How Should Christians Respond to the Israel/Palestine Conflict?

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Evangelical Presumptions


I can’t say when I first took a definitive stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict, or even when I began to remotely care about it, but by my mid-20’s, despite the fact that my knowledge of the issue was limited to headlines and pulpit sound bites, it was clear that I was willing to defend, even argue my particular version of the events: Israel belongs to the Jews, Palestinians are fanatic and violent Muslims, and God is on our side. Eschatology unsurprisingly played a big role in the formulation of my beliefs, confined as I was to Pat Robertson’s interpretation of Revelation, the “Left Behind” series, and the terrifyingly effective premillennial horror flick, “A Thief in the Night.”

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Isaac and Ishmael: Blessed Sons of Abraham


I have no idea when I first heard it, but in many circles, the belief in eternal enmity between Arabs and Jews was a given, a scriptural truth that was only questioned by the weak in faith. As an adolescent, I was never a passionate student of the Bible. I heard it quoted regularly in church, and was often required to memorize large passages of it in Bible class in my two years attending Coulee Region Christian High. But it just didn’t stick, and for that reason, I was more than willing to digest whatever interpretation my local pastor, my Bible teacher, or Pat Robertson desired to feed me. Unity among the “scholars,” I hoped, was a compelling sign for the truthfulness of our faith. If Pat Robertson or James Dobson wanted me to know that Isaac and Ishmael can never aspire to any relationship above eternal enmity, and that because of this biblical truth, the descendants of Ishmael (Arabs) and of Isaac (Jews), will never stop fighting, why would I discount it? The news of the last decade surely helped strengthen this perspective, and how could an apparently unified front of evangelicals be wrong?

Palestinians: The Other


In the 90’s, and surely today, Palestinians were easy to objectify and dislike (though with little work, isn’t everyone?). The specter of Islamic terrorism was in full swing, implicating nearly every Arab Muslim, and Palestine’s spokesman, Yasser Arafat, struck me as little more than a reactionary and violent terrorist. And in fact, that was really what was at the core of it all: the terrorist Muslim. While this didn’t really hit home until the tragedy of September 11th struck, it was an ever-present reality on nightly news. Kaddafi, Ayatollah Khomeini, and Saddam Hussein were the real-life villains of Arab Middle East, and they were unanimous concerning the evils of Israel. Hence, Palestinians were guilty by association. Even more damning than this, however, was the sheer insanity of the suicide bomber. Reports from Israel claimed that children were practically groomed for this position, and that such a death would be considered a glorious honor:

Arab communities within the civil jurisdiction of self-rule under the Palestinian Authority (which includes 97 percent of the Arab residents in the West Bank and 100 percent of those in Gaza) foster a culture that prepares children for armed conflict, consciously and purposely putting them in harm's way for political gain and tactical advantage in their war against Israel The PA buses children to violent flashpoints far from their neighborhoods and Arab snipers often hide among the young during battle, using children as human shields. Teenaged perpetrators of suicide attacks have become the norm.*

*Eli Hertz, “Myths and Facts,” Purposely Sacrificing Children. http://www.mythsandfacts.org/article_view.asp?articleID=212

"We will return to our land no matter how long the journey lasts."
"We will return to our land no matter how long the journey lasts."


As I understood it, Israel-a tiny little country surrounded by hostile Islamists-was, biblically speaking, the Promised Land of the Jewish people. They’d been there before, they were there again, and since the Bible clearly spoke of a restoration of Israel, what was the problem? No one was preventing Palestinians from leaving and taking root somewhere else. With childlike reasoning I maintained that, well, the Jews had been there first, so now, they win. Ishmael would always be a thorn in the side of Isaac, but clearly God was restoring Israel. I say clearly because from my ignorant mindset, Israel’s formation appeared both improbable and providential. For hundreds of years it lay fallow and forgotten, and suddenly, Israel was reborn. Little surprise, I maintained, that the Islamic countries of the world would oppose God’s hand. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmdinejad, for instance, only helped strengthen my resolve for Israel with comments such as this: “Our dear Imam said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement. We cannot compromise over the issue of Palestine.”* Hence the evangelical Christian position of default was unswerving support for Israel and an unapologetic condemnation of its enemies. Relationships and education however, can be such pesky things.

*Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (London: Penguin Books, 2008), 601.

