Reviews

“Zion’s Christian Soldiers” ought to be on the required reading list for all students of the Bible.  Here is basic and fundamental methodology which challenges many evangelical assumptions about “end times prophecy.”  Here is a sound-minded, Christ-centered critique of a popularly accepted but nonetheless fatally flawed perspective that leads to many spiritual dysfunctions.  If you find yourself troubled by saber-rattling political rhetoric coming from many pulpits, “Zion’s Christian Soldiers” will reacquaint you with the Prince of peace.  Greg Albrecht, President of Plain Truth Ministries, and Editor-in-Chief, The Plain Truth magazine (author of Revelation Revolution & Bad News Religion).

“This is a must read book for Christians prepared to think about what they believe and why. Stephen Sizer very clearly explain the key biblical material concerning the nation of Israel and its significance for us today. This book will leave you with a much deeper appreciation of God’s purposes and the wonderful richness of His promises to all those who are the seed of Abraham.” Dr Paul Bendor-Samuel, International Director, Interserve.

“Thank God, here comes at last a book that challenges the pseudo-theology which, by giving precedence to the Old Covenant over the New, relegates the Church to the status of concubine in order to make Israel the Bride of Christ.  In clear and measured terms, the author demonstrates from Scripture that God’s purposes for history are not driven by a narrowly selective racist obsession but rather by his eternal design to create the Church, the new community dearly secured through the cross for all Christ-followers, both Jews and Gentiles.” Professor Gilbert Bilezikian, Professor Emeritus, Wheaton College and a founding leader of Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Illinois, (author of The Liberated Gospel, Beyond Sex Roles, Christianity 101 and Community 101)

“In this very readable new work, Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer offers a biblically-based interpretation of the relationship of Israel and the Christian church.  Turning to the current upsurge of Christian Zionism, Sizer examines its deeply flawed misreadings of key biblical texts and its troubling public-policy implications.   Not only Sizer’s fellow evangelicals, but everyone interested in this vital topic, will find Zion’s Christian Soldiers an illuminating and highly valuable study.” Professor Paul S. Boyer, James Pinckney Harrison Visiting Professor at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and editor-in-chief of “The Oxford Companion to American History” (Oxford University Press, 2001) The assistant editor of “Notable American Women, 1600-1950” (3 vols., 1971); the co-author, with Stephen Nissenbaum, of “Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft” (1974); and the author of “Urban Masses and Moral Order in America, 1820-1920” (1978); “By the Bomb’s Early Light: American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age” (1985); “When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in American Culture” (1992); and “Fallout: A Historian Reflects on America’s Half Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons” (1998).

“Thoughtful Christians are often uneasy about the way the Bible is used to support the present day state of Israel. In this book Stephen Sizer correctly identifies the problem as lying in twisting Scripture. He goes through the relevant texts for all the key themes (Church, Land, Jerusalem, Temple etc) to demonstrate how this is done. This makes for an invaluable reference tool to help those confused and persuaded by the Christian Zionist case. In the end the only way to tackle this dangerous misuse of Scripture is to demonstrate the right interpretation of these texts patiently and persistently. This work is the best I know at doing this.” The Revd Dr Mark Burkhill, Chairman of the Latimer Trust and Vicar of Christ Church, Leyton (author of the Parish System)

“Few themes in biblical studies could be as important.  Christian Zionism has brought to the church an interpretation of Israel and the Bible that future generations will criticize harshly.  It is every Christian’s obligation to understand what they are saying and how it should be evaluated.  Writing in a style that is accessible to everyone — and a passion that is sure to ignite strong responses — Sizer outlines the landscape of the problem and its solution.” Professor Gary M. Burge, Professor of New Testament, Department of Biblical & Theological Studies, Wheaton College & Graduate School (author of Whose Land, Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians)

‘There can’t be many other areas where interpretation of the Bible has such an obvious impact on attitudes to contemporary history and politics. Sizer has a remarkable gift for making complicated ideas thoroughly accessible and relevant. He has thrown down the gauntlet to a very significant section of the world-wide Christian community, and this book demands a considered response from them – and from every reader.’ Colin Chapman, Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology, Lebanon. (author of Whose Promised Land?, Whose Promised City? and Cross and Crescent).

“I strongly commend this new book by Stephen Sizer and urge all evangelical Christians to read it and consider its warning message. No issue arouses greater confusion and dissent among Christians than does Christian Zionism. Even to question its claims draws sharp opposition. Yet none threatens the future of positive Jewish, Christian and Muslim relationships than does that of Christian Zionism and its connection with the politics of the state of Israel. All too readily confusing labels and bitter acrimony encourage Christians to leave the issue alone, or to regard it as an intractable political problem which does not concern them. Stephen Sizer has shown the greatest courage in facing its challenges and in providing an informative, eirenic and readable exposition of what the issues are and how they have arisen. I urge it upon my fellow Christians to read this book and give it their closest attention.” Professor Ronald E. Clements, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies, King’s College, University of London (author of Wisdom for a Changing World: Wisdom in Old Testament Theology: Berkeley Tanner Lectures; Old Testament Theology: A Fresh Approach, Isaiah 1-13: The New Century Bible Commentary, Wisdom in Theology, Ezekiel: Westminster Bible Companion, Prophecy and Tradition, One Hundred Years of Old Testament Interpretation)

‘Stephen Sizer’s new study offers a fresh and insightful approach to reading the Bible. With magisterial skill he challenges Christian Zionists and provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the true meaning of Scripture.’ Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor of Judaism and Director of the Centre for the Study of the World’s Religions, University of Wales, Lampeter. (author of Israel: The History of an Idea, Messianic Judaism & Antisemitism).

