Monday, July 28, 2014

The Heresy of Christian Zionism

Israeli and American flags fly as Secretary
of Defense Robert M. Gates arrives in
Tel Aviv, Israel, April 18, 2007.
"Heresy" is a pretty strong word, so I don't use it lightly. The word itself come from the Greek root "heterodox" meaning "other belief" and stands in opposition to the word "orthodox" which means "right belief" or "correct belief." The subject of this blog article will be the topic of Christian Zionism, the belief that the Old Covenant grants to modern Jews the absolute right to possess and govern not only the modern state of Israel, but all the occupied territories as well, and as some believe, even all the lands stretching from the Euphrates River in Iraq to the Nile River in Egypt. This belief includes the notion that Palestinian Arabs (Muslims and Christians) have no right to that same land, and should submit to absolute Israeli control or leave. In practical application, a Christian Zionist supports Israeli expansion and consolidation of control of the Holy Land as a mandate from God.

First, a little background is needed. Christian Zionism is a predominant belief among Evangelical Christians in the United States, particularly in the Bible Belt (but certainly not limited to it), and has a following among many Evangelical communities worldwide. The ideology has spread to other Christian traditions as well. One can find Christian Zionism among some mainline Protestants and even a growing number of Roman Catholics. This is likely the result of promotion by Conservative Talk Radio along political terms; ranging from Israel being the "only democracy in the Middle East," to "supporting our ally Israel in the War on Terror," to "Israel is the only safe place for Jews after the Holocaust."  From this comes the Christian Zionist notions that God has given the Holy Land to the Jews and that we must support Israel unconditionally in order to be "good Christians." Christian Zionists preachers have been noted as claiming that God will bless those who bless the modern State of Israel and he will curse those who curse the modern State of Israel. Among some extreme Christian Zionists, the notion is promoted that the standard of a "true" Christian is measured by his level of support for the modern State of Israel. Consequently, many Christians (particularly Evangelicals) are afraid not to support the State of Israel, for fear that they will lose their blessing from God if they fail to bless Israel or object to anything Israel does. As a result, American Evangelicals are known to staunchly support American politicians who advertise their "unwavering support for the Nation of Israel." Many of these politicians are usually found in the Republican Party and frequently display small Israeli flags on their desks, or other prominent locations where their constituents can easily see them. Their voting records usually reflect this as well, wherein such politicians often support American financial aid packages to Israel that help Israel maintain its occupation of the Palestinian territories and build up military strength. Thus Christian Zionism does have a direct impact on American politics, and that in turn has an influence on international politics, particularly when it comes to the State of Israel. It should be noted that one reason why the Israeli government usually ignores international pressure to end the Palestinian occupation is because it knows it will receive unconditional support from Christian Zionists in the United States, and that in turn will always translate into ongoing American support of Israel regardless of their policies.

Christian Zionism began in the middle 19th century, but the term wasn't coined until the middle 20th century. It is believed that Zionism itself may have been spawned by Evangelical Christian influence on 19th century Jews, urging them to return to the Holy Land and reclaim their ancient Biblical heritage. Such prodding likely came from the heresy of Dispensationalism which I have refuted HERE. Dispensationalism is characterised by the teaching that God has two separate covenants for two separate peoples. The Jews have the Old Covenant which they claim is still ongoing and irrevocable. While Christians have the New Covenant. The logical conclusion of this heretical notion is that if God has two different covenants for two different peoples, then the Old Covenant must be fulfilled by returning the Jews to their ancestral homeland. Once that happens to God's satisfaction, it will result in the culmination of history and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. So in a way, Christian Zionism was (and still is) a way of attempting to force God's hand, according to the Dispensational belief system, to expedite the Return of Jesus Christ, to "rapture" his Church by fulfilling the Old Covenant Israel in modern times. The commonly accepted idea today is that when God has brought modern Israel into full possession of the "promised land," Jesus Christ will return to "rapture" his Church out of this world. Then God will turn his full attention to the Nation of Israel. At that point Israel will begin to rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, which will lead to the coming of Antichrist and the final seven years of hell on earth.  Thus it is commonly believed that Israeli Jews will follow the Antichrist for a while, before he turns on them and declares himself to be God. When that happens they will all realise that they've been wrong for 2,000 years and accept Jesus Christ as their King and Saviour en mass.  That in turn will prompt the return of Jesus Christ with his "raptured" Church to destroy all evil on earth, judge the world, and bring about a 1,000 year kingdom wherein Jesus Christ will rule the earth as King from Jerusalem. There are of course variations to this belief system, and each group will have its own spin, but this reflects the basic idea.

