King's Evangelical Divinity School

12 March 2012

Confusion at the Checkpoint?

Now that last week's controversial Christ at the Checkpoint (CatC) conference is over, participants, observers and critics on all sides are beginning to take a step back to reflect upon events over the past couple of weeks and consider where next. As the conference wound up CatC organisers released a "manifesto" on the last day setting out their position in the wake of the conference. More on the contents of the manifesto in a moment.

Unfortunately there appears to be considerable confusion surrounding who actually drafted the manifesto, which was initially presented as a document produced and agreed upon by all delegates (when you read it you'll see why its strongly one-sided nature is hugely problematic for some of the Messianic delegates who attended). Several of the Messianic attendees have stated categorically they were not involved in producing the statement presented in their name, and indeed did not even know a statement was being produced.

For their part, CatC organisers also seem confused. The conference website has been changed to reflect Messianic objections, while the website of one of the CatC organisers, Stephen Sizer, has reflected no less than three versions of events over the weekend. Elsewhere another CatC organiser, Sami Awad, tweeted to confirm Messianics were involved in drafting the document. For their part Messianic participants are currently drafting their own statement which is expected to be released shortly. You can keep up with the various twists and turns on the RPP website, which has followed the story closely and has attracted comments by at least one of the Messianic delegates stating emphatically that he was not involved in drafting the manifesto.

Some critics will claim a cynical attempt by CatC (or individuals associated with it) to spin in order to present the manifesto as having the widest support possible. Others may more generously accept that in their enthusiasm and in the heat of the moment CatC organisers simply overplayed Messianic support. Or perhaps one or two Messianics were involved in drafting the document, which if true begs inevitable questions such as, why didn't they inform their Messianic colleagues, and why would CatC then present such involvement as a united Messianic position? Or perhaps all this is nothing more than organisational mismanagement, the results of a statement not originally planned but hurried out at the last minute (apparently several Messianic delegates were told beforehand there would be no joint statement).

Whatever the confusion surrounding who was involved in producing the manifesto (and it needs to be sorted out quickly if some of the trust it's claimed was built up during the conference is not to melt away), there is no confusion about the manifesto, which is pretty unequivocal. You can read it here. Whether it becomes a landmark document or not only time will tell (it's not off to a particularly auspicious start), but I was struck immediately by several points.

First, the manifesto is all one-sided, with no reference whatsoever to Palestinian injustices or security concerns. As is so often the case when the "reconciliation" buzzword is used, much of this call for reconciliation seems to be one-way. True reconciliation, on the other hand, comes about when both sides concede errors and seek to move forward. As such I believe the document is a complete non-starter, grandstanding that merely speaks to the choir (whether anti-Israel or Christian anti-Zionist). I see little here that makes an objective individual who genuinely wants to move forward and reach out to the other side seek to do so. More's the pity, because we need to see less division and pejorative, polemical slanging and more respectful engagement and dialogue with each other, whether among believers in the region or between Christian Zionists and Christian anti-Zionists more generally.

Second is the attempt in point 3 to associate Christian Zionism with racism (which is, of course, a recurring theme for several CatC organisers). This is a straw man argument. Not only were the Jews God's chosen people in the Old Testament (meaning if it is racism today, it was then), but importantly Jewish identity is not based exclusively on race. Indeed the key here is Jewish identity, because the Jewish nation always included outsiders who came into covenant with the house and God of Israel. Crucially, however, they did not do so to establish or promote a rival national collective within wider Israel. They may have initially retained their national identities as individuals, but they became part of the nation of Israel as a corporate entity. Such assimilation is not racism, and the constant attempt to besmirch those who believe God has returned the Jewish people to the land as somehow racist not only lacks nuance, but in the way it is sometimes presented is nothing less than mischief-making.

