Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Sevenoaks candidate and the 'frightful conspiracy'

It has been brought to my attention that our local Jewish conspiracy theory parliamentary candidate Mark Ellis (see Vote, Vote, Vote for Mark Ellis, 19 April) has made the national news. Writing on the Guardian's blog on Wednesday April 21 2010, Simon Jeffery says:

OK, this is an odd one – a candidate running in Sevenoaks on a platform quoting liberally from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – the notorious Russian forgery claiming a worldwide Jewish conspiracy that served as a key text for 20th century European antisemitism.

Now breathe out and let's get back to the location: Sevenoaks. Cairo, maybe (the protocols linger on in the Arab world). But Sevenoaks? With its mix of turn-of-the-century plotting and a leafy setting in southern England, this is an election leaflet as it may have appeared in an Edwardian novel in the vein of HG Wells's War of the Worlds or Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent.

The candidate is Mark Ellis, a retired customs officer standing as an independent. The leaflet was sent by a reader understandably alarmed to find it on her doormat (and is also on the Straight Choice election leaflet website).

It begins with a quote from the Protocols (protocol No 3, for those with a copy at home) that says a "symbolic snake" is wrapping itself around Europe. Ellis brings us in on: "When this ring is in place, then all the European states will be held as by strong claws" – he suggests that the European Union's ring of 12 stars can be seen as a "symbolism of the 12 in control" (when the Protocols were written, "the 12" were Jews; Ellis talks of "this same folk"). He then follows through with a mash-up of Europhobia, anti-environmentalism and support for classic British military aeroplane design as he lists 21 harms that the "Cons" (Conservatives) have wrought against the country.

This may seem odd to you, seeing as the Conservatives have been out of power nationally for 13 years, but that is probably because you don't live in Sevenoaks, where with the exception of a Liberal MP in 1923-24 the Conservatives have held the seat continuously since it was created in 1885. All politics is local.

His complaints include controls on C02 emissions, low-energy light bulbs, VAT, energy bills, degrading of links with white settler Commonwealth countries (including "Rhodesia"), "needless spoiling of the firework trade" and failure to keep RAF Dakotas and Avro Vulcans flying.

The battier ones include the removal of "Kent" and "England" from maps. The explanation here is that some believe the EU has a long-term plan to turn England into regionally-administered entities for the sole purpose of removing the word "England" from the map. "Kent" would go too. No one has explained why the EU would want to do this, other than for reasons of spite. Ellis also describes the Bolsheviks as a "non-Russian folk" (that word again) who financed communism from the United States and now pay Labour and the "Cons".

The idea that the EU is part of a Jewish/Masonic New World Order designed to crush the British state in preparation for a world government is definitely one that has some followers – except, of course, among those who prefer the Eurabia thesis, which holds that the EU is a plot to make the majority Christian countries of Europe an extension of the Muslim Arab world.

It is in trying to reconcile the competing visions of Muslim and Jewish conspiracies on the loose in Brussels that my head starts to hurt. And then there is the EUSSR. (All this is many notches further on from standard Euroscepticism.)

I click through to EU conspiracy websites from links left in comments on rival news sites – probably more than I should – and after a while the anthropology of them soon starts to soak in. Paranoid conspiracy theories are pretty much formulaic when you get to grips with them, mostly involving Jews and Masonic symbolism (and increasingly a business/public sector leadership training group called Common Purpose that had Body Shop founder Anita Roddick as its first chair). Really, I could write my own Dan Brown novel – and might have to if the writer's block stops me getting any further on my misery memoir A Blogger called It.

Back to Ellis: he concludes his leaflet by explaining that he was "aware of a frightful conspiracy" and "matching protocols with happenings became my task" – which is a waste of a retirement really, since it was established in 1921 that the protocols were made up. I blame the internet.

A Palestinian Zionist Organization?

I have long believed that there is no hope for a political solution to the Israel / Palestine problem. A single state would be the end of Israel and would result in Jews becoming a second-class citizens as they are in most Arab countries. A two-state solution, as we’ve seen with Gaza, would create an independent Palestine that from which state-sponsored terrorists would continue to attack Israel.

Palestinian Arab Elias Issa also believes that. Last week Issa marked Israel's 62nd Independence Day by launching the Palestinian Zionist Organization.

Issa rejects the notion that the Jewish state is a repressive entity that has stolen the lands of another people and established the PZO to show the world “why it must support the Jewish people and to [distance itself] from the terrorist Palestinian government."

