Stephen Sizer’s Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? provides a detailed and thoughtful critique of the framework Hagee and many others enthusiastically embrace. Sizer is vicar of Christ Church in Surrey, England, and chair of the International Bible Society in the United Kingdom. His book explores the historical development, theological underpinnings, and political implications of Christian Zionism, a movement that began in Britain in the 19th century. Sizer divides his study into three parts. He first traces the 200-year history of dispensational theology, culminating in the sensational books and movies in the Left Behind series.
Part two focuses on the theological emphases of Christian Zionism with particular attention to the literal futurist mode of interpretation readily evident in Hagee, Robertson, Falwell, Lindsey, and LaHaye. In the process, Sizer reveals how this mode of biblical interpretation is often inconsistent, contradictory, and arbitrary. He concludes that this interpretive framework essentially ignores the interpretation of scripture reflected in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles. Finally, Sizer turns to the political implications of Christian Zionism. Zealous advocates such as Hagee, Jack Van Impe, and various other regulars with TV ministries consistently reject peacemaking initiatives since they anticipate and delight in an impending cataclysmic battle between the forces of good and evil. Politically, this easily translates into advocacy for policies—in the United States and Israel—that may help make Armageddon a self-fulfilling prophecy. Sizer presents a covenantal alternative to Christian Zionism. He articulates an approach to the Middle East centered in the teachings and sacrifice of Jesus. "[Christians who follow a] biblical approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict will work and pray for the peace and security of Jewish and Palestinian people because they are created in the image and likeness of God with intrinsic meaning, value, and dignity," he writes. "It will support international peace efforts based on biblical principles of justice and peace, on mutual recognition and reconciliation." Americans have been inundated with images and information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for decades. Numerous and often conflicting images and impressions leave many with a kind of "detailed ignorance."
Far too few have a coherent framework for understanding and interpreting events in ways that can lead to constructive advocacy, either as concerned citizens or people of faith. The books by Carter and Sizer offer helpful guidance for those who seek to understand the multiple and often convoluted political and religious dynamics that often thwart hopes for a more peaceful future in the Middle East.
Dr. Charles Kimball, Professor of Comparative Religion, Wake Forest University Department of Religion and Divinity School, (author of When Religion Becomes Evil). Published in Sojourners Journal, April 2007.
You can purchase copies of Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? from IVP or Amazon.