Perhaps the most significant point in the manifesto is the very last one: "Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extreme Islam". This moves well beyond calls from some Evangelicals for respectful dialogue with Muslims and is code for calling Christians to understand the rise of Islamism and terrorism in light of Israel and the West. This was highly evident during Colin Chapman's presentation and responses to several questions afterwards. It is patent nonsense, of course; Islamism and Islamic violence existed long before the founding of the Jewish state in 1948. From what I know of some of the CatC delegates I was surprised to find this point included in a final statement (perhaps they too were not consulted on the manifesto), not only because it seem to contradict point 6, ("all forms of violence must be refuted unequivocally"), but it also makes it all the more difficult for people on the other side to engage objectively with the CatC position.

What are your views on the CatC manifesto? Is there anything here which might serve as a basis to get Christians on both sides talking to each other, or is it merely another example of preaching to the choir? Post your comments below, or click on one of the social media buttons below to forward the article and bring others into the conversation (would be good to have views from all sides).


Dissenters said...

These sorts of things are set up to play to the gallary. Yes, it is a bit simplistic to suggest militant Islam began with the establishment of the State of Israel.

Accusations of racism are not always helpful, especially in complex situations, though some CZs also seem quick to make a jump from scepticism about zionist theology, to replacement theology and then to anti-semitism - i.e. the video by UMJC on RPP as an example.

Anonymous said...

My immediate reaction to the Checkpoint Manifesto is how hastily put together it seems. That alone means it will be amended none too soon and it will therefore lose credibility pretty quickly. It's so loaded with innuendo that few mainstream Christian leaders will be rushing to put their names to it. The problems begin with its first point: 1a). The Kingdom of God has come. Really, if so, why did Jesus teach his followers to pray: "Thy Kingdom come…"? This manifesto will be taken apart and shown to have been motivated by a particular form of political theology, and poorly thought out at that. It really doesn't bear much scrutiny.

Point 3. Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.

A simple question should be asked: Where in the New Testament does G-d revoke the laws of Moses and the Jew's responsibility to follow them? Where does he say they should desist from his commands? If he has not done so then they still stand for the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and who is Sizer and his colleagues to say otherwise?

Anonymous said...

The problem is that these guys are patently dishonest about the role Islam plays in this conflict. In 2010, Tony Campolo was asked twice about it and why he never mentioned Islam and he dishonestly stated he knew nothing about Islam and thus could nor -- or would not -- comment on it.
The whole CAC is just another ploy used by the Islamists to push forward their agenda to destroy Israel, it is just too bad that some (not so any more) respectable Christians choose to play along with them. Salim Munayer, being the worst collaborator of the bunch.

Ron Diprose said...

The emphasis on the need of reconciliation of all who belong to the Messiah is good. However other emphases, a good example being point 5, are dogmatic statements based on a certain (allegorical) way of reading the Bible which is clearly the fruit of replacement theology. Neither the Old nor the New Testaments teach what this point affirms.God will hold accountable all perpetrate such distorsions of Biblical revelation.
Ron Diprose

LeeW said...

Hi Calvin,

To be honest, I've got very little to say other than I think the whole thing is a nonsense. I remember stating that I thought Stephen Sizer was a slippery character when you debated him a few months ago but I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I won't do so again. Once bitten, forever shy! This whole thing is a sham and it is engineered to make life even more difficult for those who believe what God has to say about Israel and the Jews in His word. As one friend has highlighted, their first point starts "The kingdom of God has come" and guess who's running it?

God bless,

Olivier said...

The Manifesto is very ambiguous at best. It is made of truth, partial truth and blatant lies. I tried to take it apart and apply God's Word on my blog if you are interested at:
Thanks Calvin for your hard work!

Jeremy Moodey said...

As a Bible-believing opponent of Christian Zionism who was one of maybe 50 UK attendees at the CATC conference I clearly cannot agree with Calvin Smith's biased analysis above.

What Calvin and other Christian Zionists cannot accept is that a non-Zionist reading of the Bible, based on the conviction that all Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ (Galatians 3:16) and that Abraham's descendants are now all people who believe in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 4), is increasingly mainstream theology. John Stott took this view. So does Tom Wright, in many ways the UK successor to John Stott, and prominent US theologians such as John Piper. This is not crackpot theology. It is main street theology.

OK, the conference 'manifesto' did not refer to what Calvin calls "Palestinian injustices" (does he mean their temerity in living in Palestine for 2,000 years before the modern State of Israel arrived and stole their land?), but if he is referring to Palestinian terrorism, then this was not the conference focus.

