The following article is written by Malcolm Hedding and was originally posted on his website malcolmhedding.com
“Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for a light by
day, the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a
light by night, Who disturbs the sea and its waves
roar (The Lord of Hosts is His name): If those
ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord,
then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a
nation before me forever.”
The Movie “With God on Our Side” is supposed to be a refutation of the biblical position held by Christian Zionists. It is not! In actual fact it is very weak theologically and thus puts up no real theological defense of their position other than to accuse those of holding a differing view of subscribing to dual covenant theology. The weakness of this is self evident because great Christian leaders through the centuries have held Christian Zionist views and yet they were in no way dual covenant by belief. This type of presentation is just arrogance which flows out of the theological insecurity of their position and yet it deceives many because it is coupled with a strong emotional argument. If the truth be told they couldn’t even give a reasonable theological answer to Genesis 12:3!
More troubling still, is the fact that the makers of this movie are guilty of misrepresentation and lying! Not only do I testify to this but so do Pastor George Morrison and Pastor John Hagee. They approached us on the understanding that they were doing a totally different type of production. Given that they were Christians and represented respected churches and Christian organizations I believed them and granted them an interview. Naturally, if I had known their real purpose, I would never have done so. Christians do not lie to one another and should not in any circumstances. (Colossians 3:9)This is the clear teaching of scripture and yet the producers of this movie lied knowingly and without hesitation. This is morally reprehensible; a contradiction of scripture and it totally undermines their so called claim to be people of love, mercy and compassion. A claim that Stephen Sizer himself makes at the end! Jesus said that we shall “know them by their fruit” and not by their grand theological positions! There is no such thing as a “white lie” and scripture teaches that lying is not a small matter as those who do so will not” inherit the kingdom of God.” (Revelation 21:8)
The Exposition of Scripture
The early church had no Canon of the New Testament and did not for the first two hundred years of its existence. When Paul writes to Timothy that “all scripture is inspired and given of God” he was referring to the Hebrew Scriptures or what we call the Old Testament! (2Timoth 3:16) Also when Jesus stated that “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17) He was doing the same thing. The New Testament is not a filter of the Old Testament but a faithful exposition of it!! Thus the early church did not subscribe to “Fulfillment Theology” which is just “Replacement Theology” by another name. It thus did not teach that Jesus was in fact the land of Israel and that the Abrahamic Covenant had been abolished or reconstructed so as to disinvest the Jews of a national destiny in it and yet; the movie makes the outrageous claim that Biblical Judaism was never really about land but about ethics! Anyone who reads the Old Testament will know that this is just nonsense!! It is thus clear from the writings of the early Church, and those of its leaders that were close to the Apostles, that the premillenial view of history was embraced and with it a national restoration of the Jewish people to the land of their forefathers. Please note that I did not write that a pre-tribulation rapture view of eschatology was the pre-millennial view of the early Church. So, Christians who believe in a national destiny of the Jewish people in the land of Canaan are not compromising on the nature of the Gospel and they are most certainly in step with much of the early Church and with great Christian leaders through history in this regard.