Issa insists that an independent Palestinian state would be nothing more than a haven for terrorism, not only against Israel, but against the West in general. He also explains that the world has been duped, either knowingly or unwittingly, into believing that the Palestinians truly want a peaceful two-state solution.

“The Palestinians don't believe in a two-state solution; they only believe in a one-state solution – a land called Palestine [which] does not involve any Jewishness.”
For his own safety, Issa now resides in the United States, where Mosab Hassan Yousef, another former terrorist who now supports Israel, lives. Yousef’s book Son of Hamas, details his years of undercover service for Israel's security agencies, despite being the son of one of Hamas' top leaders. Coming closer to Israel and the Bible eventually resulted in Yousef becoming a Christian.

Israel’s critics frequently cite Jewish and Israeli critics of Israel to bolster their charges against Israel. But Israel’s Jewish critics do not have to live in exile with 24/7 protection. Indeed, Israeli Jeff Halper, who lives unmolested by his neighbours in Jerusalem, uses the very safety he enjoys as a stick to beat Israel. He regards the fact that his neighbours don’t persecute him for his anti-Israel activities as evidence that they don’t care about the plight of the Palestinians.
For more information on the Palestinian Zionist Organization, visit their website.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Israel saves life of top Hamas official's daughter reports that Israel at the weekend saved the life of the three-year-old daughter of a top Gaza-based Hamas leader, though the act of kindness was completely ignored by the terrorist group and regional Arab media.

The girl, daughter of Hamas Interior Minister Elham Fathi Hammad, was the victim of a unsuccessful heart operation in Gaza. She was in critical condition when Jordan's King Abdullah II requested that Israel allow her immediate transport to Amman for emergency surgery.

Israel agreed to the transfer, but the girl was in no condition to travel such a distance, so was first rushed to Barzilai Hospital in the nearby Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon, where doctors worked for hours to repair the damage of her earlier surgery and stabilize her.

A Jordanian helicopter was later escorted through Israeli airspace to pick up the girl and move her to Amman.

Jordanian media later reported on the incident, but completely cut out the portion where the girl's life was saved by Israeli doctors or that Israel has not hesitated to allow the unfettered transport through its territory of a family member of one of its most dedicated enemies.

Hammad later issued a public statement thanking Jordan and King Abdullah. He did not mention Israel at all.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Berlin calling

I was due to present a paper to the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism European Conference in Krakow today but the eruption of Eyjafjallajokul put an end to that. My brief was to present a non-German, non-Jewish response to The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today issued in 2008. Seeing I can't deliver it in Krakow, here it is for your interest and comments.

From 18-22 August 2008, an international task force of the World Evangelical Alliance Theological Commission met in Berlin to consider the uniqueness of Christ and Jewish evangelism. The task force, which included German Christians and Messianic Jews, issued The Berlin Declaration on the Uniqueness of Christ and Jewish Evangelism in Europe Today. Echoing the more detailed 1989 Willowbank Declaration, the Berlin Declaration endorses the proclamation of the gospel to Jewish people as an act of love incumbent upon all Christians. The authors mourn the history of Christian anti-Semitism and complicity in genocide, which they see as evidences of the reality of sin, a reality that can be overcome only through the transforming grace of Jesus the Messiah. Jews and all other people need to hear this message, declare the authors, cautioning that the proclamation of the gospel should not be disrespectful or coercive. The Berlin Declaration also affirms the positive value of dialogue in conjunction with – but not as a replacement for – evangelism.

My brief is to present a non-German and non-Jewish response to the declaration. As an English Protestant Christian who has been actively involved in mission to Jewish people for more than a quarter century, I heartily affirm the declaration though I wish the document had defined its terms more clearly and that its argument had been more coherent and nuanced. Though acknowledging the need for respect, dialogue and vigilance, each point in the declaration immediately proceeds to evangelism. To Jewish people this may well sound like an exercise in sweeping the dust of past wrongs under a very large carpet in order to justify what they perceive as an anti-Semitic project: the conversion of Jews to Christianity. Indeed, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, condemned the declaration as insensitive and misguided: “To issue this declaration from Berlin, where the Nazis directed their Final Solution to exterminate the Jewish people, is the height of insensitivity … We urge on the WEA to withdraw its call to target the Jews of Europe for conversion and immediately begin serious dialogue with Jewish interfaith representatives, so they can understand the immense pain and anger they are causing with their ill-advised and theologically misguided position.”

The Declaration concludes with a call to action under five heads, each of which in itself could be the subject of a paper. I wish to comment on the points in more, or less reverse order.

