Abraham’s Inheritance: Misunderstood


Yesterday PJ Miller of Sola Dei Gloria posted an excellent study on Abraham’s inheritance, and how the promises that God made to Abraham are expounded upon as the Old Testament progresses and the New Testament is introduced. This study was originally crafted and posted by Stephen Sizer.

Sola Dei Gloria

Good message

They say, “where there’s a will, there’s a family” and boy has there been a family dispute over the inheritance of Abraham. Millions and millions of the relatives of Ishmael and Isaac believe they are the rightful heirs. The Arab-Israeli conflict is the longest running dispute in the hands of the United Nations. In fact its over 4,000 years old. It is also the most dangerous military conflict in the world, without any international regulation of the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons held by some of Abraham’s descendants.

And it is undoubtedly the most controversial media story in the world with accusations of holocaust denial, anti-semitism, racism, apartheid and Islamophobia. And, sadly, it is being perpetuated by some misguided Christians… 

Abraham’s Inheritance was Promised

“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, “To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt…

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Stephen Sizer Q & A at Taylor University


Early this morning, while preparing and eating breakfast before leaving for work, I was able to listen to Stephen Sizer field questions from students at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana regarding the 2010 film, “With God On Our Side.” As far as I can tell, this event took place on March 2, 2011. It was posted yesterday, however, on Sizer’s blog.

Taylor University is an interdenominational, evangelical Christian university founded in 1846, and presently has an enrollment of approximately 2600 students, according to its official website. A 2012 US News & World Report survey shows that Taylor has been the top college among 109 Midwest Regional Colleges for the last five years.

This video is 33 minutes long, and features questions from students regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Christian Zionism, Dispensationalism, John Hagee’s eschatology, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 37, the Samaritan woman that Jesus encountered, and more. I thought Stephen Sizer did a great job responding to these questions, and I believe that everyone can learn from this session.

I wrote a review of the film “With God On Our Side” which can be seen here.

Stephen Sizer: Why Zionists Are Ticked Off About the Film ‘With God on Our Side’


Stephen Sizer: Why Zionists Are Ticked Off About the Film “With God on Our Side”

by Adam Maarschalk (October 16, 2010)

Back in late April I wrote a favorable review for the film documentary entitled, “With God on Our Side.” This film takes a critical look at the movement known as Christian Zionism, which by and large gives uncritical support for the policies of the Israeli government and shows great partiality to the Jewish people at the expense of Palestinians and other non-Jews. The Bible, on the other hand, holds that Jews and non-Jews are equally lost without Christ, and that all who are in Christ have the same access to God’s blessings and promises regardless of ethnicity. The review I wrote on this film can be seen here.

Then in July I wrote a critique of Jan Markell’s strong denunciation of this film. This critique can be seen here. One of the film’s participants was Stephen Sizer, a pastor in England who is also an author, theologian, and an international speaker specializing in topics relating to the land of Israel. Jan unfairly said of Sizer that he “cannot stand the stench of Israel,” a point which I know from reading his materials is not the least bit true. Beneath that post one person also left a comment which simply included three links attempting to associate Sizer with Dale Crowley, a Washington journalist known for denying the Holocaust. As far as I could tell, after examining those links, Sizer had merely cited a statistic from Crowley in order to answer a question asked of him in a video interview with Alan Hart. He also, in that same interview, cited a statistic from John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel. No sound-minded person would suggest that Sizer, by doing so, endorsed the views of John Hagee.

The film, “With God on Our Side,” has not surprisingly stirred up a significant amount of opposition from supporters of Christian Zionism. However, I have yet to see any critiques of this film which deal with the actual content of the film in a fair way. Perhaps someone else knows of one?

A new critique has now come out, which Stephen Sizer wrote about on his blog last Sunday, October 10th. This critique is in the form of a booklet, which I have not had a chance to read, and was written by Eliyahu Ben-Haim, a Jewish believer in Christ who ministers as a pastor in Israel. The booklet is being sold by Intercessors for Israel, with this description:

The original motivation to write this paper was to provide a response to the video “With God on our Side,” produced by Porter Speakman Jr. in 2010. The video is a direct attack upon Israel and upon “Christian Zionists,” that part of the Church that is standing with God’s plan for the restoration and salvation of Israel. The question of Israel’s legitimacy as a nation in the family of nations is an issue that is being raised more frequently every day even in the Church. In many circles, present day Israel as a fulfillment of God’s prophetic word is denied as a false interpretation of Scripture. This is a battle that is not going away but on the contrary will increase in intensity. In many ways the delegitimization of Israel is an attack on God’s character, His Word, His sovereignty and His covenants. It really brings into question the truth of Scripture and God’s promises to us through His Son Jesus. Most of you will never see this video and I don’t recommend it to anyone. However the questions it raises, the accusations it makes, need answers. I have tried to provide responses historically, legally and Scripturally.

