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The Bible Vs. Modern Israel

Please remember: Not all Palestinians are Muslims; some are Christians. The following was written by an Evangelical Christian:

Although the modern state of Israel, having been established, has the right to exist like any other nation, Israel must also respect the Palestinians' right to their land in the West Bank. But, Israel keeps building Jewish settlements in the West Bank. That is the main reason why the majority of Palestinians continue to support the radical organization Hamas.

The only reason why Israel finally got out of Gaza was because of Hamas' successful attacks on Israeli settlements in Gaza. Otherwise Israel would have continued building settlements in Gaza indefinitely. In the West Bank, however, Israel methodically continues to confiscate Arab land to build Jewish settlements. More and more Palestinians in the West Bank lose their property and homes every year because of this.

Most Palestinians would stop supporting Hamas if only Israel completely withdrew from the West Bank as it did in Gaza. Then, perhaps, Palestinians would agree to recognize Israel. Let Israel try this and then if the majority of Palestinians still won't recognize Israel and continue to support terrorist attacks against Israel, no one will blame Israel for re-taking the land back and even annexing it.

U.N. resolutions demand Israel to withdraw completely from the West Bank. The United States made a big noise under President Bush about applying U.N. resolutions on Saddam Hussein when he was in power. Why doesn't the United States make a big noise about applying U.N. resolutions to Israel?

Unlike Hamas, the Palestinian Authority is willing to recognize Israel and work with Israel, but Israel's continued occupation of the West bank and expansion of Jewish settlements on Arab land exacerbate the situation and cause the majority of Palestinians to support Hamas instead of the Palestinian Authority.

In 1967 Israel went to war in self-defense and captured Arab land. Israel was right in defending itself. However, the issue now is no longer so much self-defense. The problem is that Israel will not pull back to its pre-1967 borders so long as many Israelis and most evangelical Christians in America continue to believe that present day Jews have a biblical right to all of Arab territory in Palestine. For this reason a biblical examination of the issue is necessary.

As an evangelical and conservative Christian, of Indian origin, I wish to set the biblical issue in proper perspective.

Although the modern state of Israel now has every right to exist as any other nation (as long as it honors the UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights) this does not mean that Zionism (the belief that Jews have a biblical right to all of Palestine) is correct. And it is Zionism that is primarily fuelling the building and expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on Arab land.

From a purely biblical perspective Zionism has enormous problems.

The fact is that almost none of the Jews in modern Israel are descendants of the original Jews of Palestine thousands of years ago. Most of the Jews in Israel today are descendants of Europeans who had converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages (known as Khazar or Ashkenazi Jews).

The last time God had promised in the scriptures to bring the Jews back to their ancestral homeland was fulfilled centuries ago when He brought them back from their Babylonian captivity. Thus, the Jews in present-day modern Israel are not a fulfillment of that ancient promise.

Furthermore, God's promises concerning the land to the Jews in the Old Testament were conditional - only so long as they continued to obey Him were those promises concerning the land binding (read Deuteronomy 28). In any case, as I have already noted, God fulfilled his promise concerning the land to the Jews centuries ago.

We read in the Book of Joshua 21:43, 45: "And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass." Thus, there is no promise concerning the land that still awaits any fulfillment.

Most evangelical Christians today are looking forward to the seven-year tribulation period of Israel which would require for the Jews to be in the land. But this period had already occurred in history during AD63 to AD70. (seven years) when the Roman army besieged and destroyed Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple.

It was this destruction that Jesus said would mark the end of the age (the Jewish Age, that is). During these seven years, there was a brief respite from the attacking Roman army and this respite gave an opportunity for believing Jews (Christians) of this time to escape the final destruction of Jerusalem and have their lives spared.

Most evangelical Christians, who are dispensationalists, are still seeking for an Israel that the New Testament says is the spiritual body of Christ made up of both Jew and Gentile believers in Jesus Christ and who together (as one seed) inherit the same (not different) promises (Galatians 3:14-16).

The New Testament refers to the Christian church as the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16). There is good reason to believe that some of the Old Testament descriptions of God's future dealings with Israel are already being fulfilled spiritually in and through the Christian church which is made up of both Jew and Gentile believers in Christ inheriting the same (not different) promises.

The problem with most evangelical Christians today is that they interpret the Book of Revelation literally. But Revelation is a book of symbolism and should not to be interpreted literally. The Book itself tells us not to interpret it literally.

In the very first verse of the very first chapter we read, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God (the Father) gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass; and He sent and signified it by His angel unto His servant John" (Revelation 1:1, KJV). The word "signified" in the passage comes from a Greek word meaning "signs" or "symbols". Thus, Revelation was meant by Christ to be interpreted symbolically, not literally.