1. The paper calls for a “Renewed commitment to the task of Jewish evangelism.” The call is particularly relevant to the English churches. It is ironic that missionaries from across the globe are coming to England, the country where the modern missions movement originated. If English churches are able to regain a vision for Jewish evangelism it will inevitably result in a greater commitment to world mission.

2. “Reconciliation and unity amongst believers in Jesus.” This is somewhat vague; the writers presumably have in mind the unity of Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians rather than a vague ecumenism. In England there exists among the Reformed churches in particular a suspicion of the “Messianic movement”, an unwillingness to understand the difficulties some Jewish believers have trying to integrate into predominantly gentile churches and an insensitivity to the feelings of Messianic Jews. This will remain a challenge for many years to come and the Berlin Declaration’s call is welcome.

3. “Recognition of the uniqueness of Christ as the crucified, resurrected and divine Messiah who alone can save from death and bring eternal life.” This point is the crux of the declaration; everything else stands or falls on the truth or falsity of this proposition.

4. The call for “Respect for religious conviction and liberty that allows frank discussion of religious claims” follows from the declaration’s affirmation of “the importance of dialogue in promoting mutual understanding and sympathy”.

S.C.H Kim defines “Dialogue” as “a conversation which proceeds both from a commitment to one’s own faith and an openness with genuine respect to that of others”, adding that “Openness and respect do not presuppose agreement, or a search for a compromise, but do mean the willingness to listen.”

Pragmatically, it makes sense to listen to those we wish to persuade. It is a capital mistake, in any evangelistic encounter, to presume one knows what the other person believes even if that person is wearing peyot, a streimel and a long black gabardine coat. “Where there are two Jews”, goes the joke, “there will be at least three opinions”, and when speaking about matters of faith with Jewish people the opinions multiply.

The Jewish people are heirs to an intellectual and spiritual heritage that was intended to bias them against the message of Jesus. The sages of blessed memory fenced not only the Torah but also Judaism itself with emotional and prejudicial barriers that make it difficult for Jewish people today to respond positively to the Gospel even if they cannot refute it:

Dialogue implies a willingness to listen but Jewish-Christian dialogue often takes place on the assumption that Judaism (presumed to be a “living” faith, older and richer than Christianity by a millennium-and-a-half) has little to learn from its “daughter”. At times dialogue is predicated on and “I’m OK, you’re OK” assumption as in, for example, Harrelson & Falk’s Jews and Christians: A Troubled Family. Rabbi Falk is prepared to say to Christians: “Glory in the teachings of Jesus. Pray his prayer daily, follow in his footsteps to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and extend a helping hand to all who have lost their way in the world. Strengthen the church, that its clarion call to salvation may be heard in the market place, and in the high places of government and commerce. Challenge bigotry and oppression, greed and lust for power, through your missions on every continent. Lead the way for men and women of every race and nation and creed to discover the glorious heritage we share and to build on its sturdy foundations a civilization committed top freedom and to peace”. The Christian message is wonderful, so long as it is not preached to the Jews.

I welcome the declaration’s carefully worded call to dialogue but dialogue, if it is to be meaningful, must be honest, frank and tough-minded, as in Kendall and Rosen’s The Jew and the Pharisee, in which both parties vigorously defend their own beliefs while allowing themselves to be challenged by the claims of the other.

5. “Repentance from all expressions of anti-Semitism and all other forms of genocide, prejudice and discrimination.” I address this particular call first as a Christian and then as an Englishman because English anti-Semitism has expressed itself in both religious and secular forms and has contributed to genocide, prejudice and discrimination beyond its own coasts.

Anti-Semitism in England was initially a Roman Catholic phenomenon. The two major pretexts for the persecution of England’s Jews in the Middle Ages centred around an alleged Jewish thirst for non-Jewish blood. First, the Church accused Jews of stealing the consecrated host – which, according to Catholic dogma, had been transformed into the actual body of Christ – in order to torture it. Allegations of host desecration served to simultaneously bolster the belief that the eucharistic wafer, when consecrated, was literally transmuted into the body of Christ and to demonstrate beyond peradventure that Jews were eternal and implacable enemies of Christ.

Secondly, in mid-twelfth century England, a new and more insidious variation of the blood-libel developed. At Passover, it was said, Jews abducted and crucified Christian children in order mix their blood with matzah. Accusations of ritual murder became common in England and led to violent riots against Jewish communities often leaving Jews dead.

