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Jun 27, 2012
Why Israel Exists ‘for the Palestinians’—and the Rest of the World | Christianity Today.
I am including the final installment of the dialogue between Jew for Jesus head David Brickner and Pastor and author John Piper regarding Israel’s divine right to the land. This four-part article has been helpful to lay out the issues on the table even though many aspects of this discussion left much unsaid. Today Piper attempts to maintain the exclusivity of God’s promise to the Jewish people and yet also hold to the position that the whole world will inherit Israel as well. Though the Gentile world enjoys the blessings of the land of Israel during the messianic kingdom, the prophecies in Ezekiel make it clear that the land of Israel is divided among the twelve tribes of the elect nation.
Pastor John Piper
Piper displays the confusion among Reformed theologians who try to affirm Israel as the object of God’s blessings and at the same time extend those blessings to the world while maintaing Israel as a unique chosen nation. Somewhere in the theological mix as explained by Reformed theologians, the elect status of Israel is lost in the universal blessings God promises to the world. Brickner’s words still stand true, “ ”You are taking away with one hand what you give with the other.”
This is the conclusion of a four-part discussion between Bethlehem Baptist Church pastor John Piper and Jews for Jesus executive director David Brickner on the relationship and attitudes American Christians should have toward Israel. See parts one, two, and three. (more…)
Apr 14, 2012
Listening to the messages spoken at the Christ at the Checkpoint March 2012 Conference one is quickly confronted with the contradictory agenda of this event. In the CATC manifesto we read, “Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.” In contrast, when one hears the messages posted on the CATC website, theology is anything but “secondary.”
Though three messianic Jews -Richard Harvey, Evan Thomas, and Wayne Hilsden -were invited speakers, the platform was heavily weighed in the direction of anti-Christian Zionist speakers. Therefore, it is hard to swallow the CATC’s manifesto’s claim that matters of theology are of “secondary nature.”
After listening to the message of Wheaton College’s New Testament professor Gary Burge, it is safe to say the anti-Christian Zionism message, more commonly known as “replacement theology,” was the theology featured at the Bethlehem get-together.
Furthermore, one of the conference’s goals as stated on the CATC website is to , “Create a platform for serious engagement with Christian Zionism and an open forum for ongoing dialogue between all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum.” Once again, despite this stated goal, the speakers were focused on espousing replacement theology as the only theology rather than engaging in a two sided dialogue with Christian Zionism.
The Overarching Anti-Christian Zionism Theology at CATC
I find it curious that despite the claim of “serious engagement with Christian Zionism,” the CATC manifesto declares that regardless of any “engagement” or discussion, CATC is committed to an anti-Christian Zionism message:
- Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.
- Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.
The first statement denies that the Jewish people are beneficiaries of the blessings of the Abraham Covenant as found in Genesis 22:16-18:
“I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”
It becomes more clear from the messages of the CATC speakers that Jews must accept Jesus as Messiah and Lord to enjoy the privileges of covenant God made with Abraham.
The second statement strikes at the heart of Old Testament biblical theology in which the Hebrew prophets served as the voice of the Lord promising the people of Israel, the land of Israel. Despite the fact God removed the Jewish people from the land in Babylonian Captivity, the Lord brought them back to the Promised Land. The prophets were very clear on the fact Israel’s removal from the land did not mean they lost the title deed to the land but were disciplined via a temporary exile from the Promised Land.
The Jewish people were in the Diaspora since the Roman destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Once again, God has brought the Jewish people back to the land in order to bless them with a homeland and to deal with nation to bring them in humility to faith in the Jewish Messiah Jesus.
Therefore, In the heart of the CATC manifesto, the framers of this document make it clear the CATC is anti-Christian Zionism in its theology. What other conclusion can one draw? Regardless of the presence of three messianic Jews on the platform, the CATC manifesto reveals the true theological hand of its organizers. It’s too bad the CATC could not solely focus on the poor state of Palestinian Christians without also advocating a biblical rejectionist theology towards the State of Israel. (more…)
Apr 6, 2012
It was 1970 and I was twenty three. I had just entered Dallas Baptist University as a religion major. I had been following Jesus as my Messiah and Lord for about a year and was anxious to start Bible College and pursue a path to seminary for ministry training. I couldn’t wait to learn more of the Bible and gain a deeper knowledge of God’s dealings with and promises for the people of Israel.
Boy was I surprised! I enrolled in one theology class and an additional seminar in biblical interpretation (aka hermeneutics). As I soon discovered my professors held to a theological system called “amillennialism.” They believed the messianic kingdom promised by the Hebrew prophets to Israel had arrived on earth and was here in its fullest form in the Church. I couldn’t believe my ears.
I raised my hand in my hermeneutics class, “Professor, have you been to downtown Dallas lately? The last time I was there I observed strip clubs and several ‘ladies of the night’ out on the streets selling their talents. And not only that, according to the Dallas Morning News, there are a rash of homicides in Dallas. Isn’t it also true that this is the city in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? I am not buying your teaching that the kingdom of God is here on earth right now especially in Dallas. Furthermore, several churches in downtown Dallas are still practicing racial segregation. Where is the kingdom of God? Certainly not in the church and not here in Big ‘D’!”
My professor was shocked by my outspokenness. Perhaps he’s never met a Jewish person who was courageous enough to challenge his beliefs.
The professor continued to argue the kingdom of God is realized in its fullest in the church. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, “Do you mean to tell me that churches where racial segregation is still practiced here in Texas and where antisemitism still exists is a manifestation of God’s promised kingdom? According to Revelation 20:2 the devil is supposed to be thrown into a pit and bound for a thousand years with the result that justice and righteousness will rule the earth under the rule of the Messiah. Either the thousand years are up and Satan is on the loose or he’s a Houdini and escaped his shackles. I still don’t get it. Maybe the kingdom of God is here, but God forgot to include Dallas.”