While it’s unfortunate that readers of this booklet are discouraged from viewing the documentary, it would seem to be a good thing that Eliyahu has attempted to interact with the questions raised in the film. How effectively or fairly he did so, I do not know, but the statement that With God on Our Side is “a direct attack upon Israel” already raises my level of skepticism. The following is Stephen Sizer’s assessment of Eliyahu’s critique:

Intercessors for Israel have ill-advisedly rushed into print a rebuttal of the hugely popular new film With God on our Side. Entitled, Setting the Record Straight, the booklet wrongly claims our film is “a direct attack upon Israel”. It most certainly is not, either in intent or delivery.

With God on our Side is a direct challenge to the foolish idea that Christian Zionism has any biblical or moral foundation. It is an oxymoron, as absurd as to suggest that biblical Christianity and apartheid are in any way compatible. The Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa tried and failed and eventually repented. Would that Christian Zionists did the same.

It is utterly reprehensible that so called Christians would try and justify on theological grounds the theft of land, the demolition of homes, the destruction of property, the creation of ghettos and the denial of fundamental human rights, in order to create what is increasingly becoming a racist state.

It is not an understatement to say that what is at stake is our understanding of the gospel, the centrality of the cross, the role of the church, and the nature of our missionary mandate, not least, to the beloved Jewish people. If we don’t see Jesus at the heart of the Hebrew scriptures, and the continuity between his Old Testament and New Testament saints in the one inclusive Church, we’re not reading them correctly. The key question is this: “Was the coming of Jesus and the birth of the Church the fulfilment or the postponement of the promises God made to Abraham?”

Christian Zionists see the promises of identity, land and destiny as part of an ongoing covenant God has with the Jewish people. In Zion’s Christian Soldiers I unpack this question and show that Christian Zionism is a recent manifestation of a heresy conclusively refuted by the New Testament.

For a clear and comprehensive refutation of Christian Zionism see Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church.

I so appreciate Sizer’s point that Jesus is at the heart of the Hebrew Scriptures, and that there is great continuity rather than a disconnect between the people of God before and after Christ’s first coming.

How would you answer Sizer’s key question: “Was the coming of Jesus and the birth of the Church [a] the fulfillment or [b] the postponement of the promises God made to Abraham?” My answer is that this was the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham, and that all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ and that none remain to be fulfilled outside of Christ. What’s your answer?

Sizer also said this regarding Christian Zionism, and all the implications of following this movement and accepting its claims: “It is not an understatement to say that what is at stake is our understanding of the gospel, the centrality of the cross, the role of the church, and the nature of our missionary mandate, not least, to the beloved Jewish people.” That’s quite a statement. How do you find this to be, or perhaps not to be, true?

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All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.

A Review of Jan Markell’s Review of “With God On Our Side”


A Critique of Jan Markell’s Review of “With God On Our Side”

By Adam Maarschalk (July 16, 2010)

At the very end of April I wrote a positive review of the recently-released documentary, “With God On Our Side.” This film is, I believe, a much-needed critique of Christian Zionism, the school of thought which lends uncritical support for Jewish Zionism on alleged theological grounds. It’s therefore no surprise that some Christian Zionists and dispensationalists have already denounced this film.

One person who has chosen to slam this film is Jan Markell, known in certain Christian circles as a pioneer in the modern Messianic movement. Jan is the author of eight books and the host of “Understanding the Times,” a national talk radio show heard throughout the US on Christian radio stations. In 1975 she launched into ministry with “Jews for Jesus,” and much of her ministry has focused on Israel ever since. In 1982 she founded Olive Tree Ministries in Maple Grove, Minnesota (a suburb of Minneapolis/Saint Paul), a ministry she continues to lead.

Last month Jan wrote her own review of “With God On Our Side,” which I would like to interact with in this post. Her review is titled “Whose Side Is God On?” It was published on her site four days after the film’s release (on April 8, 2010), although her review contains no evidence that she had viewed the film by that time. In fact, she concludes her review by urging her readers not to see it either. It’s difficult to be objective when taking such a stance, but the reader may judge here whether or not her review is fair and responsible. For the sake of clarity, Jan’s words will be in RED font, and my remarks and interaction will be in BLACK font:

JAN: Today, one of the greatest seductions is that there could be world peace if only the Palestinians had a homeland. So this month, a new film was launched titled “With God On Our Side.” It is aimed at changing the end-time views of evangelicals and the theology that says the Jews are God’s chosen people and have a divine right to the land of Israel.

Praise God that these theological questions are being raised. Many evangelicals have indeed swallowed these lines for years without really giving them much thought. Who, in fact, does the New Testament affirm as God’s chosen people? For what purpose are God’s people chosen, and can unbelieving Jews possibly carry out such a calling? What exactly does the NT have to say about the land of Israel? More on these things in future posts… By the way, I don’t know anyone who believes that world peace will be achieved by granting a homeland to the Palestinians. Let’s mark this as exaggeration #1.