Having never been a Catholic I find myself unable to identify with a form of anti-Semitism founded on the theology of that church. As an Englishman, however, I am conscious that the blood-libel, which is now common in many countries, particularly Islamic lands, originated in my own country. I am also conscious that England gave birth to and nurtured a particularly urbane and sophisticated anti-Semitism that has continued to the present day, traces of which may be found in the Church.

In 1290, England made history by being the first country to expel all its Jews, an example emulated by France in 1306 and Spain in 1492. Though there would be few Jews in England for another 150 years, the idea that Jews lusted after the blood of Christians, in particular children, would remain a potent image in the minds of English people for many centuries, reinforced by the writings of Chaucer (The Prioress’s Tale), Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice) and Dickens (Oliver Twist). The blood libel became a staple of Nazi German propaganda5 and on 17th May 1934 an entire edition of the rabidly anti-Semitic Der Stürmer was dedicated to “The Jewish murder plot against non-Jewish humanity”.

Though few English people today believe that Judaism requires the mixing of the blood of Christian children with Passover matzah, the blood libel has been adapted by anti-Zionists. Scottish writer Tom Paulin’s poem “Killed in Cross Fire”, which appeared in The Guardian newspaper in 2001 following the death of Muhammad al-Durrah charged “the Zionist SS” with gunning down “another little Palestinian boy.” In 2009 The Guardian claimed that an Israeli doctor had admitted harvesting Palestinian organs in the Gaza conflict, a claim the paper would later retract, and when Israel set up a field hospital in Haiti, rumours quickly circulated on the Internet that the IDF was there to harvest the organs of Haitian children.

Echoes of the new form of the blood libel have appeared on the blog of Rev Stephen Sizer, the evangelical vicar of Christ Church in the Surrey town of Virginia Water. In March, Rev Sizer’s blog carried a report of a visit he and Colin Chapman made to “Ghetto Bethlehem”. The checkpoint they passed through, said Sizer, “reminded” him of Apartheid South Africa, of Nazi Germany and of a “cattle abattoir”. On his website, under the heading “Herod's Soldiers Operating in Bethlehem Today”, Sizer posted several photos of Israeli soldiers. In an email, I asked Rev Sizer if the title suggested that the Israeli Prime Minister was Herod and that Israeli soldiers were the murderers of Bethlehem's children.

Sizer responded quickly: “I didn’t say that so please don’t put words in my mouth.”
I pointed out that I had put no words in his mouth; I had simply asked a question and, if the caption was not an allusion to Matthew 2:16-18, what did it mean? I received no reply.

Another peculiarly English contribution to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust (albeit an unwitting one) was Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, which provided a “scientific” pretext for the oppression of the weak by the strong. Robert E.D. Clarke notes that “Evolutionary ideas―quite undisguised―lie at the basis of all that is worst in Mein Kampf―and in [Hitler’s] public speeches”. Though England’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, while recognising that “Hitler was a great admirer of Darwin”, feels Darwin “would have been horrified at this perversion of his ideas” (my emphasis), the full title of Darwin’s best-known work was The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (my emphasis). In The Descent of Man Darwin was even more forthcoming about the meaning of natural selection or “the survival of the fittest” as it is commonly known: "At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world” (italics mine).

In Hitler’s Germany the philosophy of “the survival of the fittest” was inculcated into the people. The Aryan race was superior to all other races and the Jews were the lowest, being almost “pure ape”, and in a speech at Nuremberg in 1933, the Führer declared a higher race would always defeat a lower race.

Evolutionary thinking percolated down into every academic discipline in the German universities, including biblical studies and Julius Wellhausen's evolutionary approach to the study of the Bible undermined the divine origin or Scripture and Israel’s status as Yahweh's "chosen people". That the Jews were inferior was thus confirmed not only by science but also by religion.

For me as an English Christian, therefore, the Berlin Declaration’s call to repentance resonates. The issue is not theoretical. In February I sat next to a fellow Englishman man on a plane, “a Methodist” who had read Mein Kampf and was of the opinion that “if Hitler had been able to kill all the Jews the world would be a far better place”. However, for Christians who have never expressed prejudice or discrimination, the term “repentance” is inexact and inappropriate. It must be the duty of Christians to repudiate, denounce and expose anti-Jewish attitudes and sentiments where they exist in both the world and the Church. Christian Witness to Israel recently adopted as its mission statement: “Sharing the Good News of Jesus with the Jewish people, combating anti-Semitism and to making the Church aware of its material and spiritual debt to the Jews.”