I'll say it again, and I don't use this word lightly. Christian Zionism is heresy. I challenge anyone to prove me wrong using Scripture or the teachings of the Catholic Church. It cannot be done. There is nothing in Scripture that leads us to the conclusion that God wants Christians to be Zionists, and likewise there is nothing in the teachings of the Catholic Church that supports this notion. That doesn't mean that Christians can't support the State of Israel in some measure. They most certainly can! There are both legal and moral grounds for this. I'll explain more on that later. What Christians cannot do is use Scripture to demand the unconditional support of Israel based on religious grounds.

The heresy of Christian Zionism is centred around a flawed understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As stated above, most Christian Zionists are Evangelicals, and as Evangelicals it should be understood that they DO NOT believe the Old Testament Law (Torah) is meant for today. However, they have no problem citing the Law (Torah) to back their Zionist claims. It begins in Genesis 12 and 13. In particular they cite the promise of God to Abraham...
The Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, ‘Raise your eyes now, and look from the place where you are, northwards and southwards and eastwards and westwards; for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth; so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.  Rise up, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.’ -- Genesis 13:14-17 (NRSV-ACE, emphasis mine)
Now, because God said he would give the land to Abraham and his offspring "forever" the Christian Zionists interpret this to mean that God gave the land forever to the Jews, because they are descendants of Abraham, and since he did not attach a condition to the promise, the promise is unconditional. Therefore, according to Christian Zionists, if you're a Jew, you have a divine right to possession and control of the Holy Land. Of course, any serious student of Scripture can see two glaring problems with this interpretation. The first has to do with the descendants of Abraham themselves, and the second has to do with the so-called "unconditional" part of the promise.

Let's deal with the first problem regarding the descendants of Abraham. The promise was originally made to Abraham in Genesis 13, and it specifically says the land would be given to the descendants of Abraham. It doesn't specify which descendants, it just says his "offspring." That's important because Abraham had two sons by two different women -- Hagar and Sarah -- who gave birth to Ishmael and Isaac.  Now Isaac became the father of Jacob and Esau, while Jacob became the father of the twelve Israelite tribes, otherwise known as the Hebrew people, later to be called "Jews."  Ishmael became the father of the Arab peoples. So right from the start, when we interpret Genesis 13 at face value, we can see that God is keeping the "forever" part of that promise.  The descendants of Abraham have always held on to the Holy Land.  Jews are descendants of Abraham and so are Arabs.  That is an indisputable fact of Scripture and history (Genesis 16).  So when the descendants of European Jews live in the Holy Land, they are living in the fulfilment of this promise.  Likewise, when Palestinian Arabs live in the Holy Land, they too are living in the fulfilment of this promise. God said the land would be taken away from the ancient Canaanite peoples, which it was, and be given over to the physical descendants of Abraham (Jews and Arabs), which it was. Based on Genesis 13, the Arabs have just as much of a divine title to the Holy Land as Jews.

However, specific promises and requirements were given to the Israelites (Hebrews or Jews) in order for them to retain possession and control of the Holy Land. In other words, a higher responsibility was given to the Israelites. Arabs could inhabit and control the land by virtue of no other reason than just be descendants of Abraham. Israelites could inhabit it too for no other reason. However, inhabiting and controlling are two different things, and in order for the Israelites to control the land, they had to abide by the Law of Moses, which set specific conditions. For example; In Genesis 17:9-14 the Israelites were warned that they must keep the Old Testament covenant or be cut off from God's people. 

