03 Aug Israel, Gaza and Replacement Theology
As Israel’s operation to route out Hamas’ vast network of terror tunnels, rockets and weapons caches hidden all throughout Gaza grinds on, few are surprised by the typical line-up of leftists and Muslim groups who have used the occasion to vent their deeply biased anti-Israel views. But in this round of conflict, there is a growing number of evangelicals who are also raising their voices in protest. Although some of these voices are extreme in their condemnation of Israel, many others have at least sought to cast themselves as taking a middle-of-the-road position, essentially arguing that as Christians, we should not take sides. Brian Zahnd, a Christian pastor and author took to Twitter to express his opinion that, “Christians rooting for one side to ‘win’ in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have missed Jesus’ message and need to rethink (repent).” Others have expressed that God loves the Palestinian child as much as the Jewish child, and so forth. Of course this is absolutely true! Jesus is passionate in His love for all peoples. Does this really mean however that Christians who take a firm stance against Hamas, with its clearly stated goals of committing another Holocaust, must repent? In a sane world, wouldn’t it be simple common sense for Christians to pray that the IDF defeats Hamas as soundly as possible with minimal Palestinian civilian causalities? I would argue that that the answer is an unequivocal yes. I would even go so far as to say that any informed, objective, and compassionate analysis of the present situation actually demands that Christians stand firmly and loudly against Hamas. For in doing so, we find ourselves standing not only with Israel, but with the Palestinian people as well. Yet many are those Christians who disagree. What then is the common denominator among those who seem so biased against Israel? In my own personal observation, I have found that there is almost universally an underlying theological bias. Among those who refuse to support Israel’s self-defense there is an open embrace of Replacement Theology as well as a rejection of, or a very low view of the prophetic portions of Scripture.
After his Tweet concerning the need for Christians to repent of their support for Israel, it came as no surprise that Zahnd went on Tweet a belittling comment concerning the Book of Revelation: “So you’re saying we can’t use the strange and violent imagery of Revelation to completely overrule the Sermon on the Mount?” Of course this is a straw man argument. No one is trying to “over-rule” any of Jesus’ words. Quite the contrary. There is no need to pit one portion of God’s word against another. Beyond the “strange and violent” Book of Revelation, roughly one third of the Bible consists of prophecy, including Jesus’ final sermon, the Olivet Discourse. I quote Zahnd simply to highlight the disdain for portions of the Word of God that this pastor must embrace in order to support His own political bias (* See my update/note at the bottom of this article). The symbiotic relationship between anti-Israel sentiment and an anti-prophecy theological stance is common to observe among the growing evangelical left.
In a recent article featured in WND, Dr. Michael Brown discussed Stephen Sizer, a well-known Anglican vicar and author. Sizer openly espouses both Replacement Theology and Preterism (the view that most biblical prophecy has already been fulfilled in the past). In August 2013, sitting before a crowded church, in speaking of Christians or Messianic Jewish believers who support Israel, Sizer said, “they’ve repudiated Jesus, they’ve repudiated the Bible, and they are an abomination.” Few will deny that such comments are highly inflammatory, divisive, and extreme. Unfortunately, Sizer is far from alone is his extremist rhetoric.
Carl Medearis, another author and popular voice among the growing anti-Israel segment of evangelicalism, also has used the present conflict to essentially come out of the closet with both barrels blazing to denounce Israel. On his Facebook page, Medearis expressed his inability to hide his anti-Israel animus any longer:
You can’t imagine how many “friends” warn me not to talk about this or I might get in trouble. Wow. Enough. This secular mostly godless nation called Israel is NOT the people of God and I do not support them and their war machine. How’s that for direct? Who’s brave enough to tell the truth and not worried about pleasing man?
Just to repeat: Carl does not “support them” (Israelis) or their “‘war machine.” On Twitter he took to attacking those Christians who disagree with his stance, stating, “The sad heresy called ‘Christian Zionism’ takes much of the blame for arming the Israeli army who are killing citizens.” Again, why such abusive and inflammatory language? Impossible is the notion to Medearis that informed, thinking, level-headed Christians could ever simply support Israel’s present operation to destroy Hamas without primarily being driven by their theology. Look again at his words; a text-book case of transference. It is Medearis who is using his theological bias to justify his demonization of the Israeli Defense Forces and ultimately the Israeli people. In Medearis’ estimation, Israel’s “Defense Forces” are actually a, “war machine” that he refuses to support. Why is this so deeply racist? As so many have correctly stated, if Hamas were to lay down their arms, there would be peace. If Israel were to lay down its arms, their would be a genocide. Whether one intends such sentiments or not, saying that you do not support Israel is simply a roundabout way of saying that you support the death of millions of Jews. This is precisely how the Israelis hear it. Just die, you Jews. What kind of unimaginable insensitivity has come over some Christians?
