July 17, 2012

Hanegraaff and Burge Attack Christian Support of Israel

Burge (left) and Hanegraaff (right)

by Matthew Hamilton

On July 12th, president of the Christian Research Institute Hank Hanegraaff interviewed Gary Burge, theology professor at Wheaton College, president of Evangelicals for the Middle East, and author of Jesus and the Land: The New Testament Challenge to “Holy Land” Theology. The subject of the interview was theological matters pertaining to Christian Zionism and the state of Israel’s relationship with Palestinian Arab Christians.

Hanegraaff came out guns blazing with a preamble condemning Christian Zionists for being racist and supporting ethnic cleansing. He then reminded his listeners that there “is neither Jew nor Gentile” (Galatians 3:28), and following the focus on racism, Hanegraaff argues:

“The problem today is that modern Christian controversialists divide people into categories, and that on the basis of race.”

This was a reference to dispensationalist eschatology which they described as holding that God has special favor for the Jewish race over Gentiles. This branch of eschatology purportedly also holds that as a consequence for crucifying Christ, two thirds of Jews will die in Armageddon after they have reclaimed all the ancient land of Israel. Only after this massive holocaust will the people of Israel be saved.

Gary Burge made the argument that evangelical dispensationalism is a modern rendition of the 1,700 year old Christian theology of anti-Semitism which holds the Jews responsible and punishable for Christ’s death. He argues that despite the dispensationalists’ claims of being pro-Jewish, their eschatology involving the deaths of two-thirds of the Jews is actually anti-Semitic.

Hanegraaff continued with his fixation on racism in Christian Zionism:

“We must thoroughly and finally put to rest any thought that the Bible supports the horrors of racial discrimination wherever and in whatever form… Far from facilitating race based discrimination, on the basis of our eschatological presuppositions, Christians must be equipped to communicate that Christianity knows nothing about dividing people on the basis of race.”

Of course by “the horrors of racial discrimination,” Hanegraaff is referring to Israel’s policy of self-preservation and the measures it takes to protect its citizens from terrorists originating from the Palestinian territories.

As far as racial discrimination is concerned, Israel is one of only two countries in the Middle East that offers Palestinian Arabs full citizenship, the other being Jordan. Even today, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq, etc. do not accept Palestinian Arabs as citizens at all. In Israel today, there are 1.6 million Arabs with the vast majority of them being full citizens. In contrast, not even a single Jew lives in Gaza, and not a single Jew lives under the authority of the Palestinian Authority. In fact, under PA controlled territory, it is illegal under penalty of death to sell land to Jews. In Gaza, just being a Jew carries the penalty of death. Singling out Israel while completely ignoring human rights violations in territory under Palestinian control is intellectually dishonest.

At any rate, racism certainly has no place in Christian theology and Hanegraaff won’t receive opposition on that point. But, trying to make an unbreakable link between Christian support of Israel and the support of racial discrimination is false since Hanegraaff’s premise that Israel has unjust policies of racial discrimination is also false. And as demonstrated above, if any states are to be condemned for racial discrimination, Israel would be at the bottom of the list behind the governments of Hamas, the PA, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, etc.

Hanegraaff also asks the question: “How do I understand the Palestinian Muslims who are so deeply misunderstood by all parties in the conflict.”

Misunderstood by all parties in the conflict? Two of the parties in the conflict are Palestinian Muslims: Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. So unless they don’t understand themselves, it’s impossible for them to be misunderstood by everyone in the conflict.

The discussion eventually moved to theology concerning the nature of the state of Israel and whom the land of Israel belongs to. Burge claims that the covenant God made with Abraham for the Jews to possess the land has been broken and therefore the Jews have no theological claim to the land they now possess. The claim is also made that God never intended the Jews to have their own state again and therefore the state of Israel has no theological foundation for existence. Hanegraaff joined in with the assertion that the mistaken theology that God has promised the land to the Jews is what “undergirds Zionism.”

“Undergirds Zionism” is a gross overstatement. It’s understandable that this was a discussion on theological matters and not too historically or geopolitically focused. But the word “undergirds” insinuates that without a theology supporting a Jewish return to their ancestral homelands, there is nothing to support Zionism.

