Friends in Conversation on “Palestine and Israel” Part II

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The news of the ceasefire is provides some relief but does not mean the whole conflict is resolved. We continue with the conversation on “Palestine and Israel” which started in a previous post.

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Thanks, Bro.Pro-accuracy & Engaged Re-framer,

I’m adding some other friends on our email list since they seems to be "thinking Christians" who are in support of Israel in the current conflict.

I think I was not clear enough in my original email to both of you. I actually lean towards replacement theology (the idea that the Church is now the Israel of God and the physical Israel is no longer the Chosen People of God, but are another people group that need to receive Christ to be saved.)

And, even if replacement theology is false, reading through Jeremiah, Lamentations and Ezekiel (as I have been doing the last few months) you get the clear sense that you are allowed to criticize and oppose the Israel that is truly the Chosen People of God if they are not following God properly.

So, I have no argument with that, unlike a lot of Christians who blindly support Israel.
What I was trying to get a handle on is, is it true that the blame for the current crisis rests on Israel, as the Muslim and Malaysian press claim?

Or, is it true that that the Arab states actually are deliberately perpetuating the misery of the Palestinians in order to make Israel look bad? Is it true that Israel actually tries its best to avoid civilian casualties and it is Hamas that deliberately uses civilians as human shields so that they will have lots of dead babies to use as propaganda?

God bless,
    Perplexed Inquirer

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Thanks Bro. Pro-accuracy for your clear reply.  BTW, Perplexed Inquirer you can get the book "Whose Holy City?" by Colin Chapman http://www.amazon.com/Whose-Holy-City-Jerusalem-Future/dp/0801065569 locally in Malaysia.  I think he gives a useful overview on the history as well as possible ways to respond as Christians.

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Perplexed Inquirer wrote:

I think I was not clear enough in my original email to you . I actually lean towards replacement theology (the idea that the Church is now the Israel of God and the physical Israel is no longer the Chosen People of God, but are another people group that need to receive Christ to be saved.)

P.S. I strongly suspect that replacement theology is so commonly denounced these days because of an over-reaction against the abuses of the past, where this was used as one of the justifications for the abuse of Jews. I am strongly against abuse of any people, but that doesn’t mean we must change something which the Bible says just because people misused it to justify the evil they do.

From what I have read, replacement theology was the standard theology of most if not all the early Christian apologists.

Replacement theology is not the same as antisemitism, though antisemites did use it for their purposes.

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Thanks Perplexed Inquirer for keeping the conversation going. 

As your latest email alluded to there will be a variety of views on the place and role of Israel in the light of Christ and the formation of the church and depending on which Eschatological view one takes.

I take the view similar to the late Lesslie Newbigin in that the election of Israel as well as the election of the Church is for the sake of others.  Or some would say "to be a blessing to the nations." in the case of the church … others. And thus, we are judged by higher standards.

On the reading of the prophets, I think you are absolutely right.  And I would add Jesus’ woeful words of judgment on Jerusalem in the Gospels for example. While I do not think there would be many card carrying Christians Zionists in Malaysia (I may be wrong), but popular teaching on "You must bless and not curse Israel" kind of thinking maybe embedded behind a lot of the gut reactions of people.  I was once one of them, so I stand convicted.

On your question on the Malaysian portrayal of the matter, I’m not surprised by the anti-Israel tone especially in the light of selling papers and the elections in KT. Sorry for being a little cynical on that end, I can’t help it as one who grow up with a father involved in advertising.

As mentioned in my first reply, I do not find the "blame" game approach useful in the light of a humanitarian crisis, the fact is if you want to do that both are to be blamed.  The people in power should be blamed as their decisions inflict great pain on people on the borders of Gaza as well as people locked in Gaza now. The debate will wage on while people continue to wage war.

On the role of Arab states, whatever we can say is pure conjecture based on whatever information we are exposed to, allowed to, or filtered through.  So looks like a dead end there too.

On Israel avoiding civilians, I wish it was that easy. This is not a "counter strike" game.

On Hamas propaganda, I do not deny that the likelihood of that to be true at some level.  But then this accusation is the same on the Israeli government.  Do you see where I am going with this?

So, unless we get "pro-accuracy" information as Bro. Pro-accuracy puts it.  I don’t see how our often concerned "coffee shop" analysis can take us forward. In moments of crisis and war like now, looks like there are layers and layers to get through before we will get to the truths of the matter.

Then there is the more personal matter on this, I attribute my empathy to the Palestinian tragedy very much to my Palestinian Pastor friend serving in Jerusalem years ago. And I noticed those who have been to Israel and interacted with Palestinians would tend towards preferring to speak out in solidarity with them while keeping an eye not be prejudice against any thing on Israel.  I do not think it’s easy to articulate that. And it also depends on which issue.

Theologically, when we speak of Christians who takes Christ as the ultimate revelation and fulfillment of God’s vision and intention for the World,  it is working out of that centre first and foremost and throughout one’s thinking.  And then with a good healthy dose of Trinitarian theology and Eschatology which is focuses on the consummation of the history and world in Christ etc., this would be a better framework to see where Israel fits in this schema rather than the other way round.  Of course, this is distinctively a Christian approach (I’m sure there will be those who disagree depending on where one starts and wishes to orientate the theological framework).

2 more cents
Engaged Re-framer

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Dear Engaged Re-framer,

I highly commend this book, which we use at our centre, along with Colin’s Whose Promised Land, Mitri Raheb’s I am a Palestinian Christian, O. Palmer Robertson’s The Israel of God and The Christ of Covenants, Ilan Pappe’s A History of Modern Palestine, and Gary Burge’s Whose Land, Whose Promise.

Bro. Pro-accuracy

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About Sivin Kit

man of one wife, father of four kids
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7 Responses to Friends in Conversation on “Palestine and Israel” Part II

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