Friday, December 30, 2011

Christ at the Checkpoint Conference: mixing vinegar with water UPDATE

UPDATE: I received an e-mail from Munther Banayout Isaac of the Committee for Christ at the Checkpoint. His e-mail went into my spam box and I just now saw it. The information I saw was wrong and the committee made a good decision. I apologize for the wrong information. Munther does not want his e-mail posted. So Although I have posted it I will take it down, except for this part:

 "Thank you for your question regarding Charles Carlson's film showing in Christ at the Checkpoint and for your concern and for verifying from us about this. The short answer is no - we will not show the film. Though we initially considered having it part of an optional film night during the conference, we later decided that the message and goals of the film and indeed the work of WHTT are not compatible with the goals of our conference and do not serve our cause. Though one of our goals is to engage with Christian Zionism, we seek to do it in a friendly and constructive manner were both views are fairly represented and are respected."

In November 2011, I wrote an article, Liberation theology or Christian Zionism? Why not Reformed instead! It was about a Conference in 2010 called Christ at the Checkpoint. I was concerned because quite a few Evangelicals were involved as speakers at a conference that also included some heavy anti-Semitism by such people as Mitri Raheb and Stephen Sizer. I pointed out that Raheb insisted that immigrants from Europe to Israel are not genetically Jewish and Sizer, who believes that the Jews of today no longer have any connection to God's promises, continuously does ministry with those who deny the Holocaust.[1]

The coming 2012 Conference has quite a mix of speakers and presenters and is also using many Evangelicals. One man, who is not listed as a speaker, but whose film is supposedly going to be shown is, it seems, a part of this strange mix. The film, produced by Chuck Carlson, a man who has spoken at conferences put together by Holocaust deniers, is Christian Zionism: The Tragedy &The Turning, Part 1. I found this information on a very vile site that I have written about before, Veterans Today.[2] Chuck Carlson’s organization is We Hold These Truths Strait Gate Ministries. This is a preview of his video which he states will be shown at the conference, (warning there are several bad scenes) :

At Veterans Today there is a podcast of Tom Compton who works with Chuck Carlson interviewing him about the film and then there is an audio of Dr. Alex Awad of Bethlehem Bible which sponsors the conference. Awad is one of the Evangelical presenters at the Christ at the Checkpoint 2010 Conference. I do not believe that those planning the Conference are aware of the posting on Veterans Today, but they are surely aware of the speaker’s orientation, including Raheb’s words from the last Conference. In order for there to be a true attempt at peace making it is important for the planners to winnow out the anti-Semitism that overshadows the Conference.

For further indications of the kind of problems Compton and Carlson present see a poem linked to and placed on their site, "The Palestinian Statehood Sham: A Donkey Heads To The Den Of Vipers":

“Tell your Zionist masters sorry, you shouldn’t have been their deceitful starter...

Because Palestine isn’t just the West Bank, Al-Quds and bleeding Gaza...

Palestine is everything from the river to the sea...

All holy Arab land, no Zionism in between...

Palestine is Yaffa, Nasira, Akka, Safad...

Haifa, Lifta, al-Ludd, Isdud and Naqab...

We will not mince our words, we don’t care if they aren’t televised...

The usurping Zionist entity is something that we will never recognize...

We bleed for this land, so we repeat, go ahead and give us death or prison...

Eternal ‘no’ to the Zionist entity and eternal ‘no’ to its recognition...”

The poem is purposing that the State of Israel disappear all together. Another indication of the kind of information provided by Chuck Carlson & Tom Compton is an article suggesting that an Israel bus that was hit by Hamas on the Egyptian border was filled with soldiers and not civilians Why Arabs from Egypt Attacked IDF Soldiers Riding on an Israeli Public Bus.

And then there is their bookstore which has books such as Rothschild Money Trust, with its description:
May Amshel Rothschild, the founder of the Rothschild fortune, at the time of his death in 1812, created a trust of his estate, by will, for the elevation of the Jewish race and establishment of a Jewish world Empire. The estate has been preserved and managed since his death as a unit in pursuance of the provisions of his will. This 1940 classic examines the origin of the Rothschild Empire, gold, the Federal Reserve, and how the money trust arranged for World War.
There are also DVDs by Holocaust denier Gorden Ginn.

And this is the most blatant problem with Carlson, his connections to those who deny the Holocaust. He has spoken at conferences arranged and set up by anti-Semites and Historical Revisionist (those who deny the Holocaust). He has also published articles in their journals. In Sacramento in 2004 he participated in a conference sponsored by The Institute of Historical Review the main organization of those who deny the Holocaust. At the time the IHR gathered with those considered neo-Nazis.

There should never be an excuse for Evangelicals participating beside those who are involved in such evil. While it may be that the people setting up the Conferences and engaging the speakers are unaware of some of the speaker’s proclivities toward evil rhetoric that does not erase the fact that it is happening. This mixing of evil with those who wish to do good will simply taint any good. I would suggest that those Evangelical speakers coming from the United States explain the difference between those who are seeking peace and justice in the Middle East for both sides and those who are simply spouting anti-Semitism.

I have sent several e-mails to members of the committee promoting the 2012 Christ at the Checkpoint Conference asking if this film is truly being shown. I have not received any reply. If I do I will update my posting.

[1]See footnote in original article.

[2]Veterans Today publishes articles accusing Israel of being responsible for 9-11, they use articles which insist that Rabbis in this country should be hung. They in fact insist that the government of the United States should be destroyed.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An update on Youcef Nadarkhani at VOM

In a recent update Voice of the Martyrs has stated that Iranian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani is being held for a year in hopes that western Christians will forget about him. They write:

Iran’s Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, head of the judiciary, has ordered the judge presiding over Youcef Nadarkhani’s case to delay his written verdict for one year. The judge was specifically ordered to keep Nadarkhani in prison, using whatever means necessary to force him to recant his Christian faith and convert to Islam.

According to Present Truth Ministries, the order was designed to cause the international community, specifically Christians, to forget about Nadarkhani’s case.
 The article is “Iran: Nadarkhani Update.” The western world needs to be made aware of the pastor’s plight and prayer maintained that the comfort and strength of the Lord will be with him.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas memories and joy

Christmas, what do I remember, so much, perhaps too much? Trees with crepe paper and tinsel. Snowy Missouri hills with sleds and aunts and uncles. A wagon ride across the frozen creek to cut a tree. Mama cooked the turkey in her new pressure cooker and it fell apart.

And then there was the one where mama was in the hospital and I took care of my little sister Beth, slept on the sofa next to the Christmas tree lights and received my first present from a boyfriend; a record with two new songs on it. “The little Drummer Boy” was on one side and “You are Beautiful” on the other; the one from the Broadway musical “The Flower Drum Song,” not the movie. By the time the movie came to the theatres I was married—to someone else.

And the Christmas my husband was just home from back surgery. I went to the front yard and cut a large pine branch and stapled it to the wall. That was our Christmas tree. Two churches, an Assemblies of God and a Seventh Day Adventist supplied us with wonderful food and jeans for all three boys. And our pastor, at Warehouse Ministries, when we went to Church took my husband’s hand and silently placed money in it. I still remember needing fifty dollars to pay the telephone bill—some friends came to visit and handing us an envelope said it was God’s gift. Of course there was fifty dollars inside. That was God’s gracious Christmas.

