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It’s probably pretty accurate to say that most traditional marriage ceremonies in this country have some part of the marriage vows that include a statement about forsaking all others and being faithful to their partner.

Many young people hope, or believe, that when a person gets married they will no longer have romantic feelings or feel sexually attracted to any other than their spouse. Older heads realise that this just isn’t the case no matter how much you feel that you are in love when you get married. It is because of the fact that people feel attraction and feelings of love for others they are not married to that such marriage vows are even needed. The simple fact is that God allows people to be unfaithful in their marriages. This is obviously not because we believe God endorses such behaviour, but that God places responsibility on faithfulness in marriage on our shoulders while still being sovereign over His creation. If God had promised that somehow, He would never let Christian couples fall into the sin of unfaithfulness in marriage, then we wouldn’t need to make such vows at all!

It follows that we only need make vows regarding things that are actually possible to even occur in our world and conversely, vows to not commit any particular sin presuppose the possibility that such a sin can occur in reality.

I mention all this to make a point that Christian Zionists seem to stubbornly ignore.

The conditional nature of the relationship between Jewish people as a whole, and the Promised Land is explicitly and implicitly stated in scripture in so many places, and is an essential part of so many Biblical narratives that its denial is both incomprehensible and unacceptable. I have covered this point in my book, as well as so many of my posts, that I won’t bother going through it here.

In 130 AD, a tumultuous event occurred in the history of the Jewish people. After many years of brutal occupation of their land by a Pagan Roman empire, which they sorely resented and resisted in various forms for many decades, the Roman Emperor decided that the Kingdom of Israel be destroyed and its people scattered to the four corners of the Earth. Orthodox Judaism has traditionally seen this as an act of God, sending the Jewish people into exile. This exile continues up until this day. No Jewish Rabbi of any type has, or would, declare the Exile to be over. According to Orthodox Judaism, exile is a spiritual, rather than political or military problem and hence requires a spiritual solution. The solution would be the coming of the Messiah. This would be a supernatural event that would bring in the redemption of all God’s creation, not just the re-instalment of Jews in the Promised Land.

In 130 AD, the Rabbis of the time made oaths concerning their return to the promised land that were eventually recorded in the book known as the Talmud. The Talmud is a religious text that most Christians are not familiar with. It is central to Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source for Jewish religious law and theology.

The content of the oaths boils down to the fact that Jews vowed not to return to the promised land on mass, to create a Jewish state. They should not even try to bring this return about whether it be by force or diplomacy. They should not enter the land even if it were completely empty and or even if all the Kings, Queens and rulers of the Earth gave permission or even demanded it! They also vowed not to stir the nations up to persecute them and that the nations not persecute them.

Orthodox Judaism has taken these oaths very seriously for many centuries. It was Zionists, not Orthodox Jews, who initiated the creation of the State of Israel as it is today. Jewish law forbade such endeavours. It was even forbidden to pray too loudly or too fervently for the exile to finish lest anyone think that their efforts brought about the end of the Exile. The Exile was to be ended by God and God alone! No attempt was to be made to retake the land even in the face of harsh persecution. Jewish people were to remain in Exile as loyal and law -abiding subjects of their country of  exile. The traditional means of dealing with anti-Semitic persecution was to seek refuge in other countries of exile where other Jews could offer them safe haven.

The point that I am trying to make is that the very existence of these vows presupposes that Jews could, in fact, not only attemptto take control of the Promised Land illegitimately, but they could actuallytake control of it illegitimately. If God had somehow promised that such an action would never be allowed, then two things must follow. The first is that no such vows should have ever been taken, let alone them being put in the Talmud and secondly that any attempt, successful or not, of Jews taking control of the Promised Land must be endorsed by God and hence a fulfilment of prophecy.

The simple fact is that these vows were taken and have been a pillar of Jewish Law and theology and hence are not contradictory to any teachings of the Old Testament. Hence, they do not contradict New Testament teachings either.

The following statements can be made with full confidence from a Biblical perspective that I believe all Christian Zionists must agree with.

The entrance and occupation of Jewish people into the Promised Land in order to take control of it is conditional upon their obedience to the clearly stated commands of God in the Old Testament. Many of these statements relate to the fair and equal treatment of non-Jews living in the land with them. It is clear that oppression of non-Jews living in the Promised Land can result in the expulsion of Jews from the land.

The mere fact of the current occupation, or partial occupation, of the Promised Land by the Zionist regime is in no way an automatic sign of God’s endorsement of the Israeli State.

