Christian Zionism

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Christian Zionism is a belief among some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy. It overlaps with, but is distinct from, the nineteenth century movement for the Restoration of the Jews to the Holy Land, which had both religiously and politically motivated supporters. The term Christian Zionism was popularized in the mid-twentieth century. Prior to that time the common term was Restorationism.[1]

Some Christian Zionists believe that the "ingathering" of Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus. This belief is primarily, though not exclusively, associated with Christian Dispensationalism. The idea that Christians should actively support a Jewish return to the Land of Israel, along with the parallel idea that the Jews ought to be encouraged to become Christian, as a means fulfilling a Biblical prophecy has been common in Protestant circles since the Reformation.[2][3][4]

Many Christian Zionists believe that the people of Israel remain part of the chosen people of God, along with the "ingrafted" Gentile Christians[Romans 11:17-24] (dual-covenant theology). This has the added effect of turning Christian Zionists into supporters of Jewish Zionism.

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[edit] Historical origins and Biblical interpretations

Christian advocacy of the restoration of the Jews arose following the translation of the Bible into the vernacular, principally in England, among the Puritans. A plain reading of such translated biblical texts, in some proponents' opinions, is interpreted as evidence that God still has a special relationship with Israel, especially Romans 11, which begins:

I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

It continues with a parable of a grafted olive tree, the point of which is disputed. Some say that it is the restoration of Israel to promised land, while others say that it is gentiles being grafted into the covenant of God with Israel's faithful remnant.

The Biblical foundations of Christian doctrines regarding the theological status of Jews include prophetic and didactic texts. Some supporters of the restoration of the Jews interpret the prophetic texts as describing inevitable future events, and these events primarily involve Israel (taken to mean the descendants of the Biblical patriarch Jacob) or Judah (taken to mean the remaining faithful adherents of Judaism). People who take them at face value see these prophecies as requiring the presence of a Jewish state in The Holy Land, the central part of the lands promised to the Biblical patriarch Abraham in his covenant with God. This requirement is sometimes interpreted as being fulfilled by the contemporary state of Israel. The didactic texts of the Epistles also include explanations of the events described in prophecy, and so complement and expand upon their significance.

Among the principal relevant prophetic texts are those found in the Jewish Bible or Old Testament in the Book of Daniel, the book of Isaiah and the Book of Ezekiel, and those found in the New Testament in the Book of Revelation. These Old Testament books describe the Apocalypse, meaning literally the "unveiling", a vision of an eschatological event or end times. The Book of Revelation, or "Αποκάλυψις Ιωάννου" in the original Greek, puts forth an early Christian eschatological view which has been interpreted in many ways. The Roman Catholic study Bible as well as the doctrines of most mainline Protestant denominations caution that Revelation is an allegory. However, some Christians, including many evangelicals and fundamentalists, read Revelation as a prophetic script containing a timetable to the future End Times. The contents of these books are discussed in the relevant articles, particularly in the article Book of Revelation.

Among the principal relevant Epistles are the New Testament books of Romans (especially chapter 15; q.v. "if the Gentiles have shared in their spiritual benefits, then they are obligated to minister to Jews in material needs.", and chapter 11; "a hardening in part has come to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and thus will all Israel be saved"), and especially Hebrews, which elaborates the history of Judaism, relating the events of the Torah and Ketuvim as a "foreshadowing" of the Christian era, and describes the relationship of the Jewish people to God in a continuing context.

Christian schools of doctrine which consider other teachings to counterbalance these doctrines, or which interpret them in terms of distinct eschatological theories, are less conducive to Christian Zionism. Among the many texts which address this subject in counterbalance are the words of Jesus, as for example in Matthew, "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it", and the writer of Hebrews's discussion (echoed in 1 Peter) of the Christian church as fulfilling the role previously fulfilled by the faithful Jews and the Temple, and the doctrine of Paul, expressed in Galatians, that "in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek".

Though many Christian Zionists believe that conversion of the Jews to Christianity is a necessary adjunct of the Second Coming or the End of Days, conversion of the Jews is not part of the theology of prominent Christian Zionists such as John Hagee and was not thought to be required by the nineteenth century restoration advocate William Eugene Blackstone.