And just one more. A Christmas I remember filled with lights, and laughter, food and friends. I remember singing together and that one of my sons, on Christmas Eve night, in the midst of all the fun and joy led another young man to Christ. And that really is what Christmas is about, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

See, amid the winter's snow,

Born for us on Earth below,
See, the tender Lamb appears,
Promised from eternal years.

Chorus:Hail, thou ever blessed morn,
Hail redemption's happy dawn,
Sing through all Jerusalem,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies;
He who, throned in height sublime,
Sits among the cherubim.

Say, ye holy shepherds,say,
What your joyful news today;
Wherefore have ye left your sheep
On the lonely mountain steep?

"As we watched at dead of night,
Lo, we saw a wondrous light:
Angels singing 'Peace On Earth'
Told us of the Saviour's birth."

Sacred Infant, all divine,
What a tender love was Thine,
Thus to come from highest bliss
Down to such a world as this.

Teach, O teach us, Holy Child,
By Thy face so meek and mild,
Teach us to resemble Thee,
In Thy sweet humility.

The suffering Church and a blog by Vivian Chapman

I know this is a different kind of posting just before Christmas, but the suffering Church has been on my heart today and then a friend on Facebook led me to this Belief blog with an article My Take: Looking for faith amid persecution.

Vivian Chapman, who is a writer and producer and the wife of photographer Gary S. Chapman went with her husband as he interviewed and photographed those who had suffered from an extremist Muslim mob in Pakistani in 2009. Homes were burned with people in them.

Part of what she writes is:
Through an interpreter, we talked with a 32-year-old father of four young children who became a hero to 70 women and children. As a violent mob appeared on their street, young girls and women clutching their children began to run into his family’s three-story home.

Pleading with his father to give him the shotgun and shells that were in storage, he argued for protecting the women seeking refuge, “If we allow the mob to come into our house, what will they do? If they kill everyone in the house, then we will have to answer to God why we didn’t protect them. Give me the gun. God I put my life in your hands. I’m going to protect these lives. Help me.”

Incredulous, I wondered how I would have reacted. Would I have been brave? What would I have done? What could I have done?”
Chapman who is a Christian also states:
As the relief team took assessments for supplies, our interpreter, also a Christian, turned to me and said, “We see the destruction of their homes, but not the destruction of their lives. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.”

Under the same circumstances, would I draw strength from that promise? Could I endure those kinds of struggles and hardships? I hope so.”
You can see the pictures her husband took here and read his blog here

Father have mercy and loving care for your suffering church through the coming year.

H.T. Jonathan Armstrong

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

God's truthful word is the meat of our story

One unbelieving Presbyterian pastor is honest enough to declare his unbelief, “The virgin birth is fiction.” Others want to hang on to the beautiful story that might give others a moral parenthesis. No they don’t believe it but they make exceptional seasonal uses of it. Teresa Lockhart Stricklen, on the PCUSA blog Thinking Praying Living, writes a partly serious, partly funny, from a woman’s point of view, essay, “From Advent to Christmas.” She adds this towards the end of her text:

Now all of us who’ve been schooled know that these stories are more concerned with making theological points than historically accurate ones, which makes our job as preachers a bit more interesting.
And then Stricklen goes on to apply the theological points to contemporary lives. Pointing out that Jesus is the candle that God uses to make darkness light she writes:
This world is not just a broken mess we should despair over and nonchalantly let run its crooked course. There are Josephs and Marys who take God’s risks. There are shepherds who don’t run away terrified but want to go see for themselves what in the world God is up to, running the risk of good folks slamming the door in their faces. There are high and mighty Zechariahs who finally get it after being struck dumb for awhile. We know these people. They are us.
Jesus is portrayed as Light of Light and very God of God. Still, “risks” and “seeing what God is up to,” and “get it.” Without the reality and truthfulness of God’s story of his Son’s birth the out workings become so banal.

And Chris Glaser, on his blog, Progressive Christian Reflections writes about the birth of Christ, “Put yourself in the nativity story.” After explaining that most Catholics reject the social issues and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, but go to church for Christmas and Easter, Glaser states that is true of Protestants as well. He relates that to the “myth” of the nativity story, writing. “To me, myth is not a story that is untrue, but a story that carries a deeper truth that draws us in.”

So Glaser invites the reader into the story; asking, “Are you King Herod, fearful of losing power or privilege as God is doing a “new thing”? Or an Eastern sage enduring academic malaise, seeking a star of inspiration? A shepherd routinely going about your business when the skies seem to open up? A prophet crying in the wilderness?” He goes on, including Mary and Jesus, ending with these words:
Good to remember, at this time of year, that we hinder or help, blink or behold this nativity of God’s Word to us.
But notice something here. Truth is missing and so is worship. Reality becomes only metaphor and our lives lose the transcendence of God’s truthful purposes. Additionally, the concrete and practical go missing too. For instance, Zechariah, who by the way was not high and mighty, but disbelieving, with his wife, experienced the very real birth of an unexpected son. They experienced his late night cries, his tummy aches, his first word and first step. They experienced his strange behavior and powerful preaching as God’s grace mingled with reality in his life.

And king Herod afraid of a “new thing?” This is more than banal, this is evil. That question ignores not only the reality of the virgin birth, the songs of angels, the bright star; it ignores the ultimate evil, rejecting the true King who came to die for the sins of humanity. Herod knew, the scribes told him, the Scriptures foretold:
But as for you Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for me to be ruler in Israel, his goings forth are from long ago , from the days of eternity. (Micah 5: 2)
Herod did not reject a new thing; he rejected the Lord of glory. Herod did not reject a new thing he rejected God’s word and thought he could thwart it by killing the babies of Bethlehem. Ultimate evil doesn’t answer to make believe stories no matter how beautiful the stories are.

The truthful biblical story of the birth of Jesus which includes a virgin, a multitude of angels and a star, is the foundation for His perfect life, His death on the cross and His bodily resurrection. It is the foundation for lives lived in obedience and worshipful attendance to the wondrous King born in Bethlehem. God's truthful word is the meat of our story.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The 4th Sunday of Advent

A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentations, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled because they are no more.

My reading for this advent season is found daily in the beauty of the Gospels and Psalms, but also in the prophetic side of Matthew, the book of Daniel and Revelation. These circular pictures of the Church age with their themes of faithfulness, suffering and final victory lend themselves to the story of the holy innocents of Bethlehem. This is out of sequence for Advent but nevertheless this is what I choose for the fourth Sunday of Advent.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writing in 1939 of Herod’s fear and rage, of the death of innocent children, of the sufferings that will come to Jesus, gives meaning to all Christian suffering. He writes:
Filled with immeasurable fear and jealousy, he [Herod] now orders the death of all children of Bethlehem younger than three years of age. He considers this to be the only certain way to get the divine child. But even though his strike is clever and cruel, it misses its target. Herod wants to destroy Christ, but Christ is alive and in his place and for him the first martyrs are struck down and die. The innocent children of Bethlehem protect the life of their king and Lord who is their age. They become the first martyrs of Christendom, the dying witnesses for the life of the Lord Jesus Christ, their savior. All persecution aims at the final destruction of Jesus Christ. Its purpose is to murder Christ, yet it cannot harm Christ. Christ lives, and with him lives the martyrs of all times.
Speaking of Rachel who seemingly returns to weep over the murdered children of Bethlehem, Bonhoeffer continues:
The lament for the martyrs of Christ begins, and it will not quiet down until the end of time. It is the lament for the world estranged from God and an enemy of Christ, for the blood of the innocents, for our own guilt and sin for which Jesus Christ himself experienced suffering. But within this inconsolable lamentation, there is one great consolation; Jesus Christ lives, and we live with him if we suffer with him.
In Christ, the one who was, who is and who is coming, there is great peace.

