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The Threat of Christian Zionism, Politics, and John Hagee (1)


A couple weeks back I posted the link to this in “The-Ologys”, but after re-reading it tonight decided to post it in (2) parts on the front page: I believe its an important article and message.

From Monergism: The Threat of Christian Zionism by Nathan Pitchford

*****

If the phenomenal success of the bestselling Left Behind series indicates anything about the prevailing eschatological mindset across a wide swath of the evangelical landscape in modern America, then we would do well to pause and consider.

Where is this fascination with the sensational, and frequently outright bizarre, interpretation of the significance of current events coming from? What is driving the obsession to see end-time prophetic events transpiring in every headline? What connection does this mindset have with the implacable opposition to any measure taken for peace in the Middle East which would leave the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, or any part of Jerusalem outside of the complete control of the modern state of Israel? More importantly, what ideologies, theological convictions, or ways of understanding the bible lie beneath these phenomena, and how much of an impact are they having on the theological moorings of the Church today? I suspect that the impact is significant enough to warrant a strong warning statement about the movement known as Christian Zionism, and the hyper-Dispensationalism which drives it, from the leaders of the evangelical Church.

Unfortunately, however, it has not received the united front of resistance with which other threats to the health of the Church have been met with, such as Openness theology and gender-role confusion. Is this because many Evangelical leaders share enough theological convictions in common with the more extreme examples of the movement that they are loathe to give a clear denunciation? Or do they simply not perceive the errors as being a significant or widespread enough a danger to warrant the time and effort of a thoroughgoing rebuttal? Whatever the reason, there seems to be a general lack of attentiveness to a very rampant problem in Evangelicalism. Perhaps it is time to make clear just what Christian Zionism is (as well as all its theological bedfellows), what convictions are driving it, and what results it is tending towards in the thoughts and practice of the contemporary believer.

What is Christian Zionism?

Simply speaking, Christian Zionism is support for the Jewish movement to regain possession of their ancient homeland, which derives from a Christian theology and understanding of the Bible. In the most basic of terms, this Christian theological support comes from a literalistic reading of such passages as Genesis 13:14-15, where God promises to Abraham, “All the land which you see, I will give it to you and to your seed forever”. When this motif is conflated with such passages as Genesis 12:3 [spoken to Abraham], “And I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse the one who curses you…”; and Joel 3:2, “And I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, and I will judge them there because of my people, even my heritage, Israel, because they scattered them among the nations and because they divided my land”; the obvious implication is that, anyone who fails to support modern Israel in all her struggles with her various enemies, or anyone who approves of a treaty by which the boundaries first promised to Abraham are divided between Israel and her neighbors, will be under God’s curse, and the object of his eschatological judgment. The glaring problem with this simplistic reasoning, of course, is that it fails to take into account the biblical qualification as to who is intended by Abraham’s “Seed,” and what is indicated by the land which he was promised (for the former, see Galatians 3:16; 3:28-29; Romans 4:11-17; for the latter, see Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 11:9-10; 12:22-24).

Of course, if there were only a handful of minor passages that this understanding affected, it would be somewhat inflammatory to call it dangerous, or even severely misguided. But the simple fact is that it affects one’s interpretation of a whole class of prophecies. For example, consider the following prognostication, involving a broad range of scriptural testimonies:

The situation in Lebanon portends that Israel may soon be involved in another war. Now that Israel has withdrawn from the buffer zone in south Lebanon, the situation may quickly escalate to military confrontation with Syria. There are a number of Bible prophecies that may be speaking of the situation just ahead. It’s important to have an understanding of these because fulfilled prophecy is one of the most powerful proofs of the veracity of the Bible. God has revealed the significant details of His plan for human history before they happen. This prophecy regarding the destruction of Damascus could occur very very soon, and we will be able to point to it as yet another evidence that the Bible is absolutely reliable, and that the things that God has spoken will soon take place.

