At its simplest, Christian Zionism has been defined as 'Christian support for Zionism.'i In Der Judenstaat, published in 1896, Theodor Herzl forcefully articulated the aspirations of Jewish Zionists for their own homeland, although the Zionist dream was largely nurtured and shaped by Christian Zionists long before it was able to inspire widespread Jewish support in the 1940's.2
At the First Zionist Congress which Herzl convened a year later in Basle, the Zionist aspiration was formulated in a call for a, 'publicly secured and legally assured homeland for the Jews in Palestine.'3 At the 27th Zionist Congress held in Jerusalem in 1968, Zionism was defined in terms of five principles:
1) the unity of the Jewish people and the centrality of Israel in Jewish life; 2) the in-gathering of the Jewish people in its historic homeland, Eretz Israel; 3) the strengthening of the State of Israel; 4) the preservation of the identity of the Jewish people; and 5) the protection of Jewish rights.4
Sharif understands political Zionism to be '...the ideological instrument for mobilizing international support for an exclusively Jewish state in Palestine.' She observes how in 1975, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution 3379 (XXX) defining Zionism as, 'a form of racism and racial discrimination.^ It was no longer politically correct to view Zionism as merely another national liberation movement, in this case for Jews. Uri Davis has written probably the most critical book on the realisation of the Zionist goal, entitled, Israel, an Apartheid State.6 Contemporary Christian Zionism is in part a reaction to this world-wide criticism.
So, for example, in 1967, following the passing of U.N. Resolution 242 in protest at Israel's occupation of the West Bank, and Palestinian Jerusalem, when the entire international community closed their embassy's in Jerusalem, the International Christian Embassy moved to Jerusalem expressly to show solidarity with Israel. They and other Christian Zionists believe that the modern State of Israel, and Zionism in general, are divinely mandated, the fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham. 'I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.' (Genesis 12:3)7 So, Hal Lindsey could assert, 'The center of the entire prophetic forecast is the State of Israel."8
Christian Zionists see themselves as defenders of, and apologists for, the Jewish people, and in particular, the State of Israel. This support involves opposing those deemed to be critical of, or hostile toward Israel.9 It is rare therefore to find Christian Zionists who feel a similar solidarity with the Palestinians.
The most well known and influential Christian Zionist organisations include the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ); the Church's Ministry Among Jewish People, also known as The Israel Trust of the Anglican Church within Israel (CMJ or ITAC); Christian Friends of Israel (CFI); Intercessors For Britain (IFB); Prayer Friends of Israel (PFI); Bridges for Peace (BFP); The American Messianic Fellowship (AMF); The Messianic Jewish Alliance America (MJAA); Jews for Jesus (JFJ); the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary; and the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ). These organisations, in varying degrees, and for a variety of reasons, some contradictory, are part of a broad coalition, which is shaping the content of the Christian Zionist agenda today.
Contemporary British Christian leaders such as Derek Princ10, David Pawsonn, Lance Lambert12, Walter Riggans13, along with Americans like Jerry Falwell14, Pat Robertsons, Hal Lindsey16, Mike Evans17, Charles Dyer18, John Walvoord19, Dave Hunt20, and the German, Basilea Schlink21, have had considerable influence in popularising an apocalyptic premillennial dispensational eschatology and Zionist vision among Western Christians.
That their teachings warrant the description 'Armageddon Theology?2 is evident from the provocative titles of many of their most recent publications.23 The beliefs and practices of the most influential of these organisations and individuals will be examined in depth in later chapters. This introduction attempts to map out the main historical and theological facts that have given shape and definition to the term.
Louis Hamada traces what he sees as the correlation between Jewish and Christian Zionism.
