Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Why I oppose Christian Zionism

Balfour Declaration motivated by British Cabinet’s Christian faithBy Charles Gardner, Special to ASSIST News Service

Lord Balfour useLONDON, UK (ANS – January 31, 2017) -- A political document blamed by many for today’s Middle East crisis was motivated by the evangelical Christian faith of a uniquely international, cross-party, British war cabinet.
This was the claim of Jerusalem-based Canadian Rev. Dr. David Schmidt in a London lecture marking the centenary of the 1917 Balfour Declaration.1
This refers to a letter to Britain’s Jewish leaders, signed by Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, promising that the Government would do all in its power to facilitate a return to their ancient land of God’s chosen people who had been scattered throughout the globe for some 1,800 years.
They weren’t at the time in a position to do so, for the region then known as Palestine was under Turkish Muslim control, but the situation changed within weeks following the capture of Jerusalem by British and Allied forces under the command of General Edmund Allenby.
So it was that a brief 130-word letter became the basis for British rule of the territory, subsequently confirmed by the League of Nations (the UN’s predecessor) until such time as the Jews were ready for independence. But Britain later reneged on its agreement in a bid to appease Arab opposition. However, it did not stop the eventual creation of a Jewish state in 1948.
As a Bible-believing academic, Dr. Schmidt is convinced that, far from being an embarrassing relic of the British Empire responsible for the current regional conflict, as many claim, the Balfour Declaration was part of God’s plan and Israel’s destiny, as foretold by the Old Testament prophets. “I believe what is written in the Bible regarding the Jewish people and prophecy; that the Jews would be exiled and scattered throughout the world, and in the last days return to the land in unbelief.”2
David and Susan SchmittSuch a time would be marked by an increase in travel and knowledge (Daniel 12.4), among other phenomena, but specifically by fierce opposition of the nations to an independent state of Israel (Zechariah 14.2, Psalm 2.1-6).
Various theories have been put forward for the motivation of David Lloyd George’s ten-strong War Cabinet of 1917 – such as empire expansion, remorse over Jewish persecution and even gratitude for the war efforts of Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, a top biochemist who had developed an important chemical ingredient for gunpowder.
But Dr. Schmidt is convinced that Christian Zionism was at its heart, defining Zionism as the belief that Jews remain God’s chosen people and that they have a right to live in the land of Israel.
Though from different social backgrounds and representing all contemporary political parties, these magnificent ten were, for the most part, non-Conformist evangelical Christians -- there were no Anglicans -- who were familiar with the Old Testament and aware of biblical prophecy. Ironically, the only Jewish member strongly opposed the policy. Many Jews at the time saw it as being herded into a “ghetto.” But their opposition gradually faded as the Zionist movement gained momentum.
Lloyd George was the main figure behind the declaration, said Dr. Schmidt. Though “ethically challenged” -- he had a mistress, for one thing – the Welsh-born Liberal Prime Minister was raised on the Bible and retained a sentimental attachment to biblical values while not always living up to its high ideals.
British mandate 1920Balfour too was steeped in the Bible from his Scottish Presbyterian childhood, believing that Christian civilization owed an immeasurable debt to Judaism. He was motivated by what he called “the desire to give the Jews their rightful place in the world” and even gave theological lectures at Cambridge University. He was highly accomplished, having already served as Prime Minister, and declared on his deathbed that aiding Jewish restoration was possibly the most worthwhile thing he had done. And he asked that the inscription on his tombstone should read, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” quoting the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 4.7.
Also in the cabinet was Jan Christian Smuts, a Boer general in the South African War. Raised in the Reform Church, his early life was filled with Bible teaching and he predicted that, in generations to come, a great Jewish state would arise once more. In fact, Smuts argued for the biblical restoration of Israel all his life. He was the only Cabinet member who lived to see the re-born state when, as South African Prime Minister, he was the first to recognize the new country after the United States.
Edward Carson, a fiery criminal lawyer from Ulster, opposed Lloyd George on many other issues, but not this one.
Andrew Bonar Law, a Canadian raised by a Presbyterian minister, became Prime Minister in 1922, but died of cancer soon afterwards.
Labour politician Arthur Henderson was converted to Christ through the famed evangelist Gypsy Smith and was also a wholehearted supporter of the Balfour Declaration, as was fellow Labour member George Barnes, who loved the Jewish people.
Support also came from Alfred Milner (brought up in Germany) but George Nathaniel Curzon raised early objections. As a former Viceroy of India, he understood how the Muslims could rise up in opposition and believed the Jews would struggle to live in such “a desolate place.”
Edwin Montague, meanwhile, was opposed both to the declaration and to Zionism in general despite being a Jew himself because it would force a nationality on people who had nothing in common, and become a Jewish ghetto.
David Lloyd GeorgeIn answer to questions, Dr. Schmidt suggested that the failure of British foreign policy was not in supporting the Jews with their Zionist cause but, in having done so, trying to appease the Arabs as well so that in the end they pleased no-one.
The composition of the cabinet was also ironic, I believe, in that none of the many Christians among them were Anglicans, and yet it had been the Church’s Ministry among the Jewish people (CMJ), an Anglican society, who had done much to influence politicians about Jewish restoration since its founding in 1809 by William Wilberforce and others. In fact the London meeting was sponsored by CMJ on behalf of the Balfour 100 (Christian) Committee.
NoteDr. Schmidt holds a PhD in Middle Eastern political history focusing on the Balfour Declaration and the British Mandate, and has lived in Israel with his wife Susan since 1989.
1) Held at the City Temple, Holborn, London, on January 25, 2017.
2) He made the point that the early Jewish Zionists were not religious -- “they were proud of the fact that they did not go to synagogue; they were in a sense Jewish atheists…” But now, he says: “Every year in Israel people are more spiritual and observant,” fulfilling Ezekiel’s prophecy of the dry bones coming to life.
Photo captions: 1) Lord Arthur Balfour. 2) Rev. Dr. David Schmidt with his wife, Susan. 3) British Mandate 1920. 4) David Lloyd-George. ......
Where I believe this writer is in error is here, “I believe what is written in the Bible regarding the Jewish people and prophecy; that the Jews would be exiled and scattered throughout the world, and in the last days return to the land in unbelief.”
I do not dispute the right of Israel to have a homeland, what I dispute is a God given prophetic right.  The author is to be commended for his information about the British politicians but where does Scripture say the Jews will return to the land in unbelief? I would contend that the promises of return are to a repentant, believing covenant people.Jews today do not meet the bill. They are unrepentant Christ rejecters, deniers of the new covenant. Those who are the new covenant people inherit the promises but not in the form of a geographical location. Today, uncritical Christian support for Zionism leads to injustice to the Palestinians.
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Paul Barnes said...

