Tuesday, 26 August 2008

I want to be Left Behind

The video game taking Christian America by storm, aptly titled ‘Left Behind: Eternal Forces’, encourages its players to kill anyone who resists conversion to Christianity. As Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft battle it out for domination of the electronic game world, its creator anticipates a ready market among those who have already bought 63 million copies of the ‘Left Behind’ novels. The game is set in New York City, a rather unusual venue for Armageddon: New York doesn’t get a mention in the Bible. It is, however, the location of the United Nations headquarters and that is the clue. Never popular among conservative evangelicals, in Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the Global Community Peacekeepers, cast as the enemy, are on a search and destroy mission in Manhattan. Their target is the remnant of recently converted Bible-believers left behind when Christians were secretly raptured to heaven. These new believers now form an army called the Tribulation Force.

Focus on the Family suggests the game is an evangelistic tool for teenagers –

the kind of game that Mom and Dad can actually play with Junior—and use to raise some interesting questions along the way. Production company Left Behind Games is pushing it as an evangelism tool for teens, and I can see that, too.[1]

Under the heading ‘Turn or Burn?’ their review asks,

How do peace and prayer go hand in hand with tanks, attack choppers and street battles? … Yes, you're offered sniper rifles, gun turrets, even tanks and helicopters. And there are points at which a gun battle is necessary to avoid a massacre. (When this happens, there's no gore. Units fall to the ground and fade away.) But if you go in guns blazing, nine times out of 10 you fail. It quickly becomes clear that the strongest weapons in your arsenal are your top-level missionaries and worship leaders. It's easier to convert a group of enemies than it is to shoot them. Still, post-Rapture warfare is integral to the game, as it is in the Left Behind books and movies.

Focus on the Family concede that ‘fighting back’ is nowhere mentioned in the Scriptures. This is something of an understatement. Jesus demanded his followers do just the opposite and not resist an evil person but turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-39). In an interview with Tim LaHaye, the author of the Left Behind books on which the video game is based, Focus on the Family asked whether Christians will really be called to militarize?

He told Plugged In Online that this fictionalized depiction in the books, movies and now video games is a representation "of the self preservation instinct of the much-persecuted saints during the Tribulation." He believes, "When they are converted they will have their humanitarian instinct inspired by the Holy Spirit to be a restraining influence on the Antichrist's minions much as believers are today. We assume Christians will oppose the Antichrist and his forces to convey the gospel when astronomical numbers of souls will come to faith during that chaotic period.” He proffered 2 Thessalonians 2:7 and Revelation 7:9-16 as support.[2]

What a relief. It’s all right then, because, according to Timothy Simpson, president of the Christian Alliance for Progress, “It's 'faith-based killing."[3] Apparently, players pray for their adversaries "and try to do good spiritual things for them" But at a certain point, it becomes acceptable to kill them.[4] So killing in the name of Jesus is OK because players are only acting out "of the self preservation instinct of the much-persecuted saints during the Tribulation." The biblical basis for LaHaye’s justification of violence is rather tenuous. “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.” (2 Thessalonians 2:7)

The following verse, however, tells us that it is Jesus who will do the ‘destroying’ not his followers. “
And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Jesus will himself overthrow Satan with two weapons - the power of his words and his glory. What of Revelation 7:9-16 which LaHaye also cites?

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their handsAnd he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:9, 14)

The verses portray the saints in heaven wearing white robes and carrying palm branches. These are symbols of purity and victory, but there is no mention of weapons, conflict or warfare. They are described as the ones “who have come out of the great tribulation”. They have washed their robes in the blood of Jesus, not their enemies on earth. Their victory was not achieved through armed conflict as the Tribulation Force implies, but through martyrdom and faithful witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.

