Saturday, March 17, 2012

Quick CATC2 Follow-Up

Following the latest Christ At The Checkpoint conference, Jan Markell of Olive Tree Ministries made some critical observations. One noted irony was that immediately after CATC2, the Palestinian Authority closed one of the Christian churches, presumably because of its support for Israel. You can read about it HERE and HERE.

Another low point was Dr. Manfred Kohl’s reaction following Pastor Wayne Hilsden’s presentation. According to israel today Magazine:

“Wayne received applause from the audience following his address, and several of the day's other speakers and presenters expressed satisfaction with what he had said. However, the very next speaker, Dr. Manfred Kohl, laid into Wayne's theology in no uncertain terms.

“While he did not address Wayne personally, Kohl labeled the literal reading of scripture Hilsden had just presented as the theology of fools who delight in their own idiocy.
(Emphasis mine)

"How can [Christians] be so stupid in their interpretation of the Bible and at the same time be so excited about our interpretation?" asked Kohl. "Apparently the two expressions are not mutually exclusive." (Emphasis mine)

I don’t want to weigh in on the pros and cons of whether Pastor Wayne should or shouldn’t have involved himself. However, I applaud his humble efforts and may God bless them!

Yet after noting the tampering of Dr Feinberg’s essay from a previous conference and Dr Kohl’s vitriol, I would suggest caution in any future involvement with the CATC organizers. They have an agenda and they won’t be dissuaded from it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Tampering at the Checkpoint

What is it about modern Israel that offends some Christians to the extent that they feel compelled to unfairly demonize it? Why does someone like Stephen Sizer make it his life’s mission to go around telling fibs about Israel, or exaggerating incidents, or only presenting one side? Why do organizations like Bethlehem Bible College set up propaganda agitating events like the Christ at the Checkpoint conferences featuring the usual anti-Israel reactionaries?

Regardless of their explanations for the innocent “Christ at the Checkpoint” title – it is designed to bring Christ into the Israeli checkpoint equation and shame Israel and the Christian Zionist. It puts Jesus at that checkpoint alongside the Palestinian and evokes the familiar, “What would Jesus say or do?” question.

Here’s a clue – when Hamas, the PA and Hezbollah stop trying to kill Israelis, the Checkpoints and Wall will disappear. When they recognize Israel as a sovereign Jewish state and put away their guns and missiles they will have peace and a State. It’s not that complicated to grasp.

In response to the International Messianic Jewish Community concerns over the possible inflammatory nature of the conference, the folks at Bethlehem Bible College came up with a number of bullet points. Here’s one:

“8. We do not accept the expansion of God’s Kingdom on earth through military means, and therefore we do not see the bloody wars of the Middle East as positive signs towards the establishing of the Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom is established through obedience to Christ’s Great Commission.”

This sort of propaganda asserts as fact a number of false premises about Christian Zionists and dispensationalists as a whole.

But quite apart from the question as to whether obedience to the “Great Commission” will bring about God’s Kingdom – Scripture please – their chosen methodology is bizarre and ineffective. In what sense are they bringing Christ to the Jews or to Hamas and the PA? In fact their relentless trumped up attacks on Israel’s integrity (see Sizer’s blog) are doing the opposite of Matt 5:9 by fomenting the conflict. Moreover, their activism is creating tensions within Israel and making it difficult for Messianic Jewish ministries to evangelize other Jews.

The conference promoters invite pro-Zionist and dispensationalist participation. Yet future participants should take note to tread carefully when interacting with these individuals. John Feinberg delivered a paper in PDF format explaining the dispie position and Hanna (Yohanna) Katanacho felt obliged to do some post-conference “tampering” to the document by highlighting segments in red and adding his own terse comments.

I don’t know if Dr Feinberg is aware of the doctoring but I’m certain that, had Katanacho contacted him directly, Dr Feinberg would have been happy to straighten him out. As it is, the tampering reveals several things about Katanacho. One is his unethical behavior in this regard and another is his apparent unfamiliarity with OT texts despite impressive credentials.

He also denies Jewish ethnicity. In response to the following statements by Dr Feinberg: “Dispensationalists specifically believe four things about these covenants. They were addressed to those who are ethnically, biologically Jewish. They contain promises that include spiritual blessings for ethnic Israel, but also social, political, and economic blessings...” Katanacho attached this comment: “How can you be biologically Jewish?”

So Katanacho, like other anti-Jewish/Israel clergymen, seeks to divorce Israel from any prophetic relevancy and ownership of the land by disputing their ethnic origins. Palestinian Lutheran priest Mitri Raheb also uses this strategy. In fact, Jews can trace their ethnicity better than most other races. See Wendy Wippel’s study HERE for just one example and note the comments in the Raheb link. Ironically, Palestinians who allegedly have “just as much Jewish DNA” exhibit little interest in identifying themselves as such. While people like Katanacho get away with questioning Jewish DNA; in Australia, anyone who dares undermine the Indigenous ethnicity of someone who is outwardly more white than black, will immediately find themselves classified a social pariah.

