Dear CRI Partner:
Ideas have consequences.
So does bad theology.
In fact, Palestinian Christian brothers and sisters are suffering in the Holy Land. In part because too many American Christians sadly don’t know the future from the past, and they can’t get their millennial “math” right.
Less cryptically, they’ve bought into Christian Zionism.
Regarding the future, they’re convinced that the land promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are as yet unfulfilled.
Their critical error is failing to see that all the types and shadows of the old covenant — including the holy land of Israel, the holy city of Jerusalem, and the holy temple — already have been fulfilled in Christ.
Regarding the “math,” at the heart of Christian Zionism is the conviction of dispensational theology that God has TWO distinct people, one of whom must be raptured before He can continue His plan with the other.
However, Scripture reveals ONE chosen people who form ONE covenant community.
Although I don’t have space to unpack all the relevant ideas here, I do so in three key resources I’d like you to have (see enclosed sheet). For now, I’ll just mention that dispensationalism is an idea concocted by John Nelson Darby early in the nineteenth century.
The fact that millions of American Christians have uncritically ingested Darby’s idea despite its being unknown to the church’s greatest minds for more than 1,800 years should be a cause for great sobriety.
This underscores the need for all Christians to think critically — to love God with all our minds — and never embrace an idea merely because it is espoused by someone in authority or thoughtlessly sustained by the sheer weight of unquestioned tradition.
And here’s the rub: in Darby’s day, his followers were content simply to wait for their version of the end times to become reality. Today, some modern proponents are taking the next logical step — advocating active participation to ensure that the horrors of Armageddon become a self-fulfilling reality.
That’s why in Fuse of Armageddon (coauthored with Sigmund Brouwer), I’ve used the power of story to communicate how this is destined to play out in the days and years ahead. As a page-turner that both entertains and informs, Fuse feels as though it were written around the latest terrorist headlines and couldn’t be more relevant. And in The Apocalypse Code, I’ve put critical theological flesh on bones too often left meatless and meaningless by too many Christians at home and around the globe.
But my real reason for writing is to underscore that our ideas have consequences, and not just for us.
They can have unintended and heartbreaking consequences for Christian brothers and sisters on the other side of the world who now live as refugees in their own homeland due in part to policies promulgated by Christian Zionism.
Because I recently spoke in Bethlehem at the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference, I’ve seen the harsh reality firsthand. (“The Checkpoint” refers to the Israeli security gates that monitor people passing through the barrier separating modern Bethlehem from southern Jerusalem.) What’s more, I’ve heard the stories and the heartfelt prayers of Palestinian brothers and sisters who feel this oppression each and every day of their lives.
Please understand. Given the longstanding hostilities of the region and the constant threat of terrorism in the Middle East, I’m not suggesting that security isn’t needed or isn’t a critical issue. I’m simply saying that the failure of millions of American Christians to rightly understand the Bible has inadvertently led to the unthinking support of government policies that have helped to oppress fellow believers for decades.
While the issues involved are maddeningly complex for a multitude of reasons (historical, religious, geographical, ethic, political), here are two critical points for Christians who want to be fruitful as well as faithful as differing theologies compete for our allegiance:
- Our ideas have consequences. Problematically, especially for those who fail to think critically about ideas, the consequences of our doctrinal convictions are often unintended and unseen. What’s more, if we better understood the human misery inflicted on Christian brothers and sisters in the Holy Land by purportedly “biblical” ideas, we might be more motivated to insure that we “get it right.”
- God has ONE people. As I stated in my talk in Bethlehem, “God isn’t pro-Jew; He’s pro-justice. He isn’t pro-Palestinian; He’s pro-peace.” Despite the historical profusion of “millennial mathematics” and the lamentable evangelical death march toward the endgame of Armageddon, God does not have two distinct peoples — one of whom must be raptured before God can continue His plan with the other. Just as the Old and New Testaments reveal only one chosen people, so too, they reveal only one covenant community redeemed by the blood of Christ.
That’s why to emphatically underscore the need to “think and live Christianly,” I want growing numbers of Christians to have the vital resources researched and produced by CRI with your generous help.
In short, because minds are at stake, lives are at stake.
As the late internationally renowned Lebanese ambassador and president of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr. Charles Malik, once put it,
“The problem is not only to win souls but to save minds. If you win the whole world and lose the mind of the world, you will soon discover you have not won the world. Indeed it may turn out you have actually lost the world.”
In our increasingly secular and skeptical world, to witness the growth of peace and justice as well as winning souls will increasingly mean that we save minds — beginning with our own. We simply have no rational reason to believe that unbelievers will embrace the Good News when it is proclaimed in the context of millennial madness or misguided Christian Zionism.
Because I want you to have critical doctrinal and apologetics resources as well as share these with other believers, I’ve enclosed a sheet with three resources I feel are timely and relevant to thinking and living Christianly in today’s troubled world.
For the vital role your support and partnership play in making possible the “24/7” mind-changing and life-changing outreaches of CRI, I’m deeply indebted.
…because Life and Truth matter,
P.S. Because thirty-seven countries were represented at the “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference, your support had an impact that will continue to reverberate around the world. Although the spiritual, moral, and political issues we battle here on the home front are sufficiently challenging, the life-and-death issues faced by Palestinian brothers in the Holy Land can make these seem tame by comparison. Please know that because ideas have consequences, your partnership is strategically “making waves” globally. For that, I’m deeply grateful!