Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Reflection on the Perspective of Stephen Sizer

It has been a great week having Stephen Sizer among us at Laidlaw College. We also had the privilege of having him to speak at Glenfield Presbyterian Church on Sunday and Monday night. He is a lovely man with a warm heart. Those who vilify him obviously have not met him. He is wrongly accused of being heretic, anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and more. Such accusations are an utter disgrace and a direct violation of the Christian imperative to love one another! Whether we agree or disagree with him, we can walk in fellowship with him. I warmly endorse him and consider it a privilege to have met a brother in Christ who understands the central call of the gospel to justice and mercy. His preaching on the Good Samaritan (I still like the name, my bad?) gloriously reminds us of our need to above all else, show compassion. I loved the debate last night; all credit to Richard Neville and Stephen for doing so well and modelling Christian dialogue, it was a brilliant night!

The issue of the place of ethnic Israel in the purposes of God has long intrigued me and being well aware of the differing views I have been for some time pondered these issues trying to work out where I stand—it is an on-going process. So, what are my reflections having heard Stephen and the debate last night?
First, I agree that theologically and spiritually, the descendants of Abraham cannot be limited to ethnic Israel, but include all humanity who follow in the footsteps of Abraham’s faith. That is the point of Paul’s teaching in Rom 4; Gal 3 and Rom 9:7 (cf. Matt 3:9; 8:11; Luke 3:8). Clearly what matters to John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul is spiritual descent from Abraham rather than physical. That said, the existence of people who are descended physically from Abraham is found in the NT (e.g. 2 Cor 11:22). They exist as a people, and so are a nation under God. Genesis 10 tells us that nations are important, they are families of people, and so at least to the degree that they like all people exist, are important to God. 

Secondly, the idea election in the NT is focussed on the church i.e. believers in Christ, Jew and Gentile, is in the main, correct. That said, Richard Neville did rightly question Stephen on the basis of Rom 11:26 which speaks of God’s gift and call being irrevocable, clearly in the context of a discussion of Israel by descent. While it is only one verse, it does potentially hint at some on-going sense of God’s call having significance. 
Thirdly, despite Richard Neville’s presentation and arguments, and having worked closely through Romans 11 in preparation for teaching, I find myself more in agreement with Sizer and N.T. Wright’s read on Rom 9-11. I think Israel is defined in Rom 9:6–8 as Israel by faith, something Paul says effectively in Rom 2 (circumcision of the heart) and Romans 4—Israel is Israel by faith. When I come to Rom 11 I don’t see Rom 11:12, 15 as stating that there will be a coming to faith of Israel at some point, but Paul pondering what would happen if the fullness came in (v.11) and they did turn to Messiah, it is the language of hope—it would be resurrection of the dead were they to do so (v.15). Sadly they have not done so and Paul’s hope and prayer (Rom 9:1–3; 10:1) remains unfulfilled. They have not become jealous of Christian growth and turned (vv. 11, 14).
When I come to Rom 11:25-26 it seems Paul has just in the tree illustration defined Israel as Israel by faith in vv.17–24, i.e. all humanity that has believed in the one true God before Christ (or before hearing the gospel), including Gentiles like Abraham (he came to God as a wandering Aramean) and Melchizedek, and believing Israelites; plus, Christian believers who have responded to the gospel from all over the world. I think he then shifts his meaning of Israel in Rom 11:25–26 from its usual sense of ethnic Israel to Israel as he now defines it, by faith, i.e. all humanity of faith including not only the Church, but believers of all history i.e. the full number of God’s people from all time. This is repudiated on the basis that Paul must use the word Israel in the same sense in both verses. However, Paul often shifts his use of language in the same passage, a common rhetorical tool, and, indeed, we often miss his plays on words when we don’t recognise this and slavishly assume a word means the same every time it is used.

So, while I see the validity and possibility of other interpretations of Rom 9–11, I am with Wright on this one. I do think however, that Stephen’s description of the Olive Tree in Rom 11 should be modified away from saying that it is “the church”; rather it is historic Israel and humanity by faith in the one true God before the coming (or preaching of Christ), and authentic believers. It is only “the church” in the Colossians and Ephesians sense of the cosmic heavenly universal church. Believers in Christ are grafted into Israel by faith rooted in God. By calling it “the church,” it can sound like it is writing of Israel by faith in the pre-Christ era. In fact, I suspect there will be a huge number of Israelites in eternity from the pre-Christ era, while sin and failure abounded, many many did genuinely believe in God; Paul included in his pre-Christian state. I suspect there will more than a few Gentiles as well.
Fourthly, I am in full agreement with Sizer that the Temple does not need to be rebuilt. Clearly, the temple is now Christ, and those in him, the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor 3:16; Eph 2:19-22 etc). There is no need to build a physical temple. That said, I will not be surprised if it is attempted, and God help us when it is done as this will have huge implications for Jewish-Islamic relations. Not to mention that I presume some would attempt to resume the sacrifice system! 