Israel is a Zionist State, a secular state that has, from its inception, sort to transform Jewish Identity from its traditional roots in the Torah, and hence the Bible, to a secular national identity so as to be “as the nations” surrounding them. While Zionism repudiated the Judaism of old, it does not embrace the Christian faith either.

Palestinians have a long history of respect and co-operation with the Jews of the Promised Land before the current Zionist era. Before the Zionist era, Jews and Arabs had good relations in the Middle East. Antisemitism was never a part of popular or elite culture in the Middle East. Christian Europe has always been the home of antisemitism and European nations bare responsibility for the Holocaust, not Arabs, be they Muslim, Christian or otherwise.

The above statements make it clear that no Christian has any absolute Biblical obligation to support the Zionist State of Israel or claim it to be the result of the fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham or any New Testament prophecy.

CRAIG NIELSEN

December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having been one myself for a number of years, it suffices to say that conservative Christians fascinate me.

Most secular and non-Christian people wrongly associate conservative Christian faith with some sort of Fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is then connected to a type of Biblical literalism which often includes ideas like Six-day Creationism, Premillennialism and the Rapture and a general belief in the miraculous stories of the Bible as literal, real historical events.

This categorisation of Christians overlooks a large amount of important theological distinctions that exist between conservative Christians. The real unifying factor for these types of Christians is really not their theology. When it comes to issues like Creationism, the End Times, Biblical miracles, Justification by Faith, Predestination or the Eucharist, conservatives can argue with each other just as intensely and divisively as anyone. Conservatives are equally likely to be Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox. They can be Baptists, Lutherans, Uniting Church, Methodist, Church of England or Pentecostal. Left wing, liberal or progressive Christians can also be found in all these denominations as well.

In my opinion, being a conservative Christian is far more about one’s politics rather than one’s theology. Their conservative politics often seems to be far more important to them than Biblical theology. Let me explain what I mean.

Biblically speaking, a person’s confession of Christ as God, Lord and Saviour, has long been seen as a major issue in deciding if any given person is a Christian or not. Of course, this confession needs to be heart felt and accompanied by repentance from sin. But it seems that for conservative Christians, this is often a side issue. I passionately believe that Jesus died for me on the cross and shed His blood as a covering for my sin. I believe that He is God, come in the flesh, the only begotten Son of God the Father and that He was bodily raised from the dead. I am saved by grace alone by the death and resurrection of Christ.

Yet I can hardly count the number of times that my faith has been denounced, even though I have made this confession publicly on many occasions. This denunciation has always come from conservative believers and normally for the same reason. That reason is nearly always related to my lack of allegiance to the Zionist State of Israel and my support for Palestinian human rights and justice. I’m seen as a deluded backslider at best, satanic infiltrator at worst.

Many others, who make similar confessions with regards to Jesus, have received the same treatment. Their issue may not have anything to do with Palestine. It maybe that they support gay and lesbian rights, abortion rights, believe in climate change due to human industry, denounce US imperialism, racism, sexism and fight for equality, workers and human rights and, in the worst-case scenario, support the demon of Socialism! All of these are basically recognised as the domain of leftists and liberals. They advocate for justice and mercy for Muslims and any minority group in general that you can think of.

Any of the above can earn you the title of non-follower of Christ, by conservatives regardless of any confession of Christ as Saviour, no matter how heart felt you feel your conviction is.

Conservative Christians are united by their conservative politics and allegiance to conservative and right-wing political parties like the Republican Party in the US, the Conservative Party in the UK and the Liberal/National Party Coalition in Australia. Many times, I have felt that their conservative politics is far more important to them than their Christianity.

I know that in my own case, I felt that the Christian faith was innately conservative. In some ways I still believe that this is true. Christians seek to conserve, or preserve the original essence of the faith as God revealed it to humanity in the first place. While Christian theology has clearly developed over the centuries, it is generally agreed that it cannot develop in such a way as to contradict the original concepts of the faith. It cannot progress beyond a certain limit. In this sense Christianity is conservative by nature. Finding out what these limits are, however, is another question entirely. It’s an endeavour that is far easier said than done in practice.

I long felt that somehow conservative politics owned the Christian faith with its conservative moral values. While liberals and progressives might have some interesting points to make, the real home of Christianity, politically speaking, was right-wing conservatism. Christian values would be safer in the hands of conservative governments.