The Book of Revelation, like the rest of the New Testament, was originally written in Greek so sometimes we must go to the Greek language to have a more precise understanding of certain words.

Many evangelical Christians believe (wrongly) that the "Great City" in the Book of Revelation, which God destroys in His wrath and which is referred to figuratively as Babylon, is Rome. They believe it is Rome because the city is described as being surrounded by seven hills.

However, Jerusalem, also, is surrounded by seven hills. The proof that Jerusalem is the city and not Rome is found in Revelation 11:8 where we read, "And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified".

Was the Lord crucified in Rome or in Jerusalem? The wrath of God against Jerusalem for its apostate Judaism is what the early portions of the Book of Revelation are all about.

The modern state of Israel, now that it has been established, has every right to exist, but Israel should also be made to uphold the UN resolutions concerning Palestinian inalienable rights. Unlike before, almost all Arabs, including Palestinians, now recognize Israel's right to exist or, at least, will not wage war with Israel if Israel completely withdraws to its pre-1967 borders. But, what Palestinians and other Arabs cannot live with is Israel's continued occupation of the West Bank and Israel's continued building of settlements there.

Most Palestinians will stop their resistance and even go after the terrorists themselves if Israel simply gets out of their way (the West Bank) and that is the best way for Israel to stop the resistance and preserve its security and peace - not to mention the security and peace of others.

It is important, however, to have some basic background knowledge of how the modern state of Israel was founded.

As one writer points out: "Israel was created (in the beginning) not by force of arms or military invasion, but terrorist activity advocated by Jewish immigrants, in an effort to get rid of the British Administration (the lawful government of the day, as sanctioned by the predecessor to the U.N). Britain abandoned its mandate and Israel was created by the U.N."

Any solution to the present crisis must also involve monetary or financial compensation being made by Israel to Palestinian families who have had their homes and lands seized and taken away during the formation of the modern state of Israel in the 1940's. (According to the U.N. resolution 194, Palestinian refugees have the right for compensation and repatriation).

During that time Palestinian families suffered huge atrocities at the hands of Jewish immigrants, including many pregnant Palestinian Arab women having their wombs ripped open and their babies slaughtered before their very eyes. This was one of the many horrible crimes committed against Palestinians, even by such notable political figures as former Prime Minister of Israel Menachem Begin, and the Palestinians should be compensated by the modern state of Israel for these crimes. That is only right.

The terrorism committed by Jewish immigrants against Palestinian Arabs in the late 1940's is a major reason for why many Palestinian Arabs fled their homes and land and became refugees.

However, as long as most evangelical Christians in America believe modern Zionism is biblical they will continue to exert one-sided pressure in Washington DC in support of Israel's status quo in the region and prevent any pressure on Israel to pull back to its pre-1967 borders and discontinue building settlements on Arab land.

That is why it is very important to understand that there is no biblical basis for modern Zionism. If America insists Israel must be fair to Palestinians it will not only help achieve peace in the Middle East but also will reduce Muslim extremism, and even terrorism, against the United States. 



Jerusalem on Holy Saturday 2011

Holy Fire in Jerusalem

Thousands mark Easter Week's holy fire rite in Jerusalem church
Daniel Estrin
Associated Press

— The small doorway to the traditional site of Jesus' tomb cracked open to reveal a bright flame and tens of thousands of worshippers cheered ecstatically, marking the pinnacle of Easter Week's holy fire ceremony in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The annual ritual has been practiced for at least the last 1,200 years on the day before Easter, which celebrates Jesus' resurrection.

Worshippers of various Orthodox Christian sects packed into the Jerusalem church — Christianity's most sacred shrine and revered as the site where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. In the ceremony, a flame believed to be miraculously lit emanates from the tomb.

"I'm all vibrating," said Romanian pilgrim Ivan Kurnia. "It's really, really impressive."

Hours before the ceremony, local Christians and pilgrims from around the world snaked through the narrow alleyways of Jerusalem's old city and filled the small courtyard outside the church. About a thousand Israeli police officers processed the crowds through police barricades that filtered access to the church's only entrance.

Inside gathered a colorful mix of clergymen and worshippers representing the different Orthodox Christian sects — from Armenian monks in black robes and pointed hoods to Russian Orthodox women wearing turquoise headscarves.

People crammed against each other in the dimly lit, cavernous church, and police broke up scuffles. One middle-aged American woman fainted, but she remained standing because people were pressed up against her in the densely packed crowd.

Despite the suffocating crowds, the throngs waited in anticipation for the ceremony to begin, clutching bundles of 33 slim candles signifying the years of Jesus' life.

Adorned with a golden crown encrusted with jewels and religious icons, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theofilos III, entered the Edicule, the small chamber at the core of the church marking the site of Jesus' tomb. Armenian clergymen entered as well, and the door was sealed, guarded by clergymen and an Israeli policeman.