Fifthly, I am also in total agreement with Stephen on the secret rapture, the wrong people are left behind in this popular concept. There is nothing in the NT to support it. His read on Matt 24 and 1 Thess 4 is spot on to me.
Finally, I agree that the land of Israel and earthly Jerusalem is not of consequence in the NT generally speaking. Jerusalem is the locus of God’s salvation with Jesus dying and rising there, the Spirit falling there, the church and its mission starting there, and the church radiating out in mission from there to all nations. The land in the NT as the locus of God, becomes the whole world. This is the inheritance of believers. God cannot be limited or localised to one building or one place.

However, there is a puzzling verse in Luke 21:24, which very surprisingly was not discussed at the debate: “They (the Jews) will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
This is in the context of the Olivet Discourse which is either about the Fall of Jerusalem, the return of Christ, or both, depending who you follow (a small group think it is about the cross, resurrection). To me, Matthew and Luke clearly apply it to more than the Fall of Jerusalem.

Now this verse cannot have been fulfilled in the exile as Jesus said it years later, about 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. It is likely that this is when they “fell by the sword.” We can limit this to the trampling of Jerusalem by the Romans and Jews taken as prisoners of war only. There is indeed evidence of many Jews scattered and taken to Rome (see the inscriptions on the Arch of Titus). However, I find this unconvincing as Rome is not a scattering “among all nations” and Jerusalem’s trampling went on for centuries after Rome. I think it is more reasonable read to say that Jerusalem from A.D. 70 has been trampled on by Rome, Islamic forces, and ever since. Over the years most Jews scattered, and are today found in communities throughout the world. It seems to me that this fits very neatly indeed with “led captive among all nations.”
Now, while one might argue that Jerusalem continues to be trampled and the verse speaks of the return of Christ not some restoration of the city to the Jewish people, it seems to me that, whether we find it difficult to accommodate in our theology, the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967 ended or interrupted a period of trampling of Jerusalem—whatever the means by which it was accomplished. (We have to remember that God worked his purposes out in the OT through sinful nations, war, despotic rulers etc. This doesn’t legitimize it, but God works in humanities mess).

So the question then becomes what does “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Some see this as the mission to the Gentiles others some judgment idea. Or does it refer to the fulfillment of the time of Gentile trampling mentioned in the first part of the sentence?
Stephen Sizer connects this to Rev 11:2 which speaks of John’s vision of the temple which is “given over to the nations… they will trample the holy city for forty-two months” and so rejects the idea of Jerusalem’s trampling. I have serious problems with this. First, exegetically one cannot assume the Apocalypse is speaking of the same thing. I questioned Stephen about this and he seemed to assume the later writing defined the earlier and John would have known Luke. The dates of Luke and John are open questions and there is no way we can know whether John knew Luke’s writings—this is problematic at many levels. I find the jig-sawing of verses from completely different contexts problematic; indeed, it is the sort of thing classical dispensationalists have done for years to create their elaborate timetables—we should avoid it, it is a dodgy hermeneutic. Secondly, forty-two months is ambiguous and tied up in the mystical symbolism of Revelation, and so I am very wary to define its interpretation. I would rather deal with Luke 21:24 in the context of Luke-Acts.

To me, I can’t shake off that the existence of this Jesus-saying and this historical event seem uncanny in their correlation. While it is very difficult to fit into a theological scheme which endorses the church as the continuation of Israel by faith, it seems the best interpretation is that Jesus predicted a restoration of the city of Jerusalem to the Jews in the distant future when “the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled”, whatever that means. I suspect it means the time of trampling. It is not likely to be  the completion of the mission, unless we argue that the mission is complete—I think it has a long way to go, but I might be wrong.
Now, I do not now want to go ahead and give a tight timetable concerning the return of Christ, the millennium (I am an ag-millennialist—agnostic), or speculate on the literal application of what follows in Luke (and Mark 13; Matt 24), but it means I am in a slightly different place to Stephen. He is an agnostic on the modern state of Israel and made some excellent comments on this. Of particular note was his comment that this may not be the final return, and of his fear of another exile. I had not thought of this, and it has got me thinking. He also questioned the idea that the restoration is a fulfillment of Ezekiel 36; asking where is the spiritual renewal spoken of there. Great question! Still, those questions aside, it just seems more than a massive coincidence that after some 1900 years of Israel and Jerusalem being under Gentile dominion (we can even go back to 587 BC), against all odds, after the horror of WW2, it was back in the hands of the Jewish people in 1967. It seems significant to me. So, at this point I part ways with Stephen, and while I agree with his theological construct, I find myself in a different position on modern Israel i.e. I think it means something.  I also wonder whether, despite my reading of Rom 9-11 whether there remains some mystery around God’s final dealings with his people—did he sacrifice his nation as well as his son to save the world? Who knows—such things are beyond me. Perhaps they were beyond Paul?

