Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Chief Organizer of Christ at the CheckPoint Munther Isaac Contradicts Himself

CAMERA: Munther Isaac Contradicts Himself

A few weeks ago, Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, wrote a pretty straightforward piece about Christians in the Middle East. The piece, titled “Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians,” appeared in the Wall Street Journal on March 9, 2009.

Michael Oren-Israel's Ambassador to the US
Oren stated two obvious and undeniable truths. He said Christians living in the Middle East are suffering from Islamist violence and as a result they are fleeing the region, just as Jews fled Arab countries a few decades ago. Oren also stated that while Christians do sometimes encounter intolerance in Israel, Christians living in the Jewish state are safer there than they are anywhere else in the Middle East.

These two points are unassailable, but Oren's piece sure did offend some people. After the piece was published in the Wall Street Journal, Oren was attacked by a number of Christians in the United States and the West Bank. He was accused of fomenting Islamophobia and ignoring the impact of Israeli policies on Palestinian Christians.

Apparently, talking about dhimmitude, or the status of Christians living in Muslim-majority countries, is out of bounds for the Israeli ambassador.

Interestingly enough, Palestinian Christians admitted that Islamist hostility toward Christians is a problem in Palestinian society. They made these statements at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference on March 6, 2012 – just a few days before Oren's piece appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

Why is it that Oren is not allowed to say in the Wall Street Journal what Palestinian Christians told a roomful of people in Bethlehem just three days before?

Munther Isaac's Response

One of the most notable condemnations came from Munther Isaac, the chief organizer of the one-sided Christ at the Checkpoint Conference that took place in Bethlehem in early March.

Isaac wrote a response to Oren's piece. The article, which appeared in Sojourners on March 27, 2012, included the following passage:
To insist thatradical Islam is the primary struggle for Palestinian Christians undermines the sufferings of Palestinian Christians caused by the occupation, and labels these struggles as imagined and unreal. This is insulting. To blame the Muslims is an attempt to mask the injustices of the occupation. It is also an attempt to color the conflict with familiar Western "black and white" colors. This is the shameful goal behind Oren's article: to stereotype Palestinians as radical Muslim persecutors of Christians, with Israel as the only ally for Christian Americans who are concerned for Christians in the East.
Click here to read more.

Messianic Jewish Leaders Take a Stand Against Anti-Israel Position of the United Methodist Church

What a blessing to see various messianic leaders of several organization issue a statement against the United Methodist Church for their anti-Israel position.  Please read this blog which is reposted from The Rosh Pina Project and share it on your social networking sites:

Messianic Jewish Leaders Warn United Methodists Poised to Betray Israel and Scripture

