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An Academic Case for Christian Zionism

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Stand for Israel has long kept an eye on the troubling trend of academia to boycott and badmouth the Jewish state. However, writing at The Algemeiner, CAMERA’s Dr. Tricia Miller writes of academics who provide a case for Christians to support Israel:

In what was a precedent-setting event, the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) sponsored a recent conference titled “People of the Land: A Twenty-First Century Case for Christian Zionism” in Washington, DC. It was reportedly the first-ever event specifically devoted to presenting academic arguments in support of Christian Zionism.

The content presented at the April 17 symposium—11 academic papers—comprised a long-overdue contribution to the dialogue about Zionism in the Christian world. The combined presentations made a theological and historical case for Christian Zionism that illustrates how it is a movement rooted in traditions as old as the Church itself.

Through a revealing survey of Scripture and Church leaders’ writings from the 2nd-20th centuries, Roanoke College’s Dr. Gerald McDermott demonstrated that an emphasis on the land of Israel and the relationship of that land to the promise made to Abraham and Sarah is consistent throughout the Tanach (Hebrew Bible), the New Testament, and historical Christian Zionism. McDermott noted, “Land is the fourth most frequent noun in all of Tanach. It is more dominant statistically than the idea of covenant. Of the 208 times that covenant is mentioned, in two-thirds of those instances that covenant is directly or indirectly connected to the land.”

Leaders throughout Church history have articulated the belief in a future for the land of Israel as manifested in the New Testament. According to McDermott, “Such an expectation was fairly common in the early Church.” But it was in 16th-century Britain that a “renewed vision for a future Israel gained momentum” through the publication of three books that “helped focus this cultural memory and sense of privilege in ways that would resemble Zionism,” he said. John Bale’s 1570 edition of “The Image of Both Churches,” the Geneva Bible (1560), and John Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs” (1563) all “helped prepare the English mind for Christian Zionism,” said McDermott.

It is important to note that these three books were published almost 300 years before the introduction of pre-millennial dispensationalism, which far too many scholars erroneously consider to be the beginning of Christian Zionism.

Through in-depth analyses of Christian Testament writings, subsequent conference speakers revealed how the people and land of Israel are significant concerns in the gospels of Matthew and Luke, the book of Acts, and the epistles of the Apostle Paul. In contrast to what is often believed, Paul’s writings do not eliminate the particularity and irrevocability of the covenant promises made to Israel—promises that include a particular land. To the contrary, as Romans 11:29 declares, “… the gifts and the calling of God [to Israel] are irrevocable.”

An awareness of the emphasis the Christian Scriptures place on the people and land of Israel is of paramount importance for two reasons. First, recognition of the eternal nature of the covenant promises made to Israel is essential in order for a Christian to have a full appreciation of the trustworthiness of the promises made through Jesus. If God cannot be depended upon to remain faithful to what the Hebrew Bible calls aneverlasting covenant, how can Christians have any confidence in what the New Testament refers to as a new covenant?

Second, comprehension of the never-ending relationship between God, the Jewish people, and the land of Israel is critical for the purpose of exposing the errors in Christian supersessionism and replacement theology. A biblical understanding of the significance of the people and land of Israel throughout the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures refutes erroneous teaching promoted by prominent Palestinian Christian leaders and their allies in America…

One can only hope that the academic papers resulting from this event—slated to be published in a book by InterVarsity Press—will reach an increasingly wider audience with the evidence that validates Christian support for Israel.

Furthermore, one can hope that as a wider Christian audience becomes better informed concerning the historical and theological foundations of Christian Zionism, that this knowledge will lead to a greater appreciation for, in the words of Gerald McDermott, “the miraculous appearance of the Israeli state just after the darkest moment in Jewish history.”

Tags: Christians , Israel

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