Biblical Arguments Against Christian Zionism
~Gary M Burge and Stephen Sizer
Christian Zionism supports the theological argument that the new
covenant of Christ has not abrogated God's original covenant with Moses,
that the church has not replaced Israel and that Israel's covenant
privilages have never been revoked.
Christian Zionism supports the theological argument that the land promise is intrinsically linked to covenant and since this covenant cannot be annulled even through disobedience - even rejection of the messiah - then the land of Israel belongs exclusively to Judaism.
Nevertheless, the chief message of the prophets was Israel's fidelity to the covenant, how this was lived out in a life of righteousness, and the historic judgments that will fall on the land if there is disobedience.
Christian Zionism supports the theological argument that to fail to bless Israel, to fail to support Israel's political survival today, will incur divine judgment - that Christians are called on to blindly endorse all of Israel's political policies. Even criticism of Israel is unacceptable to many Christian Zionism.
Yet, according to the New Testament, all Christians are the children of Abraham, Jesus is the new Moses, the 12 apostles evoke memories of the 12 tribes, etc. To neglect this vital New Testament theme is to do a genuine disservice to the New Testament itself.
The central motif of the Book of Judges, is it simply foreshadowing for the kingdom era. The Babylonian exile is the best example of the consequences of infidelity to the covenant. In addition, the New Testament is making a stunning claim about genuine continuity between the covenants in that Christians are the children of Abraham and heir to his promises.
Christian Zionism is committed to what has been termed a "territorial religion." It assumes that God's interests are focused on a land, a locale, a place. From a New Testament perspective, the land is holy by reference to what transpired there in history. But it no longer has an intrinsic part to play in God's progress for the world. In other words, the land and that temple are now secondary. The fusion of national politics and religious mandate is gone. God wishes to reveal himself to the entire world.
What do the Jews think? According to Rabbi Yehiel Poupko, 85% of Jews worldwide see no religious significance to Israel. And they view the Christian Zionist program with some amusement.
But here is the key: Christian Zionists must beware of projecting unto Israel a religious self-justification that may not even be there. For most Jews, the State of Israel may have less to do with God than it has to do with ethnic or cultural survival.
The theological worldview embraced by Christian Zionism is that the Christian faith and politics MUST be wed in Israel.
Yet, in the New Testament, the term "chosen" however, is never used of the Jewish people. It is therefore no longer appropriate to designate the Jews as God's "chosen people". The term has been redefined to describe all those who trust in Jesus Christ.
And it is difficult to conceive how such an entirely futuristic interpretation of the prophecies would have brought any comfort to the Jewish exiles in Babylon to whom Ezekiel was sent to minister, yet this and similar passages provide the motivation for the restorationist movement today [Christian Zionism].
The conviction that the Jewish Temple must be rebuilt is, ironically, the Achilles' heel of Christian Zionism for it is inevitably also associated with the reintroduction of the Mosaic sacrificial system.
The immediate context for Ezekiel's vision of a rebuilt Temple is the promised return of the Jews from the Babylonian exile, not some long distant eschatological event. This would have been utterly meaningless to the exiles longing to return to Israel. How could Ezekiel be referringf to some future millennial age, when Jesus Christ fulfilled the role of the sacrificial system, ONCE AND FOR ALL, by the shedding his own blood? To suggest that animal sacrifices must be reintroduced undermines the New Testament insistance that the work of Christ is sufficient, final and complete.
The followers of Jesus Christ are called to be peace makers (Matthew 5:9), to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44) and to no longer regard others from a worldly point of view but instead reach out to the widow and orphan, the poor, the sick and stranger, through a ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:16-20). Tragically, many Christian Zionists, it seems, are more concerned with heralding Armageddon than building peace.
Best-selling Christian Zionist writers such as Hal Lindsay and Jack Van Impe detach predictions concerning the future from the convenantal context within which the prophecies were originally given. Lindsay's view is at variance with the Hebrew prophets themselves who consistently stress that their intention was to call God's people back to the terms of their covenant relationship, not reveal arbitrary and otherwise hidden facts about predestined future events. Authentic biblical prophecy is always conditional rather than fatalistic. The promises and warnings are conditional upon how people respond to God's instructions.
Such literalist assumptions preclude any possibility of an alternative reading of the Bible, history or a just and lasting outcome to the search for peace in the Middle East.
Satirically, Kenneth Cragg summarises the implications of Christian Zionism's ethnic exclusivity:
It is so; God chose the Jews; the land is theirs by divine gift. These dicta cannot be questioned or resisted. They are final. Such verdicts come infallibly from Christian biblicists for whom Israel can do no wrong, thus fortified. But can such positivism, this unquestioning finality, be compatible with the integrity of the Prophets themselves? It certainly cannont square with the open peoplehood under God which is the crux of New Testament faith. Nor can it well be reconciled with the ethical demands central to law and election alike.
Christian Zionism only thrives on a futurist and literal hermeneutic when Old Testament promises made to the ancient Jewish people are transposed on to the contemporary State of Israel. To do so it is necessary to ignore, marginalise or by-pass the New Testament which reinterprets, annuls and fulfills those promises in and through Jesus Christ and his followers.
Ultimately, what difference did the coming of Jesus Christ make to the traditional Jewish hopes and expectations about the land? We may not interpret the Old Covenant as if the coming of Jesus made little or no difference to the nationalistic and territorial aspirations of the 1st-century Judaism.
Christian Zionism is an exclusive theology that focuses on the Jews in the land rather than the inclusive theology that centres on Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. Christian Zionism provides a theological endorsement for apartheid and human rights abuses, rather than a theology of justice, peace and reconciliation which lies at the heart of the New Covenant.