Respect for the Jewish people and their beliefs (however much one might disagree with them), repudiation of anti-Semitism, dialogue without compromise, affirmation of the core principles of the gospel message and a commitment to evangelism are values I endorse wholeheartedly and to which I, with the formulators of the Berlin Declaration, commit myself.

Fear and Loathing in Sevenoaks

Following my blog about Mark Ellis' futile attempt to be elected to Parliament on 6 May, I wrote to him and to the local paper. I'll keep you posted if I receive a reply.

Dear Mr Ellis,

We received your Election Communication at our Head Office.

I am concerned that a man who has put himself forward as a parliamentary candidate subscribes to the ideas contained in the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. I could not help but notice that you studiously avoid the quoting the full title, referring to it as “The Protocols of the Learned elders”. Neither could I fail to notice that you refer not to Jews but to “Khazars” and “Levantines”. This is both devious and disingenuous.

Though I am not a Jew, I admire and respect them. The Jewish people constitute 0.21% of world’s population yet they have made a contribution to civilisation out of all proportion to their size. For example, since the mid-nineteenth century 25% of world’s scientists have been Jews. In 1978, over half the Nobel Prize winners were Jewish, therefore in that year over 50% of the main contributors to the progress of mankind came from less than 1% of the world’s population! The world has benefited from this tiny people group in every area of human achievement and we all owe a debt of gratitude to them in many ways.

We have also benefited spiritually from the Jews. The Bible is Jewish; the gospel Christian ministers proclaim came to the nations through Jewish apostles; the Christian God revealed himself first to Jewish patriarchs and prophets; and Christians trust a Jew for their salvation.

Your tract demonstrates that you lack the moral integrity, intellectual rigour and spiritual rectitude necessary for high office. The last person to be elected to government by blaming the Jews for the ills of his country was Adolph Hitler. Thankfully you possess neither his personal charisma nor his eloquence.

Suffice it to say that on 6 May my cross will not appear next to your name on the ballot form.

Yours sincerely,

Monday, 19 April 2010

Vote, Vote, Vote for Mark Ellis

Today I received an “Election Communication” in the form of a tract from one of our “Independent” candidates. Mark Ellis thinks we should all vote for him because he has four science “A” levels; he attended Bristol Veterinary College; he was a “Friend and helper of Vice Marshall Bennett [who lost his deposit in the 1967 Nuneaton By-Election as a candidate for the now defunct far right British Party] who, apparently, “was aware of a frightful conspiracy”.

This will be Mr Ellis’s fourth attempt to be elected to Parliament on an anti-Semitic platform. Ellis believes the Jews operate behind the scenes to implement their dastardly plans for world domination as outlined in the “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”. He doesn’t mention the Jews so he resorts to calling them “Khazars”, “Levantines” and “Cons” (Old-Cons as opposed to Neo-Cons).

These men in the shadows are responsible for all that is wrong with Britain from postal voting frauds to the closing of “1/3 of our railways”. The closing of railways is, according to Ellis, particularly perfidious because railways “stimulate interest in mechanisms”.

So, if you live in Sevenoaks and have half a mind to vote for an anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist, that’s all you’ll need.

To see Ellis' Election Communication click here.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Personal Jesus

I'm writing this during a coffee break at the final sessions of the World Reformed Fellowship General Assembly in Edinburgh, after listening to three excellent reports on the churches in Brazil, India and China. I just spoke to the Indian delegate about something in his report that set my alarm bells ringing.

According to his paper, Christianity is perceived in India as a Western and colonial religion, and a major concern of Indian Christians is to 'focus on the Asian identity of Jesus Christ'. The Chinese report flagged up a similar issue. In China, believers are seeking to make Christianity a 'genuinely Chinese religion'.

I have just shared my concerns over a cup ofcoffee with the Indian delegate. Though I understand the concern of my Indian brothers and sisters to demonstrate that Christianity is not a Western religion, Jesus is not 'Asian'; he is Jewish. Ia am concerned that our Indian and Chinese brothers are going to repeat the mistake of the English church. Christianity was (and still is by some) regarded as English, and missionaries often converted the nations not only to Christianity but also to Englishness.

Jesus is in a very real sense the universal man but he can never be identified with any particular nation other than Israel. He can never be Palestinian, English, Chinese or Indian. Nor can Christianity ever be anything other than Jewish. While we seek to contextualise the gospel, Christianity can never be an English or Chinese religion.

If Chinese missionaries take a 'Chinese' gospel to the nations, although they may experience some success, they will be making the same mistake as the Western colonialist missionaries of a former age.

