Sunday, July 16, 2006

Israel Lebanon crisis

I’m glad to endorse many of the blogs that I advertise on I to the hills. However, I trust that readers will understand that this does not mean universal approval of all that these blogs publish.

When I started blogging I wanted to comment on all sorts of issues. It quickly became apparent that my interests are narrow. And, I have been reluctant to write about all sorts of stuff, partly because I’m beginning to realise just how little I know about anything at all.

So, with those opening thoughts, I have to share that I was disappointed with this post on John Armstrong’s blog. And, I was shocked by the naivety of Andrew Sandlin’s post, which John Armstrong links to in his own post on the current crisis between Israel and Lebanon.

It is with a little trepidation that I write anything on this topic. I am wary of saying or writing anything about the Irish troubles. Before anyone misunderstands, I am not comparing the problems in the Middle East with the problems of Ireland. The point is simply that Ireland is a lot closer to home, I am half-Irish, and I know Irish people. Yet, I barely understand the issues. How much more cautious should I be about commenting on other troubled lands?

Here’s my problem with the view of Armstrong and Sandlin. They claim that they support Israel on political grounds, not theological grounds. (I get this from Sandlin’s post, which Armstrong endorses.) Both these guys attack dispensational theology, and I guess they would both be close to the theological views in this Michael Bird post. I probably agree with their theological criticism of dispensationalism, and their opposition to views of Israel, 1948, as a fulfilment of biblical prophecy.

So, to some extent, I agree with Armstrong and Sandlin. But this agreement becomes meaningless in comparison with Sandlin’s practical outworking of his theology. Read it for yourself to check for reality. Sandlin claims to separate theology and politics. However, I think it is foolish and naïve to make this separation. Sandlin claims to do this, but he can’t argue politically without claiming Christian theological values to support his political argument. As I see it, Sandlin equates Western liberal democracy with the kingdom of God. Not just the ideal but the reality. Sandlin believes that the political development of the USA was founded on Christian principles. He believes that for Christians, to support Israel is ‘to support a form of government that is at root Christian’.

I don’t want this post to become a rant or a ramble, but most of you reading will be able to see where I’m going here. The kingdom of God can never be equated with human forms of government. I would do much to defend my freedoms as a subject in the UK. I often think about ways of justifying social and political liberalism on biblical grounds, because I benefit greatly from living in such a society. For one thing, I am free to write this blog post without fear of persecution. But, the best democracies in the world are still far removed from fulfilling the kingdom values of God’s promised reign. Christians are beginning to see and taste that kingdom in their experience. But I don’t think the culmination of the kingdom promises will be seen in some ideal liberal democracy. For starters, it will be a kingdom with a king, God himself!

So, I can’t support Israel’s actions against Lebanon on any grounds. I wish that Lebanon would fight against the terrorism of Hezbollah. I would plead for an end to the violence on all sides. I long for a time when all people see terrorism for what it is, an affront to God’s creation of all humanity in his own image. I pray that there will yet be some political/theological resolution to the troubles in the Middle East. And I long for the day when Christians don’t do theology in a way that smacks of Western ideological imperialism.

2 comments:

christian lies said...

QUOTE:And, I have been reluctant to write about all sorts of stuff, partly because I’m beginning to realise just how little I know about anything at all.

OBVIOUSLY.

Ian said...

I have often been fine with the label "quasi-theonomist" when describing myself. Theologians like Rushdoony, Bahnsen and North all have great philosophical writings that I find myself often in significant agreement with. But qualifier "quasi" is really more emphasised when it comes to my own theology and theirs.
I have a number of theological problems with theonomy (I say this because Sandlin is theonomist), including those that you point out. I believe that the historic Baptist understanding of the continuity/discontinuity does much more justice to the Bible than the flattening of the issues theonomy proposes. I believe that an amillennial interpretation of eschatology is also biblical, as opposed to theonomic postmillennialism.
It is especially in the latter that I find the most problems. Not so much postmillennialism in general, but in the theonomic brand. It is here that the ideas of equating the kingdom of God human government.
Although democracy is an ideal, and something I am very glad to live under, you are right when you say that it shouldn't be equated with Christ's kindgom. Especially, as you said, that Christ's kingdom will have a king!
Thanks for the post, much appreciated.