Thursday, 13 December 2012

Israel - Conservative Friends are not helping - Oborne

Peter Oborne has written an interesting piece in the Daily Telegraph. This concerns the influence that Israeli politicians have in the Conservative Party, and the negative consequences that will build up if the UK government doesn't speak truthfully to the Jewish State. The cowardice at the heart of our relationship with Israel

According to Oborne, present Israeli policy in settlement development and expansion in the West Bank will ultimately lead to disaster, where it is forced to accept a one state solution instead of a two state solution. As a consequence, Israel will either no longer be a Jewish state, because Palestinians and Arabs will form a majority, or it will be forced to treat Palestinians as second class citizens in an apartheid-like situation. 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Israel to build 3000 more homes - in defiance of UN

The State of Israel is to build another 3,000 homes in East Jerusalem in response to UN recognition of Palestine as an observer non-member state observer non-member state.

The BBC report suggests the plan will effectively cut the West Bank into two. This is really a provocative act and a snub to the UN. The BBC says that "An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said some of the new units would be built between Jerusalem and the settlement of Maaleh Adumim. Plans to build settlements in the area, known as E1, are strongly opposed by Palestinians, who say the development will cut the West Bank in two, preventing the creation of a contiguous Palestinian state." There are now 500,000 Israeli settlers living in the Palestinian areas.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Yeshua Explored - Steve Maltz

   Premier Radio has been show-casing Steve Maltz - Yeshua Explored material . I have previously posted this on the Premier Radio forum. Some of this material I like and agree with, and I haven't read or listened to it all, but these are my thoughts. Firstly, I agree we need to embrace our Hebrew Christian roots and read and appreciate the Old Testament in its correct context without losing our own ethnic identity. There is a subtle Christian zionist agenda in Steve's work, but that is not my main point here. My main question arises out of a desire to try and understand Jesus within the context of a form of second temple Judaism, that of the Scribes and Pharisees, that Jesus was himself strongly critical of. Steve for instance quotes from the Mishnah - 'the tradition of the elders' and the Talmud which really set aside the Torah - (which is why Jesus was so critical of it).
   First century Judaism did not have a united voice about what it was to be a good Jew, so we had the Saducess, the Pharisees, the Qumran community etc, and the follows of John the Baptist and Jesus. Steve also contrasts the Hebrew way of thinking with the Greek way of thinking of Aristotle and Plato. Again a lot of good here. But my question arises because Greek thinking was in Israel for several centuries prior to the Messiah. They ruled the land prior to the Romans. Compare if you will the political structure of Plato's city Polis in the Republic, with the behaviour of the Scribes and Pharisees. Plato held that a city state should be ruled by Philosopher Kings (the Scribes and Pharisees) with security by a well paid military (the Roman army) with the rest of the populace reduced to mere productive workers (the common Jewish man and woman who Jesus championed).
   Often as well, the Greek speaking Jews, who lived in Israel and elsewhere around the Mediterranean Sea, often lived lives that were truer to the heart of the Jewish way of life than the leaders in Israel who were elitist. We see this in Acts where seven Greek speaking Christian Jews (including Phillip and Stephen) were placed in charge of the food supply for the Christian community. In fact Paul often preached first to Greek speaking Jews on his missionary journeys, and these Greek Jews formed the foundation for the Christian Church that arose in Europe - we should offer a great deal of thanks to these Jews (and gentiles) who often suffered martyrdom for their faith. But the Greek influence in the Hebrew way of life predates Jesus, and we need to question how it impacted different communities of Jews because it is not straightforward. (Jews living in Alexandria also produced the Septuagint). I could go on about the influence that Philo had upon Augustine and other Church Fathers etc., but that is enough for now.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Female Bishops? Some Rambling Thoughts.

