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Christians and a Land Called Holy

In Chapter 4, Lutz issues a four-part “Call to Action,” which provides his readers with many useful tools for gathering accurate news, composing petitions for the corporate prayer of local churches, advocating for changes in American public policy, and planning pilgrimages that show solidarity with the Palestinian Christian community in the Holy Land. Lutz commends the view of the sticking point in the peace process cited in a statement of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a coalition of twenty-one U.S. Orthodox, Protestant, and Roman Catholic national policy offices: “We believe that one of the primary outcomes of peace negotiations in the Middle East must be a viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside the state of Israel. For a state of Palestine to be viable, all Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Territories must cease” (105). Lutz urges the leaders of faith communities to play a central role in bringing an end to Israeli settlement construction and securing a Palestinian state.

In the appendix, Witherup addresses the question, “Whose Land Is It?” Based on a minimalist assessment of the evidence of biblical archaeology, he takes a dismissive view of any attempt to utilize the biblical perspective as a blueprint for political action, averring that “the place to begin with the land question is not with the Bible but with the facts of the present situation in the Holy Land” (130). He advances three guidelines: 1. Israelis and Palestinians must share the land in two nations. 2. The construction of Jewish settlements in the West Bank must cease. 3. Jerusalem should be preserved as a holy city and home of diverse religious communities.

There is no question that the authors of A Land Called Holy are committed to the cause of peace in Israel/Palestine, with which the reviewer strongly resonates. However, their strategy for pursuing peace is flawed in three respects. For starters, in jumping on the bandwagon of pressure politics, this book offers a politically biased analysis of the situation in the Holy Land which will only drive a wedge between the supporters and detractors of the state of Israel. Second, the authors downplay the problem of Islamic extremism. For example, they overstate their case when they allege that in the period of Islamic dominance (638-1948 CE), “Jerusalem enjoyed peace, prosperity, and even religious tolerance that was probably unsurpassed anywhere in the world during those thirteen hundred years” (3). Albeit sporadic, Jerusalem suffered its share of egregious Muslim suppression of Christian churches. Third, this book demonizes Christian Zionism. The authors speak in disparaging tones of premillennial dispensationalism, without bothering to provide a fair exposition of its meaning. One of the authors goes so far as to insist that “because of that way of reading the Bible, people are dying” (65). This allegation is a gross oversimplification of the causes of the violence that plagues Israel/Palestine. An approach more conducive to peacemaking would acknowledge the Christocentric core of Christian Zionist eschatology and allow for honest differences of theological and political opinion among Christians.

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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2010

About the Author: Eric N. Newberg, Ph.D. (Regent University), M.Div. (North Park Theological Seminary), is Associate Professor of Theological and Historical Studies at Oral Roberts University. He is the author of The Pentecostal Mission in Palestine: The Legacy of Pentecostal Zionism (Wipf & Stock, 2012). ORU Faculty page

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