DAVID PARSONS, JPOST —
Christian Zionism is today denounced by the World Council of Churches and “mainline” Protestant clerics as a “dangerous fundamentalist heresy,” the product of British and American preachers lacking respectable theological pedigree. These detractors charge that Christian Zionists share a dark hidden agenda of forced conversions of Jews. If that were not enough, they also charge Christian Zionists with being the main obstacle to Middle East peace due to their unquestioning support of Israel.
For at least 40 years, the World Council of Churches has been at the forefront of this crusade against the Christian pro-Israel community. But in recent years, new players have jumped on the ecumenical bandwagon against Israel and its Christian supporters. Sadly, they are fellow Evangelicals, many of whom once stood with Israel.
One of the latest expressions of this new-found Evangelical hostility to Christian Zionism comes out of the respected Fuller Theological Seminary in California. After leading a recent “study mission” to Israel, two professors – Dr. David P. Gushee and Dr. Glen H. Stassen – published an open letter in late September to America’s Christian Zionists, whom the authors accused of being not only sinful but producing sin in others. In their most outrageous charge, they warned that Christian Zionists will be the cause of any upcoming war against Israel, including a nuclear attack by Iran – and even suggested Israel might be deserving of such a conflagration.
Thus, the timing of a new book solidly defending Christian Zionism could not be better. Dr. Paul Charles Merkley, a professor emeritus in history at Carleton University in Canada, offers – in Those That Bless You I Will Bless: Christian Zionism in Historical Perspective – a powerful account of the noble legacy and just aims of Israel’s Christian friends.
For more than two decades, Merkley has built a reputation for authoritative scholarship on the subject. In his latest work, he recounts the entire history of Christian Zionism as a respected and godly movement. In so doing, Merkley indeed offers what he terms “a calm, proud and scholarly defense of Christian Zionism.”
As Merkley demonstrates, the Christian Zionist viewpoint actually has the most distinguished theological pedigree imaginable – the sure promises of God delivered by sworn oath in the Old Testament and clearly vouched for in the New. The opening chapters outline the foundation of Zionism in the Hebrew Scriptures and its explicit affirmation in the Christian canon.
Following chapters describe the tragic history of Christian-Jewish relations, from the days of the First Temple until our own times.
Succeeding sections describe the transformation of Christian attitudes toward the Jewish people that accompanied the rediscovery of the authority of Scripture during the Reformation.
In recapturing core biblical truths, ordinary Christians also reawakened to the enduring Jewish hope for restoration in the Land of Israel. Out of British “Restorationism” emerged the modern-day Christian Zionism movement with the explicit purpose of lending vital support to a reconstituted Jewish state.
The book propounds that most Christians still believe the effort to restore Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel is among the most worthy projects ever undertaken, and that Israel’s cause remains just.
Conversely, they believe that the forces that sought to prevent Israel’s emergence in 1948 and have tried ever since to destroy her are immoral and will not prevail.
Written out of recognition of the need for a fuller chronicle than now exists on Christian Zionism – its origins, hopes and accomplishments – the book is based on many years of research in historical archives, and reflects Merkley’s considerable experience in publicly advocating for Israel in a range of academic and media settings. Yet it is accessible to readers who have little acquaintance with the subject.
The writer is media director for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem; www.icej.org.