Responding to Christian Critics of Israel
Israel - Middle East
Friday, July 03, 2015
What do you say to Christian critics of Israel? How do you respond to Christian leaders or people who you would normally respect - insofar as proclaiming the gospel is concerned - yet habitually single out Israel for unfair criticism?
I confess to frustration at the myths and inferences which these consistently churn out. It's not just the bias - it's the attitude to biblical texts referring to Israel's future which are either ignored or manipulated to say something other than what's plainly stated.
Back in 2009 Denver Seminary held a conference: Historic Premillennialism: A Biblical Alternative to “Left Behind” Eschatology. The "Left Behind" Theology tag was a reference to Dispensationalism. The conference was an attack on several dispensational teachings. It professed to offer the "biblical" alternative.
One of the scheduled speakers was Craig Blomberg who was sick at the time. A transcript of his talk was delivered by Gary Hoag. The theme of that talk was "Inappropriately Privileging Israel: Why Historic Premillennialism Trumps Dispensationalism".
Blomberg praised George E. Ladd as the consummate scholar who overshadowed the rest. Ladd was a posttribulational premillennialist who taught that the church was the "New Spiritual Israel." He used the New Testament to re-interpret the Old Testament. According to Ladd:
"The Old Testament must be interpreted by the New Testament. In principle it is quite possible that the prophecies addressed originally to literal Israel describing physical blessings have their fulfillment exclusively in the spiritual blessings enjoyed by the church. It is also possible that the Old Testament expectation of a kingdom on earth could be reinterpreted by the New Testament altogether of blessings in the spiritual realm." (Emphasis mine)
Ladd didn't allow the OT to speak for itself. Even his belief in a future millennium rested on his understanding of Rev 20. Just on that concept alone we might observe that the modern HP "biblical" approach has been considerably hampered by its NT bias.
Blomberg's unhelpful stance on national Israel bothered me most of all. He accused dispensationalists of meddling in US politics to unfairly favor Israel. He indirectly inferred that the Palestinian suffering is attributable to Israel's oppression.
While chastising the excesses of uncritical support of either side of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he praised activists Gary Burge and Colin Chapman. Yet Burge is one of the most notorious anti-Israel activists today. This man (along with Bethlehem Bible Church) is responsible for many young modern evangelicals turning their backs on Israel.
In a recent column in Christianity Today, a popular champion of the faith (now gone to be with the Lord) made several damaging observations about Israel as a result of some leading questions.
One allegation was that the Arab side of the story was being suppressed by Jewish media control. Another was that religious freedom in Israel was a contradiction. Israel was said to be secular and that Jews could not even define what Jewish meant. It was alleged that Jews viewed the Old Testament as simply an historical book whereas Arabs were more religious than Israelis.
According to this highly popular Christian author, only the Arabs were willing to share their land and the Palestinians were killed for their kindness. The 1948 partition of "Palestine" was supposedly arbitrary and the "Palestinians weren't consulted." Moreover, there was no ethical basis for Zionism. This person asserted that evangelicals had a "naive notion of the fulfillment of prophecy" and that throughout history Christians have felt that these were the "last times."
It would take several columns to unpack all the canards expressed above. The Omega Letter writers (as others have done) have been regularly doing this. However, it's a sad reality that influential Christians, who have served the gospel well in many areas, make abysmal statements which are often accepted without question.
The ever-present red flag in these common attacks on Israel is the one-sided narrative. What about the other side? Then there are the logical inconsistencies.
The Arab nations are certainly religious. But are they tolerant and what do they believe in? Why are Christians leaving these regions en masse? Why are some even fleeing to Israel?
One might observe that if case is made that the Palestinians weren't consulted to begin with, then they couldn't have been in the position to be unfairly treated for their alleged kindness. Furthermore, if the Arabs were willing to share "their land" then they also must have been consulted. In fact the original Jewish land parcel was far greater than what they have today.
If the Jews really practice such far-reaching power over the main-stream media then how is it that most of this same media demonizes Israel?
Blomberg's supposition that pro-Israel evangelicals exercise inappropriate leverage in American politics doesn't consider the other side of the story. Pro-Palestinian evangelicals lobby Governments in an effort to hurt Israel economically. Furthermore they actively seek more funding for the Palestinians. This funding doesn't reach the Palestinian people - it goes to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.
To borrow from Blomberg, this type of misguided thinking has unfairly privileged the Two Entities which have vowed to destroy Israel. This is politics at its worst.
So how do we respond to brothers and sisters who we love in the faith, yet who unfairly marginalize Israel?
Let's understand this again - Israel is far from perfect. It needs Christ's redemption - just like other nations do. Israel will be redeemed as a nation because God has promised this. And we delight in His faithfulness.
But I'd rather live In Israel than in its neighboring countries. I have good reason for this and if you don't agree then you should talk to the people who have left those countries.
Please don't forget to tell their story.
Another response we should always give is God's word. It doesn't need to be redefined, re-interpreted or re-imagined. Please, do assiduously check your Bible on Israel's future. Do not presume the church has taken over Israel's promises and that it doesn't have a prophetic future. That would be tantamount to making God disingenuous (Jeremiah 31:31-37; Jeremiah 33:25-26; Ezekiel 36:24-36 etc)
Good luck with that one.
About Alf Cengia
Last week: She'll be right, Christian
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