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Perspectives


My first real relationship with Arab Muslims began in 2007, as several Saudi Arabians all lived on the same floor of the apartment complex of a close friend whom I visited often. Delicious meals of cuisine hailing from their home country were brought over often, and invitations for tea and hookahs were extended on at least a weekly basis. I recall sharing with them my plans to see Israel, and no sooner was the country’s name uttered then I was met by a nearly unanimous shout of “Palestine!” I recall being bothered by this, not so much because we disagreed, but because they despised Israel so much they denied its very existence. While I sensed no anti-Semitism, there was a clear, and vocalized, hatred of Israel. Here then, was an example of the other extreme: An unswerving support of Palestine and the demonization of Israelis. To my Saudi Arabian friends, Israel was the “other,” the enemy, and Palestinians, even suicide bombers, could do no wrong. And yet, my Muslim friends were among the most generous and caring people I knew.

A Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut.  Taken by my pal Gianni Filippi.
A Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. Taken by my pal Gianni Filippi.

First-hand Hatred


A three-month stint in the Middle-east was further evidence of the hospitality that is so prevalent throughout Arab culture. In Beirut, I walked past tanks, political gatherings and Palestinian refugee camps, and yet the only fear I experienced was due to Israeli threats against Lebanon mere days before (Pockmarks from Israeli fighter-jet ammunition coating a building across from my hostel didn’t help). Syria was home to a culture that was awkwardly friendly to one such as myself, coming from the individualistic, lone-ranger mentality culture of the West, and in Alexandria, Egypt, I stumbled across an outdoor wedding celebration and received more attention than the bride and groom!

But, hospitality does not dictate truth, and the hatred so prevalent and inherent in anti-Israel propaganda compelled me to continue in my support for Israel against the rights of the Palestinians. Jews were often referred to as ‘dogs’ in homemade flyers adorning the doors of businesses throughout Lebanon, Syria and Egypt, and the plethora of billboards memorializing previous massacres struck me as little more than one-sided shock tactics erected with the intent of retaining a perpetual sense of injustice gone unpunished. Bright red billboards flanked by Lebanese and Palestinian flags showcased piles of dead bodies and family portraits of the deceased, all as an enduring testament to what Israel was capable of, an entity of which the majority of Lebanese identified as their enemy. Though years had passed, motorists in Beirut could be reminded daily of the 1982 massacres of Sabra and Shatila (carried out by Christian Phalangists), and the more recent attacks by Israel against Qana, Marwahine, and Chiah in 2006. Still, whether this was considered propaganda or not, how does one react to the image of an eight-year old girl whose face has been burned off by Israeli firepower? And though I never witnessed it, how many similar shrines to dead children are erected in Israel?

O Jerusalem!
O Jerusalem! | Source

The Humbling of Education


The ultimate demise of my opinions on the conflict came through a course titled appropriately: “The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict.” Not knowing what to expect, I was still slightly shocked when our professor began the first week’s lecture with this statement:

“Let me make something very clear from the beginning. The conflict between Israel and Palestine is not the continuation of some eternal conflict between Isaac and Ishmael in the Bible. It is a thoroughly modern conflict, with very modern origins.” Part of me nearly gasped at this statement, and while I scanned the room for incredulous looks of disbelief, an inward voice inquisitively reminded me- “You don’t really know anything about this though, do you?” But still, for years I’d been taught of this enmity. Pastors, friends, youth group leaders, family members…all of them affirmed this supposed reality, and for all the questioning I did, I never had a reason to not accept this. And yet, where is it in the Bible? Genesis 16 relates the story of Ishmael’s mother Hagar, and tells how in her distress, an angel of the Lord spoke to her, promising her descendants “too numerous to count,” and instructing her to name her son Ishmael, or “God hears.” Genesis 21 paints an even more glowing picture of Ishmael, as God hears the cries of the young boy, saves him and his mother, promises to make a great nation out of him, and was “with him” as he grew. Author Tony Malalouf makes an excellent, and often overlooked point in his essay “The Inclusivity of God’s Promises: A Biblical Perspective”:

No one likes to associate with Hagar, who was a slave; but have you ever realized that she is the only woman in the Bible to whom God revealed Himself in two theophanies? Do you realize that she is the only woman who received directly from God the promise of multiplication of her seed?*

It is difficult to parallel this biblical portrait of a blessed descendant of Abraham with the claims of men like Jerry Falwell or John Hagee of “Christians United with Israel,” who have seemingly relegated the entire Arab world to engagement in a losing battle with God’s chosen ones.

*Tony Maalouf, “The Inclusivity of God’s Promises: A Biblical Perspective,” Cultural Encounters Vol. 7 No. 1 (2011): 32.

Poster in Palestinian refugee camp that says "Men that won't die."  Courtesy of Gianni Filippi.
Poster in Palestinian refugee camp that says "Men that won't die." Courtesy of Gianni Filippi.