I was getting upset. These Christians were living in a dream world if they thought we were living in the kingdom of God on earth as described in the fourth chapter of prophet Micah:
In the last days the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the LORD Almighty has spoken.
I boldly declared, “If we are in the kingdom of God right now, then where are the promised fulfilled to Israel? Only three years ago the Six Day War was fought in the holy land, and Israel is still surrounded by her enemies. Where are God’s promises to the Jewish people to have the Messiah ruling His kingdom from a throne in Jerusalem? Professor, you are ignoring the prophetic message that Isaiah, Ezekiel and Daniel and all the Hebrew prophets uttered to the Jewish people throughout the centuries.”
With even more boldness [or chutzpah) my Bible teacher said, “The church is Israel, Louis. Christians are the true seed of Abraham. The church has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people. God is finished with Israel as a nation and only works with them on an individual basis regarding personal salvation. He will offer Israel a chance to accept Jesus when He returns. The Lord does not deal with Israel as a nation anymore. We as Christians are the true Jews. We are spiritual Jews.”
I was ready to plotz. I was not about to let my professor’s last statement go unanswered, “You’re telling me you’re Jewish. You’re about as Jewish as a ham sandwich on Wonder bread with mayonnaise. With all due respect professor, but you’re making God out to be a liar. He promised Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 to make him a great nation, to give him the land of Israel and to bless the world through him as the father of many nations as described in Micah 4:1-4. Now you’re telling me Jews are no longer Jews, but Christians are the true Jews. God lied to Abraham and everyone else in the Bible. The word church or ekklesia is not even in the Jewish Bible. Is this what Christianity teaches . . . that God pulled off a bait-and-switch regarding His promises to Israel? (more…)
Mar 15, 2012
In the last installment of my examination of Rob Bell’s Love Wins, the focus was on the character of God. Bell continues his questioning of the person of God in the remainder of chapter seven, “What is God like?”
Throughout Love Wins Pastor Bell struggles with the idea of a God who is just and punishes sin and a God who demonstrates His love by sending His Son into the world to die for our sins. A quote from a sermon by Pastor Alistair Begg best summarizes the interchange between God’s holy character and love – concepts Rob Bell cannot swallow:
If God in His love . . longs to forgive sinners . . . longs to enjoy friendship with sinners . . and if in His justice He cannot ignore our sins, how then He display His love and execute His justice? The answer lies in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. At the cross Jesus is an emblem of the Father’s love and Jesus is the one who bears the Father’s wrath. If He [the Father] were to excuse sin, He would not be true to Himself in the perfection of His holiness. Therefore, sin must be punished. But because of the magnanimous, unbounded nature of His forgiving love, He execute His justice on His Son so that those who deserve that judgment may find in the Son forgiveness, love and eternal life.
The Mars Hill Church pastor feels this kind of statement from Alistair Begg communicates a gospel that “subtly teaches people that Jesus rescues us from God” (pg. 182). Rather Bell offers his Love Wins Gospel as an alternative, “We do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin and destruction.” It is that Rob Bell ha a foggy notion of the biblical doctrine of salvation. On this point alone Love Wins loses out.
From the Old Testament we learn an innocent animal had to die in exchange for the life of the guilty sinner who offered the animal to find forgiveness of sins. Yes, under the Jewish sacrificial system an innocent goat had to die so the guilty sinner can have his sins atoned for.
In addition, much to Bell’s chagrin,we cannot escape the fact our sin earns God’s wrath as explained in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” and Romans 1:18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”
When Jesus died on the cross, He satisfied the wrath of God against sin. The nature of God is not separate from the “death, sin and destruction” He pronounces against our sin. In fact, the consequences to our sin flow out of the holy character of God and not removed from His character as Bell implies. It is because God is just in dealing with sin that there sin death, sin and destruction. The wrath of God against our sin is due to God’s just character. It is this wrath that Jesus had to deal with on the cross for us to be forgiven. (more…)
Mar 9, 2012
As kids we compared one another’s fathers to prove “my Dad is better than your Dad”. When my son Justin was attending kindergarten, he informed me about a kid in his class who boasted his father played baseball for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since I am a baseball fanatic, I had to check it out.
After spending an hour investigating the Dodger website, I concluded Justin’s friend was lying. In fact, the kid’s father did not even work in the Dodger front office as a business executive let alone as a baseball player. I told my son his friend is making up stories about his Dad. I then proceeded to tell my kindergartner that I used to play first base for the New York Yankees!
Speaking of dads, in chapter seven of Rob Bell’s controversial book Love Wins, the Pastor compares our earthly fathers to God the Father.
The Theology of a Bi-Polar God
In light of Bell’s comparison, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville, Michigan comes up with the reason why people do not accept Jesus. Bell wonders, “If your God is loving one second and cruel the next, if your God will punish people for all of eternity for sins committed in a few short years . . . no amount of clever marketing . . . will be able to disguise that one, true, glaring, untenable, unacceptable, awful reality” (page 175). In light of this statement the author sums up what his view of hell is: hell is refusing to trust and refusing to trust is often rooted in a distorted view of God (pg. 175).
If we had a human father who like the God of Christianity was loving one second and then cruel the next, we would tag him an “abusive father.”
Therefore, the God portrayed by followers of Jesus is both loving and cruel. Therefore, how can Christians expect anyone to accept the Christian message of a cruel, abusive God the Father after also being told God so loved that world that He sent His Son to die on a cross to save people from eternal torment? (more…)