Tag Archives: Christian Zionism

Peacemaking in Washington DC

World Vision’s executive director for international relations until March 1, 2009, Thomas Getman managed World Vision’s liaison activities with the UN and the World Council of Churches and was responsible for diplomatic relations with UN government member missions in Geneva and with countries on sensitive negotiations.

He served until recently on the board of principals for the UN Deputy Secretary General for Emergency Relief and as chair of the premier NGO consortium International Council of Voluntary Agencies.

From 1997 to 2001, Getman served as director of World Vision’s programs in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip where he was responsible for $5-8 million a year in relief and development projects in Palestine and Israel and advocacy for peace with justice.

Previously, Getman served for 12 years as director of government relations and special assistant to the president of World Vision United States at which time he founded WV’s office in DC. Getman interpreted U.S. government policy, pressed for needed foreign assistance, and advanced human rights, relief and development concerns.

From 1976 to 1985, as a Congressional staff member, Getman helped negotiate protocols with the presidents of Uganda and Zambia and encouraged warring factions to move forward with peace negotiations. In the mid-1980s, Getman played a central role to persuade the South African Foreign Ministry to cease support for the Mozambican rebel group Resistencia National Mocambicana (Renamo). He also was an adjunct speech writer for other national political figures, including President Gerald R. Ford.

Before joining World Vision, Getman served as legislative director and senior speech collaborator to U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield. In the US Senate, his primary assignments were African foreign policy and social justice, human rights and welfare issues. His most notable legislative contribution was to participate in the drafting team for the Anti-Apartheid Act of 1985. Getman also served as a regional director for Young Life for nine years in New England.

I caught up with Tom at St Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill in Washington and asked him about the role of Christian Zionism, his hopes for the new US administration and the changes needed in US policy in the Middle East.

I also inteviewed Joan Drake of Partners for Peace, Jim Vitarello of Sharing Jerualem

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.

Christian Zionism: Christian Bookshops Directory Book of the Month

A review by Phil Groom

Israel’s crimes against humanity must always be seen against the backdrop of the equally terrible crimes of humanity against Israel. But does this make those crimes — its ongoing abuse of the Palestinians and, as I revisit this review at the beginning of 2009, its current assault on the Gaza Strip — any less offensive? Personally, I think not: I originally wrote this review for Evangelical Quarterly in August 2006, during Israel’s war of vengeance against Hezbollah in Lebanon. More than two years later, have any lessons been learned? Has anything changed? It seems not. Apart from these introductory paragraphs, then, this review also remains unchanged, and Sizer’s book remains as relevant and necessary today as it was when originally published.

James warns us (James 3:1) that those who teach will be judged all the more harshly; and similarly, those who represent God to the world will surely be held to even greater account than those who do not know him. This, if it applies to any nation, must surely apply to Israel if they are indeed God’s chosen people.

Hamas’ and Hezbollah’s crimes not withstanding, the State of Israel’s ongoing abuse of the Palestinian people and its neighbours in Lebanon is without a shadow of doubt both a crime against humanity and an offence against God. And the tendency of many Christians to give uncritical support — or even open endorsement — to Israel’s apartheid and wholly disproportionate policies is an aberration that compounds that offence.

If you’re a Christian Zionist you’ll find those opening paragraphs extremely troubling. Are we not, as Christians, required to support the State of Israel? Are not the Jews God’s chosen people? Surely those who bless Israel will be blessed and those who curse Israel will be cursed (Genesis 12:3) — and aren’t statements like these anti-semitic anyway?

Yet as I read this book and observe the current situation it’s difficult to draw any other conclusion. I was brought up in a Brethren assembly, taught to read the Bible from within a dispensationalist framework, and although (as far as I remember) the term “Christian Zionist” was never used, its essence informed my thinking. It took a trip to Israel and time spent with Palestinian Christians, seeing the oppression first-hand, to bring home to me how distorted my thinking was.

Sizer’s experience, it seems, has been similar, describing himself in his introduction as a young Christian ‘devouring Hal Lindsey’s best-selling book, The Late Great Planet Earth, and hearing in person his lectures on eschatology’, then, after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land — ironically, organised by some ‘Christian Zionist friends’ — experiencing a ‘radical change in perspective.’ (p.9-10).

Many Christians will never have an opportunity to visit Israel in person, but Sizer has done a magnificent job in this book, presenting us with a comprehensive overview of Christian Zionism’s variant streams, historical developments and theologies which allows anyone willing to approach the subject with an open mind to make their own assessment. This is supported by a number of helpful charts comparing, for example, the historical development of Christian Zionism since 1800 (p.105) and the different types of Christian Zionism (p.256-257). His analysis is careful, detailed and meticulous, a distillation of his doctoral thesis, which takes his readers through the movement’s history (chapter 1), examining its theological emphases (chapter 2) and exposing its political implications (chapter 3) to finally emerge (chapter 4) with “Biblical Zionism: a covenantal alternative”, an approach that does justice to both the old covenant under Abraham and the new covenant under Christ and offers hope to Jew and Palestinian alike, eschewing violence and leaving no room for anti-semitism.