Here is an outline of how I understand it:

The war will include Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and the Palestinians.
Syria – Isaiah 17:1, Zechariah 9:1 Zechariah 11:2-3, Jeremiah 49:23-25
Lebanon – Zechariah 11:1 Zechariah 9:2-4
“Palestine” – Isaiah 17:3 Zechariah 9:5 Zephaniah 2:5 Ezekiel 25:15-17 Isaiah 14:31-32
Jordan – Isaiah 17:2 (Aroer) Zephaniah 2:8-9 (Ammon)
Damascus will be utterly annihilated. Isaiah 17:1 Jeremiah 49:23-27 The extent of the destructions hints that nuclear weapons may be involved; how else would an entire modern city “cease to be a city”?
The Palestinians will join the Syrians and foolishly make a grab for territory. They will see the obliteration of their ally Damascus and “writhe in anguish.” “The king will perish from Gaza” – Gaza is the place where Arafat’s headquarters are. Zechariah 9:1,5 “I will eliminate the pride of the Philistines.” Zechariah 9:6
Lebanon, Syria, and perhaps Jordan will burn. Zechariah 11:1-3
As a result of Israel’s destruction of Damascus, their national status will become emaciated because of intense international condemnation and outrage. Isaiah 17:4,12
These circumstances will compel Israel to begin looking to the Lord. Isaiah 17:7
Possibly, as a result of this war, Israel will obtain large portions of territory from Lebanon, Syria and Jordan (land that had been promised to them by God.) Zechariah 10:9-10 Jeremiah 49:1-2 Isaiah 54:2-3 Obadiah 1:19-20 (Bob Westbrook) [http://www.trumpetsounds.com/horizon.html].

This is just one example of many that could have been cited. This forecast has obviously been framed on the basis of the author’s interpretation of a wide selection of biblical prophecies. His understanding of Israel’s contemporary political significance does not come from a few isolated passages, but is part and parcel of an entire worldview supported by his interpretation of a wide spectrum of the biblical testimony. So if he is wrong at all, he is wrong in a way that affects his understanding of a great many passages of scripture. Even apart from the inherent dangers in becoming unhealthily absorbed in finding the next fulfilled prophecy in every headline, or in the possibility of a wrong hermeneutic leading to a truly aberrant theology, this point raises the stakes on its own terms. Assuming that each of these passages does have a legitimate meaning and application which is vital for the believer’s continuing growth in grace, it becomes a problem of no little import when they are wrested from their original intent in order to buttress one’s pet theories. In other words, the problem is not merely positive, in asserting things that are not true and helpful; it is also negative, in circumventing those things which ought to be derived from all the passages in question, and which would have much fruitful impact in a Christian’s life.

The Christian Zionist movement is also dangerous for another reason: not only does it involve one’s understanding of a large percentage of the scriptures, but it also affects a large percentage of American Christianity. This is not a fringe movement, even in its more extreme varieties, but is embraced by a wide selection of Christians from various denominations within Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism. Nor is it just in vogue among the unlearned and uninfluential masses, but it also has a voice among the religiously and politically powerful. Christian Zionists not only have a great capacity to influence the thinking of the Church, they also have a significant pull in Washington D.C. And if the decisions for which they are lobbying are supported by a faulty premise, there may well be unwise and uninformed choices made in politics on an international level, and with disastrous results. There is a tragic possibility that many of the war prophecies which the Christian Zionists are awaiting may prove to be self-fulfilling, as the contingency which predicts them obstinately opposes any Middle East peace treaties which involve any compromise, with a voice powerful enough to be heard in Washington and Jerusalem.