The term Zionism refers to a political Jewish movement for the establishment of a national homeland in Palestine for the Jews that have been dispersed. On the other hand, a Christian Zionist is a person who is more interested in helping God fulfil His prophetic plan through the physical and political Israel, rather than helping Him fulfil His evangelistic plan through the Body of Christ.24
While this definition may be true of agencies such as Bridges for Peace (BFP) and the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem (ICEJ); other organisations such as Jews for Jesus and the Church's Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ) are committed to both evangelistic witness as well as political restoration. CMJ, founded in 1809 under the name 'The London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews' was the first Christian Zionist organisation in Britain. The less accurate description of 'London Jews' Society' (LJS) eventually proved more popular.25 At its inception LJS had a fourfold mission agenda.
1) declaring the Messiahship of Jesus to the Jew first and also to the non-Jew; 2) endeavouring to teach the Church its Jewish roots; 3) encouraging the physical restoration of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel - the Land of Israel; 4) encouraging the Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish movement.26
The Rev. Louis Way, who directed the London Jews Society (LJS) from 1809, forcefully articulated Christian Zionist views some ninety years before the World Zionist Congress.27 During the last Century, in response to changing attitudes toward the Jews, LJS modified its name several times, first to 'Church Missions to Jews'28, to 'The Church's Mission to the Jews', then, 'The Church's Ministry Among the Jews'29, and finally in 1995 to 'The Church's Ministry Among Jewish People.'3o Their promotional literature now indicates a more subtle and less explicit three-fold strategy,
The aims of CMJ are:
Evangelism: To be workers with God in his continuing purpose for the Jewish people, both in Israel and world-wide, especially in seeking to lead them to faith in Jesus the Messiah as their only Saviour.
Encouragement: Supporting Jewish believers in Jesus in all possible ways.
Education: To help Christians to appreciate the biblical, Jewish roots of the Christian faith.31
This third aspect of their ministry was further modified in 1995 to emphasise not merely the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, but its living abiding relevance now, together with their concern, like that of the Council for Christians and Jews (CCJ), to confront anti-Semitism. The third 'aim' therefore now reads, To help Christians to appreciate the biblical, Jewish roots of the Christian faith and life. The concern to combat anti-Semitism.32
Whether this justifies defending the State of Israel from criticism for its continued occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is a controversial and sensitive point within CMJ. Material obtained in 1990 from Emmanuel House in Jaffa indicates that the commitment of some members of CMJ leadership to 'restorationism', that is, the active encouraging of Jewish people to move to Eretz Israel, including the Occupied Territories, appears to remain an important, if not explicit or well publicised aspect of their ministry. Their leaflet explaining the ministry of Emmanuel House states,
ITAC, as the London Jews Society is known today, has always believed, proclaimed and worked towards the return of the Jewish people to Zion. This policy is rooted in a firm belief in the message of biblical prophecy which has accurately foretold these things.33
In the 1996 Annual Report of CMJ, its General Director, Walter Riggans, explicitly and unequivocally identifies CMJ with restorationism and with support for the State of Israel. 34
Not to be out done by Christian Zionist organisations preoccupied with the fulfilment of biblical prophecy in Israel during what are regarded as the 'End Times', Riggans, under the section of the Report, outlining 'CMJ Issues', and in the context of the primary tasks of evangelism and encouragement, writes,
Within this focus we need to be aware that God's concern is with the Jewish people the world over. In our day there seems to be in some Christian circles a restriction of interest to the State of Israel and to the significance of various events for the unfolding of Biblical prophecies relating to the end times. CMJ has always been at the forefront of teaching about God's restoration of the Jewish people to and in Israel, and we are continually excited by, and watchful of all that is happening. We are humbled by what the Lord is doing among Israeli believers. In other words, our prayerful interest in the State of Israel is as constant and committed as ever.35
Perhaps this is why Walter Riggans defines the term 'Christian Zionist' in an overtly political sense as '...any Christian who supports the Zionist aim of the sovereign State of Israel, its army, government, education etc.; but it can describe a Christian who claims to support the State of Israel for any reason.'36
In a 'Resource Pack' produced in 1996 for group study as well as to answer objections to the work of CMJ, material is included under the bold heading, 'The State of Israel: Why should we support it?'37
Christian Friends of Israel (CFI) likewise insists on the unconditional necessity of 'Standing with Israel' and bringing blessing to her as a nation, though in their case, primarily through prayer and humanitarian projects rather than by evangelism.
