1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2014
Stephen Sizer (b. 1953): Zion’s Christian Soldiers. The Bible, Israel and the Church. Including “The Place of Israel” by John Stott (1921 – 2011). Nottingham: IVP Books, 2007. 199 pages, paperback. . ISBN 978-1-84474-214-1.
Let me first establish that despite the somewhat attention-drawing cover, this is in no way a sensationalist or in any way militaristic book. Rather the opposite: Stephen Sizer, vicar of an Anglican congregation in Virginia Water, Surrey, has written a very sober book that is both theologically and politically balanced. Despite this, the book has been seen as very controversial, and Sizer has himself has been subjected to some vitriolic attacks. Why?
This is how, as a Christian living in Germany, I would explain it: In 19th century Britain a form of Christian faith came into being which re-interpreted the Bible. The followers of this new approach were soon to be found in all churches and denominations, but their spiritual “home” was, from the beginning, the Brethren movement, whose founder, John Nelson Darby (1800 – 1882), is generally considered to be the first representative of “dispensationalism”, a system according to which the Bible, including the Old Testament, should always be taken “literally”. Darby’s ideas spread quickly abroad, above all in the United States, thanks to the notorious edition of the Bible published by that dubious “theologian”, Cyrus Ingerson Scofield (1843 – 1921). Scofield’s dispensationalism and, above all, his view of the “end times” soon became the accepted standard in evangelical, Bible-believing churches all over America. This view of things is still propagated today by the likes of Hal Lindsey, John Hagee and Tim LaHaye, whose books and sermons have been printed and distributed in their millions.
John Stott and Stephen Sizer, both evangelical, Bible-believing Christians, demonstrate in this book how seductively wrong the “dispensationalist” view really is. With the help of numerous Bible passages and a number of tables and diagrams, Sizer makes plain that those Christians who read “Israel” in the Bible and immediately conclude that the modern State of Israel must be meant, are totally in error. Sizer’s winsomely written Bible study makes plain that according to the New Testament, which must be the measure of all things in Christian theology, the Christian church is what Israel was in the Old Testament, namely God’s people. One-sided or radically fundamentalist support for modern Zionism not only contradicts the New Testament, but also leads to consequences that its followers seem not to have considered. Above all, those who would see a new, earthly temple built in Jerusalem are shown to be the victims of a heresy which, in fact, undermines the basic principles of the New Testament.
The fanciful interpretations of Biblical prophecy (and of the apocalyptic sections of Scripture) which often go along with this heretical view of things are shown to be nothing but “castles in the air” and are here demasked as being, ultimately, anti-Christian. Stephen Sizer is committed passionately to the Second Coming of Christ, but here demonstrates on the basis of sound hermeneutical principles and unambiguous New Testament statements that the above-mentioned American dispensationalists’ expectation of “the soon coming” of Christ and the end of all things are without Biblical foundation. John Stott’s sermon on the Bible and Israel, with which the book closes, is a model of clear-thinking logic and confirms everything Sizer has to say.
Anyone who accuses Sizer or Stott of “replacement theology” has obviously either not understood the book or is deliberately distorting the facts. At the end of the 20th century, the great divide between evangelical Christians was over the issue of “charismatic” or “not charismatic”. This appears to have changed at the beginning of the 21st century: The issue is now whether a Christian supports a serious covenant theology which takes account of the whole Bible in its context, or whether he continues his attachment to the obscure end-times interpretations and the one-sided pro-Israel politics of the dispensationalist school. Interestingly enough, there are both Charismatics and non-Charismatics on both sides of this dispute. I consider myself a Charismatic and would allow myself the following personal comment: It seems that the Holy Spirit does really grant an experience of the living Christ, but that he does not necessarily grant an understanding of the kind of sound theological principles which Stephen Sizer and John Stott present here with exemplary clarity.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 July 2014
Highly recommend this well written and plainly presented book. Systematically demonstrates the biblical view of end time events, Christian Zionism and the modern state of Israel. This will challenge your ideas and thinking. Well researched and cited. Mr Sizer throws down a gauntlet that you will have to pick up ! Find out if there are two plans of salvation at work in God's salvific plan for mankind. One of chosenness for the Jews and one by faith for the Gentile ? Understand fulfillment theology from the Old Testament to the New by hermeneutic and systematic study.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2014
The author of this book has been wrongfully maligned by pro Zionists as being an anti-semite. Nothing could be further from the truth. in fact it's the truth from this book that has them pointing the hateful fingers of accusation.