There are several other things that take me to this position. First, I believe in God’s sovereignty over the nations and so, the establishment of any nation is no mere accident. So, I see Israel’s restoration as providential and so must be significant. Secondly, in that it was returned to a people to whom God said in Gen 17:8, “And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God,” I find it more than a remarkable historical coincidence that this has occurred. I also wonder whether Stephen’s own logic should lead him to the same conclusion in that he rightly noted that while these verses exist, possession of the land is conditional (e.g. the curses of Deut, Lev). If so, and if Israel by descent are in the land, does that not mean something. Thirdly, while the spiritual renewal of Israel has not come yet, I do think Ezek 36 points beyond exile, although I am not going to push this too hard—I am not an OT scholar.
None of this means there are two tracks of salvation as if salvation is found in anything other than Christ, or that Christ is necessarily at the doorstep, or that we should endorse the bad behavior and injustices of Israel, or that we should be radical and militant Zionists, that we should be anti-Palestinian or Arab forgetting the Samaritan parable etc; but, it seems to me, that 1948–67 tells me that there is something going on between God and his historic people.

So, there are my thoughts. I am not sure whether this makes me a Zionist. I too want a two-state solution and want the Israeli people to show more compassion and mercy to the Palestinians. That said, I am hesitant to judge from nice cozy NZ. I also understand why Israel is so defensive, one doesn’t forget the Holocaust, the wars of 48, 67, 73 easily, the warnings from Iranian leadership and the threat of nuclear bombs, and terrorism easily. If I am a Zionist, I am a very moderate one and find my point of agreement with Stephen in the primacy of compassion and justice. I think Christ would be found calling for oneness, peace, mercy and justice. He would be where the Samaritan stands. That is always where Christ is. So I stand with both Jew and Palestinian, with our brothers in Christ, and with all humanity hoping that they will come to Christ. I pray for the peace of Israel, and for the Palestinians, for the nations, and for the world.

What are your reflections? 

58 comments:

flendolyn said...

I have to admit that I was deeply concerned about meeting Stephen last night. I have found that his work erred on the side of causing division in ways that are unnecessary. For example - the title of his books / illustrations on the covers - are these helpful in a ministry of 'reconciliation'?
That said, after chatting briefly to him after the discussions last night, I found him to be warm, approachable, happy to discuss differences and appeared to have a real pastoral heart towards suffering people.
I do however continue to have difficulty with his theology. Forgive me as I'm just a student, so you'll be able to easily argue rings around me...
Stephen said he was concerned that another exile could happen - well, if he does not believe in an ethnic exile, just who is it that he is concerned will be exiled?
No mention was made of Romans 3, which follows on from saying that "a person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly" - i.e. the true Jew is one who has faith in Christ. But in spite of this it goes on to say "What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way!..."
If the church simply IS Israel, why would there be any advantage for a Jew to be circumcised? There is clearly in this mystery (to my mind anyway), something still happening with the Jewish people. In the same way that there is no longer male nor female under Christ - we are still very much male and female. So while I am in complete agreement that the body of Christ is 'one', it still contains two distinct groups of people.
I can't help but think that Sizer has allowed his experiences of seeing horrific sin committed by the Israeli people to dictate his reading of scripture. But that is a backwards process. He said at the end of the evening that he could not see God doing anything in the land because of the 'human rights atrocities' - do we not see God working throughout the OT in spite of the horrific sins of Israel? Why would our theology on God change based on what a people group do or do not do?
As for him setting up the 'best' of his viewpoint against the 'worst' of another... I'd fail a student for that. Poor scholarship. But I accept the point he made that such a view is of influence in the world.
A very interesting evening!

flendolyn said...

oh, and p.s. his point about the man in the good Samaritan story being naked & therefore unidentifiable... did he forget about circumcision ;)

Philip Church said...

Luke 21:24 is a fascinating verse. What it is silent on is what happens after the times of the gentiles. Many people assume that the times of the gentiles will be followed by the times of the Jews. The text says nothing about that. I like to read that text as suggesting that God has placed a limit on the time he permits the Gentiles to trample on Jerusalem. Marks puts it like this in exactly the same context. Take a llok at Mark 13:14-23 especally, v. 20. God has placed a limit on what the Gentiles can do to his city. In both Gospels the Son of Man comes in great glory after the judgment on Jerusalem. There is no hint of a "times of the Jews."

Jon Slack said...

OH - I have an answer to that one... What if Samaritans followed the same (well, similar) Pentateuch as the Jews, kept the commands, and were thus circumcised on the 8th day in accordance with the law of Moses? Therefore, looking at the naked man one could possibly tell whether or not he was a Gentile, but there was no way of knowing whether he was a Jew or Samaritan.

There are a number of articles out there about this sort of thing. One good one is called something along the lines of "What was the man wearing." I think its on EPSCO.

Blessings

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
God loves Israel. God’s call to Abraham in Genesis 12; 1-3 is the beginning of salvation history, and includes both universal and specific promises. For example, Psalm 105; 7-11 and Jeremiah 31; 35-37. This is because his love for Israel is the first expression of his love for all humanity. His eternal promises to Israel are not in conflict with this, but are a guarantee of it (Romans 11:16). They were called to be a nation of priests (Exodus 19:6), to show God’s ways to the rest of humanity.