JAN: Porter Speakman, the movie’s producer, explains that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel. He says there is a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians. That would be terrific if Palestinian leadership wanted peace with Israel. They don’t. They want a one-state solution and the destruction of Israel. So whatever theology Speakman refers to is bogus.

The actions and words of Palestinian leaders, one way or another, have no bearing on what is declared in Scripture. Palestinian leaders can say what they want, but the truth of Scripture still stands. Or would Jan have us believe that the collective voice of Palestinian leadership carries more authority than the Bible, in terms of how we relate to the people living in the Middle East? This film, incidentally, does not hold the Palestinian leaders in any particularly high regard, though it does advocate for the oppressed and suffering among the Palestinian people, a concern which Scripture certainly holds up as a priority. So, Palestinian leadership aside, does the Bible teach us to favor one people group over another, in this case the Jewish people? Or does Speakman’s “bogus” theology agree with the Bible? In my own review I began with these relevant passages:

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:4-6).

For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your children will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).

Much more evidence could be supplied to demonstrate that ethnic descent counts for nothing in the kingdom of God (e.g. Galatians 3:28-29, 5:6, 6:15-16; Ephesians 2:11-22, I Peter 2:4-10), and that the playing field has been leveled because of what Christ accomplished on the cross. Speakman’s theology is upheld on these points.

JAN: The film’s trailer claims, “Palestinian Christians lived here for centuries in this land. Suddenly they meet Christian groups of people who say the Palestinians are obstacles to the Second Coming of Christ. You need to move out to make room for the Jewish Diaspora to come here.”

Historical fact: No one urged Arabs living in the region to flee in 1948 and 1967 except Arab leaders themselves. This was for political purposes. Perhaps nowhere is historical revisionism more prominent than it is with issues surrounding the Jews, Israel, the Middle East conflict, and the Holocaust.

It’s indeed tragic that Arab leaders have too often exploited the civilian population of Palestine for political purposes. This does not make the underlined statement above entirely factual, though, nor does that statement come close to telling the whole story. One could make the case that the Arabs who fled in 1948 were actually among the more fortunate ones. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were killed that year, and some 700,000 made homeless, including many of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Whole towns and villages of formerly peace-dwelling people were either sacked by Zionists, or tricked into leaving “temporarily for their own safety” with the false promise that they could soon return. Robin Miller details some of the massacres which took place at that time in this very grim, but well-documented article: http://www.robincmiller.com/pales2.htm.

Elias Chacour is a Palestinian Christian who was 9 years old in 1948, and lived in one of the villages that was completely destroyed by the newly arrived Zionists from Europe. He personally witnessed the murder of unarmed villagers (many of them were Christians), and the removal of every last person from that village by brute force, trickery, or kidnapping. The same thing (or worse) happened to surrounding villages that he knew of. His excellent book, “Blood Brothers,” chronicles these and other stories, but this is far from being his only point. He also doesn’t come across as bitter as he tells his story. In fact, he presently lives among both Jews and Palestinians, working to see reconciliation between the two groups. His book is very much worth reading, for many reasons, and I hope to post excerpts from it in the future.

Historians continue to dispute the reasons for the large Palestinian refugee situation created in 1948 (see, for example, this Wikipedia article). I’ve seen claims that up to 68% of the 700,000 or so Palestinians made homeless at that time fled in response to orders given by Arab leaders. However, I’ve never seen a higher number than this, and most historians seem to say that this number is far too high. Granted that it was true, though, this still means that at least 225,000 Palestinians were made homeless in 1948 because of the actions of the incoming Zionists. This is nothing to make light of, especially if one teaches that this was a fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

Wikipedia also has a list of about 500 “Arab towns and villages depopulated during the 1948 Palestinian exodus.” According to the article, “Some areas were entirely depopulated and destroyed; others were left with a few hundred residents and were repopulated by Jewish immigrants, then renamed.” Older documents related to these events were newly released to the public in the 1980’s. Benny Morris, Professor of History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (who regards himself as a Zionist), had previously written a book on this subject, but when he was able to view the newly released documents, he had this to say:

[W]hat the new documents reveal is that there were both far more expulsions and atrocities by Israeli troops than tabulated in the book’s first edition and, at the same time, far more orders and advices to various communities by Arab officials and officers to quit [leave] their villages, or to at least send away their women, old folk and children, fuelling the exodus.

JAN: Mark Tooley of the Institute for Religion and Democracy states, “Anti-Israel activists see American evangelicals as key to U.S. support for Israel. That is why they are targeting evangelicals with messages of pro-Palestinian solidarity as supposedly central to Christian compassion.

“The film’s main message to evangelicals is that the old religious Right crassly imposed a pro-Israel U.S. foreign policy based on its end-time theology, creating untold suffering among largely innocent Palestinians. The film suggests that more thoughtful, more compassionate evangelicals will reject that heritage and instead stand with the Palestinians as the victim group most needing Christian compassion.”