So ignore the historical and cultural connections between Jews and the land of Israel, and ignore the persecution of Jews in nearly every nation where they have ever resided. Hanegraaff apparently sees these as insufficient causes for the Jews to form a state to defend themselves in their land or origin because without a Biblical mandate for the state of Israel to exist, Israel has no right to exist.

Burge told a revealing story about how he teaches the Israeli-Arab conflict:

“I led a group of 35 evangelical students… we all got into a bus and went to this wonderful Palestinian Christian village called Aboud… we spent an entire day in Aboud on a Sunday with Christians who were there, having meals in their homes… it was a great day. And then what happened was a family in Aboud took my students on a walk, and as they walked they began to tell the story of their village, and how it had been encircled, and how many of them had been forced to leave, and oh my gosh, the stories just go on and on. And then you know my students walked out of there and they said, “You just don’t believe it until you see it.”

Of course his students started to turn against Israel and support the Palestinians; who would expect otherwise? In the first place, Burge takes his students to a Christian village. He didn’t take them to one of the Muslim villages with anti-Israeli propaganda posters and posters honoring dead Jihadists plastered along the streets. He didn’t have them watch one of the these lovable characters on Palestinian television:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=kDoV8ZL9Xkc#!]

What should be an even more obvious tactic of deception is that Burge doesn’t take his students to spend a day with Jews who have been assaulted by Hamas rocket fire, or who had a family member killed in a Palestinian terrorist attack, or who live every day of their lives almost completely surrounded by unfriendly states and Jihadists that want all the Jews butchered.

Imagine if a justice system operated with the same principle used by Mr. Burge: the prosecutor walks the jurors through the crime scene and retells the victim’s version of the story; then the jurors make their verdict. The defense never has an opportunity to speak.

You could get anyone to believe almost anything with such a practice. It is intellectually dishonest and deceptive to conduct “education” in such a one-sided fashion.

Hanegraaff and Burge both claim they are not anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian, but neutral in supporting peace and justice. Between being anti-Zionist, demonizing Israel, white-washing human rights abuses by Palestinian rulers in Gaza and the West Bank, and indoctrinating students to support Palestinian Arabs against Israelis, their claims of neutrality appear to be little more than posturing.


27 Responses to Hanegraaff and Burge Attack Christian Support of Israel

  1. J Mears says:

    I usually find myself in agreement with Mr. Hanegraaff, but on this matter he and I differ vastly. I think you’ve done an excellent job here. Too many Christians, in some attempt to be loving or just to the Palestinians, have forgotten to extend that same love and justice to the Jews, and in fact fail to see how it is the Jews that are the underdogs every time yet who extend the hand of peace whenever possible (only to have it bitten off at the elbow).

    • John Z says:

      I think the problem is the poor Christian Palestinians (who are caught in the middle between Israel and the radical Muslim elements of the Palestinians) who evangelicals routinely ignore when they visit the Holy Land.

  2. cynthia curran says:

    I support Israel not because of theology but because I think there the most democratic country in the region and mention above there usually fairer than the Islamic countries. As for end days, I support the older millennial view not the 19 century. As for Hank, he was influence by Paul Maier who is a great historian and a nice guy since he wrote me back in regards to his novels but thinks that US Policy is too pro-Israel since he is Lutheran. Hank left the Calvary Chapel view of end times which was pretty pro-isael about 10 years ago.

  3. cynthia curran says:

    Maier is amillennial and in his work on Eusebius Church history agrees with him on the Montantists and on Papias who also supported a millennial view

  4. Eddie says:

    This article is full of straw men and other fallacies. The author repeatedly reads into, then critisizes Hank and Burges for things that they didnt say. When Hank critisizes Israeli behavior, this author dismisses it by stating that other parties have worse behavior. And the author invokes the good old fallacy of “two wrongs make a right”……Jews were persecuted in the past, so that absolves them of any criticism of what some Jews do today.

    No where does the author actually deal with or argue any of their primary assertions, namely that Zionism, by definition, claims racial preference by God, and that the New Testatment destroys racial preference!

    It never ceases to astonish me that dispensational folks always place the good of Israel ahead of the good of America, and the needs of secular Israelis ahead of their Christian Arab brothers. Really amazing.

    • theird says:

      Eddie-
      “Zionism, by definition, claims racial preference by God…”

      Merriam-Webster:
      Zionism- an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.

