The Learning & Turning Corner

Spiritual Instruction for Those Called to Restore Israel


Christ at the Checkpoint: the Failing Experiment

by Hannah Weiss


The great Christian-Messianic-Zionist reconciliation experiment at Bethlehem Bible College
is about to open a third round.

Both Zionists and anti-Zionists have declared the last Conference an inspiring success.

But measuring those claims by the declared goals of both sides instead shows a series of disturbing failures
….along with one alarming success.


The Two-Year Old Debate Returns

The last Christ at the Checkpoint Conference took place in 2012 (5-9/march). In a hopeful move that is still highly controversial, a small contingent from Israel's Messianic community attended, supporting the Conference goal of “an open forum for ongoing dialogue between all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum.” 

Here in Israel and abroad, a vigorous debate went on among Messianic believers about the wisdom and/or the effectiveness of their participation. Observing the one-sided report issued after CatC 2012, many of the brethren suspected that the Israeli Messianic contingent was being used as “a fig leaf” to deflect charges of anti-Israel bias. For example:

The Israelis in question published a joint Response, testifying of a positive experience and admonishing critics to not jump to conclusions.
(A Brief Response, )

Non-believers also commented on this “internal Christian debate,” particularly the media watchdog group, Committee on Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), which sent an observer to the Conference.

As an Israeli believer with an eye on the dhimmitude position of Christians under the PA regime and its inevitable effect on the Conference, I posted two articles contributing a different perspective, and issuing a challenge to those from Israel and the West, who enjoy greater freedom of speech.

“A Tale of Two Palestinian Theologies”

“Checkpoint Checkup: One Month Later”

The buzz on CatC 2012 more or less faded after a few weeks. Now two years have passed, a new CatC is on the horizon (taking place 10-14/march, 2014), and the same questions are resurfacing with new urgency.

They are legitimate concerns, since the previous Conference failed to meet many of its stated goals… and the Messianic contingent failed to notice.

The Conference Manifesto: from Honest Intention to Window Dressing

The over-arching goal of the Conference was “serious engagement with Christian Zionism.” The Christian Zionist case was mainly presented by Wayne Hilsden, pastor at the English-speaking King of Kings Assembly in Jerusalem, so most of my observations focus on the interaction surrounding Hilsden’s presentation. You can watch the videos of your choice at:

Manifesto Point 11. Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.

The Messianic visitors were satisfied that “we were treated with respect.” (Response, see the link above) Yet the moderate Christian Zionist viewpoint of Wayne Hilsden was repeatedly labeled “stupid” by Dr. Manfred Kohl, who spoke immediately after Hilsden (

The above Manifesto Point, which defines these theological differences as “secondary” to our common faith in Messiah, also bit the dust when Kohl denounced Christian Zionists as deniers of Christ: “To jump from the Divine encounter in Genesis 12 to the modern secular state of Israel is to nullify God’s intervention in Jesus Christ.” (time-mark 21:00)

In fact, Kohl questioned the Messianic faith of those who believe that any of the Old Covenant is still physically relevant: “To insist on holding onto some parts of the Old Covenant means to not recognize Jesus in His totality.” (10:56)

Ironically, Kohl’s lecture was entitled, “Theology of the Land as a Dividing Issue.”

Manifesto Point 3. Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Kohl’s dogmatic rhetoric was accompanied by a denial of Replacement Theology; he announced that its proper name is “Fulfillment Theology” (after which Kohl used “fulfilled” interchangeably with “annulled” or “ended”). For Kohl, a casualty of that “fulfillment” is “the Israel of the Old Covenant.”

This effectively annuls Jewish identity, as well as the above Conference Manifesto Point… because the “racial ethnicity” of today’s Jews as a nation requires “parts of the Old Covenant” which in Kohl’s view are ended.

Manifesto Point 10. Any challenge of the injustices taking place in the Holy Land must be done in Christian love. Criticism of Israel and the occupation cannot be confused with anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.

For New Testament Professor Gary Burge, “Fulfillment Theology” doesn’t go quite as far as Kohl takes it. Burge recognized a group he occasionally called “the people of Israel” or “the Jewish people”. He insisted that his expectation for them to receive the spiritual promises without the national promises is not “supersessionism” (the academic term for replacing the Jewish people with the church). He emphasized this in his own lecture, and repeatedly in the Q&A session (, time-mark 9:30, 28:20).

