Early in the life of the church, around the 2nd and 3rd century, a teaching developed that is commonly referred to as Replacement Theology. Its core teaching is that when the Jewish people rejected Jesus, God in return rejected them as His special people. In their place, God has now Areplaced@ them with the church. For a more detailed treatment of this, see Dr. Megilligan=s article in this issue.
The fruit of this teaching has historically been devastating for the Jewish community. Rabbi A. James Rudin, in his book Israel for Christians, comments, “Some Christian theologians and Bible scholars have long taught that ancient Israel, the ‘old Israel’ of the ‘old covenant’ has been replaced by the ‘new Israel’ of the ‘new covenant,’ the Christian church. Israel’s spiritual vocation and mission has been transferred from the Jewish people to the church…Not only has such Christian thinking rendered the Jews vulnerable to violent anti-Semitism, it has also negated any Jewish claim to the land of Israel because it maintains such claims have been emptied of all concrete meaning…This position has resulted in theological anti-Semitism on the part of some Christian leaders.”3
Christian Palestinianism is an “old” movement repackaged in modern day clothes of the same theological lies, the embracing of a false Israel/Palestinian narrative, and historical revisionism. It is a shame that there are those from the evangelical world who champion this movement.
Christian Palestinian History
In 1989, Naim Ateek, serving then as canon of St. George=s Cathedral (Anglican) in Jerusalem, wrote Justice and Only Justice: A Palestinian Theology of Justice which was the impetus for this movement. In 1994, Ateek founded Sabeel, a Palestinian Ecumenical Theology Center in Jerusalem. Following this beginning many different conferences have been held and books written. According to Sabeel=s website they have an International Conference every two years.
In 2009 the Kairos Document was issued. In part this says, AIn this historic document, we Palestinian Christians declare that the military occupation of our land is a sin against God and humanity, and that any theology that legitimizes the occupation is far from Christian teachings because true Christian theology is a theology of love and solidarity with the oppressed, a call to justice and equality among peoples.@ This document is based on a replacement theology view, an anti-Christian Zionist view, as well as a misrepresentation of the Israel/Palestinian issue. In essence, it is a package of theological and historical fabrications formed in the cauldron of liberal theology.
Bethlehem Bible College in Israel sponsored the first AChrist at the Checkpoint@ conference in 2010. A second one was held in 2012 with A600 international and local Christians, including renowned evangelical leaders@ (excerpted from Christ at the Checkpoint website), and the most recent one March 11-14, 2014. Some of the speakers at these conferences, and proponents of Christian Palestinianism, have been notable evangelical leaders. These include Bob Roberts, founding and Senior Pastor of NorthWood Church near Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX. NorthWood’s congregation of active participants now averages in excess of 2000. NorthWood has started over 130 churches in the US and is a center for training new pastors. Gary Burge, who is Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill; Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe the CEO / Secretary General of the World Evangelical Alliance; Dr. William M. Wilson, the fourth president of Oral Roberts University; Tony Campolo, Professor Emeritus at Eastern University; Lynne Hybels, co‑founder of the Willow Creek Community Church; Brother Andrew, leader of AOpen Doors@ ministry; Darrel Bock, Professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, Colin Chapman, writer and expert on Islam; John Feinberg, Professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School; Manfred Kohl, VP with Overseas Council International; Stephen Sizer, incumbent at Christ Church; Hank Hanegraaf, the “Bible Answer Man” on his nationally syndicated radio show; Gary DeMar, director of American Vision, as well as a number of men associated with the Messianic Judaism movement. Personally, I am saddened at some of the men who have associated with this movement by speaking at their conferences.
The driving force behind these conferences can be seen by some of the statements from their website. ASome of the themes of the conference included a biblical critique of dispensational theology and repudiation of an exclusive theology of the land that marginalizes and disenfranchises the indigenous people@; APalestinian theologians gave speeches showing how… their rejection of Christian Zionism is based on Christ=s teachings@; AScholars and participants in the conference agreed to reject the teachings of any theology that promotes unbiblical teachings, and declared that much work is needed to transfer those findings to ordinary evangelicals in the West who often express uncritical support of Israel because of their ignorance both of scriptures and of the facts on the ground.@
What in the World…?
In the spring, 2010 issue of Israel’s Messenger, this author wrote an article titled, AJewish Missions and Zionism.@ In it the comment was made, “Jewish Awareness Ministries believes the Jewish people have a right to the land of Israel. It is a God given, biblical right. I believe a persuasive case can also be made from a legal, moral, and historical basis for the right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. We are Zionists.” Nothing has changed in this regard at Jewish Awareness Ministries. We are unashamedly pro-Israel and support the Jewish people’s God given right to the land of Israel.
Satan, though, hates Israel, the Jewish people, and a biblical view of God=s plan for the Jew and Israel. I am convinced we are living is the AShadows of the Tribulation.@ This being the case, Satan is aware that his time is short. He is marshaling the forces of Hell to persecute and destroy the Jewish people and Israel. Among his dupes is the Christian Palestinianism movement.
Many in this movement will never change their desires and designs. There are some, though, who should separate themselves from this movement and conferences. Perhaps they mean well and want a voice of opposition to be heard, but in reality, all they are doing is providing a veneer of respectable covering for this satanic inspired attack against God=s plan for Israel and the Jewish people.
In conclusion, I would like to share a quote from Paul Wilkinson=s book For Zion=s Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby. The following summarizes well the issues and problems with Christian Palestinianism.
AChristian Palestinianism is an inverted mirror image of Christian Zionism. All the basic elements of a Christian Zionist eschatology are reversed, so that the Bible is seen as Christian, not Jewish, the land of the Bible is Palestine not Israel, the Son of God is a Palestinian, not a Jew, the Holocaust is resented and not remembered, 1948 is a catastrophe not a miracle, the Jewish people are illegal occupiers not rightful owners and Biblical prophecy is a moral manifesto and not a signpost to the Second Coming. Despite enlisting support from the theological community and seeking validation through academia, the overriding thrust of Christian Palestinianism is political, not Biblical.
As we have seen, this reactionary movement, spearheaded by Sabeel, is a one issue coalition of strange bedfellows whose diverse, ideological perspectives are held in tension as they unite against a common enemy…In particular, the inherently Biblical and Evangelical nature of Christian Zionism has been contrasted with the inherently political and Liberal character of Christian Palestinianism. In the process, the reader has been alerted to the scale of this para-church movement which, by covering itself in a veneer of Biblical respectability, has gained a major foothold within the Evangelical Church.@4
Bible believing Christians should have nothing to do with Christian Palestinianism. The choice is clear – embrace the God of Israel and His word, or embrace a movement that is antithetical to biblical teaching and the eternal God and His plan and promise for Israel and the Jewish people. What is your decision?
1. FREEMAN CENTER email, March 9, 2014, From Barry Shaw=s FB page.
2. Paul Wilkinson, AProphets Who Prophesy Lies in My Name@, Introduction page, Hazel Grove Full Gospel Church, Cheshire, England, 2011
3. A. James Rudin, AIsrael for Christians@, Fortress Press, 1983, pg. 125-126
4. Paul Wilkinson, For Zion=s Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby, Milton Keynes:Paternoster, 2007, Pg. 65