by Alf Cengia
Is it time for the Old Christian Zionists to gracefully step aside and make way for the more biblically, better politically driven New Christian Zionists?
A few weeks ago I came across an article from the Washington Examiner written by Mark Tooley, president of The Institute on Religion & Democracy.
Tooley’s article addressed the future of Evangelical support for Israel. He noted that American Evangelicals have traditionally supported Israel and that this was “strategically and politically significant” to Israel’s leaders. It observed that leftist critics of Israel have strived to “neutralize” Evangelical support, with some success among “Evangelical elites.”
Tooley noted that the Soros funded Telos group routinely took young Evangelicals to the West Bank for the “pro-Palestinian perspective.” Tooley also mentioned the Christ at the Checkpoint conferences which are hosted every other year and which hosts hundreds of Evangelicals.
Although not mentioned by name, the Wheaton College professor involved in these conferences is Gary Burge. He is also featured in the polemical movie With God on Our Side, which sought to ridicule “pro-Israel theology.”
I detected a critical tone of dispensationalism in Tooley’s column. He inferred that dispensationalists have attracted criticism because of their apocalyptic “Left Behind” theology. To that end he announced an upcoming conference which would affirm that God wasn’t neutral regarding Israel. It would also discuss the proper political and theological perspectives. Tooley observed:
‘…countering the push to shift Evangelicals away from Israel will require more than old style “the Bible says” arguments that no longer resonate strongly with current Evangelical elites, especially young Evangelicals. It will require intellectually serious explanations as to why Israel merits survival and support in a fallen world often hostile to both Jews and to ordered democracy.’ (Emphasis mine)
At the time I offered my own cautionary thoughts at Zeteo3:16.
This conference is now over and some remarks have been passed on to the media. The Christian Post headline reads New Christian Zionists Seek Distance From ‘Wild, Crazy Popular Apocalypticism’.
It’s obvious that some of the writers at CP aren’t exactly End Times friendly. I didn’t have to read the article to pre-empt that Hal Lindsey, John Hagee and the Left Behind creators would be mentioned. These writers must use the same worksheet. Michelle Bachman also received attention. In fact Bachman and Jan Markell were the focus of another article.
Craig Blaising, Darrel Bock and Anglican Rev. Julian Dobbs were three of the eleven speakers. Dobbs has written on Israel before and I agree with much of what he says. For example:
“The current conflict in the Middle East today is much deeper and far broader than a matter of secure and recognized boundaries for two independent states. If an independent Palestinian State is established, it will be a state governed by Islamic Law and both Jews and Christians will suffer as a result.”
Blaising and Bock are progressive dispensationalists. In a nutshell, their dispensationalism claims to be a refined modification of the older versions. But they’re essentially very similar. Blaising should have known better than to make contrasts between his view of Israel, Jews and church to that of “older” dispensationalists:
“One difference, Blaising said, was that the older dispensationalism treated Israel and the Church as two different people groups. A Jew who became a Christian was considered no longer Jewish, under this view.”
Christian scholars like Dr. Michael Rydelnik and Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum identify with the “older dispensationalism” yet see themselves as Jewish. They understand that a saved Jew is part of the church but that unregenerate Israel is still prophetically significant.
However, this is tangential to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Blaising’s remark only provided unhelpful ammunition against dispensationalism. If the conference attendees presume to present a better biblical model for the young and restless Evangelical – thus rescuing Zionism from an errant dispensational theology – they’re in for a rude awakening.
First of all, mockers of Hal Lindsey are a dime a dozen. Neither he nor Bachman need me to rescue them. I may not know if the rapture and Armageddon are around the corner or not; but you’d have to be on some special medication to not realize what’s going on around us.
As for Evangelical elites….I’ll see one of your elites and raise you a bunch of soft-gospel advocates, outright apostates and long list of Israel haters. They hate Israel because it is there; because it is Jewish, and a nuisance to their worldview. They don’t need “pop-apocalypticism” or dispensationalism as justification to attack Israel. They’re only convenient excuses.
I recently picked up Professor of Theology Harvey Cox’s When Jesus Came to Harvard. He enlightens his readers about Hal Lindsey, Left Behind theology and Israel. His language is intellectual but his arguments all-too typical. It’s that same old worksheet passed around. More problematic are comments he makes about Jesus:
“Christians have never been unanimous about who he [Jesus] was, and this is one of the healthiest features of Christianity.”
Jesus may have come to Harvard, but some folks weren’t certain who He was.
The New Testament writers were unanimous about Jesus and defended His identity even to the death. If Cox thinks confusion is a healthy thing then he’s probably not the first theological professor to go to regarding eschatology or Israel. The same applies to a long list of other scholastic critics who attack Lindsey and LaHaye, yet retain a culturally-diverse or doctrinally dependant view on biblical interpretation.
Many Evangelical elites compromise the Bible’s inerrancy and question what the “Bible says.” This is why John MacArthur recently convened a conference on the subject. Hence Tooley’s New Zionists will have their hands full arguing for a better biblical understanding when their audience increasingly questions the source.
It is imperative that we stick to “what the Bible says arguments” even if people reject them.
Wheaton Theologian Gary Burge and the other anti-Israel activists know what the Bible says regarding Israel, and they willfully discard it. Where Burge conveniently re-interprets Scripture he disagrees with, others like Naim Ateek openly dismiss large portions on the same basis.
Denver Professor Craig Blomberg, who claims to be a biblical historical premillennialist, has given Gary Burge his blessing regarding Israel. He doesn’t see Israel as prophetically significant and has accused it of being oppressive. Yet in the same one hour speech delivered to his seminary, Blomberg never addressed Palestinian and Christian suffering at the hands of the two leaderships.
The New Zionists are naive if they think they’re better equipped to deal with issues older dispensational Zionists have struggled with. They will meet the same unwillingness to take God’s word for what it says; an almost pathological bias against Israel and the Jews, and a Pollyanna-like attitude to Hamas and the PA.
On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who try to lift it will injure themselves severely when all the nations of the earth gather against her. Zechariah 12:3
Just look at how the world demonizes Israel, the global anti-Jewish incidents, and Iran & Co. It seems to me that we’re heading towards that scenario. Perhaps Lindsey and Bachman are onto something.
What do you think?