If you're serious about learning what the Bible has to say about God's chosen people then there is no better place to start than this fine piece of Bible teaching. Jews who reject Christ need to be saved as much as the next man....there is no special dispensation for anyone.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 10 February 2015
A very important message for the world is contained in this book, I have no hesitation in giving it 5 stars. Stephen Sizer is clearly aligned with the truth and wants to save lives and create peace. I think we should all listen and learn.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 2013
Author clearly explains from the Bible the place of Israel and it's relation to the Church. Stephen Sizer has great knowledge, humility and boldness to write these things. If you don't order the book, please at least read Ephesians chapter 2 slowly and prayerfully and see what God says there whether there are two God's chosen people or is it just one.
8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2008
Sizer has produced an excellent primer on understanding God's purposes for his people according to a covenantal understanding of Scripture. We are bombarded by the Christian Zionists who think that Scripture foretells the establishment of the present state of Israel and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Sizer tells us that the New Testament has no teaching about a return to the land. God's promises centre on Christ and his gospel going out into all the world. The church, uniting Jews and gentiles in one new people is now the Israel of God. He knows such a stance will be unjustly accused of anti-Semitism but he is in favour of the State of Israel existing and being able to live in peace with secure borders. He is no anti-Semite but a man concerned for peace in Jerusalem and justice for all. He views Zionism as inimical to the peace of the Middle East. He gives a biblical critique of the dispensational hermeneutic which sadly leads many Christians to support political Israel whether it is right or wrong in its policies. I note two minor omissions. There is no reference to the ultra-orthodox Lubavitch Jews who are not Zionists, nor is there any subject index.
17 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 24 March 2008
"Zion's Christian Soldiers" ought to be on the required reading list for all students of the Bible. Here is basic and fundamental methodology which challenges many evangelical assumptions about "end times prophecy." Here is a sound-minded, Christ-centered critique of a popularly accepted but nonetheless fatally flawed perspective that leads to many spiritual dysfunctions. If you find yourself troubled by saber-rattling political rhetoric coming from many pulpits, "Zion's Christian Soldiers" will reacquaint you with the Prince of peace. Greg Albrecht, President of Plain Truth Ministries, and Editor-in-Chief, The Plain Truth magazine.
"Thank God, here comes at last a book that challenges the pseudo-theology which, by giving precedence to the Old Covenant over the New, relegates the Church to the status of concubine in order to make Israel the Bride of Christ. In clear and measured terms, the author demonstrates from Scripture that God's purposes for history are not driven by a narrowly selective racist obsession but rather by his eternal design to create the Church, the new community dearly secured through the cross for all Christ-followers, both Jews and Gentiles." Professor Gilbert Bilezikian, Professor Emeritus, Wheaton College and a founding leader of Willow Creek Community Church, South Barrington, Illinois.
"In this very readable new work, Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer offers a biblically-based interpretation of the relationship of Israel and the Christian church. Turning to the current upsurge of Christian Zionism, Sizer examines its deeply flawed misreadings of key biblical texts and its troubling public-policy implications. Not only Sizer's fellow evangelicals, but everyone interested in this vital topic, will find Zion's Christian Soldiers an illuminating and highly valuable study." Professor Paul S. Boyer, James Pinckney Harrison Visiting Professor at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va., and editor-in-chief of "The Oxford Companion to American History"
"Few themes in biblical studies could be as important. Christian Zionism has brought to the church an interpretation of Israel and the Bible that future generations will criticize harshly. It is every Christian's obligation to understand what they are saying and how it should be evaluated. Writing in a style that is accessible to everyone -- and a passion that is sure to ignite strong responses -- Sizer outlines the landscape of the problem and its solution." Professor Gary M. Burge, Professor of New Testament, Department of Biblical & Theological Studies, Wheaton College & Graduate School.
'There can't be many other areas where interpretation of the Bible has such an obvious impact on attitudes to contemporary history and politics. Sizer has a remarkable gift for making complicated ideas thoroughly accessible and relevant. He has thrown down the gauntlet to a very significant section of the world-wide Christian community, and this book demands a considered response from them - and from every reader.' Colin Chapman, Lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Near East School of Theology, Lebanon.
