A Middle Way in the Middle East
The first signs of stormy sailing for my theology appeared as I approached the shores of the Arab world, where I headed after graduating from a dispensationalist seminary. I knew I would have to avoid sensitive topics on which Middle Easterners would not appreciate my theological views.
But it was only a matter of time before the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict arose. I had to graciously state that God's position on the matter was plain: Like it or not, the land belonged to God's chosen people, and Arabs just needed to accept reality and "get over it." But they just would not get over it.
This was especially evident in an article in a leading Jordanian Arabic daily. It was titled "Evangelicals Help Prepare to Rebuild the Temple" and it accused Jordanian evangelicals (and the seminary where I taught) of engaging in political blasphemy and religious treason. What surprised me most was that this (false) accusation came not from the poisoned pen of a militant Muslim, but rather from an Arab Christian bishop.
Many Middle Easterners are deeply troubled when U.S. evangelicals zealously support political policies and aggressive expansionist actions of the state of Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians. And they automatically associate all evangelicalism with Christian Zionism—which they see as an instrument of Western colonialism and American imperialism.
Christian Zionists characteristically anticipate fulfillment of a prophetic scenario that is reflected in popular books such as the Left Behind series. This theological framework understands that despite the creation of the church, the nation of Israel continues to have a distinct role in the redemptive plan of God. Upon Christ's second coming, a regenerate Israel ...