King's Evangelical Divinity School

10 November 2011

That TV Debate

As some of you know, last night I participated in a live television debate with Stephen Sizer, vicar/pastor of Christ Church, Virginia Water and author of several books on Christian Zionism. It was good to meet Stephen at last and discuss some of the issues. I also appreciate the very many kind words received from so many people via email, text and phone since. Other than expressing the odd opinion on a news clip I've never been on TV before, so I was initially a little nervous, but by the end I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I thought the debate was good-natured and interesting and I hope viewers found it informative and helpful. Anyway, I have permission to distribute the recording so in due course I'll upload the entire ninety-minute discussion here. Thanks again for all your kind words and encouragement.


Andrew Sibley said...

I thoutght you both conducted yourselves very well and it is good to encourage respectful dialogue. Hopefully it will provide some food for thought all round and overcome polarised views.

Anonymous said...

Although I lean toward replacement theology I want to thank you for taking part in last nights debate Calvin. I found it very informative and helpful. I think we have much in common with moderate Christian Zionists like yourself in our approach to modern day Israel.I hope these can be explored whilst debate continues on the biblical place of Israel today so the church can grow together in understanding. Blessings.

Adrian Glasspole said...

Really good debate. Sizer was squirming as you yook him to task over his rhetoric.
You showed that there is no Biblical basis for any supercessionist position, while not battering him!

Anonymous said...

I thought you both did well . I thought Mr Sizer made a very interesting point regarding how many people of God are there . That was the only time I really saw you struggle but you also made some good points such as picking him up on trying to match John 15 with Romans 11 i.e. equating the vine to an olive tree ( You will know what I mean I'm sure )

LeeW said...

Devastated I didn't get to hear the debate. I got my dates completely wrong! I was expecting to lsiten to it this morning (I'm in Australia). I only realised last night when my daughter pointed out that I was a day ahead of myself!!! Anyway, I definitely look forward to listening to it once it's uploaded :)

Gary M. said...

I looked forward with great anticipation to the debate. At first I agreed with the other comments here. Later I felt I discerned a spirit of deception operating. I feel Stephen did not fully disclose, misrepresented, or appeared to soften some of his positions (in order to come across as reasonable and likable in what he probably thought was a hostile environment for himself?) All of us were encouraged by the civility of the discussion but not wary of deception. I would suggest any further discussions should address two other issues in order to expose key issues: differing positions on eschatology and radical Islam. How can the discussion of Israel's shortcomings in treatment of the Palestinians be in view without an understanding of her existential threat from radical Islam? These topics are huge in their impact of understanding Israel biblicly and Israel's actions on the ground.

Anonymous said...

Gary M I agree, rev sizer really did alter his position, Calvin noted it when he said, 'that is not what you say in your books'.

It seems that some evangelicals are only concerned that people are polite to each other, and the one who is the politest wins, rather than what is the truth! Maybe this is just the terrible polite English culture that binds us to the veneration of politeness!

Here are more examples of rev Sizer adapting his presentation to his audience

Anonymous said...

Lee, I missed it too. I am hopeless at working out what time it is in England to here in Australia. Can't wait for it to be uploaded. I will let everyone one know when it gets uploaded so that those who missed it can watch it.

It sounds like the debate went well Calvin. I am really looking forward to watching it when its available.

Andrew Sibley said...

It is availavble to watch here on Stephen's blog


Calvin L. Smith said...

Hi, thanks for all your comments and kind words. Andrew, thanks for the link. It's now also available on my site here:

(It even made it to Sweden somehow:

Calvin L. Smith said...

Sincere apologies! Just deleted in error a comment posted by Sandi (my big fat fingers trying to navigate a titchy iPhone). Sandi, please re-post (and many thanks for your kind words).

Nev McCormack said...

The above comments about Sizer's supposed deception are unhelpful and unfair. Are people not allowed to change their minds anymore?! These issues are complex and the stakes for theology and praxis are quite high. I personally find it encouraging that Sizer is willing to hold his views tentatively and be open to further exploration rather than claiming to have everything worked out in a neat and tidy formula which quashes all honest questions and forecloses all discussion with a 'thus saith the Lord' attitude. And let's not forget that Sizer's position is surely the majority view and that on the whole he is fairly moderate with it.

John Chingford said...

Hi Calvin

I have just watched the video from your blog.

There is a much bigger issue going on rather than replacementism. Through intense research looking into reformed theology, I have discovered that the root of replacementism lies at the door of Martin Luther and then John Calvin.

I find it quite humorous that you Calvin take an anti Calvin position and Stephen Sizer clearly takes a Calvin position, although he disagrees with you.

Anyway, back to the point. Those like Stephen Sizer (who are Calvinists or reformists) are heavily influenced by reformed theology. These people have been brainwashed into Calvin's systematic theology carrying preconceived ideas into their bible studies. Therefore, it is incredibly difficult for such people to be open to changing their minds because they are so convinced in Calvinist theology RATHER than Biblical theology.

