Periodical Review -- By: Anonymous
JODT 14:43 (December 2010) p. 83
“Dispensational Christian Zionism: A Strange but Acceptable Aberration or a Deviant Heresy?” by Philip A. F. Church. Westminster Theological Journal 71 (Fall 2009): 375-98.
Philip A. F. Church addressed the task of determining if those who strongly support Israel on theological grounds are heretics or simply believers in a strange but acceptable aberrant theology (p. 376). He eventually reached the conclusion that those whom he called dispensational Christian Zionists are neither; instead they are an “unacceptable diversity” and “erroneous in theology” and need to be confronted and engaged (p. 397). In this article, Church specifically ignored those whom he called covenantal Christian Zionists, explaining in a footnote that covenantal Zionism is concerned with evangelizing Israel and together being a blessing to the world for Christ (p. 379). From his thesis, and his later arguments, it is obvious that the real focus of his article is on what he considers the poor hermeneutics of dispensationalism and the perceived lack of political sensitivity to the issues of justice facing the Palestinian people in Israel today. He attempted to make an aggressively persuasive case based on his own hermeneutical philosophy, albeit shaped further by his political views of justice for the Palestinian people, but the methods Church used are neither edifying nor entirely in line with the revealed word of God.
Church’s issues with the dispensational hermeneutic approach seem to rest in what he considers the “utterly simplistic” methodology employed by dispensational theologians who assume that language is a code used for communication (p. 383). He cited the works of Umberto Eco as a secular philosopher who successfully critiques such an approach (ibid.). Church also found fault in a system he claimed excludes the presuppositions of the reader from the interpretive process (ibid.). Clearly this is a view based on his appreciation for a worldly hermeneutical philosophy rather than an attempt to understand what God intended to communicate through His human authors. To dismiss the dispensational hermeneutic methodology as overly simplistic is to ignore the repeated instructions in the Bible concerning its own interpretation (cf. Col 2:8; 2 Tim 2:14-17; 2 Pet 1:20-21; etc). Furthermore, it seems as though Church would allow the world to interpret God for the Body of Christ.
Church also placed great emphasis on organized ecclesiastical authorities and assumed that the present physical church has the right to denounce something as heretical, and not simply to recognize what God has already condemned (p. 395). Church’s approach seems s...
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