A rather more sceptical if perceptive review by Jews on First observes that,

The goals of the game are simple: Spread the gospel, and stay alive. But staying alive may sometimes lead to the taking of life -- "fighting hellfire with hellfire”. And that raises a knotty moral conundrum for any game designer who worships Jesus, the Prince of Peace.[5]

[1] Left Behind now an ‘End Times’ game http://www.pluggedinonline.com/thisweekonly/a0002989.cfm (Accessed January 2007)

[2] Ibid.,

[3] Jews on First ‘Christians seek recall of Left Behind video game’ http://www.jewsonfirst.org/06d/left_behind_video.html

[4] Ibid.,

[5] Ibid.,

Monday, 25 August 2008

How dumb has the West been? A Church Times Review by Dr Alan Storkey

When Worlds Collide: Exploring the ideological and political foundations of the clash of civilizations
Gene W. Heck

Zion’s Christian Soldiers? The Bible, Israel and the Church
Stephen Sizer
IVP £7.99

Defending Christian Zionism
David Pawson

These books are written mainly for American audiences with the British as part-players. Sizer addresses Christian Zionism in the United States, identifying the un-biblical structures and slant of its thought, if “thought” even begins to be the appropriate word. Heck emphasises the pacific nature of most of Islam, and identifies the ways in which US and British foreign policy have contributed to a militant Islam. David Paw­son’s book is written as a response to Stephen Sizer’s.

Mainly a Middle East diplomat by background, Heck tells the sad tale of what the West has done to create Islamic militancy. The British started the process between the World Wars. MI6 backed the Mus­lim Brotherhood founded by Hassan al-Banna in Egypt, an organisation identified with militant jihad. When Nasser came to power, the group decamped en masse to Saudi Arabia, and infiltrated Wah-habi Islamic teaching there, pro-ducing Osama bin Laden and his friends. It is time we mapped the long list of British foreign-policy failures. Even this pales beside the activity of the US government and the CIA in pumping $3.2 billion into Afghani­stan to set up the training and equipping of al-Qaeda and the Taliban there. Heck sets out in detail how the Americans trained recruits from Saudi Arabia in the use of Stinger missiles and other weapons systems. Then, when the USSR withdrew, thousands of well-trained terrorists were left unem­ployed, looking for an enemy. Uncle Sam filled the vacuum. Hey-ho. How dumb is the West? Heck’s purpose is to move away from US imperialism to a pattern of understanding between Islam and the West. His portrayal of Islam seems slightly rosy: 100 years and more of conquest slide past with too much ease, and the equa­tion of Islamic attitudes to war with Christian just-war theory is a bit pat. But there is substance to his more benign interpretation of Islam, especially when the West faces its imperialism and what this has contributed to the development of extremism. The book addresses Western self-righteousness and stupidity, and seeks to open dia-logue between the West and Islam.

Sizer focuses on another sensitive spot in the Middle East: US backing for Israel, which is partly located in Christian Zionism, a movement formed over a couple of centuries or more. This studies the supposed biblical foundation of Zionist groups. It is frightening that much fundamentalist thinking in the US, claiming to be biblical, can be so far off the mark; and Sizer patiently demolishes the positions it has constructed. The dangers of this Christian Zionism are acute. I hope all the intended readers of this book change their views and theology. One example is the Christian atti­tude to the Herodian Temple. Though Jesus deliberately changed the focus from the Temple to his own body, and Christians have been clear for centuries that neither in the Jerusalem Temple nor in any other sacrificial shrine is God to be worshipped, some groups are all for blowing up the Dome of the Rock mosque and rebuilding the Temple. Now there’s a diplomatic move.

Sizer deconstructs the false arguments, showing the Bible’s simple, inclusive treatment of Jews and Gentiles, which has resulted in a rainbow Church of two billion people worldwide. He uncovers the false Gnosticism that purports to discover special knowledge of world politics, or to identify the evil empire, and shows a range of peculiar interpretations that do not fit with a plain understanding of the Bible. Alongside this critique is some poignant interpretation of God’s good purposes for Jew and Gentile, backed by a careful and modulated sermon by John Stott on Israel. The book exposes myths that have in part infected the Christian community. May it do its cleansing work.

Yet David Pawson’s book, as its title suggests, defends Christian Zionism. Strangely, I feel no real tension between the two. Given that Christians are sometimes accused of being anti-Semitic, there is something rather lovely about the long tradition of Evangelicals who have loved and yearned for Jews, and seen them in the purposes of God, rather as Paul does in Romans 9-11. Pawson’s position is different from American dispensational Zionism. It is gentler, and dwells on the biblical themes of Covenant and the significance of the land. Some­times, the biblical interpretations seem too tight, but that can be discussed: his Zionism reflects God’s love for the Jewish people. The overall perception is that God loves Jew, Gentile, Muslim, and American, but not uncritically. This surely is a conclusion we must all address in relation to the gospel.


