The Open Letter to Christian Zionists – a Response to the Response

Evangelical scholars David Gushee and Glen Stassen raised important questions for Christian Zionists in a recent open letter. A response defended Christian Zionism and critiqued the open letter. Unfortunately, it didn’t address the central issues raised by Stassen and Gushee. This reply to the response again raises the critical issues.

The responses that disagreed did not discuss the biblical passages, but shifted the topic to the politics of the present government of Israel and the West Bank, and Hamas, and whether Israel forced Palestinians out of their homes or not.
These are important topics, but we are hoping for biblical discussion.
What we are asking is whether our readers see Genesis 15 and 17 saying that Abraham is the father of many nations, with descendants as many as the stars of the universe. And whether the territory includes all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates, which of course includes many nations, most all Arab. We believe ours is the plain, literal reading. No one has explained a different reading in response.
And whether our readers see Jeremiah’s warnings differently than we do? And if so, how?

We need solutions in the Middle East that are pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-peace, and pro-justice – solutions that respect the human dignity of all, that excuse nobody’s violations of human rights, that avoid group punishment for the crimes of a few, and that seek peace through justice and reconciliation.
The reply continues:

Genesis 15:18 reads: “The Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to… the river Euphrates.’” That territory includes something like modern-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, half of Iraq, half of Egypt, parts of Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the occupied Palestinian territories. This verse must not mean all that land belongs only to Israel, because then the population of Israel would be 90 per cent Arab, and Israel would be an Arab country.
The next verse names the various peoples to whom the land belonged. Genesis 15:4-5 and 17:4 promise Abraham that his descendants will be a multitude of nations, as numerous as the stars of the heavens. The land belongs to many nations—Arabs as well as Israelis. Both Israel and Palestine have the human right to a state of their own, without occupation, and without violent attacks.
The promise to possess the land includes the offspring of Isaac, and the offspring of Isaac includes Esau, with his five Edomite sons and their offspring, and that includes multitudes of Canaanites (Gen. 17:19, 28:6-9, and chapter 36).
The prophets warned repeatedly that Israel’s ability to stay in the land depends on doing justice to the aliens in the land. We cited a few verses that say that (Jeremiah 6:6-8; 7:9-10 and 15), but in our longer version, we cite about fifteen different places where Jeremiah warns this repeatedly. Jesus prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed because they did not know the practices that make for peace (Lk 19:41-44). That is a call for all of us to learn the practices that make for peace, and prevent dangerous war.
What we deeply yearn for is an Israel that recovers the biblical vision of a nation that does justice and peace for its neighbors, and therefore that we all—Israelis and outsiders—can celebrate. So we can come streaming to Zion to learn the ways of the LORD, and nation will not take up sword against nation or learn war anymore (Isaiah 2:1-4).
We yearn for security for Israel and justice for Palestinians, and it seems clear that the way to that outcome is for Israel to make peace with Palestinians, and Palestinians to adopt the way of nonviolence. Many in Israel and Palestine are urging exactly that.

If anyone can send me civil responses to these questions, I’ll gladly link to them or include them in their entirety here on my site. This conversation is a truly important one.