If any book deserves the accolade of being the definitive critique of ‘Christian Zionism’, it is this. Popular, lucid and readable, this is a dispassionate and scholarly yet critical evaluation of the phenomenon. Sizer deconstructs the origins and character of the concept. Sizer notes that opponents of the concept such as the Middle East Council of Churches see the idea as ‘heretical and cultic’, whilst John Stott describes ‘Christian Zionism’ as ‘biblically anathema’, p. 22. The movement has diverse expressions – some are overtly political, such as ‘Bridges for Peace’ and the so-called ‘International Christian Embassy Jerusalem’, with more evangelistic organisations such as ‘Jews for Jesus’ and the ‘Church’s Ministry among Jewish People’, p. 22f. Among its advocates is Pat Robertson, infamous for allegedly suggesting the assassination of the Venezuelan President.
Sizer traces the origins of the concept to Puritan post-millennial ideas of a general conversion of Jews to Christ, to which some added a belief in a Jewish State in Palestine, p. 28ff. It might have been helpful here to add the views of other Puritans such as Richard Baxter who opposed the concept. However, the main source of modern Christian Zionism was John Nelson Darby’s Pre-millennial Dispensationalism, p. 50ff. Sizer traces the historical development of the idea, notably in America, p. 66ff, for example in the theology of Moody and Scofield. Interestingly, he shows how it neatly dovetailed with anti-Semitism, especially in the theology of Gaebelein, p. 77ff, which rather undermines smears by Christian Zionists that opponents of the concept are motivated by Judeophobia. His theological critique of Dispensationalist Zionism, p. 106ff, is masterly – notably of the way modern advocates such as Hal Lindsey manage to find America in the Bible!
Sizer is especially good in examining the political implications of Christian Zionism, quoting the US State Department human rights reports that regularly observe that Israeli Arabs are denied equal rights, p. 208, and Sizer goes on to draw parallels with the pillars of South African Apartheid – the Population Registration, Land and Group Areas Acts, and corresponding Israeli legislation. This is where two points could have been made. Why do Christian Zionists, in the face of the evidence, insist that Israeli Arabs do have equal rights? Secondly, Sizer could have examined the phenomenon of Theological Racism in history – the abuse of Matthew 27:25 against Jews, of Genesis 9:27 against Blacks, and corresponding abuse of Scripture against Arabs. The first two forms of Theological Racism only declined when they were no longer socially palatable. Unfortunately, the third form is in good health, and one can only hope that Sizer’s book will lead to the redress of the situation.
Dr Anthony McRoy, Lecturer in Islamics, Evangelical Theological College, Wales.
You can purchase copies of Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? from IVP or Amazon.