Sunday, December 07, 2008


I have many hobby-horses. The goal of my having many is that I can flog each in turn, thus giving the appearance of being more than a one-trick pony and perhaps having a balanced and reasonable view of the world. For example, I haven't posted about baptism in weeks. Is it working?

Anyway, the hobby-horse for today is "Christian" Zionism (scare quotes inserted for reasons which will become clear very quickly). I noted as I was perusing this month's edition of Evangelicals Now an article explaining why Christians should support the state of Israel. I didn't have time to read it in huge detail as I had no intention of paying for it, but I think I picked up the gist.

It awoke my rage.

I want to tell you a few things that I think about "Christian" Zionism. I am not at this stage trying to be balanced; if I were, I would tell you that I support the right of the state of Israel to exist and to defend itself, and I deplore almost all of what goes on in the name of the Palestinian cause. But I am not trying to be balanced, I'm trying to make a rage-fuelled point. So here goes.

Point the first: Christian Zionism is a theological aberration. The EN article makes the mistake of all CZs, in that it absolutely fails to read the OT Christologically. It does not consider the Biblical prophecies regarding Israel to be fulfilled in Christ, and therefore the cross and resurrection of Christ come across as a stepping-stone along the path rather than the absolute climax of the covenant (to steal a phrase). This failure is serious. It fails to give Jesus the glory he deserves, because it does not see the OT as being all about him. (I understand the potential refutation, namely that good CZs see the future of Israel as being about Jesus' reign. Nevertheless, it is not the historical Jesus, the revealed Son of God, about whom they are talking. I can go into this in more detail if it would help anyone). It also fails to give the Church its proper vocation by reserving it for the nation of Israel. To cap it all, it denies the Christian hope by continuing to apply OT prophecy to a strip of land on the eastern Med rather than to God's new creation. Error, error, fatal error.

Point the second: Christian Zionism is a political nightmare. CZ drives much more of the world's foreign policy than it should. CZ means that a country can carry on an illegal occupation without anyone who has any influence objecting. CZ means that a huge refugee crisis can rumble on for decades without much being done about it. CZ means that a country can attack its neighbours and know that there will be no comeback. Nightmare.

Point the third: Christian Zionism is a public relations disaster. Christians, those who should be siding for the weak against the strong, instead stand up for a nation which has the backing of the major world powers. They do not speak up for the oppressed. They do not campaign for justice. They argue for the right of one people to occupy a land by divine right even though that land was already full of people. Why should people not look at us and conclude that we have abandoned Jesus' message? That is what I would think if I saw this nonsense from the outside.

The point is that CZ is not in line with the gospel. It is not in line with it theologically: it does not honour Christ. It is not in line with it politically: it does not advance God's Kingdom rule. It is not in line with it in terms of witness: it does not paint an attractive picture of Christ to the world. It is not Christian, but only "Christian" at best. Could we put it to bed now please?


  1. Well, you may not win them with anger. They are already fully anticipating the world's calumny - and will see even the slightest hint of animosity as confirming them in their correct views. Theirs is a compromise and a heresy largely founded upon post-Holocaust good intent/embarrassment/horror. To criticise them is to vindicate, as to persecute (the Jews) was/is to prove (that they are chosen).

    "Error, error, fatal error."

    This is the heart of the matter. Christian Zionism, and Messianic Judaism, and all the rest of it, isn't orthodox, creedal Christianity at all, though many of its proponents are. Many laugh in the face of true Christianity's belief in the Church as regenerate Israel as being "replacement theology", and profess an innocent literalism as the natural source of their views. God said it to the Jews. He never took it back. Etc, etc. It gets tiresome; but confessedly I was once of their number; before appreciating, a long while now, that Christian Zionism is basically an abrogation of the gospel, and inherently very wicked, and very stupid.

  2. When I say many of its proponents are orthodox and creedal, by the way, I simply mean to say that if you were to ask them they would say they were, and give many answers which indicated the same. Their zionism simply sits as a kind of black hole, off to the side somewhere, slowly sucking the energy out of everything else, because it has undermined about half of the explicit teachings and prophecies of Christ and the scripture.

  3. As far as I remember, that EN article was an allowance of reply to a previous few against Zionism. But I can't say I read it in detail either...

  4. Oh, and isn't Zionism all the fault of paedobaptists? How could you miss it?

  5. Given that St Paul was a paedobaptist (which is a horrible term, and I do wonder why we haven't all adopted a less accidentally repugnant one, even if it is lexically correct), and a debunker even then of pseudo-Jewish Christianity, I'm not sure where that leaves you.

  6. Hey Ginger Ninja

    You need to read November and December's EN. Each one contains an article, one is Zion-sceptic, the other (which you saw) is a kind of alternate view.


  7. Wholeheartedly agree with this shiny ginger thought. Down with Zionism, up with true (i.e. the heavenly) Zionism.

    (Btw, Etrangere: aren't most Christian Zionists baptists? Certainly most premill dispy-zionist types are to my knowledge. Wonder what the connection is, if any?)

