This past weekend, we held a conference at the historic Calvary Baptist church in Manhattan – entitled The People, the Land and the Future of Israel. The videos from the conference are now available online for you to watch and share with others!
I believe that these lectures, by some of the most influential and outstanding evangelical scholars in America, can potentially bring biblical balance to the growing numbers of evangelicals who are rethinking their commitments to Israel and the Jewish people.
It is no secret that an increasing number of evangelical Christians are very critical of Israel. Some of these brothers and sisters believe that the ongoing election of the Jewish people was buried at the cross and that there is no biblically justifiable present or future for ethnic Israel.
Some do see a mass conversion of the Jewish people at the end of the age (Romans 11:25-27) – before the second coming of Jesus – as argued by the Apostle Paul. As one brother once told me, “this passage does not fit into my theological system, but I must believe that it is true – because Paul wrote it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” My suggestion to him was that he might consider very prayerfully and carefully changing his theology of Israel and the Jewish people!
Nonetheless, I understand there are faithful believers who do not believe in the future or present election of Israel, based upon their reading of the Bible. This is a well-known and historic position held by a portion of evangelicals, which I disagree with but do not believe is necessarily dangerous or anti-Jewish. Sometimes the position is called Supersessionism or Replacement Theology, and there are many versions of this viewpoint.
However, this position can be dangerous and quite harmful when combined with accepting – rather naïvely – the current Palestinian narrative that has been produced by primarily non-Christian authors, those who hold to a strong belief in a Palestinian version of Liberation Theology. This has led to a growing syncretistic viewpoint that is more anti-Israel than pro-Palestinian.
This viewpoint is sometimes tied to the emerging social justice agenda of a newer generation of evangelicals who tend to “root for the underdog” and uncritically accept this anti-Israel narrative because of their concern for those viewed as politically and socially oppressed. Previous generations who believed in a future for Israel based upon Scripture and were moved to compassion by the Holocaust felt differently. But, to quote a Jewish poet from the state of Minnesota – the times they are a-changin’!
The question of whether or not Israel has a biblical and covenantal right to the Land must be addressed without being influenced by the political debate, and the lectures from the conference do this quite well. The historical narrative regarding the formation of the modern state of Israel and the accompanying politics also need to be better understood by today’s evangelicals – especially those who, led by compassion, tend to accept the anti-Israel agenda promoted by the active pro-Palestinian evangelical lobby through their many books, films and conferences.
I believe that more light than heat will be gleaned by listening to the lectures from the recent conference, as well as in reading an excellent article recently written by a Christian writer in a Jewish magazine. Robert Nicholson does a superb job of charting the history of this discussion, how it impacts Christian-Jewish relationships, and gives some excellent suggestions on building better bridges between born-again Christians and the Jewish people.
I hope that you will both enjoy the lectures from the conference and the article by Robert Nicholson. Both will give you an in-depth understanding of the issues swirling around the current debate regarding Israel and the Palestinians. The following was my response to Robert Nicholson’s article, which I hope will be published in the forum.
I applaud the well-reasoned and researched article by Mr. Nicholson. I am a Messianic Jew and appreciate the support of evangelicals who have a love for Israel based upon their reading of the Bible. This is a more unshakable love that leads to a belief in the ultimate legitimacy of the Jewish state as part of God’s design for humanity.
As part of a historic, 120-year-old “mission” to the Jewish people, we do hope to see many Jewish people favorably consider Jesus – or Yeshua as we call Him – and even believe He is the Messiah. I also hope that those Jewish people who do become followers of Jesus become more committed Jews, believe in the modern state and future of Israel, and encourage support of Gentile evangelicals for Israel.
Our organization does tell Jewish people about Jesus, as this is part of our theological conviction and that of all evangelicals. We also work very hard to help evangelicals learn more about the Jewish people and Israel and speak in many churches, hold conferences and produce literature that hopefully deepens the support of evangelicals for the Jewish people and Israel.
I have found that most of my fellow evangelicals also accept a fundamental value of Messianic Jews, like myself, and a viewpoint which our organization has stood by for 120 years – that Jewish people who believe in Jesus should remain Jews, be loyal to the Jewish people and Jewish causes, and seek the general welfare and good of the worldwide Jewish community.
One of the ways we do this is to encourage a thoughtful, biblical, pro-Israel position that continues to extend compassion and grace to others, including Palestinian evangelicals and those raised Muslim or in Historic Christian homes, and works towards genuine reconciliation and peace – which means that we do not readily accept the new anti-Israel narrative and agenda promoted by the groups so well-described in this excellent article.
Please feel free to pass along the link to the conference media (videos.chosenpeople.com) – by doing so, you will be helping to create the balance described above.
What might a new balance produce?
The understanding that evangelicals should pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for solutions to the political and social tensions within Israel, the threat of terrorism and the ever-present efforts to destroy the Jewish state by Hamas, Syria and Iran. And for humble and Jesus-centered communication between evangelicals on both sides of these issues!
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May they prosper who love you. (Psalm 122:6)