Tag Archives: politics

The New Christian Zionism

“A survey of 2,000 American Evangelical Christians released Monday found generational differences among participants in positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with older evangelicals offering more unconditional support of Israel than those under 35.

According to the survey, American evangelicals under 35 are less likely than their older counterparts to offer unquestionable support for Israel, and are more likely to hold positive views of the Palestinians.” (Haaretz, 12/4/17)

For many years evangelical Christianity has been known to be highly Zionistic. Undoubtedly this is due, at least in part, to the influence of dispensationalism on5138 conservative Christians. Studies show, however, that Zionistic attitudes among American Christians are waning. Is this due to trends in dispensationalism? Trends in social media, e.g. we have a better view of what Palestinians are experiencing? Or is it something else?

The New Christian Zionism, edited by Gerald McDermott, does not attempt to answer those questions, however in light of Christian Zionism’s waning popularity, McDermott and a host of biblical scholars, theologians, and ethicists attempt to make a case for Zionism which is not dependent upon dispensationalism.

So what was the old Christian Zionism? Basically it was the dispensational view which puts Israel and the church on two separate, but parallel tracks. All the promises given to Israel will literally be fulfilled by the Jewish people group (ethic, national, territorial Israel), and not by a “spiritual” church.

What is the new Christian Zionism? Here I quote McDermott:

The New Christian Zionism asserts that the people and the land of Israel represent a provisional and proleptic fulfillment of the promises of the new world to come. So Jesus brought a new era to the history of Israel but without abolishing what came before, and he predicted that his people and land would be central to that new world. This is why the New Christian Zionism speaks of fulfillment and not supersessionism.

In making their case for this NCZ McDermott shows that Christian Zionism goes back two thousand years , and before the 19th century it had nothing to do with dispensationalism.

McDermott’s introduction is followed by four essays dealing with the biblical material (from a non-dispensationalist standpoint). Craig Blasing attempts to show that the NT affirms the OT expectation of an ethnic, national, territorial Israel in God’s plan. Joel Willits shows that the restoration of the land of Israel is fundamental to Matthew’s story of Jesus. Mark Kinzer argues that eschatology in Luke-Acts is tethered to the holy land. David Rudolph shows that Paul is looking forward to a renewed earth that is centered in Israel.

Jerusalem

The next section deals with some issues that people have brought up against Christian Zionism, often other Christians! Mark Tooley addresses mainline protestant objections to NCZ. Rebert Benne address the objection that Israel is an unjust political state oppressing Palestinians. He turns to Reinhold Niebuhr’s work to defend Israel. Some of the most interesting chapters follow Benne’s. Robert Nicholson addresses the objection that Israel is violating international law by controlling the west bank. He argues that 1)International law is unclear, and where it is clear, Israel is not in violation and 2)Israel’s legal standards are higher than all of its neighbors and many leading western countries. Shadi Khalloul, an Aramean Christian, argues that while Israel is far from perfect, it is far from unjust in its treatment of minority groups.

The last set of essays are written by Darrell Bock and Gerald McDermott, they both chart some possible ways forward for NCZ.

My favorite chapter was by far Nicholson’s chapter. Most likely because he addresses some objections I often hear – namely that Israel does not deserve the land beause it is violating the Mosaic covenant. Nicholson makes a strong case for the difficulty of making that claim. Second, Christian Zionism has lost a lot of support because many western Christians who pay attention to international politics are under the impression that Israel is in violation of international law in its treatment of Palestine. Nicholson, addresses whether or not there were any violations of international law in the taking of territory during the Six Day War. In trying to answer this question he gives his readers a history lesson. He provides 8 essential pieces of background for determing the legal and political context of Israel’s supposed violation of international law:

  1. Israel’s actions in the Six-Day Ware were conducted in self-defense in reponse to overwhelming aggression from surrounding Arab countries.
  2. The “Palestinian” territories that Israel captured in the war did not belong to anyone else under international law.
  3. Israel planned to exchange the captured territories for peace.
  4. The law of occupation may not apply to the West Bank and Gaza. (Because they are “disputed” territories.
  5. Israel has substantially performed its obligations as a belligerent occupier.
  6. The presence of Jewish civilians insde the West Bank does not constitute a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.
  7. Israel has substantially pefromed its obligations under United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.
  8. Palestinians have legal and political autonomy.