Friday, December 16, 2011

An insignificant group in the PC (U.S.A)

An insignificant group in the PCUSA, but the question is- insignificant to what and who? And why or how are they insignificant? Someone tweeted insignificant about Voices of Orthodox Women because they were upset at the article, Review of the November/December Horizon’s Magazine which included a review of the article, To Every Season. Since I wrote the review that caused the retort I thought I might play around with the word insignificant.

I got to thinking about the insignificant people and groups in the Scripture. There is Gideon’s army which God reduced to a mere 300 soldiers so that their victory might bring glory to him.(Judges 7) Or there is Jonathan and his armor bearer who, by themselves, defeated many philistines. (1 Samuel 14) Although there are many more in the Old Testament, it is Christmas and the New Testament shines with those who were insignificant in the world’s eyes but were acknowledged by the Lord of the universe.

A mere peasant girl, not a king’s daughter, is favored by the Lord to give birth to his Son who will live, suffer, and die for the sins of the world. The shepherds see a host of angels singing and speaking of the baby born in a stable but destined to be a Savior. An elderly man and woman were given the privilege of knowing who the baby was and speaking over him blessings and prophecy. Few of the people that Jesus was to heal were considered significant by the world, but he took time and care for them. Above all he blessed the children.

So what of this group, VOW, are they insignificant. Well, maybe, but not to God. Not to the many who receive their Newsletter. Not to those women and men who want to know about the Horizon’s yearly Bible Study from an orthodox perspective. You can see some evaluations here and here.

So if you are feeling rather insignificant in the PC (U.S.A.), remember all of those tucked under the wings of the Lord of the universe are very significant to him. He uses the small and insignificant things of earth to do his bidding. Remember the verse:

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is your name in al the earth,
Who have displayed your splendor above the heavens!
From the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have established strength
Because of your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. (Psalm 8: 1-2)

Or the words of Mary:

He has done mighty deeds with his arm;
He has scattered those who were
Proud in the thoughts of their heart.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exulted those who were humble. (Luke 1: 51-52)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Coptic Church and the Muslim Brotherhood

Philip Jenkins’ book, The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—and How It Died has a chapter entitled “The great Tribulation.” It is about the persecution of Christians, and in particular the Coptic Christians of Egypt and other places in the Middle East, during the fourteenth century. He begins with this:

Although Egypt’s Christians had often been subject to outbreaks of persecution, the events of 1354 reached an alarming new intensity. Mobs demanded that Christians and Jews recite the Muslim profession of faith upon threat of being burned alive. The government struck at churches and confiscated the estates of monasteries, destroying the financial basis of the Coptic Church. And unlike in previous conflicts, the persecution now reached the whole country, rather than being confined just to Cairo. Under increasingly violent conditions, many Christians accepted Islam, in a massive wave of conversions. (98)
After explaining that not all Muslim rulers were so ferocious, Jenkins goes on to document the ruin of Christianity in the Middle East during that time. Jenkins prefaces’ this tribulation chapter with this thought:
Oppression and persecution were not integral to Islamic rule, but such conditions could and did develop at particular times, and when they did, they could be devastating. At their worst, we can legitimately compare the conditions of Christians under Islam with that of Jews in contemporary Christian Europe, and the Egyptian campaigns of the fourteenth century look almost identical to contemporary European anti-Semitism. (100)
I write this to bring a better understanding of the two videos I am placing here. The Muslim brotherhood in Egypt is returning Egypt to the fourteenth century. The videos are devastating:

"This week, Egyptian political activist Cynthia Farahat testified before the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the House of Representatives. Reps. Frank Wolf and James McDermott presented Under Threat: The Worsening Plight of Egypt's Coptic Christians."

Hat-Tip Dexter Vanzile

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Prayers for Fremont Presbyterian Church: an Administrative Commission

This came in my e-mail within the last two hours. I am ashamed of my presbytery leadership. Since when does the group who does not vote count for an additional problem to those considering whose shall be the property in a dispute. For instance when Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church voted to leave, they had a membership of 2,286 members and 1,218 voted. Roseville had 1, 143 and 760 members voted. Those non-voting members did not count. (I have added a video at the bottom.)

Administrative Commission for Fremont Presbyterian Church

Purpose: Pursuant to the request from the Committee on Ministry, I, Anna Niemann Perrine, in my capacity as moderator of the Presbytery of Sacramento, call a special meeting of the Presbytery of Sacramento for Monday, January 9, at 7:00 pm at Celtic Cross Presbyterian Church, 5839 Dewey Drive, Citrus Heights, CA, for the purpose of acting on the following motion regarding Fremont Presbyterian Church.

Motion: That, pursuant to Book of Order G-3.0109, the Presbytery of Sacramento appoint an Administrative Commission to visit Fremont Presbyterian Church and inquire into an apparent schism within the membership of that congregation. The Commission shall consist of six or more members, equally divided between teaching elders and ruling elders, appointed by the Moderator in consultation with the chairpersons of the Committee on Ministry, the Stated Clerk, the recently retired Interim Stated Clerk, and the Transitional Presbyter. No two members of the Commission shall belong to the same congregation.

Specifically, the Commission shall inquire into, report on and make recommendations with respect to the following questions within the meaning of Book of Order G-4.0207 (Property of Congregation in Schism) so that the Presbytery can make the determination required by G-4.0207:

1. Whether there is a schism within the membership of that congregation, and if so;

2. Whether a reconciliation of the factions or a division of the factions into separate congregations within
the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) can be effected, and if not;

3. If one of the factions is entitled to the property because it is identified by the presbytery as the true
church within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

The Commission shall, before making its final report and recommendations on these questions, afford to all
persons affected by its decision fair notice and an opportunity to be heard on matters at issue.

The Commission shall have access to such records and documents (whether in written or electronic form), as it, in its judgment needs to review in order to make its recommendations.

The Commission shall make a report, whether interim or final, to the Presbytery at its next regularly scheduled meeting.

Rationale: COM has concluded there are threshold questions which must be resolved by the Presbytery of Sacramento before there are any negotiations with representatives of the leaders and members of Fremont Presbyterian Church who wish to affiliate with another denomination. In the past, our Presbytery has dealt with schisms between an entire (or virtually entire) congregation and the PC(USA).

By contrast, in the case of Fremont, there appears to be a schism within that congregation between two identifiable and large groups of Presbyterians, one of which has voted to leave the PC(USA) and become a congregation within the Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC) and one of which voted against leaving the PC(USA). In addition, there is a third group -- which is reportedly nearly as large as the first two groups
combined, if not larger -- which has not voted one way the other.

The Book of Order specifies in G-4.0202 that its provisions "prescribing the manner in which decisions are made, reviewed, and corrected . . . are applicable to all matters pertaining to property." G-4.0207, Property of Congregation in Schism, provides.

