Friday, August 29, 2014

Getting the Gaza conflict Wrong

The following article by Matti Friedman is a lengthy read but worth the effort.

Excerpt:

The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues...keep reading (note that it is in 3 parts)

Listen to Sheree Trotter's Speech at the Israel Support Rally HERE

The Charter of Allah: The Platform of The Islamic Resistance Movement (HAMAS)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Israel an Illegitimate State?

I mentioned in a prior post that Peter Goodgame has adopted the New Exodus concept. This involves revising the relationship between Israel and the church. He suggested I take the time to understand where his analysis of the transition between the Old Covenant and New Covenant (NC) is leading him. I was invited to an email dialogue. However, I prefer this venue.

Peter says we shouldn't be smug in our personal understanding. There are so many views that "humility is the key so that we do not deceive ourselves." I agree. However, here's the red flag. He writes:

I'm going deeper, way deeper, and far beyond the "literal interpretation" of dispensationalism that I was raised on, upon which I based my Red Moon Rising book...I'm beginning to see that eschatology is like one big parable, and just like Jesus used parables to both DISGUISE and REVEAL the truth, I now feel that eschatology works the same way. A literal reading of prophecy, especially a literal reading of OT prophecy, actually DISGUISES the truth, and has contributed to the eschatological confusion that we see in the church today, and also to the widespread problem of Christians focusing on agendas and causes that have NOTHING to do with the GOSPEL or the KINGDOM OF GOD. (Underlining mine)

New Age teachers employ the same deeper meaning methodology. Paramahansa Yogananda extensively cited Scripture. His interpretations departed from the literal and were influenced by his assumptions and worldview. Goodgame was actually raised in a Seventh-day Adventist environment in his earlier years. SDA prophecy appeals to types and anti-types, allegory and symbolism. Adventism is rooted in Historicism (and White's prophecies). When someone says they're digging for deeper meaning, what they're often doing is piling their assumptions over plain-sense texts and changing the original intent of the author.

Prophecy isn't given for private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). Paul commended the Bereans for searching out the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Christ expected the disciples to understand what the prophets wrote about Him (Luke 24: 25-27). Robert L Thomas notes that there are some 278 OT allusions in Revelation (Revelation 1-7 p 40). We are told that Revelation was given for our blessing and understanding (Rev 1:3).

This contradicts the premise that one must delve deeper to derive a veiled meaning. The Emmaus Road Disciples might well have responded that they couldn't have understood the prophets because the texts disguised the truth.

Goodgame understands that God made a New Covenant promise to Israel. He assumes that, since Jer 31:31 was applied to Israel, the church must be its continuation to derive any benefit. Thus, if the church is the continuation of Israel then his New Exodus concept must be applied to the church rather than an "out of covenant" secular Israel. That is circular reasoning.

Paul Henebury observes the following:

Personally speaking, I don’t see why dispensationalists have pulled their hair out over the New Covenant. To me at least, the language of Luke 22:2, made as it was with those who were to become “foundations” of the church (see Eph.2:20), and repeated imperturbably by Paul in I Corinthians 11:25; when taken with the argument in Hebrews, decisively shows that Jesus, “the Mediator of the New Covenant”, made the New Covenant with the Church!  If one is expecting to find that truth in Jeremiah or Ezekiel then one is not a dispensationalist. Those prophets did not envisage “the Body of Christ,” so naturally they did not write about the relationship of the New Covenant to the Church.

Paul further notes:

Does this necessitate two separate new covenants? No indeed! It means only that the same new covenant was given to the Church as shall be given to Israel.  The New Covenant promises to Israel are not the New Covenant promises to the Church. (Underlining mine)

It's a leap of logic to assume that the same promises made to Israel apply to the church, or that they must be the same entity to derive any benefit. Supersessionists typically point to Rom 2:28-29 and Gal 3:28 where the context is salvation. Those verses do not remove gender or ethnic distinctions. That a true Jew is one who is circumcised within does not mean a saved Gentile becomes a Jew. Similarly Goodgame cites Zechariah 2:11 and concludes:

....that “many nations” will be joined to the Lord at this time and shall become the Lord’s people. In other words, many Gentiles will become Israelites when the Lord comes to dwell in Israel’s midst.

That's not what the verse says. Gentile nations who are God's people need not become Israelites. Goodgame reads into these passages what he presumes true.

In Isaiah 60, God warns of the consequences of Gentile nations and kingdoms not blessing Israel (note v12). Of those same nations, Zechariah 8:23 tells us that they will grab the sleeve of a Jewish man saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." Isaiah 19:25 states that in that day God will say, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance." There is no incorporation of Egypt and Assyria into Israel as God's people. They are treated as distinct to Israel (not Israelites), yet are still God's people.