As a case in point, consider John Hagee, one of the most influential Christian Zionists in America today. Hagee pastors Cornerstone Church, in San Antonio, Texas, which is one of the largest churches in America, with some 18,000 active members. He is the author of several bestselling books, including The Beginning of the End, Final Dawn over Jerusalem, and most recently, the controversial In Defense of Israel. He is the CEO of John Hagee Ministries and Global Evangelism Television, both massive non-profit enterprises providing him with a voice on numerous radio and television networks, and he is also the founder and national chairman of Christians United for Israel, the most influential Christian Zionist organization in America. In addition to the ability he has to influence the popular opinion of millions of people across the world, he also has not a little political clout, which has been felt most recently in his endorsement of John McCain in his candidacy for the White House. This political presence is felt quite strongly in Israel, as Israeli journalist and Christian Zionist expert Gersham Gorenberg noted in the September 18, 2006 episode of the radio talk show “Fresh Air”:

[The Christian Zionists’] clout is in their impact on the politics of the United States, which is Israel’s key strategic ally. To the extent that they can affect the Congress and the administration’s attitude toward diplomacy, toward military action in the Middle East, they have a very strong effect on what happens to Israel. If they can push the American administration away from diplomatic effort towards peace because of the so-called “danger” that Israel would give up land, if they can express support for military moves rather than diplomatic moves, they will have a strong effect on what happens to Israel. And therefore, their support and their lobbying activity and their political activism is encouraged by Israeli politicians on the far right [http://www.jewsonfirst.org/06c/hagee_fresh_air.pdf].

This puts the whole movement in the unusual situation of having much influence both politically, in matters of international diplomacy, and religiously, in the doctrine and practice of the worldwide Evangelical church. If for no other reason than that, therefore, it would certainly behoove the leaders of Christianity which do not share the same belief system to develop a united and comprehensive response to Christian Zionism and the ideology which drives it.

What Are the Driving Factors Behind Christian Zionism?

The answer to the question, “What factors drive the beliefs and activities of the Christian Zionists?” has a theological and a psychological side. Theologically, the whole impetus of the movement derives from the one true sine qua non of Dispensational theology: the belief in two distinct peoples of God, ethnic Israel and the Church. If believing Gentiles have been grafted into the good olive tree which springs from the root of the patriarchs (Romans 11:13-24), so that they are now Abraham’s seed (Romans 4:11, 16-17; Galatians 3:6-7), heirs of the promises made to Abraham (Galatians 3:28-29; Ephesians 3:6), one body in which there is no further distinction between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:11-21; Galatians 3:28), then the modern state of Israel has no more divine right to extend its political influence than any other of its neighbor states. The disputes between her and her enemies should be resolved by the Christian virtues of equity, justice, etc., that ought to characterize all the nations which God has made and placed within their respective boundaries. The various states of the Middle East will finally be judged on the basis of their cruelty, pride, and so on, Israel as well as Palestine, Jordan, and all the rest; and any nation involved in arbitration between them would do well to consider the various dynamics of the current situation without resorting to the idea that one of them possesses a divinely-written title to all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates. But if one of those nations does in fact possess that divine right, then one’s obligation is simply to drive all other nations out, so that the divinely appointed possessor might have unswayed dominion. So then, one’s theology has a necessary impact on the questions surrounding the Middle East tensions: Is God starting to fulfill his old promise to curse all who are opposed to Abraham’s ethnic descendants, and to drive all the nations except Israel out of their promised land? If so, then to support any peace treaty in the Middle East which leaves any nation but Israel in the Middle East would be to struggle against God himself, and would be tantamount to siding with the Canaanites when Joshua first crossed the Jordan. Are the Christian Zionists then the derided and misunderstood Rahab of our times, seeing God’s purpose and casting in their lot with God’s people?

On the other hand, if God is fulfilling his promise made to Abraham by calling out persons from every nation to be his children by faith, and preparing them to inherit, not just the promised land, but the whole earth, and the New Jerusalem of which they are citizens even now (Matthew 5:5; Galatians 4:25-26; Revelation 21:1-4), then one can best throw in his lot with God’s people by laboring to bring children of every nationality in to his kingdom, which has now exploded beyond the bounds of the Middle East, and soon promises to change the entire world, when the redemption of God reaches its consummation and the Davidic King returns in all his glory. Although ethnic Israel still retains a special place in God’s redemptive design, being the nation to whom he first gave his grace and promise and covenant, and though we might with firm biblical conviction labor to see the ethnic Jewish people enjoy the blessings that God has irrevocably covenanted to give them, and continues to give to a remnant of grace within their ranks (Romans 11); yet, it would be a tragic step backwards to labor to reserve for them all the old shadow-blessings of a typical strip of this still-cursed earth, when the remnant of grace has entered into the true inheritance of Christ, and awaits an entire new and glorious earth, that “city which has foundations” (Hebrews 11:10, 14-16), which all of Abraham’s true seed by faith will inherit.