As the semester progressed, I made continual strides (or gigantic leaps) away from my original position. As it turned out, the formation of modern-Israel didn’t look very miraculous at all. It looked more like a sort of Frankenstein-monster creation of an England conflicted with maintaining its own interests while exercising sympathy for a people rocked by Hitler’s Holocaust. At risk of simplifying an exceedingly complex history, a summation of Israel’s creation could go as follows: Britain’s defeat of the Ottomans during World War I led to its ownership of a large parcel of land which included Palestine. Though the land had been promised to Arabs allied with Britain against Ottoman, in 1916 Britain issued the Balfour Declaration, indicating its approval of a Jewish state located within Palestine. As Jewish immigrants poured into Palestine, non-Jewish residents were increasingly alarmed by the buying up of land and of the tendency of Jews to employ only other Jews. Tensions increased, and Arab Palestinians reacted violently. In 1929, increasingly volatile riots resulted in hundreds dead on both sides, and as tensions mounted, Britain essentially ‘washed its hands’ of the matter, and when the British mandate expired in 1947, the matter was put into U.N. hands. A partition plan followed, along with Jewish military incursions into territory allotted to the Arabs. On May 14th, 1948, Israel declared its statehood, and nearly a quarter of a million Palestinians fled the region.

God is in Control, but do we truly Believe that?


What struck me about this narrative was just how human it seemed. Granted, nothing in the Middle East (or indeed, the universe) can happen without God’s express approval- the formation of Israel, the continuing expulsion and mistreatment of the Palestinian, the counter-attacks by Palestinians and their sympathizers, and the blatant attacks against the peace process by evangelicals who really should know better- but all involved appear to mirror a mindset that seems to be saying, “God needs our help to implement his will. We need to pushGod’s initiative through.” If the gospel is centered around love for one’s enemies, why are the so-called enemies of Israel exempt? Genesis 12:3, so often quoted by Hagee and adherents to his ideology, describes an Israel that is simply not seen today: “And I bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”Where is the blessing for those families on Palestinian soil? Furthermore, the command to Israel in Leviticus- “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God”-is being actively disobeyed. Simply put, today’s Israel is not the Israel of prophecy. Christ rules neither the hearts nor the land of Israel from upon his throne, and any command to love one’s neighbor has been effectively ignored for quite some time now.

Love: A Foreign Inclination


Whatever discussions I've had with Arabs on the Israel-Arab conflict, It’s undeniable that a lot of hatred exists in the Arab world for Israel, and if I’m to be fully honest, I can’t exactly condemn them for this. I was once so far on the other side, seeing Muslims and Palestinians as the other, and it was simply due to my being a product of my environment. But the truth of Christ can be so infectious once the heart gets a real taste of it. Like a broken record I try to convince my Arab friends that I am fighting to not be on one side or the other- I want to be on both sides, because I believe Christ is. While they see a shattered nation of refugees with no options but to die for their cause, and an imperialist power which has committed and continues to commit unspeakable wrongs against their neighbors, Christ sees people with value and purpose on both sides. With stunning brevity Christ laid out one of the most important rules for living, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The implication being, unfortunately, that everyone is our neighbor. No one is off the hook, no one is left out, and though this command is stark in its brevity and simplicity, the actualization of it is eternal, and infinitely complex.

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Though the Gospel message of peace remains such a foolish notion to so many of those with a stake or merely an opinion on Israel and Palestine, a stance which refuses to take sides, in which the ultimate goal is not destruction of either state, but rather forgiveness, reconciliation, and reconstruction, is profoundly attractive. It is an amazing notion that someone as shortsighted as myself can help spread a message which is ultimately the only lasting solution to the crisis. As often as I think about it, I fight the desire to hate Israel for its poor treatment of Palestine, and equally so, the desire to hate Palestine for continuing a losing battle through organizations which espouse violence and through individual suicide attacks. And it is such a struggle to not react with anger and sarcasm when I hear opinions I wholeheartedly disagree with. But a genuine love stirs in my heart for the people of the Middle East, and hopefully through thoughtful and relational engagement, perhaps more of us can begin to see this conflict as Christ would have us see it, and will in turn infect others with this perplexing message of enemy love and inconvenient forgiveness. There are some very raw emotions existing because of a very real and ongoing tragedy, and we all deal with a strong sense of powerlessness, but maybe in what appears to be a very insignificant conversation, the life-changing seeds of the Gospel can be planted, a Gospel that extends to Palestinian and Israelite alike.

"Christ at the Checkpoint"
"Christ at the Checkpoint" | Source


You see, it’s quite simple. As Christians, we’ve not been commanded to support bloodshed in order to usher in our own eschatological assumptions. Rather, we’ve been ordered to care for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and to offer support to the oppressed who’ve been left with no voice. There are Christians in Palestine. There are Muslims in Palestine who’ve yet to hear the Gospel. And there are widows, orphans, people with barely enough to eat and who’ve given up all hope. Is it not more than a little disturbing to hear voices in the West, men and women who have given their lives to Christ, arguing for the expulsion of a population whose initial crime was to live in the wrong place at the wrong time? To be abrupt, men like John Hagee are wrong. They have poor theology based upon poor eschatology, that, in my estimation, harbors a disturbing amount of apathy for Palestine. Why are not Evangelicals at the very forefront of humanitarian aid for Palestine? Perhaps it’s much easier to objectify, to put people into tidy little categories of good and evil, and to safely take a stand from the comfort of our own skewed theology?

To be clear, this is no anti-Israel appeal. Christians must supportPalestine and Israel, because ultimately, we are concerned with peace. Furthermore, it is Israel’s own interests to heed God’s command in Leviticus, and to care for the Palestinians that live among them. I have no slick 10-step plan for a two-state solution, or a meticulously designed analysis that ensures compromise within two years. I merely believe (and so often fail to follow) a message that is all at once comforting and terrifying. Love the people you can’t stand. Love atheists, cultists, Conservatives, Liberals, Jews and Muslims. Love Israel and love Palestine.

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Comments 32 comments

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

JR - when I saw that you had written a piece on this subject, I knew it was going to be important, well thought out, honest and scrupulously fair. I delayed my morning routine by 20 minutes simply to read it, end to end. This is an excellent piece of work.

By the way, as a Rationalist with no belief in the supernatural, I share your view entirely, that we should support all efforts for peace and reconciliation. This is not an issue on which to take sides.


parrster profile image

parrster 5 years ago from Oz

To repeat Paragliders praise, this really is excellent.

So sad that Christ's gentle voice is today neither heeded or heard in the land of his nativity, and that angelic song sang at his birth, "Peace on earth, good will to all men", so far removed from the modern reality of our world.

Voted up and shared.


Chasuk 5 years ago

I winced when I saw the title of this hub, because I thought that it was going to be more uninformed fundamentalist crap. I'm so glad that I read it, or I would never have discovered that it wasn't.

Like Paraglider, I am a rationalist with no belief in the supernatural, but I share your views entirely.

Voted up.


Talisker profile image

Talisker 5 years ago from UK

So much to take in and such a complex topic. I'm glad I read this. Essentially there are real people at the centre of this dreadful conflict, and they all want the same thing. Peace.


Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 5 years ago from India

What a wonderfully written hub! It's sad, isn't it, that pulpit politics dwells on 'them' vs 'us' - so un-Christ like! As you say, it really should be so simple - just put love back in and see everyone as your neighbour or your brother. The point is, will it ever happen?


Cranfordjs 5 years ago

Take the ignorance of Religion out of the equation and problem solved. Nobody knows what happens when we die.

A) Group that is arrogant in thinking they know the mysteries of life.

VS.

B) Group that is (militant) arrogant in thinking they know the mysteries of life, and it's different from group "A)".

"Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers" -Wikipedia.

If Religious groups don't get it together, one can argue that natural selection could be used in asserting that the genes who bear the metal traits associated with Religious dogma will eventually die out due to war against one another. (with all due respect)


Ms Dee profile image

Ms Dee 5 years ago from Texas, USA

I agree. The Christian church has fallen short in taking the ripe opportunities to reach out with humanitarian aid. Tweeted!


livelonger profile image

livelonger 5 years ago from San Francisco

Very nice. There will eventually be peace there when the vast majority of the region's residents (and maybe the world) understand that both Palestine and Israel have a right to exist without the threat of destruction. We have a long way to go, but we'll eventually get there. (I'm Jewish, by the way)


jreuter profile image

jreuter 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks so much Paraglider, I value your input and always appreciate when someone takes the time to read one of my hubs from start to finish. And thanks you too, Chasuk, you and Para are two of my favorite rationalists here. I'm glad we can agree on some things!

parrster, very well put, and I couldn't agree more. Thanks.


christinekv 5 years ago

Hi JReuter,

Very well written piece.

Yes, God was there and for Hagar...he loved and cared about her. (By chance did you also consider using in this piece the possible significane and relevance of Esau?) How wonderful it would be if Arabs and Jews did coexist peaceably and if it weren't for terrorism - or JIHAD I think this could be possible.(I see terrorism and Jihad to be one and the same but a fanatical Muslim will denounce terrorism, but will NOT denounce Jihad).