Desmond Tutu once said: "If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor". CATC was not the occasion for studied neutrality but for evangelical Christians to stand up and be counted in support of an oppressed Palestinian people whose rights for the last 70 years have been denied by a colonialist-Zionist enterprise.

There is also a curious non-sequitur in Calvin's article, which is that Zionism cannot be racist as the Jews are not a race. But racism is defined by the identity of the victim, not the perpetrator. And Zionists have consistently denied the Palestinian Arab inhabitants of Israel and the occupied territories the same rights as their Jewish neighbours. Largely on racial grounds.

With regard to Israel, this is comprehensively documented in Ben White's recent book, 'Palestinians in Israel'. Morev generally, just look at the anti-Arab comments on any Jerusalem Post blog. For example, this article back in December about Israel needing to choose between settlements or peace back:

You will see that the splenetic pro-Zionist comments on an article which was incredibly moderate in tone included the following:

"I would suggest you [the author] get back to your narghilla and Ali Baba dreams"

"If it wasn't for oil the Arabs would still be making bricks from camel dung. Liars, cheats and thieves know no bounds for hypocrisy"

"If it wasn't for the discovery of oil by the British in Iraq, Iran and the Gulf...the non-creative Arabs would still be living under the primitive agrarian conditions of their ancestors."

"Those Arabs who call themselves Palestinians can stop trying to kill Jews - it's part of their DNA.(Arabs,in general,seem to be addicted to killing - if not Jews than each other.)"

Sounds pretty racist to me, and all inspired by Zionism.

One more simple example of Zionist racism. A Jewish child stone thrower in the West Bank gets tried in a civil court with full legal rights, including immediate access to a lawyer and family. Few are convicted and imprisoned. A Palestinian child stone thrower gets abused, tried in a military court, with no access to a lawyer or even their family, and many are imprisoned for months in violation of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Guardian exposed this scandal back in January - see

Looks like racism to me. All inspired by Zionist exceptionalism and exclusivism.

So Point 3 of the CATC manifesto was one that stood out for me, and one that many evangelical Christians, even in the US, are now embracing. Which is why the State of Israel and its apologists like Calvin Smith are worried.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't expect anything other than the hateful diatribe just posted by Jeremy Moodey.


Soupy One said...

Thank you for referencing my all too brief exchange with Jeremy Moodey.

Subsequently, I have made the point time and again to Jeremy, for him *not* to link to extremist web sites, such as redress and occupiedpalestine (both of which contain plenty of racist material).

Alas my words have fallen on barren ground.

I actually believe Jeremy when he says he abhors antisemitism, but in the next breath he tells me that "antisemitism is subjective".

I find it perplexing that an obviously intelligent individual can believe that racism is subjective. It is not logical.

But sadly in my occasional exchanges with Jeremy I have found a very adversarial attitude and then one of victimhood.

Whenever you bring up these topics he will invariably attempt to erect a straw man along the lines of "you believe any criticism of Israel is antisemitic, don't you" or similar.

No matter how many times you tell him, that it is perfectly acceptable to criticise the Israeli government as long as you do not invoke racism, dual standards or conspiracy theories, he won’t believe you.

Jeremy can't seem to understand that some of the supposed supporters of the Palestinians are only supporters whilst Palestinians are pitted against the Israelis, that a percentage of **Western** supporters of the Palestinians obviously have serious racial issues with Jews.

I wish that were not the case but the evidence indicates otherwise, as shown by the vote at the recent Palestine Solidarity Campaign conference, where some 20% of the delegates did not wish to expel an open Holocaust denier.

That tells us that a sizeable chunk of PSC supporters don't view Holocaust denial as a red line not to cross.

I think it is a real pity that someone with such abilities, as Jeremy, becomes embroiled with extremists and takes on many of their awful attitudes.

If I didn't know better from our occasional exchanges I would have said that he was a member of the extreme Left, with a chip on his shoulder against Israelis.

That's the attitude that comes over.

