Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Christ at the Checkpoint 2012 Conference Attempts Sounding Evangelical

Recently, according to Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church in the UK, the 2012 Evangelical Affirmations for the Christ at the Checkpoint 2012 Conference have been agreed upon and published. Sizer, an outspoken critic of Israel and Christian Zionism, according to his own words, is among the authors of this affirmation.

Last years drafters of the 2011 Affirmations included Paul Alexander, Christine M. Anderson, Brother Andrew, Alex Awad, Bishara Awad, Mubarak Awad, Sami Awad, Gary Burge, Tony Campolo, Steven Haas, Lynne Hybels, Manfred Kohl, Jonathan Kuttab, Paul Johnson, Salim Munayer, Stephen Sizer and producer Porter Speakman, Jr.

The affirmations for this coming year are intended to reflect the views and hopes of the organizers of the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference to be held at Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem March 5-9.  The participants in the conference include Palestinian Christians, messianic Jews and an assortment of evangelical speakers and writers.

These affirmations state, "As Palestinian Evangelical Christians at Bethlehem Bible College, we seek to learn, through following the example of the life and teachings of Jesus, how to honor Christ and how to honor Palestinians and Israeli Jews, by accepting them as two peoples who have the right to live in justice, peace, security and dignity."

Yet as we read through the affirmations, it is clear only one entity is to blame for the Middle East crisis and it's not the Palestinians.

Here is the text of the Christ at the Checkpoint Affirmations from their website with my comments included.

Affirmation #1: Israelis and Palestinians

We affirm that all people are created in the image of God. In turn we are called to honor the dignity of every human being and to respect their inalienable rights. We affirm that Jews and Palestinians are loved by God and capable of living together within peace, justice and security. This is God’s view toward all of humanity, residing in any political boundary and manifested through the mission of Jesus in bringing to everyone, “life to the full” (John 10:10).

Affirmation #2: Theology and Land
The New Testament clearly teaches that God continues to invite Jews and Arabs into His kingdom and in no way is finished with any people group. Further, Scripture speaks of Jesus as its ultimate fulfillment. For example, the need for animal sacrifices, Levitical priesthood, and expectation of a rebuilt Temple, find their ultimate fulfillment and completion in Jesus Christ.

I find Affirmation #2 to be written in a way that permits the leadership and participants in the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference to slip in their adherence to Replacement Theology. The second affirmation reads, "and in no way is finished with any people group."  

These words can be meant to say, "God is not finished with the Jewish people since He offers them salvation through their acceptance of Jesus as their Messiah."  However, the statement provides freedom to the conference participants to advocate that God is no longer committed to the provisions of the Abrahamic Covenant which gives the people of Israel possession and ownership of the land of Israel.  

This covenant relationship does not eliminate the Palestinian from living in the land as over a million Arabs do today in Israel proper. However, to deny the continuance of the Abrahamic Covenant for the Jewish people today is a major bone of contention for theologians and individuals connected to the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference and the drafters of the 2011 Affirmations such as Gary Burge, Stephen Sizer and Sami Awad.  The fact the drafters of these affirmations skirt around God's continued covenant with Israel is obvious in their refusal to believe the God of Israel would allow a temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. 

Affirmation #3: The Palestinian-Israeli conflict

As followers of Jesus Christ we regret more than 60 years of conflict. We look forward to the time when the conflict will end and both peoples will enjoy genuine reconciliation. We commit ourselves to be peacemakers and to this ministry of reconciliation. As such we stand resolutely against all forms of violence and racism, regardless of the perpetrators.

Other than in words, where are any attempts on the part of Palestinian Christians to be peacemakers towards Israeli soldiers and citizens? To affirm this agreement we would need to see Palestinian Christians condemn the use of terrorism against Israelis by Palestinian Muslims.  

The terrorist Hamas group governing the Palestinian territories is committed to a doctrine in which they seek the destruction of the Jewish state and annihilation of the Jewish people.  Why aren't Palestinian Christians condemning Hamas? 

Instead, most of the Palestinian Christian groups in their literature and speeches place the responsibility of the Middle East conflict on Israel.  Having a conference where messianic Jews are invited to speak is a drop in the ocean when it comes to the reality of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Affirmation #4: The Second Coming of Christ

There are several views which Christ followers hold to explain the future. Rather than focus on the signs of the return of Christ, our reading of the New Testament indicates that our primary mandate is to proclaim the “Good News” to the entire world. 