I know not all Arabs are Muslim and not all Muslims are Jihadists. Any friend or acquaintance I have from the middle east is either a former Muslim or never was. One man I've met who was born in Iran has been a Christian now for 12 years. I'd like to share with you a resource he has produced which I think you would find interesting;if you could contact me outside of this comment forum for more info. I'd be happy to share a link to his website so you could hear and see more.

It seems to me, the Israeli Army is more about defense than offense. Based on what you've shared here, when something has occured which may appear offensive, perhaps more of a "pre-emptive strike." My understanding from having met just last week, a Colonel from the Israeli Army, they always attempt to assess collateral damage. If a terrorist with explosives strapped on him is in a vehicle with children and they are aware of it, they will not strike that vehicle unless that vehicle is going to be driven into a scene which would result in more casualties. And many expensive forms of weaponry often become rerouted because of a terroritst having moved into a "safe zone." Most Israeli's are sensitive about killing the innocent so an expensive rocket or missle will implode in an area where there are no people. I've seen footage of Palestinians who are part of Hamas picking up kids and walking across the street to avoid sniper fire, and then put the kid down once they are amongst the masses. This Colonel also said he has to do a "system check" to make sure the soldiers who are serving under him remain as sensitive in appreciating and respecting babies and innocent life after they have been serving for a while as they were before they began. If not, disciplinary action has to be taken. Not clear as to whether this means discharge or not. I do know they do not want to stoop to the level of the enemy who seems to have no regard for human life. He also shared there is much Israeli medical attention and service given to those from Gaza, a region populated by many who are trying to destroy them (if that's not loving and compassionate, considering the circunstances....). He also shared the Palestinians give at least 1.5 million annually to the UN....so can't help but wonder about what the UN reports since so much power exists within the media and biases and agendas exist by those who do the reporting. This Colonel also showed footage of a market in Gaza with lots of food.

I appreciate how you ended it in stating "I merely believe (and so often fail to follow) a message that is all at once comforting and terrifying. Love the people you can’t stand. Love atheists, cultists, Conservatives, Liberals, Jews and Muslims. Love Israel and love Palestine." Knowing - which comes first from seeking, then accurately hearing - how to love those who are trying to kill you goes against that which is natural and requires supernatural intervention. I'm sure since His ways are higher than our ways and He is a God of miracles every moment of each day, in some instances He may direct someone to do something which makes absolutely no sense (for the believer, it will require great Faith and a willingness to trust and obey). Since God knows our hearts and the end from the beginning, He might tell someone NOT to turn the other cheek, so to speak. My point is, we do need to seek Him for wisdom and direction and not attempt things in our own strength. May it be of the Spirit and not of the flesh. May I be so bold to challenge and encourage you (and perhaps other readers) to meditate on 1 Corinthians 18-31. Before doing so, may the Spirit of the Living God be petitioned and given permission to speak to the heart as well as the mind.


christinekv 5 years ago

Since I can't edit my comment after submitting it, I'm back. Meant to suggest (should have suggested) starting at 1 Corinthians 1, verse 18 and reading all the way through chapter 2.


Lone Ranger 5 years ago

I used to think that the re-creation of Israel was due to some hidden or misunderstood prophecy. "Surely, the Almighty had something to do with this, because this is Israel, and Israel and God go together like peanut butter and jelly."

Later one, I came to the conclusion that the development and reintroduction of Israel probably had more to do with Freemasonic inspiration and man-made conventions than with Biblical prophecy.

Best wishes - L.R.


Lone Ranger 5 years ago

JR:

You mentioned in a post to Judah's Daughter that you do not believe that the Son of God is also God the Father. I am really trying to find the truth of the matter and you seem to know a thing or two about this issue, so I was just hoping that you could help point me in the right direction. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and God's speed.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Sure L.R., I'd love to offer you any evidence I can for trinitarian doctrine. Thanks so much for your comments, and kudos to be open to various sides on the issue. I need to sleep now, but I'll definitely send you whatever info I can tomorrow. God bless.


Lone Ranger 5 years ago

Thanks, J.R., and if I failed to mention it earlier, your article was well written, thought-provoking, and well done! God's speed. - L.R.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks for the gracious words L. Ranger, I always appreciate a compliment! Ok, instead of just loading you up with links to sites that agree with MY position, I thought it might be helpful for you to listen to a debate on the topic, that way, both sides are represented in equal fashion, and you can more effectively judge the strength of the argument.

