King's Evangelical Divinity School

14 August 2014

Christians and Modern Israel: Theologically complicated? Maybe. Ethically? Not so much

Source: BBC Online

Once again conflict in the Middle East raises that perennial question: How should Christians view and respond to the modern State of Israel? Debate focuses on several issues Western Christianity has traditionally grappled with, for example, the sanctity of life, when is war justified, theodicy (why God allows suffering), and what did Christ mean when He taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers”.

Yet that same Christ, or Messiah (“Christ” is derived from the Greek for “Messiah”, Hebrew “Mashiach”) was Jewish, from a nation God called His own. And one day this Jewish Messiah will return, not like before, as a lamb led meekly to His death, but as Conquering King, a Davidic King. This and their theological view that God retains a plan for the Jewish people likewise shape how some Christians view today’s Jewish state. Add to that a long, shameful history of the Church’s maltreatment of the Jews and brutal anti-Semitism and it becomes clear that Christians need to get this issue right.

Christian theology exploring Israel and the Jewish people tends to focus on discussions such as who are the people of God, whether God retains a plan and purpose for them, who owns the land, and the role, if any, of Israel in eschatology (theology of the end times). Yet for theologically uninitiated Christians it can all be quite complex, even bewildering. Few have the time, resources or in some cases even the inclination to grapple with, for example, concepts such as supersessionism (whether hard or soft, punitive, economic, or whatever), covenant theology versus dispensationalism, or the number, nature and present status of the Old Testament covenants. In a busy, time-precious, postmodern-influenced world, people seek short, simple, sometimes emotive, yet definitely compelling narratives that quickly communicate their beliefs and values.

7 August 2014

When Are Some Fatalities More Newsworthy Than Others?


In the last few weeks major media outlets have, between them, broadcast thousands upon thousands of hours of footage of the Gaza conflict. Yet coverage of the Syrian civil war, a far more bloody and destructive conflict, has been far less forthcoming. This would appear to be somewhat disproportionate given how last week roughly the same number of people (1,700) were killed in Syria as throughout the entire four-week Gaza war. 

The Islamic State terror (a.k.a ISIL/ISIS) is engaged in wholesale slaughter in the most brutal manner of Iraqis and now Kurds. Yet up until now there seems to have been only cursory media interest, which seems by and large to focus on what this means for the re-mapping of the region, rather than the very real horrors experienced first-hand by ordinary men, women and children. There has also been a notable silence on how radicalised protesters across Europe have openly waved ISIS flags at anti-Israel events. It seems hardly insignificant that some people living among us openly eulogise a terror organisation that regularly saws off people's heads and hands with kitchen knives, but if the media's (lack of) focus on the issue is anything to go by, it would appear this should not concern us unduly. 

Last month, when thousands of Christians were ejected from Mosul, Iraq, by ISIS jihadis it barely raised a squeak in the news. Indeed, some Americans first learned of it on Facebook because of a notable absence of reports on the issue in mainstream media. Related to this exodus is the current, tenuous situation of the Yazidi religion, currently under siege from ISIS with many taking refuge on a mountain top (where people are right now dying of thirst). It seems strange that up to 50,000 Yazidis will almost certainly die if ISIS gets their hands on them, yet up until now these Iraqis seem to have fared only slightly better than their Christian neighbours in the media's grand scheme of things.

21 January 2014

London Eschatology Conference

King's Evangelical Divinity School and Chosen People Ministries UK are jointly organising a conference to be held in London in October.

Entitled Thy Kingdom Come: A Conference on the Bible, Theology and the Future, the event includes well-known theological speakers, including Derek Tidball, Craig Blaising and Darrell Bock. Full details are available at the even website - www.thykingdomcome.org.uk. There is also a Facebook page which you are invited to Like to help get the word around. 

The organisers have also issues a call for papers. More details here.

10 October 2013

Excellent Video Resources on Israel and the Middle East


Last week a major conference entitled The People, the Land and the Future of Israel was held in New York. The event, organised by Chosen People Ministries, headed by Dr Mitch Glaser, brought together various well-known and respected Evangelical scholars with hundreds of publications between them to explore the issue of Israel and the Middle East conflict from an Evangelical perspective. 

