifying all its actions against the Palestinians.
  • Neglecting or even opposing and forbidding evangelism of Israelis, sometimes believing that Jewish people can experience salvation through Judaism.
  • Being more interested in the fulfilment of prophecy than in application of kingdom principles such as justice and reconciliation.
  • Opposing the peace process.
  • Sometimes advocating the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the Holy Land.
  • Sometimes supporting the rebuilding of the temple regardless of the problematic theological implications and the danger of provoking extreme violence.” (Tony Higton, A Critique of Christian Zionism, p. 18)

Over the years we have also hosted events in our church for CMJ and Jews for Jesus and regularly invite a local Jewish Christian pastor to speak at our monthly men’s breakfasts. Our church family include several who are Jewish or identify with Messianic Judaism. They seem comfortable with my own views, despite attempts by at least one anonymous blogger to change their mind having gained access to our church Facebook account. Offers to meet face to face and resolve his or her concerns proved fruitless.

“Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)


An Annotated Bibliography

The following list is partial and subjective but these books have been helpful, at least to me, in understanding and distinguishing between Judaism, Israel and Zionism and the necessity of Christian witness among Jewish people.

Light Force Brother Andrew
Wrongly accused of being anti-Israel, Brother Andrew replies, “The best way I can help Israel is by leading her enemies to Jesus Christ.” He shows that genuine dialogue is possible based on our common humanity. Should we really be surprised, he asks, to discover that so called terrorists are human beings like you and me created in the image of God? Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, summarises the importance of this unique book. “Light Force is a riveting and often provocative book. The book details Brother Andrew’s passion and compassion for the Church and bringing the Light of Jesus to one of the world’s on-going hot spots. Like God’s Smuggler, it is compelling reading. By reading the daily headlines from the Middle East, we know Light Force will be both timely and relevant.”

Israel: Land of God’s Promise: Murray Dixon
Israel is the most misunderstood nation on the planet. The Jewish people are the most consistently persecuted in all of history – ancient and modern – why? Can the Church afford to pursue its historically notorious treatment of the Jew and the nation of Israel? This book offers clarity where confusion abounds. The author compels us to examine Church history and Jewish history in the light of God’s word. Jesus is Jewish and so are the roots of the Christian faith – why is that significant? No nation, ever, has been regathered from worldwide dispersion to its ancient homeland, and speaking its ancient language – except Israel. And that, only, after man’s most hideous crime, to attempt to exterminate them – why?

Atlas of the Holocaust: Martin Gilbert
The atlas traces each phase of the Holocaust, beginning with the anti-Semitic violence of prewar Germany and leading to the German conquest of countries in which the Jews had lived for centuries. Presented in chronological order, the maps document in compelling detail, month by month and week by week, the story of the Holocaust, from the spread of the early random killings of Jews and their systematic mass expulsion from thousands of towns and villages to the establishment of ghettos and the setting up of the death camps. The atlas ends with the death marches and executions in the final days of the Allied liberation. Also shown on the maps are more than two hundred acts of resistance and revolt, as well as areas of Jewish partisan activity and other avenues of escape and rescue. Many maps tell the stories of hundreds of children deported to their deaths. Others bear witness to individuals active in revolt and tell moving sagas of their courage and defiance.

No Strange God: Gordon Jessup
An outline of Jewish life and faith. Revised edition of this classic work which helps Christians understand their Jewish neighbours.

Christian Witness to the Jewish People: Lausanne Occasional Papers
This report, is one of a series of Lausanne Occasional Papers (LOPs) emerging from the historic Consultation on World Evangelization (COWE) held in Pattaya, Thailand, in June 1980.

Judaism is Not Jewish: Baruch Maoz
People from a Jewish background face difficult choices when they trust in Jesus as the Jewish Messiah. Baruch Maoz, the leader of a Christian Church in Israel, believes that to be Jewish is a blessing from God. The strong Jewish cultural identity impacts on worship and life so how does a Jewish Christian worship with his Gentile brothers and sisters? If they join churches will they be assimilated? If they establish synagogues will their fellow Christians feel excluded? The response that some Jewish Christians have decided upon is to establish a fourth branch of Judaism called Messianic Judaism (the others are Orthodox, Conservative and Reform). Baruch accepts there are fine Christians within the movement but shows how Jewish life is not the same as synagogue life. He enables Jewish Christians to retain a cultural identity without losing fellowship with other Christians.