"I strongly commend this new book by Stephen Sizer and urge all evangelical Christians to read it and consider its warning message. No issue arouses greater confusion and dissent among Christians than does Christian Zionism. Even to question its claims draws sharp opposition. Yet none threatens the future of positive Jewish, Christian and Muslim relationships than does that of Christian Zionism and its connection with the politics of the state of Israel. All too readily confusing labels and bitter acrimony encourage Christians to leave the issue alone, or to regard it as an intractable political problem which does not concern them. Stephen Sizer has shown the greatest courage in facing its challenges and in providing an informative, eirenic and readable exposition of what the issues are and how they have arisen. I urge it upon my fellow Christians to read this book and give it their closest attention." Professor Ronald E. Clements, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament Studies, King's College, University of London.
'Stephen Sizer's new study offers a fresh and insightful approach to reading the Bible. With magisterial skill he challenges Christian Zionists and provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the true meaning of Scripture.' Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Professor of Judaism and Director of the Centre for the Study of the World's Religions, University of Wales, Lampeter.
"Stephen Sizer deftly exposes the many exegetical missteps of contemporary Christian Zionists. He advocates a more just and Christ-centered alternative to the politically and ethically problematic views espoused by many contemporary end-times popularizers. I hope this book prompts a courageous and healthy re-thinking of Zionist theology towards a more constructive, biblical perspective." Dr Paul Copan, Associate Professor and Pledger Family Chair of Philosophy and Ethics Palm Beach Atlantic University West Palm Beach, Florida.
"This work deals expertly with a vital theme .... For this Christian zealotry perverts the truth of Christ in three tragic ways. It ignores or repudiates the equal stature under God of all peoples in nature and in grace; it flouts a Christian conscience by discounting injustice and oppression; and it sees no Christian ministry to the hope and pleas of original Zionism itself. Thus it darkly violates both Christian sympathy and Christian faith." The Right Reverend Kenneth Cragg, retired Assistant Bishop in Jerusalem
"In this seminal work based on a careful analysis of how the Bible explains the relationship between Israel and the Church, Stephen Sizer underscores crucial distinctions between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Just as it is a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to the horrors of anti-Semitism, so it is a grievous sin to turn a blind eye to a Zionist theology that divides people on the basis of race rather than uniting them on the basis of righteousness, justice and equity." Hank Hanegraaff, President of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast
"This subject deeply impacts the western world and the so-called "clash of civilisations". This book is a "must" for all those concerned about this vital subject." The Very Reverend Michael Harper, Dean of the British Antiochian Orthodox Deanery and a director of The Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, Wesley House, Cambridge.
"This is a clarion call to Evangelical Christians to study the Bible more carefully because of the political implications of their beliefs. Stephen Sizer shows that many Christians are espousing views, that they claim come from the Bible, that are in fact leading to bloodshed, dispossession and division in the Middle East. Stephen calls for a more careful look at the Bible that reflects the call of Jesus to be peacemakers." Garth Hewitt, Founder and International Director of the Amos Trust.