I’ve since come to believe that this view is both un-Biblical and quite naïve. I think the best example that demonstrates the truth of this is the case of Palestinian Christianity. When I first got involved in the Christian faith I was told that I had many hundreds of millions of brothers and sisters in the faith all around the world. I thought that in the end, there must be some type of solidarity between Christians regardless of their theological differences. It wasn’t long before I started reading a bit of church history and finding out that this was far from the case. But at least I thought Christian faith would tie people together despite their political differences!

But the case of Palestinian Christianity blows this sky high. Conservative Christians, especially in the US, dominate the ranks of Christian Zionists. They passionately believe that it is their religious duty to unconditionally support the Zionist State of Israel in its project to colonise the region known as historic Palestine. These Christians have no pity for the Muslim people who have suffered due to this Zionist project, after all, they’re only Muslims! Enemies of God to be sure! Justice for Muslims in the Israel/Palestine conflict is a contradiction in terms.

But you would think it might be a different thing altogether when it comes to the case of Palestinian Christians. Palestinian Christians are Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic. They are Lutheran, Church of England, Baptist and even Pentecostal. Yet their cries to conservative Christians in the West about injustice and oppression perpetrated on them by the Zionist State of Israel gets completely ignored. Not an ounce of solidarity exists. Every year, the heads of the Palestinian Christian denominations make their suffering known to the Western conservative church via means like the Kairos Document and numerous conferences and meetings. All this gets ignored. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of Christian Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza recognise that their oppressor is the Zionist State of Israel, (not Muslim Palestinians). The voices of one hundred and seventy thousand Palestinian Christians are ignored, while the voice of one Palestinian convert to Christianity that supports Christian Zionism is heralded around the world in every Christian bookshop you can find!

In 2015, I went to the West Bank to observe this myself. I lived for 3 months in a conservative Muslim village in the West Bank as part of a program ran by the World Council of Churches. The program was called for by the Jerusalem heads of churches, (all of which are Palestinian). They wanted there to be a continuous western presence in the West Bank to observe the reality of the oppression that is the occupation. This program has had a continuous presence all over the West Bank for some 20 years now. Many of the people who have participated in this program have been from conservative Christian backgrounds like myself. We met Palestinian Christians who have visited the west only to find that their Christian faith was denounced when they owned up to being an Arab Christian that doesn’t support the dispossession of their own people by a secular state like Israel.

What motivates conservative Christians is not simply stated. To say that it is their theological beliefs, however much that they proclaim that it is, is still too simplistic. It is obvious that their political beliefs inform their conservative theology and vice versa. An uncomfortable fact for conservatives is that virtually no professional theologians in the English-speaking world endorse Christian Zionism. It is utterly bereft of any rational Biblical support but this seems to make almost no impact on them whatsoever.

Conservative Christians in the US routinely herald any President that seems to come from the right-wing as God’s man of the hour, come to save the world from judgement regardless of how immoral their actions might be on a personal level. Australian conservative Christians are often not far behind them.

When the excesses of a conservative President are finally brought to the public eye, the American public are reminded of their Christian duty not to judge, but to support their leader! But God have mercy on a non-conservative President, regardless of any professed Christian faith! God must be a Republican…surely?

So many conservative Christian friends of mine bemoan our secular, godless state with its permissive values. One particular sore point is the acceptance, by ultimately both political parties, of gay and lesbian marriage rights. Criticism of this judgement comes thick and fast from conservative pulpits. Yet the Zionist State of Israel has plans to follow this path. One of the reasons that the State of Israel says that it should be supported by the western world is its tolerance of gays and lesbians in contrast to the conservative values of Muslim countries.

Apparently these liberal, progressive values are all ok in a secular Israeli State, but deserve wrath and condemnation in our own western countries. It seems that the only duty of Israel is to take all of the land into its possession and sovereign control. Anything else it may do is irrelevant. This backflip on the moral values of God’s chosen people is hard to justify Biblically, but once again is not even acknowledged by conservative Christians in the west.

My belief is that Christianity is not owned by either side of the political divide. We are free to accept or reject political ideas without fear of abandoning God’s own political party. God’s politics don’t conform to the ideology of any political party, nor does His politics encourage us to turn a blind eye to the corruption and injustices perpetrated by those that we perceive as being our political friends. Nor does it prevent us from listening and learning from those whom we traditionally feel are not the friends of the faith. We are free to listen and to learn from anyone. Free to use our own God given reason and our knowledge of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as revealed in the scriptures with humility.

Unfortunately, conservative Christians are greatly in error when they unconditionally support the State of Israel with regard to its policies towards the Palestinian people. This does not mean that conservatives have nothing positive to offer or that progressives have all the answers. For Christians, humility and the mercy and justice of God for all humanity is our eternal duty. Amen.

