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Zeteo 3:16 with Alf and Alesia Cengia




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Another Christ at the Checkpoint Conference
In Defense of the Faith
Friday, January 15, 2016
Alf Cengia

Another Christ at the Checkpoint Conference is scheduled for this year (March 2016). This will be the fourth in a continuing series of CATC conferences sponsored by organizations such as Bethlehem Bible College. Previous conferences were held in 2010, 2012, and 2014. 

The theme of this year's conference is: "The Gospel in the Face of Religious Extremism.”

The mission statement of these conferences aspires to: "challenge Evangelicals to take responsibility to help resolve the conflicts in Israel/Palestine by engaging with the teaching of Jesus on the Kingdom of God."

The conference invites Palestinian and international evangelical leaders to explore how the rise religious extremism within Christianity, Judaism and Islam impacts the Palestinian-Israeli problem. It aspires to explore the biblical response to religious extremism and search an alternative way "through living out the kingdom of God."

All this sounds very noble at first blush. However, the conferences' not-so-subtle images are a dead giveaway as to intent. Walls and barbed wire fences are consistently depicted on WebPages. Jack Sara's short video portrays a Christian Church behind a wire fence.

The theme of these conferences is anti-Zionism which is regarded as "Christian and Jewish extremism". Conference participants routinely ignore the violence and violent rhetoric against Jews by the two Palestininian governing entities. When it isn't ignored it's excused.

Talk of a Jewish state sticks like a bone in their throats. Many insist on referring to Jesus as a Palestinian rather than a Jew. The arguments against the Israeli State center on claims that it's an oppressive occupier with no genuine biblical or secular claim to land.

Past participants have been Stephen Sizer, Gary Burge, Colin Chapman, Ben White, Naim Ateek, Mitri Raheb, Yohanna Katanacho, Michael Prior, preterist Hank Hanegraaff etc. You can read more about some of these gentlemen in Paul Wilkinson's essay Prophets Who Prophesy Lies In My Name.

On being asked about the splitting of the Mount of Olives (Zech14:4), Dr. Burge once told Dr. Michael Rydelnik that Christians should look to the New Testament and think "christianly." To Burge, thinking christianly means denying OT prophecy and Israel's Promised Land privileges. Others have noted that the NT in fact affirms the OT promises to Israel.

Yet in his critique of Burge's book, Barry Horner raised questions regarding New Testament Professor Burge's views on reliability of some of the NT epistles. Burge writes in part:

"Our treatment of the land in Paul need only rely on those letters that enjoy high confidence as Pauline...."

For the record, authenticity and Pauline authority are well defended academically. But why would one even go there unless they had difficulty reconciling their theology with Paul's? Similarly Michael Prior and Naim Ateek wrote off large chunks of the Old Testament because of how it deals with Israel and its land promises.

In a previous CTAC conference, guest speaker Dr John Feinberg stated that dispensationalists believe the OT covenants were specifically addressed to ethnic, biological Jews. Palestinian cleric Katanacho later attached this comment to Feinberg's article: “How can you be biologically Jewish?”

If you're satisfied that Israel's possession of the land isn't biblically tenable then why would you go on to question Jewish ethnicity? This is a scattergun mindset which uses whatever means to delegitimize Israel's claim to the land.

Past conference contributor and theologian Manfred Kohl remarked that in Paul's Christology; being in Christ means the land, like the law, becomes irrelevant. He asserts the Promised Land is now extended through Christ to the whole world; that His true people are the worldwide community, not an ethnic group tied to the land. He calls people who think otherwise "stupid dummkopfs."

In fact Paul wrote that Israel's promises and calling were irrevocable (Rom 11:28-29). What else would he have been referring to if not particular ethnic promises found in the OT? But if that ever truly bothers Kohl he might consider liaising with Burge's academic strategy.

A common tactic used by supersessionists is to say these promises are fulfilled in the church. When Jews convert they receive more than the land - they get the whole world. They might use the example of a father promising his son a new bike (Israel) when he gets to certain age. If instead of a bike, he gets a new car (the whole world), the promises have been expanded, right?

Why then complain? - well, because he's been conned. In reality, while he would have been the unique proprietor of the bike under the original promise, he now has to share that car with everyone else. Furthermore, in the real world, everyone really wants the new bike (Palestine).

