Saturday, April 30, 2005

A Balanced Perspective on the Middle East

I started reading Chronicles when my big brother passed along an issue before Gulf War I--and I've been reading ever since. Though some great writers have come and gone, I assume that they can't work easily for the temperamental Tom Fleming, the magazine retains great verve and punch.

The latest issue runs head-on into the panoply of issues clouding discussion over the Middle East and American foreign policy in the region. The Rockford Institute, publisher of Chronicles, will also be releasing a book examining the issue in more detail. You may have to look around for a newsstand that sells Chronicles, though you might easily find an issue of National Review to put on the bottom of the bird cage, but it will be worth your time.

Here is one gem from Aaron Wolf writing about Christian Zionists:

The Republican Party, so heavily influenced by the neoconservatives, is happy to cultivate the dispensationalist evangelicals, both through the promise of promoting their “moral values” and through tough talk about “terrorists”—where terrorist is often a synonym for Palestinian. A strange and perverse symbiosis exists between many politicians, who promise the moon to evangelicals, and popular evangelical leaders, who are so eager for access to the corridors of power that they are willing to compromise again and again on those “moral values” issues (“gay marriage,” abortion, euthanasia) in order to stay in the loop…

If we are to remove the obstacle of Christian Zionism, we must encourage and support the efforts of those evangelical theologians who are earnestly seeking to reform evangelical eschatology in favor of a view that both takes the Bible seriously and places emphasis on the crucified and risen Christ (Who will, indeed come again), not on the state of Israel. Furthermore, we must make every effort to expose the relationships among the Likud, the neoconservatives, and the Christian Zionist leadership and the cynical ways in which they seek to manipulate faithful evangelicals into supporting their secularist goals—goals that have nothing to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, from which Evangelicals derive their name. Evangelicals must be brought to the conclusion that it is through the Church and the Gospel, not through the Republican Party, that God’s purposes on earth are furthered.

Amen, Aaron!

I also see in the current issue an advertisement for a book called, “Neo-Conned! Just War Principles: A Condemnation of War in Iraq.” I see that there are Catholic (Buchanan, Sobran, Wanniski, Fleming), Jewish (Gottfried), and non-Christian (Francis) writers represented. What they need is a thoughtful Protestant contribution. I nominate this guy.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Darrell,

A particularly interesting piece by Wolf. In saying as he does,

"A strange and perverse symbiosis exists between many politicians, who promise the moon to evangelicals, and popular evangelical leaders, who are so eager for access to the corridors of power that they are willing to compromise again and again on those “moral values” issues (“gay marriage,” abortion, euthanasia) in order to stay in the loop."

he leaves out specifying only embryonic stem-cell research, the issue which thoroughly disabused me of my earlier affection for James Dobson and Chuck Colson.

And I think Wolf is right about the dangers of Christian Zionism. If there is a limit to dispensationalist patience with Bush and the Republican Party, it would seem to be here before all else. Any suggestion of a disconnect between purely American foreign policy interests and those of Likudist Israel would bring complaints on a scale that would dwarf any created in the wake of Justice Sunday, I would guess. Eschatology as the bottom line for the Falwells and the Bauers? Nothing else has moved them to disaffection. What do you think, Darrell?

Wolf's observations regarding a solution are well taken also, but the task of recapturing Evangelical seminaries for a less fanciful eschatology are formidable indeed. It seems to me that one might begin by insisting upon a recognition that all eschatological statements in Holy Scripture are at core christological statements, a fact supported by the research of innumerable scholars and theologians, among them H. von Balthasar and K. Rahner. One sees a final playing out of the nominalist presuppositions of the Reformation in dispensationalism, a reliance upon a purely linear and historical assessment. In my opinion, any seriously biblical retake of these questions will require a reexamination of this historical onesidedness and its envelopment in a more unifying, vertical construct. In any event, Evangelicals deserve a lot more than what's being passed off as scholarship at places like Dallas Theological Seminary.

Finally, I would agree that the Buchanans and Sobrans would have done better to have sought out competent Protestant contributors to "Neo-Conned". And who better than Darrell Dow!

Yours In The Holy Trinity,

John Lowell

4:26 PM  
Blogger Darrell said...

Earlier in the administration when the Bushies leaned on Sharon for about 45 seconds, Robertson, Falwell, etc. immediately rallied the troops against them. I've seen some incredible quotes from these guys--maybe I can put them together in a later post. But I think you are on to something when you say that Bush could only lose the support of the evangelical faithful were he to make the distinction between American and Israeli interests.

I've mentioned to you previously that I can see healthy things happening in Louisville among Southern Baptists. I know a number of professors and have met a bevy of students and most seem to be moving toward historic Reformation theology, which is a step in the right direction from my perspective (you may disagree :) )

On eschatology, Wolfe mentions the changes going on in dispensationalism, and much of that is working its way through the seminaries. I think even at Dallas Theological Seminary, classical dispensationalism has largely been abandoned.

What Wolfe mentions in his piece is that the omnipresent Christian media hasn't yet been transformed by the changes percolating through some of the seminaries. I'm guessing it may take quite a while for the leaven to get through the loaf--and I'm not sure we have that much time.

6:28 AM  

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