Tag Archives: Palestinians

Light Force: Brother Andrew

Reading this book may seriously put some at risk – at risk of facing latent prejudices and stereotypes caused by selective reading or biased reporting on the Middle East. I am delighted that Hodder has had the courage to publish Brother Andrew’s book Light Force in Britain, because it could not have been an easy decision. There will be many who will wish this book does not receive the wide readership it justly deserves. Elizabeth Elliott, for example, lost many ‘friends’ when she wrote her similarly controversial book, Furnace of the Lord (published in 1969 also incidentally by Hodder & Stoughton), in which she describes her empathy for the suffering of the Palestinians and her overriding concern for people rather than so called ‘prophecy’.

In his first book, God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew describes how the Lord provided an open door through the Iron Curtain enabling Western Christians to sustain and equip the suffering Church in Eastern Europe to withstand the onslaught of atheistic Communism. Eventually, however, he became too well known, a marked man. Brother Andrew was therefore led to focus his ministry on supporting another persecuted Church, this time in the Middle East, caught between Jewish Zionism and Islamic fundamentalism.

While many have succumbed to the temptation to make an all too brief visit and write yet another superficial account of their impressions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Brother Andrew has waited 35 years to publish his diary, revealing with great candour, his many unpublicized visits to strengthen the suffering Church.

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A Critique of Christian Zionism: Tony Higton

Published in Mishkan, A Forum on the Gospel and the Jewish People: Issue 55/2008

The following quotations are taken from an article by Tony Higton published in Mishkan which includes a response to my book, Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?

Tony Higton is Rector of North and South Wootton near Kings Lynn. The fact that I was married in South Wootton and my mother in law lives in the parish is purely, if delightfully, coincidental. Tony previously served as the General Director of the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People and Rector of Christ Church, Jerusalem. Before publishing my book, he read the draft sections pertaining to CMJ, made comments, and these were all incorporated in the published version.

I warmly commend his article and the case he makes for Moderate Christian Zionism, and invite you to read it and decide whether the selective quotations below, which specifically pertain to my views or book, are in any way taken out of context.

In his introduction, Tony writes:

“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.” (p. 18)

In the second section entitled, “Dangers of Unbiblical Views” Tony writes:

“I am grateful for Sizer’s book because it stimulates thought and, in my case, underlines many of the questions I have been asking about Christian Zionism in recent years. And I speak currently describing myself (provocatively) as a pro-Palestinian Christian Zionist!”
“Having said that, I am unhappy about calling myself a Zionist because of the prevalence of extreme Christian Zionism which Sizer describes. I attended a week-long conference on Christian Zionism held in Jerusalem by the Sabeel Palestinian Liberation Theology Centre. Initially, I was quite irritated by what I felt was their extreme model of Christian Zionism. I thought it was a caricature and the moderate view I held was the majority view. But one of the main things I learned from that conference was that it is American Christian Zionism (which is very influential among Messianic believers in Israel) which is dominant, and it is very extreme. British (and other moderate) Christian Zionists need to understand this.” (pp. 19-20)

In the fourth section entitled, “Putting Principles into Practice”, Tony writes:

“Sizer seems not fully to understand the Israeli need for security. We once stood together in Abu Dis, just outside Jerusalem, at the foot of the security wall – ten meters of concrete towering above us. He asked me: “Well, what do you think of the wall, Tony?” I replied: “I think it is obscene. But terrorism is even more extreme.” (p. 24) – on this I concur.

In the fifth section in which Tony makes the case for “Moderate Biblical Zionism” he writes:

“It seems to me that Sizer, in his convert’s passion for justice for the Palestinians, tends to throw the baby out with the bathwater with respect to Christian Zionism. One result is that he does not treat the biblical material seriously enough… I still believe that a biblical case can be made for (balanced and moderate Christian Zionism).” (p. 25)

“Sizer raises various criticisms of the biblical justification Christian Zionists claim. In particular he claims that Christian Zionism has an “ultra-literal” and futurist hermeneutic. It is, of course, very simple to make out that all the prophecies referred to by Christian Zionists are not to be taken literally as referring to the Jewish people. In one stroke it removes all sorts of questions and difficulties. But, as we shall see, there are difficulties with this view.
I am also aware that the New Testament radically develops the teaching of the Old Testament. The Old is the bud and the New is the flower. In rightly stressing the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, we must never forget this radical development, which Sizer stresses. So there are important developments of land to world, temple to Jesus, etc.” (p. 25-26)

“I is true that some, including some Orthodox Jewish people, think that such a re-establishment of the state is not the real thing prophesied in Scripture, which could only be established by Messiah. Others, including Sizer, think Israel, because of disobedience to God, could lose the land again.” (p. 28)