The relationship to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) of a congregation can be severed only by constitutional action on the part of the presbytery (G-3.0303b). If there is a schism within the membership of a congregation and the presbytery is unable to effect a reconciliation or a division into separate congregations within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the presbytery shall1 determine if one of the factions is entitled to the property because it is identified by the presbytery as the true church within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). This determination does not depend upon which faction received the majority vote within the congregation at the time of the schism.

The Guidelines for Churches Considering Seeking Dismissal from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in the COM Handbook do not address as situation such as we face here. Instead, they appear to presuppose a reconciliation or a decision by an entire congregation or the functional equivalent thereof to seek such dismissal. The Guidelines make no reference to making the determinations required by G-4.0207 when there is a divided congregation such as appears to be the case with Fremont. Indeed, the phrase "the true church within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)" appears nowhere in these Guidelines.

COM concluded that (1) negotiations regarding property and other issues with the representatives of the members, elders and pastors at Fremont who wish to leave the PC(USA) and affiliate with the EPC should not occur before the determinations required by Book of Order G-4.0207 are made by Presbytery and that (2) a "team" appointed by COM pursuant to the Guidelines is not the appropriate body to assist and advise Presbytery with respect to these determinations. The results of such "team" negotiations would probably be
subject to a proceeding2 before the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Synod of the Pacific, and perhaps the PJC of the General Assembly. Years might pass before a resolution of the threshold questions, during which hundreds of Presbyterians would remain in limbo.

G-4.0207 is silent as to how a particular presbytery is to determine whether a particular faction should be identified as the true church within the PCUSA, but it mandates that such a determination be made. COM believes that a broadly-based administrative commission including representatives from at least six different congregations is the most appropriate tool to assist Presbytery in making the required determinations.

1 The Preface to the Book of Order provides: "In this Book of Order (1) SHALL and IS TO BE/ARE TO BE signify practice that is mandated, . . . ."

2 Including, without limitation, a request for stay, appeal, remedial action or other recourse.

I have added a video of Pastor Don Baird baptizing young people at Fremont.

Baptisms from Fremont Presbyterian Church on Vimeo.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Critiquing the theologies and connections of some pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel leaders: a series # 4

Mitri Raheb: Universalist & anti-Semite:

This posting is about Mitri Raheb, pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem. In 2010 I attended the Presbyterians for Middle East Peace Breakfast at General Assembly. This organization, which I belong to, focuses on truth telling and cares for both Israelis and Palestinians. It was there I saw Raheb.

At the breakfast the last speaker, Rachel Lerner, Vice President of J Street, a Jewish organization which stands slightly to the left of the more conservative Jewish organizations was just gathering up her papers and trying to answer questions as people left or mingled about. I went forward wishing to thank Lerner for her speech. But I had to wait as Mitri Raheb harassed her. She was extremely polite to him.

I have written about Raheb before. Recently I wrote about his participation in the 2010 “Christ at the Checkpoint Conference” and much earlier I wrote about his 2004 speech at a Reformed Church in America breakfast where the speakers focused on the Belhar Confession. The recent posting is Liberation theology or Christian Zionism? Why not Reformed instead! The earlier posting is Using the Belhar Confession to overcome Israel’s “racism,” and as a means to bring about repentance from those desiring a Jewish State! The earlier posting links to Raheb’s speech, “The Practical Implications of the Belhar Confession From the Perspective of Palestine."

Reading through both of the speeches given by Raheb, the one at the Checkpoint Conference, and the one at the RCA breakfast, one sees a theologian who is both a universalist and an anti-Semitic, not an unusual combination. Raheb also speaks of himself as a contextual theologian which in his case most likely means he is a liberation theologian.

Raheb, who in 2003 was visiting professor at Louisville Theological Seminary and mission partner in residence for the P.C. (U.S.A.), hoped to use the Belhar Confession as a means of unity among the three monotheistic faiths, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as they exist in the Middle East today. He saw the words “people of God” in the confession and wished to change the wording to ‘peoples’ of God. This would have diluted the confession completely; confessing Christ would no longer have meaning to the confessors.

Raheb also hoped Belhar could be used to induce the Jews to stay in dialogue with mainline denominations and Palestinian Christians by confessing Israel’s sin of apartheid. His inference was that without such a confession there could be no dialogue. Raheb stated that:
Isn’t it time for a clear Jewish confession or for maybe a joint Jewish-Christian confession regarding the lands and the people under Israeli occupation? We have been confessing our sins to the Jewish people over and over again for fifty years now. [Raheb is referring to the Declaration of Barmen] And we do not regret doing that. But we should now expect our Jewish partners to confess their sins against the Palestinian people. A moment of truth has come. This issue, I believe, will either make or break Jewish-Christian dialogue.
But Raheb’s feelings toward the Jewish people of Israel as well as the Jews of Europe and America can only be regarded as anti-Semitic after his 2010 speech at Christ at the Checkpoint Conference. During that speech, Raheb not only insisted that the Jews that came from Eastern Europe were not linked by genetics to the ancient biblical Israelites, he also insisted that the Palestinians and only a part of the Jews, those who had always lived in the area, “are the continuation of the peoples of the land.” Of the immigrant Jews who inhabit Israel, Raheb states:
I’m sure if we were to do a DNA test between David, who was a Bethlehemite, and Jesus, born in Bethlehem, and Mitri, born just across the street from where Jesus was born, I’m sure the DNA will show that there is a trace. While, if you put King David, Jesus and Netanyahu, you will get nothing, because Netanyahu comes from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages.
Raheb is referring to the Khazars when he writes of an East European tribe that converted to Judaism in the middle ages. And there was such a tribe that did convert. In fact the European Jews were proud that a whole tribe had converted to Judaism. But that does not make every Jew living in Diaspora a member of the Khazars.

All anti-Semites use the Khazars as a means of insisting that the Jews are not the Jews. Some white Americans who belong to anti-Semitic groups related to the KKK use the Khazars to insist that the supposedly 10 lost tribes of Israel are the Caucasian peoples of Europe and the United States. Those groups are referred to as “Christian Identity.” Raheb uses the Khazars to insist the Palestinians are the only peoples, plus a few Jews, who have a legal right to the Holy Land. He is also anti-Semitic.

One very interesting and helpful book which refutes so much of Raheb’s and other’s nonsense is Jacob’s Legacy: a Genetic View of Jewish History by David B. Goldstein who is professor of molecular genetics and director of the Institute for Genome Science and Policy’s Center for Population Genomics and Pharmacogenetics, Duke University.

There are many fascinating stories in the book but the important one against Raheb’s vague insistences is that Goldstein along with a another professor was able to trace genetically the Jewish office of priest, using those Jewish males who consider themselves to be Cohanim, “directly descended from one of the many priests who served in the Temple in Jerusalem.” To their own surprise they went back almost three thousand years, the genetic trail did not stop on a Russian hill filled with Khazars.

As Goldstein relates the end of the story of research:
One by one, Neil [Bradman] read the microsatellite scores for each chromosome carried by the Cohanim. As he spoke, I entered each number into the equation and tallied up the totals. Slowly the data began to take shape, and as they did, the presumptive date for the Cohan Modal Haplotype began to recede farther and farther down the corridors of time. “Do you know where we are going?” I said, feeling like a window had opened from the modern world into something ancient, powerful, and hidden.

