God has drawn a line of destiny in the sands of time, and significant voices in America’s Evangelical camp have stumbled across it in the spirit. This is God’s plumb line (Amos 7:7-8). He who blunders across it moves out from under God’s protection in some specific area. The specific area in question here is setting one’s hand to divide up the land of Israel – with all the divine judgment that entails (Joel 3:2; Zech.14:1-2).
During the last half of 2007, a group of 34 Evangelical leaders came out with an open letter to President Bush (www.nytimes.com/2007/07/29/us/evangelical_letter.html) publicized in the New York Times on July 29 2007. On November 28 2007 a second and similar letter (www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/novemberweb-only/148-33.0.html) was published on the website of Christianity Today – American Evangelicalism’s flagship magazine (“A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction” reads its web-banner) with 50 added signatures.
CT Editor-in-Chief David Neff threw his reputation into the ring on this one, writing the byline for the press release and being one of the 84 signatories. He would probably stand behind another CT editorial piece from the same season (September 5, 2007) where it states “Beware of giving the nation (ed. of Israel) too much theological meaning” (www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/september/16.24.html).
These open letters are playing Evangelical hardball with the Jewish people and their sovereign state. They hint and threaten (“we know that blessing … Jews and the present state of Israel does not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted”). Evidently they feel that Evangelicals and the U.S. President are overdue in needing to criticize Israel. No similar mention is made of the need to criticize Palestinian terror, Islamist warfare against Israel, Arab refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state, or the Arab threat of an Islamic oil embargo on the West – or even Palestinian/Arab Islamist persecution of local Arab Evangelicals!
These Evangelicals come out in favor of dividing the land of Israel and establishing a Palestinian state – one which would end up becoming (in spite of their best yet hopelessly naïve intentions) another terror base against Israel. This has already happened with Gaza’s Hamas and with Lebanon’s Hezbollah – after Israel withdrew from these areas. Such blind advice and advocacy borders on the criminal.
These open letters falsely declare that Palestinians have lived in the land of Israel for millennia – something that is simply not historically true. These Evangelicals claim that non-Jews have legitimate claims to parts of the land of Israel – a total violation of the teachings of the Hebrew prophets and of the clear declarations of YHVH Himself. They also state that Israel must give up exclusive claims to the Promised Land, including the vast majority of the West Bank – while piously declaring that ““as Evangelical Christians, we embrace the biblical promise to Abraham: ‘I will bless those who bless you (Genesis 12:3).’”
On one hand they emphasize that they “as evangelical Christians (are) committed to the full authority of the Scriptures”. Yet on the other hand they somehow forget to mention that God promised the land of Israel exclusively to the Jewish people in those same authoritative Scriptures – for example, in Genesis 12:1 (““Go to the land I will show you”) and Gen 13:14-17 (“YHVH said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, ‘Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west. All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring for ever … Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you’ “).
It seems that some modern Evangelical leaders are able to declare (on the one hand) that they are committed to the full authority of Scripture, and then immediately ignore what those Scriptures are actually saying in context. What an amazing example of pseudo-Evangelical hutzpah! May the God of Israel preserve His people from such ‘friends’!
The letter addresses President Bush directly, stating that these leaders want “to correct a serious misperception among … U.S. policymakers that all American evangelicals are opposed to a two-state solution and creation of a new Palestinian state that includes the vast majority of the West Bank. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
What is happening here? What has changed in the heart of America’s Evangelical community? How is it that “a new pharaoh, who did not know Joseph, has come to power in Egypt?” (Exod.1:8).
Madness in the streets
In the 400’s B.C. the Greek dramatist Euripides said “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad” (“Όποιον οι Θεοί θα καταστρέψουν, πρώτα τον τρελαίνουν” Hopoion hoi theoi tha katastrepsoun, prota ton trelainoun in the original Greek). Well-known political philosopher Irving Kristol (who once described himself as a “liberal mugged by reality”) subtly altered this quotation and observed, “Whom the gods would destroy, they first tempt to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
The prophet Zechariah said it this way, “This is YHVH’s word concerning Israel. YHVH, who stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the spirit of man within him, declares: I am going to make Jerusalem a cup of poison that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling . . . On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves . . . On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem” (Zech 12:1-3, 9).
In March 1991 President George H.W. Bush tried to move this rock, declaring that “the time has come to put an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict.” In December 2005 Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced that he had “resolved, as one who had the privilege of participating in all of Israel’s wars, to make an effort – a true effort – to try to lead to security and peace. It is not easy, it is trying, but I have decided to attempt to resolve this problem once and for all, and that is what I intend to do”.