The practical outworkings of this two-people theology have an immense psychological effect among those committed to laboring for God’s redemptive ends. According to Dispensational theology, God’s last prophetic purposes will revert back to the political and geographical designs he has for his earthly people, national Israel. The end of the world will come about with the fulfillment of a host of prophecies relative to the modern state of Israel, and if one has a discerning eye, he can see how God is already setting the stage to fulfill these prophecies. Since all Christians are aware that this world does not constitute the end of all God’s redemptive designs, but that a new and much better world is coming; and since they are all vexed with the trouble and vanity of the modern world, and long to see their inheritance arrive; they will naturally be interested in doing whatever they can to “wait for and hasten the appearing of the day of God” [2 Peter 3:12]. So then, if one’s eschatology involves a reversion to a geo-political program for a national people of God, then seeing that earthly end coming to fruition will constitute the fuel and motivation for a sincere Christian’s strivings to labor for the Lord, and enter into his rest.

The Dispensational idea of an imminent rapture of the Church also plays into this motivation to be absorbed in the political situation in the Middle East, as a sign of the end times. Since an imminent event cannot be preceded by signs, many Christian Zionists introduce the technical distinction that none of the prophecies of the end times can be fulfilled until after the Church has been raptured. This means that, as the stage for the fulfillment of end-time events is set more minutely, and the forces which will lead to the Apocalypse begin to appear on the scene, the likelihood of an approaching rapture becomes increasingly greater, since none of the things that are presumably about to happen possibly can happen with the Church still on the earth. For instance, consider the following statement by John Hagee:

In May 1948 Israel was reborn. How many of you were alive on
May 15, 1948? It was the most important prophetic day of the 20th century. Why?
Because Jesus said in Matthew 24:32 `when you see the fig tree–national
Israel–begin to bloom again, know that my coming is nigh at the door. Behold,
one generation will not pass away until all things are fulfilled.’ We are
racing towards the end of time. We are not living in the last days. We’re not
living in the last hours. We’re living in the last minutes of the dispensation
of grace. In 1967 the six-day war united Jerusalem under Jewish control. Why is
that important? Because the gospel of Luke says when Jerusalem is no longer
trodden down by the gentiles, then shall the end come. The Bible says when the
Lord builds up Jerusalem, when he builds up Zion, he will appear in all of his
glory. So the Bible is screaming, when you see Jerusalem united, when you see
it beautified, when you see it built up, the Messiah is coming. And when you
see these signs in the heavens and the sun, the moon and the stars and the
waves of the oceans that are roaring, what did God say? He said `Lift up your
heads and rejoice! Your redemption draws nigh.’ I want you to do it,
Cornerstone. Rejoice! The King of Glory is on the way [http://www.jewsonfirst.org/06c/hagee_fresh_air.pdf].

Or else this assertion from noted Dispensationalist John Walvoord, from his book Oil, Armageddon, and the Middle East Crisis:

But if there are no signs for the Rapture itself, what are the legitimate grounds for believing that the Rapture could be especially near of this generation?

The answer is not found in any prophetic events predicted before the Rapture but in understanding the events that will follow the Rapture. Just as history was prepared for Christ’s first coming, in a similar way history is preparing for the events leading up to His Second Coming. . . . If this is the case, it leads to the inevitable conclusion that the Rapture may be excitingly near… [John F. Walvoord, Armageddon, Oil and the Middle East Crisis, revised (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1990), p. 217. Quoted in an online article by Dr. Thomas Ice here: http://www.pre-trib.org/article-view.php?id=63%5D.