In Leviticus 26:40-45, the Scriptures tell us that the Israelites must forsake their sins to maintain the covenant. While Deuteronomy 7:12, Exodus 19:5-6 and 1st Kings 9:6-9 all teach that this covenant was conditional (not unconditional). Finally, Joshua 23:15-16 and 2 Chronicles 7:19-22 not only teach that the covenant was conditional, but they also specify that the Israelites would lose their title to the land if they broke this covenant.  No such requirements were placed on the Arab descendants of Abraham through Ishmael, only the Israelite descendants through Isaac and Jacob would be held to this higher standard. Why? Because it was through the Israelite descendants that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would come. Saint Paul tells us that this Law (Torah) was designed to be a tutor to them, to prepare them for the Messiah, help them recognise him, and lead them into his everlasting Kingdom. God had a higher purpose for the Israelite people. For them it was more than just owning a piece of real estate. Rather, it was about saving the world!  The real estate was just an added bonus.

We see this conditional promise played out during the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities as an example of a much more serious transgression that would happen later. During the decades leading up to these captivities, ancient Israel fell into idolatry and immorality. This caused the nation to split into two separate kingdoms. Israel became the northern kingdom, while Judah became the southern kingdom. The northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria in about 730-740 BC (read more here). This led 10 of the 12 Hebrew tribes into diaspora, from which they would never return. The "lost tribes of Israel" are now extinct, having been intermingled with other peoples in the Middle East. The remaining 2 tribes (Levi and Judah) remained intact in the southern Kingdom of Judah for a while. Incidentally, this is about the time the remaining Hebrews/Israelites started referring to themselves as "Jews" in reference to the southern Kingdom of Judah. However, it wasn't long before their infidelity to the Old Covenant led to their own defeat, and subsequent enslavement, to Babylon in about 600-580 BC (read more here). This enslavement lasted about 70 years, before the Jews were allowed to return to the Holy Land. Once they returned, they took possession of all the land where the northern and southern kingdoms once stood, but they were a shell of what they used to be. After that their possession of the land remained firm, but their control of the land was tenuous and intermittent for centuries. Eventually the Roman Empire obtained control of the Holy Land in about 6 BC. The Romans remained in control during the time of Jesus and the early Church. Finally, all Jewish control and possession of the Holy Land ended after the Bar Kokhba revolt in AD 132-135 (read more here). While some Jews remained in the region, they were left as an impoverished and broken people. Most were scattered throughout the Roman Empire as slaves, where they remained in Europe for centuries. The survival of Jews, as a distinct people, throughout this period is nothing short of a miracle, and should be seen by Christians as an obvious sign that God loves them and wants them to remain a distinct culture. Their return to the Holy Land over the last century can also be seen as a sign of God's love for them, but more on that later.

It was widely believed by ancient Christian scholars that the Roman genocide of the Jewish people, which began with the destruction of their Temple in AD 70 and concluded with their banishment from Jerusalem in AD 136, was God's punishment upon them for refusing to accept their Messiah/King -- Jesus of Nazareth. While this may be religiously speculative, it does have some strictly historical merit. The 1,800-year diaspora was the direct result of a poor choice of the ancient Jewish people between two men who claimed to be the Messiah. The first was Jesus of Nazareth, who offered them a spiritual Kingdom that surpassed anything they had previously imagined. If embraced, they would have lived peacefully under Roman occupation, eventually outlasting the Roman Empire, and regain possession of the Holy Land by default after the fall of Rome. (Oh, and did I mention they get to save the world too?)  If however, it was rejected, it would result in the destruction of their Temple, followed by their embrace of a false messiah (Simon Bar Kokhba), who would lead them into absolute ruin, exile and enslavement. The majority of Jews, living in the Holy Land at that time, chose the latter, rejecting Jesus' spiritual Kingdom in exchange for rebellion, a false messiah, and the human catastrophe that followed. This is not a religious statement. Nor is it an anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish statement. This my friends is just a statement of historical fact, based entirely on historical observation of the historical record. Like it or lump it, that's the way it is, and nobody can change history.