Palestinian Christians and their supporters  do not want to focus on the Second Coming since the New Testament scriptures place the people of Israel on center stage of the events of the last days as seen in Matthew 24, Mark 14 and Luke 21.  Christ at the Checkpoint theologians do not want to consider Jesus as the Messiah of the Jewish people and returning to earth to set up His kingdom in Jerusalem to rule as the last Davidic King.  Then they would have to acknowledge the continuance of the Abrahamic covenant with the modern state of Israel.

Affirmation #5: Zionism

Modern Zionism is a political movement created to meet the aspirations of Jews around the world who longed for a homeland. It has become ethnocentric, privileging one people at the expense of others. Christianity calls believers in Jesus to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth.

It is interesting that a group consisting largely of Palestinian Christians seeks to define Zionism without consulting Jewish sources. Rather than being a "political movement . . . privileging one people at the expense of others", the Encyclopedia Britannica defines Zionism, 
Zionism is a movement of national liberation, seeking self-determination for the Jewish people within a sovereign Jewish nation located in their ancient homeland. Zionism is a direct continuation of the Biblical religious attachment of the Jews and Judaism to this specific historic holy land. Zionism is non-partisan, trans-denominational, and not related to the policies of any Israeli government.
Affirmation #6: Messianic Jews

Messianic Jews are the brothers and sisters of all who follow Jesus or Yeshua. We are one family bound together in a fellowship of love. Although diversity in political opinions as well as theological emphasis inevitably exist, we refuse to allow these views to hinder our fellowship in Jesus.

I find this affirmation hard to swallow. Vicar StephenSizer in a recent blog condemns the human rights violation by Israel towards Palestinians without placing any responsibility on Palestinian terrorists. I would have liked to see Sizer condemn the brutal attack on the Israeli family who had their throats cut in the middle of the night in the Ithamar back in March 2011. While they were sleeping Palestinian terrorists stole into the settlement, killing a husband and wife, and an 11-year-old, a 3-year-old and a baby girl. Where is Rev. Sizer's condemnation of such atrocities committed by Palestinians? 

Does Sizer think this affirmation is going to smooth over the differences between messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians? Does he think messianic Jews are going to sit by in silence while any Israeli retaliation to Palestinian acts of terrorism are condemned by Palestinian followers of Christ?  

In his blog Stephen Sizer quotes theologian John Stott who says of Zionism, "I myself believe that Zionism, both political and Christian, is incompatible with biblical truth." Sizer thinks he can embrace messianic Jews as brothers in the Lord while stabbing us in the back with his condemnation of Zionism - Christian and Jewish.  

Affirmation #7: Palestinian and Israeli Authority
The Bible teaches us to pray for all in political authority. We are called to obey them, whether they are Israeli or Palestinian, as an expression of our faith in God’s sovereign rule. We are also called to be a prophetic voice, challenging injustice creatively and non-violently.

As I stated above, I am waiting for a prophetic voice to come from the Palestinian Christians pointing out  the evils committed by their Palestinian brothers in their terrorist attacks on Israel and stop placing all the blame on the Israelis.  

Will Palestinian Christians obey Hamas in desiring the destruction of the Jewish state and the annihilation of the Jewish people in Israel?  I'm anxious to hear an affirmation from the Christ at the Checkpoint leadership in which they condemn the evil goals of their own government.  Until these affirmations are just empty words. 

Rather than seeking true  peace with Israel, many in the Palestinian leadership of the Christ at the Checkpoint are mostly dedicated to bringing young American evangelicals to live among Palestinian families to indoctrinate them against Israel, produce propaganda films such as With God on Our Side to show in evangelical churches to turn Christians against Israel and produce books that attack Christian Zionism and advocate replacement theology. 



Anonymous said...

Excellent post, thanks Louis.

James said...

Really helpful and insightful, thanks very much

The Caffeinated Mystic (Deb) said...

After reading the affirmations, I can't see a problem with them.

Louis Lapides said...