But in his diagram illustration of Israel’s eventual salvation (29:10), Burge does replace the Jewish nation with the church. In his timeline, the physical descendents of Abraham are “Judaism” [sic], who only receive the name “Israel” when they join with the church. Thus the “delegitimization of the State of Israel” decried in the Conference Manifesto is legalistically avoided, while the roots of that state in Biblical history are erased – including its rightful name (Ps.83:4). I point out the hidden political implications of this view later.

The Conference Q&A: From Dialog to Indoctrination

Wayne Hilsden, who definitely does not share Burge’s view on the “Children-of-Judaism”, seemed distracted by Burge’s constant linkage of this national erasure from biblical prophecy with another hot topic: Israel’s need to receive their Messiah in order to be saved, also based on biblical prophecy. On the second issue, Hilsden stated (10:30), “I love that diagram…We’re on the same page.” Then (apparently unaware of Burge’s error-filled book that demonizes Israel, mentioned below) Hilsden exonerated Burge from public charges of being anti-Israel.

Burge’s response (11:25) was not affirmation of common ground or thanks for the volunteered defense; instead he took back the mike and once again repeated his own position against the biblical basis of modern Israel, as if to draw Hilsden onto “the same page” there also.

To this observer, the exchange resembled less a dialog than an indoctrination exercise.

Burge kept repeating the CatC-approved position… never modifying, only clarifying; meanwhile, with each round of repetition, Hilsden made incremental movements toward Burge’s immovable view.

Hilsden once (10:40) tried to imply that Burge had also moved, with the challenge that “I’m hearing new stuff.” But in the next breath he conceded that perhaps it was his own ignorance of Burge’s position that made it sound new: “Maybe you’ve been saying this for a long time.” Burge nodded approvingly, as if to confirm that there was nothing “new” here other than Hilsden’s first steps toward a more enlightened viewpoint on Israel/Palestine.

Whether it was the strain of standing alone in defense of the land-based prophecies, or from too much time spent in the spiritual fog of gushy compliments, at one point Hilsden began to modify his own position… and didn’t seem aware that he was doing it.

After reviewing his peculiar “Judaism” timeline (29:30), Burge repeated his position that the secular state of Israel is not the fulfillment of prophecy or the heir to the promises made to “Abraham and Moses [sic].” Nor did he accept the “land theology” of Israel. He conceded (30:00) that “God has a purpose for Judaism in history,” implying that the only Jewish identity mandated by the Bible is a religious system never mentioned in the Bible.

When asked by the moderator to respond once again to Burge, Hilsden this time (31:20) focused on Israel’s sins, rather than God’s promise, as the validation of the return to the Land: “Some sinful, less-than-ideal entity has to be in the Land for this [the self-loathing of Ezekiel 36] to be fulfilled… So if it’s not this state, it’s another terrible state; and I would hate to think it’s a worse one.”

Besides slipping into a dehumanized description of the Israeli people as an “entity”, Hilsden’s comments gave the unfortunate impression that he finds it hard to imagine a country treating its Arab Christians worse than Israel currently does. But this was and is the opinion of the CatC organizers, and it was slowly but surely seeping into the comments of Wayne Hilsden.

And here we observe the one undisputed success in achieving a declared Conference goal: to “motivate participants to become advocates for the reconciliation work of the church” as defined by the CatC “fulfillment theology” and “Palestinian narrative”.

This “motivating” influence of CatC on this earnest brother is highlighted by the fact that only six months previous, Wayne Hilsden had revealed to Charisma Magazine a very different “Palestinian Christian narrative”: the under-reported news that many would apparently prefer “the Israeli occupation” over PA rule, due to Israel’s decent treatment of its Arab citizens.

Hilsden says Arab pastors who work closely within the Palestinian territories have found the majority of Arabs would rather be under Israeli rule, but many are afraid to publicly side with the Jewish nation.

“Israel treats them as equal citizens,” Hilsden says. “They’re able to get social benefits that they would never get under Palestinian rule. And if you go to most of the surrounding countries where Arabs live today, you’ll see that they’re living at a lower standard of living than Palestinians living in east Jerusalem and the so-called territories.”

