August 17, 2006

Holding Your Peace

Jim Sibley, director of Criswell College’s Pasche Institute of Jewish Studies in Dallas, criticized the National Association of Evangelicals for being silent and not standing up for Israel during the recent conflict. NAE President Ted Haggard had previously stated:

Our silence is to try to protect people. There’s a rapidly growing evangelical population in virtually every Islamic country. Much of it is underground in the countries that are more radicalized, and many of the Christians survive based on their neighbors just ignoring the fact that they don't go to mosque.
But that concern for evangelism did not sit well with Sibley. He wants the NAE to clearly take the side of Israel. He argues:

In the Bible, the prophets, especially Zechariah and Isaiah, speak often about the future judgment on the nations. Scripture makes it clear that the basis of that judgment will be their concern for the welfare of the Jewish people. Will God require less of Church leaders?
Sibley seems to completely discount Haggard’s concern for evangelistic efforts in Muslim nations. Sibley remarks:

The silence of the NAE is a guilty silence. The motivation may be sincere, but it is seriously misguided. We, as Evangelicals, must be the voice for these Christians in Muslim countries who cannot speak. Our silence in this matter not only does not protect them, but it calls us to be less than Christian.
While Sibley may claim to be an expert in Jewish evangelism, why does he think he knows more than everyone else on evangelism in Muslim nations? How would the NAE supporting Israel make them “the voice” for Christians in Muslim nations?

Maybe if he actually listened to Arab Christians he would find that his support of Israel is not universally held. Consider Ethics Daily columns where Martin Accad, academic dean at Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon, speaks out on the conflict.

Accad says that in the Middle East, the word "Christian" "has become synonymous with bigotry, hypocrisy and double standard" and that Lebanese evangelicals "get tired of mopping up behind U.S. church statements that are made out of ignorance and self-centeredness." He also recounts how the work of the seminary has been hurt by foolish statements in the past by American evangelicals.

But Sibley seems more concerned with the NAE supporting his Zionist theology than not further hurting the missions efforts in nations where it is desperately needed. Maybe this should not be surprising since Sibley has been criticized by the very people he claims to be reaching—American Jews. Hopefully the NAE will not give in to his demand and use their words to hurt the ministry of Christians like Accad.

4 comments:

  1. You wrote: Maybe if he actually listened to Muslim Christians he would find that his support of Israel is not universally held.

    Umm. I assume you meant "Christians in Muslim Nations" or "Arab Christians," perhaps. A "Muslim-Christian" would be a hybrid like "Buddhist-Baptist."

    But otherwise right on target.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Michael,

    You are absolutely correct; thanks for noting it. I have fixed it to say "listened to Arab Christians."

    I enjoyed thinking about what a "Buddhist-Baptist" would be like. Then I found that some people actually call themselves that: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/essays/june00/rodriguez_6-27.html

    Not sure what their theology would be, but it could probably lead to some serious inner tension (one half of her must think the other half is going to Hell). Oh well, I guess it shows that we may joke about religious combinations and then someone will try and live out that joke.

    Thanks again for the comment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous10:14 AM

    I am a little confused by your post. Although I think it strange that he would look for Evangelical Christians to stand up for another country, I certainly support Israel as a nation.

    I consider myself a socially conscience Christian and most of my beliefs don't align with 'those on the right'.

    I believe Israel has the right to exist and to protect itself. I also was quite dismayed to see the Israeli offensive that killed so many innocent Lebanese citizens during the recent war.

    My sympathy for Israel is not based solely on my faith. I view them as a cornered animal @ this time just trying to survive. They are the only ‘true’ democracy in the Middle East and I would like to see borders drawn w/ Palestine and Lebanon and for Israel to be recognized as a country. However, sadly that most likely will not happen. Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria certainly will never recognize Israel as a country and will do everything possible to disrupt the peace process.

    My two cents.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous: Thanks for your two cents. I think we agree more than you may think.

    What bothered me about the comments of Sibley, is that he discounts the concern for evangelism that the NAE has. He is a lightening rod and the NAE should be very careful about following his advice.

    That being said, that does not mean I think Israel is the bad guy. I do think their response was tragically misguided. But you are correct to note that the other groups and countries are serious obstacles to true peace. Sadly, I am not sure there is anyone who is blameless. And I am not sure if anything will resolve the current problems, but I hope something will.

    ReplyDelete