Thursday, December 1, 2011

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.


Presbyman said...

Viola, I appreciate this series very much. Having to go through some of this material would be more than I could stand. I imagine having to put on some hip wading boots and maybe a gas mask. But you are doing it and bringing some important information to light. Thank you!

Blessings for Advent and Christmas!

John Erthein
DeFuniak Springs, FL

Viola Larson said...

That is one of the reasons I will try to do no more than three a week.

Blessings to you and yours also.