When the last figure had been entered, we were stunned into silence. “We are in the First Temple,” I said eventually. We were both quiet again for a time.
Goldstein also looked into the idea that the Ashkenazi Jews might possess some of the genetic material of the Khazars. He did not find that connection although he actually wanted to. But the important point here is that the Jewish immigrants that came to Israel are not lacking Jewish DNA.

At the end, Raheb was hurrying through the latter part of his Checkpoint speech. He mentions that he is running out of time. The end result is a bit garbled but he seems to place Jesus’ mission into his own context of denying that the Jews of Israel have any right to the land and of affirming that the Palestinians do. Land is always important; the pro-Palestinians/anti-Israelites use other’s exegesis of scripture to prove the land is not important and then insist that it is.

Raheb believes that Christ brought a kingdom without boundaries and the beginning of the right spirit to the people of the Middle East. The best one can say of Raheb’s theology is that he attempts to universalize the kingdom of Jesus and at the same time make it relevant to his own people. However, there seems to be no thoughts about redemption from a biblical viewpoint. He does not say that either the Jew or the Muslim needs Jesus. But above all Raheb attempts to remove the Jewish identity from the Jewish people who now inhabit the State of Israel.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The third Sunday in Advent

A new book, Jerusalem: the Biography, by Simon Sebac Montefiore, details the constant flux of various rulers, squabbles, massacres and battles in the history of the Holy City. But one story lies slightly out side of Jerusalem it is about the man who kept Napoleon from capturing the city. The ruler, Ahmet Jazar Pasha, the Butcher, ruled by fear. He made a practice of cutting off portions of both his servants and his official’s bodies such as noses, hands and ears. He often gorged out an eye. The author writes, “His Jewish minister, Haim Farhi, ‘had been deprived of both an ear and an eye’ just to be sure. According to the author he was a former Bosnia slave raised in Egypt and finally a warlord in the Ottoman Empire.

For this posting, how the Butcher defeated Napoleon is not necessary. It is a long story. For this third Sunday of Advent, I am reminded of how, we all walk about with wounds. For most, not physical wounds, but there are other kinds, and many of them occur because of the warlord who has enthralled us or tried to enthrall us in his petty kingdom. But a greater than Napoleon has come, and is coming. He came as a small baby he will come again as ruling Lord. Jesus has defeated the enemies of his Great Kingdom on the cross, he is with us by the power of the Holy Spirit, and we with him. Jesus is coming and his kingdom will be great.

There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of the Lamb will be in it and his bond- servants will serve him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads, and there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev. 22:3-5)

Friday, December 9, 2011

My thoughts on the Fellowship of Presbyterian's Theology paper

The Fellowship of Presbyterians have posted their polity and theology drafts and asked for feed back. Although I have not joined the Fellowship I have been thinking and praying about it. And although I have just glanced at the polity paper, not my strongest area, I have carefully read the theology paper taking some notes as I read. I am sure I will read it several more times taking care as I write.

I believe the goodness of the future for Presbyterians, all kinds of Presbyterians, hangs about this paper and the polity one. I write this because God often works within the breadth of our longings and the longing of many Presbyterians today is that they might find a place of safety and succor in the midst of spiritual decadence, trivial objectives and cultural conformity. Even those of us who intend to stay within the PCUSA need the kind of structure and essentials offered here.

One of the things I did as I was reading was to mark a few quotes that I found weighty and profound. The next thing I did was to write out notes in several places where I felt the subject might be emphasized more, strengthened or clarified. Finally I have a couple of “high” praises.

The quotes:

“As subordinate standards, the confessions are not free-standing authorities. They are subject to the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who is known through Scripture, the word of God. Subordination to the Lord and to Scripture’s witness serves to locate confessional authority, however it does not diminish it. The confessions provide reliable guidance to our reading and reception of Scripture, protecting us from self-absorbed interpretation, and opening us to Christ’s way, Christ’s truth and Christ’s life.”( 4)

“Each of us enjoys God by being so united with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit as to become a participant in the divine nature, transplanted from one degree of glory to another and escorted by Christ into the loving community of the Trinity.” (5)

“We glorify God by recognizing and receiving his authoritative self-revelation, both in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments and also in the incarnation of God the Son.” (5)

“The Spirit will never prompt our conscience to conclusions that are at odds with the Scriptures that he has inspired. The revelation of the incarnate Word does not minimize, or set aside the authority of the written Word.” (5)

“Apart from the saving work of Jesus Christ, we are incapable of being in God’s presence, incapable of bearing the weight of his glory. We rejoice that Jesus Christ offers us safe conduct into the heart of God’s purifying fire, shielding us with his perfect humanity and transforming us by his divine power. Having received such grace, we extend grace to others.” (7)

“He is locally present at the right hand of the Father. When we are promised that one day we will see him face to face, we acknowledge that it is the face of the Jesus of Nazareth we will someday see. …” (6)

I must say that I am extremely pleased with the care the three theologians took to affirm the Christian’s union with the bodily resurrected Christ. It can be found in many of the quotes.

As for a few suggestions here they are:

Under incarnation on page six it would be helpful to better clarify the importance of the person of Jesus Christ along side the excellent explanation of how the two natures of Christ are not merged. One of the great theological problems of today, especially among progressive theologians, is so dividing the natures that the eternal Word is disconnected from the humanity of Christ. His person gets torn apart. I am thinking here of a helpful quote by the Puritan pastor John Flavel, in his book The Fountain of Life:
The two natures being thus united in the person of the Mediator, by virtue thereof the properties of each nature are attributed, and do truly agree in the whole person; so that it is proper to say, the Lord of glory was crucified, 1Cor. 2:8, and the blood of God redeemed the church, Acts 20:28, that Christ was both in heaven and on the earth at the same time, John 3: 13. Yet we do not believe that one nature doth transfuse or impart its properties to the other or that it is proper to say the divine nature suffered, bled, or died; or the human is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent; but that the properties of both natures are ascribed to the person, that it is proper to affirm any of them of him in the concrete, though not abstractly. (56)
One other area that I wish was stronger is our redemption by Christ’s death on the cross. This is the great post-modern controversy of western Christianity. I like the way Richard Mouw spoke of it at the Fellowship Conference. He pointed out that when our view of sin is weak our views on Jesus’ death are neglected. In an age when radical feminists try to make the death of Christ 'child abuse,' we need a more vigorous understanding of the triune God’s redemptive action; we also for the same reason need a strong theologically clear view of the Trinity.

One other problem for me is this statement:

“God created human beings from the dust of the earth and his own breath, to be mediators between God and his creation, offering creation’s praise to God, channeling God’s grace to the creation.”(6)

There is only one mediator and he exists eternally. We are not mediators except by our union with Jesus Christ. It is always through him that anything is accomplished. The word “steward” fits beautifully. If we as creatures offer praise it is through the interceding work of our high priest, Jesus. If we offer grace to creation it is through the gracious work of Jesus. Always and ever, it is not our selves, but Jesus.

And then just this minor complaint: Please don’t use Tillich’s “ground of our being.” Most Orthodox believers know what is really meant when an orthodox writer uses the term, but Tillich meant it in a panentheistic manner—which means we are a part of God. That starts everything off on the wrong footing.