As I am not an Anglican, and I am a man, I am not sure I should be commenting on the question of women bishops. See But these are my rambling scribbling thoughts anyway - without taking sides ;o).
   Firstly, God can work through a woman as well as a man. Often women in Scripture showed greater faithfulness than men, even the judge Deborah was anointed to lead the people of Israel forward when there was no suitable male leader to do it.
   The Old Testament priests were men - sons of Levi - it is true, but Christ has become the great high priest, and Paul taught the priesthood of all believers. From this one may question the theological justification for having priests and bishops in the Church of England based upon the Old Testament Levitical model. Will the Anglican Church grasp this nettle and instead develop the wider body model of ministry that Paul argued for in Corinthians? I doubt it when there is so much prestige attached to Church positions and the division of clergy and laity along Old Testament lines. Both sides need to view ministry as a vocation towards God and share the gifts around as a community of priests, men and women, ministering to one another and the wider community. We need to be willing to minister faithfully without obvious recognition as well, as the example of Christ demonstrated.
   But are there still separate roles for men and women? Men still can’t enjoy the blessing of bearing children for instance. And does female emancipation lead to male emasculation? The complexity of this question turns around the complexity of both social and sexual needs of men and women. You will find many women actually prefer a male boss to a female boss because a male leader will show more sympathy towards them. A woman is more likely to choose a mate according to his social or employment status, where as a man is more likely to look for beauty and charm in a woman as well as her family capability. However, some women who are not content in domestic, blissful situations want to see their own careers progress.
   Furthermore, what is a bishop for? Is it an apostolic role of real meaning, one who is sent forth often into dangerous situations, or just a ceremonial role where people get to dress up in fancy frocks? If the former, does the New Testament recognise the existence of female apostles? I think you will find mention of Junia, arguably in the context of a female apostle (Romans 16:7). The evangelical church has also often sent its empowered women abroad where they can act in the role of apostle out of sight. Is that right? 
   A number of politicians not noted for their adherence to Christian faith, such as Ben Bradshaw, love to try and put the church in its place by suggesting parliament should legislate so that it is forced to accept modern, secular values. Of course liberal modernism hates long held tradition and principled argument, and the claimed dominance of the world is sure to rally the troops against the measure. Bowing the knee to modernist secular trends is not a good argument for change in the eyes of many Christians.
   It is ironic also how some liberals are quick to blame conservative evangelicals for this, when many such evangelicals I would guess are not that bothered. Giles Fraser writing in the Guardian Comment is Free - (but some opinions are freer than others) can’t help sneering at those he thinks responsible suggesting they are a minority who should be ignored. No desire to end the isolation and bullying of this minority group who he thinks deserve all they get. What Fraser can’t see is that some of the conservatives he describes love to expose the lack of backbone and double standards of some liberals who so easily turn into dictators when given the chance to suppress those who hold to objectivity in ethics. If change comes it must be for good theological reasons.
   A shame also that the present Archbishop of Canterbury should undermine the institution of which he is still leader by expressing his sadness in such a negative manner. He commented that the Church had ‘lost credibility’ As a man of faith one wonders why he speaks with so little faith about an organisation he has responsibility before God for. He is still the chief shepherd of his flock. If he has failed to convince on theological grounds then he should address that and start afresh.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The Sheep and the Goats - more Keith Green

Are we Asleep in the Light?

We need to open our eyes and be concerned for the suffering of all people, Jews and Palestinians.

Paul Wilkinson - Jesus in the Protestant Church?

Paul Wilkinson asserts that he does not see Jesus in the Protestant Churches today. he was speaking in the opening session of a consultation organised by the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem and the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity in Israel (ETRFI). This fraternity apparently was established to support Jewish Christian relations. A report can be found here and He accuses Christendom of being spiritually blind for 2,000 years in its understanding of Israel and offers no hope of change because its erroneous theology is so deeply ingrained.  He says he is 'completely pessimistic in terms of believing that I, we, are going to overturn 2,000 years of erroneous theology that has manifested itself in all kinds of diatribes and anti-Semitic factions.' He writes further that there is '...absolute hatred toward Israel that exists in the heart — in the heart — of the Protestant Church.' Really? It is hard to know where to begin with this type of rhetoric.

