Since September 11, there has been a growing coalition between Jews and evangelicals. And in the past few days, we have seen evangelicals rush to support Israel in its war against Hamas and Hezbollah.
The Israel/evangelical alliance highlights the complexity of being a religious person. Religion is not just about spirituality, beliefs, and theology; it’s about life, culture, politics–in short, it’s not just doctrine, it’s a lifeworld that’s all-encompassing. That said, here are my two cents on the new Jewish/Israeli evangelical alliance.
Jews and Israelis should embrace and befriend evangelicals. Israel can use every friend it can get. However, we also have to be honest and explain to them what worries us about their theology.
You see, since the Holocaust we have been telling Catholics and mainline Protestants that theology matters. Christian superssesionism played in a role in the murdering of six million and the countless other pogroms and attacks on Jews for over two thousand years. No, we said, it’s not good enough to just say I am sorry and be vigilant against anti-Semitism. If you want to be our friends than make a long term commitment to change your theology, change your doctrine and change the texts depicting us in ugly ways. With Vatican II the Church took giant leaps forward in correcting its theological position regarding Jews.
On the other hand, many evangelicals who support Israel continue to hold on to the theological doctrine of pre-millennial dispensationalism. This theory begins was developed by an Englishman, John Nelson Darby, who taught in the 1830s and 1840s that Christians would be taken instantaneously out of the world in the “Rapture” before Christ returns. Darby’s views became known as dispensationalism,” because he divided God’s dealing with mankind in history into three consecutive “dispensations.”
The first dispensation was the Mosaic law, through which God offered salvation to the Jews through the observance of His commandments. This age closed with the coming of Christ, who instituted the age of Grace, in which God became preoccupied with Christians. The third and final stage will begin with the return of Jesus, who will establish his reign upon the earth.
Jesus’ return is preconditioned, however, by an ingathering of exiles and a return of the Jews to Israel were the hearts will be cleansed and they will all either die or convert to Christianity. Hmmmmmmm.
When we accept evangelical support without making it known to them that we find their theological outlook problematic and unacceptable, we sacrifice long term reconciliation for short term political gains.