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Stephen Sizer - Christian Zionism - Replacement Theology

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A Reconciliation:  The Theological Background of Christian Zionism:  Stephen Sizer and Replacement Theology

<< Return to Part One: Reflection Skip to Part Three: Reconsideration >>

Part Two:  Reconciliation

by Mikael Knighton
Christians Standing with Israel

The current "state of affairs" that is the relationship betJewish Christianween Jews and Christians remains a "work in progress", and understandably so. Although Jewish sentiment towards Christians remains, to a lesser degree, one of caution and skepticism, Jewish-Christian relations have, more so in recent years, been assisted through the realization that the Christian sincerity and its genuine desire to stand alongside the people of Israel is entirely unconditional.

Several manifestations of enhanced Jewish-Christian relations have solidified into professional, organizational entities. Such examples include The Judeo-Christian Alliance and the Christian Allies Caucus, which has taken the form of an official political lobby in the Israeli Knesset. Founded by a Knesset member, the late Dr. Yuri Shtern, the Christian Allies Caucus, created on January 5, 2004, carries the following mission statement:

The mission of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus is to build a direct line of communication, cooperation and coordination between the Knesset and Christian leaders around the world. We strive to establish relationships between the members of Knesset and leaders of churches, Christian organizations and representatives throughout the international community.

KnessetThe Knesset Christian Allies Caucus has attracted an increasingly diverse and growing number of Christian leaders globally. The caucus works with Christians who support Israel and with those who are undecided on their position towards Israel. Many Christians recognize that their belief in the Bible connects them to the land and the people of Israel. On this basis, we work together to achieve our goals.

Evidence supporting the "unconditional" nature of the Christian Zionist support for and participation in such an initiative seeking to enhance the relationship between Jews and Christians is documented as a "Caveat of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus", and states:

The caucus condemns and refuses alliances with any groups that pursue the conversion of Jews to Christianity.

The formation of the Christian Allies Caucus has been welcomed with the open arms of many Christian Zionist organizations, to include Christian Friends of Israel (cfijerusalem.org) and the International Christian Embassy of Jerusalem (ICEJ). Upon learning of the Caucus' formation, Malcolm Hedding, Executive Director of the ICEJ, stated:

We welcome this initiative as an opportunity to further support Israel by making known to Knesset Members the vital work that Christian Zionists do for and on behalf of the State of Israel. I can assure you that the eyes of the Christian Zionist world are upon what you are launching here today, and therefore it must not fail. This forum must be a proactive mechanism for developing better ties between Christians and the Jewish state and community worldwide.

The Dawn of Christian Zionism

Some of the misconceptions regarding Christian Zionism can be found whenJohn Nelson Darby attempting to trace its origin. There are those scholars who would argue that Christian Zionism originated with Theodore Herzl, as evidenced by his acknowledgement of the "Christian Zionists" in attendance at the first Zionist congress in 1897. Others would acknowledge the Anglican, John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), founder of the doctrine of Dispensationalism, as the "inventor" of Christian Zionism. Even so, there is historical support showing that Christian Zionist theory predates both individuals.

Considered a "forerunner" of Christian Zionist dogma, the prominent British lawyer, Sir Henry Finch, wrote a discourse in the year 1621 entitled The World's Great Restoration or Calling of the Jews in which he openly called for the support of his fellow countrymen for the Jewish people and a return to their biblical homeland in support of biblical prophecy. His position was not greeted favorably by his fellow Englishmen, and would eventually land him in jail.

Christian Zionism gained momentum in the 19th century by way of John Nelson Darby. Widely known for his doctrine of Dispensationalism, Darby surmised that biblical history can be effectively explained by dividing it into 7 segments, or dispensations. Each dispensation, according to Darby, represents a manner in which God has dealt with man. Ami Isseroff, founder of the Zionism and Israel Information Center, offers the following analysis of Darby's theory:

Dispensationalism states that God has tried mankind with successive "dispensations" (these may be different in different versions) and mankind has thus far failed all the tests. One version of the dispensations is:

1. Innocence (Genesis 1,28);
2. Conscience or Moral Responsibility (Genesis 3,7);
3. Human Government (Genesis 8,15);
4. Promise (Genesis 12,1);
5. Law (Exodus 19,3);
6. Church (Acts 2,1);
7. Kingdom (Revelation 20,4)[iv]

A tie-in between Darby's theory and Christian Zionism is found in his belief that the Jewish people have a unique role in God's redemptive plan --a belief supported by Christian Zionist dogma. Such a belief neither originated with nor was exclusive to that of Darby's. As the previous author states:

The key doctrine of dispensationalism regarding Christian Zionism is that the Jews, or Israel, are distinct from the Church and have a special part in God's plan, namely, the return of the Jews to the land of Israel is a necessary condition for the return of the Messiah. However, this belief is not unique to dispensationalists and it precedes dispensationalism.

Opponents of Christian Zionism, such as the Anglican, Stephen Sizer, have publicly opined that it was invented by Darby. This is entirely false. Quite literally, Christian Zionism originated, as previously stated, centuries prior to Darby.

Misconceptions Regarding Christian Zionism

While an increasing number of Christians are only now beginning to realize the biChristian Zionismblical foundation upon which Christian Zionism stands, the controversy surrounding its doctrinal beliefs has increased at a rate that is seemingly proportionate to its support. The catalysts to such controversy can be found in numerous misconceptions regarding Christian Zionism. Among the most prevalent of these misconceptions is a view of Christian Zionism as a "fundamentalist movement" with the overall objective of converting the Jews to Christianity. This is partially incorrect. Christian Zionists are, first and foremost, "Christians". As Christians, we are commanded by the Lord to "love".

"And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these." Mark 12:29-31

Christian Zionists assert that Christians are called to love in the same manner in which Christ our Lord loves us, and it is as He loves Israel--unconditionally. Just as God did not place conditions upon His loving promises to His people, true Christian Zionism does not, and shall not, place conditions upon the love it extends towards not only the Jewish people, but to all humanity. As previously discussed, the "founding fathers" of the Church did very little to advance a Christ-like love toward the Jewish people.

While the cornerstone objective of all Christian Zionists remains to advance the Kingdom of God, their becoming blessings to the "apple of God's eye" does not depend on the Jewish conversion to Christianity. For Christians to place this kind of condition on the love shown to the House of Israel is to once again facilitate the complete and total collapse of Jewish-Christian relations--an assertion proven consistently through history. Only recently has the relationship between the Jewish people and Christians become fruitful. The "mending" process, albeit positive, continues to this very day. Even so, on this tenet of Christian Zionist dogma there can be no misunderstanding: the Christian support for and love of the nation of Israel and the Jewish people is entirely unconditional.

Another misconception surrounding Christian Zionist belief contends that it "blindly supports the Israeli government and its politics". Considering the times in which we live, nothing could be further from the truth. In many cases, a valid argument could be made to the contrary.  True Christian Zionism blindly supports the Holy Word of God--no more; no less. Since political decision-making is rarely cohesive with theological doctrine, an assertion stating that true Christian Zionism "blindly supports" Israeli politics is as nonbiblical as it is nonsensical.

Land for Peace?

It should be said that Christian Zionists stand in diametric opposition to anyMideast Peace concessions leading to the division and/or surrender of Israeli lands to her neighbors. Once again, such a doctrinal belief--fundamental in importance--is not predicated upon political agendas, but has its foundation in the Word of God:

I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. [Joel 3:2] (Emphasis added)

Perhaps the most widely-held misconception regarding Christian Zionist dogma states that Christian Zionists consider it their biblical duty to facilitate "Armageddon"--the earth's final battle in which the forces of good shall prevail over the forces of evil. More importantly, it is that period of time which will, according to the book of Revelation, precede the Second Coming of Christ. Said misconception is yet another falsehood that delves not only into utter lunacy, but irrelevance as well. As loyal followers of the Word of God, true Christian Zionists know that it is neither their place to concern themselves with nor is it within their ability to facilitate the exact hour in which Christ shall return.  Once again, such a directive can only be found in the Word of God:

"But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." [Matthew 24:36]

