Concerning God’s Promises

Concerning God’s Promises

 

J. John interviewing the brilliant Tom Wright, asks a question from the audience (the Youtube video can be viewed at the end of the post):

[Warning:  Long sentence alert]!

Question: 

“How do you understand the specific scriptures concerning God’s promises to the Jewish people today and also concerning the actual land of Israel?”

Tom Wright:

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Understanding a Mystery

Understanding a Mystery

Israel or Palestine – where is it heading?

A sermon by Richard Matcham based on Romans 11:25-36

“Lord I pray that the raw nerves and thin shells this topic will likely touch upon, will enlarge the capacity of us all to engage truthfully with the text and the world, and challenge us to be contentedly discontent with mystery, that we may be more loving to one another, and truly worship you in all your unsearchable and inscrutable ways.  Amen”

Have you ever been in a discussion with someone, on a topic that really interests you, and at the crucial point of insight, understanding and genuine learning, you hear the comment, “Ah, we can’t ever know that, it’s a mystery!”

We often deploy the “mystery card” because it seems to be a way of protecting our own limited understanding on a subject.

Take for example, the Trinity (you know what I mean)!

I’ve faced this situation quite a few times over the years, especially as a young Christian man in my mid-20’s, hungry to learn and know God.

“The Trinity,” we shout, “it’s a mystery.”  And with that mystical phrase, the conversation is closed, and genuine biblical understanding is shoved into the cul-de-sac of frustrated, genuine enquirers, where they stay until they learn to stop asking awkward questions!

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A Palestinian Catastrophe is a World Catastrophe

AlexLeading up to (yet) another anniversary of the ‘catastrophe’, or ‘Al-Nakba’, of the Palestinian people following the events prior and up to and since 15th May 1948, I will be posting excerpts highlighting this tragic situation from various angles.   I have taken my lead from the excellent book ‘Palestinian Memories by Palestinian theologian Alex Awad, Dean of Bethlehem Bible College and pastor of international East Jerusalem Baptist Church:

“Many Westerners view the Arab-Israeli conflict through distorted lenses, and not surprisingly, their understandings of the realities on the ground is influenced by blurred, false or partial information.

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Notably, numerous Christians in the United States and the West view the Arab-Israeli conflict from a perspective strongly influenced by popular sentiment relating to Biblical Israel and its place in the Promised Land and the way in which all of this relates to the political entity that is modern Israel. Pro-Israel groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and the powerful Jewish-American lobby, have also had a significant effect on both Christian and secular perceptions.

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These organizations influence – not control, but influence – many American institutions, including branches of government and the media. In addition, Hollywood has contributed much towards shaping Westerners’ distorted perceptions of the Middle East, with many popular films advancing the very worst stereotyped, comic-book portrayals of Arabs, be it the murderous terrorist, the “primitive” nomad, or the depraved oil sheik.

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The events of September 11, 2001 have also resulted, perhaps understandably, in even greater polarization between the Arab and Western worlds.  All these factors, combined with the tragic history of the Jews in Europe over the centuries, culminating in the Halocaust, have molded the lenses through which Westerners usually view the Arab-Israeli conflict. The purpose of [my writing], then, is to offer an overview of the land, its history and its people, one that might challenge and alter the prevailing assumptions with which the conflict is commonly seen.”

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I commend the book to you. alex_awad_2

Heretical Eschatology

“The Anglo-American Protestant tradition of Judeo-centric prophecy interpretation was from its inception a political theology.

The tradition openly constructed friends (Jews) as well as enemies (Muslims and Roman Catholics), while cultivating occidentocentric discources that discounted Eastern Christians.  rahebcover

These constructions are manifested in contemporary discourses surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict which cast Jews within eschatological dramas while demonizing Muslims and casting aspersions on Christians who are Palestinian or sympathetic to the Palestinian national cause.