Thursday, 7 August 2008

Israeli Government fines GAFCON over 'Jerusalem' bags

The Israeli government is getting a little defensive over sharing Jerusalem it seems. The organisers of the international Anglican GAFCON conference in Jerusalem last month, which brought over 290 Archbishops and Bishops and nearly 900 clergy and lay participants to Jerusalem, were due to give everyone a leather bag commemorating their visit. Apparently, the second consignment of bags were seized by Israeli customs under a little known law (of which no one was aware) that prohibits importing any article with the word 'Jerusalem' on it. The bags will be destroyed and the GAFCON organisers have been fined. So much for a shared Jerusalem.

Foremost UK Gay Activist Admits there is No Gay Gene

By Hilary White, LifeSite News

August 6, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - One of the untouchable dogmas of the homosexualist movement is the assertion of the existence of a "gay gene", or a genetic marker that causes same-sex attraction. The assertion of a genetic factor in homosexual preference has never been demonstrated by scientists and now at least one prominent campaigner in the British homosexualist movement has admitted this fact.

Peter Tatchell, an Australian-born British homosexual activist who founded the "direct action" group OutRage! that specialises in media stunts such as disrupting Christian religious services, wrote on Spiked Online that he agrees with the scientific consensus that there is no such thing as a "gay gene."

Contrary to the findings of some researchers who have tried to posit a purely genetic origin for same-sex attractions, Tatchell wrote, "Genes and hormones may predispose a person to one sexuality rather than another. But that’s all. Predisposition and determination are two different things."

Homosexual activists have adopted the "gay gene" theory to bolster their assertion that any objection on moral grounds to homosexual activity is akin to objecting to left-handedness or skin colour. It has supported the accusation that Christians and others who object to the homosexual movement are racists and bigots.

Tatchell even went as far as to acknowledge the existence of some who have changed their "sexual orientation." "If heterosexuality and homosexuality are, indeed, genetically predetermined… how do we explain bisexuality or people who, suddenly in mid-life, switch from heterosexuality to homosexuality (or vice versa)? We can’t."

Sexuality, he wrote, is "far more ambiguous, blurred and overlapping than any theory of genetic causality can allow."

"Examples of sexual flexibility… don’t square with genetic theories of rigid erotic predestination."

Bill Muehlenberg, a Christian writer and philosophy lecturer, called Tatchell’s admission a rare and "refreshing" and "very revealing case of homosexual honesty." Muehlenberg said that he has been "howled down" by homosexual lobbyists for years for saying the same things about putative homosexual determinism. Whoever is saying it, he wrote, the conclusion must be the debunking of the myth that homosexuals are "born that way" and cannot help, or change, their inclinations.

The "gay gene" theory has been used by gay activists "to deny choice, to make it appear that homosexuals cannot help it, and to argue that any criticism of the gay lifestyle is as silly as criticism of being left-handed or red-haired."

"And this has been a deliberate strategy by homosexual activists. They have done a very good job to convince a gullible public that homosexuals are born that way and cannot change."

Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:

Lesbian Break-in and Riot During College Speech on "Born-Gay Hoax" Forces Cancellation

"Homosexuality Is Not Hardwired," Concludes Head of The Human Genome Project

Search for "Gay Gene" Is "Bad Science" Says Nebraska Professor

GAFCON, the future and the Jerusalem Statement

by the Rev David Holloway, vicar of Jesmond Parish Church, Newcastle, England. August 3 2008.

GAFCON and its history

The Global Anglican Future CONference held in Jerusalem at the end of June 2008 occurred not to stop a split in the Anglican Communion but because there already exists such a split. That is a sad but hard fact. The presenting problem is homosexual relationships, with things coming to a head in 2003 in the United States with the consecration as bishop of New Hampshire of a partnered homosexual, Gene Robinson. Since the 1970s and the “Gay Liberation” movement the Western Churches have tried to pretend the “gay agenda” is not a problem. The leadership has wanted this to be considered a secondary issue over which there is liberty to disagree. The majority of Christians, however, think otherwise. Votes in the Church of England’s General Synod in 1987 and the Lambeth Conference in 1998 made this crystal clear. A significant number of bishops, however, ignored these resolutions.

