Friday, December 26, 2014

Christian Defense of Israel

An article by Peter Wehner:

I want to build on the thoughtful and timely post by Jonathan Tobin, in which he called attention to the catastrophe that is happening to Christians in the Middle East; why the outcome of the struggle over the region cannot be ignored; and why, in his words, “Christians should never think they could better the lives of their co-religionists by aiding efforts to destroy the other religious minority in the region: the Jews.” Jonathan made a compelling case speaking as a person of the Jewish faith; I’d like to speak as a person of the Christian faith...keep reading

Hat tip to Dr Michael Rydelnik

Blessing & Cursing Israel

I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Gen 12:3

Many theologians don't see a future for Israel. They believe prophecy is fulfilled in the church which they view as the New Spiritual Israel. So they are forced to re-interpret this verse in light of their presuppositions.

Wheaton College New Testament Professor Gary Burge did this during an interview with partial preterist Hank Hanegraaff. He noted the inclination of some evangelicals to find a biblical mandate in supporting Israel, and sees this as an error. When his host asked about Gen 12, Burge talked about context. He asked - how could that verse possibly be lifted out of Genesis, moved about 3000 years into the future and then applied to secular Israel?

"No", he asserted, "the blessing was intended for Abraham and his children." But the blessings of the covenant are not anchored to a "bloodline" - they are anchored to "faith." Hence no blessings apply to modern, secular Israel which is out of covenant with God.

Dr. Burge took it further. He noted that Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah often had harsh things to say about Israel. He then argues that on that logic one would have to say that Isaiah must be cursed by God as well. Burge corrects this "error" by saying that, on the contrary, to bless Israel is to be a "truth teller." He then claims that this is what he's doing - blessing Israel by telling the truth.

Did you catch the sleight of hand?

If blessings and curses cannot be contextually carried 3000 years into the future to a secular Israel, then Burge's "truth telling" argument becomes redundant. Secondly, prophets like Isaiah were specially ordained and used by God. They weren't cursing Israel on their own initiative, they were delivering God's message.

Unlike Isaiah, Dr. Gary Burge isn't God's appointed prophet to Israel. More problematic, the charges he and his colleagues accuse Israel of are often spurious. We should remember that God used Assyria to punish Israel, but that He still held the former accountable for it (Isaiah 10:5).

Yet if modern scholars miss the obvious bloodline context of Gen 12:3, the patriarch Isaac did not. In Gen 27:29 Isaac applies the same blessing and curse to Abraham's bloodline-descendant Jacob-Israel. The verse is quite clear and even shocking to modern, easily offended sensibilities:

May peoples serve you and nations bow down to you. Be master over your brothers; may your mother's sons bow down to you. Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed.

But that's not all. Even "truth-teller" Isaiah was inspired to write of Israel in a future kingdom context:

For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste. Isa 60:12

It's no wonder that sensitive anti-Israel activists Michael Prior and Naim Ateek shunned large chunks of the Old Testament. In contrast, Dr. Burge informs us that we should now think "Christianly" and therefore we should re-interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament.

Likewise, in attempting to explain away the future prophetic relevance of Zechariah 14, partial preterist Gary DeMar tortured the texts by allegorizing the events. Motivated by his presuppositions, Philip Mauro employed the same scriptural gymnastics and concluded:

"Enough has been said, however, to make evident that the prophecies of Zechariah referred to above, and hence other prophecies of like character as well, relate to things spiritual and have their fulfillment in this present era of grace." (Emphasis mine)

The New Testament Apostle Peter didn't appear to have re-interpretation in mind when he addressed unbelieving Israel in Acts 3:25.

You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your forefathers, saying to Abraham, and in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed. 

Just in case there's any confusion, the Apostle Paul also comes to our rescue:

And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Liberator will come from Zion; He will turn away godlessness from Jacob. And this will be My covenant with them, when I take away their sins. Regarding the gospel, they are enemies for your advantage, but regarding election, they are loved because of their forefathers, since God's gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable. Rom 11:26-29

The New Testament therefore confirms what the "truth-telling" prophets wrote about Israel in the Old Testament. These prophets affirmed that Israel will ultimately seek God because of its afflictions (Deut 4:30-31; Hos 5:15); that God will act to restore and cleanse Israel for His name's sake (Ezek 36:22-38); that they would possess the land forever (Jer 7:7, 25:5; Amos 9:14-15) and that God would never reject Israel's descendants for what they have done (Jer 31:31-37).