Tooley continues, “The film perpetuates a simplistic stereotype alleging that American evangelicals self-servingly only support Israel because a Jewish presence there is central to their blood-thirsty, apocalyptic dreams about the Second Coming of Jesus.” I hope other evangelicals are as outraged as I am at being called “blood-thirsty!”

I wonder if this outrage shouldn’t be directed toward Mark Tooley, as he is the one who chose to use this term. I watched the film from beginning to end, and I don’t recall anything like this being said. I’m not so sure that Tooley watched the film either. “Anti-Israel…pro-Palestinian”—must we be so polarizing? For one thing, I hope it’s understood that one can be critical of the policies of the secular nation of Israel without holding animosity toward the Jewish community as a whole. One may also demonstrate compassion for the Palestinian people without condoning everything said and done by Palestinians. Again, the film’s synopsis in part states:

This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians [underlining added; bold in original].

“With God On Our Side” attempts to promote equality and an end to the rampant and unbiblical favoritism in Christian Zionist circles toward the Jewish people. In doing so, it is rightfully pointed out that many Jewish citizens and leaders are responsible for injustices toward the Palestinian people, a point which the average Christian Zionist often refuses to see. Equal time and space might be given to Palestinian injustices toward the Jewish people if this film were not a critique of Christian Zionism, a movement that already works overtime in pointing out such injustices.

JAN: To sum it up, Israel and the U.S. are nasty imperialists, and Christian Zionist evangelicals only back the Jews because of perceived abused theology: God will bring the Jews back to the land. It rightfully belongs to them. The last days’ scenario centers around the Jewish people and nation. Say folks, I say we can’t change Scripture although many are trying to do so today!

No, but I hope and pray that Scripture will change us, myself included. As tempting as it is, I will refrain from doubling the size of this post in order to address the underlined statement above. In my own view, though (and that of John Owens, Jonathan Edwards, and others), suffice it to say that where the New Testament speaks frequently of “these last days,” it speaks of the last days of Old Covenant, temple-based Judaism. Natural Israel did indeed play a part in those last days, but the result was her judgment, out of which a faithful remnant was saved. That faithful remnant of Jews, though, according to the clear teaching of the New Testament, was not the least bit superior in status to Gentile believers, and such remains the case today. Furthermore, unbelieving Jews are entirely outside of being heirs of the promises of God, as are unbelieving Gentiles. All prophecy, and all of God’s promises, are fulfilled only in Jesus Christ (e.g. Galatians 3:16, 29).

JAN: What is true is that Palestinian leaders and the entire Arab world abuse them, not U.S. imperialism and anybody’s end-time theology. Evangelicals are strong supporters of Islamic evangelism around the world [VERY much to the contrary, only about 2% of all giving among evangelicals goes toward missions, and only a fraction of this 2% is directed toward Muslim outreach]. Many evangelical agencies have been raised up, particularly since 9/11, to reach out to lost Muslims, including Palestinians. One such organization is Joel Rosenberg’s Joshua Fund.

The film “With God On Our Side” wants increased U.S. pressure on Israel to accommodate Palestinian demands, facilitated by reduced U.S. evangelical support for Israel. It just won’t happen. We are smart enough to know that what they really want is Israel dismantled altogether in favor of a one-state solution: Palestine.

Sigh… And this conclusion was reached how? Certainly not by watching the film. Once again, here is the film’s synopsis in part: “This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel…”

JAN: Just what exactly is “Christian Zionism?” It is a movement supporting the return of the Jewish people to their rightful homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel. Christians who fit into this category are almost exclusively evangelicals who believe God has a continuing special relationship with the Jews. He has a covenant with them that can never be broken. This is apart from the church. This is based on a literal and futurist interpretation of the Bible and the conviction that Old Testament prophecies concerning the Jewish people are being fulfilled today in the State of Israel.

This description of a belief that “God has a continuing special relationship with the Jews” sounds like classic dispensationalism, a doctrinal system invented by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s. The idea that God maintains one covenant with ethnic Jews, and another with the body of Christ, violates the New Testament in numerous and very significant ways. Just to name a couple: [1] It creates two peoples of God, one a group of people who can trace their descent from Abraham according to the flesh, and the other a group of people who are spiritually descended from Abraham. For starters, see Romans 2:28-29, Romans 4:13-17, Romans 9:6-8, Galatians 5:6, Galatians 6:15, and Ephesians 2:11-22 for the truth on this point.  [2] It makes Jewish believers superior in status and inheritance to Gentile believers, since a Jewish believer allegedly inherits the blessings of both groups and both covenants, whereas a Gentile believer only belongs to the one group and will never experience the blessings/promises set aside for the first group. See Romans 10:12 and Galatians 3:28-29 for the truth on this point and/or do a New Testament concordance search for the words “distinction” and “partiality.”