We believe the Lord Jesus is both Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world; however, our stand alongside Israel is not conditional upon her acceptance of our belief. The Bible teaches that Israel (people, land, nation) has a Divinely ordained and glorious future, and that God has neither rejected nor replaced His Jewish people.38
Bridges For Peace (BFP), founded in 1976 by Clarence H. Wagner similarly affirm, 'Through programs both in Israel and world-wide, we are giving Christians the opportunity to actively express our biblical responsibility before God to be faithful to Israel and the Jewish community.'39
The Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) may also be regarded as a Zionist organisation. While prohibiting proselytism of Jews by Christians associated with CCJ, its members, nevertheless, show more concern to defend the actions of the Israeli Government than with the claims of Christ. For example, when Said Aburish's The Forgotten Faithful was published in 1993, Beryl Norman wrote an intemperate rebuttal in the Church Times, criticising him for being,
'...part of a major campaign now being waged to win over Christians in the West to the Palestinian cause, and ensure that Israel loses Western Christian supports
When invited to elaborate in correspondance, she did not substantiate these claims, but made further allegations. In response to a request for evidence she claimed that,
'Militant Palestinian groups - PLO, Hamas - are using the churches. It is very easy to identify this - same vocabulary, same phrases, same stories. Our friends in Israel see this at first hand.'41
AMF International, formerly the American Messianic Fellowship (AMFI), was founded as the Chicago Hebrew Mission in 1887 by William E. Blackstone (1841-1935). Blackstone was a colleague of D. L. Moody and was also deeply influenced by J. N. Darby's brand of premillennial dispensationalism.42 He subsequently wrote 'Jesus is Coming' in 1908, which by 1916 had already been translated into 25 languages and is apparently still in print.43
AMFI is, according to its own literature, a 'conservative evangelical ministry committed to seeing the Lord's purposes fulfilled by building bridges of understanding between Christian and Jewish Communities'.44 Their Articles of Belief defines those 'purposes' to include a scenario of the future which is pre-tribulational, premillennial dispensationalism.
We believe that the blessed hope is the Lord Jesus' personal, imminent return to rapture the Church and then introduce the millennial age, when Israel shall be restored to their own land and the earth will then be full of the knowledge of the Lord.45
The Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) claims to be the largest association of Messianic Jewish believers in the world, founded in 1915, with affiliations in 15 countries, 250 Messianic Synagogues, and 350,000 Messianic Jews world-wide. They insist they are 'the leading representative organisation for American Jews who believe in Messiah Yeshua' 46 Their simple statement of belief is made up of four short paragraphs. The fourth states,
We believe in G-d's eternal covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We, therefore, stand with and support the Jewish people and the State of Israel and hold fast to the Biblical heritage of our forefathers.47
MJAA provides a wide range of ministries designed to 'service the needs of the Jewish revival.' These include the MESSIAH Conference, 'The world's largest annual international conference on Messianic Judaism' held each summer with over 2,000 participants, the Young Messianic Jewish Alliance (YMJA); the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS); the Russia Committee; the International Relations Committee (IRC) which publishes the 'prestigious' quarterly, the Messianic World Report; and the Messianic Jewish Israel Fund (MJIF) which helps meet the financial needs of Messianic Jews in Israel and with lobbying for 'the right for Messianic Jews to emigrate to Israel as Jews.'48 In 1992 a MJAA position paper was published in the Israeli newspaper HaAretz entitled, 'Messianic Jews Say: "The Land Belongs to Israel"'49 In it, MJAA expressed their conviction that Eretz Israel has been given to the Jews by God and that they will 'repossess the regions of Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights.'50
Jews for Jesus (JFJ) was founded in 1973 by Moishe Rosen51 to 'proclaim the message of Messiah to all people.' They claim to be,
'...the largest and best-known of the non-denominational Jewish evangelistic agencies with missionaries in ten countries'.