“Sizer writes: “Belief in the final restoration of the Jews to Zion is also based on a literal and futurist reading of selective Old Testament prophecies. However, the texts themselves indicate that such a return occurred under Ezra and Nehemiah and that no further return is to be anticipated. It may be argued that Jesus repudiated any such expectation. New Testament writers apply such Old Testament promises to both believing Jews and Gentiles.”
However, there are OT prophecies which scholars believe relate to a time much later than the return under Ezra and Nehemiah, and are often in a messianic context. I refer to Isaiah 11:11-12; 60:4, 9, 21-22; 61:4-5; Jeremiah 3:12-18; 23:7-8; Ezekiel 38:8, 16; 39:25-29; Joel 3:1-2, 17, 20; Amos 9:14-15; Zechariah 12:2-3, 10-11; and 14.” (p 29)

“In conclusion, then, I agree with much of the criticism Sizer makes of Christian Zionism and particularly of its lack of commitment to justice and reconciliation. Like him, I too reject the extremes of Christian Zionism, seen particularly in the USA and Israel. However, I believe Sizer throws the baby out with the bathwater, particularly by not dealing seriously enough with the biblical material, which I believe forms a credible foundation for a balanced, moderate Christian Zionism.
Moderate Christian Zionists will:

  • Pray for the Israelis and the Palestinians, showing compassion for their needs, pain, and fears, and an awareness of their faults.
  • Pray for and, where possible, take action to promote reconciliation, peace, security, and justice for both people groups and an end to violence on both sides.
  • Pray for and support evangelism among both people groups.

Having read Sizer’s book carefully, I remain a pro-Palestinian Christian Zionist who is passionate about justice and reconciliation and sensitive to the needs, pain, and fears of both Palestinians and Israelis.” (p. 29)

It was in part to encourage further dialogue on the interpretation of Scripture regarding the relationship between Israel and the Church that I wrote the sequel, Zion’s Christian Soldiers. I look forward to further conversations with Tony Higton on the case for Moderate Christian Zionism.

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The Christians of Gaza

Photograph: Musa Al-shaer/AFP/Getty Images

A little known fact is the presence of a small but significant Christian Palestinian presence in Gaza. Gerald Butt wrote about them in Life at the Crossroads: History of Gaza. Read a review here.

Carl Moeller of Open Doors has just sent this news and prayer update on their plight.

“As an estimated 10,000 Israeli ground troops invaded Gaza today, the small community of Christians are drawing strength from their faith in God. Last week’s attacks left over 400 dead and 2,000 injured and the numbers are expected to dramatically increase.

According to reliable reports, the Gaza Baptist Church building was still standing this morning but has had some of its windows shattered by the bombings. Some Christian families left Gaza for Bethlehem over the holidays and are now separated from their loved ones with the border sealed. Many of the hospitals, already lacking basic medicines and medical equipment, are overwhelmed with the casualties and often are without power.

This is serious trouble for Christians in Gaza. Even before the recent end to the ceasefire (December 19) and the bombings, the estimated 3,000 Christians in Gaza have been living in fear from threats from Islamic militants.

Please join me in prayer for these brave Christians in Gaza in the wake of this new outbreak of violence. Pray that the war between Israel and Palestine is shorter and less devastating than what military and political speculators around the world are predicting. Pray that Christian families will be reunited. Pray that the Gaza Baptist Church building will be spared from the bombs.

Earlier this year one believer in Gaza stated: “Seventy percent of the Christians want to leave Gaza because they are very afraid. But we love Gaza. It’s our country, we have roots here, our homes are here. We will not know anyone if we go somewhere else.”

Pray that the seeds Brother Andrew sowed with Hamas and other prominent militant groups and the Gazan Christians sowed throughout the years when the Palestinian Bible Society actively shared God’s love with Muslim friends and neighbors will bear fruit. May their offerings of Christ’s love result in peace and God’s glory. Please check our website at http://www.opendoorsusa.org/ for updates.

In Christ our hope,
Carl Moeller

Dr. Carl A. Moeller
Open Doors USA President/CEO

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Read John McArthy’s excellent piece in the Independent If it were your home, what hope restraint?

Also:

The Narrow Gate of Justice: Sabeel’s Statement
Statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches

Pirates of the Mediterranean: Gaza Update

More photos of Gaza

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Stowe School Tackles Arab-Israeli Conflict


It was worth making the 151 mile round trip this evening, through the driving rain, to dialogue with between 80-100 of the most intelligent and articulate Sixth Formers you will find anywhere in Britain.

Stowe is one of the UK’s leading public schools with a wide range of nationalities represented. Members of the faculty invited me to address the historical and political context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, from an Israeli and Palestinian perspective, and summarise the position of the United Nations and rulings of the International Court of Justice.

The Faculty and Stoics engaged in a stimulating discussion, raising questions that centred on why Israel has been able to act with impunity and why the occupation, settlements and separation barrier are largely funded through US loan guarantees. The frustration expressed at the failure of British diplomacy to achieve the implementation of UN Resolutions was most encouraging. As with similar school presentations, I explained to the Stoics their homework – to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict and succeed where their parents generation has failed. If some of the world’s brightest and best young minds cannot bring about a diplomatic solution based on justice and the rule of international law, then God help our world.

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