“Stephen Sizer deftly exposes the many exegetical missteps of contemporary Christian Zionists.  He advocates a more just and Christ-centered alternative to the politically and ethically problematic views espoused by many contemporary end-times popularizers.  I hope this book prompts a courageous and healthy re-thinking of Zionist theology towards a more constructive, biblical perspective.” Dr Paul Copan, Associate Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics Palm Beach Atlantic University West Palm Beach, Florida. (author of True for You, But Not for Me: Deflating the Slogans That Leave Christians Speechless; Creation ex Nihilo: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration;  How Do You Know You’re Not Wrong?: More Responses to Skeptics Who Challenge Your Faith and co-authored The Rationality of Theism; Philosophy: Christian Approaches in the New Millennium; Science: Christian Approaches in the New Millennium; Jesus’ Resurrection: Fact or Figment?; Who Was Jesus? A Jewish-Christian Discussion; “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?” A Debate Between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan)

“This work deals expertly with a vital theme …. For this Christian zealotry perverts the truth of Christ in three tragic ways. It ignores or repudiates the equal stature under God of all peoples in nature and in grace; it flouts a Christian conscience by discounting injustice and oppression; and it sees no Christian ministry to the hope and pleas of original Zionism itself. Thus it darkly violates both Christian sympathy and Christian faith.” The Right Reverend Kenneth Cragg, retired Assistant Bishop in Jerusalem (author of The Call of the Minaret; The Arab Christian; Mohammed and the Christian; Readings in the Qur’an; The House of Islam; Islam among the Spires; Troubled by Truth; The Dome and the Rock)

“There’s a new day dawning when it comes to books dealing with Bible prophecy. For years the average Christian has followed the views of popular prophecy writers without question. Many students of Bible prophecy are beginning to see cracks in the prophetic paradigm of end-time speculation and an inevitable holocaust in the Middle East. The promised non-rapture of 1988 opened a small fissure of doubt. When the year 2000 came and went without incident, the crack widened. It wasn’t all because of prophetic failures. A number of diligent scholars and brave publishing companies have been willing to challenge the prophetic status quo with rigorous biblical scholarship, historical integrity, and sound logic. Stephen Sizer’s Zion’s Christian Soldiers? is a clear testimony to the Bible’s prophetic message in these confusing times. Just comparing the contradictory statements of those who promote the “literal interpretation of the Bible” is worth reading Zion’s Christian Soldiers? My prayer is that this book will get Christians back to the Bible in a Berean spirit so they will recognize that the Bible and not the headlines of tomorrow’s newspapers is the best interpreter of the Bible.” Gary DeMar, President of American Vision (author of Last Days Madness, Is Jesus Coming Soon?, The Early Church and the End of the World, End Time Fiction: A Biblical Consideration of the Left Behind Theology, and Why the End of the World is NOT in Your Future).

“I have just re read Zion’s Christian Soldiers and want to thank you for such an outstanding study on what is a difficult subject. I’m sure that you get some flack and I thought I would give you some encouragement. It is on our recommended book list at CCK. It really is the clearest and most readable book on the subject.” Dave Fellingham, composer and song writer and founder of Phatfish (author of To the Praise of His Glory and Classics on Worship)

“In this seminal work based on a careful analysis of how the Bible explains the relationship between Israel and the Church, Stephen Sizer underscores crucial distinctions between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Just as it is a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to the horrors of anti-Semitism, so it is a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to a Zionist theology that divides people on the basis of race rather than uniting them on the basis of righteousness, justice and equity.” Hank Hanegraaff, President of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast (author of Christianity in Crisis, Counterfeit Revival & The Apocalypse Code) www.equip.org

“This subject deeply impacts the western world and the so-called “clash of civilisations”.  This book is a “must” for all those concerned about this vital subject.” The Very Reverend Michael Harper, Dean of the British Antiochian Orthodox Deanery and a director of The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Wesley House, Cambridge. (author of Let My People Grow, As at the Beginning, Equal and Different, The Healings of Jesus and The True Light).

“This is a clarion call to Evangelical Christians to study the Bible more carefully because of the political implications of their beliefs. Stephen Sizer shows that many Christians are espousing views, that they claim come from the Bible, that are in fact leading to bloodshed, dispossession and division in the Middle East. Stephen calls for a more careful look at the Bible that reflects the call of Jesus to be peacemakers.” Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder and International Director of the Amos Trust. (author of Pilgrims and Peacemakers, Journey Towards Jerusalem & Candle of Hope)

“Once again Stephen Sizer has produced a seriously worked out biblical theology which challenges some Christians who give uncritical support to the current political stance of Israel.  We have here a serious biblical challenge, evangelical in character which, nevertheless, challenges certain kinds of fundamentalism, both theological and political.  I commend Stephen’s latest book warmly, not with the conviction that everyone will agree with it, but that all ought to engage in its argument for the very sake of the Peace of Jerusalem itself, now the Holy City of the three great monotheistic faiths, the faiths of the Children of Abraham.” The Right Reverend Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford

Stephen Sizer’s book “Zion’s Christian Soldiers?” is a welcome addition to our Middle East reference books. We travel frequently to Israel/Palestine, sharing what we have seen and heard through power point presentations and commentary when we return  Stephen Sizer has written a clear and understandable book that carefully compares scripture references which are often used by Christian Zionists who challenge our “ignorant” bias against Israel. Not realizing that the scripture references which are used as proof of our error, are taken from translations of the Bible that have been “edited and corrected” by their leaders. Since reading “Zion’s Christian Soldiers?”, I am better able to refute incorrect claims and not get defensive. As a lay-theologian, I needed a true theologian to teach me an accurate biblical response for such occasions. Sue Ellen Johnson, (author The Other Side of Welcome: The Story of Elias Chacour), Retired Educator, Advisory Board of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU)

“Here is a book which demonstrates the importance of theological debate to the modern world. Stephen Sizer is an acknowledged expert on Christian Zionism, publishing as he did his 2004 book “Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?”, which provided an impressive overview of the subject. In this, his latest book, he takes us on fresh tour of this subject, specifically showing us why its ideas are damaging to peace in the Middle East and as well as being a complete misrepresentation of the Bible. In this highly accessible book, he does so with clarity and great respect for God’s word. In so doing, he offers a more hopeful alternative.

Sizer begins by looking at how, in reading the Bible, we should be careful to study it contextually with a eye to how the passages relate to the Jesus who is the centre of our faith. Next, we are shown some of the key Christian Zionist beliefs, analysing them from a Biblical perspective. Thus, we see that the promises given to Abraham are fulfilled, not through the modern secular state of Israel, but rather in the Church and in those who receive Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. We see that in the Old Testament, residency in the Holy Land was never considered to be a Biblical right for Israel, but was recognised as a loan from God, to be given or taken away depending upon obedience to righteousness and God’s commands. Contrary to the beliefs of some, the foundation of the modern state of Israel is not to be seen as the prelude to a final and inevitable battle of Armageddon – a battle in which Christians will be plucked or “raptured” to safety. We should not try to second guess when Jesus might return but rather be watchful and faithful peacemakers in His world.

This book provides a careful and practical Bible study and concludes with a previously unpublished sermon by John Stott on “The Place of Israel”. We learn that God does not seek to elevate one nation in the Middle East above others but rather His is an inclusive theology for all peoples, based around Jesus Christ. Christian Zionism has indeed been an significant complication in the problems facing the Middle East. It has also caused the indigenous Christian community in Palestine to feel both ignored and marginalised by the Western Church. However, in this book we are offered a Biblical alternative, one where Christians recognise their calling to work for peace with justice for all. It is a hopeful and inspiring message.” Dr Stephen Leah, Methodist Local Preacher and Chair, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, York.

“A workmanlike study that confronts many treasured and traditional opinions with frankness and sensitivity. An added bonus is the Stott sermon, hitherto unpublished, a masterpiece of clarity in an area marked too often by confusion and unjustified assertions.” Prebendary Dick Lucas, Chairman of the Proclamation Trust and Rector Emeritus of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, London (author of Teaching John Unlocking the Gospel of John for the Expositor, The Unashamed Workman: Tools for Biblical Preaching; Read Mark Learn Romans; The Message of Colossians & the Message of 2 Peter & Jude in the ‘Bible Speaks Today’ series published by IVP)

“How should Christians respond to the cascade of prophecy literature flowing from the pens of Hal Lindsey, John Walvoord, Tim La Haye, John Hagee, and others who claim the Bible itself as authorization for Christian Zionism in all its forms and goals?  Probably it is high time to stop regarding  their overliteral misinterpretations as the curiosities they are and awaken to the fact that they are also very dangerous misreadings of prophecy passages in Scripture that could lead to catastrophic conflict in the Near East.  To help Christians become the peacemakers they ought to be rather than firebrands inflaming the world with wrongheaded ideas about the end times, Stephen Sizer’s new book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers, is an ever-so-necessary antidote for the present prophecy mania.  With crystal logic and gifted pen, he dismantles the often-grotesque claims made by prophecy specialists and restores sanity to the discussion.” Professor Paul L. Maier, Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History in the Department of History, College of Arts and Sciences, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo and Vice-President of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. (author Josephus – The Essential Works; Eusebius – The Church History; A Skeleton in God’s Closet; More Than a Skeleton; (with H. Hanegraaff), The Da Vinci Code – Fact or Fiction?)

“Stephen Sizer’s book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers?, is a powerful, easily readable, theological refutation of Christian Zionism. In his analysis Sizer destroys the major arguments of Christian Zionist advocates by primarily citing and interpreting Old and New Testament passages. Although especially valuable reading for evangelical Christians this book deserves careful study by all people interested in the role played by religion in the Arab-Israeli conflict.“ Professor Norton Mezvinsky, Professor of History, Central Connecticut State University, (author of Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel, Jewish History, Jewish Religion & Open Secrets: Israeli Nuclear and Foreign Policies)

“This book is an eye-opener to the muddled but militant attitudes among modern evangelicals (particularly Americans) toward the state of Israel.  Sizer reveals not only the highly questionable exegeses [plural] of Christian Zionism, but also the movement’s alarming political agenda and its fallout in our war-torn world.  This is a book that every thoughtful evangelical should read.” Dr Bruce A. McDonald. Assistant Professor of Religion, Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, Texas.