In addition to their 15 branches and 60 chapters, JFJ sends out evangelistic teams such as the emotively named 'Liberated Wailing Wall.'52 Their Doctrinal Statement asserts belief in the continuing existence of two parallel but separate covenants for Israel and the church.
We believe Israel exists as a covenant people through whom God continues to accomplish His purposes and that the Church is an elect people in accordance with the New Covenant, comprising both Jews and Gentiles who acknowledge Jesus as Messiah and Redeemer.53
Their statement regarding the Second Advent is somewhat more enigmatic. 'We believe that Jesus the Messiah will return personally in order to consummate the prophesied purposes concerning his Kingdom.' 54 JFJ does not spell out what those 'prophesied purposes' are. It is true that JFJ have generally been critical of the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, for taking a political position and for refusing to engage in Jewish proslytism. However in a JFJ Publications Page review of a book by David Larsen,55 Leslie Flynn summarizes and affirms the author's treaties that,
"The Jews are God's timepiece," the author says. They are the key to history and prophecy...God's unconditional covenant with Abraham, which includes the promise of the land, a seed to rule over the land and the blessing his offspring will be to all humankind...the regathering of Israel and her central place among the nations, seem to go far beyond anything that Israel has yet experienced historically...that are to be literally fulfilled in the personal reign of Christ on earth.56
Of all the Christian Zionist organisations, the International Christian Embassy (ICEJ) is probably the most influential and controversial. ICEJ was founded in 1980, specifically in Jerusalem, as an attempt by Zionist Christians to reverse the effect of the decision by the international community to vacate their embassies in Jerusalem protesting Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank. Ironically ICEJ is housed in the confiscated home once belonging to the family of Dr Edward Said. Their promotional literature states,
When the vision of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was first given it was expressed in the following concerns; to care for the Jewish people, especially for the new-born State of Israel which includes standing up for the Jews when they are attacked or discriminated against, and for Israel to live in peace and security to care that the world wide body of Christ will be rightly related to Israel in comfort, love and prayer for her well-being, to care for the nations whose destinies will be increasingly linked to the way in which they relate to Israel, the care and preparation for the coming of the Lord.57
At the Third International Christian Zionist Congress held in Jerusalem 25-29 February, 1996 under the auspices of ICEJ, some 1,500 delegates from over 40 countries unanimously affirmed a proclamation and affirmation of Christian Zionism including the following beliefs,
2. God the Father, Almighty, chose the ancient nation and people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to reveal His plan of redemption for the world. They remain elect of God, and without the Jewish nation His redemptive purposes for the world will not be completed.
6. The modern Ingathering of the Jewish People to Eretz Israel and the rebirth of the nation of Israel are in fulfilment of biblical prophecies, as written in both Old and New Testaments.
7. Christian believers are instructed by Scripture to acknowledge the Hebraic roots of their faith and to actively assist and participate in the plan of God for the ingathering of the Jewish People and the restoration of the nation of Israel in our day.
8. The Lord in His zealous love for Israel and the Jewish People blesses and curses peoples and judges nations based upon their treatment of the Chosen People of Israel.
10. According to God's distribution of nations, the Land of Israel has been given to the Jewish People by God as an everlasting possession by an eternal covenant. The Jewish People have the absolute right to possess and dwell in the Land, including Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan.58
In an amplification of those resolutions, the religio-political agenda of ICEJ is made quite explicit.
Further, we are persuaded by the clear unction of our God to express the sense of this Congress on the following concerns before us this day,
1. Because of the sovereign purposes of God for the City, Jerusalem must remain undivided, under Israeli sovereignty, open to all peoples, the capital of Israel only, and all nations should so concur and place their embassies here.