As I said above, the occupation and control of the Holy Land was dependent on the Jewish observance of the Old Covenant. The Christian understanding of that covenant is radically modified under the advent of the Messiah King Jesus. Under King Jesus, the Kingdom of Israel is expanded to the ends of the earth, encompassing all who follow King Jesus and are part of his Church. The reign of the King, is lived out in the hearts of his followers (Christians), and is not dependent on physical ancestry (neither Jew nor Gentile). It is simply dependent upon faith and trust in Jesus Christ and the sacraments of his Church. Therefore, the Kingdom of God, the New Israel of God, is the Church, and exists anywhere on earth wherever Christians live. Furthermore, Saint Paul tells us that Christians are adopted children of Abraham by virtue of their faith in Jesus of Nazareth, who is the promised Jewish Messiah...
For not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true descendants; but ‘It is through Isaac that descendants shall be named after you.’ This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as descendants. -- Romans 9:6-8 (NRSV-ACE, emphasis mine) 
In Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. -- Galatians 3:14 (NRSV-ACE, emphasis mine)   
For neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. -- Galatians 6:15-16 (NRSV-ACE, emphasis mine)
Here Saint Paul clearly teaches us that the promises of Abraham are given by adoption to those who have the faith of Abraham, specifically Christians, who are the spiritual heirs of the promises, and he even goes so far as to call Christians (the Church) the new "Israel of God."  It helps to understand that the version of Old Testament Scripture the apostles quoted from most often was the Greek Septuagint (Alexandrian Canon), in which the word ecclesia (meaning "church") is used to describe the ancient Kingdom of Israel. From the apostles' perspective, the New Testament ecclesia ("church") was simply a continuation of the ancient ecclesia ("church") Kingdom of Israel.

When we understand Christian teaching on Israel, the Kingdom and the promise of the Holy Land to Abraham, it becomes apparent that Christians have just as much a divine deed to the Holy Land as Jews and Arabs. The point here is that while anyone can live in the Holy Land, regardless of race or religion, the notion of Christian Zionism is absolute heresy! Modern Jews (religious and secular) have no more Biblical right to the Holy Land than modern Arabs (Christian, Muslim and secular), but of all people who would have the most right, based on the Biblical mandate of a divine title, it would be Christians (both Jewish Christians and Arab Christians especially). My point here is that a Christian simply cannot use the promises to Abraham and his descendants to justify Zionism. Modern Jews do not have any more Biblical mandate to rule that land than modern Eskimos. That is, not from a Christian religious perspective anyway.

That being said, it is still possible for a Christian to support the modern State of Israel, but he must do so according to modern international law not Biblical mandate.

Throughout the early 20th century, millions of European and Russian Jews legally immigrated to British controlled Palestine. They did this under British law, and the Brits allowed them to do this in charity. There was nothing wrong with this, so it can be supported by Christians. Could this be looked at as a sign of God's charity and compassion upon the Jewish people? Absolutely! Can this be seen as some kind of sign of the times and the latter days? Sure. Why not?  Then on May 1st, 1949 the United Nations recognised Israel as an independent nation. Christians can again support that, because it's a matter of international law. Since its founding however, the United Nations Security Council has adopted no less than 79 resolutions directly critical of Israel for violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions, the U.N. Charter, the Geneva Conventions, international terrorism, or other violations of international law. Christians obviously cannot support Israel on these issues. Furthermore, Israel occupies Palestinian territories not recognised by the United Nations or international law. Christians cannot support this either. To do so would be to support lawlessness and that violates the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So in summary, Christians can support Israel in charity, and should support the Jewish people in charity as well.  However, such support should never entail the approval of lawlessness. Christians should approach the modern State of Israel like they would any other nation.

That being said, Christians should also respect Palestinians, the emerging occupied State of Palestine, and most especially stand in solidarity with Palestinian Christians who suffer under Israeli occupation. I think it is inappropriate for Christians to choose sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but at the same time, Christians should expect both sides to abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions and international law. Now this may not be what some Christians want to hear, and I would expect some Christians to be rather cynical of this conclusion. However, the modern State of Israel (which has no connection whatsoever to the ancient Kingdom of Israel) has no right to break international law and violate the dignity of the people living in the lands they illegally occupy.

That being said, I will close with the following declaration signed by some very notable people below...
"THE JERUSALEM DECLARATION ON CHRISTIAN ZIONISM"
Statement by the Patriarch and Local Heads of Churches In Jerusalem
"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God." (Matthew 5:9)
Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel. The Christian Zionist programme provides a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. In its extreme form, it places an emphasis on apocalyptic events leading to the end of history rather than living Christ's love and justice today.
We categorically reject Christian Zionist doctrines as false teaching that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation.
We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the United States that are presently imposing their unilateral pre-emptive borders and domination over Palestine. This inevitably leads to unending cycles of violence that undermine the security of all peoples of the Middle East and the rest of the world.
We reject the teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support these policies as they advance racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ. Rather than condemn the world to the doom of Armageddon we call upon everyone to liberate themselves from the ideologies of militarism and occupation. Instead, let them pursue the healing of the nations!
We call upon Christians in Churches on every continent to pray for the Palestinian and Israeli people, both of whom are suffering as victims of occupation and militarism. These discriminative actions are turning Palestine into impoverished ghettos surrounded by exclusive Israeli settlements. The establishment of the illegal settlements and the construction of the Separation Wall on confiscated Palestinian land undermines the viability of a Palestinian state as well as peace and security in the entire region.
We call upon all Churches that remain silent, to break their silence and speak for reconciliation with justice in the Holy Land.
Therefore, we commit ourselves to the following principles as an alternative way:
We affirm that all people are created in the image of God. In turn they are called to honor the dignity of every human being and to respect their inalienable rights.
We affirm that Israelis and Palestinians are capable of living together within peace, justice and security.
We affirm that Palestinians are one people, both Muslim and Christian. We reject all attempts to subvert and fragment their unity.
We call upon all people to reject the narrow world view of Christian Zionism and other ideologies that privilege one people at the expense of others.
We are committed to non-violent resistance as the most effective means to end the illegal occupation in order to attain a just and lasting peace.
With urgency we warn that Christian Zionism and its alliances are justifying colonization, apartheid and empire-building.
God demands that justice be done. No enduring peace, security or reconciliation is possible without the foundation of justice. The demands of justice will not disappear. The struggle for justice must be pursued diligently and persistently but non-violently.
"What does the Lord require of you, to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
This is where we take our stand. We stand for justice. We can do no other. Justice alone guarantees a peace that will lead to reconciliation with a life of security and prosperity for all the
peoples of our Land. By standing on the side of justice, we open ourselves to the work of peace - and working for peace makes us children of God.
"God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation." (2 Cor 5:19)
SIGNED... 
His Beattitude Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad, Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal, Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East
Bishop Munib Younan, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

END

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12 comments:

Unknown said...

Another great post!

I have arguments with my in-laws over this issue. They are big CZs and very anti-Catholic.

Thanks for the inspiration and information.

laura said...

pretty good article, does not fully explain the agenda of the false Zionist, completely ignores that.
Also I felt the very last sentence that said we all have to quote:
"abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions and international law"
The U.N. is itself illegal since it was founded on the blood of all the ww1 militarizes of the world. ww1 was started as a false flag for that very reason to create the UN and the start of the new world order and control by these false Zionist.

Reformed in Herrin said...

As a Presbyterian pastor, and an Evangelical Christian, I have to say I have never met a single person who embraces "Christian Zionism" as you define it here. And I have yet to meet an Evangelical who fears that "they will lose their blessing from God if they fail to bless Israel or object to anything Israel does."

I share your concern about the (in my opinion) unbiblical doctrine of dispensationalism and the rapture. But I'm also concerned about your heresy allegation in the fourth paragraph of your article. It seems odd to me that a Catholic should suggest that an opinion unsupported by Scripture is therefore heresy. Questions about the Papacy and the Immaculate Conception come to mind.

Your discussion of Torah and covenant is better. Although, I might point out that in the Reformed Tradition we recognize three types of law: 1) Civil law for the nation of Israel, 2) Ceremonial law having to do with Temple worship (both abrogated in Colossians 2:14), and 3) Moral law which is continuing. In my opinion, Covenant is something distinct, an expression of the permanent purpose of God.