  8. Don't know if this will be read (it's a long time after the original post) though I hope it may be.

    Sir WS: I am a Messianic Jew, i.e I believe Jesus is the promised Messiah and I do not feel the need to discard my Jewish identity and heritage. I find your phrase about "pseudo-Jewish Christianity" offensive. Please would you tell me where you think I am apostate? Have you actually met any Messianic Jews?

    Etrangere, you are correct that the pro-CZ article was a response to an anti-CZ article in the previous edition. The anti-CZ article was (putting it bluntly) an embarrassment of factual distortions and dubious sources, which I blogged about at ""

    Pete: when you say "Down with Zionism", what exactly do you mean? I hope you don't mean "the state of Israel has no right to exist"?

  9. Daniel:

    What is your evidence for the claim that "CZ drives much more of the world's foreign policy than it should."?

    "CZ means that a huge refugee crisis can rumble on for decades without much being done about it." Do you mean the 900,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries or the 700,00ish Arabs who fled what became Israel in 1948 (many being encouraged to so by their own leaders) who have been kept in camps by fellow Arabs for 60+ years as a political stick to beat Israel with? Even though Israel offered 30 billion dollars worht of compensation to Yasser Arafat in 2000, an offer Arafat declined?

    "CZ means that a country can attack its neighbours and know that there will be no comeback." - all of Israel's wars have been defensive, not offensive - though yes, legitmate criicisms can be made of the manner and scope in which Israel has fought those wars.

    "They argue for the right of one people to occupy a land by divine right even though that land was already full of people." It wasn't "full of people", there were 470,000 Arabs and 24,000 Jews in 1880, today there are something like 8-9 million people in the land. Vast tracts of land were bought legally by the Jewish| Agency.

    (I guess all this is a long-winded way of saying, as gently as I can: we all need to make sure our facts are right, on this debate as on any other).

    "Why should people not look at us and conclude that we have abandoned Jesus' message? That is what I would think if I saw this nonsense from the outside." Again, hmmm. Yes, an uncritical support of Israel is likely to be a stumbling block to some (particularly Muslims). But I would also hope you would agree that an uncritical Christian hostility towards Israel is a stumbling-block for Jewish people. I'd encourage you to read Mike Moore's piece on "The Impact of Antisemitism and Anti-Israelism on the story about Jesus" at

    I've also written a fair bit on these issues at:

  10. Oh and finally, the theological point:

    there is a reformed, Calvinistic, non-dispensationalist strand of thinking which did/ does believe in a literal return to the land. Proponents include(d) Ryle, Spurgeon, Owen, M'Chenyne, Bonar - not a bad list of names. For a contemporary example try Barry Horner's "Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism must be challenged" which you can access at - home in on chapter 7 for his treatment of the all-important hermenutical issues.

  11. Etrangere, sorry the link to my blog on David Rushworth-Smith's piece is

    and my thoughts on the follow-up piece Daniel is critiquing at

  12. James: thanks for the comments, which make my blog look much more popular than it is. I don't have time at the mo to go over all the links you've posted, but be assured that I will. I just want to clarify: as I said, this wasn't a balanced analysis of the issues. I support the existence of Israel, although not many of its actions. I believe that there is a future for the Jewish people in God's plan, and that this will involve many being converted to Christ. I don't believe that is tied up with the land.

    I guess I suspect CZs of making the same mistake 1st century Jews seem to have made - forgetting that the covenant with Israel pointed away from itself, to Christ as the solution to the problems of the whole world. But that would be another post altogether.

  13. Daniel - thanks - yes I did notethe comment in your original post that you believe Israel has the right to exist - thanks. I should also make clear (a) that I don't give uncritical support to Israel's actions (nor I do know any other MJ who does) and (b) I support a 2-state solution, divided Jerusalem, etc. There is more to the CZ world than the loopy US dispensationalist version!

    Re "I guess I suspect CZs of making the same mistake 1st century Jews seem to have made - forgetting that the covenant with Israel pointed away from itself, to Christ as the solution to the problems of the whole world" - sure, but sorting out the problems of the world is surely not inconsistent with sorting out the problems of the Jewish people. As for the place of the land in God's plans for Israel - in 1948 there were 12 MJs in Israel, today there are 10-15,000 (approx 2,000 of whom are currently within range of Hamas rockets from Gaza) - a rate of growth which I believe speaks for itself.

    In grace and kindness despite disagreement :-)


  14. Oh dear, for those who don't know me, I have a Nor'n Irish sense of humour, and am a covenantal paedobaptist. I don't at all seriously suggest that CZism is connected to pbism, as Dan knows I'm sure! The pitfalls of humour in a public written format, eh.