‘This much needed volume, by a well known Evangelical Christian writer, focuses our attention on contested issues in the Holy Land. Refreshingly, Sizer interprets Scripture from a standpoint of peace and justice rather than of apocalyptic fantasies.’ Dr Duncan Macpherson, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Wales, Lampeter (author of A Third Millennium Guide to Pilgrimage in the Holy Land, The Pilgrim Preacher. Palestine and Pilgrimage & A Living Stone: Michael Prior CM)

‘Once again, Evangelical Christians are indebted to Rev. Sizer for an informative, thorough yet easy to understand look at the vexed question of Biblical prophecy and interpretation in relation to the Palestinian issue. This book is truly prophetic, in that it follows the Biblical prophets in calling for justice and righteousness, and showing how some Christians areundermining these. Sizer’s book should be in the hands of everyone wanting  to understand the current situation in the Middle East.’ Dr Anthony McRoy, Lecturer in Islamics, Evangelical Theological College, Wales.

“Sizer hits another home run!  His treatment of the Kingdom of God as both present and transcendent points the believer to the future – not the past.” Dr. Stan Moody, Baptist minister and founder of the Christian Policy Institute, www.christianpolicyinstitute.org (author of Crisis in Evangelical Scholarship and McChurched: 300 Million Served and Still Hungry).

“my fellow Zionists… will be disturbed by my agreement with much of Sizer’s criticism of this position… I am grateful to Stephen Sizer for drawing attention to the legitimate criticisms of dispensational Zionism. He has rendered a service to the cause of Zionism which was needed.” David Pawson, Retired Baptist Minister and (author of Unlocking the Bible, The Challenge of Islam to Christians, The Normal Christian Birth, Leadership is Male, The Road to Hell, Not as Bad as the truth, Defending Christian Zionism)

“Once again, Stephen Sizer writes courageously on the contentious theme of Christian Zionism. A book for all, but especially for Bible-believing evangelicals of all denominations and none, it will flourish particularly well in Bible Study groups. For this purpose there is a set of questions at the end of most chapters – a great resource for busy leaders! Stephen is fortunate to have been allowed to conclude the book with the text of a sermon by John Stott, whose magisterial standing among evangelicals adds weight to the author’s own significant credibility and scholarship.” Patricia Price-Tomes, volunteer with the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel.

“This book makes important matters of faith, world and God accessible. For it is far more than a book about Christian Zionism. It is a model in careful, Christ-centred bible study. It is a brave challenge to powerful voices. It raises essential questions of how a Christian is to engage with the world as it focuses on what is happening in Israel and the Occupied Territories. It is a book that each Christian minister should be asked to read.It is a book for your church reading-group.It is a book that should be read by anyone planning to lead a pilgrimage to that area.It is a book that the leaders of our Christian denominations need to be urged to read and make comment upon. It is a call to prayer. Since it focuses upon the most crucial area of Christian in-fighting that at present weakens our witness to the Lord. In addition it reminds us of the needs of the Suffering Church and people who are held in the grip of political intransigence.” John Rackley, President of the Baptist Union 2003-4 and Minister of Manvers Street Baptist Church, Bath.

“Stephen is a faithful minister of the Bible where it concerns Bible Prophecy and the modern nation-state of Israel.  I remember that when I began studying the Second Intifada in 2001, finding Stephen’s website was like finding buried treasure! In one spot I stumbled upon every reasonable biblical argument against dispensational Christian Zionism one could need! Zion’s Christian Soldiers will offer simple and straight forward answers to the major assertions of noted Christian Zionist leaders from a thoroughly evangelical reading of the Bible. Sizer carefully engages American popular figures like Hal Lindsey and John Hagee who are influencing millions of evangelicals into doomsday celebrations. He unpacks in patient detail the heart of the Scriptures that Christian Zionists ignore. I am so very thankful for this kindly teacher. In a day and age in which cynicism, hate, impatient rhetoric, and stewing resentment mark our conversations on this topic, Stephen Sizer is able to speak the simple truth. Would to God that many hear and receive this very timely message.” Chris Rice, Writer and Editor, Jesus People USA, Chicago

“Confused about whether Christians should support the State of Israel?   Agonising over the desperate situation in the Middle East today?   Stephen Sizer challenges the views that are fashionable in Christian circles and helps us get to grips with the key issues and understand what the Bible really has to say. A very important contribution to a crucial issue.” Canon John Salter vice-chairman of the Garden Tomb Association & member of the Oak Hill College Council.