      I don’t see anything about racial preference in there do you?

      • Eddie says:

        You don’t? If someone were to write a book or start a movement calling for a “Caucasian State” or an “Arab State” to inhabit a particular piece of geography, how could it be claimed that such a movement did not have a racial component, bias, or preference? Theodor Herzl (the founder for modern Zionism) did exactly this in writing the “Jewish State”.

        The definition you quote speaks only to a sort of generalized Zionism. Hanegraaff is talking about so-called Christian Zionism. Here’s a quote from the Christian Zionist Congress:

        “God the Father, Almighty, chose the ancient nation and people of Israel, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to reveal His plan of redemption for the world. They remain elect of God, and without the Jewish nation His redemptive purposes for the world will not be completed.”

        also:
        “While Gentile believers have been grafted into that household of faith which is of Abraham (the commonwealth of Israel), replacement theology within the Christian faith, which does not recognize the ongoing biblical purposes for Israel and the Jewish People, is doctrinal error.”

        Clearly, by their own statements, Christian Zionists claim an on-going racial preference or at least a racial “special relationship” between God and Jewish people. This view, does, in fact “undergird” Christian Zionism, and does cause many Christians to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses by the Israelis. This is what these two gentlemen were discussing and opposing using the New Testatment (Gal 3:28).

  5. lwaddell123 says:

    I thought the Palestinian Arabs wanted an Palestinian state, so would that make Palestine a racist pro-Arab Islamist state should it gain recognition? And Israel, as mentioned above allows full citizenship of Palestinian Arabs, so how exactly does that make Israel a racist nation?

    • Eddie says:

      If Palestinian Arabs were to build a state based on Arab racial identity, than yes, such a Palestinian state would be racist. Isn’t that fairly obvious? For your second question, I didn’t hear either of these gentlemen refer to Israel as a racist nation. They are talking about Zionism, and Christian Zionism in particular, as a racist ideology and are offering a critique of Christian Zionism as misguided, erroneous theology.

  6. walksbyf8h says:

    One only need know that Preterism is heretical. That is all one need know in this discussion.

  7. TommyG says:

    I always find it interesting when I hear people talk about the evil Jews crucifying Christ.

    Jesus came to die on the cross.

    Jesus said: “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

    Jesus also said “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do”.

    Somebody had to crucify Jesus. That’s why he came. I don’t get it when people get all tied up in a bunch about who crucified Jesus. Jesus came to die on the cross. Don’t they get it?

    • Bruce Peters says:

      Neither of the people in this interview said a THING about Jews being “evil” for crucifying Christ. Did you listen to the interview?

  8. Bruce Peters says:

    The author of this post completely missed the entire point of the discussion. The point is not that Israel is right or wrong, or the Palestinians are right or wrong. It’s that Christians are not supposed to stand up for a people because of their race….they are supposed to stand for the Lord. And believe it or not, sometimes the Lord is on the opposite side of Israel. Read the Old Testament, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah, if you don’t get what I am saying.

    • Ned Ferguson says:

      While it is true that God has historically used other nations to judge Israel, you will note that those same nations were nevertheless eventually judged themselves by God for their mistreatment of Israel. And this is clearly stated in the very passages you cite.

      • Bruce Peters says:

        Sure, but what does that have to do with what I said, or with what these two men were discussing? Again, there is nothing antisemitic about criticizing Israel. They do bad things sometimes. For one thing, they have displaced thousands of Palestinian Christians throughout recent history. Threw them out of their homes and made them live in the mountains. You’re going to sit there and say that was right? That God was behind that? God wants them to FIGHT for their land? No, God wants them to bow the knee, accept Christ and do His will. And they are not. Are they?

        • Ned Ferguson says:

          It has to do with using scripture as an excuse to persecute Israel: “See, even God is against them!” Reminiscent of Luther. It is a direct response to what you wrote. Of course it is God’s will for ALL to accept Christ. Whether or not it is His will for Israel to fight for the land, I cannot say. I assert that it is as least as just for Israel to defend their nation as it is for anyone. Who are you to say they should be displaced or give up “land for peace” — a big lie anyway? I know that God foretold He would regather the nation of Israel from all the nations in which they are scattered. I would not oppose it. As for displacing “thousands of Palestinian Christians,” I think it is a rationalization for the hostility. Would that people were so concerned over Christians persecuted by the so-called Palestinians themselves. This is the same sort of specious reasoning used by the abortion lobby; pointing to “rape and incest” to justify killing babies by the millions.

