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 Post subject: Christian Zionism - by Stephen Sizer - Review by Scott Waalk
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 8:20 am 
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Christian Zionism - by Stephen Sizer - Review by Scott Waalkes ... eviewID=68

Several years ago, I chaperoned a field trip for my son’s Christian school class. Another dad on the trip asked me what I did, and when I mentioned that I taught courses on the Middle East, he said, “So, do you know a lot about Bible prophecy?” His question sounded strange to me. He didn’t ask me if I knew Hebrew, Arabic, or another Middle Eastern language; he asked about prophecy. Yet his question wasn’t strange for an evangelical. As a glance at the shelves of a Christian bookstore will confirm, evangelical views of the Middle East maintain a peculiar fascination with a literal and imminent Armageddon in the region.

My Middle East Politics course at Malone College regularly enrolls a number of students who are well-versed in a Christian Zionist worldview—better versed than I am. I grew up in a Dutch Calvinist subculture that was either amillenial or panmillenial—that is, we either had no view about the end times, or we believed that the end times would all “pan out in the end,” as the old joke has it. Covenant theology was another hallmark of the tradition. But many evangelicals have a very different view rooted in premillenial and dispensational readings of the Bible: readings that insist Christ’s imminent return will usher in the millennium and that God speaks in different dispensations to Jews and Gentile Christians, rather than one covenant. Stephen Sizer does a wonderful job tracing how these readings of Scripture emerged to create a pro-Israeli political lobby. He helped me better understand where many of my students are coming from.

Like many other evangelicals of his generation, Sizer confesses at the outset that he remembers “devouring” Hal Lindsey’s Late Great Planet Earth and “hearing in person his lectures on eschatology and the book of Revelation.” Sizer writes, “It seemed as if the Bible was literally coming true in our generation” (p. 9). But Sizer, an Anglican vicar and chairman of the International Bible Society in the United Kingdom, describes a “radical change of perspective” during his first trip to Israel in 1990 that came after meeting a “real-life Christian Palestinian” (p. 10). The present book emerges from his efforts to understand why evangelicals have tended to support Zionist Jews rather than fellow Christians who happen to be Palestinian. Along the way, Sizer wrote a doctoral thesis on Christian involvement in Israeli-Palestinian issues, and he says that the book distills the fruits of his research.

Traces of a dissertation remain, but the result is nonetheless engaging and enlightening for those unfamiliar with the worlds of Christian Zionism. After a short introduction, Sizer devotes a chapter each to historical roots, theological emphases, and political implications. There are many long quotations and hundreds of footnotes in each chapter, but these are part of Sizer’s attempt to document, dissect, and criticize a theology that buttresses strong support for the modern state of Israel. He is especially helpful in documenting the historical and theological tendencies and charting their outgrowths into contemporary Christian groups. Sizer is an excellent critic, quoting Christian Zionist writings extensively and registering his concerns quietly.

In an interesting historical account, Sizer credits the real birth of dispensational Bible readings to Scottish pastor Edward Irving (1792-1834), rather than John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), the progenitor usually identified by historians. From these innovative forebears, today’s Christian Zionists derive six main political stances from their “literal and futurist reading of the Bible,” according to Sizer (p. 252): >--Link--> ... eviewID=68

You will know you have spoken the truth when you are angrily denounced; and you will know you have spoken both truly and well when you are visited by the thought police.

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