CRAIG NIELSEN

December 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Zionists, as well as religious Zionists in Israel and throughout the world, believe that Jewish people have an absolute entitlement to the lands of Israel including the occupied territories (OPT).

They claim that this fact is unambiguously stated in the Bible and can be seen to be so by anyone who bothers to take the time to read the Old Testament scriptures. They believe this fact is so clearly and obviously proclaimed that it is indeed a dividing line between those who honour God’s word and those who don’t.

Anyone declaring that the Israeli settlements are illegal, no matter what legal arguments are used to defend such a position, are denounced as being in league with Satan. The very concept of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Gaza or the Golan Heights is a contradiction in terms. The recent denial of the illegal status of Israeli settlements in the OPT by the current US administration has been met with rapturous approval by Christian Zionists the world over. This would be seen as further proof, as if any were needed, that the US is indeed God’s instrument on Earth in worldly affairs.

Any protests against Israeli settlements are met with accusations of anti-Semitism and racism against Jews. The spectre of Nazi Germany is quickly invoked to demonise anyone even thinking about Palestinian rights. Palestinians rights are the rights of the devil!

I well remember once telling an avid Christian supporter of Israel that Palestinian Christians didn’t share his view of Zionist entitlement. His only answer was a sarcastic, “Have they read their Bible?”

A “no concession” policy is rigorously held to by Christian Zionists when it comes to any type of negotiations with Palestinians. After all, you don’t negotiate with the devil!

But the simple fact remains that the settlements ARE illegal under the clear and reasonable demands of International Law, and the concept of illegal Israeli settlements, within the bounds of what is considered “the promised land”, is completely compatible with scripture and the justice and mercy of God as revealed in both Testaments of the Bible. I believe it is not only compatible with, but is indeed demanded by those same scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation.

My defence of this position is based on a two-pronged argument:

  1. The Bible does not teach that Jewish people, simply by virtue of their Jewishness,

have an absolute and unconditional entitlement to the “Promised Land”. Jewish

occupation of the land can indeed be illegitimate in God’s eyes.

  1. International Law on this issue is completely compatible with God’s will for how

nations should deal with each other and hence it’s clear dictates need to be

respected by ALL Christians who claim to believe in the rule of law.

I will start with a defence of point one.

From the very first instances in scripture, when God promised the Land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, we see that the relationship of the Promised Land (TPL) to the Jewish people was conditional. God delayed Abraham’s taking of TPL by some hundreds of years so as to make sure that no injustice was done to the people then occupying the land. It was not until God judged the people in the land as being guilty of innumerable sins and hence needing to be justly removed from the land that Abraham’s descendants were allowed to enter TPL.

But even then, as the scriptures clearly tell us, there was no unconditional entitlement of Jews to enter the land. We see that even Moses, hardly a more prominent Jewish person could there have been, was not allowed to enter TPL. The most obvious question to be asked is, “Why wasn’t he allowed to enter?” Even a cursory glance at the text shows that it was his behaviour that was the key reason that he was barred from entering TPL, and this provides us with the basis for the whole concept of the totally conditional nature of the Jewish people’s relationship to the land.

God indeed made a covenant with the Jewish people in that the only way that they could legitimately enter and occupy the land was that they faithfully obey the commands of God. Many of these commands relate to how they treat non-Jews living in the land with them. The punishment for disobedience with regards to this issue was expulsion from the land.

Every orthodox Jew in history will tell you that the occupation of the land for Jews is tied up with the concepts of redemption and exile. Jews are currently in a state of exile and are therefore forbidden to try and take control of the land. No Jewish Rabbi anywhere in the world would dare declare that the exile is over! So, if that be true, how is it that the State of Israel is in existence with half the world’s Jews living there?

The answer is that the responsibility for the creation of the State of Israel was in the hands of Zionists, not Jews who were faithful to the Torah and its traditional teachings about exile, redemption and the coming of the Messiah. Orthodox Judaism had taken oaths, as far back as 130 AD, to never even try and take TPL even if all the rulers of the Earth commanded it, even if the land itself was empty, even if it did not involve any kind of violence whatsoever.

Exile was a spiritual problem and required a spiritual, not military or even diplomatic, solution.