Messianic Pastor Seeks Truth in Middle East Conflict (3/October/2011)

Yet Conference motivator Gary Burge seemed to conclude that Hilsden still hadn’t moved far enough. In response to Wayne’s proposal that Israel needed to be in the Land for “self-loathing” purposes, Burge once again took the mike (32:00) and rejected the relevance of anything in Ezekiel 36 to Israel’s national future, since these Old Testament prophecies “are post-exilic” and “were realized in Christ”. In effect, Burge asserted that even a saved and repentant nation of Israel would not be entitled to repossess the land of their forefathers… not now, not ever.

And then he again went to work on Hilsden. He suggested that “it would be very easy” from this point to completely adopt the CatC view: allow for “the political legitimacy of Israel” as it is today, but deny that this country could have any “spiritual significance of what God is doing in Israel,” which is strictly among individuals.

Here would have been the ideal place to discuss passages such as Jeremiah 31:35-36, which declares Israel to be “a nation” in God’s eyes for as long as the sun and moon are functioning.

Hilsden’s answer: “God is able in His sovereignty to use all kinds of unexpected entities for the working of His plan, including speaking through donkeys… Somehow He’s able to take the state of Israel, that’s not perfect, and somehow bring out His plans.”

By now Wayne’s earlier confidence in Ezekiel 36, God’s plan that required the Jewish return to the Land, was eroded to a hope that God will improvise some way to include in His plans the “unexpected entity” of the reborn Jewish nation.

To be fair, I’m not sure that any Messianic leader could have held his ground under the spiritual, social and psychological pressure that faced Wayne Hilsden. That’s why all future speakers from our community would do well to study his experience and draw the proper conclusions.

The Double-Speak Theology of Gary Burge

Manifesto Point 10. Any challenge of the injustices taking place in the Holy Land must be done in Christian love. Criticism of Israel and the occupation cannot be confused with anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.

The red-highlighted text is a personal credo of Gary Burge, who has invested a good deal of effort in denying that he – or anyone at the CatC Conference – is against the Jewish people. The protest is explicit in his book, Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told about Israel and the Palestinians :

Evangelicals opposed to the secular nationalism of Israel are not discriminating against the Jews as a people. On the contrary, evangelical critics are expressing dissatisfaction with the behavior of a nation that ought to know better - a nation whose possession of the Scriptures ought to give it more light. (p.258)

So secular Israel is held by Burge to be legitimate as a political reality, but is weighed and found wanting by an odd yardstick: scriptures which once upon a time connected Israel’s conduct with a promise of restoration to their homeland… but which are now, in his view, irrelevant for the future of the Jewish state.

Put another way, he is not only demanding that the Jews to keep their end of a national covenant that no longer exists, but the bar of obligation is set higher for Israel than for any other nation (for example, the emerging Palestinian nation). And the only reason is that Israel once had these obsolete promises as an exclusive possession.

Whether Professor Burge realizes it or not, penalizing the Jewish state in a unique way for moral imperfections shared by all states, and citing its Jewish background as the only justification for that unique penalty, is “discriminating against the Jews as a people.” It is nothing less than political anti-Semitism.

The anti-Jewish element is revealed by Burge’s lack of context, which should compare Israel’s shortcomings to the moral failings of the Christian nations, who likewise have had “possession of the Scriptures” for hundreds of years – plus the greater Light of Messiah.

The anti-Israel bias in Burge’s thinking is revealed in a string of persistent factual errors published in several editions of his above-mentioned book. For documentation, see the CAMERA report:
“Wheaton College Punts on Burge's Errors, Another One Revealed”

We would like to assume that Burge’s errors were a result of ignorance. Although that would bring his scholarship into serious disrepute, it would at least absolve him of willfully misleading his readership. But Burge himself does not allow us that charitable luxury.

After correcting the errors pointed out by CAMERA in 2007, he published a new “revised” edition in November 2013, in which he repeated other errors from previous editions, and managed to add some new ones. Without exception, all the inaccuracies are defamatory to the Israelis.

You can read his recent dismissal of this new list of wrong and misleading statements, a response which CAMERA characterizes as “simply not that of a scholar interested in the facts.”
“Gary Burge’s Missed Opportunity,” (31/dec/13)
( )

His publisher, Pilgrim Press, originally agreed to distribute new copies with an insert listing the factual errors, implicitly acknowledging that there is a problem. Later they reversed their decision because they anticipated that the author would not consent to it.