Back on Twitter, Medearis went on to encourage his followers to read Ephesians 3:10-11, where they will supposedly find, “More clear biblical evidence that it is the believers who are the new Israel, not the current state called ‘Israel.’” What is so disturbing about this comment is the fact that Medearis placed the word “Israel” in quotation marks. This is a critical point. If the Church is, “the true Israel,” as Medearis has expressed, then what are we to make of the present State of Israel? If they are merely a people and a nation who have been rejected and dissolved by God, then who are they, and should we not also reject them? This is precisely where the profoundly dangerous logic of Replacement Theology has repeatedly led the Church throughout history. Once Replacement Theology is embraced, it almost universally leads to the disenfranchise not merely of the Jewish State, but of the very people themselves. It is precisely this theology that has led to millions of deaths at the hands of professing Christians throughout history. Yet while most Jews are acutely aware of this, far too many Christians seem to be oblivious. In reading Medearis’ comment, I was immediately reminded of the words of Albertus Pieters, who in his work, Abraham’s Seed, (often cited by other Replacement Theologians), made the following horrific statement:
“God willed that after the institution of the New Covenant there should no longer be any Jewish people in the world—yet here they are! That is a fact—a very sad fact brought about by their wicked rebellion against God; but is it not monstrous to hold that by reason of this wickedness the said undesired and undesirable group are now heirs to the many and exceedingly precious promises of God?”
As disgusting as this is, it is only a very small step away from Medearis’ comment. Placing Israel in quotation marks is to say they are not truly entitled to bearing their own name. The Jews have become a non people. When one surveys Church history, pogram after pogrom, massacre after massacre, were carried out by Christians who had arrived precisely at Medearis’ conclusion, and then sought to finish what God had started. Modern Replacement Theologians such as Medearis may not have the gall to seek to finish to elimination of the Jewish people themselves, but they seem all too eager to outsource the job to Hamas.
If the Church ever desires to fulfill our mandate to preach the Gospel “first” (Greek: proton: first, especially) to the Jew (Rom. 1:16), then it is high time that we get our theology of Israel right. The first 1900 years of the Church’s history have been one continuous, colossal failure. The hour is much later than most think, and its high time that we grow up as His Body. I am extending the invitation to Carl Medearis publicly to engage in a dialogue on these matters.
In conclusion, for the past few weeks, I have searched for a single well-known minister or ministry who espouses Replacement Theology or has a low view of biblical prophecy who has been openly and vocally standing with Israel in the present operation against the genocidal terror organization Hamas. I am not saying that none exist, as I am sure some do, but I have yet to find one. It is imperative that informed, thinking and compassionate Christians today reject Replacement Theology that has consistently produced hatred and persecution of the Jewish people—bad fruit—for the past 1900 years. No doubt, most of the inhabitants of The State of Israel today are far from God, but as the controversy of Zion and the rage of Satan spreads throughout the nations, let all Christians who value all of God’s Word stand against the rising tide of global Jew-hatred, as we fervently bear witness of their need to come to Yeshua their Messiah—the only true Hope of Israel.
*Update: Pastor Brian Zahnd, who I quote at the beginning of the article has not surprisingly taken issue with my comment that he shows disdain for certain portion of God’s Word. Zahnd feels as though I have misrepresented his views. In fairness to Zahnd, I wanted to note his protest. While it is certainly possible that in calling the Book of Revelation “strange and violent” (which portions of it certainly are) and saying that we should not use it to override Jesus’ words elsewhere, he could have simply been making a comment regarding allowing clear passages to guide our understanding of those that are not clear (a principle I agree with). In context however, it is very difficult not to see in his words as showing a measure of disdain for the Book of Revelation, particularly its violent elements. In light of the larger conversation wherein he was expressing himself, this is certainly how it comes across. Of course, we all sometimes express ourselves in ways we wish we hadn’t, and my desire is certainly not to judge Zahnd’s motives. I generally like to give others the benefit of the doubt. Thus I will allow those who read his comments to decide for themselves.