The conference explored these issues from various angles and theological subdisciplines, including biblical theology, church history, systematics, practical theology, political theology and ministry. Importantly, this excellent collection of valuable resources by these distinguished speakers was filmed and is now available online for viewing here

I would strongly encourage all Evangelicals, regardless of their position on Israel, to view these videos and engage with the arguments and positions presented. For too long (with important exceptions), there have been too few scholarly resources available to respond to a new and somewhat aggressive expression of supersessionism doing the rounds within Evangelical circles during the past two or so decades. But in recent years this has begun to change, and these videos represent another valuable resource for Christians of all persuasions seeking to eschew the polemics of the current debate and instead explore the issues objectively and open-mindedly. These videos provide such people with an alternative, non-pejorative viewpoint by scholars who are experts in their field, and as such they merit attention.

16 August 2013

Mitch Glaser on the Release of Palestinian Prisoners

President of Chosen People Ministries and Messianic leader Dr Mitch Glaser reflects on this week's release of Palestinian prisoners to further peace talks in the region. After highlighting the crimes committed by the released prisoners and the impact of their release upon the victims' families, he writes:
Israel is often characterized by world opinion – and by some evangelical Christians – as a nation that acts unjustly and lacks compassion. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth, and the release of the prisoners is clear evidence of the extent to which Israeli leaders are willing to go to achieve peace. 
I am not going to try and paint Israel or the Jewish people as perfect or without moral blemish. We are all sinners – both individuals and nations. However, since there has been so much criticism of Israel in recent days, I think it is important to show that Israel and its leaders have gone far beyond what even most citizens of Israel would believe to be just and fair. 
What other nation in recent days has released its convicted prisoners or offered them early “parole,” as the Israeli government is describing the nature of their actions? 
These controversial decisions on the part of the Israeli leadership will be debated for years and perhaps centuries. I do not believe that the Israeli leadership views the release of the prisoners as forgiveness, nor necessarily an act of compassion, even though in some cases this might be the case – especially for the more elderly prisoners.
I assume the release of the prisoners was enacted for the sake of political expediency in hopes that the release will lead towards peace. We might not know the answer to this for a number of years, and even if some type of peace comes about as a result of this effort – many will still feel that the price for peace was too high.
I am writing these reflections to demonstrate to Evangelical Christians who have been so very critical of Israel lately that Israeli leaders are willing to do what might be viewed as reprehensible and politically inexpedient, simply in order move the peace process forward. 
Really, this is all about the character of Israeli leadership and of the people of Israel. Look at the great lengths to which they have gone to show good faith in the peace process. There will be continued controversy over the next few days regarding Israel’s moving forward with housing settlements in Gilo and regarding the recent air strike, destroying the Hamas rocket launcher that was aiming missiles into Israel from Gaza. The antagonists of Israel will focus on these things and miss the fact that the leadership of Israel has risked the soul of the nation for the sake of peace. 
I believe that evangelical Christians, especially those that have been so opposed to Israel in recent days and have accused Israel of being unjust, need to pause and reconsider their position in light of the renewed tears shed by the families of those who were murdered – and the cheers and celebrations by the communities of those who were released.  
Read Mitch Glaser's comment in full on his blog.

22 July 2013

Wayne Hilsden endorses JMINS

Wayne Hilsden, Lead Pastor of the King of Kings Community Jerusalem, has endorsed the new revised and expanded edition of The Jews, Modern Israel and the New Supersessionism. He writes:
I am deeply grateful to Dr. Calvin Smith and the fine collection of scholars who have presented their case. The Jews, Modern Israel and the New Supersessionism will be one of my reference works for years to come. Where one lands in relation to the theory of supersessionism can impact not only the fate of Jewish people still in unbelief, but also those who profess to follow Jesus the Messiah. So I exhort the reader to be concerned not only about the theological debate, but also how supersessionism has the potential to profoundly affect eternal consequences.
The endorsement (together with others and details of where to buy) can be found on the book pageMore on Wayne Hilsden's further involvement in this book project shortly!