This being the case, the Blessings and Curses are still applicable to national Israel today.

So while it would be fair for someone to point out Israel's errors, as someone might do for any other nation - it would be quite another situation if one were to unfairly and regularly demonize it. That would be tantamount to cursing Israel.

And we all know what that means.

P.S. I mentioned Craig M. Nielsen in an earlier post. He's produced a video in which he states that Israel doesn't own the land - God does. He's correct. And God has decreed that land to Israel forever (see above).

Instead of arguing that the Abrahamic bloodline blessing isn't operative, Nielsen questions Israel's genetic traces to Abraham. Whatever works, I guess. Why would anyone call to question any ethnic origin unless they had an ulterior motive? Chris White has produced an excellent video which debunks Nielsen's canard. Watch it HERE

Further reading:

A Christian Defense Of Israel

A response to Gary DeMar

Fred Butler's thoughts on preterism

Problems with preterism

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dan Phillips on Ferguson

Some good thoughts HERE

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Hibbs, Hocking & Hindson

Where is the church at now? Thoughts on Francis Schaeffer and current morality etc. Interesting and ominous.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The People, The Land, and The Future of Israel - Book Review.

Dr. Paul Henebury reviews the book The People, The Land, and The Future of Israel HERE

For the most part I agree with what he says. There were sections which should have been given more in depth treatment. I especially appreciated his thoughts on Chisholm's contribution, which raised some questions for me.

Speaking of Chisholm, his method of interpretation is discussed in the essay How “Literal” Should Interpretation Be? A Critique of the Analogical Hermeneutic HERE

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Is the Church the Fulfillment of Israel?

"Look, the days are coming"-- this is the LORD's declaration-- "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt-- a covenant they broke even though I had married them"-- the LORD's declaration.

"Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days"-- the LORD's declaration. "I will place My law within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people.

No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying: Know the LORD, for they will all know Me, from the least to the greatest of them"-- the LORD's declaration. "For I will forgive their wrongdoing and never again remember their sin."

This is what the LORD says: The One who gives the sun for light by day, the fixed order of moon and stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea and makes its waves roar-- the LORD of Hosts is His name:

If this fixed order departs from My presence-- this is the LORD's declaration-- then also Israel's descendants will cease to be a nation before Me forever.

This is what the LORD says: If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below explored, I will reject all of Israel's descendants because of all they have done-- this is the LORD's declaration.

Jer 31:31-37

Some tough statements made about RT in the video:

Friday, December 5, 2014

Jack Hibbs & Paul Wilkinson on Christian Palestinianism

Craig M. Nielsen on "Christian Zionist Heresy"

I followed a rabbit trail last week. After seeing that the preterist folk had visited my blog, I followed them back to their home and noted that they'd linked one of my posts. But it wasn't that which attracted my attention - it was a link to another article on the Mondoweiss website: Why Christian Zionism is nothing short of outright heresy. The article plugs Craig Michael Nielsen's book Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict. Of Christian Zionism the article notes:

Yet few, if any, scholarly Christian theologians support this view. It is a belief advanced mostly by powerful TV evangelists and lobby groups. The average “garden variety” Christian has little to arm themselves against the deluge of almost hysterical demands on Christians that they must support the Zionists’ absolute entitlement to their colonialist project in the Holy Land with its dispossession and ethnic cleansing of Palestinian Arabs.

The blurb on Nielsen's book tells us that:

.... We must stop defending the radically anti-Christian Zionist movement. It's not anti-Semitic to oppose Israel's genocide of Palestinians. It's anti-Christian to accept it. Find out how wrong we have been about Israel. Then demand that the U.S. stop funding the Palestinian Holocaust. It's the Christian thing to do. (Emphases mine)

The notions of genocide and Palestinian Holocaust, as applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, are both shameful and factually challenged. If you want a quick rundown on Nielsen's thoughts on Zionism, you can read them HERE. This excerpt captures it in a nutshell:

Christian Zionist ethics are driven by a mantra of “the end justifies the means”. For them, since God is bringing back the Jewish people to Israel according to prophecy, the Jewish people’s responsibility to treat non-Jews with equality and mercy in Israel can be ignored. What matters is that they take all the land, every other consideration is trumped by the golden rule of “take the land by whatever means necessary”.

