Michael Bird weighs in with the sort of one-sided statement I’m used to hearing from fellow evangelicals on the question of Zionism. It’s just that Michael is one-sided in the less common direction. In place of undiluted support for Zionism, he offers undiluted support for anti-Zionism. The idea seems to be that one reserves one’s most indefensible statements for one’s personal blog. If that’s what’s going on, it might be better not to blog at all.
On a thread spun out over at Chris Tilling's place, Clayton Stirling Bartholomew raised the appropriate question years ago: Is there a biblical warrant for modern Israel?
The conversation around Judaism, Zionism, and Israel continues to play itself out among Christians in superficial ways. Too many biblical scholars and theologians – including Michael, whom I want to keep as a friend and colleague despite my beating up on him in this post – write or at least blog as if they know nothing of the shameful history of biblical and theological scholarship on precisely these subjects: Judaism, Zionism, and Israel.
Furthermore, if biblical scholars and theologians think they can delink those three terms, that only goes to show that they have little deep knowledge of the structure of Judaism down through the ages. Nor are they in any position to understand Romans 9-11. It’s as if they have never read a page of Wilhelm Vischer or Friedrich Marquardt, and know nothing of Jochen Klepper.
Almost 30 years ago, the Rhineland Evangelical Church Synod (1980) declared that “the continuing existence of the Jewish people, its return to the Promised Land and the creation of the State of Israel . . . [are] a sign of God’s faithfulness to his people.”1
That famous statement, as anyone knows who knows anything about the history of these questions among Christians in Germany, is the end-result of a process of metanoia which, it seems to me, too many contemporary Christians risk never experiencing in their own flesh. If the statement carries any weight, then there is a biblical warrant for modern Israel.
On that basis, precisely on that basis, it is possible and necessary to criticize the policies of modern Israel as conscience dictates. Christians, it seems to me, are bound to be in solidarity, with respect to Israel and Palestine, with Jews, Christians, and Muslims. All three, in probably conflicting ways. Anything less IMO makes a travesty of the Christian faith.
1 Rolf Rendtorff and Hans Hermann Henrix, Die Kirchen und das Judentum. Dokumente von 1945 bis 1985 (Paderborn/ München, 1988) 594. For background, go here. For a nuanced statement of the question by one of my teachers in Altes Testament, see this piece by Frank Crüsemann. Perhaps I should also disclose that I was offered a full scholarship to do a doctorate with Friedrich Marquardt in Berlin, but turned the offer down.