Others have commented on Gary Burge’s tasteless Jew-baiting stories which he included in his CatC presentation, based on his encounters with Jews in Israel. “Recalling those encounters, Burge emphasized time and again the ‘fun’ that he got from subjecting his Jewish counterparts to ridicule.” (“Gary Burge: Not Sent by Heaven”, Gatestone Institute, 9/nov/12,

Readers can judge Burge’s attitude for themselves by watching his lecture: (time-mark 4:00 to 7:50)

(The video is no longer available at the CatC site or on Vimeo)

Ridicule of the Jewish concept of Shabbat “work” by a clueless Christian, who has no idea what “melachah” means, might be forgiven. The assumptions that the Zionist Jews he met would have no moral standards in claiming their inheritance might... with somewhat greater effort... be overlooked. What is not excusable is the double-speak about land entitlement based on Old Covenant promises.

In his lecture (13:00), Burge emphasized that those who conduct themselves as Abraham did will inherit Abraham’s promises as his spiritual descendants (including entitlement to the land). But elsewhere he denies that same entitlement to any of Abraham’s physical descendants (regardless of their conduct). Here he quotes Paul (21:30) as proof that this covenant “cannot be annulled”… for the Christians. In the Q&A, he insists that these Old Covenant promises are not relevant… for the Jews.

Stephen Sizer, High Priest of Christian Hypocrisy

In any case, Gary Burge’s attitude pales next to that of British Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer.

Sizer’s reputation for anti-Semitic statements based on fabricated events is firmly established. Just one randomly selected interview (“Waking People Up to Reality”, 6/june/11) was brimming with examples.

Sizer dismissed both the idea of the Jews being God’s “chosen people” and there being any covenant that deeds the Promised Land to them – he called both ideas “rubbish” and insisted that the Old Testaments mentions no such thing.

He speculated that Israel’s PM Netanyahu received standing ovations while speaking to the American Congress only “because the Israel lobby buys every single politician.”

He rejected Zionism on the pretext that only Jews are given Israeli citizenship: “What about Arabs born in Israel? They are not Jewish. Does that mean that because they are not Jews they can't be Israeli citizens?”

Yet Sizer joins Burge in declaring, hand on heart, that he is not anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish. And to prove it, he posted a series of ringing endorsements of himself. The one relevant to my analysis is from Sizer’s fellow-cleric who had attended the 2012 CatC, and who recruited Hilsden and the other Messianic participants as second-hand witnesses of Sizer’s innocence:

Stephen also chaired a panel session which included a prominent Messianic Jewish leader, Wayne Hilsden. I would be utterly astonished if Wayne or any of the other Messianic believers who joined us at CATC would agree with the claim that Stephen is anti-Semitic.

“Jeremy Moodey Challenges Allegations of Anti-Semitism [against Sizer]” 6/april/12
[ ]

The alert bloggers at the Rosh Pina Project, in response to this claim, reported to the contrary:

Both Evan Thomas who is a Messianic Jew and Wayne Hilsden, who is not a Messianic Jew, admitted (in emails RPP saw prior to CaTC) attending Christ at The Checkpoint despite Sizer’s presence. One of them went so far as to categorize Sizer’s crusading against Israel and her Christian supporters as evil. Evan Thomas wrote “Frankly I think Sizer is unhelpful to the Palestinian Christians (to say the least) and I suspect his goals are quite self-serving.”

…Those Messianic Jews who went to CaTC…went to reach out to Palestinian Christians, not to be used by Sizer and his supporters.


“We trust that in the context of such relationships we will be able to address in greater depth the serious issues that concern the messianic body, both of a theological nature and existential threats and attacks against the nation of Israel.” (A Brief Response, Hilsden et al.)

Far from being influenced by his exposure to Messianic dialog at CatC 2012, Stephen Sizer’s more recent comments on Zionism have become (if it’s possible) even more blatantly libelous.

In a recent interview (feb.2014) he asserted that the two blue stripes on the Israeli flag represent the “expansionist plans” of Zionism (the “two rivers” mentioned by God as the borders of the Promised Land in Gen.15:18), and that this secret agenda – not international pressure to negotiate borders – is why Israel “refuses” to unilaterally declare its borders.

Sizer also bluntly stated that Christian Zionist theology “has led to the extinction of the Palestinian Christian community’” and that “the Zionist lobby” tries to stir up trouble between Christians and Muslims.