Wilkinson's statement reminds me of the holy-huddle mentality of the Plymouth Brethren, in which I was brought up, that sometimes held that they are the only true Christians left on earth - many chapels are now closed and the Darbyite theology, of which Wilkinson is an advocate, led to increasing fragmentation and exclusivity. Not a place where God's Holy Spirit can work in building loving communities of believers, communities that should include Jews, Gentiles and Palestinians.

BBC bias - or troubled consciences?

Telegraph bloggers are out in force having another pop at the BBC - this time for biased reported against poor Israel.  See Rev Dr Peter Mullen and Dan Hodges

Or perhaps the issue here is not one of bias, but one of troubled consciences. Yes, Hamas is a wicked organisation, although the word organisation here is perhaps unfair. A rabble might be more accurate bearing in mind the trouble they are causing their own people, and despite the number of rockets fired into Israel they have only managed to kill a handful of Jews. Their fire power is less lethal than a summer thunderstorm in the Middle East.

On the other hand the highly efficient Israeli military has managed to kill some 100 Palestinians in just a few days with much greater fire power - the last Gaza campaign killed over 1,300, including many women and children. It is not an even-handed conflict. Israel should show more restraint in response, and Christians should remember that Palestinians, as well as Jews, are human beings of value.

Did Hurricane Sandy keep US out of war on Iran ?

This is an off-the-wall thought, but is it possible that an 'Act of God' might have put Obama back into the White House and helped to avoid US involvement in any attack on Iran's nuclear establishments? Obama has been consistently less keen to get involved, alongside Israel, in a bombing campaign against Iran than Romney and the Republicans. The work of Sandy showed Obama in a more caring light than the Republican candidate and helped get him back into power. Obama does sympathy much better. Sandy was incidentally forecast well in advance and human casualties were minimised. Furthermore, because it became classified as an extra tropical storm before it hit land, the insurance industry may have more money to pay out.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Netanyahu and Hamas on the same side

Matt Hill, writing in the Telegraph, argues that both Likud and Hamas want war and not peace, thus they are on the same side - and against the majority of Jews and Palestinians who really want peace. Both sides are driving for conflict.

As Christians we should pray for peace and not let us be side tracked and take sides.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians pray together

Mike Moore writes an interesting peice about a group of Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians who meet to pray together Jews and Arabs pray together in Israel. This is encouraging given the war mongering taking place between Israel, Hamas in Gaza and Iran. All sides seem to be itching to start the next war, not worrying where, when or how it will end.

We should join in prayer for peace and justice across the divide without getting involved in nationalistic politics.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Healing the division between Jews and Christians - the Savile Connection

The recent scandal surrounding Jimmy Savile raises some questions about the relationship between Jews and Christians, but not in obvious ways as I shall explain. Savile was apparently an avowed Roman Catholic, but he was also a strong supporter of the State of Israel according to the Jewish Chronicle, (he didn't believe Israel should have given back land after the Six Day war), as well as a fundraiser for a number of Jewish charities, and Christian ones too - rather shockingly his intent may have been to get close to children of all colours and creeds, and this naturally raises concerns for both Jewish and Christian parents. The Catholic Church has of course had its fair share of abuse scandals, and Savile now has added to the sorrow of ordinary catholics. He received a papal knighthood for instance, although now it may be revoked. However, dig a little deeper and another aspect arises.

The Jewish Chronicle reports that a memorial to Savile has now been removed from the Leeds Jewish Welfare Board (LJWB) building. This shows that he was close to the Jewish community and Savile claimed to be the 'most Jewish Catholic you will ever meet.'
This made me wonder whether there is a link between Savile's name and the city of Seville - a centre of Marano catholics and a place of persecution for Jews through the Spanish Inquisition. Seville had incidentally grown wealthy through trade with the new world. These catholics were however forced converts from Judaism, some embraced the faith, others secretly kept their Jewish ways and traditions. Of course it is not necessary to refer to one's ethnic identity in this matter and even if Savile was a Marano Jew it would not be relevant to the case against him. Other Jews, such as Esther Rantzen, have also acted strongly in support of child protection. In the question of child abuse both perpetrators and victims are from all areas of society, some will be Jews, but many are Gentiles too, so ethnicity is not the issue here.