Scripture clearly relates that the Jewish people are God’s tenants, not landlords in TPL. If they do not obey God’s covenant with them, they will be expelled from the land, just like any other nation or people that defiled the land. Their Jewishness would not confer any special privileges for them if they were disobedient. If anything, it made them more accountable. God’s covenant with Abraham would not mean that they could unconditionally enter and occupy the land. Being in exile would not, however, make the covenant with Abraham void. This covenant was still in operation regardless of whether the Jewish people were in exile or not. Exile came when the Mosaic covenant was broken by the Jewish people while in the land. The Mosaic covenant could be broken but the covenant of God with Abraham could not. God would never give up on the Jewish people no matter how many times He had to cast them from the land. Orthodox Jewish tradition holds that this expulsion has already occurred twice. The end of the current exile will be heralded by the miraculous coming of the Messiah and not before. This event will come in God’s sovereign time.

God’s command that Jews treat the “alien”, (non-Jew) in the land fairly and justly and as an equal, stems from the fact that when Israel was in bondage as slaves to Egypt, God stood up for them against the oppressor and gave them freedom. In scripture God continually reminds the Jews to remember how they were slaves in Egypt and in doing so therefore do not oppress the non-Jews living amongst them. Failure to do this would bring consequences to the Jews almost too horrible to think of!

So, the question can legitimately be asked, “Is the Zionist regime in Israel legitimately occupying TPL?” The simple fact of their confessed Jewishness is not sufficient, regardless of any claims about fulfilled prophecy. End times prophecy can never be twisted in such a way so as to negate the righteous demands of God for the descendants of Abraham to live up to their obligations to God with regards to their relationship to the land. A secular Zionist state does not get a free pass any more than Moses did!

I will now move on to my second point:

The basis of the United Nations Charter and International Law with regards to how nations should deal with one another is grounded in the desire to avoid violent conflict and oppression by powerful nations over less powerful nations. This is clearly stated in the concept of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by means of force. This acquisition of territory in order to gain access to living space, resources or anything else by force is seen as the main motivation for armed conflict in our world. Making this type of acquisition of land illegal, by any nation, is a clear a deterrent for conflict between nations by removing the legitimacy of the very motivation for conflict.

This is obviously a good idea, and I see nothing in this that is somehow innately anti-Semitic or against God’s word. Whether or not this concept has been applied fairly and consistently is another matter entirely.

We need to remember that all members of the United Nations must sign on to this principal. Australia, the US, Israel, Canada and the UK have all signed on to this principal as a matter of law.

In 1947, the United Nations created a partition plan that gave the Zionists 55% of historic Palestine for the creation of a Jewish state and 45% of the land to the Arabs for the creation of a Palestinian state. The Zionists accepted this plan. The current regions known as Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights were not part of the land that was given to the Zionists in the 1947 partition plan. These regions are currently under Israeli control since they entered these areas by force in 1967. As such they are under Israeli military occupation.

The validity or fairness of this partition plan will not be dealt with here. At this stage it suffices to say that the Zionist State is in control of lands that it acquired by means of military force and is holding onto these regions by military force as well, despite the fact that International Law and UN Resolutions have demanded Israel’s ending of the occupation way back in 1967.

The Fourth Geneva Convention, of which all member states of the United Nations must sign on to, clearly states that no occupying power may transfer any of its population into the areas being occupied. Israel has clearly been in breach of this since 1967 when it started building Israeli only settlements in both the West bank and Gaza. It entices Israeli citizens to come and live in the OPT with significant financial incentives. These settlements are fully integrated into the rest of the state of Israel via Israeli only highways that connect the settlements back to greater Israel. Palestinians are forbidden to travel on these roadways.

The Israeli government rejects this judgement based on the fact that they do not consider the OPT to be occupied and hence International Law does not apply. This idea is based on the fact that the West Bank and Gaza had no official governance at the time of the 1967 War and so International Law does not apply.

This judgement has been rejected by the entire international community. The issue of governance is not the point. The fact is that Israel has gained access to territory by means of force. This territory was not granted to any Israeli government in the 1947 partition plan that the Zionists did agree with. That territory was inhabited by a people who did not identify as Jewish and hence are not represented by any Zionist government.

The Israeli settlements in the West Bank have been judged as illegal right from the start and this decision has been reviewed and verified on numerous occasions since then by the best legal minds in the world. This judgement is firmly based in International Law.

From the above we can see that the Israeli settlements are clearly in breach of International Law and that International Law in this particular context is neither anti-Semitic or un-Biblical.

It is possible, and I would say, highly likely, that God respects and agrees with the judgement that the Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal.

CRAIG NIELSEN

December 2019

 

Israel-Palestine: A Christian Response to the Conflict

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