In 2002 Rowan Williams was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. Rowan Williams had publicly admitted to ordaining a man he knew had a homosexual partner and acknowledged “that ‘conforming your life … to Christ’ doesn’t necessarily mean giving up a homosexual lifestyle.” Before his appointment was official, therefore, some of us, incumbents of larger Anglican churches, felt obliged to write to the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, registering our opposition. We said:

“such actions and views [as those above] fly in the face of the clear teaching of the Holy Scriptures and the resolutions of the Lambeth Conference 1998. Rowan Williams would not have the confidence of the vast majority of Anglicans in the world, who are now in the third world and who, as loyal Anglicans, take the Holy Scriptures as their supreme authority. His appointment would lead to a major split in the Anglican Communion (including the Church of England).”

Sadly we have been proved correct.

The last straw

In the summer of 2003 Rowan Williams, at the start, approved the appointment of a partnered homosexual as the new Bishop of Reading. Fortunately Jeffrey John, the man concerned, offered his resignation after Oxford clergy had vigorously protested. Then came the autumn of 2003. Rowan Williams now found himself presiding at a meeting of Primates (senior archbishops from around the world) at Lambeth. The meeting was over the proposed consecration of Gene Robinson [already referred to] and it warned:

“If his consecration proceeds … many provinces are likely to consider themselves to be out of Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA). This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level, and may lead to further division on this and further issues as provinces have to decide in consequence whether they can remain in Communion with provinces that choose not to break Communion with the Episcopal Church (USA).”

The consecration, however, went ahead. Discussion after discussion was held to resolve problems that followed. But little was changed. Indeed, discussion without discipline means more and more church gay activity with impunity. In England, for example, bishops were soon equivocating over homosexual Civil Partnerships (virtual “gay marriage”) with one of the first, if not the first of these, taking place in our own parish of Jesmond at the Newcastle Civic Centre. A clergyman from the Durham diocese was there registering his relationship with his male lover in December 2005. A service followed in St Thomas’ Haymarket at which the former Bishop of Durham, David Jenkins, preached and a former suffragan bishop of Durham was present. The clergyman involved has now retired from Durham diocese. But he is living in retirement in Newcastle and with Permission to Officiate (as a clergyman in the Newcastle diocese) granted by the Bishop of Newcastle.

The last straw for the GAFCON Primates, however, was in February 2007. At the main Primates meeting in Tanzania it was decided that the Episcopal Church of America should be given just one last chance to repent of its support for the gay agenda and being complicit in the consecration of Gene Robinson. But its decision had to come before 30 September 2007. But what did Rowan Williams do? Let me now quote Archbishop Peter Akinola, the Primate of All Nigeria (and on the GAFCON leadership team). In his opening address at the conference he reminded the 1100 plus participants of what happened next:

“Strangely, before the deadline, and before the Primates could get the opportunity of meeting to assess the adequacy of the response of TEC [the Episcopal Church] and in a clear demonstration of unwillingness to follow through our collective decisions which for many of us was an apparent lack of regard for the Primates, Lambeth Palace in July 2007 issued invitations to TEC bishops including those who consecrated Gene Robinson to attend the Lambeth 2008 conference. At this point it dawned upon us, regrettably, that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury seemed so “not interested” that last November (2007) he decided to preside and preach at a “secret” service of Holy Communion for Church of England gay clergy and their partners. This shocked many as Holy Communion should never cause a “scandal” (according to the rubric in the Book of Common Prayer service – the Anglican standard).


It was for all these, and other reasons, said Archbishop Akinola, that GAFCON came about: “we cannot succumb to this turmoil in our Communion and simply watch helplessly. We have found ourselves in a world in which Anglican leaders hold on to a form of religion but consistently deny its power.” To be fair to Rowan Williams, he now is seeking, as Archbishop of Canterbury and as best he can, to “uphold” the orthodox position. But if he personally is still not convinced of the clear biblical teaching prohibiting gay sex, he will not be teaching the orthodox position effectively nor will he properly refute erroneous views. Yet the Church of England Canon C18 requires “every bishop … to teach and to uphold sound and wholesome doctrine, and to banish and drive away all erroneous and strange opinion.” Nor is this a secondary issue. “Let’s talk about knife crime and the poor and not sexuality,” say some, including Gene Robinson. But according to the Archbishop of the Sudan, Daniel Deng Bul, speaking at the Lambeth Conference at the end of July 2008 and calling on Gene Robinson to resign, this is certainly not a secondary issue for him. It is a life and death issue:

“This issue of homosexuality in the Anglican Communion has a very serious effect in my country. We are called ‘infidels’ by the Moslems. That means that they will do whatever they can against us to keep us from damaging the people of our country. They challenge our people to convert to Islam and leave the infidel Anglican Church. When our people refuse, sometimes they are killed. These people are very evil and mutilate and harm our people. I am begging the Communion on this issue so no more of my people will be killed.”