I’ll briefly make a couple of other comments regarding this paragraph from Jan above. First, I hope we can at least pause and consider the use of the word “rightful” when it comes to ownership of the land of Israel/Palestine. Did it ever truly “belong” to anyone other than God? Consider these words from God in Leviticus 25:23 to the people of Israel, “…for the land is Mine and you are but aliens and My tenants.” Blogger PJ Miller highly recommends, and rightfully so, a 2002 message by John Piper on this subject titled “Land Divine? – We Should Treat the Israeli-Palestinian Dispute As We Would Any Other” (a couple of eschatological differences aside, I recommend it as well).

Secondly, I hope we can also ponder on whether or not the modern state of Israel has anything to do with “Old Testament prophecies concerning the Jewish people.” Much could be said on this, but one question I have (out of many) on this point has to do with Ezekiel 36-37. These two chapters contain [1] a prediction of a soon return to the land (36:8) [2] one of the clearest predictions of this present New Covenant age (36:25-28; cf. 37:24-28) in the Old Testament. Why would Ezekiel have predicted a return which was to take place 2600 years in his future (as many popular teachers today will contend), rather than the return which indeed took place “soon” under Zerubbabel/Ezra/Nehemiah? Beyond this question, of course, one must grapple with the spiritual language used in these two chapters, and determine whether it speaks of this present New Covenant age—having begun in the first century AD (likely an amillennial understanding) or a future Millennial age (a premillennial understanding).

JAN: According to the film, “With God on Our Side,” Christian Zionism and our strange theology have muddied the waters more than any other entity! So, along comes a man who cannot stand the stench of Israel, Stephen Sizer. He is a Church of England priest who has written several anti-Israel books and anti-Christian Zionist books including Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon and Zion’s Christian Soldiers. Here are some more blood-thirsty images!

Sizer insists that the theology of Christian Zionists rejects some ethnic groups such as the Palestinians. He suggests we are using the lens of Bible prophecy and not the lens of justice. Most evangelicals will always choose the lens of the Bible so let Sizer bang his head against the wall in utter frustration. He has a great platform to do so on the program by the so-called “Bible Answerman”, Hank Hanegraaff. Who are some championing this film? Those who usually side with religious Left causes including Tony Campolo, Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Steve Haas from World Vision, Gary Burge from Wheaton College, and more.

These are baseless accusations and, to be frank, they are “hits below the belt.” The onus is upon Jan to prove that Stephen Sizer “cannot stand the stench of Israel,” and that his books are “anti-Israel.” According to his Wikipedia site, Stephen Sizer is a pastor at Christ Church in Surrey, England. He’s also an author, theologian, and an international speaker specializing in topics relating to the land of Israel. He affirms “the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders,” and stands against anti-Semitism. However, he disagrees “with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world, while denying the same rights to the Arab Palestinians born in the country itself.” His position is that what is known today as Christian Zionism has “no Biblical foundation or historical precedent.”

There are plenty of unbiblical viewpoints which are widespread in the evangelical Christian community here in the US, and on issues related to justice and compassion there is indeed much that is found wanting. One of the most influential evangelical leaders in the US is mega church pastor and author John Hagee. In the previous post we examined a brief video clip from him in which he states the following words: “God, in the book of Genesis, takes Abraham out and says, ‘I’m going to give you this land, to your seed forever.’ All of that land around Israel, that we’re now saying the international nations have control of, have no more control of it than you control the moon. That property was given to them by a mandate from God Himself, and it belongs to them. The Palestinians have absolutely no claim to it, not ever. It is the greatest historical fraud in the history of humanity.” For the implications of this statement as they relate to Biblical justice, please see that post and in particular the discussion following the above-mentioned video clip.

JAN: This film comes at a time when Barack Obama is going to try to impose a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. Obama is behaving as though he were President of the World, dictating borders and treaties even if one side does not want to participate. He is about to clash with the Lord God of Israel and America may never be the same. What other sovereign nation would put up with this scenario? None.

Gen. David Pretraeus has blamed the war on terror on Israel, saying that the perception in the Arab world is that America cannot “stand up to Israel.” As a consequence of that perception, Pretraeus said, America was losing support among the moderate Arab states.  There are no moderate Arab states. But this is just one more American voice condemning our number-one ally and “the apple of God’s eye” (Zechariah 2:8). There is now talk that Barack Obama is going to shut down Israel’s nuclear program. What other nation would be on the receiving end of such abuse?

Some have concluded that Israel, while important, isn’t that important to the United States. The administration has “dug in” on its position and maintains that any Jewish construction in Jerusalem is an “Israeli provocation” and that the price for “peace” is a Palestinian state ethnically cleansed of any Jewish presence.

Though again there is much that could be said on these points, I would like to generally refrain from responding to the overtly political statements being made here, both for the sake of space and also to minimize the chance that this will become the focal point of discussions which might take place in the comment section following this post. Instead I’d like to focus on Jan’s interpretation of Zechariah 2:8.

