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Friday, May 10, 2013

Followup on Church of Scotland report

Last week I fisked a paper written by the Church of Scotland that denied any Biblical basis for the right of Jews to have a state in the Middle East.

Of course, I wasn't the only critic of the incredibly biased (and self-contradictory) screed.

Now, the Church is backtracking - slightly:

The Church of Scotland has moved to defuse a furious row with Jewish leaders and the Israeli government after agreeing to change a controversial report on Israeli settlements.
Senior figures in the church met Jewish leaders on Thursday after an official report entitled the Inheritance of Abraham?. suggested the church consider political action including boycotts and disinvestment in Israel in protest at illegal settlements in the occupied territories.
The church and society council, which is to present its report to this year's meeting of the Church of Scotland's governing body, the general assembly, later this month, has agreed to reword the paper's introduction to make clear the church has never challenged the right of Israel to exist.
The original report, which will be debated and then voted on by 723 general assembly commissioners, or delegates from across Scotland, has also been taken down from the Church of Scotland's website until it is rewritten.
The concession emerged after Daniel Taub, the Israeli ambassador to the UK, accused the church of perpetuating anti-Semitic views by challenging the basis of Jewish ties and belief in Israel, and distorting the basis of Zionism.
"This report not only plays into extremist political positions, but negates and belittles the deeply held Jewish attachment to the land of Israel in a way which is truly hurtful," Taub said.
"If a document of this nature is adopted by the Church of Scotland it would mark a significant step backwards for the forces of tolerance and peace in our region."
The Anti-defamation League in New York said the paper was "stunningly offensive" and "negated the beliefs of Judaism", while one columnist in the Jerusalem Post, Seth Frantzman, described it as a "vicious and defamatory text."
The newspaper said the report was distorting arguments about the Holocaust by "pretending Jews manipulate the Holocaust in order to make Christians feel guilty."
The problems with the report were far deeper than just what is mentioned here. A Christian blog destroys the Church's main arguments nicely:
Christians should not believe those parts of Scripture where God promised that a virgin would conceive: Isaiah 7:14 didn't really refer to a promised messiah: it was just about a general plan of salvation. And he wasn't born in the long-promised Bethlehem either - that's just a metaphor for anywhere, like Slough. And he didn't have to be a 'he' either - that's just a metaphor for all humankind. And his name didn't have to be Jesus (Mt 2:21) - meaning 'The Lord saves', because it could have been Brian or Steve: there's no real promise that the Lord will save us from our sins (Zech 3:9). He is not 'God with us' (Mt 1:23), and he didn't need to suffer (Is 53:7) because there's no real reward for obeying the word of God (Lk 11:27). Jesus isn't the visible image of the invisible God through whom all things were created (Col 1:15f) - that's just silly. He didn't reconcile us to himself through the cross (v20), and he's not the glory of the nations (Ps 96:3; 39:21). And when God promises that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ (Rom 8:35), he didn't really mean 'nothing' - he meant God's love is completely dependent on the which side of the bed he gets out of in a morning.

Oh, hang on. His Grace has got it wrong.

Sorry.

It's only the Jews who shouldn't take God's promises literally.

That's alright, then.

And neither should Christians when they relate to Jews and Israel. Ah, now it's becoming clearer.

If God makes a promise to Jews, it's a metaphor. If He makes a promise to Christians, it's literal except where it refers to the Jews and Israel.

Yes, that's right. According to a report by the Church of Scotland, 'Israel' and the 'Promised Land' is all just one big mushy metaphor for... well, something like the fuzziness of promises that aren't promises. God's promises are just pictures, without precise meaning, and certainly could never apply to matters of geography. The 'Promised Land' in Scripture is not a literal land - it's more 'a metaphor of how things ought to be among the people of God. This "promised land" can be found, or built, anywhere'.

Except, of course, in Israel.
(h/t JH)