Here's a link to my absolute favorite debater, James White of Alpha and Omega ministries. I hate to say this, but this particular download does cost a little money (about 5 bucks), but I for one find these debate so entertaining, that I've probably spent nearly a hundred dollars for them. There are also some other downloads under the heading "Oneness Pentacostalism" which are likely helpful as well, but I've actually listened to the debate I'm linking you to and I personally found it extremely helpful in dissecting what can be a very complicated topic. Here it is:

http://www.aomin.org/catalog/product_info.php?cPat...

Really glad I could be of help L.R. If you have any more questions, or would like some more info, please don't hesitate to ask. God bless...


Lone Ranger 5 years ago

Thanks a million, J.R.!

Oh, and by the way, I read your response to Judah's Daughter and thought you brought up some really strong points.

This is going to be harder than I thought; she is a real tiger when it comes to defending her position! She has sank her claws in deep and I don't think she intends to let go.

J.R., should reading the Bible be this hard? Should we have to whip out concordances and mull over every word? It just takes the fun right out of it.

Why isn't it obvious to Judah's Daughter that in Rev 22:1 and Rev 22:3 that two thrones are being described: (1)"...a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb...."

and again,

(3)"...and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it...."

Do the above verses sound like John is implying that there are two thrones or that God and the Lamb are sharing the same one?

In any event, it sounds to me as if there are two Persons co-ruling, or am I wrong on that count as well?

It sure would be nice to just read the Bible without having to second-guess every verse and question every little nuance.

Thank you for your help, jreuter! Perhaps I failed to mention it, but I had been thinking about attending Multnomah Bible College years ago. Lovely little place. How did you like it?

God's blessings to you and yours. - L.R.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Haha L.R., I can definitely feel your sentiment on the difficulties posed in bible research. It seems the more I learn about it the less I realize I know. Thankfully the Bible also promises guiding of the church by the Holy Spirit into all-truth, a promise which however does not let us off the hook when it comes to research and inquiry. But I also believe that there is a certain clarity in reading the Bible which comes to Christians alone.

Plus, we have a great tradition to rely upon as well.

I've been taking a patristic and medieval theology class this semester, and I've been so amazed by the continuity displayed throughout church theology over thousands of years. Judah's Daughter will try to spin it as if the Trinity was some sort of conspiratorial insertion by paganism-influenced men, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Tertullian, Augustine, Gregory the Great, etc. etc. ALL maintained the very biblical concept of one God comprised of three distinct persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe it was either at the 2nd or 3rd ecumenical council (381 and 431) in which Modalism was condemned. We can even read for ourselves today the debate on this issue of which Sabellius' propounded (and was flatly defeated).

And really, at the end of the day everyone needs to ask themselves: Am I adjusting my theology to agree with the Bible, or am I adjusting the Bible to agree with my theology? It's fairly evident to me that people such as J.D. are guilty of the latter.

That's great that you've been to the Multnomah campus! I never attended the college, but I can say that the seminary is absolutely fantastic. I'm consistently blown away with how every professor there is both brilliant and gracious. It's been a real blessing for me to learn under such men and women. Plus they all have great senses of humor. ;)

Oh, and yes, there is an abundance of dual-throne and rulership imagery throughout the N.T. It's nearly impossible (and yet, somehow, people manage) to not see the Father/Son distinction throughout the entire N.T., and especially within the words of Christ himself. I will grant there are some very sophisticated and well-argued unorthodox positions out there, but modalism certainly isn't one of them.


Lone Ranger 5 years ago

Another big "Thank You", J.R., you certainly are a breath of fresh air and a mighty fine resource to have near!

P.S. Are you thinking about going into full-time ministry?

God's speed - L.R.


SirDent 5 years ago

Just letting you know that I read this. Not sure what to say at this time but will ponder it. Be blessed in Jesus name.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Hey Lone Ranger, I'm really not sure what I'll do when I graduate from seminary. Full-time ministry would be nice of course, but I'll just have to wait and see what happens!

Thanks SirDent, it's a long hub, so I appreciate you taking the time. Blessings to you as well.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago

Your article is wonderfully written. It is interesting to see how your worldview in regards to the Holy Land swung around. Sometimes, when presented with new knowledge folks can swing too far the other direction. And oft times, they eventually swing back a bit and find a middle ground.

I do not plug my own work but in this case I don't want to bore you with a long comment so I will simply say that I have written a three part series on the History of the modern State of Israel and the conflicts surrounding it that I think you might enjoy. At least the first part might fill in some gaps in the story.

http://hubpages.com/education/History-of-Israel...