Israel were called because God loved them (Deut 7: 8), rescued from slavery, given God’s laws and a good land, yet with all this they still sinned. They sinned to the point of killing his own dear son, Jesus. Israel shows us that we cannot make it to God through our own efforts, even with God’s own care and help, yet we fail. Now, is that then the end of the story, God’s love and promises thwarted by our weakness and sin? NO!, for as Paul tells us, in his discussion of Israel, “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” God’s love is greater than our sin.

Israel will say, given every divine help, we sinned, we turned our backs on God, we killed Jesus, yet that was not the limit of his love. In every generation a remnant were saved, and finally, “all Israel will be saved” (note this passage includes its own definition of Israel, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable.”)
On that day Israel will say; “We are monuments to the love and grace of God.”

Israel are saved when, as we find in Zechariah 12-13, they look on him whom they have pierced (conviction of sin), the mourn for him (repentance), and a fountain is opened for them for the removal of sin (baptism). That is, they are saved just the same way you and I are, just as they showed that we cannot reach God in our own strength, that the wages of sin is death, so they show that the free gift of God is eternal life, when all the nations of the earth come against them, they show the world the way of salvation (see above), and so fulfill their calling as a nation of priests (Zechariah 8:20-23).

At present, they have been re-gathered in unbelief, just as Scriptures says, are still sinning, just as you and I are, and need the gospel. At the same time, when I sin, when I let God down, when I wonder if God could ever forgive and use me again, I look at re-gathered Israel and take hope. If God has not given up on them, he will not give up on me. As a gentile Christian, I am glad God has re-gathered Israel, that he still cares for them and is working for their salvation.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
Jesus came to be both a light to the gentiles and for glory to his people Israel (Luke 2:32, quoting Isaiah). This is not an either or. He is both. The angel of God told Mary; “The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." Mary herself said; “He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." Zechariah, filled with the Holy Spirit said; “"Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago)”.

Paul states in Romans 15:8 that Jesus became a servant of the Jews in order to confirm the promises (plural) to the patriarchs (plural). Again Paul states of national Israel (Romans 9:4) “theirs are ... the promises”. (See also Peter in Acts 3:21). For just one of those promises, see Genesis 15: 18-21, 17:8, 28:13, 35:12.

See also Jeremiah 31:35-37; This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar-- the LORD Almighty is his name: "Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, "will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me." This is what the LORD says: "Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done," declares the LORD.,

and Psalm 105; 9-11. O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones. He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: "To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit."
Clearly these promises do not exhaust God’s mercy to them, but they are some of God’s promises to them. It is also only because of Jesus that those promises will be fulfilled, “for no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) This is the mercy and faithfulness of God.
As I said, God’s promises are in harmony, and support each other. Paul states that God will restore Israel in order that the gentiles might bless him – Romans 15:8-12; “For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written: "Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing hymns to your name." Again, it says, "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people." And again, "Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and sing praises to him, all you peoples." And again, Isaiah says, "The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him." This is Paul’s greatest collection of Old Testament promises, given to show that God always intended to bless both Jews and gentiles.

David and other Old Testament saints delighted in the knowledge that God would bless the gentiles. As the largely gentile church, we should also rejoice that God is also blessing the Jews! My earlier post reflected on some of these blessings for us, but we can also delight simply for the Jewish people themselves.

Mark Keown said...

I think the "until" (archri) suggests that Jerusalem will no longer be trampled on, that is what comes next. The question is, is that after the Parousia or was 1967 toward which the archri is pointed? In light of 1967, I tentatively suggest the latter, with humility.

Simon said...

Looking forward to hearing Stephen in Wellington next week.

Rob Nelson said...

Hi Flendolyn.
What an interesting name. Blessings on you for your post.
I am right with you in all you state. I am afraid if I was an unbeliever listening to the like of Stephen Sizer and Mark Keown I would have to conclude that the God they say they believe in and His word are not worth the paper its written on. Who would trust a God who makes a covenant and then dumps it. May as well be a Muslim. At least they believe their own book. Their failure to realise that Israel and the Church are two distinctly separate entities with two separate destinies is the root of their confusion. If Israel has been replaced then we may as well throw away at least the book of Revelation and the whole end times scenario. I see Mr Sizer as an apostate preacher who clearly shows his colours by the people he cheerfully mixes with like Arafat and his Iranian contacts. People whose sworn agenda is the TOTAL DESTRUCTION of Israel and all Jews worldwide. Any debate ends right there with the likes of Mr Sizer. Just because he is an erudite well-spoken articulate Englishman that appears as to be a "gentleman" etc means nothing. History is replete with people who are very elegant entertaining in their home but were fiends "at the office''. Nazi Germany had a few. We are exhorted to judge people by their fruits. To me he forsakes fellowship until he repents of his heresies that he is poisoning the church with. I am dismayed that people simply do not know their bibles well enough to be able refute his stand. The total lack of any reference to WHY Israel had the need to build a wall around two side to protect its citizens amazes me. If the Palestinian people want to have freedom, help and good relationships with Israel it's simple. Stop trying to kill them with their rockets and suicide bombers. But, that will never happen. Scripture is quite clear where it is all going. War is on the way and we Christians had better be prepared to make up our minds just what we believe and why. A great deal of bloodshed is inevitable and I believe our Lord desire us to be ready to defend and help His Jewish people as the Ten Boom family did in WWII. The attack on them will not be just in Israel but world wide including New Zealand and Australia.
Blessings on you for having the courage to challenge the above. Believe me, just because people have PhD's and H2SO4's or whatever after their name is NO GUARANTEE of anything, especially when it is scripture that is being discussed. Jesus warned us that apostasy is inevitable and we are seeing it now. Trust in the Holy Spirit and prayer and fasting if your stuck on understanding. The Lord delights to answer us personally and it does wonders for our faith.
Rob Nelson
Feilding