Anyone who doubts that Stephen Sizer, an organizer and a revered name at CatC, is both anti-Semitic and fond of lying should watch this entire interview:

Of special note was a question asked by the interviewer Hassan Alkatib (time-mark 12:18), implying that Theodore Herzl got his idea for the Jewish state from Nazi Germany’s racist ideology. Sizer’s answer neither confirmed nor denied this outrageous question, nor did he educate the uninformed boy by pointing out that Nazi Germany arose some 30 years after Herzl died. Instead, this Anglican vicar in good standing responded with: “Well, it’s ironic that in the first world war…” (another event unrelated to Herzl, who died in 1904!)

Despite the abundant evidence confirming Evan Thomas’s earlier (quite charitable) assessment of this man as “unhelpful to the Palestinian Christians,” the indoctrinating atmosphere of the Conference worked its influence on this Messianic brother as well. By the time Evan actually faced Stephen Sizer in an interview during CatC 2012, he was endorsing Sizer’s take on Zionist oppression, describing the security barrier between Israel and the PA not as a necessary evil that has reduced terror attacks by 90 percent, but as “an entity [sic] that really holds our two communities hostage.” ( , mark 1:40)

Manifesto Point 8. There are real injustices taking place in the Palestinian territories and the suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored. Any solution must respect the equity and rights of Israel and Palestinian communities.

It’s possible that Evan Thomas, a long-time Israeli citizen who has visited Bethlehem before and who spoke at CatC 2012, never walked along the “separation wall” which is blamed for so much “injustice” and “suffering”. But those living and teaching in Bethlehem know that a short drive south or east would have had their guests wondering what in the world became of “the Wall enclosing Bethlehem”.

Contrary to the impression given by the Bethlehem “hostages” attending the Conference, the security wall does not enclose the city; it runs along the north and west sides only. The Israeli government and the human rights organization B’Tselem show the same map:

This mythical part of the “injustices taking place” is recycled for CatC 2014 in a promotional video by Alex Awad, who knowingly misrepresents the wall as “surrounding Bethlehem”. ( , time mark 0:23)

Manifesto Point 9. For Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.

The security wall is only one element in Munther Isaac’s factually challenged personal narrative relating to “the occupation”. Here are the major items.

In his presentation, which Isaac introduces as his own personal experience, he dates his family’s suffering back to 1948. But in 1948 Bethlehem, Beit Sahour (Isaac’s hometown) and East Jerusalem were “occupied” by Jordan, not Israel. So the pain Isaac refers to dating from 1948 would have been suffered under Jordanian rule. In fact, he does give thought to the other occupations. He mentions (Q&A, 15:40) the occupying powers of the Ottomans and the British… and then came Israel.

The Israeli “occupation” of Bethlehem and Beit Sahour began in 1967, as history shows. But for the next 30 years there was no such thing as “the apartheid wall”, which was built only in 2003. Yet from Isaac’s narrative, the uninformed might easily conclude that the wall has been there since the Israelis arrived “in 1948”.

Another anomaly is that the Bethlehem area passed peacefully to PA control on December 21, 1995. Incredible as this sounds, the site of the Conference has been “liberated from Israeli occupation” for more than 17 years…raising a question about the location of the currently “occupied lands” which the CatC speakers would still like to see “liberated”.

Most curious of all is the infamous wall-and-tower barrier itself, which as I noted was not erected until 2003 – 36 years after the hated “Israeli occupation” began, and eight years after it ended! This debunks the claim that Israel built that wall for any reason other than the circumstances of 2002: the near-daily terror attacks coming from PA-controlled lands. And far from being held a prisoner behind that wall, Munther Isaac had enough freedom of movement to come and go via Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport and earn two advanced degrees in the USA and UK.

This obsession with an “occupation” that doesn’t occupy their town, represented by an “oppressive wall” that only goes around halfway around Bethlehem, is doubly absurd. But it is shared by the Bethlehem Bible College leadership; see Alex Awad’s introduction to CatC 2014 ( ), in which he sadly mentions “the occupation that is stealing most of our lands,” along with the predictable linkage to the tyrannical wall… which somehow fails to prevent members of the College faculty from traveling around the world and returning to Bethlehem.

Manifesto Point 8. There are real injustices taking place in the Palestinian territories and the suffering of the Palestinian people can no longer be ignored. Any solution must respect the equity and rights of Israel and Palestinian communities.