My praises:

I have high praise for the writers not bowing down to politically correct gender inclusive titles for references to God. On a minor note it means sentence structure is blessedly smooth and free. On a major note they are allowing God’s revelation of himself to speak. As Karl Barth put it, “We have not to draw our knowledge of who God is from what we think we know about eternity, infinity, omnipotence and invisibility as conceptions which bound our thought. On the contrary, we have to draw our knowledge of eternity, infinity, omnipotence and invisibility from what we can know about God, from what God has said to us about Himself.” [1]

I have high praise also for how the Fellowship have planned to draw all together in a friendship network that offers structure, fellowship, growth, care and discipline to each other. They do this with their section “Living in obedience to the Word of God.” Their list of 10 ways to be accountable is not unlike an outline of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together or the ancient orders of a Christian community.

Finally, I am always blessed when I see quotes I love. The introduction to the theology paper when referring to the Book of Confessions has this, “We have been guilty of what C. S. Lewis called ‘chronological snobbery, the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our age and the assumption that what ever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.’”I think this quote disqualifies so much of what I was reading on Tweeter about the Fellowship’s paper.[2] We must not throw away the goodness of the past but hold on to the faith delivered to our mothers and fathers.

[1] Karl Barth, The Knowledge Of God and the Service of God According to the Teaching of The Reformation, tran. By J.L. Haire and Ian Henderson, The Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Aberdeen in 1937 and 1938, (Great Britain: Charles Scribner's Sons 1939), 33.
[2] I want to emphasize that David Berge's tweets have been very helpful. See!/David_Berge

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A letter for Deidra Crosby who wrote about aneurysms & her dad

Dear Deidra,

I read your sermon on the Outlook blog. At least I think it is a sermon because you ended it with an amen. But I couldn’t say amen with you. You wrote about unity but did not write about truth.

In the high priestly prayer of Jesus, in chapter 17 of the gospel of John, Jesus lifts up both unity and truth. Jesus prays, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Without truth there can be no sanctifying work which means being set apart by and for God—and the word of God written accomplishes that. The Holy Spirit opens our hearts and minds and reveals the truth of God’s word to us. There we find that Jesus is Lord and redeemer. Around his Lordship, in obedience to his word, in repentant humility we find unity.

You write that “An aneurysm is defined as an abnormal widening or ballooning of a portion of an artery due to weakness in the wall of the blood vessel,” and compare the actions of the Fellowship of Presbyterians to an aneurysm about to burst open.

My husband and I were with friends several years ago when the wife experienced a burst aneurysm in her brain. At first we did not know what was happening. She was talking when suddenly she threw her arm out and then began to draw her whole body, arms and legs, into a tight knot. Her husband held her as we called the emergency number. Later in the hospital we could hear her through-out the emergency ward as she moaned loudly over and over trying to gain consciousness. Of such events, she had the least chance of living, but she did live.

I thought of her when I read your sermon. Her aneurysm happened spreading blood where it should not have been. But neither burst blood vessel nor its cause, whatever it was, was the identity of my friend. Instead, suffering, and crying out, she fought for her life and won. My memories of her last days in the hospital are of her smile as her husband brought her favorite cat to spend the night.

The Fellowship of Presbyterians is not an aneurysm; instead they are the body, the body of Christ, reacting to an aneurysm. They are, as all Christians are, living stones, real people following Christ. Not a piece of bad tissue.

Sin has burst its banks among us: The vow of purity has been ignored, thus eliminating peace and unity. The authority of the written word of God is ignored. The authority of the living Word of God is mocked. As the Presbyterian denomination draws in upon itself, failing to acknowledge either sickness or need, the Fellowship, and others among us, are attempting to remedy the break. As Paul said of some who took communion unworthily in the Corinthian church, some are weak and others sick and some are even asleep.

For those of us within this weary, sinking denomination may God work through all of us to renew his people. May we all smile at the end of our time of sickness with the joy of the Lord.

In the Fellowship of Christ,


Thinking about a poem and God's good plans

The poem “Do not go gently into that Good Night “by Dylan Thomas ended my last posting. That is a poem that has a very precise structure. The last lines are repeats in every other verse. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light,” alternates with “Do not go gentle into that good night.” I once wrote a poem that needed this kind of structure.

I had written a free form verse and it went all over the place without any distinct meaning. I knew what I wanted to say, but I was failing to say it. I have always loved the rhythm and rhyme scheme of Dylan’s poem so I took Dylan's poem and used it to shape my own sprawling mess. My poem took shape and in that shape had meaning. Sometimes the events of our Christian lives are like that. But it is slightly different.

All we see is the sprawl and the mess. But God as the author and keeper of our lives has formed the poem of our lives. We are walking in the midst of his plans but often cannot see his shaping. And we must understand that this is as true of those who suffer in such places as North Korea and among the totalitarian regimes of some Arab governments such as Saudi Arabia as here in the United States. In every place God’s words and promises are the same. Our lives are shaped for his glory and in that we have meaning and peace:

And we know that God causes all things to work for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Although I have posted my poem several times on my blog, I will add it again. For today, I mean it for all those in the midst of denominational struggles:

The Sweetness of Gathering to the Vine

The sweetness of gathering to the wine
is claimed by children resting in a tree
whose root became the food within the vine.

These, childlike made, they bless the cup and dine
upon the fleshy food they cannot see,
and drink the holy bloody wine.

Like sibling children fighting in a line,
who later laugh when by the bell set free,
these happy ones are laughing in the vine.

And raging gods whose deeds their shape confine[1]
have called for war, whose very end shall be
determined by the drinking of the wine.

Go death to death, the children life define;
now blood of saints and Christ's good blood agree
the holy life is living in the vine.

If nails be sharp pursuing flesh to pine,
and wooden burdens bend and bruise the knee,
feast on the broken flesh, drink up the wine;
hold fast the fellowship within the vine.

[1] This line is referring to demonic forces such as in Eph.6:12.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Threats of loss towards those who want to leave: seduction for all others

Some might say that since I’m not leaving the PCUSA, I don’t have a dog in this fight— but I do, I’m tied forever to the Hound of Heaven.[1] And He keeps putting me in the strangest places. But I do not believe he will be putting me back in a church (Fremont) if its only members turn out to be those who care little for biblical Christology, the authority of Scripture and the confessions of the church. I will not be a part of those who offer no help to those caught in sinful sexual lifestyles but instead want to ordain them. That would not be standing with Jesus; it would not be caring for hurting sheep.

But there are some at Fremont Presbyterian Church who obviously think I would come back if they were the ones who got to keep the church property. Four Sundays ago coming home from a different Presbyterian church, we stopped for breakfast at a restaurant. It was new to us since it was in a different neighborhood. As we left, one of the ladies from Fremont, who had voted not to leave the PCUSA, was sitting with her husband waiting to be seated. I went over to say hello and was surprised by our conversation.

When I told her we were visiting different churches to find a home when Fremont leaves, she said that we should stay at Fremont because the Presbytery was going to give the church to those who voted not to leave the PCUSA. When I asked her how she knew this (The negotiating teams had not met yet) she told me that the Executive Presbyter had told her.

When I returned home I sent an e-mail off to the Executive Presbyter asking if this was true. I asked him if he had told the lady that those who voted "No" would be given the property. He replied, "I have said that the property is an issue for the negotiating teams and the Presbytery to determine. The Presbytery could determine that the faithful remnant can maintain a healthy mission with the property. Could, not would, is the key word. This is the negotiation teams ' responsibility, and I am simply interpreting polity."