Kublai7777 said...

Here is another perspective:

I have read Rabbis who ask: "Can you call yourself a Jew if you do not love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength?" So Jews and Christians are not so far apart.

In 1st Century Judaism, circumcision had become part of a proselytization process. Following God meant becoming part of the Jewish people. The way to do it was to be circumcised, to give a gift at the temple and to be baptised.

There is evidence to suggest that Paul uses the word "Circumcision" idiomatically to refer to the proselytization process. Therefore, could he be meaning that a follower shouldn't undergo proselytization in order to be counted as a member of the People of God? Is it possible that he is not saying that one shouldn't be circumcised in order to be "saved" but he expects that one would be circumcised as an act of obedience to the Torah? Some say only Jews should be Torah observant. Are they making the same mistake and saying that obedience to Torah is an ethnic marker?

The whole issue of ethnicity is a red herring.

What makes Jews distinctive is the adherence to the Torah. What makes Christians distinctive should also be adherence to the Torah. Paul speaks of the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile being removed. If so, it can be soundly argued that Torah obedience should be for the new converts as much as it is for the "Jew".

A respected Jewish rabbi Isidor Zwirn wrote that Christians have misunderstood Paul. He would know when we have understood him when we as Christians can celebrate Passover with him and say sincerely that it was our ancestors who also witnessed the ten plagues, the drowning of the Egyptian army and participated in the crossing of the Red Sea.

Ultimately Jews and Gentiles under God are the same. Torah Observance will make their customs converge until they are indistinguishable. I would bet that the rest of the world would consider them all "Jews" for want of a better term, because our worship would be so similar.

There are Jews that argue that there has never been a race called the Jews. If you look upon the Jewish people today, they come from all kinds of ethnicities. To consider them a separate race is to make the same mistake as Hitler.

If we are the same in worship, and study then are we not heirs to the same promises? This then leads us to a context in which might think of the Land of Israel. Has God not promised that He would gather them (us) all back in again?

Finally, I'm all for a God of peace, compassion, grace and mercy. But I also believe in a God of judgment and justice. Does grace and mercy mean that no one will ever be judged? Does grace and mercy mean that even though there is clear evidence that your enemy presents a deadly threat that you lead your children out and put the knife in his hand? That is surely what we will have if we require Israel to open its borders, disarm its troops and hold "free" elections. We will consign Jewish citizens to Dhimmitude under a Sharia Regime or else they will be progressively expelled and they will be wandering the earth once more looking for a home.

If you want to see what might happen, study the history of the Christian community in Bethlehem under Palestinian rule. The Christian population there is a fraction of what it once was. Why?

The Arabs use the term Palestinian as a politically correct way to further their idea of an Arab-dominated world.

flendolyn said...

I'm not sure I can agree with you on all you've said, and I think it's very important that we dialogue with gentleness. After meeting Stephen I found him to be warm & genuinely caring. I disagree with his theology, but I don't doubt his sincerity & love for God.

flendolyn said...

interesting idea, thanks :)

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

Do yourselves a favor and read what Dalton Thomas has concisely put together about the flawed nature of Supercessionism. He has dealt a death blow to the corrupt ideology. Now advocates of suppercessionism are only able to emotionally waffle around the issue, as their core belief in the nature of the Abrahamic Covenant has been exposed to be at fault.

http://thecontroversyofzion.com/2011/09/the-everlasting-covenant-and-the-possession-of-the-land-of-israel-why-territorial-supercessionism-should-be-abandoned/

http://thecontroversyofzion.com/2011/09/the-everlasting-covenant-and-the-possession-of-the-land-of-israel-part-two-the-covenant-as-it-was-first-declared-to-abraham/

http://thecontroversyofzion.com/2011/09/the-everlasting-covenant-and-the-possession-of-the-land-of-israel-part-three-three-foundational-dimensions-of-the-abrahamic-covenant/

Who are you going to believe The Word of God or the word of man?

David,

my id tag: 'Frank Ritchie's favourite enemy'

flendolyn said...