Goodgame claims there is no Scriptural warrant for a "God-led Exodus of modern day ethnic Jews back to their ancient home in the Middle East." The only "God-led Exodus" is the "New Exodus" of nations out of "Babylon." He allows for some prophecies to be fulfilled by Israel today, but these are all negative.

For example, a Jewish Temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem so that the Antichrist can fulfill the Abomination of Desolation. He's sure of that because he's studied it. One wonders how he could be certain given a literal interpretation disguises the truth. Then there's this:

Should we give these Jews weapons and support their violence against the former inhabitants? In other words, does their claim to possess the land still stand, even though they are out of covenant with God?  No way! Israel's legal right to the land was ALWAYS conditionally based on their observance of God's ETHICAL commandments. Modern Israel is so far from this that it isn't funny, and they have been apostate from the beginning when they claimed to be a nation in 1948. (Underlining mine)

How can Goodgame have his Temple without Israel's reformation? But one can see where all this is heading. The narrative isn't new. It is popular among some Neo-Premillennialists who make similar statements. Out-of-covenant Israel is an oppressive, unethical new-kid-on-the-block. The church is "true Israel."

Note that God did not make a covenant with Israel's neighbors either. And speaking of ethics, what do we say of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamist regimes that oppress their civilians and conspire to destroy Israel? Do they have a better claim to the land?

Post-exilic Israel was not returned to the land because they repented. That occurred afterwards. Israel was returned because the 70 years of God's decree had expired. Moreover, its right to the land is unconditional and eternal (Jeremiah 7:7; 25:5; 31:31-37 and Amos 9:14-15). It is the enjoyment of it which is conditional. In Leviticus 26:27-33, God warned Israel that the consequences of disobedience would be discipline (see also Deut 4:40).

However, in Leviticus 26: 44-45, God said He would not reject them and would remember His covenant with them. God has not cast off His people whom He foreknew (Rom 11:1-2) because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:28-29).

Scripture demands Israel's presence in the land prior to Christ's return. God promised to return the Jewish people in unbelief in order to purify them (Ezekiel 20:33-38; 22:17-22; 36:22-25; 37:1-4; Hosea 5:15). Zechariah also demands Israel's presence in the land as the nations come against it (Zech 12:3, 9; 14:2-5, 16).

Dispensationalists are often accused of privileging Israel to the point of idolatry, and not focusing on the Gospel of the kingdom. The proper response is to note that modern Israel isn't perfect but neither is it the oppressor that people like Goodgame claim it to be. We rejoice that God loves Israel and plans to redeem it. We see God's faithfulness to Israel reflected in our own lives.

As for the latter point, it might be observed that unfairly demonizing Israel is also detrimental to the Gospel of the kingdom. We might inquire as to what motivates such behavior. This is important in light of the rising global hatred against Jews. The typical excuse is that criticizing Israel is not tantamount to anti-Semitism. Yet the one-sided narrative we too often see contradicts that apology and inflames Jewish hatred.

Two of the most balanced treatments of this subject can be found in David Baron's Israel in the Plan of God and Michael Rydelnik's Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict. See also Israel The Land and the People, edited by H. Wayne House and Footsteps of the Messiah by Arnold Fruchtenbaum.

Keep an eye out for a new book edited by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser. It has contributions by Mike Vlach, John Feinberg, Michael Rydelnik and others.

Addendum:

One way to understand where Goodgame is now coming from is to look at the books he's reading. Of particular interest is Bill Johnson's theologically problematic When Heaven Invades Earth, which I bought soon after becoming a Christian. You can read a review of Johnson's book by Bob DeWaay HERE.

An excerpt:

Johnson warns against "a powerless Word." The only way God's Word lacks power is if we refuse to believe and obey it. Johnson suggests that he and others like him who refuse to be taught the truth but relish signs and wonders have "power." The rest of us who love and believe God's Word (from Scripture, understood according to the Holy Spirit inspired authors' intent) are supposedly powerless. Johnson's teaching is false and is abusive to the Lord's flock. Ordinary Christians who cannot replicate the miracles of Jesus and His apostles are relegated to a lesser category: powerless Christians to be pitied by elitists like Johnson.

He further cites Johnson:

Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know. (Johnson: 76)

But where does following "off the map" take Johnson?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Rethinking Zionism

Dr. Mitch Glaser takes Another Look at Zionism.