“Sizer addresses Christian Zionism in the United States, identifying the un-biblical structures and slant of its thought, if “thought” even begins to be the appropriate word. … Sizer focuses on another sensitive spot in the Middle East: US backing for Israel, which is partly located in Christian Zionism, a movement formed over a couple of centuries or more. This studies the supposed biblical foundation of Zionist groups. It is frightening that much fundamentalist thinking in the US, claiming to be biblical, can be so far off the mark; and Sizer patiently demolishes the positions it has constructed. The dangers of this Christian Zionism are acute. I hope all the intended readers of this book change their views and theology. One example is the Christian attitude to the Herodian Temple. Though Jesus deliberately changed the focus from the Temple to his own body, and Christians have been clear for centuries that neither in the Jerusalem Temple nor in any other sacrificial shrine is God to be worshipped, some groups are all for blowing up the Dome of the Rock mosque and rebuilding the Temple. Now there’s a diplomatic move. Sizer deconstructs the false arguments, showing the Bible’s simple, inclusive treatment of Jews and Gentiles, which has resulted in a rainbow Church of two billion people worldwide. He uncovers the false Gnosticism that purports to discover special knowledge of world politics, or to identify the evil empire, and shows a range of peculiar interpretations that do not fit with a plain understanding of the Bible. Alongside this critique is some poignant interpretation of God’s good purposes for Jew and Gentile, backed by a careful and modulated sermon by John Stott on Israel. The book exposes myths that have in part infected the Christian community. May it do its cleansing work.” Alan Storkey, Church Times.

“Congratulations to the editorial board and to Stephen Sizer for an excellent and timely publication.  I have been deeply exercised about Replacement Theology in recent years and am delighted to have this extremely useful summary of views and stances about Israel and the Church.  And thank heavens for John Stott’s ministry over the years.  I first attended a camp near Oxford in 1953 and still remember what he said then!  Keep up the good work and take courage.  Revd Stephen Taylor, Cambridge

“Reading this book was a huge shock to me, and not a pleasant one.  I had no idea that the biblical hermeneutics on the word ‘Israel’ had such extraordinary implications.  So how we interpret the Scripture in terms of that one word ‘Israel’ really does seem, in some circles — to quote Stephen Sizer — to ‘justify a pre-emptive global war against the “axis of evil”‘ (page 19).  I almost felt like a man who discovers a lump under his arm and then finds on examination that it is malignant and life-threatening.  But you must do the reading for yourself.  It is too important to leave to second-hand opinion.  How is this word ‘Israel’ used in the Bible, and what implications does that have for our fragile world? Rico Tice, Associate Minister, All Soul’s Church, Langham Place (author of Christianity Explored & Song of a Stranger: Daniel)

“There was a time when Christians believed that the earth was the center of the universe. It was not only an error in science but also false church doctrine lasting long after Copernicus and grasping the hearts and minds of Christian literalists who sanctioned punishment and even death for proponents of a larger view of faith and the universe. The history of Christianity is not lacking in false ideas that enjoy popularity for a time then fade under pressure of reason, knowledge, and experience. Rev. Sizer exposes a modern version of serious religious error in Zion’s Christian Soldiers, focusing on the tenets of a dangerous Biblical literalism whose vision of God is nationalistic in its bizarre loyalty to the Jewish state of Israel and militaristic in its enthusiastic anticipation of a literal Armageddon.  This is an important book for theologians and peacemakers.” The Rev. Canon Richard K. Toll, Chair, Friends of Sabeel—North America

“A timely and important book.  Controversial but persuasive, it deserves to be read by everyone who is prepared to think afresh about God’s purposes for the church, Israel and the politics of the Middle East.” Dr Stephen Travis, former Vice-Principal, St John’s College, Nottingham (author of Exploring the New Testament; The Doctrine of the Atonement: a Question and an Affirmation; Christ and the Judgment of God; Getting to Know the New Testament; I Believe in the Second Coming of Jesus; Starting with the Bible; Christian Hope and the Future of Man; Editor, All Things to All People – Mission Beyond 2000; Assistant Consultant Editor, The NIV Thematic Study Bible; Consulting Editor, The Macmillan Dictionary of the Bible; Consultant to The New Lion Handbook to the Bible).

“In recent years, Tim LaHaye’s best-selling Left Behind series has enjoyed high visibility in some Christian bookshops and can often be seen prominently displayed on bookshelves in airports, particularly in the USA. A previous generation will remember the phenomenally popular Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. Such sensational books seem to take the market by storm in spite of their very fanciful approach to the themes which they cover. What is needed is a book more genuinely submissive to Scripture and more Christ-centred in its approach, and happily in Zion’s Christian Soldiers? we have such a book. Although Stephen Sizer does come out fighting and makes his points with some vigour, it is probably true that, given some of the statements made on Christian television by such men as John Hagee, it probably needs someone to stand their ground firmly with something of a combative attitude. In his well-argued book, Stephen Sizer challenges the views held by dispensationalists and demonstrates from Scripture that the apostles were very clear regarding the identity of God’s chosen people. Issues of land and temple are well handled. Dismissing the ‘replacement theology’ tag, Stephen Sizer argues, ‘It is not that the church has replaced Israel. Rather, in the New Covenant church, God has fulfilled the promises originally made to the Old Covenant church.’ Though you may not dot every ‘i’ or cross every ‘t’ in this book, you would be well-served to own it, read and digest it to help you stand on clear New Testament ground and withstand the tide of fanciful and sadly often emotive teaching that surrounds these themes. You will also appreciate John Stott’s previously unpublished but superbly argued chapter on the place of Israel which concludes the book and which Dick Lucas describes as ‘a masterpiece of clarity in an area marked too often by confusion and unjustified assertions’. This is a book you would do well to have.” Terry Virgo, Pastor of the Church of Christ the King, Brighton and leader of New Frontiers International (author of No Well-Worn Paths, Does the Future Have a Church?, God’s Lavish Grace and, his latest, The Tide is Turning.)

