Eschatology, Christian Zionism, and Why I Bother.

Posted: 21/04/2012 in eschatology
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I find that some topics are more interesting than others.  More specifically, people simply like some issues more than others and there’s a stronger Facebook, Twitter, and blog comments reaction to it.  That’s not to say that popularity is the only reason why I write.  It’s not the main reason to discuss “end times.”

Why stir the pot on this issue?  Honestly, it can be frustrating subject at times.  I don’t think of myself as a blogging crusader or church-leading lay person.  I am not a Dee Dee Warren on this issue by any means.  More recently, I read a nice a article on the Internet Monk that gave me a moment to think about the smashing of metaphorical* icons, which was a timely read, because I’ve been planning two more blogs on this issue for awhile.

But eschatology is important.  It’s tied up with ethics and how we treat other Christians.  Here’s how it goes.

Let’s begin with a hypothetical situation:  imagine a church that is incredibly involved in service to its neighbors and community.  God has given them a nice opportunity: a new series of homes has been recently developed in the city.  These homes are perfectly livable, but due to the housing crash many are unfinished when it comes to carpets, outside paint jobs, and even some electrical work.  Seeing this great need, the church leaders dispatch their members to fix up these homes and welcome the new neighbors.  Trucks and tools head out and eager volunteers.  The church leaders declare this a great outreach to unchurched members of the community.

On their way to fix up these homes, the volunteers drive by the houses of several families.  These houses are collapsed in rubble due to a recent tornado.  Some members learn that these families were all members of another Christian assembly whose worship center was in the next city over.  When the church members mentioned this to their leaders, the pastors gently explained that these families did not count as true Christians, because they refused to recognize the importance of welcoming new neighbors into a city by providing them with carpets, house paint, and electrical wiring.

If you think this sounds a little bit like the parable of the Good Samaritan, it’s because I’m doing it on purpose.

I write on end times for arab Christians like Munther Isaac, who represents the Palestinian Christian Church.  That is Christians in the middle east who are ignored by Christians in United States.   Even though American Christians profer unflinching financial support for Israel.  Why exactly does this happen?

Racism could be a reason.   A Palestinian Christian speaks with accent and has tan skin.  However, most of the readers of this blog aren’t racists.  It’s way too hard to live in Los Angeles and not be used to tan-skin, non-Americans, and accents.  Besides, very few American Church supports Christians in China, Korea, Africa and Latin America.  There are no doubt Christians out there who think that any pronounces the name “Isaac” with middle eastern accent is a Muslim.  But I figure people like that don’t know how to use the internet.

Also, we all know that part of the Gospel is seeing to people’s material needs.  Furthermore, all Christians understand that helping the poor and oppressed was part of Jesus’ ministry and therefore part of ours.  Anyone who disagrees with that is probably off acting silly, and not reading this blog.

So what is the issue?

Munther’s presentation is a half hour long, which is still shorter than many sermons.  His points speak to this question.  Here are the highlights:

  • When I read the New Testemant “Literally” it tells me that Christians are the heirs of Abraham.
  • God does not reject contemporary Israel.  God does not reject any nation.
  • Why do you demand that we must first acknowledge the sufferings of others, before we’re allowed to speak about our own suffering?
  • I am not anti-Semitic.  I actually *am* Semitic.
  • I am not a “replacement theologian” because I believe Israel was expanded not replaced.  “Replacement theology” is what Christians Zionists label people they disagree with.
  • Accepting Christian Zionism is not a test for orthodoxy.
  • I am very glad that Christian Zionists are here, and I apologize if I appear angry.

Why on earth does a Christian have to explain that he shouldn’t be ignored and maligned, by other Christians?  If we removed the terms “Palestine” and “Israel” and just said, “Middle Eastern Christians suffer at the hands of occupying military force” or “A minority group of Christians are unable to move freely in their own country” American Christianity would make magazine cover stories about it.  We’d invoke the parables of the sheep and goats, “I was hungry and you did not feed me… I was in prison and you did not visit me…”  We’d mobilize every non-profit and short term missions trip around that rallying point.

To bad, though, that the existence of Palestinian Christians doesn’t fit very well with dispensational futurism.  “Christian Zionism” is part of the dispensational futurist interpretation.  Yet, ignoring Christians like this wouldn’t make sense even if dispensational futurism was true.  How can there be no contradiction here?  How do you reconcile an eschatology that encourages compliance?  Aren’t there Bible verses that encourages us to care about other Christians?

So here again, are the practical consequences of an particular eschatology.  Our behavior and our ethics are (obviously) are informed by our interpretations scripture.  I have long expressed my frustrations with dispensationalism on this blog.  I guess “why I bother” is to hope that dispensationalists will re-think Christian Zionism.  It’s not that Israel should not exist, it’s that we Israel should be regarded as any other nation.  Why?  Because if we take Christian Zionism seriously we  have to pretend that Palestinian Christians don’t exist or don’t matter.  We would never endorse that policy for any other Christians anywhere else on the planet.  If we’re going to make such a radical exception, than we should at least listen to what they have to say.  After that, we better think long and hard about Christian Zionism.

======

*(that’s a verbal cue, for those who read this blog the way Thomas Ice interprets the Bible.  I told you that should take it metaphorically, so now you know that you should. Please assign to the word “icon” whatever prophetic significance makes sense to you)

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Comments
  1. Matthew says:

    Hi. Great post. I’ve been struggling over the issue recently. I grew up in a pro-Israel home and can’t recall ever hearing sympathy for Palestinians, let alone Palestinian Christians, until one day this year it dawned on me that Christian Zionism would fail in Palestine because it means they would have to be against their own flourishing in favour of Israel. Racism isn’t too strong a word for it.Rather, the Gospel calls us to be pro-everyone – pro Israeli, pro Syrian, pro Iraqi, pro Iranian – we should desire all to have the chance to hear the good news and so be saved. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jin roh says:

      A lot of us were raised in churches/families that were dispies/ Christian Zionist. My maternal Grandparents were Christian Zionists.

      And yes, the Gospel requires us to be pro-Palestine, Pro-Russia, Pro-Iran, and Pro-Korea. etc. The Kingdom of God transcends nations.

  2. godsfingers says:

    Interesting read. In your posting the question begs to be asked, why do they refer to themselves as Palestinian Christians? Why aren’t they just Christians or as you put it Middle East Christians? I’ve perused the website christatthecheckpoint.com and it raised flags all over the place. In particular the involvement of Lynn Hybels from Willow Creek mega church, or emerging church heading for apostasy church.

    The thing that impressed me, and here’s the Eschatology, is that “church’s” are embracing Islam and worse advocating the dropping of support for Israel. Imagine the joy in the US pulling it’s support for Israel because the church asked for it. Here I stand in the wings sending money to Israel but still kind of hoping that’s what happens for two reasons. First, Israel can, then, only find her salvation in God and two, it would be the precursor to Ez 39, Gog and Magog. Gog has already been put in power (Putin) so the times harken toward real excitement, if you are a believer…

    • Jin roh says:

      Godsfingers,

      Every single premise you use to argue those points is exactly what I think needs to be up for question.

    • Jin roh says:

      ….and I can’t believe that your dismissing people because they have a national flag you don’t like and are associated with a pastor you disapprove of.

      • godsfingers says:

        I guess you missed my point, which is the same as what you said in so many words, why are they defined as a specific group instead of simply Christians in the middle east? Lost in your dialogue is that they are NOT persecuted by the Jewish state of Israel, and are NOT put where they are because they are Palestinian Christians. You don’t find Messianic Jews vs Palestinian Christians unless they get into nationalism and then if that fight starts then you’ve lost the Gospel part of it anyway, not unlike the Serbs.

        The Palestinians are a fake peoples just like Americans are a fake peoples. You don’t see American Christians running around waving a flag. In fact, these days, as a Christian, I disassociate myself from the Americanism due to the rampant apostasy. So trying to get a response of Palestinian Christians vs an agnostic Jewish state is disingenuous and, as such, my shock at the involvement of the pastor’s wife from Willow Creek (not a pastor that I had previously disapproved of). So the Palestinian Christians waving a flag and looking for some special dispensation smacks of politics and our discussion of fellow Christians ends.

        I’m not a “Christian Zionist” that I know of. I only know of the Bible and it’s promises, and to bless Israel is to be blessed in return, to curse Israel is to be cursed in return. If you want to throw in dispensationalism (no I don’t believe time as we know it will go on forever) then the Palestinian Christians should muff it and follow the Bible and “suffer” in silence, as many of us do, and anticipate the return of Messiah. This perceived plight is nothing compared to the killings across the canal and their own people killing them for being Christians. They should be embracing the entire Bible and walking the entire walk and knowing that their perceived pain is only for a short while.

