Evangelical Support for Israel Is about More Than Planning for the Apocalypse

A recent poll of evangelical Christians’ political views showed that sympathy for the Jewish state is less pervasive among the younger generations than among the older. Mark Tooley argues that the ideas of two pro-Israel Christian thinkers might appeal more to young people than those normally cited by Christian Zionists. He also dispels the common stereotype that the favorable views of evangelical Christians toward Israel stem primarily from the notion that the Jews’ return to Zion is a prerequisite for the messianic era, a notion that fits into a wider theology known as “dispensationalism.”

Most evangelicals believe that God’s promise of the land to the Jews is enduring, but belief in that covenant doesn’t automatically equate to preoccupation with end times. . . .

Here’s where [Reinhold] Niebuhr can be helpful. He was a theological modernist who rejected dispensationalism but . . . appreciated humanity’s fallen nature. Even as a young pastor he embraced the cause of persecuted Jews and their need for a homeland in Palestine. His support for Zionism increased during the Nazi ascendancy in the 1930s, during which he also abandoned pacifism in favor of armed resistance to the fascist powers.

Niebuhr’s Zionism caused friction with many of his liberal friends, but he was unrelenting. In “Our Stake in the State of Israel” (1957), an article in the New Republic, he lamented the West’s dearth of support for Israel, which was the “only sure strategic anchor of the democratic world” in the Middle East. . . . Niebuhr, a Protestant liberal of sorts, backed Zionism as a humanitarian, moral, and pragmatic necessity in defense of a long-persecuted people who were friends of democracy. That the Jews had a deep historic tie to the land, even if he declined to affirm an ongoing biblical promise, only added to his commitment to their cause. . . .

Another option exists for Christians and specifically for evangelicals in search of a sturdy perspective on modern Israel. Gerald McDermott, an ordained Anglican who teaches at Beeson Divinity School, one of evangelicalism’s most distinguished seminaries, has published two recent books and numerous articles on [what he terms] the New Christian Zionism, avoiding end-times dispensationalism but stressing that early church fathers and other Christian thinkers across the centuries, including the Puritans, understood as ongoing the biblical promises of the promised land to the Jews.

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More about: Christian Zionism, Evangelical Christianity, Israel & Zionism, Reinhold Niebuhr

The Reasons for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Staying Power

Nov. 20 2018

This week, Benjamin Netanyahu seems to have narrowly avoided the collapse of his governing coalition despite the fact that one party, Yisrael Beiteinu, withdrew and another, the Jewish Home, threatened to follow suit. Moreover, he kept the latter from defecting without conceding its leader’s demand to be appointed minister of defense. Even if the government were to collapse, resulting in early elections, Netanyahu would almost certainly win, writes Elliot Jager:

[Netanyahu’s] detractors think him Machiavellian, duplicitous, and smug—willing to do anything to stay in power. His supporters would not automatically disagree. Over 60 percent of Israelis tell pollsters that they will be voting for a party other than Likud—some supposing their favored party will join a Netanyahu-led coalition while others hoping against the odds that Likud can be ousted.

Opponents would [also] like to think the prime minister’s core voters are by definition illiberal, hawkish, and religiously inclined. However, the 30 percent of voters who plan to vote Likud reflect a broad segment of the population. . . .

Journalists who have observed Netanyahu over the years admire his fitness for office even if they disagree with his actions. A strategic thinker, Netanyahu’s scope of knowledge is both broad and deep. He is a voracious reader and a quick study. . . . Foreign leaders may not like what he says but cannot deny that he speaks with panache and authority. . . .

The prime minister or those around him are under multiple police investigations for possible fraud and moral turpitude. Under Israel’s system, the police investigate and can recommend that the attorney general issue an indictment. . . . Separately, Mrs. Netanyahu is in court for allegedly using public monies to pay for restaurant meals. . . . The veteran Jerusalem Post political reporter Gil Hoffman maintains that Israelis do not mind if Netanyahu appears a tad corrupt because they admire a politician who is nobody’s fool. Better to have a political figure who cannot be taken advantage of than one who is incorruptible but naïve.

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More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics