Tom and guest Paul Wilkinson discuss "Christian Palestinianism" vs. Christian Zionism, naming some of the key players.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in. In today’s program, Tom continues his special four-part series with his guest Paul Wilkinson, author of For Zion’s Sake, Prophets Who Prophesy Lies in My Name, and Christian Palestinianism.
Now along with his guest, here’s TBC Executive Director, Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. My returning guest for today’s program, and for next week as well, is Paul Wilkinson, who’s talking to us from England. Paul is the author of For Zion’s Sake and some booklets, which we offer at The Berean Call: Prophets Who Prophesy Lies in My Name, and another titled Christian Palestinianism. He’s also co-authoring a book titled Israel Betrayed, which we want to talk about.
Now, Paul, thanks for joining me again on Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Paul: It’s a privilege to be back with you, Tom.
Tom: Paul, I’d like you to give us an overview of your upcoming book, because I think it will give our listeners an understanding on one of the—if not the most insidious developments to impact the church since the rise of national socialism under Hitler. Now, Paul, first of all, is what I just said—would you consider that an overstatement?
Paul: Not at all. I mean, it’s one thing when the nations rise up against Israel…
Paul: …and we have Scriptures like Psalm 83, “Let the name of Israel be remembered no more. Let us wipe them out as a nation,” so we know that these things will happen amongst the nations that throw off the constraints of the Lord and His Word and seek after their own gods. And so we know that nations will come along throughout history to destroy a nation chosen by God, precious to God, because Israel is referred to by the Lord as His treasured possession, as His first-born son, as the apple of His eye, that whoever touches Israel touches the apple of God’s eye—I mean that’s an incredible statement the Lord makes there in Zechariah 2. But when the church rises up with the nations, declaring the same vitriol and seeking the downfall of the Jewish state that was reestablished miraculously in 1948, then we know that we are in serious times. We’ve got evangelical leaders who may not be calling for war against Israel, may not be seeking the physical destruction of Israel, but certainly on a spiritual level, they are seeking to wipe out the name of Israel by reinterpreting it, by calling the church the “new Israel,” or the “true Israel,” and saying that all the promises that were given by God through the prophets to the Jewish people have now been reapplied to the church, and that is the essence of replacement theology…
Paul: …listeners will be familiar with that term, the belief that—or the teaching, the false teaching, that the church has replaced Israel in the purposes of God. But what we’re seeing today, and we’re seeing it especially in the last two or three decades is the rise of a—if you like—a Christian Palestinianist movement within the church that is seeking to denounce Israel as an apartheid state, accusing Israel of ethnically cleansing the land of the Palestinian people, calling upon Christians to boycott goods that are produced in the so-called illegal Israeli settlements, and this is a movement that is gaining tremendous impetus and momentum. There’s a vast network of Christian leaders, churches, organizations that are involved in this, and Satan is using parts of the church to attack Israel.
Tom: Right. And when we say parts of the church, sadly, we could say, “Well, no, we’re just talking about professing Christians,” and that may be the case, but also, as people, true believers, are drawn into this through ignorance, unwittingly, however you want to state it, it’s in the church. There’s no doubt about it.
Paul: Absolutely, and we shouldn’t be surprised. You know, if these things were not happening, we would have to question the Word of God, because, you know, the Apostle Paul, for example, declared in the last days—1 Timothy 3—there would be doctrines of demons, that people would give heed to deceiving spirits, that there would be a falling away from the truth, men would no longer love the truth but give heed to myths and legends, and we’re finding that this is happening on a vast scale. Certainly the ministry of The Berean Call has been, you know, warning and teaching the church for many, many years. But just in this particular area in relation to Israel, there’s like, what I’ve called a “Goliath spirit” that has suddenly come onto the scene…
Paul: …goading and taunting and just seeking to just really hammer Israel, because for much of the church, especially in the Protestant Reformed, amillennial, Calvinistic church, there is that teaching that the Lord Jesus is not coming back to Jerusalem, He’s not coming back to rule and reign upon the earth, and if He’s not coming back to this earth, then Israel’s irrelevant. Jerusalem has no longer any significance, and that’s what many Christians are saying today: the land of Israel is no more significant than any other land. Jerusalem has no more significance biblically or prophetically because it’s all been fulfilled in Jesus in some mystical, spiritual way.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, Paul, what you’ve just described—look, I consider myself just a simple, Bible-believing Christian—simple in terms of “don’t get too complex for me, [laughs] or you’re going to lose me.” But what you’ve described, I’m sure many of our listeners out there are thinking, Wait a minute. Are these guys (not talking about us, but the people that you’ve described), are they reading the Bible?