This belief system can have both a positive and a negative effect on the believer’s practice, both of which possess a very destructive potential. Positively, there is the tendency to become obsessed with “headline exegesis,” searching for prophetic relevance in every current event and situation in the world. This very real effect has consumed thousands upon thousands of professing believers, has served to distract them from the true matters of living a Christian life of sobriety and moderation, and has no doubt damaged the reputableness and power of their testimony with the world, as well, which tends to see them as conspiracy-theorists and nuts, but not primarily a peculiar people marked by their godliness and devotion to Christ. Negatively, there is an even greater danger of failing to labor toward seeing those things fulfilled which truly must take place before the coming again of Christ. If the eternal state will be inhabited by representatives of every kindred, tongue, people, and nation (Revelation 5:9), and if the gospel will be proclaimed in all the world before the end comes (Matthew 24:14), then it is a most pressing task for modern Christians to finish the Great Commission by targeting and evangelizing the remaining unreached people groups of the world. Although they do not know the day or the hour of Christ’s return (Matthew 24:36), they may know the signs of the times, so that the day will not overtake them as a thief, like it will overtake the rest of the sleeping world (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8). Therefore, a Christian with a proper eschatological motivation will be laboring to spread the gospel to every people group under heaven, and doing so as a way of hastening the Lord’s coming (from a human point of view). But when the doctrine of a rapture which has been imminent from the apostles’ generation enters the picture, then the literal possibility of the gospel first having an impact upon every people group is precluded; and so the Great Commission loses its character as a finishable task which will conclude at the dawn of the new era of eternity, and becomes something we engage in in the meantime, and not necessarily among the unreached peoples most specifically, while our eyes are straining toward the Middle East for our hopes of the end of our labor.

*continued in part (2)

13 comments on “The Threat of Christian Zionism, Politics, and John Hagee (1)

  1. Wow, this is a trippy post! Great blog. I love deep thinkers. What is the WORLD is this blog all about? End of the World type stuff (Armageddon), WAR, Politics, Religion, Time Travel?!

    Again good content!

  2. The blog is a place where i share what interests me Luvlife..

    I wanted a place to post teachings, article, news items, studies, etc which i found interesting, in hopes someone else may find one or more interesting as well!

    Glad you found this on Christian Zionism…its roots in polities, etc of interest.

  3. We must not throw out ‘the baby with the bath water’. The Jewish people should be very important to all Christians, and this includes their homeland, and freedom. They like our country, are seeking to uphold a democracy. And in their case a Judeo one. We must respect this effort in both their desire for human freedom, and in their religious freedom and culture. Even Vatican II stated: “Israel according to the flesh, which wandered as an exile in the desert, was already called the Church of God (Num.20:4).

    Shalom!

  4. Hi and thanks for your comment irishanglican!

    We must not throw out ‘the baby with the bath water’. The Jewish people should be very important to all Christians, and this includes their homeland, and freedom.

    ALL lost people should be very important to us my friend…and i believe if we have the heart of God they will be.

    The 2 part article wasn’t suggesting that Jewish people or even the state of Israel, were of no importance..but was pointing out the dangers in the teachings of Christian Zionism: the political “animal” that it really is, and how many Christians involved are involved based on their views of eschatology…namely that they are what is known as classic dispensationalists. (no need to evangelize those who are Jewish, 2 people of God, 2 ways to attain salvation, etc etc..)

    I’ve come to the conclusion, after being in the dispensationalist camp for many years…until the Holy Spirit opened my eyes, that many if not most of them do not understand who the people of God are today–or have been for the last 2000 years: namely that being, it is those who are in Christ Jesus. That includes those in Christ, both Jewish and Gentile believers who have recognized Jesus as Messiah.

  5. “Our country” for me is both Great Britain and the USA. I have family in both!

  6. My great gram.. a little Scott-Irish woman (died when I was 16), was a PB…Kelly Brethren. So I am not unfamiliar with so called, “dispensationalism”. But it seems to have worked itself out a bit different in both Ireland and England! I have found the overall history of ‘the Brethren’ movement in both Ireland and England to have been very mystical at times. Some of it good, some not so good, etc. But many of them have certainly loved Christ and were jealous for His name!