        As for me, a Zionist? Not really. I love the Messianic Jews, they have the whole picture, but I’m also a realist, and the reality is that prophecies are quickly lining up and that should be pushing evangelism as the focus of the whole church, because time is short….

  3. Jin roh says:

    Godsfinger,

    To your question, I call them Palestinian Christians because they call themselves Palestinian Christians. Part of what you’re supposed to understand someone who isn’t just like you, is that you use their terminology and their idioms, rather than your labels. This is why we don’t call the Lakota “savages” or “Sioux” anymore.

    You say that Palestinian Christians are not persecuted by Israel. I can only conclude that either you did not watch the presentation, or did not pay attention to it. Perhaps you were to busy thinking of ways to correct him. What happens on the elsewhere for Arab Christians is not important for the subject at hand.

    You say that you are not a Christian Zionist, but you also say, “to bless Israel is to be blessed in return, to curse Israel is to be cursed in return.” That attitude is the definition of Christian Zionism. You say that you follow “the Bible” but fail to realize that Munther reads the same Bible you do, as do I, and as did every Christian between its canonization and the present. Yet your view did not exist for most of that time, and isn’t even believed by most Christians today. Your view is a minority liberal view, so don’t through the phrase “The Bible” around as if the rest of us have never read it.

    • godsfingers says:

      A minority liberal view????? Sorry, but the liberals patronize and embrace anything and everything. I don’t try to keep up with the most recent black person label, I don’t employ any of the homosexual game playing, and I don’t regard the victim game you’re trying to play. Real Christians are being persecuted on all continents in all countries, including the US. That would be why the divide between the Christian and the main line churches continues to grow.

      “You say that you are not a Christian Zionist, but you also say, “to bless Israel is to be blessed in return, to curse Israel is to be cursed in return.” That attitude is the definition of Christian Zionism.” Sorry, but the Word of God is the Word of God, perhaps you need to embrace that. And Paul’s counsel to Timothy on the reliability of the scriptures sets my tone.

      Now, there is this other problem, and perhaps you can shed light on it. It has to do with Palestinians stopping or impeding the flow of aid to, in particular, Christians. How does your zionist argument answer that? We can try to aid until we’re blue in the face, but outside of smuggling in the aid personally there’s no guarantee that it will arrive. And again, if you claim that it’s the Israeli state interfering, then, as a God fearing and believing Christian you would have to accept that it is between God and His people. The scriptures are clear on the Jew’s responsibility to take care of the foreigner.

      I could go on and on, but I really have to work.

      • Jin roh says:

        I suppose you too, were stopped at a military checkpoint the last time you wanted to get groceries, visit a relative, or attend a high school graduation.

        Godsfinger, your posts are quite possibly validating the points in this blog. You have evidently decided to dismiss Palestinian Christians in favor of Zionism while stamping your feet with rhetoric “the word of God is word of God” when what you really mean is something like “I am right, neener neener neener.”

        And no, If Israeli interfered with or mistreated or interefered with any attempt to aid Palestinians I would *not* as “God Fearing and Believing Christian” have to accept that as between “God and his People” because I do not accept Christian Zionism and Dispensationalism as test for orthodoxy or even true. Modern day Israel has nothing to do with the OT, the NT Revealation and so forth as far as I am concerned.

        As I said, your view is a minority, liberal view. You do not speak for Bible. You do not speak for Christianity.

        I reiterate: the very premises you assume and use to make your points, are exactly what is up for question.

  4. godsfingers says:

    It’s only a matter of time I suppose, given all the Executive Orders for the detainment and incarceration of what ever the president considers a threat, including Bible believing Christians. I’m not sure what country you’re from but I just about choked, laughing, over the liberal minority thing. Are you sure that’s what you want to say? And the neener, neener thing? Sorry, I’m way too old for that, maybe my grandchildren. The liberals are the ones throwing out the Bible and replacing it for what their itching ears want to hear, or are you considering yourself conservative because you won’t accept that the Bible is the Logos, the Word of God and empowerment.

    I’m not sure of your age, but it’s obvious that you haven’t reached the listen to what I say age yet. I asked about the PA creating false flag events and impeding and/or stopping aid and you went off about zionists again. I suspect that you are between 19 and 25 and haven’t quite shaved yet. I also suspect that you’re middle eastern holding to an orthodox religion, christian by name only and denying the living and active God.

