Sunday, 18 April 2010

Milk and Honey, Chalk and Cheese

Why does Zionism play so well among many (not all) Evangelicals? It is not usually because they subscribe to Dispensationalism. Even in America, most of them do not use the Scofield Reference Bible or take it at all seriously. Anywhere else, such as in Britain, it is hard to obtain. The Left Behind series has no British distributor, since it has no conceivable British audience.

No, it is because they either do not know, or do not want to know, about Levantine Christianity, much as they either do not know, or do not want to know, about the Sub-Apostolic Fathers. They do not wish to be confronted with entirely matter-of-fact descriptions of all things "Romish" existing during the lifetimes of the Apostles and providing the context that the New Testament text presupposes. Nor do they wish to be confronted with the entirely matter-of-fact existence of communities of that kind which have been present continuously for two thousand years, right there in the Bible Lands.

Christian communities that go all the way back to the Day of Pentecost are problematic enough in themselves for them, without those communities' having become, at best, Anglican or Lutheran rather than, say, Baptist, and far more commonly Latin Catholic or Maronite, Greek Orthodox or Melkite, Syrian Orthodox or Syrian Catholic, Armenian Orthodox or Armenian Catholic.

As part of Evangelicalism's general upward trend in educational terms, perhaps even leading to a United States Supreme Court nominee this year, Evangelical theology is increasingly looking beyond the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to its earlier and more cerebral roots, and thus to a place within the older, broader and deeper Tradition. Approaches to the Middle East are starting to reflect this shift.

But most churchgoers, and indeed most clergy, are not academic theologians. So, for the most part, the attitude continues to be essentially the same as that which has since the nineteenth century maintained the completely made-up Garden Tomb because those who invented it did not like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and did not want people to know about it.


  1. Good post. This tendency probably explains why so many American Evangelicals don't seem to care much about the plight of Palestinian Christians in Israel or the Palestinian Territories, or of the plight of the Iraqi Christians. That is, if they even know that they exist.

  2. As one of its "TAC Classics", The American Conservative has just reprinted this, from May 2004 -