  7. I am not unfamiliar with so called, “dispensationalism”. But it seems to have worked itself out a bit different in both Ireland and England

    From what i’ve read, i tend to agree with you. Here in the US it is ingrained deeply within the teachings in most of our churches–and most books on prophecy (at least the most popular, best sellers) are based totally on the teachings of the dispensationalist doctrines. Before 100-150 years ago this was not the case.

  8. I think ya right. I am in my 50’s..and my great gram was very different from what I have seen with certain American Scofield-Ryrie dispensationalists types, etc. They seem like LaHaye and Hagee to be formed upon this type of what has now become a sort of “pop” prophetic culture. From my side even (England) the likes of EW Bullinger (low church Anglican) was not like this, though of course he had the divide of the Church and Israel.

    Modern Irish/English, etc. “Brethren” people (that I see and know anyway) are not as locked down on this system of dispensational line. Look at the likes of FF Bruce, etc. I have read quite a bit on the early PB or ‘the Brethren’. My great gram give me my middle name…Kelly, from William Kelly. His biblical Greek word studies, as those of John Nelson Darby..and his translations of the Bible speak for themselves. These two men (Anglican trained, and Darby one time priest) though very fallible, were not like ‘the Brethren’ today, that is for certain.

    What is your Christian fellowship position now?

    RKD

  9. Yes i agree..much of it is ‘pop prophecy’…and because they have determined its 100% accurate, it affects how they perceive many things RKD. Including how they look upon the lost in other places outside of the US, England, etc etc…

    Here, you will rarely find writings from those who hold to classic dispensationalism, ever mention Christians living in the middle-east…nor will you find a great desire to take the gospel to those lost in Israel. Why? Because according to their beliefs, its not necessary to preach the ‘good news’ of Jesus to them now, for God has ‘another plan’ for them, after the rapture of the church.

    Like groups such as CUFI, (Christians United for Israel) their sole purpose is supporting the state of Israel…but avoiding the offering to them, of the Gospel. In other words, its solely political.

    What is your Christian fellowship position now?

    Church of God. Its pentecostal, but not in the sense of what the new definition is today ..more old line.

  10. pjmiller… Well mate, I would not know much about the new definition today. But I know the older some at least. I have known a few pentecostals in my time. It seems the older views of Pentecostal brethern are being lost. But then I guess that is just the nature of the church under postmodernism.
    Would you be pre-mill but post-trib then?

    I have myself been involved with some Anglican charismatics over the years. It seems the movement is in the decline, at least as to its spiritual zenith.

    Yes, the whole friendship of Israel thing is very touchy. I taught in Jerusalem (philosophy & theology) for several years. They have laws against religious witness and speech (so-called). And I agree that most of the Hagee bit is just political. And I know also that much of what Hagee says about Jewish evangelism…is simply not evangelism! But, it is perhaps best to live our Judeo-Christian witness before them, since they are rather touchy about their own nations historical betrayal of Jesus as the Christ. But I love the Jewish people dearly, and also their little nation…Israel! I take heat from both my Anglican and Orthodox brethren, over my love for Israel. But, that is fine.
    Have you heard of the new book called: Future Israel, Why Christian Anti-Judasim Must Be Challenged, by Barry E. Horner? Very indepth work (394 pages). I would agree with much of it myself. It is an American book also.

  11. Would you be pre-mill but post-trib then?

    I’m kind of undecided to be honest. LOL…but yes, im leaning in that direction.

    For some years i’ve worked on a few prophecy boards…so have gotten into discussions on most views: pre-trib, mid-trib (or pre-wrath) and post-trib. After seeing excellent arguments presented for all…and also seeing things in all i still question, i reached the point where my motto is ‘be prepared to meet the Lord every day’.

    No, i haven’t heard of the book you mentioned, but will check it out. thanks…

    I taught in Jerusalem (philosophy & theology) for several years

    That must have been a wonderful and challenging experience!

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