The following is a joint statement by Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC),International Messianic Jewish Alliance(IMJA) and the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS).
As the major organizations representing the international Messianic Jewish community, we are greatly alarmed that the United Methodist Church (UMC) appears close to adopting a policy of selective divestment concerning Israel. Such a move, being proposed to the UMC General Conference, which begins April 24, 2012 would place the UMC not only in direct opposition to the prophetic purposes of God for Israel, but also in opposition to biblical justice.
The prophet Ezekiel foretells that in latter days God would breathe on the dry bones of Israel, restoring us physically to the land of Israel and spiritually to God (Ezek. 36:24-28; 37:1–14). The historically unprecedented, miraculous and prophetic re-gathering of the Jewish people to our ancient homeland, starting in the nineteenth century, reached a climax in 1948 with the establishment of the modern State of Israel, and the physical process of national restoration continues to this day. Since the pivotal year of 1967, when Jerusalem was reunited under Jewish rule, the number of Messianic Jewish individuals and congregations throughout the world, including Israel, has mushroomed, growing at a rate far greater than any other Jewish religious movement in existence today. The modern re-emergence of the Messianic Jewish community is in the process of fulfilling biblical prophecy (Deut. 30:1–10; Isa. 44:1–5; Jer. 31:7–13; cf. Rom 11:25–29).
The International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA), Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues(IAMCS), and Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC) constitute the major organizations representing this community. As Messianic Jews who stand in the place of our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the prophets and apostles, we are deeply disturbed that the UMC is considering an agenda that would actually work against God’s purposes of physical and spiritual restoration for the land and people of Israel and the promotion of peace and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
Our forefathers, Peter, Paul, John and the Biblical prophets of Israel, would be outraged to see people that call themselves followers of the Messiah Jesus advocating a policy that is so far out of sync with God’s purposes and plans. The divestment proposal could even be seen as persecuting and oppressing the tiny, God-restored and democratic state of Israel.
Israel’s claim to legitimacy as a Jewish state rests not only on the words of the Hebrew prophets, but also on broadly accepted standards of human rights and international law. The Jewish people have maintained a presence in the land of Israel throughout history, and have constituted the majority population in Jerusalem since the mid-nineteenth century. The state of Israel was born in response to the homelessness and suffering of the Jewish people in exile, which reached its horrible climax during World War II. Israel has had to fight several wars for its very survival as a state. Israel has made numerous efforts to pursue a plan for peace. Israel’s continued military presence in the West Bank represents a failure of the peace process for which Palestinians as well as Israelis must be held responsible.
The UMC proposal objects to specific Israeli policies, such as “illegal settlements, segregated roads, checkpoints, the separation wall, home demolitions and other realities of occupation,” which in many particulars represent security measures in response to past terror attacks. But the proposal goes beyond specific policies and expressly “calls on the United Methodist Church to end its financial involvement in Israel’s occupation by divesting from companies that sustain the occupation” as a whole (Proposal 21071-FA-Non-Dis, “Aligning UMC Investments with Resolutions on Israel/Palestine,” To demand a unilateral Israeli withdrawal ignores recent history and realities on the ground today. In a sad irony, this pressure on Israel comes at a time when it is suffering continual rocket attacks from the Gaza strip, from which Israel unilaterally withdrew in 2005. Pushing for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria indicates either an ignorance of Israel’s purposes in maintaining a presence there, or a reckless disregard of Israeli lives and security.
Failure to curtail terrorist violence undermines the credibility of the Palestinian Authority as a partner for peace. The PLO, with its axiomatic rejection of any Jewish state, came into existence in 1964, three years before Israel controlled the territories in question. Its legacy has been transferred to the Palestinian Authority, which has historically envisioned a Middle East without the State of Israel. Surely, this systemic hatred must be recognized as a root of conflict and terror. Hope for an end to this tragic conflict requires that Palestinian leadership unequivocally recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. To ignore this imperative, as the divestment movement does, makes a mockery of its call for justice. Likewise it is unjust to ignore the history of hostility and aggression by Israel’s neighbors, which outnumber the seven million citizens of the Jewish state with a combined population of 350 million within the 22 states of the Arab League. Nearly all of these states have failed to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state or to renounce their desire for its destruction. Efforts to moralize over today’s tragic situation without reference to its historical and political roots cannot produce lasting results.
Selective divestment from companies doing business with Israel promotes a one-sided and highly politicized view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which can only lead to further polarization of all concerned. In addition, it unfairly applies a double standard singling out the democratic and free state of Israel with a potent and rarely used form of protest, while ignoring the horrific humanrights violations in the Palestinian Authority and the countries surrounding Israel.
As Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus), we appreciate the attempts of Christian denominations since the Holocaust to promote understanding and good will. Divestment from Israel, however, only serves to diminish the possibility of genuine negotiations for peace, encourage violence and extremism, and undermine the relationship between the church and the Jewish community. Divestment efforts insert partisanship into an enterprise best governed by this word from Moses, “You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor” (Lev. 19:15). Most of all, the UMC divestment initiative ignores the words of Scripture that foretell a Jewish return to the land of Israel after centuries of exile: “For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” (Ezek. 36:24; see also Jer. 16:14–15, 33:10–14, etc.).
The United Methodist Church places a premium on justice, but ironically threatens to perpetrate an injustice. A decision to divest resources from Israel will do more to hurt the UMC than Israel. Therefore, we call upon the United Methodist Church to heed the words of the Jewish prophets and the standards of justice established in Scripture, and to reject the use of divestment as a weapon against Israel.
Instead, we call on the UMC to pray for and support the people of Israel in their struggle against those that would seek to destroy the Jewish state and oppose God’s purposes as revealed in Scripture.
John Fischer, President Joel Liberman, Executive Director International Messianic Jewish Alliance
Paul Liberman, President Joel Chernoff, General Secretary Messianic Jewish Alliance of America
Jeff Forman, Chairman International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues
Howard Silverman, President Russell Resnik, Executive Director Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations
Contact: Joel Chernoff,,             610-304-2237
Russ Resnik,,             505-440-2265


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Church is the New Israel Now . . or is it?