CATC director and Bethlehem Bible College assistant professor, Munther Isaac, takes his Palestinian position in the land passionately. Commenting on a debate questioning whether Jews have a right to Israel's land he asks:

"Can you imagine how I as Palestinian felt when seeing the title of this article (sic). What about the people of the land? This is a typical case of two American theologians, sitting in the comfort of their offices, discussing our land – as if it was empty."

Isaac was cited several times by The Electronic Intifada:

“Christian Zionism, in my opinion, has ignored us Palestinian Christians at best, [and] demonized us at worst...Whenever they speak about prophesy and Israel, it’s as if Palestinians don’t exist. We are not mentioned in the books, in the films, in the theology conferences...For too long there has been only one narrative...The Palestinian narrative is there and is challenging the narrative which has dominated for too long. They can no longer ignore the Palestinian voice.”

So we see that the "expansionist land promise" language which Manfred Kohl insists Zionists must embrace doesn't satisfy Isaac's Palestinian nationalism. Another common argument against premillennialism and Zionism is that our citizenship is in heaven. Yet as we've seen, Palestinian clerics also cling to their national presence in the Holy Land.

Contra Isaac, it is actually Israel which is consistently marginalized. Did the inception of an "occupier" Jewish state really displace the Palestinians? Readers are welcome to read the history, especially regarding the Partition of the land. Also, watch Dennis Prager's video.

A past and upcoming contributor to the CATC conference is Red-Letter progressive Christian Shane Claiborne. Jim Fletcher has noted some of the inflated and outrageous accusations launched at Israel. For example, he writes of Claiborne and Campolo:

"In their 2012 book Red-Letter Revolution, Campolo and co-author Shane Claiborne alleged that there are three bodyguards for every Israeli settler. This assertion is absurd (who can find 1.5 million bodyguards in Israel?), yet Claiborne dodged the issue in a phone call, and Thomas Nelson editors declined to comment about publishing false information."

Fletcher also cites Brian McLaren's support of Anglican priest Naim Ateek's (Sabeel) remarks that Jewish and Christian Zionists are more dangerous than Hamas. According to Ateek:

“With candor, the last two groups of extremists, i.e. Jewish and Western Christian Zionists, are a greater threat to us than the extremist Islamists. In fact, these extremists have more military power and clout to uproot all Palestinian presence, both Christian and Muslim, from our homeland.”

Note that it wouldn't matter if all Jews in Israel became Christians. The word "Jew" is the problem. They're offended by the notion of a future millennium where the "Jew" has a prominent role (Isaiah 49:25-26, 60:12; Zec 8:23, 9:16).

While these individuals outwardly denounce anti-Semitism, they also excoriate Jews who support a Jewish state. They adopt an elastic view of Scripture by modifying or ignoring God's word where it addresses national Israel in the land. Moreover they enjoy a close network of support from progressive churches in the USA.

Munther Isaac has recently been ordained a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The ordination was held at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land also preaches occupier narrative. It has companion ELCA churches in America (and elsewhere).

CATC speaker and Palestinian Lutheran Pastor Mitri Raheb was recent co-winner of the 2015 Olof Palme prize for his fight against "occupation and violence." Flamboyant, postmodernist, ELCA "Pastrix" Nadia Bolz-Weber quickly posted a congratulatory note on her Facebook page.

The ELCA is anti-Zionist, it champions abortion, and its interpretation of Scripture is governed by the demands of diversity and LGBTI issues. Raheb has also been noted for problematic views on Jews and Israel. He's in good company.

To sum up, the only reason we Christian Zionists believe Jews have a biblical stake in the land is because Scripture attests to God's faithfulness to His promises (Jer 31:31-37, 33:7-8; Amos 9:14-15; Mal 3:6). And we rejoice in that fact because it is God's will. We are God's servants, not obstinate or sycophantic supporters of someone else's territorial claims.

Prophecy indicates that Israel will be in the land prior to Christ's Second-Advent (Zechariah chapters 13-14). Moreover it states that Christ's coming is conditional to Israel's eventual repentance (Hos 5:15; Matt 23:39). That makes present-day Israel prophetically relevant.

You'd be a dummkopf to ignore or deny what God explicitly says about any given matter.

For thus says the LORD of hosts: "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. Zec 2:8

About Alf Cengia

Last week: This Rebellious Planet

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