The foundation of Christian Zionism has little to do with Christian eschatology, and everything to do with Christian theology. Here can be found the doctrinal irrelevance regarding this particular misconception. In a statement addressing this assertion, David Brog, Executive Director of Christians United for Israel, equated such lunacy to "slander":

"When the conventional wisdom is so horribly mistaken, repeating it like this amounts to slander, pure and simple...do evangelicals support Israel to try to speed up the end of the world? Absolutely not. First of all, Christian theology is crystal clear about the fact that humans are powerless to speed up the End of Days. The Bible states unequivocally that God has set the day and hour for his Second Coming and that man is powerless to alter this appointed hour by so much as a nanosecond. Thus the very theology which nurtures evangelical beliefs about Armageddon eliminates any possibility that such beliefs will motivate evangelicals to seek to spark Armageddon."

Anti-Christian Zionist Dogma: Replacement Theology

Standing in diametric opposition to Christian Zionist dogma is the doctrine of Replacement TheologyReplacement Theology. The underlying, doctrinal assertion seeking to not only belittle the objectives of Christian Zionism, but to discredit them as well is the misguided opinion stating that an objective of all Christian Zionists is to act as "catalysts", as it were, to the literal fulfillment of Bible prophecy. In some cases, said opponents of Christian Zionism go so far as to falsely accuse Christian Zionists as "extremists".

Ever-willing to quickly dismiss the biblical significance of Israel as a nation and the Jews as a people, the opponents of Christian Zionism have identified and labeled God's "everlasting" and "irrevocable" Covenant with Abraham as "conditional". In so doing, they have indirectly called into question the very faithfulness of the promises upon which the Abrahamic Covenant was established.

Some of Christian Zionism's most staunch opponents identify themselves as "Christian", yet fail to recognize God's biblical commands for Christians to support the Jewish people. In fact, they emphatically reject it as an "error in biblical interpretation". Moreover, in their misguided efforts to make conditional the Abrahamic Covenant, opponents of Christian Zionism claim, in a manner nothing short of blasphemous, that God's promises and covenants with the Jewish people were rendered null and void by their disobedience to God, as well as the New Covenant ushered in by Yeshua. Quite literally, they advance a doctrine purporting the "replacement" of the Jewish people, by the Christian Church as the "apple of God's eye".

Replacement Theology is a doctrinal belief that has become extremely pervasive and quite common in the modern Christian church. Advocates of Replacement Theology purport that Israel, in their ungodliness and rejection of Yeshua Ha'Mashiach (Jesus Christ), has been replaced by the Church. Furthermore, they maintain that the "New Testament Christians" have superseded "Old Testament Israel" by way of the New Covenant ushered in by Yeshua. Also known as "Supersessionism", Replacement Theology holds that the literal "Israel" as well as the Jewish people mentioned in the Old Testament are simply a mere allegorical representations of Christians, who have essentially "replaced" God's Chosen people and assumed the role of the "new Israel" in God's plan of redemption.

With this in mind, one can accurately conclude that the doctrines of Replacement Theology and Christian Zionism are strangers unto each other. Several church leaders have taken it upon themselves to facilitate a campaign seeking to discredit the core beliefs of Christian Zionism. Leading the charge is Stephen Sizer, who wears the title of "vicar" of England's Christ Church. In fact, one needs to go no further than statements made by Sizer in the introduction to his book, Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon?, to learn that this is a church "leader" who is neither a friend of Israel nor an astute biblical scholar:

...religious Zionists have been in the forefront of the illegal occupation of Palestinian land, attacks on Muslims and mosques, and the systematic expansion of the West Bank settlements, especially in places like Arab East Jerusalem and Hebron. (Emphasis added)

Stephen Sizer is well known for his staunch support for the "Palestinians" and their cause.  He is equally fanatical in his opposition against Israel, to the point of anti-Semitic vitriol.  As the reader delves further into Stephen Sizer's suppositions, it is evident that his literary onslaught against Christian Zionists is deeply rooted in a clear, anti-Israel agenda. As the following citation will show, Stephen Sizer foolishly equates Christian support for the state of Israel as the potential facilitator of another "holocaust":

"The Christian Zionist's particular reading of both history and contemporary events, determined by the dubious exegesis of highly selective biblical texts, as well as their theological presuppositions, is therefore essentially fatalistic, polarized and dualistic. It sets Israel and the Jewish people apart from and above other peoples in the Middle East. In so doing, however unintentionally, it perpetuates, exacerbates and justifies the endemic racism and mistrust plaguing the Middle East because 'The Bible tells them so."