What about the acknowledgement of “the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure borders”, which appeared for the first time in the 2012 Conference report? As I see it, this concession to the Zionist dialog partners only serves to hide the subtle implication of the CatC theology.

As demonstrated repeatedly by Wheaton College Professor Gary Burge, anyone may recognize the political legitimacy of the state of Israel while denying its biblical legitimacy. This prepares the way for an ominous conclusion:

While the Jews deserve a state of their own, there is no reason for Israel to exist within these particular borders, since they were dredged up from irrelevant prophecies. Some other geographical location would do just as well, especially since the current borders cannot be made “secure” (due to violent objections from “the indigenous peoples” in the region).

And what of Palestinian rights? As noted above in Wayne Hilsden’s 2011 report to Charisma Magazine, there are competing Palestinian narratives that are being overlooked, or even denied.

In personal off-site dialog with a CatC participant, I was perplexed by an unexplained dismissal of the narrative of Naim and Steven Khoury, Palestinian Christian pastors who also live in Bethlehem. While Munther Isaac’s narrative was accepted as beyond question, Khoury’s first-person testimony of suffering at the hands of the Palestinian Authority was received with “reservations about the accuracy [because of] absolutely no documentation.”

Yet when documentation was presented by Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, appearing in the Wall Street Journal around the same time as the 2012 Conference, this was likewise rejected as “full of inaccuracies and even lies.” (Munther Isaac’s blog, “Faith Under Occupation, 24/mar/12)

Alternate Voices for Palestinian Rights

Thankfully, the issue of Bethlehem’s oppressed Christian community continues to be discussed, with or without the participation of the Bethlehem-based Conference. Here is an article by an Italian journalist, aired shortly after the 2012 CatC:,7340,L-4221651,00.html

There are other Palestinian voices finding their way out of the news blackout as well, via advocates like Justus Reid Weiner, an international authority on the developing situation of Palestinians. Over the last decade he has published some enlightening research which includes personal testimony from Palestinian residents within shouting distance of the CatC venue, none of whose voices were heard by Conference participants:

More recently, the Messianic organization Jerusalem Institute of Justice has done excellent work in taking the case of Palestinian rights to college campuses and other forums abroad. Some of the video presentations can be accessed here:

In short, Christian Zionists do not have to choose between supporting the Israeli return and supporting Palestinian rights; this myth exists at CatC but no longer has exclusive entitlement as “the” Palestinian Christian narrative.

“We trust that in the context of such relationships we will be able to address in greater depth the serious issues that concern the messianic body, both of a theological nature and existential threats and attacks against the nation of Israel.” (A Brief Response, Hilsden et al.)

Speaking right after Manfred Kohl, Munther Isaac presented his own theological position. He was not intimidated by Kohl's condemnation of anyone “holding onto some parts of the Old Covenant”. Isaac declared that he never believed the Jewish nation was replaced by the church: “I read my Bible literally”.

But Isaac’s commitment to literal interpretation lacked the “depth” anticipated by the Messianic participants. In fact, its most outstanding element was its inconsistency.

Although he accepts as literal the OT prophecies that Jesus “will rule over the ends of the earth”, Isaac does not accept as literal the OT prophecies about Israel’s return to their land; these, he said, are speaking only of the Jews’ “spiritual restoration”. And yet, he does accepts the prophecy (Ezek.47:21-23) that the strangers born in physical Israel will literally inherit land along with physical Israel – and he asks the audience why that’s not happening (as if Israel does not have 1.6 million Arab citizens, many of whom are property owners, and some of whom serve in the courts, the police force, the Knesset, and even the IDF).

No challenge to his rhetorical question was heard from those who had attended for the express purpose of “addressing” this sort of garbled theology and fantasized reality.

Reconciliation that Validates Friendship at the Expense of Truth

In a private exchange after the Conference, a friend who had been there (I was not) defended such silence with the rationale, “Reconciliation begins with a willingness to listen to the other side without prejudging. Granting validity is a further step in the process.”

While this is a good rule for getting to know someone, it’s a dead-end in this case. In God’s kingdom, all sorts of statements can be heard, but only true statements can be validated.

And anyway, on the CatC side of the dialog the expressed purpose of the “serious engagement with Christian Zionists” is not to understand and validate the Zionist viewpoint but to invalidate it. To describe CatC as anything like a joint search for truth is to indulge in wishful thinking, while the names and reputations of Messianic leaders are used to neutralize rightful accusations of anti-Semitic lapses in truth-telling.