Hi David,

I'm not sure what you're meaning with your last line. Frank's a good friend of mine, we disagree on this issue, but I feel the need to stand up for him. I think it's important that as the church we try to fulfil Jesus' prayer that we are unified. We can disagree without setting ourselves against one another.

Grace & peace,
flendolyn.

Frank Ritchie said...

Thank you, Rachel.

David, I do not consider you an enemy and would be saddened if that is how you view me. If I considered all those I disagreed with to be enemies, my social world would be boring and have little colour ;)

Mark Keown said...

Hi Rob. Good for you for putting your name to your post, so many simply go with anon... respect.

I am not sure you get what Stephen Sizer and indeed the apostle Paul are saying. The point is not that the covenant is revoked, it is fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus fulfils the covenant of Abraham. He is the one seed of Abraham (as Paul says in Gal 3), in which the covenant of Abraham is fulfilled. When we believe in him, we are children of Abraham, like Zaccheaus, check out Rom 4

Sizer's view is also the theology of John Calvin and the Reformed faith which many many Christians have agreed with for centuries. So the covenant is not dumped at all, it is fulfilled in Christ.

Whether you like it or not, there are different ways of understanding Scripture and it is not heresy. Luther, Calvin, John Knox, N.T. Wright, these are great Christian thinkers, and agree on this stuff.

The theology you are running with is actually a recent historical innovation in the 18th century up to today--Dispensationalism. One wonder why it took 1800 years for Christians to find it?

No-one is saying Israel is replaced. Israel is those believers in God from before Christ (like Abraham who wasn't a Jew, he was a Gentile), and all Jewish and Christian believers in Christ since. We are joined into Israel which is Israel not by descent, but by faith, that is the argument of Rom 4 and 11.

I do think all of us should be careful in calling in people apostate, because such a statement is very provocative and opens us up to God's rebuke if we are wrong. If Sizer is reading Paul correctly, as many scholars would believe, then you are also calling the Apostle Paul an apostate as well. Interesting possibility.

I wouldn't parallel Stephen Sizer with the Nazi's either, he is truly a good Christian man who repudiates violence and injustice. He is not against Israel, he is pro-Israel, he just wants them to go back to the 1967 borders or allow the Palestinians full democratic rights in Israel. He also repudiates terrorism.

Jesus told us to be careful to take the planks out of our own eyes and then we will see clearly to take the specks out of others. Just a thought. In the same passage he called us not to stand in judgment over others.

Stephen Sizer does not endorse anything like the holocaust, he is for justice, compassion and love--are these not what Jesus was about? Thanks anyway for putting your name to your post, I respect your courage and zeal for standing up for the truth as you see it, it is just that other Christians disagree. You will find that through life, Christians don't agree with each other on everything, but that is ok, it is the central doctrines of the faith that matter.

I really encourage you to read the great theologians of history, like Augustine, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, Barth, N.T. Wright, McGrath and others, and you will find that there have always been arguments about fine details. Anyway, God bless. Mark.

Mark Keown said...

Yes, I get into this in my lectures on this passage. Everything depends on what he could see from a distance. The key thing is that the priest and levite moved as far away as possible after seeing and hurried off. The Samaritan "saw" and went straight to him, whatever his nationality. He loved his enemies, as should we.

Mark Keown said...

Thanks for sharing and with grace. Enjoyed your perspective.

Mark Keown said...

Thanks for your viewpoint, every blessing, Mark.

Anonymous said...

You guys wreck all my private jets.

Here I am chuckling away at 'taking the liberty' to unofficially identify myself as 'Frank's favourite enemy' and there you are, getting all emotional on me. In all honesty I would consider it an honorary position to be Frank's favorite enemy, one I'm probably not deserving of. (admittedly there's some worthy competition with Austin at the moment, although I can't help but feel he wouldn't be showering with Frank unless I hadn't triggered this hullabaloo in the first place). In all reality it's more likely to be a psychological trick I'm playing consisting of self flattery and the attempt to secure just one tiny source of love in this boring colourless world. After all if Frank doesn't love his enemy, who does?

brrrr... it's cold.

Sit down flendo... achel, don't feel the need to stand up every time Frank enters the room, if I did that I'd be up and down all day. I know Frank is a good friend of yours but as the saying goes "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." All this to say that Frank and I cling to one another's bosom and I can assure you there is no room between us for anything other than disagreements. If you could browse through all of the Kodak moments we have shared, it would be the very picture of the end times, hipster, Church. Of course we may disagree on the definition of 'Church' but don't let that put you off.

P.S. I think you would love Dalton Thomas, all of his teachings are freely available online http://daltonthomas.org/

Adiós amigos,

David

Anonymous said...

Psst Frank,

What happened to your device? and more importantly what happened to your reply to Austin?

David

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark.
I should add I am the writer of the above and below comments, different to the anonymous of the later comments in this discussion.

Frank Ritchie said...

David, for some reason my iPad seems be limiting how long my responses can be in some blogs. It gets so far and then freezes.