The Battle Ground
The battle ground in this debate is none other than the Abrahamic Covenant. The people who produced “With God on Our Side” want you to believe that this covenant has been abolished or reconstructed to mean something else. There is no proof of this in the Bible! In fact it is the New Testament scriptures, which we believe to be fully inspired, that entirely validates the Abrahamic Covenant and holds it up as proof of God’s faithfulness to His people. This Covenant has many aspects:
1. It is the one of the first proclamations of the Gospel. (Galatians 3:8)
2. It bequeaths to the Jewish people (seed as in plural) the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession. (Genesis 17:7-8; Psalm 105:7-12)
3. It promises a unique blessing of salvation for the world through the seed(singular) of Israel (Genesis 22:16-19)…and;
4. It gives a stern warning and blessing to those who respond to it. (Genesis 12:3)
When Abraham believed what God was saying to him through this covenant it was accounted to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)That is, he was saved by faith since the covenant, apart from all its other aspects, focused on Jesus!!! This is precisely the point that Paul was making in Galatians three. His readers were in danger of returning to Law as a means of salvation since they were being deceived by what theologians call “Judaizers.” (Galatians 3:1-9) Paul was not reconstructing the Abrahamic Covenant when he wrote to the Galatian believers but merely pointing out that the Law which was given 400 years later did not nullify the promise in this Covenant that God would save the world through the saving work of the “Seed”; Jesus. (Galatians 3:15-16) Salvation is only by faith in His finished work. (Galatians 3:17-18) This was his point and it provoked the question, “Then why did God give us the Law?” Paul answers this by saying, “As a teacher to lead us to Christ.” (Galatians 3:24) That is the Law convicts us of sin. (Romans 3:20) This and this alone is the context of Galatians three. Indeed Paul goes on to validate and confirm the efficacy of the Abrahamic Covenant by stating that if you “belong to Christ then you are Abraham’s children according to the promise”. (Galatians 3:29) Paul was expounding the Abrahamic Covenant as it was originally given and he was not changing it!
Note: To use Galatians three as a means to somehow invalidate the Abrahamic Covenant and debunk it is nothing short of presumption and an argument from silence!!! Yet, this is what the producers of the movie” With God on Our Side” set out to achieve in order to biblically delegitimize Israel’s modern day restoration. There is no doubt that they are accusing God of lying since this Covenant is sworn to, by God Himself (Hebrews 6:13-20), to be everlasting in all its aspects, and indeed it was the reason that John the Baptist and Jesus came! (Luke 1:54-55; 72-75) Not one passage in the New Testament disqualifies it or suggests that it is obsolete.
The Conditional Nature of the Abrahamic Covenant
The Abrahamic Covenant is conditional and unconditional! Herein lays the theological confusion and this is why the issue is so complex leaving the average Christian vulnerable to the error projected by “With God on Our Side.” That is, the promise that the Land of Canaan would be the everlasting possession of the Jewish people is a fact and unalterable but the domicile of the Jewish people upon the land so promised to them is conditional upon their obedience to God and reconciled relationship with Him. (Deuteronomy 28) Failure at the latter will result in warning, correction, judgment and exile. This is the mission and ministry of the Major and Minor Prophets. History clearly affirms this truth. So, the land is theirs forever but their privilege of living upon it is conditional upon their righteousness! In other words; a Holyland is for a holy people! This also means that they should be a people who love the stranger in it and deal with him justly and compassionately. (Exodus 22:21)This was the true message being conveyed to Joshua by the Angel of the Lord as he prepared to lead Israel into the Promised Land. (Joshua 5:13-15) God is indeed on His own side and that is the side of His grace, love and mercy but also the side of His holiness and righteousness. The real truth about the movie, “With God on Our Side” is that the producers think that God is on their side!! They actually say as much since they accuse Christian Zionists of being guilty of dual covenant theology, they delegitimize Israel’s biblical credentials and those that are international. Finkelstein asserts that Israel has nothing to negotiate over since she doesn’t have anything to start with! By this sweeping generalization he contradicts the Bible and international law. The latter has been well established by Alan Dershowitz, one of America’s most respected and renowned legal practitioners, who also helped craft Resolution 242 of the United Nations.
The Challenges of Israel’s Restoration Today
There is no doubt that many passages of scripture speak of a future and final and glorious restoration of Israel.(Amos 9:13-15; Zechariah 12:1-14; Psalm2; Isaiah 2:1-4; Ezekiel 36-39) Many of these remarkable passages await fulfillment and their context is literal. Just as an aside; we are not literalists or spiritualists but contextualists! In other words; we allow the Word of God to retain its own authority and this we acknowledge by the context. If the passage is literal in context we interpret it as such and if it is spiritual or figurative we interpret as such. For example when Jesus said that He was a “door” or a “vine” we know that He is speaking figuratively but when He enters into a discussion about the future restoration of Israel in Acts 1:6-7 or Luke 21:24 we know that the context is literal and must be expounded as such. By the way the former passage is totally ignored by the producers of “With God on Our Side” because it undoes their thesis! Theirs is, “waffle Iron theology”; meaning that what fits into their scheme they accept but what contradicts their thesis they ignore or cut off like batter on the side of a waffle iron! In fact one of their ardent supporters Naim Ateek has noted the “embarrassing scriptures’ of the Old Testament that contradict his thesis and he has thus suggested that these passages have to be “dezionized” as he puts it. For the unsuspecting reader this means, “rewritten!”
