See photos taken at the Lambeth Palace book launch here
Following the tragedy of 9/11 and the destruction of the World Trade Centre in New York, multi-bestselling author and Christian journalist Anne Coulter, wrote,
“We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don’t need an “international coalition.” We don’t need a study on “terrorism.” … We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now. We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.”
More recently, at the July 19th, 2006, inaugural event for Christians United for Israel, in Washington DC, after recorded greetings from the then President, George W. Bush, and in the presence of four US Senators as well as the Israeli ambassador to the US, Pastor John Hagee, stated :
Heartened by the recent historic meeting between Prime Minister David Cameron and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, at the United Nations, signaling a long-overdue thawing of Anglo-Iranian relations, I was delighted to attend the New Horizons interfaith conference in Tehran last week, as a member of a UK delegation.
The conference addressed issues where faith and politics intersect in the Middle East such as Israel’s war on Gaza, Islamophobia in the West as well as the rise of ISIS and those sponsoring extremism.
“There is no teleology in western society, no guiding morality, only an obsession with materialism,” argued organizer Arash Darya-Bandari. “We believe it is necessary to control the negative tendencies in culture, such as pornography, alcohol, drugs, prostitution, to strive towards a more moral and justice society.”
One of the contributors, Eric Walberg wrote, “Contrary to the shrill cries in the western media that the conference was anti-Semitic, it was unique in my experience in addressing Zionism and US imperialism forthrightly and intelligently, without a hint of racism. The issue of anti-Semitism was addressed and dismissed, as “There is no issue with Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” explained Darya-Bandari, “but rather with Zionism, that secular distortion of Judaism that itself is racist, and has been used as a pretext to dispossess and kill Palestinians.”
He went on to report, “The conference issued a resolution condemning ISIS, Zionism, US unconditional support of Israel, Islamophobia, and calling for activism locally to boycott Israeli goods and to promote understanding between the West and the Muslim world, and to fight sectarianism. “This was a great opportunity to meet anti-imperialist activists from around the world, to bring Russians, Poles, western Europeans, North Americans together with Iranians and other Muslims, both Sunni and Shia, in a forum without sectarianism, truly supporting peace and understanding,” said delegate Mateusz Piskorski, director of the European Centre of Geopolitical Analysis in Warsaw and former MP in the Polish Sejm.”
I was invited to contribute to the opening ceremony and present a biblical perspective on Jihad and in particular, a Christian refutation of the Islamic State (IS). Later in the conference I was asked to present a paper on the impact of the Israel Lobby in the UK, especially in parliament and in the media, ahead of the publication of my new book on the subject.
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Ambassadors, of necessity serve in foreign countries, where perspectives may be different and at times even hostile to one’s own. But given the dire consequences of any breakdown in relations between countries, dialogue and diplomacy are always to be preferred over war and strife.
In the journal Diplomat, Michael Binyon asks,
“Are Christian church leaders becoming the world’s most active peacemakers? Only a week after President Peres of Israel and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the Pope’s invitation to pray together with him in Rome, the Archbishop of Canterbury made a dramatic flight to Nigeria to pray with President Goodluck Jonathan and encourage him to make every effort to find the schoolgirls kidnapped by the terrorist organisation Boko Haram.
The Archbishop’s impromptu trip came hard on the heels of a visit to Pakistan, where he visited a small embattled Christian community and praised their efforts to forge closer links with the wider Muslim community, despite regular attacks by militants, the threats of mob violence and the increasing use of the notorious blasphemy laws to force Christians from their land and property…
Peacemaking and reconciliation – within the Anglican Church and between the world’s main faith groups – were the declared priority for Justin Welby from the moment he became Archbishop. He is well qualified for the role. As an oil executive who visited Nigeria often before his ordination, he has seen at first-hand the conflict raging between Christians and Muslims in Central Nigeria that is now taking a deadly toll. As a former head of Coventry Cathedral’s Centre for Reconciliation, he has himself conducted delicate negotiations between militant groups in an effort to free hostages, often risking his own life.”
A walk through the deserted US embassy in Tehran last week was a poignant reminder of how a failure to pursue diplomacy has fueled not only decades of missed opportunities but also perpetuated misunderstanding and animosity between our countries.
Ironically, the leaders in Jesus day, tried to dictate whom he could and could not meet with, criticizing him for eating with “tax collectors and sinners”. Clearly they considered his actions “conduct unbecoming” a rabbi. Thankfully for us he did not listen to them.
Critics of conferences such as New Horizons should think more carefully about how their inflammatory words will negatively impact on their own communities in Iran.
They would be better served following the examples set by our Prime Minister, the Pope and the Archbishop who, as true ambassadors, are working for peace and reconciliation.
Der Christliche Jihadist. Im Zeichen des Kreuzes im evangelikalen Christentum: Die Perspektive eines christlichen Jihadisten
A German translation of my presentation, The Christian Jihadist
Download a pdf version Der christliche Jihadist
“Mounting tension: Israel’s Knesset debates proposal to enforce its sovereignty at Al-Aqsa Mosque – a move seen as ‘an extreme provocation to Muslims worldwide’” was the ominous headline in the Independent newspaper, 27th February 2014.
Ben Lynfield writes, “The Arab-Israeli conflict took on an increasingly religious hue when the Jordanian parliament voted unanimously to expel Israel’s ambassador in Amman after Israeli legislators held an unprecedented debate on Tuesday evening over a proposal to enforce Israeli sovereignty at one of Jerusalem’s holiest sites, currently administered by Jordan, and to allow Jewish prayer there. 500 metres by 300 metres, the Temple Mount, or Haram Al Sharif as it is called in Arabic, is probably the most disputed plot of land on earth. Hal Lindsey claims, ‘I believe the fate of the world will be determined by an ancient feud over 35 acres of land.’
Many Christians share the belief that the Islamic shrines must be destroyed and that a Jewish Temple must and will be rebuilt – very soon. But this won’t be a museum replica of the one king Solomon built or be just another attraction for pilgrims to the Holy Land. No, this Temple will be built for one purpose and one purpose only – for bloody animal sacrifices, and lots of them.
What is the case for rebuilding the Jewish Temple? Does the Bible predict such an event? If so, where and how it might be built? What does the New Testament say on the subject? What are the implications for Christians should the Jewish Temple be rebuilt? Continue reading
I am very happy to announce that following meetings with conciliators appointed by the Bishop of Guildford, the complaint brought against me by the Board of Deputies of British Jews has been resolved on terms set out in the Conciliation Agreement.
Whilst pleased that this matter is now concluded, I am saddened that it has taken so long to reach this stage. Towards the end of 2011, concerns were raised about an article on my Facebook page which linked to a website named “the Ugly Truth.” In recognition of those concerns, I offered to meet leaders of the Jewish community but this offer was never taken up. Instead, in October 2012, Mr Arkush on behalf of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, made a formal complaint against me alleging “a clear and consistent pattern” of misconduct “unbecoming or inappropriate to the office a work of a clerk in Holy Orders”.
The Board of Deputies also took the unprecedented step of publishing it in full on their website. I refrained from publishing my formal Response until the complaint was resolved. I am therefore doing so today.
The complaint alleged that I had made anti-Semitic statements and had deliberately introduced my readers to anti-Semitic websites. I have always maintained that these allegations were untrue and am confident that I would have been vindicated had I been forced to contest them at a clergy disciplinary tribunal. That said, I am pleased that these issues have sensibly been resolved.
As many will be aware, I have long been an enthusiastic user of new media. The internet allows us to communicate with a mass audience at the press of a button, but with it comes the risk that we might publish our thoughts without adequately reflecting on our choice of words or how they might be interpreted. I will do all I can to guard against this risk in the future. Whilst the web is a rich source of reference, it also contains a great deal of material with which one would not wish to be associated. It is important that those using new media to conduct political debate ensure that they do not inadvertently associate them with such material. It is for this reason that I have undertaken to take greater care over links in the future. In addition, my blog now contains a disclaimer identical to that which appears on the Board of Deputies’ Fair Play website.