The tradition’s most visible and direct impulses are manifested in Anglo-American Christian Zionism, which I define as political action, informed by specifically Christian commitments, to promote or preserve Jewish control over the geographic area now containing Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Robert O. Smith, Interpreting the Bible, Interpreting the World: Anglo-American Christian Zionism and Palestinian Christian Concerns, in The Biblical Text in the Context of Occupation – Towards a New Hermeneutic of Liberation,(Ed. Mitri Raheb), p.156

So writes Robert Smith, pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, in his brilliant chapter of the book.  Constructions are just what they are, politcal, religious and ideological constructions of the latest (19th century) theological system that has basically become the Western paradigm.  How can this be? Continue reading

Jesus says…. V’s Christian Zionism says….

Rainbow

Christian Zionism says “This is my land, we’re staying put!”

Jesus says, “Go in all the world and make disciples.”

Christian Zionism says “Abraham is our father!”

Jesus says “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did.”

Christian Zionism says “We must help rebuild the Temple.”

Jesus says, “My body is the Temple.”

Christian Zionism says “Palestinian ethnic cleansing doesn’t really matter – it’s all part of the Plan.”

Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Christian Zionism says, “This land is ours by divine right.”

Jesus says “But I say to you, love your enemies.”

Christian Zionism says “To criticise the Jews/Israelis is anti-semitic.”

Jesus says “Take the plank out of your own eye first.”

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Love Your Enemies

Palestinian Christian Bible Scholar, Yohanna Katanacho, spoke at Catalyst Live, Reading, UK 2013.

Today is the 1948 anniversary of Israeli independence and the Palestinian nakba (catastrophe).

Loving enemies is still the best way to make friends.  Pray for Israelis and the Palestinians.

Desmond Tutu on Israel

desmond_tutu-420x0“World-wide commitment to peace in the Holy Land is vital.”  We must “question the assumptions underpinning the Israeli oppression of the Palestinians….We in South Africa remember with gratitude the extraordinary phenomenon of the world-wide movement against apartheid.  And after years of tribulation, here we are, finally, free! South Africa, once a pariah state, and an embarrassment to many is now a blossoming democracy.  And all because people around the world prayed for us, supported us, and were even willing to go to jail for us.

Now, alas, we see apartheid in Israel, complete with the ‘Separation Wall’ and Israel_Palestine_Flag[1] bantustans that keep Palestinians rounded up in prisons.  History tragically repeats itself.  Yet, injustice and oppression will never prevail.  Those who are powerful have to remember the litmus test that God gives to the powerful:  ‘How do you treat the poor, the hungry, and the voiceless?’  And God judges accordingly. wall

We need to put out a clarion call to the government of the people of Israel, to the Palestinian people, saying, ‘Peace is possible.  Peace based on justice is possible.  We will do all we can to assist you to achieve that peace, because it is God’s dream, and you will be able to live amicably together as sisters and brothers.

We in South Africa had a relatively peaceful transition.  If the madness which oppressed us could end as it did, it must be possible for the same to happen everywhere else in the world.  If peace could come to South Africa, surely it can come to the Holy Land.  Somehow, the Israeli government is placed on a pedestal in the US, and to criticise it is to be immediately dubbed antisemitic.  People are scared in the US, to say ‘wrong is wrong’, because the pro-Israeli lobby is powerful – very powerful.  Well, so what?

For goodness sake, this is God’s world!  We live in a moral universe.  grave skullThe apartheid government was very powerful, but today it no longer exists.  Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet, Milosevic, and Idi Amin were all powerful, but, in the end, they bit the dust.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu in his foreword in Speaking the Truth, Zionism, Israel and the Occupation.

Skull picture from a fascinating story told here:  http://cindyrosstraveler.com/tag/duffys-cut-mass-grave/

The Baptist Missionary Society (BMS) have a superb resource called ‘Catalyst‘, published quarterly, one of which was specifically on the subject of Israel and Palestine.  The article can be requested through the post or viewed on line here, and I whole heartedly commend this to you.

Additionally, David Kerrigan, Director General of the BMS, has a most excellent blog karnaphuli.typepad.com, in which he has an article on the relationship between popular Christian Zionism and theology.  You can view it here, as well as another post on ignorance not being an option, here.