But the point I want to raise here is the tragedy of the Inquisition, that having failed to convert Jews through love and faith, the Catholic Church abused its power base by trying to force Jews to convert through fear [although according to this BBC Radio 4 programme the Spanish Christians were good at converting Jews to Christ through love prior to their forced conversion]. Whereas Paul wished to make Jews jealous to win them to Christ through the Christian community living out a godly, blessed life, a Church that had lost its way and faith thought it could win through force and intimidation. This is an ongoing tragedy that needs to be remembered.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Israel - a secular State that does not follow the Mosaic Law

Jacob Prasch posts a news item about a Messianic fellowship in Israel that has been found guilty in an Israeli court for failing to marry a lesbian couple. Messianic Hotel Moshav fined heavily for refusing to host lesbian marriage. A letter from the group reads as follows.
"The judge ruled against us, claiming that our refusal to allow gay marriage in the Yad Hashmona guest-house is against the law. we were fined 80,000 shekels and together with our expenses in this case, its very heavy on us.

This is a quote from the ruling:

““Every person who opens a public business in Israel should know that they must serve the whole public equally, without discrimination… which covers sexual orientation as well. As soon as the defendants opened their doors to all, they cannot close them for those who they believe do not meet the requirements found in the Bible or New Testament.”

Needless to say, we do not close our doors to anyone who comes to Yad Hashmona, on the contrary, we are a living testimony of good news of the Messiah to many Israelis that pass through us, this is what I am here for. to be a testimony. But to hold a marriage ceremony of a lesbian couple in Yad Hashmona is to violate God’s requirement over this place that we claim to be a Messianic village, and we could not do that."

This should be a wake up call to those Christian Zionists who think that the modern State of Israel is somehow fulfilling a divine calling when it so openly defies the Mosaic Law, or even a Messianic interpretation of the Law, preferring instead a state of being a law-unto-itself. Of course this should lead us to pray even more for Israel, but let us not be naive. Palestinians too have suffered as a result of the State of Israel's disregard for Mosaic requirements about treating other nationalities with respect.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Israel's Choice - War or Peace?

The time for Israeli action against Iran seems to be drawing closer, according to a Daily Telegraph news item, as an international armada gathers to protect the Strait of Hormuz Armada of international naval power massing in the Gulf as Israel prepares an Iran strike. Is this for real, or is it just growing, but groundless fear? Vague chatter on the web is that Yom Kippur may be the date for an attack 25/26 September 2012 - we shall see.

Of course the majority of Israelis would prefer peace, but they may not get a say. Israel's choice now is to pursue peace through submission to the UN, or to go it alone and face the danger of Iranian retalliation.

Jeremiah (as we read in chapter 38) was thrown into a pit because of his prophecies. But he was brought out and said to King Zedekiah that the king and city of Jerusalem would be saved if he submitted to Babylon, but if not then the city and king would destroyed and the people carried into exile. For us today the UN is the closest thing to Babylon - yes it may be ruled by the worldy system, but God raises up even the wordly systems to train the righteous towards godliness for those who accept the wooden yoke. For those who rebel and resist there is the iron yoke. Jeremiah 28:13-14 says this. “Go and tell Hananiah, ‘This is what the Lord says: You have broken a wooden yoke, but in its place you will get a yoke of iron. 14 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will put an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they will serve him."

Many of us have called for a peace settlement with the Palestinians and Arab neighbours through the UN, and we do not wish to see the Israeli people face the coming threat as some of their leaders wish. There is still time for Israel to go to the UN and seek a settlement that brings peace to the State of Israel, let us pray that the leadership takes the wiser choice.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Israeli rhetoric on Iran - harder to back down

The Israeli government has for a while been upping the rhetoric on attacking Iran. The trouble is the more one gives out, the harder it is to back down. Netanyahu and Barak may have backed themselves into a corner where they have no choice, but to launch an attack. Many Jews in Israel are though fearful of the outcome and fall out and they need our prayers at this time. Consider this news report from Israel National News which suggests next 50 days will be decisive. Hanegbi comments that "We now stand, in my opinion, before the 50 most fateful days in Israel's history, since perhaps the Yom Kippur War, in which there were also several dozen fateful days."