It is my sincere wish that disputes such as this will be avoided in the future. The conciliation agreement includes a number of principles that we agree those engaged in political debate should follow. They emphasize that free speech does not cease to be legitimate simply because it might cause offence to some, whilst at the same time affirming that care and sensitivity should be employed in the use of language. As someone who has been virulently attacked in the past for my political and theological views, I will do my best to abide by these principles, but my hope is that my critics will do so too.
I care passionately about the safety of the Jewish people and the right of Israel to exist within internationally agreed borders. I have always opposed racism, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial as well as Islamophobia and the denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination and will continue to do so.
Jesus calls his followers to be peacemakers and to fulfil a ministry of reconciliation. The New Testament reinforces the mandate of the Jewish prophet Micah, “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
Revd Dr Stephen Sizer
Christ Church, Virginia Water
23rd October 2013
Jeremy Moodey of Embrace the Middle East writes “Stephen … has an outstanding legal bill of almost £4,000 as he has sought to respond to the BoD’s bullying. The defence fund is in my name, audited by Steve Leah. Please give what you can to support the right of free speech.”
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This evening I read Nick Howard’s delightful new book, The Book of the Covenant, published by the aptly named Good Book Company. It is indeed a good read. Nick provides a simple, clear, easy to understand, overview of the entire Bible, tracing the unfolding story of God’s covenant relationship with his people.
Each chapter includes copious scripture quotations, lively contemporary illustrations and a helpful application section called ‘Life Lessons’. Important sentences are printed in bold for emphasis. Footnotes are kept to a minimum.
There are three main parts to the book. The first part explains the meaning of the word covenant and shows how the seven covenants ‘click’ together to form one united covenant revealed fully and finally in Jesus Christ. The second part unpacks the significance of each of the seven covenants, [Creation, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David and New Covenant]. The final part emphasizes how to read scripture from a covenantal perspective.
Nick uses some helpful analogies to describe the progressive revelation of God’s covenant purposes through history. Here’s a flavour:
“These covenants click together to form one “eternal covenant” (Hebrews 13:20)… These have the effect of dividing salvation history into separate time zones, with different instructions for each zone.” (p. 18)
“…past covenants are built into those that follow, not completely demolished.” (p. 19)
“… we could compare the covenants to a series of connected reservoirs providing water for a city. Each reservoir has certain distinctive features such as its location, capacity and shape, but they all serve the same underlying purpose of meeting the city’s need for water. The covenants are united in a similar way by one intention: God’s desire to have a people of his own.” (p. 20)
“The covenants are like gates separating the different periods of biblical history. When God’s people go through a covenant gate into that covenant’s field, they need to live according to the code of practice for that field… The fields form one covenant valley… the valley of salvation.” (p. 21)
Nick emphasizes the unity of God’s people on many occasions. Here’s an example:
“Because of the unity of the covenants, Bible history is our family history. The Bible is like a big family photo album. God’s people take part in the same eternal covenant, no matter which salvation period we’re in. So the believers we read about in Scripture are our spiritual ancestors, our family members…” (p. 22-23)
Whereas in my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers, I offer a range of possible interpretations for the controversial phrase ‘Israel of God’ found in Galatians 6:16, Nick offers the one I just happen to agree with,
“The covenant with Abraham teaches us that if we trust in Jesus, we’ve joined a nation, the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). It’s as if we each have a spiritual passport saying Israel on the front. Everyone who belongs to this nation should matter to us deeply.” (p. 83).
However, Nick goes a little further than I in describing the new covenant people of God as the ‘New Israel’ (p. 132). It is not a term found in the Bible but I know what he means – the term Israel has been ‘reconfigured’ by the new covenant.