The history of Zionism is complex, but I'm not persuaded that heresy has anything to do with that history. In general, I am a supporter of Israel, but in my case, I think it is for political rather than religious reasons. These are the same reasons that you mock - that Israel is the only Democracy in the region, and our best ally in the war on terrorism.

I leave you with a link below to a related article, and this selection from the Wikipedia article on Zionism.

"During the first meeting between Chaim Weizmann and Balfour in 1906, Balfour asked what Weizmann's objections were to the idea of a Jewish homeland in Uganda, (the Uganda Protectorate in East Africa in the British Uganda Programme), rather than in Palestine. According to Weizmann's memoir, the conversation went as follows:

"Mr. Balfour, supposing I was to offer you Paris instead of London, would you take it?" He sat up, looked at me, and answered: "But Dr. Weizmann, we have London." "That is true," I said, "but we had Jerusalem when London was a marsh."

"He ... said two things which I remember vividly. The first was: "Are there many Jews who think like you?"

"I answered: "I believe I speak the mind of millions of Jews whom you will never see and who cannot speak for themselves." ... To this he said: "If that is so you will one day be a force."[7]
([7]) Weizmann, Trial and Error, p.111, as quoted in W. Lacquer, The History of Zionism", 2003, ISBN 978-1-86064-932-5. p.188


http://www.charismanews.com/opinion/44846-the-attempt-to-take-israel-out-of-the-bible


Rev. Michael Neubert, CDR, USNR (Ret)
First Presbyterian Church
Herrin, IL

Shane Schaetzel said...

To Rev. Neubert,

Thank you for you civil criticism of my essay. I appreciate your feedback and value your opinion on this matter, especially since your expressed it in a succinct and charitable way. I would like to reply to some of your concerns now. I will quote your words in italics.

You wrote: I have to say I have never met a single person who embraces "Christian Zionism" as you define it here. And I have yet to meet an Evangelical who fears that "they will lose their blessing from God if they fail to bless Israel or object to anything Israel does."
I am very happy for you, as you are a very fortunate man. I have met more people than I can count who fit this description. Perhaps it has to do with where I live within the Ozark Mountains of the Bible Belt, or perhaps it's because of the most popular form of Evangelical Christianity in this region, but I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say things that match what I've written above. I know some people who have even told me (point blank) that if the United States ever went to war with Israel, they would take up arms, fly to Israel and fight against our own American troops. Yes, Christian Zionism is real, and it has become far more militant than it used to be. You should try listening to a few sermons from Evangelical Megachurch Pastor John Hagee. He'll give you an earful. You'll find that my definition of Christian Zionism is more comprehensive in nature, and attempts to cover all the extremes as well as the mainstream, but you'll also find that it is consistent with the overall premise of this Wiki article on it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_Zionism

I share your concern about the (in my opinion) unbiblical doctrine of dispensationalism and the rapture. But I'm also concerned about your heresy allegation in the fourth paragraph of your article.
As you mentioned above, you are a Presbyterian pastor and also consider yourself Evangelical. I should point out here that I was careful to say in my essay that not all Evangelicals subscribe to Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism. I said it was popular among Evangelicals, but I didn't say it as universal. I am familiar with the Reformed tradition, as I know some Baptists who are leaving the Dispensationalist fold in favour of a more Calvinist Reformed approach. It is rare in these parts, but growing nonetheless. I, for one, am glad to see it, as I find Reformed Evangelicals tend to be a bit more level-headed and scripturally-sound than Dispensational Evangelicals. As for the heresy allegation, I tried to draw a very clear distinction between those who support Israel on legal and moral grounds, versus those who support Israel on flawed eschatology and ecclesiology. The latter tend to be more unreasonable in their approach, as in supporting Israel unconditionally no matter what kind of policies it holds.

Continued below...

Shane Schaetzel said...

continued from above...