Excerpt:

Today many will say they support Israel but try as much as possible to separate support for the modern state of Israel with the term and “philosophy” of Zionism. Even some Christians and Messianic Jews who believe Israel has a divine right to the Land sometimes want to distance themselves today from the term Zionism. Over the years the term Zionism has been battered about and linked with racism in United Nations statements , which was later revoked by UN resolution 46/86 in 1991. It has become a synonym for Middle East imperialism, racial intolerance and hatred for all Palestinians. Oren will convince you to reconsider if for some reason you are beginning to believe these things.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Unger Responds to Piper & Taylor on the Rapture

I guess after William Lane Craig's comments were aired, others thought they'd throw their hats into the rapture-bashing ring. Anyhow, hat tip to Dan Phillips for this one:

A few days ago, I had an article passed on to me called Nine Reasons We Can Be Confident Christians Won’t Be Raptured Before The Tribulation from Justin Taylor’s blog, in which he was summarizing the teaching of John Piper.  A bunch of folks got worked up (on the internet?  What?), but my superiors asked me to respond and so I agreed to write a response.  Now I’m no stranger to disagreement and my various theological positions that have essentially made me the sweaty asthmatic nerd on the playground of Evangelicalism (nobody likes an outspoken cessationist who is Calvinistic and dispensational), so I’ve basically got nothing to lose!...keep reading

Addendum:

Unger has amended his article to present a softened stance. Perhaps some sensitive soul was offended. That was commendable of him, though I liked the first edition. I like some of the following observations:

Now I celebrate the life and ministry of both John Piper (who gave me my wife) and Justin Taylor (who’s done wonderful work at Crossway).  I understand that they’re not on the same page as me when it comes to hermeneutics and, as a result, eschatology.  I also know that many who have left pre-tribulational circles (as well as other circles that people love to hate) tend to have had painful encounters with two guys who seem to be elders at a whole lot of churches.

I get that.  I know that there’s bad defenders of pre-tribulationalism out there, and I get that there’s obnoxious arguments and graceless “end times evangelists” who teach ideas about the end times that are laughable.

That being said, I also get the idea from a lot of ex-pre-trib fellows that a majority of their understanding of pre-tribulationalism comes from crabby elders and silly extra-biblical ideas that they rejected in their youth (I too was caused to suffer through Jack Van Impe videos).  When I have conversations with ex-pre-tribs, I regularly learn that many of them haven’t done much serious reading of pre-tribulationalism in their recent adult years, and generally assume that the theological convictions they reached when they were young are mature and settled, although they wouldn’t ever say that about any other point in their theology.

Fact is that obnoxious arguments and lack of grace aren't limited to curmudgeonly old pretribbers whose Scofield Bibles may only be prised from their cold dead hands. Unger mentions Hal Lindsey (I don't know Impe) in a less than favorable light. I kinda get that too, sort of. But I thought that was a weak ending to his response. It was unnecessary.

I don't think Hal's a great representative of dispensationalism, but he doesn't deserve the cheap shots that get fired off at him by non-pretribulational critics. I find many of them are quick to cry foul at any hint of criticism of their own views. In that respect I've found that Hal has broader shoulders and more class than many of his detractors.

Young Evangelical Anti-Israel Activism

I thought this was worth posting:

In 2010, a film was released that perfectly encapsulated the erosion of Evangelical Christian support for Israel. The film, With God on Our Side, featured a young man learning about the Palestinian struggle and coming to see Israel not as evidence of God’s faithfulness, but as a mean and heartless nation enabled by American Evangelicals who have embraced Zionist ideology.

The film’s narrative of peace-loving Palestinians mistreated by heartless Israelis and their Christian Zionist supporters has been repackaged and promoted again and again by anti-Israel activists in some of the most influential Evangelical institutions in the United States. These activists, often in high positions, have found eager disciples in places like the megachurch campus of Willow Creek and the academic halls of Wheaton College, one of America’s preeminent Evangelical institutions. And they have been able to exploit the resources of popular Evangelical development organizations like World Vision...keep reading

(Hat tip Andy Woods)

A New Exodus?

When I first got into the study of prophecy (not too long ago), I found some of Peter Goodgame's points interesting. He was one who tended to stretch the boundaries (thinking outside the box) so I (wisely) treated him with caution.

Sad to say that it now seems he's imploded. His new stance on Israel is hardly innovative. And, despite his denial, it is replacement theology - albeit using the "fulfillment" narrative.

The Israel of God and the end of RMR 

After the Tribulation - Is Steve Anderson right?

Steve Anderson's viral After the Tribulation video is still popular around the traps. It's hardly in-depth exegesis. In fact it's more of an extended rant. Still, some people love to see criticism of pretribulationism regardless of where it comes from. But how much sense does Anderson's view make?