          • Bruce Peters says:

            Sir, it sounds to me like you didn’t listen to the interview. You read this blog post which is full of errors and now you are reading things into my comments I never said. Christian Zionism is wrong, period.

          • Ned Ferguson says:

            I do not recall whether I listened to the interview or not because I haven’t been to this site in awhile. I listened to it this morning to refresh my memory. It doesn’t change a thing regarding what I have said. I will also tell you that I have listened to Hank at length in the past, and I have read “The Apocalypse Code.” I am quite familiar with his views on the subject. In the interview, Hank and Burge engage in a bit of legerdemain, as follows.

            They take offense at being called “replacement theologists,” which they term a pejorative, insisting they are no such thing and that they realize that God still has distinct plans for Israel according to Romans. Yet they accuse others who make any distinction between Israel and the church of being “racists” (implied in the interview, explicit in Hank’s book — not so pejorative apparently.) So which is it? Are Hank and Burge also “racists?” Then, in the next breath, they refer to the church as “spiritual Israel” in which the promises to Abraham “seems to apply to you and I today.” Right after their vigorous denial of replacement theology!

            The real problem that Hank, et al, have with so-called “Christian Zionism” is based on a string of anecdotes and humanist rationalizations. One being that the idea that 2/3 of Israel will be destroyed leaving a faithful remnant is offensive to their sensibilities, as they should also offend the sensibilities of any right thinking person. This is indeed a “harsh” and “offensive” teaching and my sensibilities are in fact offended. My offense is nevertheless no sound basis for rejecting the teaching. Hell offends my sensibilities as well. Should the existence of hell be rejected on the basis of my dislike? How about Jesus’ teaching that the vast majority of humanity will follow the “broad way?” Many were also offended by Jeremiah’s terrible prophecy of the Babylonian exile. They were wrong. We must take the teachings at face value regardless of whether they are offensive.

            Another anecdote being that “some” Palestinians are Christians, therefore Israel’s stance toward Palestinian Arabs is wrong in general. I have also heard Hank’s accusation that Israel is an “apartheid state.” What I am to make of this? I can only say that the accusation is a mischaracterization at best and a bald-faced lie at worst. Here is the crux of the matter. It seems that Hank and others are itching for some rationalization to single out the “secular state” of Israel for condemnation, while inoculating Palestinian Arabs on the basis of victimhood. As though all nations can’t be characterized as “secular.” The modern state of Israel, secular though it may be, is the most democratic, just, egalitarian, and free state in the region. They should be defended on this basis alone. I am afraid that Israel is destined to remain “secular” till they look on Him they have pierced and mourn for Him as an only child and all Israel is saved.

            Oh, and replacement theology is wrong, period, and results in horrific antisemitic rationalizations well documented.

          • Bruce Peters says:

            //they realize that God still has distinct plans for Israel according to Romans.//
            Yes, I would agree with them that He has plans…that Jews come to Christ and thus become part of the ever-growing church, the same body that was formed in the very beginning. Not some separate plan in some fanciful “tribulation” or “millennium” but the same plan as all believers…in time, on earth.

            To view the plans of God as 2 separate plans – one for the church and one for Israel – is not tenable per scripture. There is no such thing as “replacement” theology. God’s plan has always and only been for ONE people of faith. It should be called “expansion” theology as God opened the door for all nations, tribes, and peoples to come to faith through Jesus Christ.

            And apostasy is apostasy, no matter who commits it. Egregious war crimes are war crimes, no matter who commits them. Everyone should be held to the same standards.

  9. […] anti-Zionist clerical arsenal is to mendaciously demonize Israel. Sizer, Burge and Hanegraaff are notable offenders. Yet there are many others who hold leadership […]

  10. […] is considered by some to be a reliable Bible scholar. But his Preterest theology denies Israel’s position as the prophetic fulfillment of God’s plans. Preterism, among its many components, […]

  11. […] is considered by some to be a reliable Bible scholar. But his Preterest theology denies Israel’s position as the prophetic fulfillment of God’s plans. Preterism, among its many components, […]

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