Both pro-Zionist and anti-Zionist schools of Christian thought may be influenced and motivated by the description found in Revelation, in the message to the Church at Philadelphia: "Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but lie. Behold, I will make them to come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you." This description is often offensive to Zionist Jews who otherwise find some common ground with Christian Zionism in their support of an ethnic Jewish state in the Holy Land. Nonetheless, it forms one of the foundational ideas underlying some support for Christian Zionism and plays a definitive role in its eschatological script of prospective events.

[edit] History and recent theological developments

Christian Zionism is a name applied primarily by opponents to the political implications of the views expressed by advocates of the restoration of the Jews who may subscribe to one of several theological systems, including dispensationalism and Covenant Theology.

Christian support for the restoration of the Jews was brought to America by the Puritans who fled England. In colonial times, Increase Mather and John Cotton,among others, favored restoration of the Jews, but it was not until the early 19th century that the idea gathered impetus. Ezra Stiles at Yale was a prominent supporter of restoration of the Jews. In 1808, Asa McFarland, a Presbyterian, voiced the opinion of many that the fall of the Ottoman Empire was imminent and would bring about the restoration of the Jews. One David Austin of New Haven spent his fortune building docks and inns from which the Jews could embark to the Holy Land. In 1825 Mordecai Manuel Noah, a Jew who wanted to found a national home for the Jews on Grand Island in New York as a way station on the way to the holy land, won widespread Christian backing for his project. Likewise, restorationist theology was the inspiration for the first American missionary activity in the Middle East.

As the demise of the Ottoman Empire appeared to be approaching, the advocacy of restorationism increased. At the same time, the visit of John Nelson Darby, the founder of dispensationalism, to the United States, catalyzed a dispensationalist movement and an evangelical revival. This was expressed at the Niagara Bible Conference in 1878, which issued a 14 point proclamation, including the following text:

...that the Lord Jesus will come in person to introduce the millennial age, when Israel shall be restored to their own land, and the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord; and that this personal and premillennial advent is the blessed hope set before us in the Gospel for which we should be constantly looking. (Luke 12:35-40; 17:26-30; 18:8 Acts 15:14-17; 2 Thess. 2:3-8; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Titus 1:11-15)

The dispensationalist theology of John Nelson Darby which motivates one stream of American Christian Zionism is often claimed to be the foundation of American Christian Zionism. He first distinguished the hopes of the Jews and that of the church and gentiles in his ground-breaking series of 11 evening lectures in Geneva in 1840. His lectures were immediately published in French (L'Attente Actuelle de l'Eglise), English (1841), German and Dutch (1847) and so his teachings began their global journey. While there is no doubt that it had a great influence through the Scofield Bible, Christian support of the restoration of the Jews preceded the publication of the Scofield Reference Bible (first published by OUP, 1917) for nearly a century, and many prominent Christian Zionists and Christian Zionist organizations such as the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem do not subscribe to dispensationalism.

The tycoon William Eugene Blackstone was inspired by the conference to publish the book Jesus is Coming, which took up the restorationist cause, and also absolved the Jews of the need to convert to Christianity either before or after the return of the Messiah. His book was translated and published in Yiddish. In 1891 he lobbied President Benjamin Harrison for the restoration of the Jews, in a petition signed by over 400 prominent Americans, that became known as the Blackstone Memorial.

In the United States, dispensationalist Christian Zionism was popularized by the evangelical Cyrus Scofield (1843–1921), who promoted the doctrine that Jesus could not return to reign on Earth until certain events occurred. In the interim, prior to these last days events, Scofield's system taught that the Christian church was primarily for the salvation of the Gentiles, and that according to God's plan the Jewish people are under a different dispensation of God's grace, which has been put out of gear so to speak, until the last days (the common name of this view is, dispensationalism), when the Christian Church will be removed from the earth by a miracle (called the Rapture).

Scofield writing in the 1900s said that, in those last days, the Bible predicts the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and particularly to Jerusalem. Scofield further predicted that, Islamic holy places would be destroyed, and the Temple in Jerusalem would be rebuilt - signalling the very end of the Church Age when the Antichrist would arise, and all who seek to keep the covenant with God will acknowledge Jesus as their Messiah in defiance of the Antichrist.

Charles Taze Russell was another early Christian advocate of Zionism - but with an altogether different prophetic programme to orthodox Trinitarian dispensationalists.