We hope and pray that our willingness to accept the invitation to participate in the conference has opened a door for us to strengthen genuine relationships with our Arab brothers and sisters. (Response)

Genuine relationships without faithfulness to truth are toxic. They open the door to accepting relative “truth” based on any given “narrative”, no matter how contradictory, in order to preserve the relationship.

As we noted above, Wayne Hilsden’s presentation of biblically-based Zionism had no discernible impact on the other speakers endorsing “Fulfillment Theology”. On the contrary, his opponents began to have an impact on him.

This reached a troubling point during the Q&A (, 22:00-26:00). As mentioned above, Hilsden began to refute Burge’s denial of Israel’s biblical legitimacy by reading Ezekiel 36, which speaks of unredeemed Israel returning to the land as they return to God. Commenting partway through the reading, Hilsden noted that Israelis themselves are realizing that “Zionism without God… is unraveling day by day.”

But the Divine prediction of a firmly land-based Zionism with God gave way to “reconciliation” needs when Hilsden reached verse 37 (23:50). Looking down at his Bible, he read: “I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them…” and then he looked up and paraphrased the rest: “…He will respond with salvation.”


The passage reads: “I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them: I will increase their men like a flock. Like a flock of holy sacrifices in Jerusalem on its feast days, so will the ruined cities be filled with flocks of men.”

My purpose in this article is not to badger either Wayne Hilsden or Evan Thomas for what were probably moments of weakness under extreme pressure. I doubt that I would have done any better in that spiritual environment. My purpose is to underline a vital lesson to be learned:

Any “reconciliation” effort that requires us to listen “without passing judgment” regarding truth and lies will eventually require us to repeat the lies as truth… and disown the truth as lies.

Where does the truth end and the lie begin?

No thinking Israeli – and as Hilsden commented in the Q&A, very few Christian Zionists – would deny that the Jewish state, like every other nation on earth, falls short of moral perfection and surrender to God.

But Ezekiel 36-37 takes that situation into account when predicting the physical return of Israel – which is ordained for the sake of vindicating God’s Name, not Israel’s.

Receiving Messiah is spiritually vital for Israel’s full restoration, and the nation’s spiritual awakening and cleansing is linked in Scripture to the physical return to the Land. But receiving Messiah is not mentioned anywhere in Scripture as a requirement for repossessing the physical Land of Israel.

An Assessment that is Overdue

The impact of the conference has yet to be assessed. But those of us who took part were particularly impressed with the genuine attempts to meet with Messianic Jews and Christian supporters of Israel, and begin a dialogue(Response, Hilsden et al.)

During the 2012 Conference, a question came from the audience to Hilsden (Q&A, 25:10): “How do you explain the intense hostility of many Messianic Jews to this conference?”

Wayne answered that he in fact had gained the support of some who initially opposed his participation, by explaining his conviction that God was sending him. On the other hand, he emphasized that he did not represent the Messianic community “or anyone.”

Then he predicted, “I think we are going to see much more support for this kind of dialog” in the future, presumably because of his participation in the CatC experiment.

Nevertheless, the Response was written after returning from the Conference, and was a defense against continuing criticism – now based on observing what had taken place at CatC. The Response held on to the optimism, but admitted that it would take time to test it against reality. So here are some relevant questions.

One: Has the dialog been given a chance to take root, or was the Messianic input an empty exercise?

Following the Conference, the Messianic community’s “integral contribution”, which was hailed in the Conference Report, appears nowhere in that report.

Over the past two years, not a single word of the CatC Manifesto has been changed or added to reflect that “dialog”.

The broad “evangelical theological spectrum” which they were proud to host has received no hearing on the CatC site to date. The Manifesto still brands the Messianic position as invalid:

Manifesto Point 5. Any exclusive claim to land of the Bible in the name of God is not in line with the teaching of Scripture.

Two: How “genuine” was the Conference attempt to stay “in line with the teaching of Scripture”?

The Conference organizers had already settled on a “theology of the land” formulated by Dr. Salim Munayer, which asserts that the scriptural promises of a homeland, first given to Israel, apply to all peoples; and the condition for any nation keeping possession of its inheritance of land is God’s standard of moral behavior. (For a summary of Munayer’s presentation and a link to his paper, read my analysis from 2012:

But the Conference organizers also subscribe to the “fulfillment theology” expressed by Professor Gary Burge, which contends that these same land-based promises are not earthly at all; since being “fulfilled” in Christ, they refer to a heavenly land, which is inherited by receiving salvation in Messiah.