"Once again Stephen Sizer has produced a seriously worked out biblical theology which challenges some Christians who give uncritical support to the current political stance of Israel. We have here a serious biblical challenge, evangelical in character which, nevertheless, challenges certain kinds of fundamentalism, both theological and political. I commend Stephen's latest book warmly, not with the conviction that everyone will agree with it, but that all ought to engage in its argument for the very sake of the Peace of Jerusalem itself, now the Holy City of the three great monotheistic faiths, the faiths of the Children of Abraham." The Right Reverend Christopher Hill, Bishop of Guildford
Stephen Sizer's book "Zion's Christian Soldiers?" is a welcome addition to our Middle East reference books. We travel frequently to Israel/Palestine, sharing what we have seen and heard through power point presentations and commentary when we return Stephen Sizer has written a clear and understandable book that carefully compares scripture references which are often used by Christian Zionists who challenge our "ignorant" bias against Israel. Not realizing that the scripture references which are used as proof of our error, are taken from translations of the Bible that have been "edited and corrected" by their leaders. Since reading "Zion's Christian Soldiers?", I am better able to refute incorrect claims and not get defensive. As a lay-theologian, I needed a true theologian to teach me an accurate biblical response for such occasions. Sue Ellen Johnson, Retired Educator, Advisory Board of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding (EMEU)
12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 12 January 2010
The book is well-written, very interesting and readable. It makes some very strong points, but it falls down in one very major respect, such that the whole structure of his arguments collapses: he presents the view that the New Testament is a replacement for the Scriptures - this is replacement theology, and it is foolish. The covenants of God with Abraham, Isaac & Jacob have not been rescinded. God is faithful despite Israel's unfaithfulness, and Romans makes clear that the indigenous branches will be grafted back in before the end. He writes historicity rather than history with regard to the early church, and again fails to comprehend that the Church was firstly a Jewish Church, out of which, by the grace of God, the Gentile Church sprang. For most of the history of the Church under Roman persecution, when it was faithful & pure, it was regarded by the Romans as a sect of Judaism. Salvation is of the Jews. For all the author's excellent rhetorical style and many valid criticisms of Christian Zionism and Zionists, he has failed to honour the Jewish roots of the Church, and through excessive "spiritualizing" he has missed the centrality of the Hebrew people, the land of Canaan and the City of David in the purposes and Word of God, which is so blindingly obvious to one who is listening to the Spirit of God. Many of us have been called by the Lord to reach the "ends of the earth" but Sizer's work undermines the calling of those whom God has called to restore the children of Israel. This calling is valid and true in many cases, however badly those called to it may execute it!
Furthermore the current fulfilment of Biblical prophecy should not be so lightly dismissed as it is by Sizer, it is worthy of careful examination, if that is what you believe God wants you to be involved in. It is a classic example of "the missing middle" in post-Enlightenment modern and postmodern Christian writing.
For a truly Biblical and balanced approach from a man who is not nearly so good a writer, try the writings of Tom Hess, without prejudice.
Time will tell whether Sizer's ultimate conclusions are right, but I suspect that both he and the BBC (and the rest of the Politically Correct Western media) will be very surprised!
6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 2 October 2008
This book is a wonderful demolition of Christian Zionism, the asinine political / religious ideology that flies in the face of just about all of the New Testament in its attempt to claim that the state of Israel is a fulfilment of prophecy. Sizer's writing is cutting, his research is impeccable, and his courage in tackling this perverted theology is awesome. He takes pains to point out that he is not anti-Semitic - not that it does him any good; people throw mud all the same - and this masterful book should be recognised as a timely, important, and brave defence of sensible evangelical theology.
7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 9 April 2009
A serious book on a serius subject, but you can't help laughing when Sizer gets on to the special red heifer Zionists are looking for once the temple sacrifices are restored. I've heard Stephen Sizer speak a couple of times. He is very much the English clergy-man: softly spoken, sincere, excellent mastery of the facts, and a brilliant communicator, with a power point slide for virtually every sentence he utters. Read some of the stuff about him on the internet and you'd think he was a senior demon straight from hell: such is the rage his attack on Christian Zionism incites. In this book he completely dismantles the Biblical case for Zionism. In the first chapter he covers some basic hermeneutics, and then gets to work explaining what the key symbols in the Zionist movement should mean for Christians. The chosen people are the church, not Israel; the land is now the kingdom, open to all regardless of race, not a state smaller than Wales where only one race is welcome; Jerusalem is heaven; to advocate re-building the temple, as some do, is heresy: Jesus' broken body is the temple; and finally nobody knows about the details of Christ's return, but there is much to respond to in what we do know. Throughout Sizer makes disturbing references to what the impact of the heretical Christian Zionism is having on politics in the Middle East. Christians are called to be peace-makers, but the tragic irony of our generation is this wrong headed nonsense is perhaps one of the greatest obstacles to peace in the region. And there is continual reference to the Bible, indeed it is ultimately the Bible that shines through in this book, free from the sensationalist fare pedalled by the men with their eye on retirement in Palm Springs. And orthodoxy and so the book fittingly ends with a previously unpublished sermon by John Stott. You can't get more orthodox than him. To end with this is an absolute triumph, for Stott is the unconsecrated bishop of Protestantism, and if he is against the jamboree of Zionism, it really is time these people quietened down, and got back to some proper Bible study.