Non-pretribbers like to point to the sequence of events in Matthew 24. Jesus comes after the tribulation and the gathering is mentioned there, hence that's when the rapture occurs. I saw a fairly typical remark the other day that went something like this:

"[As opposed to pretribulationists] we believe in a face-value of God's word and Jesus said that the rapture would happen immediately after the tribulation."

I can understand where they're coming from. After all, the disciples asked Jesus when all these things would be (the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple), the sign of His coming and the end of the world (age). Oh, and the rapture - don't forget the rapture. They recognized v 31 immediately as the rapture. It was foremost on their minds just before Jesus' ascension (Acts 1:6).

What happens after the tribulation?

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. Mat 24:29-31

First note that this gathering occurs after the tribulation and after the signs. If the rapture is the gathering after the tribulation then it cannot cut the tribulation short. If the rapture occurs after the tribulation, after the cosmic signs and after the sign of the Son of Man; then it is also unlikely that the Great Multitude of Rev 7:14 has arrived via the rapture. It is more likely that this group of people is continuously arriving from out of the tribulation (See Robertson's notes).

How long is the great tribulation (Jacob's trouble)? See Dan 7:25, Dan 11:36, Dan 12:7, Rev 13:5 and Rev 12:14. It is 1, 260 days. Now that's a problem for Anderson's view right there.

Most importantly, why is the tribulation terminated? It is terminated otherwise no flesh would be saved (Matt 24:22). This flies in the face of the argument that Rev 3:10 means protection within (Gundry), rather than out of the time of trial. If God protects within, there is no reason for Him to terminate the great tribulation. That there are tribulation saints to be resurrected at Rev 20:4 also rejects that view.

What happens to the church at the rapture? According to 1Co 15:51-52 and 1Thess 4:16-17, the dead in Christ are resurrected and the living are glorified.

These verses suggest that the tribulation is brought to an end to preserve the "elect" in their physical bodies (flesh) in order to populate the millennium. To say that God intervenes otherwise no believers would remain alive to be raptured makes absolutely no sense within the context of Matt 24:22.

Matthew 23:39 & Hosea 5:15 state that Christ's physical return is contingent to Israel's repentance, and supports the former observation. The millennium must be populated with saved non-glorified Jews and Gentiles. If the rapture is the "gathering of the elect" then the remnant of Israel must also be raptured at the end of the 1,260 days.

Why then the need for a Sheep-Goats judgment? And who populates the millennium?

I mentioned Steve Anderson's popularity. Anderson has also produced anti-Israel videos which support Replacement Theology. These appear to be gaining popularity with some non-dispensational premillennialists. How sad!

One final thought:

I recently read a prewrath response to a scholar's denial of the rapture doctrine. The respondent offered up 1 Thess 4:17, John 14:2-3, Matt 24:31 and Rev 7:9-14 as proof texts. I can agree with the first two examples, although I'd like to point out that Marvin Rosenthal denied that John 14:2-3 were rapture passages. The reason was that he had Christ coming only once and then staying in the earth's atmosphere for the balance of the tribulation.

The last two examples are the result of circular reasoning for the reasons I gave above. There is no mention of a rapture or resurrection at Matt 24:31 or Rev 7 - these are assumed, as is the connection between these verses. In fact John Feinberg notes that many commentators "of various stripes" see the parallel between Zech 12:10 and Matt 24:29-30. It should be patently obvious that Israel is in view here (not the church). In context, the very next verse is its final gathering in the land as per OT promises.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Aussie Pro-Israel Blog

This is a blog covering headlines about Israel from a sympathetic standpoint. It is very active and a worthwhile visit. Go to Daphne Anson

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Why Dispensationalism Still Matters - Baptist Bulletin

I thought this was an excellent summary:

Two of the more common hermeneutical and theological viewpoints within the world of Bible-believing Christianity are dispensationalism and covenant theology. [1] Each position represents a version of Biblical orthodoxy. Both perspectives generally affirm the major doctrines of the Christian faith, such as the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the deity of Christ and the Virgin Birth, salvation by grace through faith in the blood atonement of Christ on the cross, the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave, and the visible and literal second coming of Christ. Thus it is possible for the two camps to recognize the members of the opposite group as spiritual brothers in Christ. However, they disagree strongly on many significant theological points. In particular, these disagreements often involve how one views the expression of continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. Lurking behind this issue are certain hermeneutical and theological commitments by the two sides. In light of these commitments, this article is an attempt to articulate some of the major differences between the two views from the vantage point of a traditional dispensationalist...keep reading

Hat tip to Kathryn D.