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Three Christian Zionist Arguments in Support of Israel

I would suggest we can categorise three theological arguments that Christian Zionists makes in support of Israel. Now, it is acknowledged that not all proponents of Zionism will agree with all of this, and there is internal division, but I believe this list forms a broad basis for discussion.

1. The first is something we might all broadly agree with whether Zionist or not; that is that Christians should love Jews and support their peaceful existence and co-existence where ever they live, in the Holy Land or elsewhere. And because Jews have suffered through history they need a homeland, so why not the Holy Land? Furthermore, God has allowed Jews to live in the Holy Land and establish a state, at least in part of it by his permissive will, and we should not oppose that.

2. The second is a positive theological argument towards the divine right of Jews to live in the Holy Land. This position seeks to justify the expansion of land controlled by Jews because it is held that God has given it to them by Old Testament promises - from the Nile to the Euphrates. In extreme cases it assumes that Jews can do no wrong in defence of this right. This position is however debated sharply because it involves biblical interpretation concerning land and application of promises, and it is a position challenged by Christian supporters of Palestinians.

3. The third is a negative theology towards the Church that seeks to undermine the claim of Christendom to Old Testament Abrahamic promises. The traditional Pauline - Augustinian claim involves the doctrine that the Church is the legitimate continuity of Israel because it was formed by the Messiah-King Jesus and by Jewish disciples and fulfills Old Testament promises. The negative theological challenge to this is promoted by misrepresenting the Reformed Augustinian theology so that it is taught by Zionist proponents that the Reformed theology holds that God replaced Israel with the Church. It potentially sets up a false dichotomy through use of straw-man arguments by over emphasising replacement theology. Yes, supercessionism does exist in popular form, and it needs to be challenged, but the true nature of the Augustinian doctrine focuses instead upon the continuity of the City of God from Old to New Testaments; i.e. the Jerusalem that is free, eternal and above is being established on the Earth through the Christian mission as an extension of Israel’s mission. One may ask however whether the negative Zionist doctrine effectively undermines the strength of evangelical Christian faith because it encourages Christians to look upon the Church as a sort of social-club-for-Gentiles devoid of its inheritance in Jesus as the fulfilment of the promises to Abraham through Israel.

There are other questions that arise with these three positions as well.

Does position two effectively undermine position one because it increases tension in the Middle East by giving theological justification to take land belonging to others? Even many Jews in Palestine are worried about position two, and would exchange land for peace.

Does position three effectively provide support amongst Christians for position two?

Are positions two and three really necessary in order to support position one? Most Christians support position one without encouragement because of Christian duty. I would suggest that positions two and three are unnecessary and unhelpful in seeking to uphold position one.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Israel - Stepping Up Pressure on Iran

Israel is reported to be preparing with even greater urgency for an attack on Iran according to the Telegraph. Citizens will apparently be getting text messages once the fall-out begins and Iran responds with its own barrage of missiles. Those of us who are sceptical of Zionism are not the ones who wish such level of destruction upon the Jewish people - the biggest threat to Jews is coming from within Israel, and many Jews are rightly concerned about the direction of their own government's policy.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Bunker Buster Ready for use Against Iran

According to the Telegraph - US bunker-buster bomb 'ready to go' - The US Air Force's massive 30,000lb bunker-buster bomb critical for striking heavily fortified Iranian nuclear facilities is "ready to go"

Someday politicians will wake up and understand that you can't bring peace, justice and reconciliation to the Middle East by use of larger and larger weapons. If used against Iran, there will sadly be a great deal of retaliation in terms of missiles raining down on Israel. But the Israelis believe on balance it will be safer to stop Iran from getting hold of the bomb. High stakes for a small country surrounded by enemies. Christians need to pray for peace in Palestine-Israel. 