I agree with Dr Schmidt's view that in the last days the Jews would return to the land in unbelief. This was also the view of the Baptist theologian Andrew Fuller who taught that the Jews would return to their land and then would be converted. The land is covenanted by God to His people and He will never revoke His covenant:
"This is what the Lord says: ‘If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time, then my covenant with David my servant—and my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me—can be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his throne." (Jeremiah 33:20-21)
This is the Biblical position, in countless Bible prophecies. Outstanding preachers like C.H. Spurgeon, Andrew Bonar and Robert Murray M'Cheyne recognised this. May I recommend "Future Israel" by Barry Horner for further reading.

Graham Weeks said...

IMO the problem with uthis view which I link to the expectation of a significant national conversion of Jews to fulfil, Rom 11, is that it involved denial of the expectation of the imminent parousia. I know this view has a long and honourable history, particularly among post-millennial exegetes. It was the view of Hodge, Murray and Lloyd-Jones. But if there are unfulfilled prophesies yet to be fulfilled before Christ returns, how can one believe he will come like a thief in the night? If so I do not need to bother that Christ may return today? He won't for national Israel is not converted.

Graham Weeks said...

I looked at the Amazon reviews of the book you mentioned. Frankly I find it offensive when those of us who theologically oppose Zionism are called anti-semitic. Some Jews are not Zionists. The ultra-orthodox Lubovich believe there will be no restoration to the land until Messiah comes