Dispensational Christian Zionism: A Strange But Acceptable Aberration Or A Deviant Heresy? -- By: Philip A. F. Church

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 71:2 (Fall 2009)
Article: Dispensational Christian Zionism: A Strange But Acceptable Aberration Or A Deviant Heresy?
Author: Philip A. F. Church


Dispensational Christian Zionism:
A Strange But Acceptable Aberration
Or A Deviant Heresy?

Philip A. F. Church

Philip A. F. Church is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Theology at Laidlaw College in Auckland, New Zealand.

I. Introduction

The Fifth International Conference of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre in Jerusalem, held in April 2004, ended with a statement which included the following: “We reject the heretical teachings of Christian Zionism that facilitate and support . . . extremist policies . . . [which] advance a form of racial exclusivity and perpetual war rather than the gospel of universal love, redemption and reconciliation taught by Jesus Christ.”1 Nine months earlier, in a paper presented to the July 2003 Tyndale Fellowship Triennial Conference at Nantwich, England, Colin Chapman commented that although he was highly critical of Christian Zionism in its support for Israel’s unjust treatment of the Palestinian people, he hesitated to describe it with the word”heresy.”2 Chapman was reluctant to “unchurch” an estimated seventy million North American Christian Zionists.3

This article examines the underlying hermeneutics of Christian Zionism and some of its outcomes, with a view to expressing an opinion on whether it should be called a deviant heresy, whether it is an acceptable aberration, albeit strange, or whether it should be described in some other way. In this article I pass no judgment on the rightness or wrongness of ( Jewish or Political) Zionism per se; rather, I am solely concerned with Christian support for Zionism on Christian theological grounds.

Hans Dieter Betz gives a useful working definition of heresy as “an arbitrary deviation by a minority from a doctrinal norm represented and safeguarded institutionally by a majority,”4 although to that definition should be added the qualification that the doctrinal norm in question ought to be central to Christian belief rather than peripheral. Heresy impacts such central beliefs as the deity of Christ or his resurrection.5 An aberration, on the other hand, is a divergent understanding of something peripheral. An example of an aberration might be a member of a baptistic congregation proposing that the congregation adopt paedo-baptism.

II. Defining Zionism

Zionism is the “Jewish nationalist movement to establish a homeland in Palestine....

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