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Is it OK to Attack Christians if you are on the Right, but not the Left? Cranmer’s Inconsistency

A few days ago the Cranmer blog was defending Evangelical Christians against ‘liberal’ attacks in the Guardian. A government advisor Alan Judd had laid into the Christian belief of creation in relation to education policy, and why it needed to be excluded from schools. Cranmer offered a very useful defence on the 20th July 2012 DfE labels evangelical Christians 'extremist'

However a few days later he posts an open letter from Rev. Nick Howard and co., which attacks the South East Gospel Partnership (SEGP) because of its refusal to sanction or withdraw fellowship from Rev. Stephen Sizer. Cranmer asks ‘Why does the South East Gospel Partnership tolerate anti-Semitism?’ 21 July 2012

The allegations that Howard makes have been examined by Police and Sizer’s own Bishop and found wanting. That isn't to say that people don't make mistakes, but if Sizer has been cleared by his own Bishop the SEGP surely has a Christian duty to remain in fellowship with him. Why then the renewed attack by Howard, now on the SEGP? Cranmer further basically accuses the SEGP of tolerating anti-Semitism. There does seem to be a determined effort here to divide and discredit a respectable group of evangelicals in an attempt to isolate Stephen Sizer. Unfortunately, the SEGP seems caught up in a proxy war within the Anglican Church over political support for Israel and Palestine. Perhaps Howard thinks the SEGP is of no consequence because they are not a Christian Zionist group, but this desire to expand the battle lines reflects badly on his cause.

So, a question for Cranmer - is it acceptable to attack Evangelical Christian groups from the Right, but not the Left? Instead, do we as Christians not have a duty to forgive our brothers and build community, or do some political manoeuvres triumph Christian faith?

One thing I have observed in life is that there is as much error on the political right as there is the left. As a social conservative I believe we need to uphold both social responsibility as well as personal responsibility. Sadly, conservatives sometimes have a bad habit of defending inequality and injustice - the same may apply to a lack of concern for Palestinians as they are forced out of their homes and land. As Christians we have a duty to work for peace, justice and reconciliation on all sides, Jews and Palestinians, as we seek to bring knowledge of Christ to all people and to all nations.  

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Church of England, EAPPI and Israel-Palestine

Giles Fraser offers a balanced commentary on the controversy regarding the Church of England's support for the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Should the C of E remain silent on Israel-Palestine The General Synod has endorsed the EAPPI statement, but Fraser believes the Church of England's actions are open to challenge, even if he is sympathetic to the question of justice. He writes

"Nonetheless, the friends of Israel do themselves few favours if they insist that all criticisms of Israel's behaviour towards Palestinians are motivated by one-sidedness or hostility to Jews. I'm not saying this happens all the time. But when it does, those of us who want to be critical friends of Israel (and Palestine) find that the ground on which we stand is constantly eroded. I believe in the existence of the state of Israel and in its need for security. But the "with us or against us" approach needs to be resisted at all times. And that means holding a position that is likely to draw vociferous criticism from several different quarters. But unless this ground can be held, we concede to a dangerous binary division that can only be settled by further violence. To spell it out: critical friends have a responsibility to be both critical and to be friends."

We need to remember that there are political pressures on both sides in what is a highly charged dispute over land, but primarily Christians are called to work for peace, justice and reconciliation for all. There are human tragedies that are very real for those caught up in the conflict on both sides. Of course that is an easy platitude to say, but true nonetheless.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Barnabas Fund - an interesting item on the Church

Barnabas Fund again reminds us of our need to remember those Christians suffering for their faith in other lands, more often than not in nations where Islam is dominant. But they also remind us of our need to recognise our common bond as members of one universal Church, founded by Jesus Christ. This gives us a duty as Christians to be concerned, but more than that, to express our concern in actions; such as to alleviate poverty  and to campaign for human rights for Christians. This is a very useful article   'What does the Bible say about the Church?'

Friday, 25 May 2012

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Life for Christians in the Holy Land

This is a very illuminating news item from CBS news 60 minutes. Showing the reality of life for Christians in the West Bank facing pressure from both political Zionism and political Islam.