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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Israelolatry

I have been been very hesitant to write a post about the current fascination with the state of Israel and the Jewish people in many pentecostal and fundamentalist segments in the American Church. Part of the reason for this hesitation is the fear of being misunderstood. So let me say clearly from the outset that I believe that the world has an obligation to support the right for the state of Israel to exist in safe and secure borders. How to achieve that is not my place to decide because I am not an authority on political matters. Neither am I a replacement theologian. I do not believe that God is finished with the Jews as a people and I further believe that God will fulfill His promises to the Jewish people in a clear and demonstrable way when Christ returns to set up His kingdom on earth for a thousand years.

But this is where my agreement with the current Christian Zionist movement in America ends. Seeing the latest issue of Charisma magazine has prompted me to finally open my big mouth and say something. I find it interesting that in last month's issue of Charisma magazine there is a full page advertisement of a Bible study from a popular Jewish rabbi who is not a believer in Jesus. I wonder what Paul the Apostle would say about that? In 2 Corinthians 3:14, speaking of Jewish non-believers, Paul says, "For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ." So why would an evangelical Christian magazine place a full page ad to encourage born again Christians to read a Bible study from someone who reads the Old Testament with a veil over his eyes?

The answer is what I like to call Israelolatry. If you read John Hagee's articles in Charisma, you get the impression that the sole reason for the existence of the Church is to support the state of Israel. Hagee even uses Matthew 25:31-46 to suggest that supporting the State of Israel (aka...providing monetary assistance to the Israeli government and funding Jewish settlers in the West Bank and the Gaza strip) is a requirement for salvation. Call me crazy, but I thought that faith in Christ was the sole requirement for salvation (Romans 3:28, Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 10:9-10, Galatians 2:16, John 3:16, John 6:47, Acts 16:31)! In his book, "The Jerusalem Countdown" which is endorsed by a number of major names in evangelical circles, Hagee seems to go to great lengths to show that Christians do not need to witness to Jews. What??!! I find that claim very intersting especially in the light of the fact that the famous "How shall they hear without a preacher?" passage in Romans is a direct reference to Jewish evangelism (this is seen by putting the passage in the context of Romans 9-11 which deals exclusively with the question of God's plan for the Jewish people). The fact that so few big name leaders have spoken out on the falsity of this position is very troubling to me. It seems that, as a result of the centuries of anti-semitism and persecution of the Jews by so-called Christians (which is completely unjustifiable) the collective guilty conscience of a large number of American Christians has gone the extreme in the other way to say that the grace of Christ is necessary for all but the Jewish people. There is a word for this. It's called being "ashamed" of the gospel. The Apostle Paul says, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also for the Greek." (Romans 1:16) Any theology that undermines the Great Commission that Jesus gives us to "preach the gospel to every creature" needs to be seriously examined and called for what it is- idolatry.

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