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“War is not the will of God, this we know.”
– Folke Thorell, Evangelii Härold, 1967.
“God will let the satanic rearmament of nuclear weapons and biological warfare strike the godless themselves in forms of plagues that will exterminate large portions of humanity.”
– Folke Thorell, Evangelii Härold, 1968.
Pentecostals were the largest religious group among conscientious objectors in Sweden between 1967 and 1971, a time characterized by passionate debates on the ethics of war in the shadows of Vietnam and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In my master’s thesis on church history, I aimed to review and analyze how the Pentecostal periodicals Evangelii Härold and Dagen described and ethically motivated military violence and pacifism during this period.
The purpose was to identify potential motivations for pacifism and/or military support during a time when a large number of Pentecostals refused to bear arms, with particular interest in how these motivations related to ethical evaluation on contemporary wars.
The findings were fascinating. Pacifism and conscientious objection were regularly promoted and seldom criticized, while most contemporary military violence was condemned with one glaring exception: Israeli warfare.
Folke Thorell, quoted above, thought that God principally is against war, but allows them to fulfill his eschatological plans and even engages himself in warfare. He envisioned two-thirds of all Jews to die in a future third world war involving nuclear bombs, a genocide so brutal it would make the Holocaust seem “minuscule” in comparison.
Unlike the American war effort in Vietnam, Israel’s wars were commonly viewed as eschatologically significant and biblically predicted holy wars, with several writers suggesting that God himself has waged and will wage war on Israel’s behalf. Pacifism was primarily motivated by obedience to the Bible rather than empathy, fitting with Lisa Cahill’s theory of obediential pacifism being distinct from empathic pacifism in the Christian tradition.
Support for Israeli warfare was also derived from biblical interpretation, primarily based on Old Testament texts. It was further motivated by ideas of Jewish suffering and death being part of God’s plan, with several Pentecostal writers speculating that an apocalyptic genocide would precede the second coming of Christ.
Many Pentecostals did not see this as standing in conflict with personal pacifism and conscientious objection, as both views were perceived as biblical.
Future research could further explore the relationship between Pentecostal eschatology and empathy, along with how mid-century Pentecostal Zionism might have been influenced by antisemitic ideas from the 1930’s.
Stephen Sizer is one of the most influential critics of Christian Zionism, and he has done some extensive research both on Israel and the holy land in the Old and New Testament, as well as the history of Christian Zionism and the present conflict in the middle east. I can highly recommend his Bible studies and other articles where he effectively challenges Christian Zionism and present an alternative Christian response to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that is based on peacemaking, reconciliation and love for all people.
In this video, Sizer is interviewed by Allan Lee, who is clearly pro-Israel but who tries to hold his arguments back in order to listen to Sizer’s reasoning. I’m very impressed by Sizer in this video, he gives a very balanced, respectful and convincing impression when he argues for peace, justice and a biblical viewpoint on Israel.
When Lee talks about the threat of islamist terrorism, Sizer points out that we should ask ourselves why people become terrorists and argues that if we want a secure and peaceful Israel, we should work for justice for Palestinians. When Lee discusses how several Palestinian leaders haven’t recognized Israel, Sizer agrees with that it’s a problem but points out that Israel has never defined its borders and has not recognized a Palestinian state. And when Lee brings up how Gen 12:3 says ” I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse” as an argument for standing with Israel, Sizer points out that those words were to Abraham, and according to Gal 3:16, it’s fulfilled not many people but in Christ.
In a time when many Christians are eager to support everything Israel does due to bad theology, Sizer’s input is very welcome to the debate, and I hope this video can convince some Christians to be more balanced, biblical and peaceful when it comes to Israel and Palestine.
The Promised Land is back! In the previous parts of the series, we have looked at the origin of Christian Zionism, we saw that it was totally absent in the early church and we have discussed how important it is to realize that just because one isn’t a Christian Zionist, one isn’t necessarily an anti-Semite (and shouldn’t either). Now, we will turn to exegesis to see what the Bible has to say about Israel and the Promised Land. Let’s start by discussing God’s Chosen People.
Israel is the name of a man, Jacob, and it was used to describe his descendants. These were expected to believe in the Lord, and thus be God’s people, but they were actually not the only ones that belonged to Israel. This is something Stephen Sizer has pointed out (and the following account is based on his works): the requirement to belong to God’s people was and is primarily faith, not race. In the Psalms, we read:
“I will record Rahab and Babylon among those who acknowledge me—Philistia too, and Tyre, along with Cush—and will say, ‘This one was born in Zion.’ Indeed, of Zion it will be said, ‘This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her.’ The Lord will write in the register of the peoples: This one was born in Zion.” (Ps 87:4-6)
Here, we see that Egyptians, Iraqis, Palestinians, Lebanese and Ethiopians all can be recognized as “born in Zion”, receiving full membership and citizenship of God’s people, if they acknowledge the Lord. Already Moses said in Deut 23:7-8: “Do not despise an Edomite, for the Edomites are related to you. Do not despise an Egyptian, because you resided as foreigners in their country. The third generation of children born to them may enter the assembly of the Lord.” In Esther 8:17 we read “And many people of other nationalities became Jews because fear of the Jews had seized them.” The requirement to belong to God’s people was faith, not race or nationality.
For the rest of the blog posts in this series, go here.