The contradictions in the two theologies are resolved in a peculiar way that has yet to be challenged by straight-thinking theologians.

Burge’s theology denies Israel’s claim to the Promised Land because “fulfillment” of the Old Covenant has made those promises obsolete. However, there seems to be no trouble allowing Munayer’s “theology of the land” to resurrect those promises for exclusive Palestinian use, particularly the Abrahamic covenant which includes inheriting this land.

Munayer’s theology derives the Palestinian right to share Israel’s unique covenant by spiritualizing it out of the Jewish scriptures, gifted to “spiritual Israel” of all nations. But there is no talk of co-sharing the Holy Land with the billions of Christians around the world; the land-based promise is re-physicalized and re-gifted to the physical, secular Palestinian people. Meanwhile, the Jewish right to “share” (not possess) the physical Land is allowed on a humanitarian basis, but any appeal to biblical grounds was dismissed as a “misapplication” of the land covenants… unless the Palestinians are named as the possessors, who may graciously offer to share the land with the Jews.

Three: What is the price of this type of “reconciliation”?

These ideas ultimately endanger not only the Jewish people in the land, but also the Christian communities the Conference claims to be supporting and nurturing.

After asserting that Israel does not meet the moral standards connected with inheriting the Promised Land (despite accommodating 1.6 million Arabs as full citizens), the inheritance of Abraham is awarded to a people that has so far demonstrated abysmal moral corruption in governance, a Sharia-based caste system that classes Munayer’s spiritual brethren as inferior, and a declared policy of Judenrein territory that takes Palestine beyond the quintessential “apartheid state” into unapologetic ethnic cleansing.

As I wrote two years ago, this is nothing less than a Palestinian version of blindly supportive Zionism. It has not changed. Without a truly prophetic challenge from trusted colleagues, leading to a holy fear of God, there is no reason for change.

Four: What might have been the “impact” of balanced Zionist Christians and Messianic Jews, if they hadn’t been bound by the CatC policy of building friendships at the expense of truth?

This is of course a theoretical question. We may never know.

The jumbled, hybrid “fulfillment theology of the land” and the legends of the “wall surrounding Bethlehem” were recited with a confidence that expected no challenge, while among the listeners the violence being done to truth was forgiven in the spirit of “reconciliation”.

As Munther Isaac remarked in the Q&A (33:00) after the debate between Hilsden and Burge on the validity of scriptures involving Israel: “It’s about us [the Palestinians] in the end… I’m not comfortable with opening a prophecy and drawing a straight line to 2012 AD.” And with that, the session ended.

In other words, CatC is declared to ultimately be not a dialog about what God wants, or what He has said concerning Israel and the nations, but about the comfort zone of one particular “narrative”… which has thus far placed a low value on the truth.

The Messianic participation in this display was hailed as a “breakthrough”, and indeed it was.

Their names have been a valuable commodity for countering charges of libel against Israel (after all, these are Israelis, and they found nothing offensive), to undermine Christian Zionist convictions (after all, these are believers, and they produced no convincing rebuttals), and to encourage more participation (after all, these are Israelis and believers who felt welcomed and appreciated).

As I write, additional Israeli Messianic leaders are preparing to speak at CatC 2014, namely Dan Juster and Oded Shoshani, who are joining Evan Thomas on the platform.

Rosh Pina Project is one of those Messianic groups monitoring the growing debate:


Messianic speakers at CatC are passively supporting two evils: a “theology” that perverts the Jewish scriptures on several levels, and a “narrative” that misrepresents the everyday reality of Israeli-Arab-Palestinian life.

The goal is presumably to build relationships and dialog with Palestinian brethren. But the resulting relationships cannot survive, the Palestinian cause cannot prosper, and (most important) God’s kingdom cannot be advanced, if truth is sacrificed on the altar of “reconciliation”.

We have to assume that the brothers who will be sitting on the platform this year are going with the best of intentions. Like the 2012 contingent from our community, they are convinced they can withstand the spiritual pressures and avoid the pitfalls described here.

Our job is to watch, pray, and track the results.

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