If Jan is correct in her assertion that the modern, political, secular nation of Israel is “the apple of God’s eye,” then who was the apple of God’s eye from 70 AD until 1948 when there was no nation of Israel? Did nearly 19 centuries pass without God having a special possession to call His own? This time period covers much of the present church age, so what is the Church in God’s eyes? Chopped liver? On the other hand, this is the testimony of the New Testament regarding the Church, which is made up of believing Jews and Gentiles alike: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9). We need not look any further to discover who can rightly be called the apple of God’s eye.

JAN: So those behind this pathetic effort to demonize a group of Christian Zionists and, for that matter, demonize all of Israel, need to do a reality check. There are consequences. Covenants are involved: Genesis 17:6-7; Genesis 12:1-7; Psalm 105:8-15. God is on the side of those with whom He has covenants: Israel and believing Christians who call him Savior. He will never break a covenant. That you can count on. You and I are betting eternity on His trustworthiness. Watching Him perform His promises to Israel should give us great comfort!

God did, though, find fault with the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-7), and Jesus now mediates a New Covenant that is “much more excellent than the old…enacted on better promises.” The first one is obsolete (verse 13). Regarding the land promise, it’s true that the word “eternal” is attached to it in Scripture. As stated in the previous post:

Let us take note that the covenant of fleshly circumcision was also said to be forever/eternal/perpetual [see, for example, Genesis 17:9-14, and note the language used]. The same was said regarding numerous temple-based rituals [Exodus 28:43, 29:28, 31:16-17, 40:15; Leviticus 3:17, 6:18, 22, 7:34, 36]. How does the New Testament deal with the non-land covenants/statutes which were said to be eternal? Should the “eternal” land promises be dealt with in a different manner? If so, why? Were they ever said to be conditional? Are we not heirs of a better “land” under the New Covenant? The land promise was first articulated to Abraham, but what city did he look forward to possessing? The answer can be found here:

For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God… These [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.] all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland… But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city (Hebrews 11:10-16; cf. Hebrews 12:22-24 and Galatians 4:21-31).

JAN: I think it is time someone woke up and smelled the bagels.

Yes, it is certainly time to wake up. On this we agree.

JAN: Note: The official Web site does not state that the film will be available in theatres. Currently, they just suggest buying it at Amazon.com. I recommend you not put more nickels in their coffers so they can make a more vitriolic sequel…

“Vitriolic” can be defined as follows: “spiteful, venomous, hurtful, bitter, cruel, rancorous, and malicious.” If you have the means to purchase this film, please do so, and you will find that none of these words apply. Instead, you will have the opportunity to hear the perspective of Palestinian believers on this subject, gain new insights, have your heart stirred with compassion for all who are involved in the present Israeli-Palestinian conflict, encounter profitable and thought-provoking theological questions, and enjoy beautiful footage from the land of Israel/Palestine. “With God On Our Side” is available for purchase on Amazon.com, where several helpful reviews of the film can be seen. Alternatively, it can now also be purchased at WorldChristian.com.

Awaiting His return,
Jan Markell

SOURCE: Jan’s review has been presented above in its entirety. It can be seen in its original format either…

[1] HERE: http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs019/1101818841456/archive/1103296867412.html
[2] OR HERE: http://www.bible-prophecy-today.com/2010/04/whose-side-is-god-on.html#axzz0o21o4cr8

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All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.


“With God On Our Side”: A Documentary on Christian Zionism


FILM REVIEW: “With God On Our Side” (includes video previews)

by Adam Maarschalk: April 29, 2010

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile–the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).

In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 3:4-6).

For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, ‘It is through Isaac that your children will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).

These three passages are only a sampling of New Testament passages demonstrating that “the playing field” is leveled because of Christ’s work on the cross, and that in the kingdom of God ethnic descent counts for absolutely nothing. Saving faith in Christ is required to have any stake whatsoever in the promises of God (see especially Galatians 3:7-9, 16, 29; Romans  4:13-16, 22-25; Galatians 5:6, 6:15-16). How does this New Covenant truth play out, though, in 21st century American Christianity? Do we believe it? Do we teach it? Do we practice it? Or do we teach instead that God favors one ethnic group over all others, and that He holds out promises for that one ethnic group which He withholds from others? The sad fact is that there is a popular movement which indeed strongly advocates this type of partiality and favoritism. This movement is known as Christian Zionism, an offshoot of Dispensationalism, the school of thought invented by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s and popularized by the 1909 publishing of the Scofield Reference Bible.

Are there significant implications for supporting Christian Zionism? Porter Speakman Jr. believes so. Speakman is the director of a brand new documentary titled “With God On Our Side” (not to be confused with a 2004 documentary by the same name highlighting “the rise of the religious right in America”). It was released by Rooftop Productions on April 8, 2010. The following is the film’s synopsis:

With God On Our Side takes a look at the theology of Christian Zionism, which teaches that because the Jews are God’s chosen people, they have a divine right to the land of Israel. Aspects of this belief system lead some Christians in the West to give uncritical support to Israeli government policies, even those that privilege Jews at the expense of Palestinians, leading to great suffering among Muslim and Christian Palestinians alike and threatening Israel’s security as a whole.