[edit] British views

Ideas favoring the restoration of the Jews in the Palestine or Land of Israel entered the British public discourse in the 1830s, though British reformationists had written about the restoration of the Jews as early as the 16th century, and the idea had strong support among Puritans.[5] Not all such attitudes were favorable towards the Jews; they were shaped in part by a variety of Protestant beliefs,[6] or by a streak of philo-Semitism among the classically educated British elite,[7] or by hopes to extend the Empire. (See The Great Game)

At the urging of Lord Shaftesbury, Britain established a consulate in Jerusalem in 1838, the first diplomatic appointment to Palestine. In 1839, the Church of Scotland sent Andrew Bonar, Robert Murray M'Cheyne, Alexander Black and Alexander Keith on a mission to report on the condition of the Jews in their land. Their report was widely published[8] and was followed by a "Memorandum to Protestant Monarchs of Europe for the restoration of the Jews to Palestine." In August 1840, The Times reported that the British government was considering Jewish restoration.[5] An important, though often neglected, figure in British support of the restoration of the Jews was William Hechler (1845–1931), an English clergyman of German descent who was Chaplain of the British Embassy in Vienna and became a close friend of Theodor Herzl. Hechler was instrumental in aiding Herzl through his diplomatic activities, and may, in that sense, be called the founder of modern Christian Zionism.

In Defending Christian Zionism, David Pawson, a prominent Christian Zionist in the United Kingdom, puts forward the case that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land is a fulfilment of scriptural prophecy, and that Christians should support the existence of the Jewish State (although not unconditionally its actions) on theological grounds. He also argues that prophecies spoken about Israel relate specifically to Israel (not to the church, as in "replacement theology"). However, he criticises Dispensationalism, which he says is a largely American movement holding similar views. Pawson was spurred to write this book by the work of Stephen Sizer, an evangelical Christian who rejects Christian Zionism.

[edit] Recent political analysis and developments

A demonstration in the square Narinkkatori in central Helsinki in support of the State of Israel.

With the Jewish settlement of Palestine thereafter, and the establishment of a modern Jewish state on May 14, 1948, dispensationalism (already popular among American Christian fundamentalists) enjoyed an immediate boost of credibility. It seemed to many that biblical prophecy was being explained by the headlines of the newspaper, sparking an intense interest in events in the Middle East, which has continued unabated. Modern Christian Zionism is a politically potent consequence of this religious interest in the modern state of Israel, as contemporary events are interpreted in light of their relationship to biblical prophecy.

The role of certain Christians in supporting the establishment of Israel following World War II is well known; and it is regarded by some critics as, in part, a kind of self-willed fulfillment of prophecy. Given this, some are alarmed by what else Christian Zionists envision being done to bring about the conversion of the Jews and the end of the world. As an example, Hal Lindsey, one of the most popular American promoters of dispensationalism, has written in The Late Great Planet Earth that per Ezekiel 39:6-8, after Jews fight off a "Russian" invasion, Jews will see this as a miracle and convert to Christianity. Their lives will be spared the great fire that God will put upon Russia and people of the "coastlands." And, per Zechariah 13:8-9, one third of Jews alive who have converted will be spared.[9]

In United States politics, Christian Zionism is important because it mobilises an important Republican constituency: fundamentalist and evangelical Protestants who support Israel. The Democratic Party, which has the support of most American Jews, is also generally pro-Israel, but with less intensity and fewer theological underpinnings.

Sociologically, Christian Zionism can be seen as a product of the peculiar circumstances of the United States, in which the world's largest community of Jews lives side by side with the world's largest community of evangelical Christians. There has historically been a somewhat antagonistic relationship between these two communities, largely based on the generally liberal/progressive social policy tendencies of the Jewish community with the more 'rugged individualist' leanings of the American Protestant communities, more so than any theological dispute. Their mutual reverence for the texts of the Hebrew Bible has brought them together, however, as has their common ground against generally leftist pro-Palestinian and/or anti-Israeli factions in American politics.

The mobilisation of evangelicals has tended to bolster the so-called neo-conservative policies of the Republicans, because Christian Zionists tend to favor a hawkish foreign policy and have less sympathy for Palestinian claims than do the Democrats.

Examples of Christian leaders combining political conservatism with Christian Zionism are Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, leading figures of the Christian Right in the 1980s and 1990s. Falwell said in 1981: "To stand against Israel is to stand against God. We believe that history and scripture prove that God deals with nations in relation to how they deal with Israel." They cite part of the blessing of Isaac at Genesis 27:29, "Those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed."