It is a great shame, because I suspect that's not what he means but mixing with the extremist "anti-Zionist" crowd seems to have impaired his judgement, as indicated by his choice of intemperate web sites.

I have tried to see his point of view and I think that the Palestinians have been treated terribly by Israeli government, however, I can't seem to make him see that linking to extremists does not help his case or that of the Palestinians, quite the opposite.

Jeremy Moodey said...

How anyone can describe my post above as a "hateful diatribe" defeats me! Once again hyperbole and abuse are used by Zionists to shut down debate.

As for 'Soupy One' banging on about my linking to supposedly anti-Semitic websites, this has been an ongoing debate between him and me on Twitter and is totally irrelevant to the discussion here, which is about the Christ at the Checkpoint manifesto, and its assertion, wholly reasonable in my view, that "racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant". So can we stick to the subject please, and also conduct any debate with civility and respect for the other's views?


LeeW said...

"CATC was not the occasion for studied neutrality but for evangelical Christians to stand up and be counted in support of an oppressed Palestinian people whose rights for the last 70 years have been denied by a colonialist-Zionist enterprise. "

Jeremy I would kindly suggest you check your history and you will see that the Palestinians have been heavily oppressed by their own Arab brothers and not, as you put it, a colonialist Zionist enterprise.

I think Soupy One has hit a point and it does appear to me that you are only making comments from extreme websites. It appears to me that you deliberately chose those quotes to back up your argument.

I have know Calvin for a number of years and I can tell you that he is an extremely fair man and does not take an "Israel always right" position. His research is very well balanced, respectful and fair.

In Christ,

Soupy One said...

"So can we stick to the subject please, and also conduct any debate with civility and respect for the other's views?"


I am giving my honest opinions.

You may disagree with them you may think I'm arguing in bad faith but they are my opinions, and they come from my heart.

You've made a point about the Jerusalem Post comment boxes being full of racism.

And in that I agree with you, they are invariably so.

But what do you expect? It is a conservative newspaper, with conservative readers and the baggage that it entails. That is not to excuse it away, but it is hardly surprising.

However, here you use a technique employed by fringe Marxist and extremists, you take a single example and then make a generalisation of it, to imply that the Jerusalem Post is representative of all Israeli opinion, which clearly it is not.

Then you use extremist language ("the last 70 years have been denied by a colonialist-Zionist enterprise") and give the impression that you fundamentally disagree with the establishment of the State of Israel, and its continued existence.

Please can you clarify your views, is that the case?

Do you object to Israel's very existence?

I would welcome a clarification of your views.

Calvin L. Smith said...

Jeremy, thanks. Some brief thoughts…

"As a Bible-believing opponent of Christian Zionism…"

For that matter we all hope our views find biblical support. But don't you think that comment immediately stifles debate? Ironic too that someone complaining I was exclusivist is so exclusivist.

The Bible passages you mention can be (and are) interpreted differently by respected scholars across Evangelicalism. So let's discuss the theology, not simply trot out names to stifle debate.

"OK, the conference 'manifesto' did not refer to what Calvin calls "Palestinian injustices (does he mean their temerity in living in Palestine for 2,000 years before the modern State of Israel arrived and stole their land?)"

Are you acknowledging (begrudgingly) the possibility of Palestinian terrorism here? And did you know there's been a continuous Jewish presence in the land since the Babylonian exile? Your comment suggests otherwise.

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor". 

Ah, the old Marxist argument: neutrality = counterrevolutionary. For a discussion see my book: . Surprised a former would-be Conservative MP takes this line.

Race: My point is Jewishness is more than race and thus attempts to besmirch anyone who believes God may have restored the Jewish people to the land as racist not only lack nuance, by playing the race card it seeks to stifle debate.

I attended a conference bound by Chatham Rules so can't bring something up Ben White said that's directly relevant here (unless he waives them, would dearly love to). But more generally, surprised you rely on White who is neither a scholar nor particularly objective. 

Not sure how quoting comments on the JP site proves most Zionists are racists (far more importantly, that Christian Zionists are racists). You refer to the Guardian where I've also found vile comments. Does this mean all Guardian readers, the left or critics of Israel are anti-Semites? This was a curious argument.

