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Christian ZionismEccentric theology and the Middle East

It is encouraging to see a steady flow of books arriving to counter the tide of 'Christian Zionism' that carries so many Christians along today.

This one is Christian Zionism by Stephen Sizer (IVP, 2004. ISBN 978-1-84474-050-5). It's subtitle, Road-map to Armageddon? hints at its conviction that Christians who support Zionism are actually both wanting and provoking major conflict in the Middle East, rather than wishing to see peace and justice there.

It is a well-researched book, with all the historical background you will ever need, an analysis of the current main Christian movements under the Zionist umbrella, and a careful theological assessment of their viewpoint.

The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), drawing together the historic as well as evangelical churches of the Holy Land, rejects Christian Zionism 'as representing a heretical interpretation of Holy Scripture', while John Stott has described it as 'biblically anathema'. (p22)

The question is not whether the promises of the covenant are to be understood literally or spiritually, it is instead a question of whether they should be understood in terms of old covenant shadow or new covenant reality. The failure to recognise this principle is the basic hermeneutical error which Christian Zionists make and from which flow the other distinctive doctrines that characterise the movement. (p135)

If, to use Peter's words, 'God does not show favouritism' from a Christian perspective, it cannot logically be presumed that Jews continue to enjoy a favoured or exclusive status. It is therefore no longer appropriate for Christians to designate the Jewish people as God's 'chosen people' since the term has now been universalised to embrace all who trust in Jesus Christ, irrespective of race. (p150)

There is no evidence that the apostles believed that the Jewish people still had a divine right to the land, or that they Jewish possession of the land would be important, let alone that Jerusalem would remain a central aspect of God's purposes for the world. On the contrary, in the Christological logic of Paul, Jerusalem as much as the land, has now been superseded. They have been made irrelevant in God's redemptive purposes. (p170)

Christians favouring the rebuilding of the temple consistently ignore the way in which the temple is invested with new meaning in the NT as a 'type' for Jesus Christ and his church as did many of the Early Church Fathers. Instead, they advocate a return to the very practices made redundant by the once-and-for-all atoning work of the Son of God. (p179)

According to Kamal Farah of the Anglican Pilgrimage Office, it is the policy of the Israeli government to ensure all tourists and pilgrims visit the three key sites of Yad Vashem, the Wailing Wall and Masada in order to perpetuate a favourable image of Israel, stifle criticism and reinforce their claim to the land. (p217)

The biblical literalism of Christian Zionism leads many to demonise Arabs and Palestinians as Satanic enemies of the Jewish people; their futurist reading of prophecy demands that much of the Middle East belongs to the Jewish people; and their eschatology predicts a pessimistic and apocalyptic end to the world. Peace talks are, therefore, not only a waste of time, they demonstrate at best a lack of faith and at worst a rebellious defiance towards God's plans. (p250)

Ultimately, the choice is between two theologies: one based primarily on the shadows of the old covenant; the other on the reality of the new covenant. In identifying with the former, Christian Zionism is an exclusive theology that focuses on the Jews in the land rather than an inclusive theology that centres on Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. It consequently provides a theological endorsement for racial segregation, apartheid and war. This is diametrically opposed to the inclusive theology of justice, peace and reconciliation which lie at the heart of the new covenant. (p260)

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