As we’ve seen in the previous parts of this series, Christian Zionism is a new theology; it did not exist in the early church and has in its current version only existed for about 150 years. Before that, supersessionism was basically the universal teaching of the church. This is the teaching that Christ has fulfilled the promises to Israel and welcomed Gentiles into God’s people while those who do not believe in Him has been excluded from this people. Thus, the promise of the land does not refer to the Jewish people any more but to the church, which supersessionists interpret as the promise of Heaven.
We will look at the biblical foundation for this teaching in the next parts of this series. For now, I want to discuss whether this theology is antisemitic, which some Christian Zionist claim. When they talk about how the early church was “hijacked” by Gentiles that replaced Zionism with supersessionism (which was hard to do since there is no evidence for Christian Zionism in the early church to begin with), they often quote other church fathers, like John Chrysostom, who were downright antisemitic, and jump to other periods of church history when Christians have done horrible things towards Jews and argued that this is rooted in supersessionism. You can see example of this reasoning here and here.
The problem with this argument is that it fails to show how supersessionism would lead to antisemitism. All the texts I have read just assumes that this is the case rather than proving it. Instead of showing a logical connection between supersessionist and antisemitic thought, they merely point to antisemitic rhetoric and action through church history and say that since they were supersessionists, supersessionism causes antisemitism. (more…)
For the rest of the blog posts in this series, go here.
In the previous part of this series we looked at how the theology of Christian Zionism, which claims that the Jewish people must return to the land of Israel before the second coming of Christ, is very young. Its roots are found in the 16th century and its developed form didn’t appear until the 19th century. However, most Christian Zionists don’t view this as a problem, since they believe that this was not the birth of the theology but its resurrection – Christian Zionism was the original church teaching about the role of Israel, and the Puritans and Dispensationalists simply rediscovered it.
However, the early church did not believe in Christian Zionism. None of the church fathers, neither any anonymous early Christian writings, argued that the Jewish people must return to Israel before the second coming of Christ. On the contrary, they were supersessionists, teaching that Christ had fulfilled the covenant with and promises to Israel and that these now belonged to His followers, the church.
The non-existence of Christian Zionism in the early church is rather indesputable, even most Christian Zionists themselves acknowledge this. They claim that the apostles believed in Christian Zionism, but that it was immediately lost. I call this “The Men in Black Theory”. Just as the movie agents use their neuralyzer to erase people’s memories, Christian Zionism was suddenly deleted from the collective mind of the whole church right when the final pages of the New Testament was written.
For the rest of the blog posts in this series, go here.
Israel should of course have all of the land that God gave them from the beginning, and then there is no space left for a Palestinian state.
This comment appeared two days ago on my Swedish blog in a discussion about the conflict in the Middle East. And this guy is not alone, millions of Christians think that it is God’s will for the Jewish people to possess all of the Biblical land of Canaan once more in order for Jesus to come back. While I honour their zeal against anti-semitism and passion to follow God’s will, I have to disagree with them.
In my opinion, Christian Zionism is not only unbiblical but it has had, and continues to have, very serious consequenses in the Middle East. In a blog series of approximately eight parts called “The Promised Land”. I will dig deeper into what Christian Zionism is, what it has led to in the Middle East and what the Bible really says.
In this first part, we will look at the historical origins of Christian Zionism. Benjamin Corey writes:
For those who grow up in churches that preach the Church and Israel distinction, this theology seems as if it is a normal part of orthodox Christianity, and never gets questioned. However, the truth is that this theology is a new theology and is not part of orthodox Christianity.
This theology was popularized by denounced heretic John Nelson Darby in the 1800′s. Darby is considered the father of dispensationalism, which is a dwindling subset of American Fundamentalism. Dispensationalism is a collection of extra-biblical beliefs (such as the “rapture”) which is typically known by a preoccupation on the end of the world, and a pessimistic worldview. Among Darby’s heresies included this new idea that God had two, simultaneous covenants, one for Jews and one for Gentiles.
A week ago many Charismatic and evangelical Christians started to express their anger towards the increased rocket attacks from Hamas. They eagerly reported how many rockets were fired every day. They described the pain, fear and horror Israelis felt when they had to flee into bomb shelters (see the clip above). They mourned that four Israeli soldiers had been injured by the rockets.
However, no one I saw mentioned that while these rocket attacks to that point had killed no one, four civilian Palestinians were killed and thirty were injured in the counter attacks of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). There’s no doubt that we as Christians need to sound the alarm when the Israeli people is facing suffering and fear because of the violent terrorist attacks of Hamas. But that duty forces us to sound the alarm even more if the Palestinians is faceing more suffering and fear because of violent IDF attacks. (more…)
Ramone Romero is posting the most beautiful, heart-breaking and hopeful artwork and poems I’ve ever seen, on his blog Wheeping Jeremiahs. He expresses prophetic tears over the political idolatry of many American Christians. I’ll let some of his paintings and poems speak for themselves:
My children! My children!
Put down your flags!
I am not calling you to carry
the righteousness of any nation,
but to carry the Cross!
I am not calling you to defeat your enemies,
but to love them as I loved you.
“Do not listen to those who prophesy
in accordance with your flags,
for I have not sent them;
they are prophesying lies in My name
and are following a ‘Christ’ they have made
in their own image—an ‘anti-christ.’
“They do not listen to Me when I speak,
nor do they turn from their pride,
but instead continue to follow their passions.
They have become like brute beasts,
unreasoning creatures of instinct
who revile what they do not understand.
“Do not follow the beast,
but repent and return to the Lamb!” (more…)