2. As a faith bound to love and forgiveness we are appreciative of the attempts by the Government of Israel to work tirelessly for peace. However, the truths of God are sovereign and it is written that the Land which He promised to His People is not to be partitioned... It would be further error for the nations to recognise a Palestinian state in any part of Eretz Israel.
3. To the extent the Palestinian Covenant or any successor instrument calls for the elimination of Israel or denies the right of Israel to exist within secure borders in Eretz Israel, it should be abolished.
4. The Golan is part of biblical Israel and is a vital strategic asset necessary for the security and defence of the entire country.
C. The Islamic claim to Jerusalem, including its exclusive claim to the Temple Mount, is in direct contradiction to the clear biblical and historical significance of the city and its holiest site, and this claim is of later religio-political origin rather than arising from any Qur'anic text or early Muslim tradition.
7. While Gentile believers have been grafted into that household of faith which is of Abraham (the commonwealth of Israel), replacement theology within the Christian faith, which does not recognise the ongoing biblical purposes for Israel and the Jewish People, is doctrinal error.
8. Regarding Aliyah, we remain concerned for the fate of imperilled Jewish People in diverse places, and seek to encourage and assist in the continuing process of Return of the Exiles to Eretz Israel. To this end we commit to work with Israel and to encourage the Diaspora to fulfil the vision and goal of gathering to Israel the greater majority of all Jewish People from throughout the world.59
It is significant that many of the staff working for the International Christian Embassy apparently worship at the Anglican, Christ Church, near the Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem, which, coincidentally, is the headquarters of the Church's Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ) in Israel. Ray Lockhart, the vicar of Christ Church, when invited to comment on the work of ICEJ, refused to express any criticism of it.60
In what is a useful summary, Walter Riggans, General Director of CMJ, claims Christian Zionists generally agree on three cardinal beliefs, allowing for a wide diversity of views as to their theological significance eschatologically, as well as their implications for Christian practice.
The return of Jews to the land in the last 100 years and the establishment of the State of Israel should be (or can be) interpreted as a fulfilment of Old Testament promises and prophecies concerning the land, or at the very least as signs of God's continuing mercy and faithfulness to the Jewish people. 'For many Christians today the greatest visible sign of God's faithfulness is the survival of the Jewish people. God has preserved them, cared for them, directed them, against all the odds. And so, in a sense, the greatest sign of all is the State of Israel, and Jewish sovereignty over Eretz Israel; such is a classic Christian Zionist position
The establishment of the State of Israel has special theological significance because of what it means for the Jews, or because of what it means in the sequence of events leading up to the turning of the Jewish people to their Messiah and the second coming of Christ.
Christians should not only support the idea of a Jewish state, but (at least in general terms) support its policies. '...in the most modest of ways I would suggest that Christians as Christians must give support in principle to the State of Israel as a sign of God's mercy and faithfulness, and as a biblical mark that God is very much at work in the world...' 61
In qualifying this definition, Colin Chapman argues that an important distinction needs to be made between 'Christian Zionism' and 'Biblical Zionism'. He recognises that Biblical Zionism could accept the existence of the State of Israel, and be willing to work and pray for its security on political or humanitarian grounds without needing to do so on theological grounds.
Christian Zionism, is however, rooted, in varying degrees, in the theological conviction that the Bible mandates a restoration of the Davidic kingdom as the focus of God's rule on earth. In broad terms therefore they see in contemporary events, the hand of God protecting his chosen people, the Jews. The founding of the State of Israel in 1948 is regarded as the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy. Eretz Israel, not always well defined geographically, is nevertheless seen as theirs by unconditional divine right given under the Abrahamic covenant. Jerusalem is inevitably seen as the eternal and undivided capital of the Jewish State.62
Christian Zionism has, in general terms, arisen from within Evangelicalism, and Fundamentalism in particular. Within that narrower circle, Christian Zionism is invariably associated with, although not exclusively, a dispensational reading of Biblical history and a premillennial eschatology. It would be useful therefore to amplify the meaning of these four theological terms.
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