Then, the door was opened to reveal candles lit with the holy fire — said to be miraculously lit and interpreted as a message to the faithful from the heavens. The precise details of the flame's source are a closely guarded secret.

The flame was quickly passed on from one bunch of candles to another, and soon the dark church was filled with worshippers holding flickering torches and waving it around their faces. Bells rang and people cheered.

"Christos has risen. I feel amazing," said a Russian Orthodox pilgrim from San Francisco who identified himself only as Igor. "It came from God, from the sky."

Police spokesman Shmuel Ben Rubi said around a thousand police officers were deployed to direct foot traffic and keep the peace. He estimated tens of thousands of worshippers were in the church.

Asaf Abras, spokesman for Jerusalem's firefighting services, said about 10 firefighters with mobile units were stationed around the church in case of emergency.

Israeli officials have been worried since the late 1990s that a fire could erupt from the church during the ritual. In 1834, pilgrims in the church panicked, a stampede ensued, and several hundred people were crushed or suffocated to death.

But the six Christian sects that stake claim to different sections of the church have been reluctant to build an emergency exit or a fire escape. The sects zealously guard their portions of the church and brawls have erupted in recent years when clergymen of one sect encroach on another section, even when only sweeping the floor. None of the sects wants to give up an inch of precious real estate in the church to construct a second exit.

After the holy fire ceremony, the flame was immediately taken from the church and past an Israeli military barrier into the Palestinian Authority-controlled city of Bethlehem where it was received at the Church of the Nativity, the traditional site of Jesus' birthplace.

Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad attended another holy fire ceremony in a central square in Ramallah, the seat of his government in the West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, about fifty Christian worshippers attended a mass in one of Gaza's two churches.
Source: Detroit News


Lucky Girls film

"...though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing."
1 Cor 13.2


What’s so appealing about Orthodoxy?

By Rod Dreher

I came to Orthodoxy in 2006, a broken man. I had been a devoutly observant and convinced Roman Catholic for years, but had my faith shattered in large part by what I had learned as a reporter covering the sex abuse scandal. It had been my assumption that my theological convictions would protect the core of my faith through any trial, but the knowledge I struggled with wore down my ability to believe in the ecclesial truth claims of the Roman church (I wrote in detail about that drama here). For my wife and me, Protestantism was not an option, given what we knew about church history, and given our convictions about sacramental theology. That left Orthodoxy as the only safe harbor from the tempest that threatened to capsize our Christianity.

In truth, I had longed for Orthodoxy for some time, for the same reasons I, as a young man, found my way into the Catholic Church. It seemed to me a rock of stability in a turbulent sea of relativism and modernism overtaking Western Christianity. And while the Roman church threw out so much of its artistic and liturgical heritage in the violence of the Second Vatican Council, the Orthodox still held on to theirs. Several years before we entered Orthodoxy, my wife and I visited Orthodox friends at their Maryland parish. As morally and liturgically conservative Catholics, we were moved and even envious over what we saw there. We had to leave early to scoot up the road to the nearest Seventies moderne Catholic parish to meet our Sunday obligation. The contrast between the desultory liturgical proceedings at Our Lady of Pizza Hut and what we had walked out of in the Orthodox parish down the road literally reduced us to tears. But ugliness, even a sense of spiritual desolation, does not obviate truth, and we knew we had to stand with truth – and therefore with Rome – despite it all.

If Catholicism in America had been healthy, maybe we could have held on through the sex abuse trials. But my wife and I had been worrying for some time how we were going to raise faithful Christian children given the loosey-goosey moral teaching in Roman parishes. We considered ourselves orthodox Catholics, meaning we really believed what was in the Catechism, and struggled to live by it. We failed – everybody fails – but the point is, we looked to the church to provide clear moral leadership, and to help us live out the faith with integrity and joy. Here’s the problem: there is very little orthodoxy in the U.S. Catholic Church, and at the parish level, almost no recognition that there is a such thing as “right belief.” It wasn’t that I wanted to throw out all those who don’t live up to Catholic teaching – I would have been the first one shown the door if that had been true – but that I discerned no direction, and no real conviction that parish communities exist for any reason other than to affirm ourselves in our okayness. Though I didn’t have a term to describe it at the time, I was weary to the bone from an ersatz form of Christianity that sociologist Christian Smith calls “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.” I had been so hollowed out by despair over all this as a Catholic that when the strong winds of the abuse scandal began to blow, the structure of my Catholic belief did not stand.