Tom: Now, Paul, as the Bereans, you know, who searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so—by the way, they were Jews, they were not Christians, all right—yet Luke commends them in Acts:17:10,11 for listening to the Apostle Paul, listening to what he had to say, but then they’re commended because they searched the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Wow!
Paul: And they did it with a sense of excitement, you know…
Tom: Of course!
Paul: …not trying to prove Paul wrong…
Paul: …but he’s revealing this to them, and they want to see it in the Word of God for themselves, so it’s rooted in them.
Tom: And what did they want to see? Paul’s talking—what was his missionary journey? To say, “Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the One we’ve been looking for, and here’s the evidence, here’s the proof from your prophets.”
Tom: Wow! Now, having said that, Paul, how do these guys get around to—you know, we have a booklet that we offer for free—Gary will tell you how to get a hold of it—but it’s basically—it’s by Paul Wilkinson, Prophets Who Prophesy Lies in My Name, and we’ve got a heading on it, “Christian Palestinianism and the Anti-Israel Crusade.” Folks, look, it’s for free. Just call us, Gary will give you the information, you’ve got to have this booklet. Paul, in it, you talk about a hermeneutic that’s [laughs] not a biblical hermeneutic, but it’s the way in which these individuals and—we haven’t put any names out, but you will. For example, Naim Ateek and others, they have a way of understanding the Bible—well, to use the term “understanding” is ludicrous! But tell us a little bit about how they approach—whether it be replacement theology or their attitude toward Israel—how do they get it out of the Scriptures, Paul?
Paul: Yeah, yeah. Well, you mentioned the name Naim Ateek. Naim Ateek is a Palestinian clergyman within the Episcopal Church based in Jerusalem. In 1994, he founded an organization called Sabeel, which represents the Palestinian Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center. Now, listeners will be familiar with Hamas, which came into existence in 1987 following the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada. Hamas’s stated goal is to wipe Israel out. Sabeel came along and it is, in my opinion, the spiritual counterpart or the “Christian” counterpart to Hamas. They’re not seeking to wipe the Jewish people out, but they are seeking to confront what they believe to be the Israeli occupation. Now, Naim Ateek set up Sabeel. Sabeel has drawn Christians from all over the world to attend its international conferences; they have a website, they have an electronic magazine, they bring evangelicals, especially from North America, to Israel so that they can meet real live Palestinians, as they refer to them as, listen to a different story of the founding of the state of Israel, and Sabeel are very, very active on college campuses all across America, and they are giving a very different story to the true story of Israel’s foundation. They’re saying that the Zionists went in and they stole the land from the Arabs and committed atrocities and wiped out Palestinian villages—these are lies and fabrications of the truth.
Now, Naim Ateek, Episcopal clergyman, this is what he says to Christians when they come to the Scriptures: he says, “If the passage of Scriptures does not fit the picture of Jesus that you have, then that passage of Scripture has no authority whatsoever in a believer’s life.” And he gives an example: the fall of Jericho, or, you know, the conquest under Joshua of the land of Canaan, because God made a command to go in and take the land and to destroy these pagan nations and tribal groups and certainly the days of the city of Jericho, they were to walk around for seven days the walls of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down, and everything and everyone apart from Rahab and her family were destroyed. Now, Naim Ateek says, “That picture of God doesn’t fit the picture I have of the Lord Jesus”—gentle Jesus, meek and mild. “So that passage of Scripture is historical, but it has no relevance to the Christian today.”
But he goes even further, and this is serious, this is extremely disturbing—he says when you come to Bible prophecy, and you read promises that God has given to Israel whereby Israel will be raised up and established as chief amongst the nations, Naim Ateek says, “You must de-Zionize those Scriptures.” In other words, take anything to do with Israel and the Jewish people, Zion, out, because God is no longer interested in one nation; He’s interested in all nations, and these Scriptures must be applied to the church. So, he’s telling us, “de-Zionize the word of God.”
Tom: Yeah, on what basis? Well, on the basis of “there’s a way that seems right unto a man, but the ways thereof are the ways of death.” Now…
Paul: That’s right.
Tom: …it’s man basically in charge of what he thinks God says, and it’s got to fit within their political, religious correctness.
