The use of Scripture in Christian Zionism: a critical examination. Pt. 1
In the next few posts I shall discuss the handling of Scripture in Christian Zionism (CZ). I will suggest it is marked by a proof-texting mentality that not only misunderstands the nature of biblical prophecy, but also displays a naïve and inconsistent hermeneutic. In a later post in this series I’ll also suggest why this subject isn’t merely a theological curiosity – and something best left alone - but impacts world politics. In fact, I suggest it also negatively distracts discipleship to Jesus and thus needs to be challenged. And the use of Scripture in Christian Zionism gets right to the heart of the problem, hence the focus of this small series.
Needles to say I deplore anti-Semitism in all its forms, that is not the question here – so lets be clear about that up-front. Indeed, today I was saddened to hear of the great NT scholar Adolf Schlatter’s deplorable pro-Führer anti-Jew nonsense on Jim West’s blog.
CZ, of course, comes in many shapes and sizes and so I offer a few definitions to lend some orientation.
The Wikipedia definition runs as follows: ‘Christian Zionism is a belief among some Christians that the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, is in accordance with Biblical prophecy’ (italics mine).
Mark Calder recently wrote a very helpful analysis of CZ in an undergraduate dissertation at the University of Edinburgh, which he kindly e-mailed me (more from him in later posts). He defines CZ as follows: ‘Stated simply, Christian Zionism is the belief that the Christian Bible justifies Jewish claims to some or all of, or indeed more than, the land of British Mandate Palestine’ (p. 7, italics mine).
The major work on Christian Zionism from a critical perspective is Stephen Sizer’s Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? He suggests the most basic of frames: ‘At its simplest, Christian Zionism is a political form of philo-Semitism, and can be defined as ‘Christian support for Zionism’ (p. 19). If flesh is hung on this frame, in practice this invariably means ‘Christian Zionists are therefore also defenders of, and apologists for, the state of Israel. This support consistently involves opposing those deemed to be critical of, or hostile towards Israel, but also leads to the justification of Israel’s occupation and settlement of the West Bank, Golan and Gaza on biblical grounds’ (pp. 20-21, italics mine).
I’ll return to these definitions later, but first to some practical examples of CZ and especially the handling of Scripture therein.
Labels: Christian Zionism