The Philosopher Fredrich Nietzsche once said, “All things are subject to interpretation. Whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth…It is our needs that interpret the world; our drives and their for and against. Every drive is a kind of lust to rule; each one has its perspective that it would like to compel all the other drives to accept as a norm.” Regarding Evangelicals views of Israel, Nietzsche was right: Their interpretations are often a function of power and not truth. Evangelicals mainly see through three different lenses in their perspectives of Israel. Each vantage point it seems is driven by “a kind of lust to rule.” Here are three dominating Evangelical perspectives on Israel:
1. The Denialists
These Evangelicals believe the Abrahamic covenant was broken because Jews rejected Christianity. As a result, the promises meant for the Jews have been denied. The lens in this perspective is clouded by jealousy over the distinct calling of Israel. This jealousy inspires an arrogant denial of Israel’s right of existence in her own land. This perspective is also known as Replacement Theology or Suppersessionism. One leading Denialist is Dr. Gary Burge, New Testament professor at Calvin Theological Seminary in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Dr. Burge states, “The answer is not just a matter of pointing to the promises of Abraham, identifying modern Israel as heirs to those promises, and then theologically justifying the Israeli land claim. On the contrary, Christian theology demands that the true recipients of these promises will be found in the Christian church. Perhaps the church alone receives these promises!”1 With this statement, Dr. Burge denies Jews have the right to their own land and delegitimizes the Jewish people.
2. The Escapists
These Evangelicals believe Jesus will catch away (rapture) gentile saints prior to the horror of the Great Tribulation. In their understanding of the Olivet Discourse in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew chapter 24-25, Jews must be inhabiting Jerusalem in large numbers during the Tribulation. The glaring problem with the Escapist view is that it’s driven by self- preservation. Escapists believe Jews will suffer through the end-time tribulation while preferred Christians watch the carnage from heaven. Yes, Christian Zionists love Israel but their motivation at best lacks authenticity and at worst smacks of antisemitism. As Denialists are driven by the jealous need to triumph over Jews through delegitimizing them, Escapists are driven by the need to be inoculated from suffering while (unconsciously perhaps) making Jews the scapegoats. “It is our needs that interpret the world” said Nietzche.
3. The Commendationists
The Commendationists are driven by the need of God’s blessing and approval. They interpret God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 12:3 (I will bless those who bless you) as a special financial commendation conferred on those who are kind to Jews. Again, like the Escapists, Commendationists love and support Israel but to love Jewish people out of a desire for personal gratification seems shallow and disingenuous.
So, what kind of perspective should Evangelicals have about Israel? To begin with, a perspective not driven by arrogant superiority like the Denialists, the need of immunity from suffering like the Escapists, or the need of financial security like the Commendationists. It’s time for Evangelicals to work towards an unfiltered perspective of Israel. To deny Israel has a distinct and eternal calling is to deny the very God of Israel who made this choice. To deny the credibility of the eternal land covenant God made with Abraham and his descendants through Isaac is to accept the notion that God’s covenants can be broken which places all Jews and Christians in perilous jeopardy. To love Israel merely out of the need for self-preservation or personal gain is radically unbiblical in both Judaism and Christianity. Christians should love Israel first and foremost because God loves Israel (See Deuteronomy 7:6-8).
It will take heartfelt honesty for Evangelicals to set aside their perspectives of Israel driven by personal needs. In some cases, prideful arrogance will have to be challenged. C.S. Lewis said, “What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing.” Maybe it’s time Evangelicals see Israel from God’s point of view rather than our own.
1. Gary M. Burge, Whose Land? Whose Promise? (Cleveland OH: The Pilgrim Press, 2003),176