Tom: It’s insane! It takes—you know, we as believers, as Bible-believing Christians, look to the Word of God as our authority. Well, forget that! I mean, you know, it’s whatever you think, Paul, whatever I think, whatever feels good to me, whatever looks right, seems right, and so on. So, basically, under the guise, and you call it a “new hermeneutic,” hermeneutic meaning just the way we go about reading the Bible, context, syntax, grammar, history, and so on, well we’ve just blown that idea—although they’re still using the term “hermeneutic”—it has nothing to do with hermeneutics, does it?
Paul: No, not at all, and I mean, Naim Ateek even used that expression, a “new hermeneutic,” because he said the Palestinian Christians were struggling to read the Bible and see Israel, the Jewish people, coming back and occupying their land, so Naim Ateek said, “We need to give a new hermeneutic to the Palestinian Christian community.” Now, that’s in a Palestinian context, but bring it over to the West, especially North America and in the United Kingdom, you have men like Gary Burge who’s the Professor of New Testament at Wheaton College, Illinois.
Paul: Wheaton College is extremely influential in this whole anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian crusade. Gary Burge wrote a book a couple years ago; it’s called Jesus and the Land, and he has basically peddled the same theology that you can find in the pages of John Calvin’s Institutes, or right back to Augustine in The City of God that he’s most famous for, basically saying everything that God promised to Israel concerning the re-gathering of the Jews to the land, the renewal of the land itself, the “desert blossoming like a rose,” God reestablishing His sanctuary in the midst of His people in Jerusalem—Gary Burge is saying all of this has been fulfilled in Jesus.
Paul: So they throw off the label “replacement theology”—they say, “We don’t believe in replacement theology, we believe in fulfillment theology. We believe that Jesus is the land, Jesus is Jerusalem, Jesus is the temple.” And they claim that they’re exalting the Lord Jesus Christ by saying that, but they’re actually completely distorting the Word of God and they’re robbing the Lord Jesus of His earthly inheritance. Our Lord has an earthly throne and He’s coming back to take that throne.
Tom: So, anything that we as Bible-believing Christians would take literally, and again, that’s an element of discernment—there are things we do take literally and there are some things that are figurative…
Paul: That’s right.
Tom: …but when you move onto the platform of spiritualizing all of this stuff, then it’s “Que sera sera,” you know; it’s whatever you make up; it’s opinions and speculations and all that. You know, as I said, what seems right unto a man…, as the Scriptures tell us. So there is no basis for objectively evaluating what these guys are saying if you get onboard with their spiritualizing the Scriptures and so on.
Now, the sad part, Paul, is that we’re seeing in the church today, and there are certainly exceptions to this, but generally what I call “functional biblical illiteracy.” That is, they’ve got Bibles, they know how to read their Bibles, but they don’t, so consequently, they’re buying into all of these things that these guys are saying because it seems to make sense…
Tom: …but it destroys the authority of God’s Word. If we don’t have the authority of God’s Word, well, then to every man his own deal, you know? Whatever he thinks is right, that’s what he’s going to do.
Paul: Absolutely. And with Bible prophecy, God has made very clear statements, statements that [are] not just spiritual, about the salvation of the soul and refreshing and renewal and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit—you read so much of this in Isaiah, for example—but God has spoken very specifically—geographically, geologically, agriculturally—about the land itself…
Paul: …and so you have, whether it’s Isaiah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel, you have so many prophecies where the Lord speaks of planting trees in the Negev, planting the cedar and the cypress and the pine; where He talks about the desert sands will pour forth springs of living water; where He talks about Israel, Jacob being the personal name for Israel, Jacob taking root in the last days, and Israel—this is Isaiah:27:6—Israel filling the world with fruit, and that word for fruit can mean market produce. Well, we’ve seen that literally, physically happen in our time, Israel producing fruit grown in the land which God has revived precisely according to His Word.
How many times do we read of God promising that He would bring His people back to the mountains of Israel from the four corners of the earth (Ezekiel 36), and putting the whole house of Israel back in the land and doing them more good than He’s ever done before? And we’ve seen that! We’ve seen incredible airlift operations from Yemen in 1949, or from Ethiopia in the 80s and the 90s, Operation Moses and Solomon—God literally fulfilling these very physical geographical Scriptures, and those that, you know, want to spiritualize the Bible and allegorize it and just apply it to the church, they have no answer. They can’t handle these Scriptures.
Tom: Mm-hmm. But, Paul, there’s so much more to it than what we’ve been describing, but I’ll give you an example: you know well there’s a socializing of the Scriptures. For example, “Oh, well, we’ve got to expunge this Scripture and that Scripture because, well, they’re actually racist utterances.” For example, you quote Isaiah 43, which is one they like to go after: “I gave Egypt [for] thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.”