Indian Christians, if they insist that Jesus is Asian, risk alienating and antagonising Muslims. I understand that concern but substituting one error for another is less than wise.

The inevitable result of any nation claiming Jesus is 'one of us' will be the dejudaising of Jesus. If Jesus is no longer Jewish the Jewish people are marginalised and Replacement Theology is strengthened. Replacement Theology tends to diminish concern for Jewish mission and the diminishing of outreach to the Jewish people delays the glorious day when 'all Israel shall be saved' (Rom 11:26), an event which will be 'life from the dead' for the nations (Rom 11:15).

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Belt and Braces

This morning I had breakfast with a theologian I greatly respect, whose recent book on the inspiration of Scripture cost him dearly. For expressing his views on the nature of Scripture, he lost his posts at two theological seminaries.

Not having read the book, I asked what it was about the book that got him into such hot water. It was his unwillingness to subscribe to the concept of biblical “inerrancy”. He believes the term “infallibility”, used to describe the trustworthiness of the Bible in the Westminster Confession of Faith, has served the Church well for more than three hundred years and adequately sums up what we need to say about the reliability of the Bible.

Does he believe, though, that the Bible is free from errors? No because only the original documents were without error and we don’t have them. Nevertheless, he believes the Bible is infallible; it means what God intended it to mean and the Holy Spirit who inspired the Biblical authors enables us, as we study the Scriptures in dependence on him, to understand them.

My friend is far more learned than I am and I respect him too much to name him here but – while acknowledging that we don’t have the original book of Isaiah or the first edition of the Gospel of Matthew or the apostle Paul’s actual letter to the Romans – I think the concept of inerrancy is important.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it was sufficient to say the Bible was infallible because few people were calling into question its reliability in the areas of history, geography, anthropology and origins. The world, as my friend readily acknowledges, has moved on since the Reformation and the truth of Scripture is being assailed not only from the world but also from within the Church.
My theologian friend has been accused of being “Liberal”; I know he isn’t. However, it seems to me that allowing for mistranslations, differences of interpretation and so on, unless we maintain that the Bible is without error in every area it pronounces on – including origins – we are hammering the first of many nails into the coffin of Scripture.

After all, holding to inerrancy does not weaken our defence of the Bible; it strengthens it. In my humble opinion, and with great deference to my theologian friend, we would be safest to keep both terms.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

A Great Omission

Hi everyone.

I’ve been out of circulation for over a month because of a bout of ill health and having to catch up on everything I didn’t do while I was down with a chest infection. I am now resolved to blog something most days and I start with something really exciting.

I have just come out of what I believe was a historic meeting in every sense of the word. I am attending the Third General Assembly of the World Reformed Fellowship in Edinburgh. Delegates from around the world are meeting here 450 years after the Geneva Bible was completed and after the Scottish Parliament approved the Scots Confession of Faith. The Assembly also marks the hundredth anniversary of the World Missionary Conference which took place in Edinburgh, the theme of which was “The Evangelization of the World in this Generation.”

In the meeting from which I have emerged, delegates were presented with a Confession of Faith for the 21st century; not a rewrite of any of the historic confessions but a statement of the Christian Faith in plain 21st-century English. This is the first major Statement of Faith for at least two hundred years and has been produced not by men from one country or denomination but from an international, interdenominational team including Gerald Bray (England), Pierre Berthoud (France), Wilson Chow (Hong Kong), Victor Cole (Kenya), Leonardo de Chirico (Italy), Allan Harman (Australia), In Whan Kim (South Korea), Sam Logan (USA), Augustus Nicodemus Lopez (Brazil) and Stephen Tong (Indonesia).

The statement is extensive, covering the doctrines and issues not touched by the historic Statements of Faith. As well as dealing with the Christian understanding of God, Scripture, salvation, the Christian life and the Church, the new statement deals with issues such as demonology, sexuality, family planning and medical ethics.
Members of the World Reformed Fellowship have until the end of October to respond to the document before it receives its final form. I have not had time to read, mark and inwardly digest the statement but, having read it quickly, I am seriously impressed.

Nevertheless, there is one great omission; there is no statement about Israel and the Jewish people. There is no section about the status of the Jewish people since the coming of Christ; there is nothing about the State of Israel, or about the future of the Jewish people. And nothing is said about the priority of Jewish mission. In a document as extensive as this, there ought to be room for a theology of Israel.

I intend to comment on this omission and to make some suggestions to the committee. I’ll keep you posted about that but, meanwhile, have a look at the proposed statement of faith on the World Reformed Fellowship website.