If you can’t successfully remove the DNA from Jewish blood you can always remove them from the covenant by questioning the Old Testament’s reliability and developing a subjective “new hermeneutic” with that low view of the inerrancy of the OT. Sabeel’s Naim Ateek does - and the late Michael Prior did - just that, as Dr Paul Wilkinson aptly demonstrates in Prophets Who Prophesy Lies In My Name.

When confronted with a difficult passage in the Bible … one needs to ask such simple questions as: Is the way I am hearing this the way I have come to know God in Christ? Does this fit the picture I have of God that Jesus has revealed to me? … If it does, then that passage is valid and authoritative. If not, then I cannot accept its validity or authority.” ~ Naim Ateek (Justice, And Only Justice pp. 81-82). (Emphasis mine)

On page 57 of “For Zion’s sake” Dr Wilkinson notes that Prior accused the OT of having “scandalous biblical texts” full of “menacing ideologies and racist, xenophobic and militaristic tendencies”. According to Dr Wilkinson, Prior claimed that a “straightforward reading” of the Joshua narrative mandates ethnic cleansing and genocide. You can read more of Prior’s ideas in his essay Confronting the Bible’s Ethnic Cleansing In Palestine.

Of course, the anti-prophetic supercessionist who takes an inerrant view of the Old Testament has to manage a different strategy. And that’s an entirely different ball game.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

With all due respect...

While looking into an unrelated matter, I stumbled onto Jamin Hubner’s commentary of Joel Rosenberg’s article on the Vatican’s “pronouncement on Israel”. Borrowing from Rosenberg’s title he re-worded his response to “With All Due Respect, Rosenberg’s Latest, Painful Pronouncement On Israel is Wrong”.

He starts off with the following observations:

“The unsound theology of historic (sic) Dispensationalism has produced many bad fruits. There’s the rotten apple of eisegesis forged by the faulty hermeneutical principles of unnecessary literalism.[1] The foul-smelling equivocation of cosmic escapism with the gospel.[2] And the sour notion of two separate destinies for Israel and the church [3], a seven year tribulation, the re-institution of sacrifices, and so on and so forth.”

What? –no heresy? Perhaps he meant historic premillennialism. Either way, where do you begin to respond to a bunch of subjective statements like this? At another point he states:

“...Second, Rosenberg forgets that, if modern Israel is the Israel of Scripture, covenant curses (e.g. losing the land) apply to the nation as much as covenant blessings (e.g. possessing the land). If that’s the case, then an argument must be given to how modern-day Israel has upheld God’s law. Because, as any student of Middle-Eastern history knows, the formation of the modern-day state of Israel is anything but pretty.[13] Beyond general secularism and violating other general biblical prohibitions (e.g. borrowing from other nations instead of lending, Deut. 28:12, etc.), Israel is guilty of committing countless war atrocities that qualify and surpass the covenant obligations in Scripture. Mass murder. Torturing men ages 14-60s. Unjust use of water supply and the abusive treatment of aliens and foreigners. The creation of millions of refugees. And so on and so forth.[14] In short, if Christian Zionists are going to try and apply the Old Covenant to modern-day Israel, they at least need to be consistent.”

Whenever I read this sort of diatribe, I suspect something other than scholarship has entered the foray. One issue these people typically ignore is this; if modern, secular Israel has no covenant rights to the land because it doesn’t uphold “God’s law” then what do we say about the two Palestinian leaderships? How does Hamas’ and the PA’s refusal to recognize Christ’s divinity, their antipathy (and violence) towards Christians and Jews and their refusal to acknowledge any Jewish existence in Palestine equate to greater rights to the land covenant (Lev 18:27-28)?

Note that Christians represent a diminishing minority of Palestinians. This isn’t a function of Israeli hegemony despite the propaganda churned by the likes of Sabeel. See also Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s article HERE. It’s significant, I think, that Hirsi Ali has come under fire for that article. She has been labeled an "Islamophobe" – not just by the secular media, but by various members of the clergy. Significant too, is the thundering silence towards Islamic extremism (notably the latest violent aftermath to the burning of the Korans) by both Islamic leaders and the anti-Israel clergy. While one cannot take the “religion of peace” to task without being “labeled”, it apparently remains fair sport to demonize Israel.

Hubner directs us to Burge and Goldschmidt as backups to these incriminations and reassures us we can use them or “or any other standard textbook on the subject.” One wonders what other standard textbooks he has in mind. Fred Butler’s thoughts are worth reading HERE.

I haven’t read Goldschmidt but do know that he’s come under fire for his soft approach to Islam in contrast to his treatment of Israel. In fact he co-authored his book with Lawrence Davidson. You can read about Davidson’s impartiality HERE and HERE.

I’ve mentioned Dr Gary Burge before. Again, Barry Horner’s “Territorial Supercessionism: A Response to Gary Burge” should be carefully read in light of the above.

I invite people to visit Palestine Facts for a slightly more balanced view of Israel’s birth and the Arab-Israeli conflict. The following articles and video will also add a different perspective to Hubner’s assertions:

Deconstructing "Israeli Apartheid"

Amira Hass' Water Woes

Film Review: The Forgotten Refugees

In a nutshell video: Debunking the Palestine Lie

Israel and Jerusalem in International Law: The Importance of San Remo Make sure you watch the film!

More later