Monday, 22 June 2009

Ed Moll in the Churchman Reviews Zion's Christian Soldiers

The latest edition of Churchman, published by the Church Society, includes a review of Zion’s Christian Soldiers written by Ed Moll,

“Does God have a purpose for the nation and land of Israel today? This is a major point of difference between Dispensational and Covenantal readings of the Bible. In Zion’s Christian Soldiers Sizer exposes the foundations of Dispensational views, and the error of their strong support for certain views about Israel today. Given the widespread influence of this school of thought, there is the frightening propsect that the US might adopt foreign policy under (Dispensational) Christian influence.

The key issue in understanding the relationship between Israel and the Church is to read the Bible literally and contextually. Ultra-literalists ignore the historical settingof prophetic and apocalyptic passages and then read contemporary events back into prophetic passages. As a consequence Old Testament texts are made to speak about present and future events almost as if the New Testament had never been written. But by reading the Bible as a whole and in context it becomes clear that there is not, in fact, two chosen people (Israel and the church) but one (Israel and now the church).

A second consequence is that those who believe the promises made to Abraham still apply to his phisical descendents today oppose the dismantling of Jewish settlements in Gaza and the Occupied Territory; but the Bible makes clear that the Land is God’s and that residence in it was always conditional on faithful obedience. Jesus redefined the kingdom as a spiritual and heavenly reality, which is why the New Testament teaches that the land has served its purpose: ‘it was and remains, irrelevant to God’s on going redemptive purposes for the world’ (p. 98). In a similar way, Christians are to look to Jerusalem as a vision of a city inclusive of all nations-not as a place which must remain undivided at all (political) costs.

Two of the stranger beliefs promoted by Dispensationalist thinking are the rebuilding of the Temple, and the Rapture. Attempts by Zionists (Jewish and Christian) to rebuild the Temple are taken seriously by the political authorities, and may well ignite an apocalyptic war with Muslims worldwide. But when Jesus died to atone for our sins, the temple in Jerusalem became redundant: that is why Sizer must say that ‘To advocate rebuilding the Temple is heresy’ (p. 130). The Rapture is ‘the novel idea that Jesus will return twice’ (p. 131), made popular by the hugely successful “Left Behind” books. It accompanies an outlook which is inherently pessimistic about the Middle East and looks for an “Armageddon” confrontation. But biblical references to Armageddon do not necessarily lock us into believing there has to be an apocalyptic war between Islam and Christianity; surely as peacemakers, Chrisitans can have nothing to do with stoking such a conflagration.

The key issue remains, ‘What difference did Jesus’ coming make to traditional Jewish hopes and expectations?’ Sizer shows by his clear and direct treatment how Dispensational writers (including Hagee, Scofield, Darby and Hal Lindsey) fail to address this question. This is a clear and helpful book, which requires no prior understanding of Dispensationalist thinking. It will equip the reader to understand these views and to appreciate what is at stake when thoswe who believe these things try to make governments and Christians follow them.”

Ed Moll
Vicar of St George’s, Wembdon, Somerset
and a Trustee of the Latimer Trust