Scriptural authority

The real issue, of course, is scriptural authority; and that relates to the question “what does it mean to be Anglican?” Is Anglicanism to be defined as a Communion of those who can subscribe to a doctrinal basis, namely the legal basis of the Church of England, that says Anglican doctrine …

“… is grounded in the Holy Scriptures and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal” (Canon A5)?

Or is Anglicanism to be defined by the so called four Instruments of Unity – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the Primates Meeting and the ACC (Anglican Advisory Council) even when there is no longer doctrinal agreement? The idea that mere structures can sustain unity without an agreed agenda of adequate common belief, is to live in cloud-cuckoo land. Indeed, it is a recipe for chaos. So the GAFCON statement makes it clear where it stands. It defines Anglicanism as a Communion of those united by their confession of Canon A5 (and it underlines the value of the Thirty-nine Articles). It does not see invitations to the Lambeth Conference by the Archbishop of Canterbury as necessarily definitive. It follows, of course, that those who do not subscribe to that Anglican confession are the schismatics, not those who absent themselves from a Lambeth Conference. It is interesting to note that a document discussed by the bishops at the Lambeth Conference at the end of July and called the St Andrew’s Draft Covenant has a less robust profession for Anglicanism:

“it professes the faith which is uniquely revealed in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as containing all things necessary for salvation and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith, and which is set forth in the catholic creeds, and to which the historic formularies of the Church of England bear significant witness, which faith the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.”

This form of words follows the “liberal” revised Church of England Canon C15 that since the 1970s has allowed clergy to hold any and every belief. It looks good. But without requiring assent to the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England that previously was required, there is no control on how little you need to be believe to be a clergyman. In the words of a Church of England Doctrine Commission report, there are now people who

“would respect the dogmas of the Church (epitomized in the creeds) as showing, in the language and thought-forms of the age that produced them, balanced and authoritative affirmations, excluding false theological solutions and including the necessary theological ingredients. For such Christians, however, both doctrines and dogmas are so inadequate to the living reality of whom they are the attempted theological formulations that they cannot command full commitment or loyalty. In the best sense of the word they are ‘provisional’.”

So GAFCON is once again taking the Thirty-nine Articles seriously. Without doing so people can believe all or (almost) nothing while claiming to be “Anglican”.

“Expressly declared”

But why is it the homosexual issue in particular is the issue that has fractured the Anglican Communion? The answer probably is in the last words of Article XVII of the Thirty-nine: “in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.”

The prohibition on same sex relationships is “expressly declared” in the Bible. It is not ambiguous. That is the consensus of the Church of England bishops who have admitted that there is …

“… in Scripture an evolving convergence on the ideal of lifelong, monogamous heterosexual union as the setting intended by God for the proper development of men and women as sexual beings. Sexual activity of any kind outside marriage comes to be seen as sinful, and homosexual practice as especially dishonourable” (Issues in Human Sexuality 1991 p 18).

Such an “express declaration” means it is not possible to claim submission to biblical authority with integrity and say that such relationships are right. They are “expressly declared” as wrong. (Of course, the Bible is not saying it is wrong to be tempted sexually; rather it is wrong to pretend such desires are right and good).

Because this prohibition is clear from the Bible, its rejection raises much deeper questions about biblical authority. As the Church of England, the mother church of the Anglican Communion, bases itself (or “grounds” itself – Canon A5) on the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, which you have in the Bible, plain rejections of biblical authority require church discipline. The GAFCON leadership, representing two-thirds of world Anglicanism, felt that such a lack of doctrinal discipline on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury was serious. This lack of discipline was especially evidenced by the invitations to Lambeth of those who consecrated Gene Robinson while there were no invitations for their own bishops who have been helping believers in heretical dioceses. It, therefore, seemed wise to set up an international conference for Anglican bishops and other leaders to consult, to encourage one another and to begin something that, God willing, will help unite the true Anglican Communion.