“…the new covenant church is pictured in the book of Romans as a Jewish tree with lots of wild Gentile branches grafted in (11 v 24). So instead of “replacement theology” this is “enlargement theology”… while it is clear God no longer considers unbelieving Jews to be his people in the way they once were… he still has a special love for them. There’s a sense in which they are still chosen.” (p. 133)
Nick graciously acknowledges his indebtedness to O Palmer Robertson and The Christ of the Covenants (p. 161). Indeed, the incentive for writing the book grew out of a desire to make Palmer Robertson’s classic more accessible.
The Book of the Covenant serves a similar purpose to God’s Big Picture: Tracing the story-line of the Bible, by Vaughan Roberts and published by InterVarsity Press.
If you need any more convincing to buy the book, here are two commendations:
“Reading this clear and extremely well illustrated book, I was very struck by the fact that if I could get a good grasp of this one word ‘Covenant’, then it’s like an axe blade that enables me to open up not just every book of the Bible, but every chapter. I pray that many will internalise this outstanding tool of Biblical understanding.” Rico Tice, Evangelist and founder of Christianity Explored
“This gripping and highly readable book gives us a sweeping overview of the Bible as it charts the different “deals” that God has made with people in Scripture. It shows how the covenants with Abraham, David, Moses and others all foreshadow the new covenant to come in Jesus, and it helps us see with greater clarity the sweeping plan of God as it unfolds through the Bible story.” Tim Thornborough, Editor, Good Book Company
For me the test of any book about the Bible is simple – does it motivate me to want to read the scriptures more? Nick’s book does. I hope it sells well. It deserves to. Buy the book from The Good Book Company.
“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
I am selling a rare and unique set of Charles Simeon’s classic commentary, Horae Homileticae. These 21 volumes, featuring Simeon’s collected sermons, represent the fruit of his fifty-four years of preaching. Published originally in 1832 for the benefit of younger pastors seeking practical improvement at the task of sermon creation, Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of its author, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.
My set is unique because the volumes date from 1832 and have been lovingly and professionally rebound in chocolate brown cloth with gold lettering. The set cost over £300 and rebinding cost more than £400. You can own this unique set for just £395. Also included free is a copy of the Memoirs of the Life of the Rev Charles Simeon by Rev William Carus dated 1847 in the same rebound format.
These expository outlines (or “skeletons”) are not a verse-by-verse explanation of the English Bible. Rather, they are a chapter-by-chapter study with explanations of the most important and instructive verses in each chapter. Simeon’s aim with this commentary is “Instruction relative to the Composition of Sermons.” To this end, his exposition of the Scriptures is designed to maintain a focus on the more general aspects of a passage over and above possible treatments of particulars. His test for a sermon, as he teaches in Horae Homileticae, is threefold: does it humble the sinner, exalt the Saviour and promote holiness?
Opposing all human systems of divinity, Simeon’s commentary is also marked by an avoidance of any possible systemization of God’s Word and entanglement with theological controversies. A self-described “moderate Calvinist” or, more plainly, a “Biblical Christian,” Simeon believed that the Bible should speak for itself. “Be Bible Christians, not systems Christians” was his maxim; “My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there, and not to thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head; never to speak more or less than I believe to be the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.” With Horae Homileticae this conviction is soundly applied.
[Horae Homileticae] is the best place to go for researching Simeon’s theology. You can find his views on almost every key text in the Bible. . . . What Simeon experienced in the word was remarkable. It is so utterly different from the counsel that we receive today that it is worth looking at carefully.—John Piper
One can easily find suggestive and practical helps in the preparation of sermons, devotional talks, young people’s messages, prayer meeting talks, Sunday School lessons and personal Bible study. The study of these outlines will contribute greatly to expository preaching. —B. B. Siegel, Bibliotheca Sacra
If Wilberforce is the most famous evangelical layman in the Church of England, then Simeon is the most famous evangelical clergyman.—Who’s Who in Christian History
[The volumes of Horae Homileticae] have been called ‘a valley of dry bones’: be a prophet and they will live.—Charles Spurgeon
More about Charles Simeon
Sample a digital volume 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.