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Friday, July 19, 2013

Reviewing John Hagee On Why Christians Support Israel


There are many things one can say about the teachings and theology of people like John Hagee and organizations like CUFI.  We have already addressed some of them in the previous post which served as an open letter to CUFI (click here for that post). There is no doubt that we will repeat some of that material here. But what I would like to focus on is Hagee's failure to adequately use the Bible to interpret the Bible as seen in the video clip included here. I say adequately here because Hagee does occasionally use some passages to interpret others but it seems to be with an agenda.

Take Hagee's interpretation of Matthew 25:40 for example. Here, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus was telling the sheep that because they cared for the "least of these my brethren," they cared for Him. Hagee reasons that since the word brethren had only been used to refer to Jews at that time, Jesus must only be referring to Israel when He refers to his brethren. And thus, according to Hagee, Jesus is teaching us that this judgment between the sheep and the goats is based on how the nations treated Israel. 

But not so fast Reverend Hagee, according to Matthew 12:46-50. It is there that, when asked about His family's desire to talk to Him, Jesus identified His brothers, sisters, and mothers not by physical relation but by willingness to do God's will. So we should conclude that Hagee's definition of "brethren" in the parable contradicts what Jesus says here. But even if you try to use Hagee's criteria for my brethren, that there is this combination of there being at least one Gentile in the Gospels who did God's will (Luke 7:1-10) and Jesus's declaring that his mother, brothers, and sister are those who do God's will along with the existence of this Gentile contradicts Hagee's interpretation of who was meant by "my brethren" in Jesus's parable of the sheep and the goats. 

We should also include Hagee's interpretation of Genesis 22:17 here. When God told Abraham that He would multiply Abraham's descendants so that their number would be as the stars in the sky and the sands of the sea. Hagee continues by saying that since Abraham is the father of all who believe, the reference to stars refers to the spiritual descendants of Abraham, which is the Church, and the sands represent Abraham's physical descendants, which is the nation of Israel. 

The question that must be asked here is, how did Hagee arrive at these symbolic meanings for both stars and sand? The answer comes not from the Bible but from theology. Hagee comes from the Dispensational school of eschatology. And how Hagee described the stars and sand is a standard Dispensational interpretation for Genesis 22:17. The problem is that there are no other scriptures that encourage using stars and sand this way.

We should first note that the history of the both the Old and New Testaments show that many of Abraham's physical descendants were not people of faith. This is why they were often punished and even sent into exile. And in the New Testament, their refusal to believe in Christ qualified them, according Paul, as people of the flesh rather than promise in the book of Romans, and people of the law and the flesh rather than people who believed the Gospel and being of the Spirit in the book of Galations. In addition, the writer of the book of Hebrews quotes this part of Genesis 22 and never makes the distinction Hagee does. And finally, Jeremiah also refers to the  number being like the stars of the sky and sand of the sea but he uses that to describe the descendants of David, who is not considered to be the father of all who believe (see Jeremiah 33:22). We could add that these references to stars and sand are also  used separately in the Old Testament to refer to the number of descendants of Abraham. Thus, this reference to the stars of the sky and sands of the sea can only be interpreted as being synonymous and referring to the total number of descendants of Abraham rather than two distinct lineages.

Whereas Hagee wants to say that the promise of the land to Abraham goes to the Jews and Israel exclusively, Paul gives a different spin on who are the descendants of Abraham. To Paul, the only New Testament descendants of Abraham refers to those who were born of the promise (Romans 9) which Paul describes synonymously with those who imitated Abraham's faith in God's promise (Galations 3). We should note that, according to Paul,  the only object of faith for New Testament descendants of Abraham is Jesus.

Whereas the Old Testament contains stories of the Kingdom of Israel and how it was punished when it became idolatrous or when it neglected and oppressed the poor, today's nation of Israel is a secular state and had its secular beginnings in the 1800s where horrible Christian anti-Semitism moved European Jews to look for a homeland after they realistically concluded that they would never be accepted as fellow citizens in their respective countries. So how is it that we are even equating the Kingdom of Israel with the secular state of Israel anyway?

I could go on but I have said enough to make the point that Hagee has not accurately interpreted the Bible with regard to Israel and the promises. Rather, by threatening people with the wrath of God and trying to bribe them with God's abundant riches, Hagee appears to use superstition to manipulate people into supporting Israel. And we should note here what Hagee means by supporting Israel and its antonym anti-Semitism. Supporting Israel means approving, working for, and donating to Israel in order for it to get all of the land promised in Genesis. Thus, Hagee believes anti-Semitism is anything short of supporting Israel in this way. So Hagee lumps together Jews and Gentiles who object to Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinians with those who want to punish or even kill Jews because of their ethnicity.

We could address all of the scriptures that Hagee misuses to drum up support for Israel but it, at this point, it would seem unnecessary. And it is unfortunate that Hagee takes the detour that he does from the Bible. For there are times when his preaching about Jesus is acceptably orthodox. And with the scope of his influence, the sad result is that many people confidently follow Hagee on this road that should never be travelled. It should never be travelled because of the reasons we have listed previously in the blog. The most prominent reason is that it garners more people into participating in the oppression of other people who are made in the image of God, namely the Palestinians and the Bedouins. Both are constantly kicked off their land and receive harsh treatment as second class citizens at best.  

Anyone who is offended by the past racism that has existed, and still does, in America must be offended by the treatment of Palestinians and Bedouins in Israel. But Hagee calls his followers to strive for a sinful inconsistency of overlooking this treatment. But we should not conclude by this that we should overlook the horrible atrocities suffered by the Jews both in the past and present. However, if we are going to be people of absolute values and conscience, we will call an atrocity and atrocity regardless of the identity of the perpetrator and victim. So we need to note that when people, like Hagee, call us to take sides in this conflict and others, they are calling us away from principle and conscience. This is something that we cannot afford to do.

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