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

Iran Is Back on Israel’s Doorstep

Feb. 15 2019

On Monday, the IDF shelled Iranian-linked targets—most likely held by Hizballah—in the Quneitra province, which lies in the Syrian part of the Golan Heights. There can thus be little doubt that the Islamic Republic has positioned its proxies in deadly proximity to Israel’s borders. Yossi Yehoshua comments:

Hizballah is trying to entrench itself in Syria now that Bashar al-Assad has reclaimed the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, precisely as it did in 2014 and 2015, [before Syrian rebels retook the area]. This was when one of the terror organization’s more prominent members, Jihad Mughniyeh, was appointed by Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to be in charge of the Golan Heights area and of planning terror attacks against Israeli civilians. Mughniyeh was killed in a 2015 airstrike attributed to Israel. . . .

In addition, an increase in the number of incidents along the Syrian border was noted over the past two months, with the Israeli strikes in Syria . . . meant to signal to the enemy that it is best not cross any red lines. This is similar to the message Jerusalem conveyed to Iran when it [previously] attempted to entrench itself in [this part of] Syria and was pushed out of there after a series of Israeli airstrikes.

Unlike the situation of four years ago, Iran now has a real presence along the Syrian border, while Hizballah is working to resume its confrontations with Israel. And since the organization is up to its neck in domestic problems and thus cannot allow itself to face Israel on the Lebanese front, it finds Syria to be a more comfortable staging ground from which to take on the Jewish state.

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More about: Golan Heights, Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syria