“Stephen Sizer’s thorough research, theological analysis, and historical contextualization make this volume the “go to” book on the topic of Christian Zionism.  As Christian Zionism continues to grow not only within western Evangelical churches and para-church agencies, we are reminded that it is now a significant political force in shaping U.S. policy in the Middle East.  Additionally, its global reach through satellite broadcasting and the internet add another significant challenge to Christian missions.  Now the Gospel of Jesus Christ is represented in a militant, Crusader, western Zionist construction that is not only hostile to Muslims and Arabs, but is an utter contradiction to the message of love, reconciliation, and good news to the poor and marginalized, whatever their economic status, political orientation, race or creed.  After studying this volume and utilizing resources at www.christianzionism.org, you will be better equipped to challenge the false gospel of Christian Zionism.” Professor Don Wagner, Professor of Religion and Middle Eastern Studies, Executive Director: Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Director:  The Institute for Christianity, Faith and Culture; North Park University, Chicago (author of Anxious for Armageddon & Dying in the Land of Promise)

“With his pithy and provocative style Sizer in this book tackles the challenge of Christian Zionism ‘head-on’. Looking at key issues such as Temple, City, Land and People, he demonstrates that the New Testament does have vital things to say on this urgent, present issue. In his hands we begin to see how the Bible can and must be interpreted holistically through the lens of Jesus Christ, and to realise you can be fully faithful to the Bible and its authority without being woodenly literalist. A great guide for those who are beginning to see the problems with this movement and who need some theological resources. Accessible and contemporary; well-researched and hard-hitting.” Peter Walker, Tutor in Biblical Studies, Wycliffe Hall, University of Oxford and Fellow of the Anglican Communion Institute (author of Holy City? Holy Places?, Jesus and the Holy City, Jesus and His World and The Weekend that changed the World).

“In a challenging and fraught field, Stephen Sizer has provided an excellent, incisive and insightful assessment of the Christian Zionist movement. He precisely and accurately identifies the methods of biblical interpretation that supports this damaging group and indicates how the Bible can be more convincingly interpreted. With a collection of clear and helpful diagrams he illustrates a far more coherent understanding of the biblical message. He writes clearly and precisely in a style that is easily accessible and readily understandable.” Dr John Wilks, Director of Open Learning, The London School of Theology, London.

Church Society, Churchman Book Review by Ed Moll
“Does God have a purpose for the nation and land of Israel today? This is a major point of difference between Dispensational and Covenantal readings of the Bible. In Zion’s Christian Soldiers Sizer exposes the foundations of Dispensational views, and the error of their strong support for certain views about Israel today. Given the widespread influence of this school of thought, there is the frightening propsect that the US might adopt foreign policy under (Dispensational) Christian influence.

The key issue in understanding the relationship between Israel and the Church is to read the Bible literally and contextually. Ultra-literalists ignore the historical settingof prophetic and apocalyptic passages and then read contemporary events back into prophetic passages. As a consequence Old Testament texts are made to speak about present and future events almost as if the New Testament had never been written. But by reading the Bible as a whole and in context it becomes clear that there is not, in fact, two chosen people (Israel and the church) but one (Israel and now the church).

A second consequence is that those who believe the promises made to Abraham still apply to his phisical descendents today oppose the dismantling of Jewish settlements in Gaza and the Occupied Territory; but the Bible makes clear that the Land is God’s and that residence in it was always conditional on faithful obedience. Jesus redefined the kingdom as a spiritual and heavenly reality, which is why the New Testament teaches that the land has served its purpose: ‘it was and remains, irrelevant to God’s on going redemptive purposes for the world’ (p. 98). In a similar way, Christians are to look to Jerusalem as a vision of a city inclusive of all nations-not as a place which must remain undivided at all (political) costs.

Two of the stranger beliefs promoted by Dispensationalist thinking are the rebuilding of the Temple, and the Rapture. Attempts by Zionists (Jewish and Christian) to rebuild the Temple are taken seriously by the political authorities, and may well ignite an apocalyptic war with Muslims worldwide. But when Jesus died to atone for our sins, the temple in Jerusalem became redundant: that is why Sizer must say that ‘To advocate rebuilding the Temple is heresy’ (p. 130). The Rapture is ‘the novel idea that Jesus will return twice’ (p. 131), made popular by the hugely successful “Left Behind” books. It accompanies an outlook which is inherently pessimistic about the Middle East and looks for an “Armageddon” confrontation. But biblical references to Armageddon do not necessarily lock us into believing there has to be an apocalyptic war between Islam and Christianity; surely as peacemakers, Chrisitans can have nothing to do with stoking such a conflagration.

The key issue remains, ‘What difference did Jesus’ coming make to traditional Jewish hopes and expectations?’ Sizer shows by his clear and direct treatment how Dispensational writers (including Hagee, Scofield, Darby and Hal Lindsey) fail to address this question. This is a clear and helpful book, which requires no prior understanding of Dispensationalist thinking. It will equip the reader to understand these views and to appreciate what is at stake when thoswe who believe these things try to make governments and Christians follow them.” Ed Moll Vicar of St George’s, Wembdon, Somerset and a Trustee of the Latimer Trust.

How dumb has the West been? A Review by Alan Storkey
“Very dumb. It kick-started terrorism and has fomented schism, … Sizer addresses Christian Zionism in the United States, identifying the un-biblical structures and slant of its thought, if “thought” even begins to be the appropriate word. … Sizer focuses on another sensitive spot in the Middle East: US backing for Israel, which is partly located in Christian Zionism, a movement formed over a couple of centuries or more. This studies the supposed biblical foundation of Zionist groups. It is frightening that much fundamentalist thinking in the US, claiming to be biblical, can be so far off the mark; and Sizer patiently demolishes the positions it has constructed. The dangers of this Christian Zionism are acute. I hope all the intended readers of this book change their views and theology. One example is the Christian atti­tude to the Herodian Temple. Though Jesus deliberately changed the focus from the Temple to his own body, and Christians have been clear for centuries that neither in the Jerusalem Temple nor in any other sacrificial shrine is God to be worshipped, some groups are all for blowing up the Dome of the Rock mosque and rebuilding the Temple. Now there’s a diplomatic move.

Sizer deconstructs the false arguments, showing the Bible’s simple, inclusive treatment of Jews and Gentiles, which has resulted in a rainbow Church of two billion people worldwide. He uncovers the false Gnosticism that purports to discover special knowledge of world politics, or to identify the evil empire, and shows a range of peculiar interpretations that do not fit with a plain understanding of the Bible. Alongside this critique is some poignant interpretation of God’s good purposes for Jew and Gentile, backed by a careful and modulated sermon by John Stott on Israel.The book exposes myths that have in part infected the Christian community. May it do its cleansing work.” Alan Storkey, Church Times, 15 August 2008.

Understanding Israel

14 May 2008 marked the 60th anniversary of the birth of the modern State of Israel. The fundamental problem in the long-running Israel/Palestine dispute is that Jews in the newly formed Israel stole land from the indigenous Arabs, taking it by force. Insofar as Britain and the international community provided the authority, they did so in the face of understandable opposition from those adversely affected. The horrendous fact that Christian evangelicals have to face now is that this theft, with all its subsequent misery for hundreds of thousands of people, was done in their name. Scofi eld Dispensationalism was strong in the 1940s and still lives on, represented in a number of popular Christian books that promote Christian Zionism.

Our belief in future blessing for the Jewish people and our commitment to their evangelisation, neither of which are challenged in the books here reviewed, has for many become mired in a confused eschatology rooted in bad exegesis, resulting in an obsession with land which the New Testament cannot sustain. This is not to deny the tragedy of the world’s treatment of Jews over centuries. Unfortunately millions of conservative evangelicals have supported a solution that has involved replacing one tragedy with another. Millions support Christian Zionism.

The writers of Light Force try to provide a Christian answer to the political conflict. The first edition (I read the American version) was an absorbing read and I look forward to seeing the second. In Light Force, Brother Andrew (of God’s Smuggler fame) tells of his personal journey of understanding, starting at the usual stereotyped dispensational beliefs about Israel, through to meeting Christians of all hues, which led to some understanding of the pressures Christians in Israel live with day to day. Most of the focus on Christians is on Arabs in Lebanon, Bethlehem and Gaza. The book gives a good introduction to the complex situation in Israel. It focuses mainly on issues of reconciliation between Jew and Arab, arguing that this should be possible and is most likely among Christians who are already one in Christ Jesus.

The book is an emotional read, challenging Christian Zionism at the level of personal experience. Even Moslems who hate Jews become real people as we see them being confronted by Brother Andrew and asked to forgive and make peace. I just wish Andrew’s role had been less hyped up.

Stephen Sizer’s Zion’s Christian Soldiers? is quite different in style to Andrew’s book, requiring more application from the reader, but it also challenges Christian Zionism. Sizer compares covenantalism and dispensationalism. He explores the relationship between the old and new covenants and shows the danger of taking contemporary events to be the realisation of biblical prophecy. He examines the question of who the Israel of God is, and emphasises the centrality of Christ in the Bible message and the oneness of His people. The land is considered both in its importance in the Old Testament and the relative silence about it in the New, where God’s kingdom on earth is international and His people look for a better inheritance.

Successive chapters are given to the place of Jerusalem, the temple in current Christian Zionist thought, and the inherent pessimism of dispensational rapture theology: matters which we may regard as of little interest except that they drive much of American evangelicalism, and in consequence American foreign political policy. Sizer counters such error by pointing to the centrality of Christ in the Bible’s progressive revelation, a message of hope for the world, a message that encourages the Christian to faithfulness. The book concludes with a sermon by John Stott. If you regard Israel as a fulfilment of prophecy, read this book. Iain Gill The Monthly Record, [The Free Church of Scotland] June 2008, p. 12.

Zion’s Christian Soldiers: A Review by Victoria Clark
No one in Christian circles this side of the Atlantic has done more than Stephen Sizer to raise alarm bells about a ‘formidable and dangerous movement’ called Christian Zionism whose geopolitical peril he locates in the core conviction that ‘God blesses those nations that stand with Israel and curses those who don’t.’

What this conviction has meant, especially ominously since 9/11 2001 when the ensuing War (or Crusade) on Terror added copious grist to the Christian Zionist mill, is that the entire Muslim world is ‘cursed’, while Israel and her western allies are blessed. For a Christian Zionist there can never be an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel and nor must Israel ever be forced to abandon her illegal settlements in the West Bank, let alone her claim to Jerusalem as her indivisible capital. Christian Zionists expect no peace in the Middle East until Jesus Second Coming, so all efforts to obtain a peace there are pre-doomed to failure. That some important aspects of thus Christian Zionist worldview have neatly dovetailed with that of the Neo-conservatives in charge of US foreign policy in the Middle East since 2000 is well known, as is the fact that the evangelical Christian vote was vital to Bush’s victory in 2004.