Israel’s modern day restoration is not because of some prophetic expectation or longing for Armageddon, as the producers of this movie assert, but because of God’s faithfulness to His covenant that He made with Abraham 4000 years ago. However having said this, it is worth noting that all the passages of the Bible relating to the Second Coming of Jesus are in the context of a restored Jewish nation in Canaan. Nevertheless, essentially the Abrahamic Covenant has nothing to do with prophecy but rather with God’s faithfulness to His promises. He is not a liar and when He says “everlasting” He means it. (Numbers 23:19) Also, the challenge of this restoration unfolding before us is that Israel remains in disobedience to Jesus of Nazareth. The Lord God of Heaven has promised to change this! (Zechariah 12:10-14; Romans 11:25-26) This does mean that she can expect trouble and difficulties but still her modern day recovery from the nations is a miracle and scripture clearly affirms that her latter day restoration will be in two stages; first, a return to the Land and second; a return to the Lord. (Ezekiel 36:24-28) It also states that there will be a return to Canaan that will be final resulting in the nation never being uprooted again. (Amos 9:14-15)This process has never been fulfilled and is unfolding before us today and therefore since, a Holyland is for a holy people, we have no expectation or desire to support a “greater Israel thesis.” I do not know the full spiritual state of the nation and will thus not try to be god in this process by claiming that I do. All I know is that God, by His promise to Abraham, is fulfilling His word by restoring the Jews to part of their ancient homeland and this does place upon Israel the obligation to act justly and righteously with all those under her sovereignty. Also, we have not and are not pressurizing Israel (or the US government for that matter), in any way to grab land or extend her borders toward a greater Israel in the region. This is ridiculous to say the least. Not even Israelis want this! Also we believe that no one; be they Jew or Gentile can be saved by any means other than by exercising faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. A national destiny for the Jewish people in Canaan does not, and never will, presuppose a different way of salvation. After all this great salvation in Jesus is theirs! (Romans 15:27)
“With God on Our Side” has one glaring deficiency in that it totally ignores Palestinian terrorism against Israel and its root causes. It’s the “elephant in the room.” Why would they do this? Because they do not want to acknowledge the truth and they are driven by such an anti-Israel position that by ignoring it they condone it. They give it a pass! But, I have in my possession the official Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement that goes back decades and which has been embraced by all the Palestinian Resistance organizations such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Fatah, the PLO, the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade and many more. This “charter” is clear that Palestinian resistance against Israel is rooted in a radical Islamic theology that perceives the state of Israel as an affront to Islam since it has been “built” on land that once belonged to the Dar Al Salem (the House of Islam). This land, according to this theology, can never be occupied again by infidels or those who are not in submission to Islam since it remains the property of Islam until “doomsday.” The Islamic Resistance Covenant then makes the following statement; “The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Moslem generations until Judgement Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered; it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Moslem generations until judgement Day.”
The Jewish state must therefore be dismantled and all of the above groups still recognize and support this covenant. Yasser Arafat affirmed his commitment to the total destruction of Israel in 1994 in Johannesburg, just a few months after he shook the hands of Yitzhak Rabin on the lawns of the White House. Moreover, Palestinian Media Watch has confirmed year after year that in Arabic this agenda for the removal of Israel altogether is constantly asserted. Just last month a prominent Palestinian Islamic cleric in Jerusalem made the same call and even called the Jews the “sons of apes and pigs.” When he was called out about it he stated that it was only theological rhetoric! Just imagine what would happen if Israelis called Palestinians apes and pigs! The media would go ballistic equating them to the Third Reich!