Nicholson concludes by saying that “An objective reading of the situation must conceded that Israel has in fact complied with international law. That Israel is routinely thought to be in violation stems more from ignorance of the laws involved and prejudice against Israel than the facts on the ground.” (280)

So where should Christians who are hesitant about Christian Zionism go from here? Bock makes an important and wise suggestion:

Israel is still responsible to God for how she responds to covenant obligations. To endorse Israel and a national place for the nation is not to give her carte blanche for everything she does. Christian Zionism is not a blind endorsement for Israel. It does not give the nation a pass on issues of justice or moral righteousness. She is still called to live responsibly as a nation like other nations. Rather, Christian Zionism merely makes the affirmation that Israel has a right to a secure homeland, which she should govern and occupy morally and responsibly. (309)

Now you may not find yourself agreeing with Bock’s or any of the other author’s conclusions, nevertheless, you should still give this book a shot. Given our political climate, evangelical (in all senses of the word) Christians really need to think through these issues carefully. To do so would be not only politically disastrous, but potentially spiritually as well.

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America and the Imperial Cult

The emperors use of this but bears some resemblance to modern politicians’ identification with American symbols…as a way to gain the trust and respect of its citizens. For much of its existence, the United States has had an informal mixture of Protestant Christianity and patriotism, a so-called civil religion, that has some of the feel and impact of the emperor cult. For example, this informal union gave political and economic notions such as individual liberty, democracy, and free enterprise a sacred or sacrosanct status, concepts that one may oppose at the cost of harsh criticism. The phrase “America, love it or leave it” gives something of this flavor. In addition, American Civil Religion meant that those who were not members of a Protestant Christian Church, such as Jews and Roman Catholics, were at times seen as un-American. -James Jeffers in The Greco-Roman World (103)

America at the Crossroads

To say that America is at the crossroads is one heck of an understatement. But yeah I guess you can think of it that way. This election cycle has shown us that perhaps more than ever this country is divided, and that division shows up in the competing visions of where America ought to be headed towards in the future. And honestly, not matter which fork in the road America takes, the future doesn’t look so bright.

What I’m saying here is nothing new people feel this. But we can’t (contra what some people in political circles these days are saying) base facts on feelings. This is where George Barna’s new book, America at the Crossroads, comes in. Doing what Barna does best, polls and trend tracking, he gives us the hard facts about those feelings. The studies which you will find in this book track the results of how people are feeling/thinking about issues like:

  • Religious Belief
  • Religious Education
  • The Bible
  • Evangelicals
  • Government Satisfaction
  • Political Engagement
  • National Priorities
  • Population Growth
  • Happiness
  • Political Correctness
  • Confidence in Institutions
  • Confidence about the Future

Building upon his findings Barna consolidates what he finds into a helpful summary section, describing recent and past state of affairs regarding the t51ppw2abcjl-_sy344_bo1204203200_opic. Each chapter also includes a “key facts” section which he lists some important and pertinent information. For example in the chapter on National Priorities you will find that the top issue of concern for Americans  in 2015 was terrorism, followed by the economy and jobs. Republicans pretty much mirrored this trend. However democrats placed “improving the educational system” at the top of their concern list, followed by improving the economy and job situation. Finally each chapter includes an Outlook and Interpretation section, where Barna makes his own subjective interpretation of the data and predicts future trends.

Overall this is a pretty helpful book. I recommend that pastors take a look at these findings, as it will help them better understand where their congregations are at, and where they may be going.