This film demonstrates that there is a biblical alternative for Christians who want to love and support the people of Israel, a theology that doesn’t favor one people group over another but instead promotes peace and reconciliation for both Jews and Palestinians.

I watched this documentary last weekend, and highly recommend it for anyone who has any interest at all in the present Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and especially for those who have theological convictions regarding modern day Israel and/or the Jewish people. My brief review of this film will follow shortly, but first I’d like to highlight the five official (short) video clips posted on Vimeo to promote the film. They don’t do justice to the excellent content of the film itself, but they are a good introduction:

[1]

This first video is the official trailer of “With God On Our Side.” It includes brief testimony from Salim Munayer, a Palestinian Christian who lived in the region when Israel became a nation in 1948. Salim helped to found Musalaha, a non-profit organization “that works toward reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians based on the Biblical principles of peace, justice, and love.”  This trailer also includes footage from certain Palestinian areas, and speaks briefly of the more than 3 million Palestinian refugees who today make up the largest refugee population in the world. The viewer is also given a couple of brief glances at a “Christians United for Israel” (CUFI) rally led by pastor John Hagee of San Antonio, Texas.

[2]

In this second video clip, Gary Burge (Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, and a student living in Beirut when the Lebanon civil war broke out in the 1970’s) speaks on Biblical justice and kingdom values. Examples would be the truths Jesus articulated in the Sermon on the Mount, and His actions toward the people who were marginalized in the Israel of His day. Gary asks whether or not evangelical Christians today are promoting and applying these values equally toward all peoples in the Middle East, regardless of their background.

[3]

In this third video clip, Salim Munayer, who is also a leader on faculty at Bethlehem Bible College in Palestine, tells of a popular US Christian radio anchor interviewed some time ago on Israeli TV. This Christian leader cited the book of Joshua in making his case that the Jews should destroy the population of Lebanon. The point of this Palestinian believer is that many American Christian leaders are being perceived in the Middle East as warmongers, as desiring to be rich but not caring for the poor, as standing for power and not peace/justice, as hating Muslims, as being one-sided regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, etc. He points out that certain Christian spokespersons in America (especially from the Christian Zionist camp) are heard loudly in the Middle East, and their statements are immediately translated into Arabic on a regular basis. Their teachings and political opinions are hindering the ministry of believers in that region.

[4]

In this fourth video clip, a Christian British journalist speaks of the unjust accusation of anti-semitism which is often leveled at those who attempt to tell the “Palestinian narrative,” or who advocate equality between the Jewish and Palestinian communities. I might add that I’ve also personally heard this charge applied unfairly to those who simply question or reject the teachings of dispensationalism and/or Christian Zionism, which happen to be fairly new doctrines in Church history. Another term which is hastily applied to those who don’t believe that the Jewish people hold a special status in New Covenant Christianity is “replacement theology.”

Photo Credits: All photos in this post are sourced from the “We Love Israel” page on Facebook.

[5]

In this fifth video clip, Stephen Sizer (a pastor at Christ Church in Surrey, England; also an author, theologian, and an international speaker specializing in topics relating to the land of Israel) speaks of the danger of simplistic answers regarding the Israeli/Palestinian situation. These dangers include making one group or the other “the bad guys,” or demonizing a whole group of people, leading to a justification of the abuse of civilians in order to advance a certain cause. He compares some of the arguments which are being advanced today to the arguments which allowed for the ethnic cleansing of North America’s indigenous people in generations past.

A Brief Review of “With God On Our Side”

One of the features of this film which I greatly appreciated was the space given to Palestinian Christians to share their stories and their perspectives. They are often a forgotten voice in the present conflict. The same is unfortunately true in the world of Christian Zionism, where even Jewish unbelievers are among the favored ones, but our Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters are too often sidelined. One man shared what he saw firsthand in 1948 when Israel became a nation, when his own family members were made homeless along with nearly 700,000 other people. He doesn’t share these details with bitterness. Instead, he expresses how he loved the Jewish people prior to 1948, and by the grace of God continues to love them post-1948. Upon watching the film, one gets the sense that there are so many similar stories which could and should be told.

Another helpful feature of the film is an informative section devoted to the history of the land/region of Palestine during the last several centuries. The film’s very informative official site provides some of these same details, minus the attractive graphics presented in the film. One learns about the Ottoman Empire, its fall around the time of World War I, the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917, and British-controlled Palestine during the “British Mandate,” all prior to 1948. As the film site states,

The status of the populations between Arabs and Jews living in the land of Palestine before 1948 is one that is continuing to be debated. While researching for this film, we came across various population numbers and statistics. We have tried to take numbers that most accurately indicated the realities on the ground at that time. The two main things that can be said with little doubt, no matter what numbers you use is that, one, the land of Palestine was not empty when Jews began immigrating back in the late 19th century. Two, there was a majority Arab population and minority Jewish communities living in the land of Palestine before 1948.