This is undoubtedly the major issue surrounding this conflict and it is worth noting that; when the Palestinians had everything they say that they want now from 1948 to 1967 they did not establish a state but an organization dedicated to the total destruction of Israel. This too, “With God on Our Side” deliberately glosses over.
The Palestinian Church is small and struggling and definitely needs our help and prayers. The bigger picture all around them of radical Islamic goals, as described above is intimidating and has placed them under huge pressure. They are truly “between the “tyre and the tube” and consequently many have left for more friendly shores. As the erstwhile leader of a huge Christian Zionist ministry in Israel we actually have invested millions of Shekels in the social improvement of the Palestinian communities and we have helped this vital expression of the Church of Jesus. We cannot do otherwise and we are not unmindful of our biblical obligations in this regard. The presentation by “With God on Our Side” suggests that if you are a Christian Zionist then you hate Arabs and Palestinians. This too is just nonsense but no doubt the gullible and unsuspecting will believe it.
The Wall of Discontent
Here too “With God on Our Side” resorts to half truths and blatant lies about the purpose and need for the controversial barrier fence. It was erected, in the middle of the Second Intifada as an instrument to stop terror. This it did with remarkable effectiveness since, before its erection; Israelis were being blown up in buses, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and public squares in their hundreds. The wall/fence put an end to this and it was not allowed to be placed on the so called “Green Line” as the international community stated that this would constitute a de facto delineation of a future Palestinian State. I well remember reading all the back and forth about this. Naturally, “With God on Our Side” conveniently ignores this “little detail.”
The Unfounded Conclusions of With God on Our Side
The movie presupposes:
1. That all Christian Zionists subscribe to the “greater Israel thesis.” They do not!
2. That all Christian Zionists are Dispensationalists. They are not!
3. That Christian Zionists love Jews but hate Palestinians. They do not!
4. That Christian Zionists are “dual covenant” (believing in two ways of salvation). They do not!
5. That Christian Zionism goes back to John Nelson Darby in Scotland in 1830. It does not!
6. That Christian Zionists want to trigger “Armageddon”. They do not!
7. That Jesus taught “Fulfillment theology.” He did not!
8. That the modern state of Israel has no international legitimacy. It does!
9. That radical Islamic theology has no influence on the conflict. It does!
10. That the Abrahamic Covenant has in part been abolished. It has not!
11. That biblical Judaism was never about land but ethics. It was not!
12. That the Jews of today are somehow not the Jews of the past. They are!
13. That only those people holding the views put forth by, “With God on Our Side”, are compassionate and full of love. They are not!
Having said all of this it is clear that many Christian Zionists need to clean up their act. “With God on Our Side” gives us an opportunity to recognize that some of things that have been projected in it do apply to some Christian Zionists. For instance there are most certainly those who have wandered off into dual covenant theology and who have become troublesome and a nuisance to churches with their crazy new found Jewish Roots ministry. Too often their theological ignorance leads the unsuspecting into legalism! They need to read Paul over and over again. Moreover, I have certainly met those whose only engagement with Israel is, not because they really care about the Jews but rather, because the Jews fulfill their prophetic charts and expectations. The pre-tribulation rapture teaching is also a serious problem as it attacks the nature of the atonement and that of the Church. It did come out of Closed Brethren Movement of Scotland in 1830 and it has impacted large segments of the evangelical Church.
Christian Zionists must also be clear about the need to “do good to the household of faith” and therefore they must seek a new engagement with the Palestinian Church. The Palestinian Church also needs our prayers as they face challenges that are huge and the greater conflict around them, driven by Islamic radicalism, has made their lives extremely difficult. Walls and checkpoints put in place by Israel also contribute to their daily hardships and are not the answer in the long run. Therefore, we should all be concerned about the pursuit of a peaceful resolution to this conflict. ‘With God on Our Side” is so distorted and biased that sadly it will not now or in the future make this contribution because for them it’s all Israel’s fault. How narrow minded can one get!