BOOK GIVEAWAY

I would love to give away a copy of this book if you think it will be helpful to your ministry. If you would like a chance to win (and live in the continental US). You can enter to win by doing one of the following:

  • Tweet out the link to this blog post or the review and mention @Cwoznicki
  • Retweet my tweet about the giveaway
  • Like this post
  • Comment below on how this book would benefit you

I will be selecting one winner soon. Good luck!

Note: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an impartial review.

 

 

Good Luck!

Ave Christus Rex!!!

HT: First Things Magazine

As the dust settles and the role that conscientious dissenters will have in our New Society is made clearer, we who pray “Thy kingdom come” need not be afraid. What is new is the unfortunate decision of five Supreme Court justices. What isn’t new is the call for Christians to live lives of peace, love, joy, freedom, generosity, kindness, and prayer. The Holy Spirit, as far as I know, hasn’t been overruled by the Supreme Court.

What better time to let our light shine before all mankind. We can be gracious in our legal defeat while remaining firm in our conviction that God made man, male and female, in his own image, and created man and woman to live together in fruitful harmony. We can still ask his unfailing mercy for ourselves, first of all, and for all those who do not know him.

Jesus is king. Amen. Alleluia. No civil authority can change that. What we owe him in obedience cannot be changed by any civil compulsion, full stop. Freedom is something so internal that external things cannot touch it. When civil society falters, each believer can check to see whether the foundation of his life was set on the rocky ground of God, or the sands of fickle earthly masters.

We realize anew today that the Constitution was written by mere human beings. The Word of God that is inspired by the Spirit and the teachings of the holy men and women who have preserved the faith remain unchangeable. The road ahead will be difficult. At the very least, over 100 million Americans still object to the judicial imposition of a false right on the Constitution of this country. That is not a number which can be summarily dismissed. But today, we reaffirm our faith in God, and ask him to guide us as we discern how to move forward to establish a just society, with laws that reflect human nature and promote the common good.

Ave Christus Rex!

Dominic Bouck, O.P., is a Dominican brother of the Province of St. Joseph and a summer intern at First Things.

The Government’s Mission is to Serve Christ

The title of this post seems ridiculous – especially in this post-Christian world. But its true.

The Government’s Mission is to Serve Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor, prophet, martyr, spy – gives the rationale behind this idea:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

The mission of government to serve Christ is at the same time its inescapable destiny. Government serves Christ no matter whether it is conscious or unconscious of this mission or even whether it is true or untrue to it. If it is unwilling to fulfill this mission, then, through the suffering of the congregation, it renders service to the witness of the name of Christ. Such is the close and indissoluble relation of government to Christ. It cannot in either case evade its task of serving Christ. It serves Him by its very existence. – Ethics, 337

Whether the government knows it or not. Whether it wants to or not – the fact is that at the end of the day everything that happens in the realm of government serves to promote Christ’s goals and intentions for this world. The key thing to remember is that we may not have the eyes to see how the government serves Christ. Regardless of the how, the church’s call is to remain faithful to the one who is over all things, remembering that we serve Christ above all others.

The Kuyper Center Review – Calvinism and Democracy

The Kuyper Center Review - vol 4 - Calvinism and DemocracyIn 2012 a group of scholars gathered at Princeton Theological Seminary for a conference titled, “Calvinism and Democracy.” The purpose of this conference was to reflect upon the neo-Calvinist legacy, to explore its theological roots, and to assess in what ways this tradition might provide resources for democratic criticism and renewal. The Kuyper Center Review (Volume Four): Calvinism and Democracy represents the published proceedings of this conference.

Although this collection covers a wide range of topics, there are two themes that tie all eleven essays together: (1) the notion that democracy today is facing a crisis. and (2) the fact that neo-Calvinism has always had a complicated relationship with democracy. Despite these unifying themes this variegated compilation of essays lacks coherence. Since there does not seem to be a strong organizing principle behind their arrangement, for the sake of the review I will divide them into three categories: historical essays on Abraham Kuyper, prescriptive essays based upon Kuyper’s theology, and essays examining other theologians.

You can read the rest of my review of The Kuyper Center Review (Volume 4): Calvinism and Democracy in the Journal Themelios.