Jewish immigration to Palestine grew, especially during and after WW2 and the Holocaust, which saw the systematic murder of over 6 million Jews at the hands of the Nazis. As Jewish immigration grew, tensions between the two communities mounted. However, before that, Arabs and Jews lived together peacefully. It is true that there was Arab migration into the area as Jewish immigration and opportunities arose; however, the idea that Arabs only started to populate the area when Jews made it prosperous is a myth.

Speaking of myths, some of the theology characteristic of Christian Zionism is discussed throughout the film, but especially during the last half hour (the film is 82 minutes long). The film is not one-sided in this regard, though. Christian Zionists, John Hagee being one of them, are given numerous opportunities to express their views without interruption. In some cases, their views are then refuted by featured speakers in this documentary. In other cases, their specific points are not so thoroughly addressed, though I found myself wishing that they would have been.

The video footage alone makes this film worth viewing. It was fascinating to see the way of life of both Jews and Palestinians in villages, cities, and marketplaces. To be sure, there were heartbreaking moments as well. The suffering and injustices are incredible, and too many are needlessly being made victims, and much more could be said on this. The viewer learns of some disturbing details behind the push to locate settlers in disputed areas, including massive financial support from Christian organizations in America which is enabling certain aggressive activities to continue and increase. Is God on one side of the present conflict, but not on the other? Christian Zionists say “yes,” but does the Bible agree? Emphatically, I must say “no.”

It’s my conviction that it’s impossible to make a responsible case from within the pages of the New Testament that God maintains any promises for the Jewish people which are not available for all who trust in Christ, not even promises regarding the land of Israel. In fact, unbelieving Jews (and Gentiles) are entirely outside of God’s covenant and promises, for these promises are only accessible through faith. Nor do I believe that any promises await any future fulfillment exclusively or primarily for the Jewish people, for there really is no Jew or Gentile in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). I realize that the statements I’ve just made are a huge can of worms for a lot of people. Good! Let us all dig deep on these things for ourselves, and not just blindly follow popular teachers and teachings.

When time allows, I hope to write much more extensively on this very subject, for there are so many things to consider. In the meantime, for anyone who is interested, one excellent resource is  a series of presentations based on Stephen Sizer’s book, “Zion’s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel, and the Church.” Sizer has kindly made this series available online for free (the book is available for purchase here). I have read portions of this series and what I’ve read so far is thorough, well-thought-out, and simply an excellent study. I plan to do a lot of interaction with Sizer’s writings once I do write  further on this subject here at this blog. The following are some of the questions I wish to tackle at that time (feel free, though, to discuss them even now):

-According to the New Testament, who are God’s chosen people today? Does God have one chosen people, or two?

-Are all Jews part of God’s chosen people, as is taught in many Christian circles, or only those Jews who have put their faith in Christ (alongside of all non-Jews who have done the same)?

-Do Jewish Christians (known as “Messianic Jews”) have a higher place in the kingdom of God than non-Jewish followers of Christ? Does Scripture say that this will ever be the case?

-Does Genesis 12:3 mandate that Christians show favoritism toward the modern nation of Israel, the policies of that nation, and/or toward the Jewish people as a whole? Does Genesis 12:3 have anything at all to do with the modern, geopolitical nation of Israel? How about Zechariah 2:8, where Jerusalem is said to be “the apple of God’s eye”?

-Do the Jewish people have a divine right to the land of Israel? Is this idea affirmed anywhere in the New Testament? If yes, where? If no, why not?

-How do the inspired authors of the New Testament apply Old Testament passages which were originally addressed to “the house of Israel”? Are they applied in the NT to the Jewish people as a race, or to the Church (which is made up of believing Jews and Gentiles, with no distinction)? Are they ever spiritualized in any way by the authors of the NT?

-Were the promises given to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament conditional or unconditional? Do they apply to the modern, political nation of Israel? If so, to whom were they applied from 70 AD to 1948 when there was no established nation known as Israel?

-The land promises in the OT were said to be eternal/everlasting/perpetual, as was the covenant of fleshly circumcision, and as were also numerous temple-based rituals. How does the NT deal with the non-land covenants/statutes which were said to be eternal? Should the eternal land promises be dealt with in a different manner? If so, why?

-How does the New Testament speak of earthly Jerusalem in comparison to heavenly Jerusalem, and what are the implications of this contrast?

-Has the New Covenant (promised, for example, in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36) fully arrived yet? Or is its full arrival awaiting the future salvation of the entire nation of Israel (or all  surviving Jews) at the Second Coming of Christ? This is what dispensationalism teaches.

-Are you sure that what you have been taught regarding the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, and other related issues resembles what has been taught throughout Church history, especially prior to the advent of dispensationalism (the school of thought developed by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s)?

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With God On Our Side” is available for purchase on Amazon.com, where several helpful reviews of the film can also be seen.

All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.