"Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?" Mark 12:24
Bearing in mind that the Baptist principles insist on few doctrinal rules apart from Baptism by immersion and freedom of belief, it is strange that the following article was published in the The Baptist Times for January 22nd 2009.
The piece attacks Christian Zionists by recycling many challengeable assumptions that we will point out.
(Quoted text in black - comment in wildolive's default colour )
Zion’s Christian Soldiers?
Ali Hull talks to Rev Steven Sizer about Christians and Israel
GAZA lies in ruins, with thousands of injured and more than a thousand killed ( proved to be untrue) by Israeli bombs and rockets - many of them women and children. ( A Glib and one sided picture of the conflict Gaza ) Settlers move onto Arab land, expel the legal owners and are protected by the Israeli army. (Also untrue – Settlement land was purchased. See Land ) There's talk of bringing Israel to book for war crimes. Someone should try, instead of just making allegations they can’t prove. Charges are based on unreliable accounts of events and erroneous (or malicious) misunderstanding of what International Law defines as war crimes.
Israel's founding 60 years ago gave a home and security to millions of the most victimised people on earth, who'd just emerged from a genocidal nightmare. It's a modern democracy, which can justifiably boast of its social, economic and technological achievements over its short life. And it provides the foundation story for the Church, and every page of the Bible speaks of its history.
So when Stephen Sizer says that it's Israel, rather than abortion, sex or climate change which Christians find to be the most controversial subject of all, he's probably right.
He's the vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water (not a Baptist so why are his views carried without a counter argument?), and a long-time campaigner against what he believes is the misguided theology of Christian Zionism.
His book, Zion's Christian Soldiers analyses (more attacks than analyses; otherwise he would not make such wild accusations) the movement, whose adherents believe that the modern state of Israel is God's fulfilment of biblical prophecy, and that Israel should expand to its biblical borders at the expense of Palestine. (this is not historically accurate since Palestinians are eating away at what can be said to be legally Israeli territory – and Christian Zionists do not believe that Israel should expand its borders, but that God will establish Israel’s borders somewhat larger than they are today) He believes this is a profoundly unscriptural view, which has led to catastrophic consequences, and that the Church is deeply compromised by its failure to speak out against it. (He is not basing his indignation so much on the Bible and understanding of what is actually happening as on the prevailing, secular, liberal world view, that has accepted the Palestinian revision of History, Replacement Theology and Replacement Geography)
As a young Christian, he says, `I was raised on books like the Scofield Reference Bible and Hal Lindsey's Late Great Planet Earth.
`It took me a while to appreciate that the theology these books assume 'has radical implications for how we view our faith and the world we live in.' (Unfortunately he has thrown the baby out with the bathwater in rejecting these Dispensationalist views. Christian Zionism is not built upon Dispensationalism, and David Pawson, with whom he takes issue, also rejects Dispensational interpretation of the matter. )
Christian Zionism `provides a biblical justification for US intervention in the Middle East. (No it doesn’t. See Biblical Christian Zionism) It is deeply mistrustful of the United Nations and the European Community, and actively opposes the implementation of international law (disputes the spurious interpretations of “International Law) and the right of Palestinians to a sovereign state alongside Israel.' (Jordan is the Palestinian state alongside Israel, carved from Mandated Palestine by Churchill)
In his book, he says, `I wanted to show that Jesus, not Israel, is central to God's purposes on earth. ( Christian Zionists do not dispute this) The Gospel needs to be proclaimed to all, including Jewish people. Faith in Jesus is the basis of God's blessings, not our political affiliation or foreign policy.' (Christian Zionists do not say otherwise.)
So Zion's Christian Soldiers is aimed at Christians who want to understand how the Old and New Covenants fit together. It has chapters about God's `chosen' people, the Land, Jerusalem, the Temple and the future. It also has an important chapter on how to interpret different kinds of scripture - in particular, prophecy. At the end of each chapter there is a summary, some Bible passages to read and discussion questions, making it ideal for home group study . ( All very handy, but what if he is wrong; why import suspect theology?) (Anyone reading this material should also read David Pawson’s “Israel in the New Testament” before making up his mind)
At the heart of his own view is that `There is only one people of God not two.' So he believes that Christian Zionists like Baptist minister David Pawson, for whom he has a high personal regard, are mistaken . (For there to be only one people that God is interested in (the Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus) one must believe God rejected the Jews forever. Sizer must have rejected Paul’s letters to the Romans and Ephesians. (See Olive )
`Christian Zionists take an overliteral interpretation of some Old Testament promises made to the ancient Jewish people,' he says. `They apply them to their descendents today without acknowledging the way the New Testament interprets, annuls, (? Does our God change his mind?) fulfils and applies those promises first to Jesus Christ and secondly to those that follow him irrespective of race. ( This is Replacement Theology – “God rejected the Jews when the priests rejected Jesus and now all the Old Testament promises apply to the Church and the curses to the Jews.” If that were true, how come the early church was entirely Jewish? )
`The New Testament, and Romans 9-11 in particular, sees a central place for Jewish people within the people of God on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.'
So there's no place for the sort of race-based ideology promoted by Christian Zionists. (Where does he derive an accusation of racism from? When have Christian Zionists preached racial discrimination? They have spoken against hatred of the Jews) `When you distil it down, what are you left with? An exclusive theology driving a political agenda which elevates one nation over others rather than an inclusive theology centred on Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world . (It is not Christian Zionists who are being political but Rev Sizer! God didn’t call Israel to be His favourites but to bear his light to the Nations; a task that has brought them untold suffering down the generations. This they did by giving us Jesus, but the New Testament also speaks of Israel as having a place in future events.)
`In its worst forms, Christian Zionism uses the Bible to justify racial superiority, land expropriation, home demolitions, colonial settlements, the denial of international law and the dehumanisation of Arabs . (These are wicked, un-provable accusations. Each of these accusations should be discussed individually; he is stating his prejudices as facts. Which Christian Zionist is supposed to have said these things?)
`It not only fuels Islamophobia but also anti-Semitism and Islamist retaliation against Christians.' (This accusation is based on a denial of what militant Muslims are doing, an unjustifiably optimistic view of Islam and the worldview that Islam must be accepted and appeased whatever its followers do.)
He's very clear about what he believes Jesus thinks about all this. He quotes Luke 19: 41-42, where Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and says, `If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace - but now it is hidden from your eyes.' (Sizer has overlooked the fact that Jesus also said to Jerusalem, “You will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD” – Jesus is not returning until the Jews of Jerusalem call him (not according to Muslim eschatology that has Jesus playing second fiddle to Islam’s Mahdi.)
`I believe Jesus continues to weep not only over Jerusalem, a city whose very name means "peace,"' says Stephen, `but also for his children who promote a theology of war and conquest.' ( Unfair and unfounded. Christian Zionists are striving to present the truth about Israel and its efforts to resist those who are promoting a theology of war and conquest. - See Palestinian Media Watch)
He's passionate about the duty of the Church to speak out. `The Church is largely paralysed by guilt and fear,' he says. `Guilt for complicity in the Holocaust and fear of anti-Semitism. (Agreed. But the church should speak out biblically informed truth; not parrot the secular, liberal worldview that is allied to Islamic activist narratives in the interest of multiculturalism.)
`Both guilt and fear are justified. The Church institutionally has had an appalling record in the way it has treated Jewish people.
`But remaining paralysed is not God's will. Passivity toward the legitimate rights of the Palestinians and one-sided political support for Israel has merely led to the perpetuation of injustice, has exacerbated the conflict and undermined Christian witness throughout the Middle East and Islamic world. Silence in the face of injustice is complicity.' (It is Steven Sizer who is being political here. His judgment is only justified by his assumptions.)