Deb: It's not what the affirmations say; it's what they don't say. You really didn't read my comments regarding the affirmation. "No temple rebuilt?" The NT Book of Revelation says there will be a temple rebuilt (Revelation 11). So affirmation #2 goes against scripture. Since Palestinian Christians wrote the affirmations, it's not surprising they would not want a temple rebuilt in proximity to the Islamic places of worship since Palestinian Christians appear to favor Islamic over the Jewish Scriptures. They have no problem condemning Christian Zionism in #5 but they never condemn Islamic teachings which are antagonistic of the Jewish people and play a major part in fueling Israel's security concerns - another missing piece from the affirmations. Listen to the words of Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, "If the Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide (October 22, 2003),

The CATC affirmation is just a few steps away from agreeing with the Kairos Palestine Document [] a document drafted by 13 Palestinian Christian clerics [who may have worked on the CATC affirmations] for the Presbyterian Church USA. The document is filled with historical inaccuracies, a refusal to condemn Palestinian terrorism, theology that is anti-Israel and pro-Arab. Deb, when you keep reading these Palestinian Christian documents and affirmations, one has to conclude they are anti-Israel. These statement often start off subtle and then reach the blatant anti-Israel rhetoric as found in the Palestine Kairos Document.

The Caffeinated Mystic (Deb) said...

I'm sorry, but I can't agree with that.

Louis Lapides said...

The Caffeinated Mystic said, "I'm sorry, but I can't agree with that." Is there anything Deb that that you disagree with in particular. Not much room for dialogue in light of your general response.

The Caffeinated Mystic (Deb) said...

It makes no sense to me to reject the affirmations based on "...what they 'don't say'."
Or what they 'don't' condemn.

With all due respect, I found the article makes assumptions about people who are our brothers in Christ, And correct me if I'm wrong, but these are people you don't know, members of the body of Christ living in the midst of chaos: a chaos you do not understand.

It's very easy to sit in a safe place- far from oppression- thinking we know something.

What I see, is a group of people wanting peace. You see something else. But rather than argue, It might be better to read the words of Christ in the Gospels, and let Him decide where our focus should be, and how we are to treat our 'enemies'

The Caffeinated Mystic (Deb) said...

PS There are Jewish and Arab believers in the middle-east who are building relationships.
It would be good- I think- to find out what life is like for them there, and listen to what they have to say.

By the way- I do hope you hear my heart and I hope my response has not come across as an attack- It's not my intention.
Blessings to you.

Louis Lapides said...

Deb, thank for writing again and keeping this thread going. It makes a lot of sense to criticize a set of affirmations based on what they do not say. If I write a Christian doctrinal statement and leave out a statement on the deity of Jesus, that should be noted. Any set of evangelical affirmations that refuses to condemn the use of Islamic terrorism to settle issue in the ME is an issue to me as a Christian.

I don't know a lot of the people I mention personally. However, I have listened to hours of their lectures, read their articles, books and blogs. I am familiar with what they espouse. I have not lived under their conditions and neither have lived under conditions that my Israeli cousins live under when they do not know if the bus they're going to take to work everyday will be bombed by a suicide bomber.

I am a Vietnam vet and I saw the war up close. However, for someone who takes the time to study the war, speaks to Vietnam vets and Vietnamese people in the US, I will respect their opinion that they took the time to understand the issues. I would never tell them they're opinion does not count because they weren't in Vietnam like I was. I have seen enough documentaries made by Palestinians to understand their issues. I don't have to live their to have an opinion. If that is true, then you and I are not entitled to have an opinion about the Iraq war, the issue sin Afghanistan or Pakistan. That what research is for. Thanks for listening, Deb.

Louis Lapides said...

Do the Palestinian Christians want peace with Israel? Prove it to me. They spend money financing films that are anti-Israel. Their blogs and tweets are filled with ant-Israel news and comments. Deb, I don't see how they can claim to "love their enemies" and then do everything they can to publish materials that are aimed to turn Christians against Israel. I don't see that as making peace. I don't see Read Romans 12:9-21 as Paul describes the marks of a true Christian especially towards enemies or those who oppose us. I don't see this kind of behavior on the part of Palestinian Christians and their supporters towards Jewish people. If I am wrong, then show it to me. Give me facts and websites so I can correct my thinking. Read Mubarak Awad's (uncle of Sami Awad, head of Holy Land Trust - a non-violent organization towards Israelis) article in the Palestinian Journal where he says if non-violent means do not work, then "we will have to resort to armed struggle" 1984, issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies. No where in his writings does he recognize the legitimacy of the state of Israel. Where is this peaceful settlement between Palestinians and Israelis when our Christian brothers will not recognize Israel's right to a national homeland. Deb, see through the rhetoric. Thanks for your comments.

The Caffeinated Mystic (Deb) said...

I appreciate the dialog here, and I am willing to keep my heart and mind open. I love asking questions. And as I look for evidence that there is a 'working toward peace' among the brethren in the ME, I believe I'll find it. I can't help it... I'm an optimist :)
Blessings to you on your journey with Christ,