President Bush Senior served only one term in office, during which time Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles on Israeli cities, and Iraq’s Kurds and Shiites were betrayed by the White House. Bush then stepped down to make way for William Jefferson Clinton.
PM Sharon exiled more than 8,500 Jews from their farms and homes in Gaza, leading Israel closer to the brink of civil war. Today he lies in a vegetative state in an Israeli nursing home, while Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the PLO Fatah terror gangs rain down missiles and mortars on Israel from the Gaza Strip. And the Arab-Israeli conflict still churns on.
Who is the next leader who will step up to the plate and be tempted to resolve this conflict? Will he be an Evangelical? And will he have the active support of a graying group of Evangelical theologians as cheerleaders?
Due to irreconcilable differences, the peace process has been cancelled . . .
It was James A. Baker III, former Secretary of State and Chief of Staff, who explained in his B.A. thesis (1952, Princeton) that ”the mutual hostility of Arabs and Jews ((has always been) of the severest sort. Because most of their disagreements stem from differences in ideology and religion, they have never been able to settle them by peaceful arbitration.”
These differences in ideology and religion are very simply the differences between the Koran and the Bible (see my booklet “A Perspective on Islam” at www.davidstent.org). These differences will never be settled by Israeli compromise or by American appeasement.
Nevertheless, each abovementioned attempt to force through a peace treaty was based on Israel giving up tangible things (ever-increasing portions of its God-given land) in exchange for intangible things – worthless and empty Palestinian paper promises about stopping terrorism or eventually recognizing a shrunken and weakened Jewish state.
Israel has withdrawn – from Lebanon, from Gaza and from communities in the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria – but terrorism continues, wars carry on, kidnappings and mortar and rocket attacks persist. This Evangelical letter is deafeningly silent about these facts and, in the words of John Fogerty, “only asks for more, more, more.”
Actually the Evangelicals who authored this public relations exercise admit that the Israelis and the Arabs have “competing, incompatible claims.” And what is their solution? Both sides must give up some of their claims. The foolishness and blindness of this glib advice show us that these Evangelical leaders seem to have learned precious little from history – neither from 9/11 nor from the failures of the German Evangelical Church vis-à-vis the Jewish people in WWII.
Negotiate with Hitler!
As Hitler threatened Europe with a world war, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (a self-declared ‘reverent agnostic’) flew to Munich to negotiate with Hitler. As a prelude to the invasion of Western Europe, Hitler was claiming part of Czechoslovakia’s industrial heartland (the Sudetenland) as occupied German territory. At Munich Chamberlain forced Czechoslovakia to surrender the Sudetenland to Nazi Germany – in the interests of European security. Western Europe sold Czechoslovakia down the river with a false peace plan called the Munich Agreement of September 29, 1938. Chamberlain then described this sellout as “peace with honour” and “peace in our time.” The immediate result was the invasion of Poland and the onslaught of the Nazi juggernaut. Would these Evangelicals have suggested to Czechoslovakia in 1938 that “both sides must give up some of their claims?”
Hitler had no legitimate claims against the Jewish people, and there was nothing that the Jewish people could give up which would have tempered the Führer’s genocidal strategies. Hitler was not a man with whom one could do business (as Neville Chamberlin once thought). Only a fool would have said in 1935 that Hitler and the Jewish people both needed to “give up some of their claims” in order to achieve peace. Such advice only encourages genocide. Negotiations with a cruel dictator bent on world domination are foolish and blind. Any national leader who follows such advice would be committing national suicide.
What was true of Hitler then is what is true of radical Islam today, and of the demands it makes of the Israeli people through its Palestinian cadres. Sad to say, it seems that Neville Chamberlain’s role has been reserved for some Evangelical leaders who are very out of touch with Middle East realities – just as Chamberlain himself was blind to Hitler’s strategies.
The Indian pacifist Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I do not believe Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted.” He also preached that non-violence and civil disobedience could stop Hitler in his tracks. He was wrong in his day, and those Evangelicals who call for a rapprochement with Palestinian jihadi Islam are guilty of the same fatal misunderstanding.
Toxic Christian Love For Israel
Today some Evangelical leaders believe that forcing Israel into a pre-emptive surrender (Jewish land for imaginary Palestinian peace – otherwise known as the ‘two state solution’) will cause Al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and the world jihadi movement to throw down their weapons in relief and joyfully embrace the Jewish people as their long-lost Abrahamic brothers. We beg to differ.
Though CT believes that these Evangelical signatories are somehow “affirming their love for Israel” by these open letters, most Israelis and Jewish people have no need of this ‘politically correct’ yet cold-hearted ‘Christian love.’ What Israel needs is Evangelicals who possess a clear-eyed realism and a mature awareness of the existential threats facing the Jewish state today.