Ever since I accepted the Lord in 1969 I have been faced with Replacement Theology which teaches the Church has replaced Israel.  In other words, all the promises God gave to the Jewish people are now fulfilled in the Church and Christians form the "New Israel." Is this true?

Charles D. Provan has written a book The Church is Israel Now in which he attempts to support the Replacement Theology line of thinking.

Recently Mike Moore on his blog Mike's Musings critiques Provan's book and presented a very well thought out argument.  I decided to repost Mike's blog.  I encourage you to read the article and go to Mike's blog add your comments of appreciation or share you input on his blog.  You are also welcome to share your thoughts and dialogue with Louis Lapides about Replacement Theology on ThinkingOutsidetheBlog.

There's an interesting discussion about Messianic Jews on Facebook. One of the contributers recommended Charles Provan's book The Church is israel Now. I, however, am not a fan of Provan's book. 
When The Church is Israel Now was first published I sent a substantial critique of the book to the author and to his main distributers in the UK and the USA. I received no reply from either Provan or his US distributer, and the response I received from his UK distributer was a polite, two-sentence note that basically told me to get lost. I believe the reason I receive no answer is because my case is unanswerable. This is what I sent. 
Dear Mr Provan,
I read with interest your book The Church is Israel Now and believe it needs some form of response. Obviously much thought and comparison of Scripture with Scripture went into the book, which is commendable. The format of placing Old Testament Scripture against New Testament Scripture is illuminating. However, in spite of the fact that you attempt to allow the Bible to speak for itself, I believe your thesis is basically unscriptural, fundamentally flawed and very dangerous. 
In the second paragraph of your introduction (no page number) you state: ‘The only hypothesis which explains how this could be [i.e.: that the same terms used in the Old Testament to describe Israel are used in the New Testament to describe Christians] is that the Israel of the Old Testament (so called ‘Racial Israel’) had been replaced by the Israel of the New Testament, the Christian Church.’ It is a mark of humility on your part that you acknowledge your book to be a hypothesis and I would like to suggest that your hypothesis is fundamentally flawed. 