Thank you for a good read. I enjoyed your article very much.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Watkins,

I'll leave this here, since for one, it's long and I want to respect your hub, and two, I'm trying to avoid generating a massive storm of controversy by jumping into the lion's den.

Thanks for your comment. Let me first say I do appreciate your candor and think you've written some excellent hubs, and that HubPages would be a worse place without you. That being said, I find your History of Israel hub to be subjective, one-sided, and dare I say, racist (To be clear, I'm not implying you are racist James, I'm just concerned that some of your statements imply a certain prejudice against Arabs). Take for instance, this line:

"In all of Palestine lived 260,000 Arabs, mostly backward, lethargic tenant farmers and laborers. The Jews in Israel were largely educated, motivated and industrious."

How does a statement such as this not objectify and marginalize an entire race of people? Or the comment in which you claimed that "Arabs" celebrated when they heard of Jewish death camps, clumping millions together with the sarcastic label, "nice people?" Furthermore, whether or not the Arab people were there for one year or one-thousand, and whether or not they were the lazy and ignorant barbarians you've painted them to be (and there are more than a few historical debates on these two subjects with very biased scholars on both sides making wild claims. Claiming something as a "myth" is a quick and easy way to discount the side one disagrees with, it doesn't necessarily make it so however.), how is that in any way even a slight excuse to treat any human being in a way that is less than loving?

More so, I see not one implication of Jewish wrong in your hub (though admittedly, I may have missed it. My apologies if I did), and I see the history of conflict between Jews and Muslims over-inflated and exaggerated. Bear in mind, the Jews living in Jerusalem during the first crusade (and yes, there were plenty of Jews living there) were slaughtered by Christians. And it was Saladin, a Muslim, who encouraged the Jews to return to Jerusalem after his conquest of the city.

Lastly, actually receiving an objective education on this subject was not some "new knowledge" that was presented to me that I reacted to in an inappropriate and emotional fashion, it was rather that I'd heard the same old right-wing rhetoric my whole life, and came to the realization that it in no way represented the Gospel that I hold to be the very words of life. Unfortunately, the only gaps in the story were the ones that were not offered me by my evangelical, conservative upbringing.

To clarify, this is not to say Jews are bad, Arabs are bad, Christians are bad, etc. etc. etc. It's to say that the history of this region and conflict is far more complex than the picture you've painted, and that no one, not Jews, Muslims, or Christians, are free from extreme guilt in this whole mess. I mean honestly, how does referring to Arabs as backwards and lazy farmers bring us one-inch closer to anything resembling peace? The Arabs I know, and they are beautiful and hospitable people, would read your hub, be extremely offended, and carry on in their assumption that most evangelicals hate them. And really, how could I blame them? If I ever read an article claiming that Caucasians were ignorant and lazy (in any context) I would instantly write it off as a waste of my time.

I respect you James, but we don't see eye to eye on this issue, and that's ok. Thank you so much for your compliments, and though I do disagree with a fair amount of the content within your hub, it is articulate and beautifully done. Be well good sir.


Ambrose Burnside 4 years ago

This is definitely more in your territory than mine, but interesting piece, and tangled with enough facets that any of them need a “War and Peace” sized space if they are to be fairly addressed. I admit I have not read all your follow-up on the hub post, and trying to read amidst the din of warring toddlers can adversely impact reading comprehension. So let me be perfectly incoherent:

The lines have been blurred between the [sort of] “multichotomy” of political, religious, cultural, and personal differences, but I don’t think it’s fair to continue to blur those lines in comparative analysis, as certain elements are highly subjective while others are not. Otherwise it’s difficult to pin down anything concrete on which to debate. I appreciate your solid attempt to sort these out. (I don’t think it’s any more fair for the world to hate Israel as a whole based on decisions their government makes. Reminds me of a friend from Greece who completely eviscerated me based on her opinion of US foreign policy—as if I had a hand in it.) I gathered that what you may be trying to say is that we can’t equate nationality with world-view which seems to be a large part of the problem. (I still don’t find any defense for Islam [and I have difficulty separating “Muslim” from “Arab”], but imagine if Christians embraced Islam in the same sense we seem to embrace secular humanism? I find both propositions equally unacceptable, and yet I find myself embracing the latter all day long.) I guess maybe your point is to attack the ideology, not its adherents? It’s worth pointing out that Christ often went head to head with the Jewish authorities and embraced Gentiles, such as the Samaritan woman, etc.