I deleted that whole thread because honestly I'm tired originally had the intention to respond fully but after some reflection I don't have the space or energy to go back and forth over and over again on this issue - it's only one part of what I do and when an spend time trying to respond fully to long comments, that time has to come from somewhere... it's just not a priority so I won't be engaging in those lengthy discussions on my blog. As explained to you, it's not the intent of that blog.

Anonymous said...

Hi David,

I hate to interrupt you while you're clinging to Frank's bosom but
Dalton Thomas's book "The Controversy of Zion and the Time of Jacob's Trouble: The Final Suffering and Salvation of the Jewish People" is currently free on kindle through Amazon.
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005IZJT8G/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_ask_AcFhD.153EBSC

Skye

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

"No-one is saying Israel is replaced"... No but that is exactly what you're meaning when you recontextualized the word "fulfilled". "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." hmmm no mention the Abrahamic Covenant. A linguistic 'sleight of hands' such as this isn't convincing or even remotely intellectual. The language changes but the supercessionist ideology remains. Dalton Thomas says:

> Despite the fact that the writers of the New Testament go out of their way to confirm the efficacy and perpetual nature of the Abrahamic covenant (as in Gal. 3:17, Rom. 11:29, Heb. 6:13, etc.) some argue that it has been modified, redefined, abrogated, revised, replaced, or reconfigured (all their words) to the extent that physical Land is no longer to be considered a part of God’s covenantal program or historical and eschatological plan. And even though the New Testament distinguishes the “everlasting” Abrahamic covenant (1 Chron. 16:15-18) from the temporal Mosaic covenant that was “added” later (Gal. 3:19), many notable scholars and prominent leaders ignore this distinction speaking of both as “obsolete” (inappropriately citing Hebrews 8:13).

You can add 'fulfilled' to that list.

Imagine if Steve Tollestrup calls Frank Ritchie into his office one day and said "Frank, TEARfund have decided to employ Stephen Sizer as the Education and Advocacy Manager. The contract we had with you will remain the same but Stephen Sizer will fulfill your role. We would like it if you still came to work, but you will no longer have the same job description. Regarding the possession of the company car, although in our contract we said it was yours forever, we now think that everyone in the company should have access to it, and since you will no longer have a role to fulfill you probably won't be needing it much, if at all. Also as not to mess up the paperwork we won't make any mention of this, on your contract. Please don't think of us having replaced you Frank, it is more a case of your role is better fulfilled in Stephen. Be comforted by the wise words "One Sizer fits all".

Chin-up Frank, I'd stick up for you :-)

Oh and by the way, there aren't dispensationalist's hiding behind every olive tree, Mark. Speaking of olive trees I recommend you stick to the original instructions the Man gave you to avoid any thistles growing around the base.

David

Anonymous said...

Hi Frank,
honestly, that doesnt sound good. On Stephen's blog you say you have spent nearly three weeks with him, and that the trip was a success because it opened up the discussion - you repeat that "continuing dialogue" is what you want, then not only fail to respond to serious questions, but take the whole thread off your blog (so people cannot see the original complaint?). You have moved from dialogue is good and I'll invest three weeks on this and I want TEAR to be more involved, sponsoring new groups, to I wont respond to comments, its not a priority.

Anonymous said...

I dont wish to impose on Mark's blog any further, as this is incidental to his discussion, but could anyone tell me of a more general Christian blog in New Zealand where this discussion might more appropriately be continued?
Thanks.

Frank Ritchie said...

I didn't say I have no time for the conversation, I'm simply talking about the nature of conversing on my blog.

Years of conversing on blogs has taught me that there is no end to how much time I can spend in back and forth discussions that go nowhere. I now place a lot more emphasis on face to face discussions with people I meet and get to know. I used to spend too much time on blogging and it was taking away from my family who are far more important to me than blog commenters who sit behind the safety of their screens making accusations - hence I shifted to a format that deman less conversation through blogging.

For that reason, I will respond to the latest comment from Austin, give it 24 hours to be read and then I will be shutting down the commenting system on my blog. I know myself and I know how easily I will personally get sucked deep into the rabbit hole and shift time away from my family if I don't. That's not supposed to be a dismissal of anyone or any thoughts, it's about protecting my space. That doesn't mean I'm avoiding dialogue or pulling out of the conversation, it just means I'm not involved in it in spaces where you may want me to be.

Frank Ritchie said...

My response to Austin's concerns are up as well as my personal explanation as to why I don't want long, drawn out discussions on my blog. The response will be there for a limited time before I close the commenting system on my blog. http://frank-ritchie.com/post/23192552121/this-morning-i-took-the-time-to-catch-up-with-a

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you could try http://israel.co.nz/

It has a robust moderation policy though, ie No Frank and No Sizer. Which I find disappointing as that would have been an ideal location. Anyhow some of the people here look as if they enjoy the theological dimension to the discussion.

David

Mark Keown said...

Keep talking here is you like, I don't mind.

Frank Ritchie said...