"which is why the State of Israel and its apologists like Calvin Smith are worried".

I'm not an apologist for Israel. I am concerned that an important theological debate is reduced to polemical and pejorative simplicity. Worried? If commenting on an issue denotes worry, by that logic your many tweets/comments across the web suggest deep anxiety.

Jeremy, when you tweeted I said I appreciated genuine, nuanced debate (not knee-jerk responses or grandstanding). You've made various off-the-cuff comments on different blogs (then retreating, conceding hastiness), and I respectfully suggest stepping back a little, viewing issues more objectively and less emotionally. If you want to carry on the conversation on this basis I look forward to it.

Dissenters said...

Reading through the thread, I can't help but feel that some Messianic Jews seem more committed to Jewish national identity apart from the Messiah than they do to the Jewish Messiah. Instead, I would suggest the theology that sees the church as the true continuity of Israel also places Messianic Jews within true Israel, but some prefer to give their birth-right back to a State that denies Jesus as the Messiah. I pray that God might open eyes for clarity of vision so that Messiah might be seen for who He really is. Messiah became central to the life of Israel, and we are grafted into Him. The Ekklesia of Israel is the Kingdom of God, already here, but not yet in fulness. Our job is to extend the rule of King Jesus the Messiah to of all Israel, and to the whole Earth.

The role of Messianic Jews, and Palestinian Christians, in the Holy Land is a prophetic one that calls the State of Israel, and Palestine, to embrace the Messiah and his principles, therefore to work for peace justice and reconcilliation in the Holy Land.

In reponse to Ron Diprose, the land remains with the Abrahamic promise, and Jewish Christians have maintained a presence their since the time of Christ (even though their identity was hidden after 135AD for protection against Rome - but their descendents are in Palestine - as are the Israelite Samaritans), but we must remember the whole earth is the Lord's.

Jeremy Moodey said...

Thanks for your comments Calvin. I appreciate them and respect your point of view, even if I disagree with it.

I comment on different blogs but then occasionally 'retreat' as you say, not because I am 'conceding hastiness' but because my views are often subjected to all kinds of hyperbolic and unsubstantiated accusations, including (most vilely) anti-Semitism.

You have not done this, I admit, but other contributors to this blog above have suggested (without a shred of evidence) that my intervention was a "hateful diatribe", that I am a "fringe Marxist" (quite a shift from being a "former would-be Conservative MP"!), that I am "only making comments from extreme websites" (which presumably includes the Guardian?) and that I am "embroiled with extremists".

I have a busy day job working to support Christian social action in the lands of the Bible, which is why I do not have time to respond to such abuse, so I move on. You can surely understand that?

Which is also why, while I would love to respond to your thoughtful reply, I will not do so since it will just generate yet more bile and spleen from your more intemperate followers.



Calvin L. Smith said...

Jeremy, I have no followers I am aware of. I do think you're being a little over-sensitive (after all, your comment was itself a little pejorative in parts). But that said, very happy to continue the conversation in private if you prefer.



Soupy One said...


You wrote:

'...have suggested (without a shred of evidence) ...that I am a "fringe Marxist" '

Nowhere did I suggest that you were a fringe Marxist.

I stated that the attitudes you manifest are found amongst fringe Marxists.

There is a subtle difference between the two.

If I thought you were a fringe Marxist then I would not have these exchanges, but I'm hoping that you will make an effort to see how these issues can be seen from a different perspective.

I'll say it again, just so you are clear. I don't believe that you are an antisemite or racist.

But I am shocked by some of the attitudes you demonstrate, being far too adversarial, nearly always assuming bad faith of your interlocutor's and misreading other people's arguments.

These are the characteristics of fringe extremists and Marxists, in my experience, which is over four decades dealing with a wide range of political activists.

I am hoping that you will see why people react as they do.

When discussing these issues there is always a lingering doubt on people's motives (yes, it cuts both ways), whether not they are:

1) genuinely concerned with Palestinians’ human rights
2) have issues with Israel as a State
3) or have serious problems with Jews as a people.