Therefore, it is not surprising that they take an allegorical viewpoint on Israel.

I am not sure if you noticed, but (if you rewatch the debate) I think you will now notice that Stephen was speaking mostly from his reformed theological position and was fighting hard to maintain that position although he was also trying to be friendly. I think he may have made some smaller concessions (in the name of friendliness) without yielding his reformed position and also not conceding on the much bigger issues.

Anyway, this is my review.

God bless

Garry said...

I found the debate was much more civil than I expected from what I know of Sizers background on the Israel position. I took some exception to his saying zionists want to hasten the coming of Christ by striking Iran. On the contrary Iran's religious leaders think they can hasten the return of the 12th Iman by destroying Israel, and of course the U.S. also. But as we all know His soon return is in His timing and all things happen for His glory.
God Bless. Garry

Sam said...

All should watch a very enlightening film showing how Cyrus I Scofield has sowed the seeds of apostasy by watching an hour-long film at:

Guy said...

Hi-good debate, although many things were left unsaid/unresolved. Another debate needed I feel. For me Sizers theology would be correct and is correct if there was no such thing as the millennium rule of Christ! Abraham and all of us are looking away from the world and looking for our heavenly home. But and its a big but, God the Father still has the earthly covenants and promises to fulfill first. Jesus HAS to reign as the son of David from Jerusalem over the entire earth and according to the book of Revelation this will happen upon His return and will last 1,000 years. This is what the whole earthly restoration of Israel is all about. I feel that this is where the rubber hits the road and that it is this earthly reign of Jesus that needs to be addressed in order for replacement theologists to understand why the Lord is bringing about this physical restoration.

LeeW said...

I have now watched it all and to be honest I got the same impression as others have already commented on, namely, that Stephen appeared to be a little deceptive/ellusive. I hope I am wrong and that he is indeed as open as he made out but I was'nt convinced. I feel Mr Sizer could be a bit of a chameleon in that he changes his appearance/attitude to fit in with the environment. I am more than open to being proven wrong.

However, overall, it was a good debate although it got too political at times and that wasn't the intention. Stephen didn't seem to be able to answer some of Calvins question and thus resorted to some "ducking and diving"!

To give credit to Stephen I thought his comment that "he would go anywhere to preach the good news" was brilliant and is what we should all be about. Having said that, I do think he is position on ethnic Israel is flawed. Without going into too much detail I recommend the book "The Jews, Modern Israel and the New Supercessionism". There are some outstanding essays in this book and I beleive it gives a very balanced view of this "hot topic"!

Calvin and Stephen, I truly hope and pray you get the opportunity to debate things further.
God bless,

Brendan said...

Hi Folks,

I think Nev makes a good point, by stating that Stephen's view is in the majority of 'christian thinking'. I know if you had to consider opinions globally, then perhaps most Christians would erroneously believe that they replace Israel with respect to God's covenantal promises. Sadly, a 'cultural' belief is that "Yes" Israel does inherit their 'promised land', but "No" they lose out in the inherited promises made to them by God - mainly because they rejected Christ. This is obviously based on a small fragement of New Testement scripture, which I think may underpin the supercessioninst viewpoint.
I do think stastistics may indicate a bigger percentage of supercessionists globally, however, this may be soley down to arithmetic - as more conservative Christians probably are supercessionists within Europe, i.e. due to Roman Catholicism's influence.

Mr Hyde said...

Calvin, I think you acquitted pretty well even though you were nervous. You were more gracious than I could be. If you ever get another chance at him, I hope you nail him on Acts 1:3-7. How he has the gumption to use these verses to support his conclusion is a testament to his RT myopia - John Calvin notwithstanding.

Oh, and it appears that Jacob Prasch is still waiting for Sizer's elusive phone call for that debate.

Luc Henrist said...

Mr. Smith, I am writing from Belgium. My wife and I lived in Israel for about 10 years and I was pastoring a Messianic Congregation there (even though I am not jewish...) and since I have been back in Belgium (2001), I go around various countries to teach about the "Jewish roots of our faith" (based mostly on Romans 11, of course...). While doing a search on the Internet last Saturday, I came accross your interview. I was recently interviewed by a Christian TV where I talk specifically about christian antisemitism... I believe this is an aspect that should have been addressed more specifically during your interview because I believe that it also is the root of "replacement theology" and "liberation theology"... But I wanted to thank you for what you shared which, I believe, many christians don't seem to understand because they have never been taught... Finally I would like to mention that some people who claim to "love" Israel and the Jews still hold on to the "replacement theology" and at the end of the day, the real motivation behind their "love" is to "convert" the Jews to "their" religion... I believe that we should learn to love them without any "hidden agenda". Of course, "we are not ashamed of the Gospel of J-C" but at the end of the day, like you quoted from Rom. 11:26 "ALL Israel shall be saved" and I believe that this will not be the result of some "missionary" organization but a DIRECT revelation of the Lord to His people, as found in Zech. 12:10