What It Means to Love Israel
At the end of July, 34 evangelical leaders published a letter to President Bush, commending his attempts to "reinvigorate Israeli-Palestinian negotiations" and affirming his "clear call for a two-state solution." These leaders represented a wide swath of American evangelicalism, hailing from such institutions as the Christian & Missionary Alliance, World Relief, World Vision, the Vineyard USA, the Evangelical Covenant Church, Fuller Theological Seminary, Bethel University, and this magazine. They also told the Administration that it is "a serious misperception" that American evangelicals are uniformly opposed to a two-state solution and the creation of a new Palestinian state out of the vast majority of the West Bank.
Just as significant, though, was the leaders' affirmation of love for Israel. "As evangelical Christians," they wrote, "we embrace the biblical promise to Abraham: 'I will bless those who bless you.'" American and British Christians have long hoped and worked for the restoration of the Jewish people to their historic homeland. From Puritan confidence in the latter-day conversion of the Jews as a people emerged a belief in the Jews' return to their homeland. Puritans plowed the soil in which Christian Zionism grew.
At its root, the term Zionism simply means support for a Jewish return to sovereignty in their ancient homeland, with a majority Jewish culture. At the beginning of the 19th century, two streams of Christian Zionism emerged. One, associated with politicians William Wilberforce and Lord Shaftesbury and high-profile preachers Charles Simeon and Charles Spurgeon, was Reformed and covenantal in its theology. It strongly influenced British policy. The other was developed by Edward Irving and J. N. ...