So much for background. The following is the final statement that came out of Jerusalem – and it was a truly collaborative effort. Read the Jerusalem Statement here www.gafcon.org/index.php

Why has the Archbishop of Canterbury compromised the unity of the Anglican Communion?

Why did the Archbishop of Canterbury invite the US Episcopal Bishops who had consecrated Gene Robinson to Lambeth and threaten the unity of the Anglican Communion? And this before the September 2007 deadline when the Primates gave the TEC one last chance to repent of its support for the gay agenda and being complicit in the consecration of Gene Robinson?

Archbishop Akinola explains: “Strangely, before the deadline, and before the Primates could get the opportunity of meeting to assess the adequacy of the response of TEC [the Episcopal Church] and in a clear demonstration of unwillingness to follow through our collective decisions which for many of us was an apparent lack of regard for the Primates, Lambeth Palace in July 2007 issued invitations to TEC bishops including those who consecrated Gene Robinson to attend the Lambeth 2008 conference. At this point it dawned upon us, regrettably, that the Archbishop of Canterbury was not interested in what matters to us, in what we think or in what we say.”

Well here is the simple reason: According to Jonathan Wynne-Jones writing in today's Daily Telegraph the Archbishop of Canterbury believes homosexual relationships are synonymous with marriage:

Archbishop of Canterbury compares gay relationships to marriage

The Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed that active homosexual relationships are "comparable to marriage" in the eyes of God.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Bishop of Canterbury
Dr Rowan Williams was known to have liberal views on the issue of homosexuality when he was appointed as archbishop in 2002.

In private correspondence, seen by the Daily Telegraph, Dr Rowan Williams, refutes the Anglican Communion’s traditional teaching that homosexuality is sinful.

Furthermore, he expresses his hope that the Church will change its position to be more accepting of gay partnerships.

His comments – made in a letter written shortly before he became Archbishop of Canterbury – will infuriate the conservatives who boycotted the recent Lambeth Conference in protest at the presence of liberals who elected Anglicanism’s first openly gay bishop.

Leading evangelicals have claimed that he is in an "untenable position".

"The Bible does not address the matter of appropriate behaviour for those who are, for whatever reason, homosexual by instinct or nature," Dr Williams writes.

"By the end of the 80s I had definitely come to the conclusion that scripture was not dealing with the predicament of persons whom we should recognise as homosexual by nature.

"I concluded that an active sexual relationship between two people of the same sex might therefore reflect the love of God in a way comparable to marriage, if and only if it had the about it the same character of absolute covenanted faithfulness."

Although Dr Williams was known to have liberal views on the issue of homosexuality when he was appointed as archbishop in 2002, since moving to Canterbury he has tried to hold a traditional line for the sake of unity in the Church.

However, he makes clear in the letter that he believes that the Church could relax its strict teaching with time.

"The Church has shifted its stance on several matters – notably the rightness of lending money at interest and the moral admissibility of contraception so I am bound to ask if this is another such issue," he says.

"If I am really seriously wrong on this, I can only pray to be shown the truth."

Dr Williams is critical of those who have politicised the issue, "treating it as the sole or primary marker of Christian orthodoxy".

This will be perceived as an attack at conservative Anglican leaders who have since claimed that the Church is split following the consecration of Gene Robinson, the openly gay bishop of New Hampshire.

Conservative Anglican leaders said that the disclosure of the letter revealed the true mind of Dr Williams and significantly weakens his position as he battles to save the Church from schism.

The Rev Canon Chris Sugden, executive secretary of Anglican Mainstream – an orthodox group, said: "Clearly he is in a conflicted situation, while holding these personal convictions with the job description of the Archbishop of Canterbury to uphold the teaching of the church.

"It puts him in an untenable position that he has neither fulfilled the expectations of those who share his beliefs on this matter, to their considerable disquiet, and that his understanding of the concerns of the orthodox has not been met by the appropriate action. It’s an impossible situation."

The Most Rev Gregory Venables, a leading Anglican archbishop, said: "It’s no secret and no small matter that a significant part of the tension in the Anglican Communion is being played out in the heart of its leader."