What of the future? The world waits for Barack Obama, and hopes that his presidency will bring a new drive for peace after eight years of stalemate under George W Bush. (This displays a leftist political stance, not a Christian viewpoint)
Stephen is not as optimistic as he would like to be, given some of Mr Obama's appointments' track records on the Israel/Palestine question. There are no magic bullets. The most he'll say is that `If - and it is a big if - Barack Obama can persuade Congress in Washington to cooperate with the United Nations in New York and take a multilateral rather than a unilateral stance in the Middle East, then I am hopeful of progress, in my life time.'
The Arab-Israeli conflict is the most significant one in the world, with implications not just for regional but for global peace.
`It is time Christians became part of the solution instead of the problem,' says Stephen. `Peace with justice that leads to reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians will have a profound impact on other conflicts in the world.
`The Church has been called to be peace-makers, not widow makers, and to fulfil a ministry of reconciliation, not confrontation. We need to bring Jews and Muslims together both in our prayers as well as our missionary endeavours. Both peoples need to see and hear the authentic Gospel in action.'
This last sentence appears to be Christian window dressing for political activism against Israel. In fact, the leading Christian Zionist organisations minister to both Jews and Arabs In Israel and encourages Christian to engage in serious intercession for Jews and Arabs without becoming political.
Two pictures accompanied the article.
“Land Expropriation – A church looks out over a new Israeli settlement."
This is a casually made inference that Israel stole the land, but no proof is offered and the location is not even specified. The "settlement" pictured is Har Homa, and expropriation is not what is inferred in this article and picture heading.
Notice the use of a long focal length lens to compress perspective and make the "settlement" appear closer than it actually is.
Presumably the juxtaposition of a cross and the new building is intended to convey that Israel’s actions are at the expense of Christians and recruit further antipathy against Israel.
Palestinian wall – “In its worst forms, Christian Zionism uses the Bible to justify racial superiority, population transfer and the dehumanisation of Arabs”
What is the connection between the statement and the picture; apart from further demonising Israel and its advocates?
The wall is a defensive measure necessitated by the terror war being waged by the Palestinians. Not to lock them in to the land it is claimed they want as a state, but to keep them out of Jewish areas they intend to bomb. This could be criticised on the grounds that not all Palestinians are terrorists, but how can anyone know which is which when they fight out of uniform and use women and children.
The suffering of Palestinian Christians is at the hands of their Muslim neighbours, not Israel, although many are reluctant to express this for fear (justified) of reprisals.
One must wonder why the Baptist Times chose to run an article like this apart from a desire to bring a big gun to bear and go along with the liberal tide of criticism of Israel.
Why is this attack worthy of inclusion in the Baptist Times? The Baptist denomination is hardly awash with rabid Christian Zionists of the type Sizer paints. Baptists who say we should read what our Bibles really say about Israel don’t even get a look in, far less the errors Sizer is attacking.
According to the Baptist Union web site nine principles are identified as essential, the ninth being Religious Freedom
"Baptists do not have one distinctive Baptist belief. It is a combination of various beliefs, which make Baptists distinctive."
"Religious freedom for all has always been a keystone of Baptist understanding.
Acceptance of differences of outlook and diversity of practice is encouraged within Baptist churches, as well as in our wider world."
Where is this Baptist freedom when those who seek a Biblical understanding of God’s will for Israel are attacked by a non Baptist through the Baptist Times. It can hardly be to correct a theological error permeating the Baptists, because Christian Zionists have no voice within the Baptist movement.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon concluded that the Baptist Union's principles will not permit it to impose orthodoxy on any doctrine apart from baptism by immersion. So why this unprovoked attack?
Why accept the world perspective on Israel in the first place? The world hates the Jews/Israel for much the same reason it hates us – being a light to the world is not well received.
So why do Christians accept the media take on the Holy Land without comparing it with their Bibles. The media view is based on the narrative supplied by the Muslims who are committed to the destruction of Israel, not to peace with Israel. Israel’s enemies are also committed to the destruction or subjection of Christians as their Koran and Hadith make clear. But the world refuses to confront this and it is politically incorrect to mention it.
Christians should not be following political peace initiatives that are in denial of spiritual truths.
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