Thursday, January 27, 2011

Do Christians Have an Obligation to Support Benjamin Netanyahu? Or, How Bad Eschatology Leads to Bad Practice.

One doesn't generally appreciate being called a "Nazi", or an "anti-Christ", or an "apostate", or "deceived", yet I had the pleasure of having all of these labels hurled at me like rotten fruit and dead cats through the computer screen by a Dispensationalist yesterday. The Internet is a wonder, it is a world where men do not meet with a handshake and a "What do you do for a living?" but rather, with scabbards drawn and a "Who the hell do you think you are?!"

I had such an encounter yesterday with a gentlemen, ah but that's too courteous for the web, an individual? Still too drowsy? A crooked fanged pimpled faced know nothing? That's the ticket! That's how we talk on the Internet! As I was saying I had an encounter yesterday, entirely uninitiated by myself, to which the center of our row fixed upon the status of present day Israel. I maintain that the Biblical position is that there is one people of God, the Church, or those united to Christ by faith, and this body consists of both Jew and Gentile.

For holding to such a position I was out of the gates labeled an "anti-Christ" because, I denied that the present day nation of Israel is the people of God. I suppose in the Zionist dispensational scheme my position is blasphemous, as they assert quite forcefully, that there are two peoples of God: the Church and Israel and they are separate, according to their hermeneutic. Their entire eschatological system centers upon a strip of land abutting the Mediterranean Sea.

I was reminded by our friend that the battle between Gog and Magog was soon to take place, the 7 year tribulation period is coming, the secret rapture of the Church, and Christ's ultimate return on the mount of Olives. Most of which I simply can not find in the Bible. Where does the Bible talk about a 7 year tribulation period? Seriously? Shouldn't that be clear if it is so dogmatically held to by these guys? Shouldn't there be a passage that says something akin to, "before the Christ returns there will be 7 years of tribulation..." yet I find that there is nothing even close to that.

But, what I find to be most pernicious about this system is the insistence that the Church and Israel are separate peoples of God, two bodies as it were. My position is that the Church is Israel, that is what the Bible teaches as we shall see shortly. Upon my saying this the wails come reigning down, "B,b,but, that's replacement theology! Are you saying the Church replaced Israel?" No, I am not. If you actually think about the dispensational scheme it is actually they who hold to a "replacement", right now we are in the "Church age" but it will end and God's attention will return to Israel, according to them.

For a typical exposition of the "Two people of God" doctrine from one of it's adhearants you can read here.

What I assert is that the Israel of God always was and always will be the elect of God, and that is made up of Jew and Gentile alike. This reaches it's fullest realization in the Church, as people are drawn out from every tribe tongue and nation to Christ. Christ is the very embodiment of the covenantal promise to Abraham, that in Him all nations shall be blessed. Let's look at that:

"Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Gal 3:16)

See what Paul does here? He makes it clear that the promise given to Abraham doesn't refer to physical descendants in general, but to One descendant in particular, Christ. Thus, consequently the promises belong to those united to Christ, which is the Church. But, let's continue in Galatians:

"For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free." (Gal 4:22-31)

Here, we again see Paul explicitly stating that it is not physical descendancy from Abraham that makes one a member of the Israel of God, nor is it physical proximity to Jerusalem itself that makes one an Israelite. Rather, one needs to be a citizen of the "Jerusalem that is above", a son of "the free woman". Or, as one sees in the greater context, one needs to be in Christ. To be in Christ is to be in the Israel of God.

Interestingly, if we ponder Paul's language here about the bondwoman being cast out it seems rather prophetic for the coming judgement in 70 AD, where there was a doing away with the temple sacrifices and national Israel.

But more directly to the point that there is but one people of God we turn to Paul's letter to the Ephesians:

"But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.

For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." (Eph 2:13-22)

This passage speaks directly to the matter on which we are seeking clarity. Paul, writing to Gentiles, makes clear to them that they are no second class citizens, the wall of separation is "broken down" (this is temple imagery) and all have equal access into the blessing of God. There is "one body" that is "reconciled to God", and "one household", because all enjoy the same foundation and Cornerstone. The Church further is described as a temple, I would argue that this harkens back to the Ezekiel temple the Dispensationalists are always bantering about, it's already happened. That's why the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the real temple is now here, Christ and His Church.

Hey dispies, put that hermeneutic in your shofar and smoke it.

I am uncertain as to what could be more clear and decisive in settling this matter, there is one people of God, those in Christ, the Church. But, to continue to throw trusty spears into the Jabba the Hut-like hermeneutic the Dispensationalists have erected, I turn to Paul's letter to the Romans:

"Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed."
(Rom 9:4-8)

I think that spear landed into the brutes' heart. How much more vivid can the picture be before the "two people of God" position is dropped and left for dead, having been slain by the sword of the Spirit? It explicitly says the children of the flesh are not the children of God but the children of promise. One can couple this with Christ's own rebuke of the would be "Children of Abraham" in John 8 and it should be apparent that having Abraham's blood in your veins does not make one a son of Abraham.

How many times does the New Testament need to say this before we get this one? Obviously, this is not new error or else it wouldn't have been stabbed, shot, hung and burned so many times in the New Testament. The passages I cited are but a narrow selection from what else could have been chosen to address this matter. Simply put, this is a dead horse Hoss.

In fact, if someone has read this and still holds to the "two people of God" doctrine I would simply ask them to show me where that is taught in the Bible. Where does the Bible teach that God has two separate peoples? You might want to highlight and underline that question because you're not going to get an answer from John Haggee (pictured on left) on that one, you are just supposed to assume it, kind of like the guys Paul was rebuking in Galatians ch. 2. Furthermore, if you still hold to the two people doctrine, I ask, how in the world do you exegete the passages I cited above without doing violence to the text?