This is all to say that Saturday night, returning home from out of town, there was a letter in our mail box from the Presbytery of Sacramento. It was divided; the first part was from all who signed the letter, 22 people altogether.

The next was from the Presbytery’s negotiation team giving “facts” about how dire the voting had been [it was actually 427 to leave and 164 to stay] including the fact that they had been “contacted by a group of Fremonters who wish to remain in the PCUSA. As allowed for by our Constitution (Section G-4.0207 of the Book of Order), They have requested that we consider dismissing those who want to go to the EPC, but leaving the property in the PCUSA.”

Next are words from the Faithful Fremont Fellowship. (That is what a small group of those who voted ‘No’ are calling themselves.) They are attempting to pull in more people so they can convince the Presbytery that they would make “up a strong and viable PCUSA church.” They suggest that many members who voted to leave will change their mind, that many who did not vote will stay.

Their invitation, like the lady in the restaurant, whose name, is also on the letter, was “come and join us.” They think that I and many other members will join them.

And finally there was the part from the Executive Presbyter, which included:
I have been in the position of transitional Presbyter since May 2011. One of my roles is to be a pastor to the Presbytery. In that role, I have talked with the Fremont pastors and offered my support. I also made myself available to any members of Fremont who may need pastoral or spiritual support in this time of transition.
The biggest problem with all of this is that it all came in the same letter with the Presbytery's letterhead. And as a friend in another Presbytery wrote, “the horrific part is that they are all in cahoots: discernment team, Presbyter, and the FFF?”

This is my suggestion for members of Fremont:

If you don’t feel led to leave the PCUSA at this time, find another PCUSA Church, but for the sake of Christ do not aid the people who joined up with the Presbytery to make sure they get to keep church property. Instead listen to my story:

At least twenty years ago my husband Brad and I found Fremont. We walked in on a lovely Sunday Jazz morning; the music was great and best of all Darrell Johnson was preaching. He was preaching the pure word of God and we loved it. And then we went to a Sunday school class where the lady, a professor, was supposedly teaching about various Churches and Church history. She taught that doctrine, the Trinity and the deity of Christ were not important.

Another teacher, a former pastor and missionary, taught on the Nicene Creed without once mentioning Arianism or the deity of Christ. Our pastor, Darrell Johnson, was constantly harassed by members—they would send him letters saying he was preaching about Jesus too much.

Even later, after we joined, as I began teaching on new religions, in a class on the occultic Anthroposophical Society of Rudolf Steiner a lady stood up and spoke nearly ten minutes defending Steiner’s religion and schools. Later, privately, I asked her, "Didn’t she want the Steiner people to know the true Christ?" She stated that what they believed was truth for them. Her name is also on the letter.

So why am I writing this story?

Darrell Johnson, when he took a new position, left behind a growing group of reformed Christians who held to biblical Christology and the authority of God’s word. Many people who grew up in Fremont, who had not really experienced a relationship with Jesus Christ began loving Jesus and owning him as Lord. Many others, who were orthodox, found at Fremont, a wonderful place to grow in Christ. And many more, new to the church, found Jesus Christ.

If the people on the letter’s list are given the church property, Fremont will probably return to its yesteryears. Its theology will revert to a diversity of theologies that are tolerant of all except those who uphold Jesus as the only unique Savior, the one who is both fully human and fully God. And as I stated above, its "members will turn out to be those who care little for biblical Christology, the authority of Scripture and the confessions of the church." They will certainly care little for biblical sexual morality.

There is a famous poem by Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” It was written to his father as his father lay dying. It was not a Christian poem. The line “Rage, Rage against the dying of the light,” is repeated three times in the poem. But the Christian knows true light that will never die, so do not rage but do not be unwise either. Do not agree to the seduction. Do not put yourself in that place where you help to snuff out the light of a vibrant church.

[1] See The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson

Just a song-the second Sunday of Advent

A song for the second Sunday of Advent:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A meeting of sorts

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

So what did the people do that Micah is speaking to. They used unjust weights so as to cheat the poor. They were violent and they lied. But God describes their sin in large letters when he states through the prophet Micah that, “The statues of Omn and all the works of the house of Ahab are observed and in all their devices you walk.” (Micah 6:16)

I have been trying to think how to write it …
Impossible, that verse they are always quoting
Micah 6:8-his word, but is it really heard.

Omn and Ahab brought false fertility gods into the land of Israel. But the greatest sin of all was cheating someone out of their property. As the writers of the Tyndale commentary puts it, “Omri and Ahab, who lived more than a century before Micah, have become legendary and serve as a paradigm of apostasy (cf. 1 Ki. 16:30-33), turpitude, cupidity and injustice (cf. 1 Ki. 21). Ahab’s swindling and exhorting of property from others is in view here.”

He came last. The meeting was over. The pastor’s complaint and sorrow was of the insults uttered around him—I suppose toward those who were speaking. They even swore and said those churches had screwed them.
He stands at the door knocking—we should let him in.

In the Old Testament three sins are always the cause of Israel’s judgment; they seem to circle around each other.

Idolatry—the worship of other gods which includes the self
Sexual sin—perverseness that allows the self to flaunt the word of God
Greed—hoarding and spending what belongs to someone else

Carefully, some would say carelessly, I choose my words, winter is ahead, few will walk together in the cold wind, only Christ will give us warmth. Only in Him will love of his people grow.

God’s gifts are many but his wrath is also in the midst of a people’s persistent sin. It is he who purifies the church. Barth reminded the church of his day, the German Church, that God could take their candle away just as he took away the candle of the North African Church in Augustine’s day.

Critiquing the theologies and connections of some pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel leaders: a series # 3

Stephen Sizer: A warrior against Christian Zionism

This is my third and final posting on Stephen Sizer: A warrior against Christian Zionism. Sizer is the first person I have looked at in my series: Critiquing the theologies and connections of some pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel leaders: a series. I have been looking at his “Seven Biblical Answers to Popular Zionist Assumptions,” critiquing both the assumptions and his analysis of them. In this posting I will look at the last two assumptions and then explain how Sizer’s analysis is shaped and colored by his links to anti-Semitic individuals.

The 6th Christian Zionist assumption is:

6. Believers will soon be ‘raptured’ to heaven before the ‘end-time’ battle of Armageddon

Skipping Sizer’s comments for just a moment, I want to look at everything that is being said in that sentence.

1. Something having to do with the Lord’s coming is going to happen very soon.
2. The saints will be “raptured” away before the sinners are judged.
3. There will be an end time battle called the battle of Armageddon

I agree with Sizer “The Bible is emphatic: the return of Jesus will be personal, sudden, public, visible and glorious,” but there is so much more to be said. He uses Matthew 24-30-31 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 to explain his beliefs about the second coming of Christ. He uses Matthew 24:40-41 and Luke 17:34-35 as well as Matthew 13 to critique the Christian Zionist assumption. But after his critique Sizer does an interesting thing. Sizer quotes Revelation 22:1-2:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
Before the quote he writes, “…however we understand the vivid apocalyptic language of Daniel, Matthew and Revelation, we must hold onto the clear vision of the future of Paradise restored and the nations reconciled in Christ.” and afterwards he writes, “Our mandate is to be peacemakers not widow makers (Matthew 5:3-10). We are ‘God’s co-workers’ entrusted as ambassadors with a ministry of reconciliation not speculation (2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2).