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The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy: John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
How a powerful American interest group has created havoc in the Middle East, damaged Israel itself and now threatens an even more perilous future. The Israel Lobby by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, was one of the most controversial articles in recent memory. Originally published in the London Review of Books in March 2006, it provoked both howls of outrage and cheers of gratitude for challenging what had been a taboo issue in America: the impact of the Israel lobby on U.S. foreign policy. Now in a work of major importance, Mearsheimer and Walt deepen and expand their argument and confront recent developments in Lebanon and Iran. They describe the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the United States provides to Israel and argues that this support cannot be fully explained on either strategic or moral grounds. This exceptional relationship is due largely to the political influence of a loose coalition of individuals and organizations that actively work to shape U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction. Mearsheimer and Walt provocatively contend that the lobby has a far-reaching impact on America’s posture throughout the Middle East—in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, and toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and the policies it has encouraged are in neither America’s national interest nor Israel’s long-term interest. The lobby’s influence also affects America’s relationship with important allies and increases dangers that all states face from global jihadist terror. You can read the London Review of Books article that inspired the book here.

Rabbis Meet Jesus the Messiah: Messianic Good News
This book contains the moving and exciting testimonies of twenty four Rabbis, each of whom were brought to the wonderful, but startling revelation that Jesus is the Messiah through a careful and diligent study of the Scriptures. Part of the purpose of this book is to refute the view expressed by various Jewish leaders throughout the ages that only worthless, ignorant and mentally feeble Jews are likely to be believers in Christ and to accept his teachings as recorded in the New Testament. Contrary to this, the Rabbis mentioned in the book, had all received rabbinical ordination, having been thoroughly schooled in the traditions of their fathers and the teachings of Judaism. This book also corrects the misconception that when a Jew becomes a believer in Yeshua – Jesus, he becomes a traitor (meshumid) to the Jewish people and ceases to be Jewish. It must be emphasised that the turning away from sin to God, is the fulfillment of what it really means to be a Jew. These testimonies are presented as a source of inspiration and encouragement to readers and to those who are faced with the same challenge today.

Abandoned: Stan Telchin
What’s the problem with Messianic Judaism? Stan Telchin, a Messianic Jew and former pastor, explores in depth the heart and soul of Messianic Judaism. He exposes the motive behind its creation, its controversial doctrines and its ineffectiveness in Jewish evangelism. Messianic Judaism has grown significantly in fewer than four decades. While intended originally to appeal to Jewish people, unexpectedly it appeals primarily to Gentiles. Telchin, in following the teaching of the apostle Paul, sees Messianic Judaism as divisive. With a firm and loving approach, he addresses the dangers of this movement, reiterates God’s intention for His Church to serve as “one new man” and, most importantly, advocates unity among the body of believers.

Anti-Semitism: Dan Cohn-Sherbok
Dan Cohn-Sherbok traces the origins of anti-Semitism and its manifestations, from political opposition, to racial persecution and religious and philosophical justifications for some of history’s most outrageous acts. Against this background of intolerance and persecution, Cohn-Sherbok describes Jewish emancipation from the late 18th century and its gradual transformation into the parallel political and nationalistic ideal of Zionism. He explores how, in the post-war period, anti-Semitism, already triggered by 19th-century Zionism and the formation of a Jewish settlement in Palestine at the end of the 19th century, has become rampant in the Arab world. Finally, he discusses how specific strands of anti-Semitism have arisen in the United States largely as a result of conflict between African-Americans and Jews, and how in Russia and Poland anti-Semitism is as strong as ever. The book covers all historical periods up to the present day and is written for the general reader.