Those are the broad categories that people tend to fall into.

I would hope most would avoid the last two, but sadly I find in my research that many people in the West have hijacked the Palestinians cause as a vehicle for their own animus towards Israelis and Jews.

Therefore, I would argue that it is incumbent on those who genuinely support Palestinians human rights to avoid any association with anti-Jewish racism.

Any whiff of racism towards Jews weakens the Palestinians causes and is morally reprehensible.

Whatever disagreements we might all have I am sure none of us want an increase in anti-Jewish racism, but that is what is happening in the West and we should be concerned.

LeeW said...

Jeremy, I consider Calvin a friend. I am not a follower of him! He is the principal of Kings Evangelical Divinity School where I study.

Your post makes for disturbing reading. Again Soupy One picks up on this. You come across as very aggressive and confrontational and yet I don't see this with the others which you suggest.

Anyway, I enjoy these debates because most people make sound and significant contributions.

I like to take part as I have an interest in the Holy land. I also have many Jewish friends as well as Gentile friends. It may surprise you to know that I work beside Jewish people and not all of them agree to what Israel are doing! Over the years I've tried to be as well read on the subject as possible so that I can make informed opinions. You will no doubt be as aware as I am that it is an extremely complex situation as not as easy to understand at first glance. I don't just read about the situation from the Bible or Biblical scholars but I try and look at it from other sources as well including people such as Stephen Sizer and the mainstream press. I do, however, believe the Bible to be the word of God and I do believe that it clearly states that Israel is entitle to the land. This doesn't mean, as has been already pointed out, that God is pleased with everything Israel does. Calvin often points out that God did not approve of everything Israel did in the Bible and therefore neither can we Christians. What I do see clearly happening though is a definite rise in anti-Semitism and this is not helped by some of the things that are happening within Christianity never mind the world! I had the privelage of studying the subject "Israel and the Church" at KEDS and found it very enlightening. It certainly opened my eyes as to how the Church has come to some of the positions it currently maintains. I'd recommend the book "The God of Israel and Christian Theology" by R. Kendall Soulen if you have not already read it.

God bless to all.

Louis Lapides said...

There is much to respond to here especially Jeremy Moodey's comments. Let me quote one area I'd like to address as stated by Moodey: "What Calvin and other Christian Zionists cannot accept is that a non-Zionist reading of the Bible, based on the conviction that all Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in Christ (Galatians 3:16) and that Abraham's descendants are now all people who believe in Jesus, whether Jew or Gentile (Romans 4), is increasingly mainstream theology. John Stott took this view. So does Tom Wright, in many ways the UK successor to John Stott, and prominent US theologians such as John Piper. This is not crackpot theology. It is main street theology.'

First, it does not matter what John Stott, John Piper or Tom Wright believes regarding a "non-Zionist" reading of the Bible. None of them speak for the evangelical church and they do not form "main street theology." This is not the Roman Catholic Church.
Second. Galatian 3:16 simply refers to the fact God's promises of bringing salvation and blessing all the earth was fulfilled through the one messianic seed, Jesus. Please ready my blog on this passage for a fuller treatment at ScriptureSolutions. It's about time Reform and Replacement theologians get the Bible right on their faulty seed of Abraham theology. Jewish and Gentile followers of Yeshua are the spiritual seed of Abraham through believing in Jesus. Yet the reality of the "spiritual seed of Abraham" does not replace the existence of the national seed of Abraham, Jewish people. Paul continues to include himself as part of ethnic Israel and still addresses Jewish people as members of the nation of Israel. If he believed the Church replaced Israel, why doesn't he address the church as "Israel"? Why does he continue to address unsaved Jewish people as "Israel" as he does throughout Acts and Romans 9-11. This ridiculous seed of Abraham doctrine espoused by Replacement theology is a false teaching based on faulty exegesis of every passage they use to support this flawed perspective.

Thanks Calvin for discussing this issue in your blog and for your stance for the people of Israel.

Calvin L. Smith said...

Thanks, Louis, for your thoughtful comment. It does need dealing with, and I trust your comment will give food for thought.