The government of Israel has given official encouragement to Christian Zionism, allowing the establishment in 1980 of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. The main function of the embassy is to enlist worldwide Christian support for Israel. The embassy has raised funds to help finance Jewish immigration to Israel from the former Soviet Union, and has assisted Zionist groups in establishing Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

The Third International Christian Zionist Congress, held in Jerusalem in February 1996, issued a proclamation which said:

God the Father, Almighty, chose the ancient nation and people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to reveal His plan of redemption for the world. They remain elect of God, and without the Jewish nation His redemptive purposes for the world will not be completed.
Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah and has promised to return to Jerusalem, to Israel and to the world.
It is reprehensible that generations of Jewish peoples have been killed and persecuted in the name of our Lord, and we challenge the Church to repent of any sins of commission or omission against them.
The modern Ingathering of the Jewish People to Eretz Israel and the rebirth of the nation of Israel are in fulfilment of biblical prophecies, as written in both Old and New Testaments.
Christian believers are instructed by Scripture to acknowledge the Hebraic roots of their faith and to actively assist and participate in the plan of God for the Ingathering of the Jewish People and the Restoration of the nation of Israel in our day.[10]

Popular interest in Christian Zionism was given a boost around the year 2000 in the form of the Left Behind series of novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.[11] The novels are built around the prophetic role of Israel in the apocalyptic End Times.

[edit] Disapproval by other Churches

[edit] Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (Catholic), the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, have recently joined together in order to proclaim and to publish the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism (August 22, 2006). This Declaration rejects Christian Zionism for substituting a political-military program in place of the teachings of Jesus Christ.[12] The statement is very critical of Christian Zionism because it views it as providing a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism. Palestinian Christian leaders have also been very vocal in supporting the "Kairos Palestine" document calling for a boycott against Israel until it stops its discriminatory policies in the Palestinian territories.[13]

[edit] United States

The General Assembly of the National Council of Churches in November 2007 approved a resolution for further study which stated that the "theological stance of Christian Zionism adversely affects:

  • justice and peace in the Middle East, delaying the day when Israelis and Palestinians can live within secure borders
  • relationships with Middle Eastern Christians {prior reference to the Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism}
  • relationships with Jews, since Jews are seen as mere pawns in an eschatological scheme
  • relationships with Muslims, since it treats the rights of Muslims as subordinate to the rights of Jews
  • interfaith dialogue, since it views the world in starkly dichotomous terms"[14]

The Reformed Church in America at its 2004 General Synod found "the ideology of Christian Zionism and the extreme form of dispensationalism that undergirds it to be a distortion of the biblical message noting the impediment it represents to achieving a just peace in Israel/Palestine."[15] The Mennonite Church published an article that referenced what is called the ongoing illegal seizure of additional Palestinian lands by Israeli militants,[16][17] noting that in some churches under the influence of Christian Zionism the "congregations 'adopt' illegal Israeli settlements, sending funds to bolster the defense of these armed colonies." [18] As of September 2007, churches in the USA that have criticized Christian Zionism include the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ.[19] And Zionism dispels any possibility of the Preterist understanding that Christ came to Earth, to end the Old Covenent that God made with Man, and begin a new Covenent with Man. In doing so, it ended the old Jewish ways and instilled a new path for the forgiveness for sin, and that through a perfect human sacrifice Jesus Christ. The film With God On Our Side, by Porter Speakman Jr. and Kevin Miller (the latter of whom also co-created the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed), criticizes both the underlying theology behind Christian Zionism as well as its negative influence on the church.[20]