Sizer, once again, allows his ignorance to shine.  To say that "Christian Zionists .... set Israel and the Jewish people apart from and above other peoples..." is only half correct.  Sizer ignores a more significant element to that truth:  the Word of God specifically states the Jewish people have been "set apart as Holy".  Consider what can be found in the 7th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy:

"For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples." Deuteronomy 7:6-7

Verses such as those found in Deuteronomy 7 do not sit well with Stephen Sizer and his ilk.  In the following citation, Sizer accuses pro-Israel authors such as Hal Lindsey and Dave Hunt of demonizing Russia, Islam, and Arab Nations.  Regarding Islam, any practicing Christian can easily understand that Islam demonizes itself, and needs no helps from outside sources.  Regarding Russia and a host of "Arab nations", these are countries mentioned as major players in the coming War of Gog and Magog, in the book of Ezekiel.   Sizer unleashes:

It [Christian Zionism] leads authors such as Lindsey, Hunt and Jeffrey to demonize Russia, China, Islam and the Arab nations. It encourages the continued military and economic funding of Israel by the United States. ItStephen Sizer identifies with right-wing Israelis who resist negotiating land for peace and instead, it reinforces Israel's apartheid policies, and the settlement and absorption of the Occupied Territories into the State of Israel. It also incites fundamentalist groups committed to destroying the Dome of the Rock and rebuilding the Jewish Temple. Ironically, attempts by Christian Zionists to defend Israel and to refute anti-Semitism, may actually be leading to the very holocaust so abhorred but repeatedly predicted.

Based on his suppositions, Stephen Sizer has gone on record has supporting Israeli land concessions, while admonishing those "right-wing Israelis" who resist it.  In so doing, Stephen Sizer allows himself to fall into diametric opposition with a biblical command found in the book of Joel:

I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. [Joel 3:2] (Emphasis added)

Replacement Theology, or Supersessionism, ultimately rises and falls on the belief that the covenantal promises made by God to Abraham in the book of Genesis were entirely "conditional". Supersessionists hold that the Jewish people forfeited their role as benefactors to the Abrahamic Covenant through their disobedience and lack of repentance. Once again, Mr. Sizer provides an explanation for this being the case, and, once again, he allows a clearly anti-Semitic agenda to preclude his argument from sprouting any type of merit:

...contrary to the insistence of Christian Zionists, the promise of land was never an unconditional right, but always a conditional gift...the present brutal, repressive and apartheid policies of the State of Israel would suggest another exile on the horizon rather than a restoration.

The debunking of Stephen Sizer's position, and many like it, is hardly difficult, as the Word of God is very clear on many tenets he seems to have taken issue with.   It is clear that Sizer uses his church influence to promote a clear and present agenda rooted in anti-Semitism.

In the face of intense inveracity stemming from Stephen Sizer and his ilk -- the critics of biblical, Christian Zionism, it seems only prudent at this juncture to examine the tenets of Christian Zionism.  To do this, one doesn't have to go any further than the Word of God.

 

<< Return to Part One: Reflection Skip to Part Three: Reconsideration >>

Israeli Knesset (2007). Knesset Lobbies: Knesset Christian Allies Caucus. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from http://www.knesset.gov.il/lobby/eng/LobbyPage_eng.asp?lobby=41

Hedding, M. (2004, March). The Judeo-Christian Alliance. Retrieved November 1, 2007, from
http://www.khouse.org/articles/2004/512/

Isseroff, A. (2007). Christian Zionism. Retrieved August 29, 2007, from http://www.zionism-israel.com/dic/Christian_Zionism.htm

Sizer, S. (2004). Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon? InterVarsity Press, emphasis added.

Sizer, S. (2007). The Development of a Literalist Christian Zionist Hermeneutic.

Sizer, S. (1999). An Alternative Theology of the Holy Land: A Critique of Christian Zionism.

 

 

 

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