Commenting on my blog has now been turned off since the appropriate person read my response :) It didn't take 24 hours.

Anonymous said...

The relevant bit of my original post is as follows;
TEAR NZ are however involved in the Palestinian territories, where, rather than supporting Afghani literacy programs, poverty alleviation or basic health care, they support (sent $63,000 last year to) something called The Holy Land Trust. According to the HLT web site they aim to be “a global model and pillar of understanding, respect, justice, equality and peaceful coexistence.” TEAR NZ worker Frank Ritchie indeed describes them as working for peace and reconciliation, and trying to bring both sides together. He sees the Palestinian Christians as heroes, and hopes that Israelis looking over the wall will see the Palestinian church as catalysts for peace. Sound good until you get into the actual details.
Its executive director, Sami Awad has reportedly stated that non-violent demonstrations are “not a substitute for the armed struggle.” Furthermore, the HTL has signed off on calls for the international community to totally boycott Israeli goods (something Stephen Sizer would apparently oppose), and also to boycott all Israeli academics, and supports the so called ‘right of return’, which means they will never accept the continuation of Israel as it presently exists. Refusing to talk with Israeli academics, asking everyone to boycott Israel and seeking its destruction... this will bring both sides together?? The Israelis will feel the love and see this as a catalyst for peace?? Their Leadership Development Programme actually states; “Since the death of Yasser Arafat, there has been a tangible absence of visionary leadership in Palestine” Are they seriously suggesting Yassir as a role model of visionary leadership, the type they want to copy?
After reading that TEAR NZ was giving them money, I looked up the HTL web site (on 13/5/2012). Here I found one of their main emphases was on broadcasting news about Palestine through their own news service, the PNN. Its goal was “producing unbiased and professional journalism that would be set apart from much of the one-sided, often sensational coverage that dominated news both about and from the Holy Land.” Again, a worthwhile idea. So I went to its web page, and read the following article which they had chosen to feature, as they apparently believe it deserves wider circulation (excepts below);
We Must Not Betray Our Suspended Martyrs

Published on Tuesday, 08 May 2012 08:38
By Khaled Amayreh
... our political and resistance prisoners in Israeli dungeons and concentration camps represents the last and ultimate form of Jihad or resistance against a nefarious, sadistic enemy that excels like nobody else in the arts of torture and oppression... Many of them fought or tried to fight an enemy that had learned from, emulated and surpassed its Nazi mentors, by trying to demonize and dehumanize our people, especially those great heroes, by calling them terrorists when the deformed, evil entity represents the essence of terror and all that is evil... the Nazis of our time, namely these Zionist beasts who have introduced into our region everything they had learned from their Nazi mentors-from mass starvation to genocidal killings... Besides, we who have been living under the Nazi-like Israeli occupation know too well the extent to which the Zionist entity can be callous and diabolical. ..
This is what it means to be “a global model and pillar of understanding, respect, justice, equality and peaceful coexistence.”? Israelis are “Zionist beasts”, worse than the Nazis, the essence of all that is evil, and are engaging in genocide? Promoting this will make the Israelis looking over the wall see the Palestinian church as catalysts for peace??
Supporting this filth is however a higher priority for TEAR NZ than the starving in the Sahel, because again, money which could have gone to the Sahel has been given rather to it.

Anonymous said...

Yah yah Skye,

I have alrady downloaded it and the free kindle download from amazon. This Dalton Thomas guy is fully anointed.

David

Anonymous said...

Hey Frank,

now you have so much free time, feast your eyes on this...

http://daltonthomas.org/2011/03/24/understanding-the-future-age-ending-time-of-unequaled-tribulation-and-the-foolishness-of-preterism/#more-1601

It's time you cast off that hipster preterist cloak once and for all ;-)

David

Anonymous said...

He and Derek Prince teach the bible very clearly.
It really is so simple my four year old could understand the meaning of God's covenant to Abraham. Yet theologians and people that should know better stumble around in complete confusion over these things.
Skye

Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

"I also wonder whether, despite my reading of Rom 9-11 whether there remains some mystery around God’s final dealings with his people—did he sacrifice his nation as well as his son to save the world? Who knows—such things are beyond me. Perhaps they were beyond Paul?"

No way, Come On! Beyond Paul? Seriously Mark? No way Jose... listen to the first of these... It's an introduction for goodness sake.

http://daltonthomas.org/category/introduction-to-israel-and-the-end-times/

This is simple Mark... listen to it and please please please reply with your thoughts. Have one of Franks special coffee's, wake up and engage your brain and your spirit, gain clarity. You are a New Testament lecturer, show us what you've got. Give me something to celebrate this week.

David

Anonymous said...

‎Malcolm Hedding's refutation of the film "With God On Our Side."

http://malcolmhedding.com/israel-update.html

David.

Anonymous said...

"Is Israel an Evil Occupier?" What I would consider compulsory viewing if you think Sizer is wiser. There's also a part 3 with Q&A section.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxg1Yma4RqA&feature=player_embedded

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