  15. Sorry Etrangere, I should've guessed. I'm married to a Norn Iron girl after all. Apologies.

  16. James,

    I recognise that the state of Israel has a right to exist. I wouldn't have thought that 'Israel has a right to exist' would qualify as a distinctive of zionism.

    I do not recognise the state of Israel's claim to a special relationship with God, except in an attenuated historical sense. For sure, at some point before the second coming the nation will take her place among the other nations as part of Christ's inheritance. But the church is the bride of Christ now, not the nation of Israel.

  17. With respect, this post lacks nuance. What kind of CZ is being referred to here?

    At its most basic Zionism could simply be described as belief in a Jewish homeland. CZs hold the same belief for theological reasons. Now there are various political structures and means this can be achieved, for example federalism within a single state, a two-state solution, a Likud style Eretz Yisrael Ha-Shlema (greater Israel), and so on. CZs come in all shapes and sizes, from the ultra-right wing version through to some who simply believe in a Jewish homeland, however it is governed and whomever it is shared with.

    Yet some people seem quite happy to ignore the non-homogenous nature of CZ and regard almost any expression of Christian philosemitism as lunacy.

  18. Calvin: yes, it does lack nuance. Wouldn't write it this way if I were doing it again. But still, I'd stand by my basic point: the theological reading of the OT especially which leads to CZ is erroneous theology. Support for Israel per se does not constitute theological error, of course, although it may be politically and ethically questionable (depending on how much it tends to over-ride the rights of others to support Israel, which of course not everyone who supports Israel does).

    Anyway, it's the theological reading - the one which tends not to see the OT as fulfilled in Christ and his church - which I had mainly in my sights when I wrote this.

  19. I suggest you read R. Kendall Soulen's excellent The God of Israel and Christian Theology. Somewhat paradoxically, he rejects CZ yet demonstrates persuasively why your view that Calvary represents the zenith and fulfilment of the OT is a non-starter, explaining the central role the consummation of the age plays within the wider canonical narrative. He also notes how downplaying eschatology and supercessionism go hand-in-hand.

    You express frustration with CZ hermeneutics, yet your own hermeneutic downplays our great eschatological hope by suggesting everything the OT promised has been fulfilled. Yet if this is it - if what we see around us is all Christ set out to do - it isn't up to much, is it? There has to be more, an ultimate fulfilment, detailed in both the OT and NT motif of Christ as Conquering King. That fulfilment is wrapped up inextricably with God's dealings with His people Israel and the nations (the sheer number of OT passages linking Israel with the eschatological consummation of the age are testimony to that).

    Derek Tidball (not to my knowledge either a CZ or dispensationalist) discusses briefly the importance of our eschatological hope in this interview:

    PS I will be discussing some of these issues with Stephen Sizer on Revelation TV on Wednesday 9 Nov (9 pm). Details here:

  20. Calvin,

    No, the Christ-centred and -focussed hermeneutic absolutely does not play down the eschatological hope. I would argue - with all the church fathers and, I think, the New Testament - that Christ fulfils the OT in his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, present rule in heaven, and future return in glory. That last is absolutely vital to any of it. I hope that I do not downplay eschatology - I certainly don't intend to.

    As far as the references linking Israel to the eschaton go, I would argue that the NT is clear on the identity of Israel - see here.

    Whilst recognising the good faith of most in the CZ camp (or variety of camps, if you like) I have to say that I do not think this is a valid reading of Scripture, and I do not think it represents orthodox Christianity in its treatment of the OT. Moreover, it is not the historic teaching of the church.

  21. I already read it, that's what made me look further and post a comment.

    I think the biblical arguments against supercessionism are overwhelming. In that post you eseem to hold out the possibility of ethnic Israel's future salvation.

    Which all begs an important question: If God retains some plan and purpose for the Jewish people, if they are still loved as Paul says, then that surely has a bearing on how we respond theologically to a Middle East state which composes of half the world's total Jewry. That is not to say an uncritical stance or an extreme CZ that says "Israel right or wrong", or dual covenantalism, or anything like that. Simply that if God still loves them it seems strange He has no interest in what's going on over there.

    Concerning your comment about church history, what is interesting is how replcementism began in NT times. Paul thrice warns the Gentiles (Ro 11:13) against arrogance and conceit towards the branches (18, 20, 25). Clearly, then, he was dealing with an early expression of replacement theology. This was probably as a result of Claudius' expulsion of Jews from Rome, forcing believing Jews to leave the city (Acts 18:-2). When they returned (cf Ro 16:3) it is likely they were now viewed with disdain by believing Gentiles, who now saw themselves as the true heirs. You really should read Soulen, as he deals at length with the historical picture you raise. It's an insightful and thoughtful book from a theological heavyweight who taught at Princeton at the time.

    I comment very briefly on Romans 11 here:

    Don't worry, I won't keep posting, as I run a blog, job, family, writing, etc and fully appreciate how time-consuming it all is (unless, of course, you are happy for us to continue discussing it). Has been fun.