I say all this not to disparage the Roman Catholic Church – which I still love, and to which I cannot be grateful enough for introducing me to ancient, sacramental Christianity – but to show why Orthodoxy was so attractive to me. When I interviewed him for my book “Crunchy Cons,” my friend Hugh O’Beirne, a convert from Catholicism to Orthodoxy, told me that for a Catholic wearied by the culture wars raging inside American Catholicism, it is blessed relief to find that in Orthodoxy, there is no “war footing.” The kinds of issues that are tearing apart many other American churches aren’t nearly as contentious in Orthodox practice. Though it would be foolish to pretend these conflicts don’t exist in Orthodox parishes, they simply aren’t nearly as much of an issue.

And then there is the liturgy and music. There is nothing comparable to it in other churches. It is overwhelmingly beautiful and deep, and is largely the same Divine Liturgy (though in the vernacular tongue) that St. John Chrysostom, the 5th century patriarch of Constantinople, formalized. The beauty of that liturgy is utterly transporting, and the reverence it inspires is tonic. And while I miss familiar old hymns (in Orthodox services, we chant prayers and Psalms), there’s a lot to be said for never having to endure “On Eagle’s Wings” and other shag-carpeted hymnody endemic to modern American Catholic worship.

The main reason why Orthodoxy is so attractive to converts, at least to this convert, is its seriousness about sin. I don’t mean that it’s a dour religion – it is very far from that! – but rather that Orthodoxy takes the brokenness of humankind with appropriate seriousness. Orthodoxy is not going to tell you that you’re okay. In fact, it will require you to call yourself, as St. Paul described himself, the “chief of sinners.” And Orthodoxy is going to tell you the Good News: Jesus died and returned to life so that you too might live. But in order to live, you are going to have to die to yourself, over and over again. And that will not be painless, and cannot be, or it’s not real.

Because of that, for all its dramatic beauty and rich feasting, Orthodoxy is far more austere and demanding than most American Christianity. The long liturgies, the frequent prayers, the intense fasts – all make serious demands on the believer, especially comfortable middle-class Americans like me. They call us out of ourselves, and to repentance. Orthodoxy is not interested in making you feel comfortable in your sins. It wants nothing less than for you to be a saint.

It’s common among American converts to hear that men were first attracted to Orthodoxy, and their wives followed. It’s not hard to see why. Many men are tired of a soft, bourgeois Christianity that doesn’t call them to much because it doesn’t ask much of them. Men love a challenge, and that’s exactly what Orthodoxy gives them.

Don’t be misled. Orthodoxy is not, at its core, about rules and practices. The more I progress in my Orthodoxy, the clearer it is to me that Orthodoxy is, above all, a way. It is not an institution, a set of doctrines, or a collection of rituals, though it contains all three. It is rather a way of seeing the world, and one’s place in it, and a map to holiness that is paradoxically both ancient and astonishingly fresh, at least to Western sensibilities. It is the way of liberation.

True, it is possible to find dreary parish life in American Orthodoxy, often among the ethnically-oriented older parishes that see themselves as little more than the tribe at prayer. And because Orthodox churches are full of ordinary American people, they are also filled with ordinary American problems. Anyone who comes to an Orthodox church expecting perfection will be disappointed. What you will find, though, is truth and beauty presented in a way that can be breathtaking to modern Americans, and an ancient Way grounded on doctrinal stability, sacramental reality, and practical Christian mysticism – a mysticism that has been marginalized in most other American churches.

I found in Orthodoxy what I thought I would find when I became Catholic. As my patron saint in Orthodoxy, I chose St. Benedict of Nursia, dear to both churches, and a sign of the unity we used to have, and that we might yet have again. The Catholic church needs to be more orthodox, and the Orthodox church needs to be more catholic. I pray, I really pray, that I will live to see that unity return. Until that time, though, I am grateful to God that He gave me a second chance in Orthodoxy, and showed me the Way I had been searching for all my life. When I first came in the door, a spiritually broken mess, I thought it would be impossible for me to learn to endure these long liturgies, this intense prayer, these prostrations, the strict fasting, and – how to put this? – the weirdness of Orthodox Christianity in an American context. Five years on, I can’t imagine how I ever lived without it. You can’t read your way into Orthodoxy. You have to come and see for yourself.

Rod Dreher is a writer in Philadelphia.

By Rod Dreher
06:31 PM ET, 03/17/2011


BBC's "History of Christianity"

Here is a fascinating and well-made* documentary on Orthodox Christianity produced by the BBC. Enjoy.

*but not perfect. At around the 18:08 mark, the narrator refers to something he calls "Iconoclast Orthodoxy," which, of course, is a contradiction in terms. Then the map shown at 30:40 identifies Carthage as one of the ancient patriarchates. They apparently confused it with Alexandria.


New Poll!

I know it's been a while since I've added a new poll (I've been busy, okay?), so I went ahead and added one today. It relates to something that Christians lament everyday, but especially last week with the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade: abortion.

Click on the "Polls" menu item to the right (or click here) to vote. The new poll will be at the bottom of the page (I put new polls there to encourage people to participate in older polls that they may have missed)