Even many on the hard left will say that Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, and that is somewhat borne out in contemporary history, is it not? Isn’t it simple fact that this land will never be shared—sort of the quintessential “Have’s” and “Have Not’s” struggle? (This is a truth that the hard left will not accept –that if there are have’s, there must be have nots, or there is no point of comparison. It’s a whole philosophy I’m trying to build on—the simple yet complex idea that “everything is nothing unless it has an opposite”). And won’t the struggle always be in finding a political solution? It becomes evident, with that consideration in mind, why Christ did not come to govern, but to serve. So I believe you’ve hit on something on the grass roots level, yet I also believe that there is no easy political solution. Even the idealist in me says there is no fix on that level.

I would like to hear your version of a hermeneutically sound exegesis of Genesis 16:12. I always assumed based on genre and culture that what is true for the patriarch is true for all his descendants? Since that is the crux of it, why did you skip over it, or did I just miss it? I suppose that is the makings of a book—or 100—which have probably already been written.

The term “anti-Semitic” always perplexes me, since both Jews and Arabs are considered descendants of Shem, and therefore are Semites, are they not? It seems a strange, albeit inadvertent insult to Arabs to deny them this “brunt” status.


Mazzy Bolero profile image

Mazzy Bolero 4 years ago from the U.K.

People seem to believe there was a country called Palestine and people called Palestinians, whose homeland was stolen by the Jews. In fact, Palestine was simply the name given to a British protectorate, which was formerly part of Ottoman Syria. Both Arabs and Jews lived in the protectorate. The British actually tried to stop Jews fleeing the Holocaust entering the protectorate in order to keep good relations with Arab countries. In 1925 the League of Nations had decided that a land for Jews and a land for Arabs would be created in the area that was under the British mandate. Jordan was to be a home for Arabs, but it closed its borders to Israeli Arabs in 1955. Yet no one ever criticizes that. There is right and wrong on both sides. From what you say, your Arabs friends say there should not be a country called Israel, but they insist that the whole area is really a country called Palestine. But Palestine was not a country any more than Israel was a country either during the time of the British mandate or during the previous 400 years while under Ottoman rule.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Hi Mazzy, thanks for your comment. The idea of a country named "Palestine" or "Israel" is besides the point, and irrelevant. What is relevant is that abuses are being committed against Jews and Palestinians by each other for ethnic, religious, and nationalistic reasons. Call the country what you will, the fact remains that without a Jewish background and thus Israeli citizenship, people who've existed within that land for many generations are now seeing their ancestral homes bulldozed in order to make room for Jewish immigrants. My entire point is that the evangelical siding with Israel for eschatological reasons is erroneous, unbiblical, and unchristian. Followers of Christ are called to aid those who suffer NO MATTER WHAT. There is no exception for Palestinians, and yet sadly, for so many Christians, there is.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 4 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

jreuter - I've been following this hub since you first posted it. The quality of your commentaries is right up there with the quality of the original piece. Would that more people shared your perspective on this issue. Keep spreading the word!


jreuter profile image

jreuter 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Thanks much Paraglider, I appreciate your kind words. I too wish there was a more balanced perspective on this, but as strange as it is, sometimes convincing others to suspend hatred is an uphill battle!


Mazzy Bolero profile image

Mazzy Bolero 4 years ago from the U.K.

Thanks for your response, jreuter. I agree absolutely that Christians should be concerned about all those who suffer. So should Muslims and Jews. I just dislike the way many so-called liberal people hide anti-semitism under a cloak of concern about Arab suffering and also give false historical 'facts' in an attempt to justify this. I think there is right and wrong on both sides and suffering on both sides. I like to see the whole historical, political and human context of such a situation.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Yes Mazzy, agreed. And my how mankind loves to toy with history! Thanks again for your comment!


busillis22 profile image

busillis22 3 years ago

I literally cannot express to you how encouraging, exciting, and helpful this is to read. Like you, I am a theology student, and I am currently planning on doing research on the relationship between Dispensationalist eschatology and attitudes towards war, views of Arabs, and social activism.

What a powerful testimony to see how your experiences re-oriented your understanding of Scripture and the world. May we learn to live out the universal, unequivocal, love we are taught in the gospel and seek peace.


jreuter profile image

jreuter 3 years ago from Portland, Oregon Author

Ooh, "dispensationalist eschatology" is not a term I see often in my comment boxes (Ok, never)! Nice! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this busillis, and also for your comment. It is an encouragement to me to continue my writing and to visit Hubpages far more often than I do. I haven't yet, but I'll have to check out some of your writing. Like I said, I'm a rare visitor to this page lately, and that is not good. I hope your research into this topic proves fruitful and blessed!

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