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Debating Israel and The Church
Israel - Middle East
Friday, November 25, 2011
Alf Cengia

Last week I watched the Revelation debate between Dr. Calvin Smith and Stephen Sizer on the internet, which was originally presented on live television on the 9th November 2011.

The subject was “Has the Church Replaced Israel?”

Now I have mixed feelings about these events. A skillful debater can be dead wrong and yet come across as very convincing. If his opponent cannot counter an argument – even when it is fallacious – then the skillful debater can sway a crowd’s support to his own cause.

Rarely does a debate convince an opponent to switch sides. Generally it’s for the benefit of the audience or may serve to bolster the pride of the debater. A notable exception would be former atheist Antony Flew. Even then his conversion to Deism only occurred after many years.

On the other hand, someone like evangelical apologist-philosopher William Lane Craig is a great debater who knows his material and – more importantly – is on the right side! He has done a great deal of good in countering atheist-activism and atheistic-academia by debating some well known atheists and trouncing them. Even the great Dr. Richard Dawkins appears to be somewhat gun shy of Craig and skeptics have taken him to task over it (Some content in the links may offend).

But back to the TV debate between Smith and Sizer.

As I’ve mentioned in my previous commentaries, Anglican priest Stephen Sizer is notorious for hounding the oppressive, land-occupier Israel and Armageddon-loving Christian Zionists through his books, website and various other media. This crusade extends to visiting and dialoguing with media and governments of Islamic dominated countries, such as Malaysia and Iran.

I know nothing about Calvin Smith aside from the information on his website. I give him kudos for sincerity, congeniality and effort. He clearly had Sizer on the run with Scripture. I would have loved for him to have gone in harder but Smith admitted to being nervous. It’s always easier to come up with responses when one isn’t under the spotlight.

One of those points was when Sizer re-interpreted Acts 1:6 by appealing to John Stott and John Calvin; who, as adherents of RT, got it wrong. Some claim the “kingdom” was “spiritual” and some presume the pre-Pentecost disciples’ expectations were premature.

Yet, as non-supercessionists point out, Acts 1:3-7 reveals several obvious things. After His resurrection Jesus spent 40 days talking to the disciples about the kingdom. One must accept that, by then, they’d have a clue. There’s nothing in the original Greek to indicate a spiritual element to their question and the word “restoring” simply means bringing something back that had once already existed. Lastly, the fact that Jesus did not correct the disciples’ expectation is a death blow to RT.

It is a testament to circular reasoning that RT proponents get around the above arguments while ignoring Zechariah 14 and Jeremiah 31:31-37. That same reasoning process allows them to put words into Paul’s mouth in Romans and Galatians so that true Israel is anyone who accepts Christ. Yet the context of oneness in those Epistles is salvation; thus a saved Gentile is not a member of Israel.

In the debate it quickly becomes obvious that Sizer has an issue with the view of a restored Israel as a “Jewish” nation. His concept of ONE people of God has the Church replacing Israel. It is apparent that he’d prefer the term “Palestinian” or that Israel be made up of multiple ethnic groups instead of an Israel tracing its origin back to Isaac and Jacob. 

Yet as Barry Horner “Future Israel” and many others have shown, a ONE people of God view is not mutually exclusive with God fulfilling land and kingdom promises to a chosen physical Jewish nation called Israel; once they have recognized Christ.

Rev. Sizer finally departed from the agreed format by invoking geo-political arguments and elephant hurled accusations of alleged Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians. Dr. Smith countered a few popular myths but time prevented him from addressing them all. This is not atypical of the Replacement Theology strategy and reveals the true motivation which fires these individuals.

It reminded me of the 2010 discussion between Dr. Michael Rydelnik and Dr. Gary Burge, hosted by Moody Radio’s Janet Parshall. There, too, after dodging Dr. Rydelnik’s OT verses, Dr. Burge inevitably retreated to a geo-political attack on Israel. Dr. Burge raised the incident of the bombing of Gaza. When Dr. Rydelnik countered that Palestinians had been warned via leaflets, various media and phone calls, Dr. Burge asserted they had no place to go.

Dr. Burge’s accusations sound curiously similar to Norman Finkelstein’s allegations. In fact Gideon Spitzer points out that the bombing occurred over an extended period:

“The contention that Gazans could not avoid Israeli bombardment by fleeing from areas where leaflets had been dropped or phone calls made warning of imminent attack ignores the fact that not all bombardments occurred at exactly the same time; to the contrary, the Gaza War lasted 22 days. Finkelstein simply ignored the passage of time.”

During the debate Sizer briefly acknowledged that terrible things occurred to Jews throughout history. Yet, in his 298 page book on Christian Zionism, he fails to address them – despite the word holocaust appearing on 15 pages. The word “Holocaustology” is mentioned on page 21. Holocaustology or the Holocaust Industry is a term coined by....Norman Finkelstein.

Remember him?

It should be noted that Dr. Smith also indicated that Israel isn’t perfect. This is very important to understand. However, what people like Sizer do is build a bloated case against Israel while conveniently ignoring the existential threats it faces, and the attacks on it since its birth.

The impetus behind all polemics written against Dispensationalism and Zionism isn’t to correct “aberrant theology”. It is a fundamental bias against ethnic Israel. This is the same road where Gary Burge, Colin Chapman, Barbara Rossing, Alistair Donaldson and a host of other polemicists always end up.

It is a thriving Anti-Israel Industry.

One positive emerging from the debate is that many have noted Sizer’s inconsistencies. As rosh pina observed:

“Last night he [Sizer] concluded that he wanted to “learn from his Messianic brothers” however to an audience of largely non-Christian Palestine Solidarity Campaign supporters he called Israeli Messianic Jews, who support their country, an abomination! He later issued an “apology” when he was caught out, but blamed the naughty Zionists who filmed him for putting him under-pressure...”

And this:

“...Sizer categorised the Holocaust not as genocide but rather as a “Jewish migration issue”! On the Reveleation (sic) TV debate he attempted to show sympathy for Jewish suffering beyond the Holocaust being a mere migration issue or an emotional hindrance to anti-Zionism.”

Finally, Harry’s place picked up on Rev. Sizer’s response when questioned about his visit to Iran. Sizer proudly announced that; “I’ll go anywhere to share the Gospel.” Yet Joseph W. of Harry’s place (as others have done) reveals a somewhat less than evangelistic motive.

Snitching on Israel to regimes who want to destroy it isn’t exactly a function of “sharing the Gospel”.

A final word on the debate - well done, Dr. Calvin Smith!

About Alf Cengia

Last week: The Fractured Arab League



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