Tom: “Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” It goes on to talk about—well, what he says is, “Well, how do you think the Egyptians might feel about this, you know?” It all comes back to the way men feel, not to God’s divine justice…
Tom: …not to His righteousness, and how He deals with sin, which is—that’s what the Bible’s about. So we’ve got that problem. The other problem, Paul, is in approaching it this way, they are expunging, as we’ve said, Scriptures that are absolutely critical. For example, you just laid out different scenarios with regard to prophecy. God is the God of prophecy. Prophecy which they dismiss, not just out of hand, but they attack it—God is the God of prophecy. Isaiah chapters 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46—at least to there, maybe even goes on beyond that—God declares that the proof that He alone is God is that He knows the future, and He challenges the false gods, the idols, to produce prophecy, that they know the future. None can, and none will. So, this is not just an attack—I mean, this is an attack every which way on the Scriptures and denying the God of the Bible, who, by the way, is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which is a total offense to these guys, right?
Paul: Yup, absolutely. I mean, they only acknowledge that in a historical way, but God said to Moses, “That’s the name by which I want to be known for every generation,” there in Exodus 3. But the Lord made a really important—well, everything the Lord has said is important, so I shouldn’t put it that way, but on the road to Emmaus, He’s with those two disciples, and they feel all hope is lost, you know. The one that they thought was coming to redeem Israel, He’s been crucified, this Jesus of Nazareth, and they’re disillusioned and they’re explaining this to the visitor who joins them on the road, not realizing it’s the risen Lord, and the Lord Jesus rebukes them, and He says in Luke 24, “O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” Now, that Scripture—I think that Scripture is so relevant today to the church. “Slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” And what the Christian Palestinianists like the Naim Ateeks and the Gary Burges and Hank Hanegraaff and Rick Warren and, I mean, there’s a whole host of them: Bill Hybels, Stephen Sizer—what these guys do is they’ll take key phrases from the prophetic Scriptures, how God is a God of justice, and then they will run with that…
Paul: …and create a cause and run a crusade and—instead of keeping the Scriptures in their context and letting the full counsel of God speak and inform their minds and determine what actions they’re to take, and…
Tom: Paul, that would be the honest thing to do. But when you have an agenda, when you have a program, when you have a mindset that’s so antithetical to what the Bible teaches, you can’t allow these verses; you’ve got to take them out of context, you’ve got to spiritualize them, because you can’t live with what they say and still fulfill the agenda.
Now, you mentioned a number of names, and the Lord willing, in our next session, we’re going to describe some of these issues with regard to Rick Warren, Hank Hanegraaff, and others who are part of this, because I do want to talk about and launch off on a man named Stephen Sizer. I know we mentioned Naim Ateek, but here in this country—well, certainly he’s, you know, he’s from Great Britain—but still, in terms of influence, Sizer’s the guy, and people are onboard with him with his books, which we really want to talk about.
Paul: There’s one photograph—and people can pick this up on the web, they can pick it up from the documents that you offer at The Berean Call—there’s one photograph taken at the Fifth International Sabeel Conference in Jerusalem in 2004 which, just for me, sums up everything that we’re talking about, and it’s a photograph of Stephen Sizer with his arms around Yasser Arafat, because during the Sabeel Conference, those 600 professing Christians—and I was there as an observer, not as a sympathizer—we were taken to Ramallah to meet Yasser Arafat. He was delighted that all these Christians were coming to support the “peace of the brave,” as he called it, the Palestinian cause. And he had his photograph, Arafat had his photograph with many of these people, including Stephen Sizer. Arm in arm, as an evangelical, with the arch-terrorist: that sums up Christian Palestinianism…
Paul: …in our day. Today.
Tom: Paul, when you say “arch-terrorist,” that’s an understatement.
Tom: Now, we’re out of time for this session, but the Lord willing, Paul, I’m going to ask you—you know, maybe I mentioned this last week, but I know you; you’re one of the kindest, gentlest people I know, and save this for next time, but we’ll start off with this: Did you have any idea that you would be in such a swamp filled with alligators—and I’m talking about the people who you’re going to describe next week—it’s absolutely unbelievable.
Well, anyway, hold that thought, we’ll pick up with it next week.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of materials to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at P.O. Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638 or visit our website at the bereancall.org. In our next program, Tom will wrap up his four-part series with Paul Wilkinson, author of For Zion’s Sake, Prophets Who Prophesy Lies in My Name, and Christian Palestinianism. We hope you can be here. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.