You appear to be unable to think in categories other than ‘either/or’. Your method of assembling sets of verses which show, for example, that in the Old Testament Israel was beloved of God and that in the New Testament Christians are beloved of God, and that in the Old Testament the Jews are called God’s people and in the New Testament Christians are called God’s people has its strengths but it also has great weaknesses.
For example, if your system of Scriptural interpretation was applied to the biblical teaching about God one would have to conclude that Jesus has replaced Jehovah on the grounds that in the New Testament the divine titles are all accorded to Jesus. In the Old Testament, for example, Jehovah is the King of Israel, whereas in the New Testament Jesus is the King of the Jews; in the Old Testament Jehovah is the Shepherd of his people whereas in the New Testament Jesus is the good Shepherd; in the Old Testament Jehovah is the Rock but in the New Testament Jesus is the Rock. As I have pointed out to numerous ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses, there is no title given to Jehovah which is not applied to Jesus in the New Testament. But that is not the same as a ‘transfer’ of titles. Jesus has not replaced Jehovah. Is it not at least possible, therefore, that the Church may indeed be the beloved Israel of God without having replaced the nation of Israel? 
While appearing to be scriptural, I believe your method is ultimately unscriptural in that you attempt to fit the Scriptures (no doubt unwittingly) into a preconceived framework. Nowhere is this more evident than when you aver that Matthew 21:43 ‘demonstrates ... quite clearly’ the transfer of Israel’s privileges and responsibilities: ‘Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.’ 
At first sight the words of Christ appear to support your hypothesis. But Matthew goes on: ‘When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them.’ (Matthew 21:45). Jesus was not saying the kingdom would be taken from Israel but from the rulers of Israel.
At the beginning of Matthew 21 the people of Jerusalem welcomed Christ and acknowledged him to be the Messiah, the son of David and a prophet (vv. 8-11). It was ‘the chief priests and the scribes’ alone who were displeased (vv15, 16) at the events of the day. In verse 23 the people listened avidly to Christ but the chief priests and the scribes took issue with him over his authority to teach. 
In the first of the two parables recorded in the same chapter (vv. 28-33) Jesus revealed that publicans and prostitutes entered the kingdom before the religious leaders. In his second parable the Lord used the imagery of Isaiah 5 to make his point. In the days of the prophet, the corruption of the people led to the Babylonian captivity and the kingdom was taken away. Christ says in Matthew 21 that the kingdom will again be taken away, this time from the chief priests and Pharisees, and given to another nation (as at the time of the Babylonian captivity). 
However, Christ does not say the kingdom will be taken from Israel: Matthew records that the chief priests and Pharisees ‘perceived that he spoke concerning them’.
The common people of the nation received Christ and hence received the kingdom. After Pentecost vast numbers of the Jewish people turned to Christ. Contrary to traditional Christian thinking, the same people who cried ‘Hosanna’ on Palm Sunday did not call, ‘Crucify’ on Good Friday. That teaching has fuelled anti-Semitism in the gentile world and continues to be a reason why so many Jewish people, out of a misinformed sense of what it means to be a Jew, continue to reject Christ.
The Sanhedrin had difficulty arresting Jesus for fear of public outrage: ‘But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitudes’ (Matt 21:46).
They arrested him at night and tried him in secret so that on the morning of the crucifixion the majority of the population of Jerusalem appear to have been astonished and dismayed to discover he had been condemned: ‘And a great multitude of the people followed him ... who mourned and lamented him’ (Luke 23:27). 
Even a cursory reading of the Gospels reveals that Jesus was not rejected by the nation as a whole: 
When he had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? So the multitudes said, This is Jesus, the prophet of Nazareth (Matthew 21:10,11).
Many of the people believed in him, and said, When Christ comes, will he do more signs than these which this man has done? (John 7:3 1).
Even among the religious hierarchy, not all rejected Christ: ‘Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed on him’ (John 12.42).
The Book of Acts demonstrates that the kingdom had not been taken from ‘Racial Israel’. In Israel and the Diaspora thousands accepted Jesus as their Saviour and King.
That day about three thousand souls were added to them (Acts 2:41). 
Many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand (Acts 4:4). 
The number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem; and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7).
When the congregation had broken up, many of the Jews ... followed Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:43). 
Many of them believed; and also not a few of the Greeks (Acts 17:12).
John, of course, records that ‘his own received him not’. Nevertheless, he modifies that statement with another: ‘but to as many as received him...’ Many verses demonstrate that the picture was not as bleak as we have become conditioned to accept. There was a substantial ‘remnant according to the election of grace’ in Jerusalem, Judea and the Diaspora.
You state on page 46 that in the Old Testament, ‘Israel Is An Olive Tree’ (Jeremiah 11:16-17; Hosea 14:5-6) and in the New Testament, ‘Christians Are An Olive Tree’ (Romans 11:17-24). Though acknowledging that in Romans 11, ‘The Olive Tree under discussion ... is clearly Israel’ your bold-type sub-headings give the wrong impression. Paul does not say in Romans 11 that Christians are ‘an olive tree’. 
Gentile believers, says the apostle, are branches from a wild olive tree that have been grafted on to the olive tree of Israel. If your hypothesis is, as you believe, the only possible one, Paul’s olive tree illustration is misleading. If the Church has replaced ‘Racial Israel’ a more fitting illustration would be that one olive tree has been cut down and another planted in its place, as your own sub-headings suggest.
But God has not cut down one olive tree and planted another in its place. Nor are there two separate olive trees. Instead, God has broken off some branches from the olive tree of Israel because of their unbelief and has grafted in branches not native to the tree. This is a vital and important distinction and it is inexcusable that a book purporting to be serious biblical scholarship should fail to see that distinction.
Nowhere in the book do you take into account Romans 11:1: ‘Did God reject his people? By no means!’ Nor do you engage with Old Testament verses such as Deuteronomy 4:31: ‘For the LORD your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your forefathers, which he confirmed to them by oath.’ Nowhere do you take into account Jeremiah 31:35-37:
This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD Almighty is his name: ‘Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,’ declares the LORD, ‘will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.’ This is what the LORD says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,’ declares the LORD.
At best, the claim that ‘the Church is Israel now’ demonstrates an utter disregard for the apostle’s warning to the grafted-in branches of the Olive Tree not to boast themselves against the natural branches. At worst, your hypothesis appears a particularly arrogant example of theological anti-Semitism. If it falls into the hands of Jews it will serve only to alienate them from the Church which has supposedly replaced them because it will confirm their historical contention that the Church is anti-Jewish.
The Church is Israel Now appears to me a classic example of adding two and two together to make five. To your credit you acknowledge that your conclusion is a ‘hypothesis’ (albeit the only possible one) according to which, when ‘the Israelites obeyed God, God loved them. But when they turned from Him He hated them, stripping them of their Israelite status.’
While it is true that in certain Old Testament passages, God speaks of His hatred for disobedient Israelites those passages must be modified by other statements. If God’s love is conditional upon obedience, it is difficult to pinpoint a time when God could possibly have loved ‘Racial Israel’. Indeed, nowhere are God’s declarations of love greater than in the book of Hosea when Israel, the bride of Jehovah, is likened to a brazen whore.
If God’s love is conditional, where does that leave the Church! If God’s love is conditional there is no hope for any of us.
Followed to its logical conclusion your hypothesis would leave Christians without assurance of salvation. If God, without warning, transferred all ‘Racial Israel’s’ privileges to Christians, what confidence can Christians have that he will not at some future date transfer our benefits to others?
Apart from a reference to a select number of verses in Romans 11, one would think you were unaware of the chapter’s existence, for nowhere do you consider what Paul means when he says that Israel is the people God ‘foreknew’, that ‘the Israelites are beloved for the fathers’ sakes’ or that God’s ‘gifts and calling are without repentance’.
The book’s subtitle, ‘The Transfer of Conditional Privilege’ reveals a lack of understanding of the unconditional nature of God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15.
Moreover, there is a failure to understand that the Church is not a new entity which came into being on the Day of Pentecost. Israel is God’s qahal, a Hebrew word that in the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament is rendered ekklesia, the same word translated ‘church’ in English versions of the New Testament. Ekklesia means basically ‘that which is called out’ and the Christian church, or congregation, has been called out of the world and gathered to Messiah. But the Lord’s calling out of a people for his name did not begin at Pentecost. According to Stephen, in Acts 7:38, God had an ekklesia in the wilderness.
Until the time of Paul’s missionary enterprise the ekklesia consisted mainly of the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, though there were notable exceptions such as Rahab of Jericho, Ruth the Moabitess, Uriah the Hittite and Naaman the Syrian.
In the 2,000 years since the time of Christ the majority of the ‘called out’ have been Gentiles. Paul’s illustration in Romans 11 is that Israel is an olive tree, the branches of which are individual believers. Some of the native branches have been ‘broken off through unbelief’. But whether the branches are natural or wild, both are joined to the same tree.
This renders the theory that the Church has replaced Israel a nonsense. How can Israel replace Israel? How can the Church replace the Church?
Neither is the church God’s ‘new’ Israel. On the day of Pentecost ‘the church’ entered a new phase, when the gospel would be proclaimed to all nations beginning at Jerusalem. ‘With Pentecost’, writes Kai Kjær-Hansen, ‘God’s church for the last days begins its ministry’.
Shadows have been replaced by reality; the partial has been superseded by the fullness, and the preparation by the fulfilment. At Pentecost, as at the erection of the tabernacle and the dedication of Solomon’s temple, the glory of God descended and filled his temple ‘made without hands’.
Gentile believers must eschew fruitless and arid replacement theology and return to the New Testament’s emphasis on fulfilment. We must acknowledge with gratitude that we who were once ‘without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world’ are now ‘no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone’.
The language of replacement is inappropriate to the discussion. It promotes that Gentile arrogance against which Paul warned in Romans 11, whereas the recognition that we Gentiles have become ‘fellow heirs [with Israel], of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel’ will promote humility, wonder and a longing for the natural heirs of the blessings to enter into the fullness of their inheritance.
Please leave your comments on this article or on the subject of Replacement Theology. Thanks.