Christian Zionism: Road-map to Armageddon?
By Stephen Sizer
Reviewed by Dr. Robert Thomas
17.2 (Fall 2006) : 248-249
Steven Sizer is vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, Surrey, England, and Chairman of the International Bible Society (UK). His goal in the book is to demonstrate that “the convictions of Christian Zionists have made a significant contribution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” (17). Sizer defines “Christian Zionism” as follows: “At its simplest, Christian Zionism is a political form of philo-Semitism, and can be defined as ‘Christian support for Zionism’” (19).
In discussing the history of the movement, the author notes that “proto- Christian Zionism predated and nurtured Jewish Zionism” and that “the contemporary Christian Zionist movement emerged only after 1967, alongside Messianic Zionism, in part in reaction to the widespread criticism Israel has endured over the last thirty-five years” (19). He sees dispensational Christian Zionism as the dominant form of Christian Zionism in America (23). Sizer traces the origin of Christian Zionism all the way back to the Reformation and shows how various individuals and organizations have been instrumental in promoting that cause. He sees Hal Lindsey as the most influential of all twentieth-century Christian Zionists (93).
Sizer is critical of what he calls the ultra-literal hermeneutic of Christian Zionism. He writes, “Therefore, the question is not whether the promises of the covenant are to be understood literally or spiritually; it is instead a question of whether they should be understood in terms of old covenant shadow or new covenant reality. The failure to recognize this principle is the basic hermeneutic error which Christian Zionists make and from which flow the other distinctive doctrines that characterize the movement” (135). By reading the NT back into the OT, the author asserts that the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people: “The idea that the Jewish people continue to enjoy a special status by virtue of the covenants made with the Patriarchs is in conflict with the clear and unambiguous statements of the New Testament” (149). Sizer presents the usual perspective of Covenant theology and amillennialism in seeking to combat Christian Zionism.
He notes, “The Christian right came to influence US foreign policy largely through the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. His victory over Jimmy Carter gave a considerable boost to the Christian Zionist cause” (214). About 95% of the Christian tour groups that go to Israel never see or hear about the indigenous Christian church in Israel, he says. “The biblical literalism of Christian Zionism leads many to demonize Arabs and Palestinians as Satanic enemies of the Jewish people” (250). Sizer’s great regret is over injustices that have been inflicted on the Palestinian people, even those who are Christians. He sums up with the words, “In its apocalyptic and political forms especially, Christian Zionism distorts the Bible and marginalizes the universal imperative of the Christian message of equal grace and common justice” (259).
Sizer’s work is commendable in the amount of information it contains. Even though it is anti-dispensational, it contains a huge amount of information on dispensationalism about which most dispensationalists are unaware. The research has been thorough. Its major weakness lies in its hermeneutical approach. Sizer’s use of Scripture is superficial and beset with covenantal and amillennial preunderstandings. It is a book that seeks to discredit the role of Israel as seen through dispensationalist eyes. For those without deep roots in sound biblical hermeneutics, it may have an unfortunate impact. But for others who can withstand the storm of harsh accusations against Christian Zionism as a political force in today’s world, it will be instructive regarding present-day international policies, especially those of the United States.