    I’ll pray for you that you will actually meet the living God and then know that you can support Israel AND provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians. Soon, you may find that confessing your a Christian can cost you your life, I’m prepared for that, are you?

    • Jin roh says:

      You are wrong on all accounts. I will let a candid audience judge as to whether your assumption that I am middle eastern is indicative of racism or not. The candid audience can also judge whether or not this entire last post was nothing but ad hominem. A candid audience can also judge whether or not your assumptions about Christians in the middle east is further demonstrates the exact kind of behavior that Munther objects to, and illustrates the connection between bad eschatology and bad ethics that alluded to in the blog.

      I referred back to Christian Zionism because that the entire point to blog post was about: *that interpretation* which *you endorse* is what I place up for question here. I also referred back to it because whether Palestinians are stopping aid from getting to Christians is actually completely irrelevant not important for the purposes of the blog, or Munther’s presentation which I’m not sure you have paid attention to.

      Your views are liberal in in the sense that they are not conservative. Conservative meaning “does not change.” Your views about Israel is less than 200 years old, and is a significant change from what Christians believed about “Israel” up until 19th century. Luther, Calvin, John Wesley, Augustine, John Knox, John Huss, the first Anabaptists, everyone who complied the Bible, and so forth did not believe what you believe about “Israel.” In the above list, I have actually listed people who *did* die for their faith.

      Your views are a minority in the sense that only American Evangelicals believe it (and even that is starting to shift) and it is not typically endorsed by contemporary mainline protestants, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Catholics, or even many Reformed denominations. You may cry “Christians in name only” but that does change that your view is a minority view when judged by any objective observer.

      • godsfingers says:

        Well, the ad hominem worked, but you still rave like a child. I’m sure an objective observer would be interesting, good luck finding one. You are obviously quite subjective in your accounting. Now I would have to assume, then, that John Wesley would whole heartedly endorse the Methodist inclusion of woman in the pastorship, homosexuals in the ministry, and the boring hymns of the past. Sorry, but the Wesley’s were liberals by your judgement. They even set their songs to bar music and evangelized the lower class as opposed to ministering to the nobles. And he died a natural death. Luther, wow, 95 changes including grace through faith. He made major changes from the tradition orthodox, to the extent of advocating Islam and arguing against the Turks believing them to be the Apocalyptic scourge to remove the anti-Christ whom he believed to be the Pope. Wasn’t that considering Revelation for now teaching? Perhaps you like him because he was anti-Semitic. He died a natural death. I won’t go into the others, Calvin who somehow taught you can’t lose your salvation despite Hebrews 6.

        IN your list none died as Martyrs going on in ignorance to the very beginning of Christiandom. So I hardly can believe your pronouncement that My beliefs are any different than Paul or Peter or John. I know my redeemer, He is the Alpha and Omega and when He comes there will be a lot of surprised people in the middle east and around the world, even where you live….

  5. Jin roh says:

    Yes, Luther endorsed many liberal views. He also endorsed many conservative ones. Calvin, overall, was probably more liberal than Luther. The anabaptists were radical -to the point of martyrdom. John Huss wasn’t very liberal, but he was a martyr. John Wesley’s a bit more complicated. His oxford peers regarded him as a backwards conservative. He was certainly very conservative in regards to American Revolution. Yet his methods of evangelicalism and concern for social cause were very Liberal.

    Did you know that the Christian Abolitionism was also liberal?

    Here’s the thing: I’m not putting liberal as a label on anybody. I did even say you were liberal. I said your views on end times were liberal. There are gradients between what liberal and what is conservative. People can hold liberal views (wanting things to change) and conservative views (wanting things to stay the same) in regards to different things.

    So a person can liberal view about hymns in church doesn’t mean they also hold a liberal view about homosexuality. Seriously, the only reason to believe otherwise is if you use liberal as form of name-calling.

    I have honestly no clue why you think that Calvin taught me anything.

  6. Glenn says:

    “You don’t see American Christians running around waving a flag.”

    How dearly I wish that this were true. It is not.

  7. Matthew says:

    I was thinking about this issue again recently and it dawned on me: Which passages in the New Testament re-affirm the return of Israel to the land? Given that Hebrews looks forward to a ‘new Jerusalem’, doesn’t that suggest the land, or the city at least, was a shadow of things to come too?

    • Jin roh says:

      I think that might be right. Part of Jesus’ message is that the Kingdom of God wasn’t just about a city or nation, but about the whole world.

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