Mondoweiss claims to be driven by a "progressive Jewish perspective." In fact it is one of the most biased sites in the anti-Israel market place. One left wing editor has even claimed that Israel was behind the Passover Kansas City shootings. You know, just like Jews were behind 9/11 and all that other stuff. Daniel Greenfield observes of them:

Mondoweiss is probably the leading anti-Israel site on the internet after Stormfront. Its editors are often openly bigoted. One Mondoweiss editor said, “I do not consider myself an anti-Semite, but I can understand why some are.”

One contributing Mondoweiss writer is Stephen Sizer's collaborator Ben White. Are you starting to get the picture? White has written articles asking why there has been a rise in anti-Semitism. He has his theories: an oppressive, occupying Israel can only blame itself. White cites the "alleged anti-Semitic remarks made by Jürgen Möllemann" and concedes that comparisons between Israel and Nazi Germany are unsound. But then he writes as if with authority:

Comparisons between the Israeli government and the Nazis is (sic) unwise and unsound, since the Israelis have not (at the time of going to press) exterminated in a systematic fashion an enormous percentage of the Palestinians. Cold-blooded killings, beatings, house demolitions, vandalism, occupation, military assaults, and two historical pushes at ethnic cleansing–yes. Full fledged genocide–no.

One inconvenient fact is that the Jews have been hounded and persecuted for centuries - even when they weren't in the land. There's always some excuse (or lie) for anti-Semitism. White has attempted to draw the reader's attention to what others have said about Israel. Then he's tried to distance himself from that egregious narrative while actually promoting it. I guess he's still working on his Matt 5:9.

But let's get back to Craig Nielsen. Nielsen is associated with the Palestinian Israel Ecumenical Network (PIEN). One of the stated goals of PIEN is to foster peaceful relations between the Palestinians and Israel. A closer look at its website reveals it to be an anti-Israel instigator. In one 16 page document the word "occupation" is used 33 times. The word "suffering" appears 14 times and is presented as a motivation for Palestinian violence:

When we review the history of the nations, we see many wars and much resistance to war by war, to violence by violence. The Palestinian people has (sic) gone the way of the peoples, particularly in the first stages of its struggle with the Israeli occupation.

Aside from not providing hard data for these assertions, one doesn't see any reprimand about how Hamas, or the Palestinian Authority, treat their populations (especially the Christian minorities) or their historical hatred for Jews. PIEN even links to an article by Hanan Ashrawi who blames Israel for the evacuation of Christians in the Middle East. Ashrawi is a member of the PLO Executive Committee, a terrorist apologist and a revisionist.

That Christians are leaving the Middle East (and other areas) in droves has nothing to do with Israel. One should read Persecuted - The Global Assault On Christians and/or watch the authors being interviewed HERE to understand that the culprit isn't Israel.

I'll say it once again -Israel isn't perfect. But neither is it the oppressor that instigators like White, Nielsen and Sizer portray. And neither is Israel's alleged occupation the motivating factor for the violence against it. That notion should be discarded along with the one that claims poverty breeds terrorism.

What motive undergirds this narrative? I can hear familiar protests - I'm not an anti-Semite; I'm anti-oppression and anti-occupation. It has nothing to do with the Jew. What would Jesus do?

It has everything to do with the Jews.

As I grow older I should be growing kindlier and more patient. Sadly, I've become cynical in some areas. May God forgive me...but when your time is exclusively occupied in trumping up charges against Israel and ignoring abundant data that contradicts your narrative, and when you consistently ignore oppression elsewhere - then you are likely an anti-Semite. It's an insidious cancer that creeps up on you. The antidote is to read your Bible carefully and worshipfully.

Unfortunately, it has been my experience that debating people who embrace these views is rarely fruitful, especially when they insist on ignoring or re-interpreting Scripture.

Further resources:

Supersessionism, the Holocaust, and the Modern State of Israel


Epicenter 2012 - Panel Discussion on RT

“Hating Jews More Than is Absolutely Necessary”  

Debunking the Palestine Lie 

Christian Palestinianism

The world’s fastest growing faith is not Islam!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

2014 CDH Conference - Defending Premillennialism

Materials from the 2014 Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics (Defending Premillennialism) are now available HERE

(Note Dr Stallard's response to Sam Storms' Kingdom Come)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Steve Anderson on Gays

The same pastor who produced the popular anti-pretribulational video After the Tribulation has just been exposed in the Australian media for making hateful remarks about gays. I've already noted his vile attitude toward Jews and now this...

Baptist pastor Steven Anderson: ‘Let’s kill gays for AIDS-free Christmas’

How sad! Perhaps he should watch this video.