So actually Sizer’s biggest complaint it seems to me is with the “Left Behind” series of books and their view of an end time final battle which is very human centered. But what the Christian really needs is a biblical understanding that all of Scripture including Daniel, Matthew and Revelation is God’s revelation of his purposes and plans. And when one looks at all three of the Bible books Sizer mentions one sees circles of pictures of what God is doing in relation to the nations, the unrepentant and most of all the Church. And the Jews are there too, always as God’s sign to the nations.

There is human evil (an unrelenting occurrence in history), the tribulation of the saints, (an unrelenting occurrence in history) the historical triumphs and horrible devastations aimed at Judah, (an unrelenting occurrence in history), the redemptive activity of God (an unrelenting occurrence in history) and the judgment of God (an unrelenting occurrence in history.) But there may be a final Cataclysm occurrence of all toward the end of human history as we know it- but always it is God’s victory in Jesus Christ which he has already secured.

More importantly, we cannot forget the judgment of God. No, we are not called to be widow makers but we cannot forget or lightly pass over, in the light of God’s great and costly redemption in Christ, the judgment of God. And we must, as all Christians have down the ages, look for the soon return of Christ. After all in light of eternity Christ’s second coming is always near at hand.

The last Christian Zionist’s assumption is:

7. God has a separate plan for the Jewish people apart from the Church

This is the crucial part of Sizer’s theology. And it is only fair to say that many Reformed pastors and theologians have disagreed with Christian Zionists just at this point. For some, including Sizer, the Jews, out side of Christ, simply disappear and are no longer important to God as a separate people. Sizer’s views, however, merge with a troubling anti-Semitism. While he believes God no longer has anything to do with the Jews, Sizer spends a great deal of time dealing with the Jews including linking his ministry to many who malign, defame, and wish for the destruction of the Jews.

But there are other Reformed theologians who disagree with Sizer’s position. The important thing to note here is that almost no Evangelical/Reformed theologian is stating that the Jewish people do not need Jesus. Instead they are insisting that God does not and will not, in human history, let go of the people he has called, made promises too, given the law to and blessed the world through  the birth of his eternal Son.

Sizer, using Eph. 2:11-16, writes that “we see that God has only ever had one inclusive people, identified on the basis of faith not race.” Yet, while it is true that those people in a relationship with God are always defined by faith in both the New and Old Testament, there is in the Hebrew Bible a people defined by God’s choosing and they are also defined by ethnicity, they are descendents of Abraham. Yes, other peoples were included among the ancient Israelites, but they became a part of the Jewish ethnicity—they did not continue to exist as a separate people. And so Jesus, who certainly considered himself a Jew, had several ancestors who were of another nation.

It isn’t that the nation of Israel is better than any other people; it is rather that God chose them and he chose them for a purpose. In the Old Testament the chosen are defined by both faith and ethnicity. In the New Testament God’s people are defined by faith and it is a faith that pulls in all of the faithful of the Old Testament. But it does not cancel out God’s dealings with the Jews. I have already quoted Romans 11:28-29.
From the stand point of the Gospel they [the Jews] are enemies for your sake, but from the stand point of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.
And as F.F. Bruce will insist, for Paul, the Jews are forever in the heart of God, he sees them embracing Christ as a whole people-perhaps right before the coming of Jesus Christ. Bruce writes:
When the full tale of believing Gentiles was made up – then all Israel, not only a faithful remnant but the nation as a whole, would see the salvation of God. If their temporary stumbling was prophetically foretold, so was their ultimate and permanent restoration. The new covenant will not be complete until it embraces the people of the old covenant. Temporarily alienated for the advantage of the Gentiles, they are eternally the object of God’s electing love because his promises, once made to the patriarchs, can never be revoked.
If one looks carefully at this thought there is the understanding that the Jewish people are ever in the mind of God as he waits for their embrace of the Messiah. If this is so those who put them aside in the name of the Gospel, teaching that the Jews are no longer nor were ever the chosen may wander off onto a few dark corners. And this is often true in the practical out workings of those who align themselves with only one side of the Middle East conflicts. Sizer’s Christianity is undoubtedly evangelical but he has put some of his luggage into the tents of both right wing and left wing anti-Semites.

Many years ago I became acquainted with a man who was what is called a historical revisionist. That is someone who denies the Holocaust, the death of 6, 000,000 Jews in the concentration camps of the Nazis. He had spoken on a Christian radio station and afterwards we had a very long conversation via the telephone. His name is Gordon Ginn and you can find books by him at the book store of We Hold These Truths and Strait Gate Ministries headed by Charles E. Carlson an anti-Semite who pickets Churches aligned with Christian Zionists. Stephen Sizer quoted Carlson as through he was just an ordinary Evangelical whose views are important.

When I saw the article, “Is Zionism losing ground among Evangelicals,” I was shocked to find Carlson’s quote:
The poll results state that 73% of those polled think "God's covenant with the Jewish people" continues today, and only 22% say it does not. It should be noted here that this is a Judeo-Christian give-away, since it is based on a false premise. The Pew Forum and all Evangelicals need to understand that there never was an Old Testament covenant with "the Jewish people." Most Evangelicals, radical or moderate, fail to properly distinguish the ancient tribe of Israelites from the Jews of today, and in particular, the Jewish inhabitants of the modern secular Jewish state of Israel. This error is the result of scriptural distortion that is encouraged by the State of Israel and its lobbies in the USA, and by the Israel-friendly press.
I wrote to Sizer explaining who Carlson was. He never replied. He undoubtedly already knew who Carlson was; it is I who did not know who Sizer was. And neither do many evangelicals who endorse his books and speak at the same conferences he speaks at such as Christ at the Checkpoint.

Sizer has several times been interviewed on Press TV the official news of Iran whose president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also denies the Holocaust. On Iran’s Press TV, broadcast from London, Sizer is interviewed by Alan Hart. Hart is another anti-Semite who writes for Veterans Today a vile anti-Semitic site who’s Editor, Gordon Duff, believes that Israel was involved in 9-11. He has also been interviewed by Viva Palestina Malaysia. In one interview Sizer attempts to explain Zionism:
We have to go back to the 19th century and recognize that Britain, France and Germany were colonizing much of the world in our various empires and we were placing our countrymen into various parts of the world and creating colonies—Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, just some of the colonies we created in Africa and we need to see Israel along these lines, an ethnically pure European people who would work with the British in expanding our empire—we need their support to feed the Ottomans. And therefore we promised them a homeland in our empire and so the idea of Zionism goes back to empire building, colonialism and the concept of ethnically pure races so it’s a form of racism.
Sizer knows nothing about the true beginnings of Zionism. Zionism begins with the Jews of Europe and their needs. And they were Jews, not an ethically pure European people. Sadly, Sizer while upholding some evangelical truths drifts away from the kind of connections that envelop the practical out-workings of Christian faith.

I began this series with Sizer as a means of sorting out a stronger stance for Reformed Christians in the stand against anti-Semitism as it grows in mainline denominations and now in evangelical churches. Sizer is conservative in many areas of his faith. As I move on to other pastors and theologians I will look at the more liberal positions including Palestinian liberation theology. Although it is important to note that the right and the left are beginning to join forces. I will post more on this series next week.