The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World: Avi Shlaim
In the 1920s, hard-line Zionists developed the doctrine of the Iron Wall: negotiations with the Arabs must always be from a position of military strength. This doctrine, argues Avi Shlaim, became central to Israeli policy; dissenters were marginalized and many opportunities lost. Drawing on a great deal of new material and interviews with many key participants, Shlaim places Israel’s political and military actions under an uncompromising lens. The result is a fresh and informed account of one of the world’s most intractable conflicts of modern times.

Not Ashamed: The Story of Jews for Jesus: Ruth Tucker
Not Ashamed tells the remarkable story of how a small band of young Jewish believers became the world’s best-known Christian ministry to the Jewish people. Historian Ruth A. Tucker affectionately describes them as a “mission with an attitude.” She pulls no punches in presenting their triumphs and flops, and their often-controversial methods for winning souls and facing down hostile opposition. You’ll find more than fascinating history in Not Ashamed. You’ll discover the underlying connections between Christianity and Judaism and the reasons for centuries of conflict between Christians and Jews. Most important of all, you’ll come to understand the passion behind Jews for Jesus as they bring the message of the Messiah to their own people.

An annotated bibliography of books on Islam will follow.

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Rico Tice on Zion’s Christian Soldiers

“Reading this book was a huge shock to me, and not a pleasant one. I had no idea that the biblical hermeneutics on the word ‘Israel’ had such extraordinary implications. So how we interpret the Scripture in terms of that one word ‘Israel’ really does seem, in some circles — to quote Stephen Sizer — to ‘justify a pre-emptive global war against the “axis of evil”‘ (page 19).

I almost felt like a man who discovers a lump under his arm and then finds on examination that it is malignant and life-threatening. But you must do the reading for yourself. It is too important to leave to second-hand opinion. How is this word ‘Israel’ used in the Bible, and what implications does that have for our fragile world?”

Rico Tice, Associate Minister, All Soul’s Church, Langham Place (author of Christianity Explored & Song of a Stranger: Daniel)

The Audio Book with Seminar Notes

You can listen to or read six presentations based on the chapters of the book as well as print outlines useful for personal and group Bible study.

1. For the Love of Zion: The Bible tells them so

2. Israel and the Church: Who are God’s chosen people?

3. The Promised Land: From the Nile to the Euphrates?

4. Battle for Jerusalem: The Eternal Capital of the Jews?

5. The Coming Last Day’s Temple: Ready to Rebuild?

6. Overture to Armageddon: Want to be left behind?

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My Top 5 Books on Social Justice: Tony Campolo in Christianity Today


Rich Christians in An Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity Ron Sider

Continues to make the evangelical community aware of what the Bible says about our responsibilities to the poor, and calls Christians to do something about it.

Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? Stephen Sizer

A comprehensive survey describing how Christians have embraced a theological perspective that has encouraged justice for Jews, but has also led to the oppression of Palestinian people and extreme hostility between Christians and Muslims worldwide

The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical Shane Claiborne

If you want to get a glimpse of what radical obedience looks like when lived out by a Red-Letter Christian, then this book is a must.

God’s Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It Jim Wallis

A New York Times bestselling book offering an alternative to the polarizing politics promoted by many in the religious culture wars. Wallis helps us find unity with a politics that addresses the needs of the poor and oppressed.

The Prophets Abraham J Heschel

Provides rich insights from the Hebrew prophets as they empathized with the pathos that God shows upon seeing the oppression of the poor.

See Christianity Today

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An Open Letter to Jacob Prasch

Dear Jacob,

I have read with sadness your comments about me on your website. In obedience to
our Lord’s instructions in Matthew 18, I am willing to meet with you privately or with a mediator and seek reconciliation as brothers in Christ.

I realise you are disappointed at not being able to debate me on television. I was willing to do so until I read what you had written about me, especially the imprecatory associations with Menelaus. That was also the legal advice I received.

Through an intermediary I merely requested a postponement of the debate. Without knowing my reasons, rather prematurely you wrote, “I have nothing to say to such an utterly contemptible servant of hell, and I am not interested in hearing anything from him. He is of his father the devil.”

In response to my attempt to make contact with you, you wrote, “It is too late for that. That twisted snake should not have agreed to the television debate to begin with if he was going to run scared or back down.”