[edit] Notable proponents

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ http://www.lamblion.com/articles/articles_jewishlife6.php
  2. ^ Oren, Michael, Power, Faith and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present, W.W. Norton, 2007
  3. ^ Boyer, Paul S., When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992.
  4. ^ Berlet, Chip, and Nikhil Aziz. "Culture, Religion, Apocalypse, and Middle East Foreign Policy," IRC Right Web, Silver City, NM: Interhemispheric Resource Center, 2003, online
  5. ^ a b British Zionism - Support for Jewish Restoration (mideastweb.org)
  6. ^ The Untold Story. The Role of Christian Zionists in the Establishment of Modern-day Israel by Jamie Cowen (Leadership U), July 13, 2002
  7. ^ Rethinking Sir Moses Montefiore: Religion, Nationhood, and International Philanthropy in the Nineteenth Century by Abigail Green. (The American Historical Review. Vol. 110 No.3.) June 2005
  8. ^ A Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews from the Church of Scotland in 1839 (Edinburgh, 1842) ISBN 1-85792-258-1
  9. ^ Hal Lindsey, Carole C. Carlson, The late great planet earth, Zondervan, 1970, p. 167-168, ISBN 0-310-27771-X, 9780310277712
  10. ^ PROCLAMATION of the 3rd INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN ZIONIST CONGRESS
  11. ^ [Rammy Haija. The Armageddon Lobby: Dispensationalist Christian Zionism and the Shaping of US Policy Towards Israel-Palestine. Holy Land Studies 5(1):75-95. 2006.]
  12. ^ [1].
  13. ^ http://www.kairospalestine.ps/
  14. ^ http://www.ncccusa.org/NCCpolicies
  15. ^ http://www.rca.org/Page.aspx?pid=3839
  16. ^ Lebor, Adam (October 14, 2007). "Over the Line". The New York Times. 
  17. ^ "The building of settlements in the occupied territories has always been illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace." Avi Shlaim, "A Betrayal of History" in The Guardian (February 22, 2002, London), reprinted in The Other Israel (New York: The New Press 2002) at 45-50, 48. The author is professor of international relations at Oxford University.
  18. ^ http://mcc.org/peace/pon/PON_2005-03.pdf
  19. ^ *. Cf. [2].
  20. ^ "With God On Our Side". 
  21. ^ a b "Herbert W. Armstrong’s interpretation of the 3 ½ years". 
  22. ^ a b c d e f Brog, David, Standing with Israel, FrontLine, 2006.
  23. ^ Jordana Horn (2011-05-18). "Glenn Beck heading to Israel again – for summer rally". Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 2011-06-21. 
  24. ^ 'Dr. Michael D Evans on LinkedIn'
  25. ^ Lindsey, Hal, The Late Great Planet Earth. Zondervan, 1970. pp. 42-58.
  26. ^ Audio: Reverend Manning Talks About American Black-Jewish Relations
  27. ^ Clark, Victoria, Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism, Yale University Press, 2007.
  28. ^ [3]
  29. ^ Defending Christian Zionism, 2008, David Pawson, Terra Nova Publications, 2008, ISBN 9781901949629
  30. ^ Walvoord, John F. Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis. Zondervan, 1970, rev. ed. 1990. pp. 65-108.

[edit] Further reading

  • Paul Richard Wilkinson. For Zion's Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby ISBN 978-1-84227-569-6, Paternoster Press, Authentic, Carlisle 2008.
  • Zev Chafets. A Match Made in Heaven: American Jews, Christian Zionists, and One Man's Exploration of the Weird and Wonderful Judeo-Evangelical Alliance. HarperCollins, 2007.
  • Victoria Clark. Allies for Armageddon: The Rise of Christian Zionism. Yale University Press, 2007.
  • Grace Halsell. Prophecy and Politics: Militant Evangelists on the Road to Nuclear War. Lawrence Hill & Co., 1986. ISBN 0-88208-210-8.
  • Donald M. Lewis. "The Origins of Christian Zionism: Lord Shaftesbury and Evangelical Support for a Jewish Homeland" Cambridge University Press. 2009. ISBN 978-0-521-51518-4
  • Rammy Haija. The Armageddon Lobby: Dispensationalist Christian Zionism and the Shaping of US Policy Towards Israel-Palestine. Holy Land Studies 5(1):75-95. 2006. The Armageddon Lobby
  • Irvine Anderson. Biblical interpretation and Middle East policy: the promised land, America, and Israel, 1917-2002. University Press of Florida. 2005. ISBN 0-8130-2798-5.
  • Tony Campolo. The Ideological Roots of Christian Zionism. Tikkun. January–February 2005.
  • Stephen Sizer. Christian Zionism: Road map to Armageddon? InterVarsity Press. 2004. ISBN 0-8308-5368-5. Review
  • Gershom Gorenberg. The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. Oxford University Press. 2002. ISBN 0-19-515205-0
  • Paul Charles Merkley. The Politics of Christian Zionism 1891–1948. Frank Cass. 1998. ISBN 0-7146-4850-7
  • Lawrence Jeffrey Epstein. Zion’s call: Christian contributions to the origins and development of Israel. University Press of America. 1984.
  • Michael Oren. Power, Faith and Fantasy. New York, 2007.
  • Barbara W. Tuchman. Bible and Sword.New York, 1956.
  • David Pawson. "Defending Christian Zionism" Terra Nova Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-1-901949-62-9

[edit] External links