But why should the faith-based worldview of around a third of American evangelical Christians so closely resemble the guiding political ideology of the Jewish state? Anyone unversed in the biblical rationale for Christian Zionism will be tempted to explain it out of existence by listing other reasons for American’s support for Israel: emotive Hollywood Holocaust movies have done their job; Israel advertises itself as the only democracy in the Middle East; Israel was a pioneering society like America. But there is a great deal more to Christian Zionism than that. In a nutshell, we are up against the word of God in the Jewish Old Testament as opposed to the word of his son Jesus, also God of course, in the Christian New Testament.

Dr Sizer’s Zion’s Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church does an excellent job demonstrating the extent to which the age-old problem of discerning a clear and consistent message in both books of the Bible has led to Christian Zionists over-weighting on the side of the Jewish Old Testament, at the expense of Jesus’ universal and inclusive mission, at the expense, Sizer points out-though without putting it quite so starkly-of Christianity itself: ‘Did the coming of Jesus, his death and resurrection and the founding of the church, fulfil or postpone the biblical prophecies concerning Israel? Is the church central to God’s purposes on earth, or a temporary sideshow? If you believe the former to be the case then you are a covenantalist, if the latter, then you’re a Dispensationalist. If you are a Dispensationalist then you are almost de facto a Christian Zionist.

Dr Sizer is a theologian, so his overriding concern is with painstakingly demonstrating-with the aid of useful diagrams and charts as well as detailed argument-that the Dispensationalist view of God’s purposes are rooted in an inadequate, sometimes hilarious but also dangerously mistaken understanding of bible prophecy. He argues for a contextual rather than an ultra-literal reading of prophecy. The Dispensationalists’ ultra-literalism, he says, leads to a plethora of pitfalls, or rather pratfalls: Transient Literalism (confidently identifying one of Israel’s prophesied enemies as Russia in the 1970s, but adjusting that to the ‘Russian-Syrian-Iranian axis’ to match the reality of the 2000s, for example); Speculative Literalism (suggesting that one of the apostles forecast a nuclear war but had to explain it in terms intelligible to his age, as a volcano of fire and brimstone); Contradictory Literalism (no two ultra-literalist exegetes think alike on the meaning of any given prophecy); Enhanced Literalism (adding words to the original meaning here and there, to assist understanding); Arbitrary Literalism (mention of an eagle in the Bible, for example, is taken as mention of the US because the bald-headed eagle is America’s national symbol.

Sizer’s book is not aimed at the lay reader. With its clear lay-out and helpful study hints at the end of each chapter, it is clearly intended for the bible student or clergyperson seeking to understand the theological method of Christian Zionism and/or looking for some ammunition to effectively combat the ideology. To that extent it is an ideally practical tool, an important weapon in any covenantalist’s arsenal. However, as a non-theologian writer of Christian Zionism, past and present, as someone who is as alarmed as Sizer by its political implications, I would say that he may be underestimating the degree to which its growing popularity depends on factors that will prove impervious to his cogent argument.

Anyone who has attended a bible ‘prophecy conference’ at which a leading Christian Zionist has declared, after reading Isaiah 17:1 to an audience of 4,000, ‘An oracle concerning Damascus. Behold Damascus will cease to be a city,’ that he wished ‘the US would obliterate Syria and not leave it to Israel’ will have some idea of the intellectual weight of popular Christian Zionism. With its focus on war and Armageddon, Christian Zionism’s appeal can best be likened to that of a disaster movie; this is Christianity recast as a thriller. Anyone who has listened to an aeronautical engineer cum Bible prophecy expert like Chuck Missler will note how natural it is for a scientifically-trained evangelical Christian to read the Bible ultra-literally, as one would a computer manual or a code to be ingeniously deciphered. An encounter with San Antonio’s Pastor John Hagee, probably the most important Christian Zionist in America today, showed me that Christian Zionism is a reassuringly macho, gun-loving, super-confident and impatient for action as its counterpart, Islamic fundamentalism. Just as Moslem fundamentalism appeals to trained doctors and engineers, so Christian Zionism has a strong appeal for scientists and intelligence operatives, and to readers of thrillers and science fiction. Pastor Hagee writes Bible prophecy thrillers with titles like ‘Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World.’

Like any religious fundamentalism, Christian Zionism has to do with Zeitgeist, with insecurity caused by change occurring at the pace it has since the end of the Cold War, with mass psychology. Travelling around Texas I discovered how rooted it is in emotion rather than reason. Time and again I encountered an appalling fear that America is falling out of favour with God in its adherents, a gut-level pessimism that has precious little to do with Bible-reading. In October 2006 a salegirl in the tourist office in Waco burst into tears when I asked her the reason for her overwhelming ‘heart for israel’: ‘I’m just so scared that if we get the Democrats again they won’t defend Israel so well, and that’s going to bring suffering on America,’ she sobbed, ‘We have to go on blessing the Jews!’

Victoria Clark, author of Allies for Armageddon, Holy Fire & Why Angels Fall. Living Stones Magazine 32

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