It seems odd to me that a Catholic should suggest that an opinion unsupported by Scripture is therefore heresy. Questions about the Papacy and the Immaculate Conception come to mind.
As you probably already know, we Catholics are not bound by the unbiblical and illogical doctrine of Sola Scriptura. However, we do frequently use Scripture to support our traditions when applicable. The Bible is, after all, a Catholic book. So we most certainly do use it. In this particular essay, I am dealing with a belief system (Dispensationalism) that is commonly adhered to by "Bible Christians" (Baptists and Pentecostals) who are fond of touting the "Bible Alone" (Sola Scriptura) as the sole measure of worthy Christian faith. I therefore thought it only appropriate to point out the scriptural problems with Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism. However, as you can see, I didn't just point out that the opinion/doctrine/teaching not only lacked Biblical support. More than that, it contradicted the Scriptures, which puts it on a whole new level -- heresy. There is far more Biblical support for the papacy and the Immaculate Conception than there is for Christian Zionism. At least neither of those two contradict the Scriptures. Christians Zionism is a direct contradiction, as I pointed out in the essay above.

In general, I am a supporter of Israel, but in my case, I think it is for political rather than religious reasons.
Which as I pointed out is fine. I thought I drew a clear distinction between those who support Israel on political and moral grounds, versus those who support it based on flawed eschatology and ecclesiology. I have no desire to take up a political battle with those who support Israel on those terms. There are plenty of others who do that. My interest here is to simply lay to rest the flawed eschatology and ecclesiology surrounding Christian Zionism in many (but not all) Evangelical circles.

These are the same reasons that you mock - that Israel is the only Democracy in the region, and our best ally in the war on terrorism.
I wasn't "mocking" these reasons. If you read that paragraph carefully, I was simply pointing out that these political reasons may be the reason why Christian Zionism has spread so fast in recent decades to non-Evangelical Christians, such as mainline Protestants and even Roman Catholics. I see this particularly in the Bible Belt. For example, a Roman Catholic may hold to Christian Zionist beliefs because he listens to talk radio and heard the host say "Israel is our only ally in the MIddle East in the War on Terror." Then he went to the grocery store and overheard two Evangelical Dispensationalists talking about how God has brought the Jews back to the Holy Land and it is their divine right to occupy it and do what they're doing. The Roman Catholic gets confused, puts the two messages together and PRESTO! He's now a Christian Zionist too. I see this happen occasionally in the Ozarks. I could give you a list of names, but I won't. Let's just say I've seen it happen quite a bit.

Once again, thank you for your feedback, and I hope this more detailed explanation clears some things up.

Shane

Reformed in Herrin said...

Shane,

Thank you for reminding me that "Protestant" is a term that includes a broad spectrum of theology and practice. Pastor Hagee is not a prominent figure in our area, but I often tell our congregation that we are all part of the family of God, and like any family - some of the cousins are a little odd.

Let me make one observation about your final paragraph and the idea that Catholics may become confused when church teachings and popular culture collide.

I saw a show about a parish RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation for Adults) program in a Florida parish as I recall. The Priest was describing their two-year long program, and I especially appreciated him saying,

"We don't want to receive people who say, 'I know what you believe and that's OK'. We want people to say 'I know what you believe, and I believe it too.' They have become one of us."

How wonderful it would be if members of each particular congregation knew why they believe what they believe.

Blessings,

Michael Neubert

Dilettante said...

I would like to ask regarding this paragraph from Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich's Mysteries of the Old Testament:

"Then I saw him wrestling with the angel. It took place in a vision. Jacob arose and prayed. Then there descended from above a light in which was a great luminous figure, which began to wrestle with Jacob, as if wanting to push him out of the tent. They wrestled here and there, up and down, in all directions through the tent. The apparition acted as if wanting to draw Jacob toward all the cardinal points, but Jacob always faced about to the center of the tent . This struggle toward all the cardinal points, but Jacob always faced about to the center of the tent . This struggle prefigured the fact that Israel, though pressed on all sides, should not be forced from Palestine."

For a while this is what convinced me that Christian Zionism was right. What started to change my mind was that Jews from Israel themselves did not share the same sentiment and view Christian Zionism as another form of Christian eccentricity.

Thank you.

Mico Razon said...

In 2,000 years of Church history, anti-semitism was a bigger problem than Zionism. It took World War II for most Christians to realize that the Jews need their own homeland.