So What are the Implications of This?
The implications of getting this right should be clear, right now dispensationalists have a sort of boyish crush on the nation of Israel. This can be seen with many evangelical churches adorning their sanctuaries with Israeli flags, stars of David, menorahs, and gigantic maps of Israel. Worshippers may strut around bugling away on shofars, while donning an authentic prayers shawl (made in Israel of course). Although they speak English they may even adopt calling Jesus "Yeshua" because everything is better in Hebrew, as well as calling Him "Mashiach" instead of Christ. This is the whole gimmick of the "Discovering the Jewish Jesus" tv show.

But the implications of the two people of God doctrine doesn't just stop with eccentric shticks and borderline idolatrous practices in the Church, it also extends into the realm of politics as well.

Dispies generally have an Israel can do no wrong foreign policy. Every time Israel rolls tanks into Gaza it is obviously warranted. Every time Benjamin Netanyahu calls for attacking Iran the Christian Zionists are right there with him joinging the chorus calling for mass death. Apparently, because Mahmoud Ahmdinaunpronouncable made a comment about wanting to wipe Israel off the map, that is now quoted incessantly, that now justifies Israel and its lackeys here in the US constantly threatening to wipe Iran off the map.

Dispies of course turn a blind eye to all of the human rights violations on behalf of Israel, or even the US against Muslims that continue to go on, I think just because they hate Muslims. Yet, every time a Palestinian acts with reprehensible aggression the Christian Zionists begin screaming for justice, and playing the Israel is the misunderstood victim game. Although, to them it's not a game, they really perceive reality in that light. Our presuppositions will always color how we see things.

In short, this needs to stop. Our theology and the sub-branch of eschatology will effect how we live. Dispensationalism and its wild last days charts as a whole would make for a pretty neat comic book series for young teens if only grown men wouldn't take it seriously. But, particularly annoying is the Israel is the center of the world idea, and it's backbone: the two people of God doctrine.

So, coming back to our friend who would call what I just espoused "anti-Christ". What pray tell can be more anti-Christ than to say that there is a people of God outside of Christ?

And, not only that, but then the Dispensationalists demand that all those in Christ (The Church) must see to it that America gives unwavering support to that Christ rejecting people, militarily, and monetarily or America will be cursed. How absurd. Christian Zionism will eventually occupy the theological dustbin of history along with the Shakers, the Quakers, and the radical Anabaptist community of "love and equality" in Munster. Dispensationalism, and its bastard child of Christian Zionism, will be an oddity that future generations shall read about only to be rewarded with a hearty belly laugh for their labors.


Anonymous said...

It is your choice of course to not heed - " I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you.." and we see the result of this choice. American politicians have played both sides...saying we are friends of Israel and supporting her yet giving billions of dollars to her enemies as well. We have twisted Israels arm behind the scenes to "give up more land " for "peace". What kind of friend is this ? And we see now what a mess the United States finds herself in. Also we now have the most anti-Israel president ever. And our situation worsens. And he is taking away many rights of the American people too. If you cannot see the connection between this and the above noted Scripture verse you are willfully blind. (you have your comments moderated-I'm anxious to see if you even post this-some claim they like freedom of speech but only when it agrees with their stance)

Bob said...

Firstly, thank you for taking the time to comment and give a critique of my position.

I begin my reply by firstly addressing that promise you cite (Gen 12:3), that promise is given to Abraham and his Seed, which ultimately is Christ in whom all the promises of God are yea and amen. Again, it's all about Jesus Christ, not some strip of land in the middle east or some ethnic group.

Peter applies this promise directly to Christ in his sermon in Acts (Acts 3:25), and if the inspired apostle did so I think it is safe for us to do likewise. Again, the point is that it is not about ethnicity or nations, it is about Jesus Christ.

As far as the other things you cite, I find it difficult to see how "we are twisting" Israel's arm behing her back. The US government gives globs of money to that secular nation and have armed them to the hilt whereas the Palestinians live basically in a police state literally behind barbed wire while Israeli soldiers march around with machine guns outside.

Furthermore, you make a cause and effect logical fallacy between the decline of the American empire and failing to to go hog wild in support of the regime that rules Israel. For some odd reason you assume that the promise given to believing Abraham about 3500 years ago and ultimately fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ, as all promises are, you assume that for some reason that applies to Benjamin Netanyahu.

Really? You have to explain that one. How in the world does that promise apply to this modern nation state called Israel? It would seem to me that as a Christian I am under no obligation to support a regime headed up by a bunch of Christ rejecting secularists while they break God's commandments.

That stuff all ended at the coming of Christ, Christ is the true temple, Christ is the true passover lamb, Christ is the sure atonement, Christ is the Prophet, Priest and King, Christ is the true Israel. And all who are in Him by faith enjoy these benefits. To put an exclamation point on this He had the Romans destroy the temple and finally put an end to all of the shadows as the Substance had come.

But again back to the cause and effect fallacy, and given my template that it's all about supporting king Jesus rather then that fetid government in the middle east, it would seem to me that supporting secular regimes like Israel are actually reason for the judgement of God to come. Quite the opposite of your assertion.

I only have comment moderation because I had people coming on here and linking to smut, and also this way I can know when people comment on a post (like this one) that is months old, thus, allowing me to give a proper reply. I allow all criticisms and welcome them.