I suggest this is not especially edifying language and indeed may undermine the credibility of your ministry. I have recently debated both Geoffrey Smith of Christian Friends of Israel and David Pawson both on Premier Radio. Both conversations were constructive and honouring to the Lord.

I readily concede that you will not be happy with my critique of your interpretation of the relationship of Israel and the Church. However, on this occasion, the only one I can think of, I have not slandered you, questioned your motives or denigrated you personally.

Initially you were critical of me for being an Anglican. I am guilty as charged. In my defence I am part of the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans committed to reforming the church on biblical grounds.

More recently you have criticised me for visiting Iran and for sharing a platform with an IRA member. You are wrong to assume that in doing so I am in agreement with the policies or actions of the Iranian government or the IRA. On the contrary I have made my own views plain through my writings, website and lectures, on the illegitimacy of the use of violence as a means of resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Jesus himself was accused of being “a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ (Luke 7:34). As one myself, I am grateful to know him as my friend, and desire to share that friendship with those who at present are outside his family, even at the expense of being maligned or misunderstood by others.

As Paul says in Romans 10, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:13-15)

I believe I have been ‘sent’ as I know you do too. We have clearly been sent to different people. We stand or fall before our Sovereign Lord to whom we are accountable not each other.

Like you, I care passionately for the Jewish people and pray for a secure Israel, as well as the fulfilment of the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians to an independent, sovereign and democratic state. I believe justice for Palestinians will bring peace for Israel, reconciliation with their neighbours and the marginalisation of extremists.

So Jacob, thank you for reading thus far. I repeat, I am willing to meet privately or with a mediator as our Lord instructed. While I may disagree with you theologically in the future, I will continue to pray for you and ask God’s blessing on your ministry.

Yours in Yeshua,
Stephen

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Weird and Wacky Theology 4: America in the Bible


Sooner or later, someone was bound to suggest that the United States of America appears in the Bible. Several authors have tried.

Hal Lindsey appears to have been one of the first. His reading of Revelation 12:14-17, ‘The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert’ takes the passage to refer to ‘some massive airlift’ transporting escaping Jews from the holocaust. ‘Since the eagle is the national symbol of the United States, it’s possible that the airlift will be made available by aircraft from the US Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean.’

Lindsey does not explain why ‘the eagle’ should mean the United States, rather than Germany or the Czech Republic for instance. Nor does he explain why in Revelation it refers to modern aircraft, while in Exodus 19:4, Deuteronomy 32:11-12 and Isaiah 40:31 it does not. This is hardly evidence for a consistent ‘literal interpretation’.

Mike Evans has caused an even bigger splash with his latest offering, The American Prophecies:
Is America in prophecy?
Yes, it is. Evans insists

“As a Middle East analyst and minister who has worked closely with leaders in that region for decades, I tended to be sceptical of attempts to come up with schemes to plug America into prophetic interpretations. I have often referred to such teachers as “Pop Prophecy Peddlers.” But, after thousands of hours of research, I am totally convinced that America is found in prophecy, and I believe you will, too, after reading [my] book.”

Even the reviewer for Amazon observes that actual quotes from Scripture are rather sparse.
Controversially, Evans goes on to claim

“September 11 would never have happened if America had fought the same bigotry in the 1990’s rather than trying to appease it. Millions of Jews would be living today if anti-Semitism had not been ignored in the 1920s and 1930s. The Great Depression, as well as other American tragedies, happened because of America’s pride and challenge to God Almighty’s plan.”

The danger with this kind of prophetic speculation is that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is how D.S. Russell summarises the dilemma:

“One rather frightening by-product of this process of interpretation is that it is easy to create the very situation which is being described so that the interpretation given brings about its own fulfilment. Russia, for example, is to be destroyed by nuclear attack – and scripture must be fulfilled! It needs little imagination to understand the consequences of such a belief, especially if held with deep conviction by politicians and the military who have the power to press the button and to execute the judgment thus prophesied and foreordained.”

If you feel you need an antidote, check out Zion’s Christian Soldiers for instant protection and lasting relief.

For further examples of wacky theology see:

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