Each chapter is broken down into manageable subsections and ends with a concise summary of the arguments presented therein, allowing even an impatient reader to benefit and a more patient reader time to pause and take stock.

Sizer’s final conclusions are — for this reader at least — inescapable:

…the choice is between two theologies: one based primarily on the shadows of the old covenant; the other on the reality of the new covenant. In identifying with the former, Christian Zionism is an exclusive theology that focuses on the Jews in the land rather than an inclusive theology that centres on Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. It consequently provides a theological endorsement for racial segregation, apartheid and war. This is diametrically opposed to the inclusive theology of justice, peace and reconciliation which lie at the heart of the new covenant. (p.260).

A glossary of terms, appendix (‘Challenging Christian Zionism’, a statement from Sabeel, the Palestinian Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem), eleven pages of bibliography and three indices (people, subjects and biblical references) round the book off, whilst footnotes throughout, rather than endnotes, help to keep the entire volume as reader-friendly as possible. This is a book that deserves the widest possible readership. No one who has a concern for the Middle East should ignore the issues raised; to do so is — returning to Sizer’s introduction — ‘nothing less than to perpetuate the evil of the Levite in the Parable of the Good Samaritan who walked by on the other side.’ (p.13).

The time for silence is over: those who are Israel’s true friends must speak out against Israel’s behaviour before this nation pushes itself over the brink and into Armageddon.

Phil Groom, January 2009

Phil Groom is this site’s Webmaster and Reviews Editor. He’s a regular contributor to Christian Marketplace magazine and is the manager of London School of Theology Books & Resources. Any opinions expressed here are personal and should not be taken as representing the views of London School of Theology or of any other group or organisation.

Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok on Christian Zionism

“This study of Christian Zionism, based on Stephen Sizer’s doctoral thesis, is of seminal significance. It provides a fascinating survey of the history of Christian Zionism and an indepth analysis of the theology of this highly important and influential movement.”

Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor of Judaism and Director of the Centre for the Study of the World’s Religions, University of Wales, Lampeter. (author of Israel: The History of an Idea, The Politics of Apocalypse, The Crucified Jew, Exodus, On Earth as it is in Heaven, Messianic Judaism & Antisemitism)

Revd Dr John Stott on Christian Zionism

“I am glad to commend Stephen Sizer’s ground-breaking critique of Christian Zionism. His comprehensive overview of its roots, its theological basis and its political consequences is very timely. I myself believe that Zionism, both political and Christian, is incompatible with biblical faith. Stephen’s book has helped to reinforce this conviction.”

Revd Dr John Stott, Rector Emeritus, All Soul’s, Langham Place, London, the principal framer of the Lausanne Covenant (1974) and founder of the Langham Partnership International (author of more than 40 books including Basic Christianity, The Cross of Christ, The Contemporary Christian, Evangelical Truth and New Issues Facing Christians Today, and eight New Testament expositions (Acts, Romans etc.) in the ‘Bible Speaks Today’ series published by IVP).

John Stott also wrote the foreword to In the Footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles and allowed his sermon on ‘the Place of Israel’ to be included in Zion’s Christian Soldiers

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

New IVP Global Dictionary of Theology tackles Christian Zionism


Theological dictionaries are foundational to any theological library. But until now there has been no Global Dictionary of Theology, a theological dictionary that presumes the contribution of the Western tradition but moves beyond it to embrace and explore a full range of global expressions of theology.

The Global Dictionary of Theology is inspired by the shift of the center of Christianity from the West to the global South. But it also reflects the increase in two-way traffic between these two sectors as well as the global awareness that has permeated popular culture to an unprecedented degree.

The editorial perspective of the Global Dictionary of Theology is an ecumenical evangelicalism that is receptive to discovering new facets of truth through listening and conversation on a global scale. Thus a distinctive feature of the Global Dictionary of Theology is its conversational approach. Contributors have been called on to write in
the spirit of engaging in a larger theological conversation in which alternative views are expected and invited.

William A. Dyrness, Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Juan F. Martinez and Simon Chan edit approximately 250 articles written by over 100 contributors representing the global spectrum of theological perspectives.

Pastors, theological teachers, theological students and lay Christian leaders will all find the Global Dictionary of Theology to be a resource that unfolds new dimensions and reveals new panoramas of theological perspective and inquiry. Here is a new launching point for doing theology in today’s global context.

  • Nearly 250 articles by over 100 international contributors
  • Edited by acknowledged experts in global theology
  • Evangelical and ecumenical in perspective
  • The first major theological dictionary to explore the global range and varieties of theology
  • In an age of unprecedented global awareness, here is a standard launching point of theological research that will enrich every student’s understanding of theology
  • Moving beyond mission theology, it explores the local and global theological fruit of the inculturation of the gospel
  • Consistently anchors its discussions in Scripture and the historical development of doctrine
  • And includes an article of mine on Christian Zionism

Reviews and Endorsements