For the most part the Evangelical church badly failed the Jewish people during the Nazi area. It remains to be seen whether or not this will be true again as we enter more fully into the era of Islamic jihad.
Evangelical hearts fainting from terror
One of the signs of the last days, Messiah Yeshua said, was that men’s hearts would “fail them for fear” or “faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world” (Luke 21:26). A close glance at these letters reveals that some of these significant Evangelical leaders are scared spitless about possible future 9/11’s.
The Evangelical letter states that unless peace can be quickly forced down Israel’s throat, “the consequences will be devastating” – that is, America should expect “radical solutions and terrorism.” If the USA stands firmly with Israel, “the more likely it is that anti-American attitudes policies and terrorist activities will increase dramatically among Muslims worldwide.” The letter presupposes that Israel is at fault for a Palestinian state not having been established, making no mention of the reckless offers by Prime Ministers Barak, Sharon and Olmert to do just that. No mention is made in the Evangelical letter of Palestinian rejection of Israel’s offers, or of ongoing terrorism, or of the democratic Palestinian elections in Gaza which brought jihadi Hamas forces to power – forces opposed to a peace treaty and committed to the total destruction of the State of Israel.
The lack of a Palestinian state means that “the threat to America’s national security is greater.” Any Israeli foot dragging here is seen by these Evangelical leaders authors as an existential threat to U.S. security and survival. This is dangerous anti-Israel propaganda. These scare tactics are a windfall for the Islamist movement and for world anti-Semitism. And it is a tragedy that some Evangelicals who proudly claim to espouse the full authority of Scripture are now lending a hand to the weakening and destruction of the Jewish state.
Cowardice in the Name of Love
Leaders are not supposed to be cowards. Perhaps some of the big names who signed these letters were rushed and did not have the opportunity to fully understand the ramifications of what they were signing. Whatever the case, cowardice is displayed in these letters – American Evangelical cowardice in the face of jihadi terror threats. Some of these leaders are encouraging President Bush to force Israel into surrendering preemptively to the jihadi movement’s Palestinian spearhead – and all this in order to supposedly insure American security.
It is a pity that these Evangelical leaders seem to have no awareness of Islamist perspectives which regard America as the Great Satan and Israel as the Small Satan. Islamist hatred for America, for Christianity and for Western values, culture and freedoms is quite unyielding and would continue even if the State of Israel is wiped off the map – a hope that is trumpeted and pursued by Iran’s Ahmedinejad, Gaza’s Hamas and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Sacrificing Israel in the name of American security will not stop Islamic jihad in its tracks. It will only whet the jihad monster’s appetite for bigger American game. And sacrificing Israel will bring the curse of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen.12:3) on the one who sets his hand to this task – even if he or she is an American Evangelical.
Al Qaeda has stepped through the doorway of Western fear and spinelessness into the ‘inner chambers,’ and it seems that it is now able to shape Evangelical perspectives and strategies vis-à-vis Israel (as Al Qaeda similarly did in decisively turning around the 2004 Spanish elections). Public letters with fancy religious appeals to “justice” and “fair negotiations” cannot cover up a very real Protestant panic – one that fears that the Arab-Israeli conflict will turn into an apocalyptic proportions (but of course within a politically correct and non-Dispensational grid!).
By their fruits you shall know them …
Skim over the list of Evangelical signatories of these letters and one thing stands out: many represent the more left-of-center Christian perspectives, and nearly all are proponents of Replacement Theology. Most of these leaders hold to the position that God’s promises to the Jewish people have been transferred wholesale to Gentile Christians (minus the curses, of course!). After all, as the anti-Semitic Samaritan theologian Justin Martyr declared 1850 years ago, doesn’t the God of Israel prefer Gentiles over Jews, and don’t the promises to Israel have more relevance when they are seen as referring to Gentiles and not to Jews?
Since most of these leaders do not believe that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people by God’s promise, they have no problem encouraging President Bush to divide the Promised Land. Similarly, they simply do not believe the Hebrew prophets who teach that God’s wrath will fall on those who divide the land of Israel. Replacement Theology teaches that these prophecies no longer have any present application – so they feel that they are immune to judgment and under no spiritual danger whatsoever.
It is on this point that we should all tremble at His word (Isa.66:5) and at His presence (Isa.64:2). For if Gentile believers in Yeshua were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated Jewish olive tree, these Gentile believers must not be arrogant towards the Jewish people, to their land and to the Jewish people’s national callings and giftings. Instead, they should have an attitude of holy fear. For if God did not spare some of the natural Jewish branches, He will not spare these modern Gentile branches either, especially if they move in unbelief and conceit vis-à-vis the Jewish people, their God-given land and their first-born status (see Rom.11:18-25) – even if they are Evangelicals.
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