Also, God is not done yet with Israel. As St. Paul said, for a time Israel did not believe, but in the end of time she will come to know Jesus as her Messiah. Romans 11:25-27. God intends the Jewish nation to survive until the end, implying that she needs to live somewhere.

Matthew 5:8 said...

This is an excellent essay. Having used my blog for the last 8 years to point out many of the same heresies associated with Christian Zionism, i can say 'bravo!'. You've stepped out into a spiritual realm which will guarantee not only blow-back from Christian Zionists and Dispensationalists--but also the spirit world. I have come to see Christian Zionism as one of the greatest delusions of our times--one which has blinded the Church and one satan defends, for it has worked so well for over 100 years.

Ann R said...

As a Traditional Catholic of Orthodox Jewish birth and upbringing, I 100% agree with you! FINALLY someone "gets it!"

Christine Erikson (aka Justina) said...

"Dispensationalism is characterised by the teaching that God has two separate covenants for two separate peoples....The logical conclusion of this heretical notion is that if God has two different covenants for two different peoples, then the Old Covenant must be fulfilled by returning the Jews to their ancestral homeland."

Actually, you don't need dispensationalism to figure they should get their
homeland back. The Old Covenant was with Moses, but the promise of the land
PREDATES THAT BEING GIVEN TO ABRAHAM. So you can toss dispensationalism out and
still have Christian Zionism.

" Once that happens to God's satisfaction, it will result in the culmination of history and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. So in a way, Christian Zionism was (and still is) a way of attempting to force God's hand,"

not really, since there is no explicit time table that makes 1948 an actual
countdown. Efforts to connect this to the last generation fails, because Jesus
talked about a series of events not mentioning Israel in place or not, which
when you see them ALL happen at once, that generation seeing it would know that
Jesus is indeed coming soon. And all these events have not come about like that
yet.

Those who are thinking in terms of forcing God's hand, of course, are dead wrong
and engaged in the sin of presumption. But that is an issue of motive not of the
action of Zionism itself. One can be Zionist for an opposed reason to that of
another Zionist.
"The commonly accepted idea today is that when God has brought modern Israel into full possession of the "promised land," Jesus Christ will return to "rapture" his Church out of this world. Then God will turn his full attention to the Nation of Israel. At that point Israel will begin to rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, which will lead to the coming of Antichrist and the final seven years of hell on earth."

this belief system is of course totally unbiblical garbage.
the writer goes on to the issue of the promise to Abraham, but says it doesn't
specify which offspring or seed, and he had two sons then some others. But God DOES
make it clear later, that the promised seed to which these promises pertain was
to from Sarah, and that it was Isaac.

Romans 9:6-8 Galatians 6:15-16 would give Christians as much right there as Jews,
which is all very well, but would still mean moslems could be excluded or limited.
Viewed another way, it means Jews have as much right there as Christians.

"Under King Jesus, the Kingdom of Israel is expanded to the ends of the earth, encompassing all who follow King Jesus and are part of his Church. The reign of the King, is lived out in the hearts of his followers (Christians), and is not dependent on physical ancestry (neither Jew nor Gentile). It is simply dependent upon faith and trust in Jesus Christ and the sacraments of his Church. Therefore, the Kingdom of God, the New Israel of God, is the Church, and exists anywhere on earth wherever Christians live."

this is the amillennialist perspective which began to develop with Augustine. The denial of a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth before the judgement. The pre Nicene fathers held to this belief and it was Origen and his followers who
denounced it as grossly physical and not spiritual enough. one of these denied John
wrote Revelation because it was cruder in grammar and style than his Gospel and letters, but the former was written on his own while the latter were written where
he would have scribal help to smooth it out. The condemnation against chiliasm specifies rejection of a 1000 year LIMIT to Christ's reign on earth, instead "of His kingdom there shall be no end." the 1000 years is a segment of His forever rule on earth.

SciBoy said...

There was no 'Roman genocide' of the Jews.
There was the suppression of an ongoing rebellion by the Jews.
Several times.
Until the Romans said enough is enough and kicked them all out.