Rod Thomas, chairman of the conservative evangelical group Reform, added: "Even if he formally holds to the church’s teaching that he personally disagrees with, one cannot but wonder whether his personal views affect the ways in which he tries to resolve difficulties.

"Instead of leading the church out of this crisis, we feel the Archbishop of Canterbury is prolonging it because of his personal unhappiness about disciplining a section of the church with which he personally agrees."

Read here http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/2512123/Archbishop-of-Canterbury-compares-gay-relationships-to-marriage.html

Monday, 4 August 2008

The Restoration of Israel by Gerhard Falk: A Book Review

The Restoration of Israel: Christian Zionism in Religion, Literature and Politics
Gerhard Falk. (New York, Peter Lang, 2006) 224 pages.
A Review for the Catholic Historical Review

Dr Gerhard Falk is a professor of Sociology at Buffalo State University, New York, and the author of 15 other books on a diverse range of subject including deviant nurses, football, grandparents, stigma, fraud, ageism and murder. In this particular book, he traces the influence of the Hebrew Bible in history and civilisation and then explores how Christians helped nurture and facilitate the return of Jewish people to Palestine, also called Restorationism. Further chapters evaluate Jewish support and Muslim resistance to the return.

At times Falk’s use of rather awkward terminology suggests he is either unfamiliar with Christianity or English or both. For example, two final chapters deal with what Falk describes as ‘Displacement’ and ‘Two-Covenant’ theology. The former is more usually referred to as ‘Replacement’ theology. On page 8 he also claims “It is surely no exaggeration to say that the growth of Christianity as a world religion depended as much on the satanization of the Jews as any other contributing factor.”
On page 158 he reinforces this by claiming the Roman Catholic Church, also “taught its billion followers to regard all Jews as ‘Christ killers’ with the consequence that Jews living at any time anywhere became the targets of revenge murders, finally resulting in the Holocaust. All this has been described in an avalanche of literature in every European language, far too voluminous to be reviewed here.”

Besides sweeping generalisations, simple factual errors abound. In the preface Falk refers to Tyndale but on the back cover calls him Tindale. Similarly John Wycliffe is given two different sets of dates. “(1320-1384)” on page vii and “(1325-1384)” on p.3.

As someone who has also written extensively on the subject of Christian Zionism, I examined his index and was initially gratified to find my name listed numerous times. However, on checking the references I discovered that without offering a single attributable quote, Mr Falk falsely libels me of being the 'leading Jew baiter in England' (p. 195) of defaming Judaism (p. 196) of 'hoping for the elimination of Israel' (p. 195), blaming the Jews for the destruction of the World Trade Centre (p. 195) and of repeating all the anti-Jewish polemics possible (p. 196). I must also deny his equally unfounded allegation that I am "the most influential Anglican preacher in England today" (p. 93). If only! Suddenly, remaining neutral and objective in writing this book review became rather personal.

I therefore wrote to Dr Falk inviting him to substantiate any of his allegations. I subsequently received a reply from Dr Heidi Burns, senior Editor of Peter Lang Publishing. It contained the wording of an errata sheet that they intended adding to supplies of the book. It listed the seven references to me and after each added, “I erroneously refer to the Rev. Stephen Sizer… This is not the case. It is an error.” The concluding sentence stated “In short, the author apologizes for mentioning these matters and believes that all references to the Rev. Sizer are not supported by the evidence.” In a subsequent letter, probably designed to dissuade me from initiating a libel action, Dr Falk confessed, “I must say that I am astonished that anyone would be interested in reviewing my book since it has been my experience that my writings have a tiny audience and have little impact on the events of this world.”

For someone who has allegedly picked up awards for "Excellence on Scholarship and Research", I can only deduce that Mr Falk has, on this occasion, to put it charitably, relied too heavily on secondary sources or his imagination. These errata comments, although welcome, do not give this particular reviewer much confidence as to the reliability of other sources quoted which I am unable to substantiate. Other Jewish academics – notably, Dan Cohen-Sherbok and Gershom Gorenberg, together with Timothy Weber and Victoria Clark provide a more reliable assessment of Christian Zionism than Gerhard Falk. I recommend therefore he sticks to sociology and avoids writing on theology in the future.