REVISED March 13 to incorporate a statement from Texas pastor John Hagee that re-states his rejection of dual covenant theology.
PHOENIX (BP)–A leading proponent of Jewish evangelism has issued a declaration calling for Christian Zionist ministries to disclose whether they believe evangelicals should share the Gospel message with Jewish people.
The North American chapter of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, a network of organizations, congregations and individuals involved in Jewish ministry, held its 26th annual meeting March 2-4 in Phoenix with the theme “Jewish Evangelism Against All Odds.”
Jim Sibley, the North American coordinator for LCJE and director of the Pasche Institute of Jewish Studies at Criswell College in Dallas, told Baptist Press, “One of the papers that was presented was by David Brickner, who is the executive director of Jews for Jesus. His paper was titled ‘How Christian is Christian Zionism?’ In response to his paper, the group decided that we needed to issue a statement.”
In his paper, Brickner mentioned one of the largest Christian Zionist organizations in the world, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews founded by Yechiel Eckstein.
“While Eckstein himself is not a believer, many of those who donate to his cause believe that he is,” Sibley said. “Something like 98 percent of his donors are Christians and are unaware that he is diametrically opposed to Jewish evangelism, to Jewish believers and to those who support Jewish evangelism.
“Effectively, what he is doing is taking money that otherwise might be channeled to support missions and evangelism to social causes and in some cases, actual support for anti-missionary organizations,” Sibley said.
In other cases, Christian Zionist organizations may be led by people who do not believe that Jewish people need Jesus, Sibley said, claiming that Texas pastor John Hagee was among those who espouse dual covenant theology.
“Duel covenant theology says that because of the continuing validity of the Abrahamic covenant, the Jewish people are therefore saved independent of faith in Jesus as the Messiah,” Sibley said.
However, Hagee refuted such claims against him in 2006 when a Jerusalem Post story identified him and Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell as holding to dual covenant theology. Falwell likewise denied the accusation, and both men requested the Jerusalem Post retract the article.
In response to Sibley’s claim, Hagee issued a statement to Baptist Press re-stating his rejection of dual covenant theology and Sibley’s claim that he subscribed to such ideas.
“As I have repeatedly stated both to my church and to the press, I do not believe in or teach dual-covenant,” Hagee said. “I have made it a practice for 25 years not to target Jews for conversion at any Night to Honor Israel event. If any non-Christian inquires about our faith at a later time, we give them a full scriptural presentation of redemption.”
The North American chapter of the Lausanne Consultation released the resolution to create awareness about such ministries.
Eckstein did not respond to Baptist Press’ request for comment by deadline March 6.
“Many of the Christians who love Israel and support the Jewish people have been somewhat duped into giving their support to these organizations,” Sibley said. “I’m not accusing the organizations of dishonesty. They’re just not entirely forthright.”
According to the resolution, the group believes that “calling the Jewish people to accept Jesus as the Messiah both of Israel and all nations is the biblical mandate and natural loving response to the belief that there is salvation only through personal faith in Jesus Christ.”
“In the New Testament, not only is the Gospel to go to the Jewish people as well as to the Gentiles, there is even a priority given in Scripture for taking the Gospel to the Jewish people first — or especially,” Sibley said.
“In Romans 1:16, Paul makes it explicit. In discussing the nature of the Gospel itself, he says that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, and he also says that the Gospel is to the Jew especially — or in the first place — and also to the Greek. While the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for all people, it is especially so for the Jewish people,” Sibley said.
The resolution affirms “the many Christian ministries that bless Israel without compromising a clear proclamation of the gospel,” but it notes that “some aspects of Christian Zionism as practiced today work to the detriment of the Jewish people inasmuch as they undermine Jewish evangelism.”
“We believe they can dilute the gospel message by offering comfort apart from Christ, discourage evangelical Christians from witnessing to their Jewish friends and divert gospel resources which could be channeled toward Jewish evangelism,” the resolution states.
“Therefore, we call on the leading proponents of Christian Zionism today to be transparent with Christians on whether Jewish evangelism is present in their theology,” the document continues.
“We also call on the evangelical Christian press to provide informative reports on those Christian Zionist organizations, who identify as representatives of evangelical Christianity, yet work to discourage Christians from bringing the gospel to Jewish people. We also call on all those who count themselves as evangelicals to demonstrate their love for the Jewish people by bringing the good news of Yeshua the Messiah to them.”
Sibley, a former Southern Baptist representative to Israel with the then-Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board), was appointed on June 10, 1996, by the Home Mission Board (now North American Mission Board) as a home missionary to develop evangelistic ministries among Jews. He joined Criswell College’s faculty in 2006.
The SBC adopted a resolution on Jewish evangelism on June 13 of that year that drew heavy criticism from numerous Jewish leaders. Sibley had proposed the resolution in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship. Sibley said at the time that the SBC had approved 10 resolutions dealing with Jewish evangelism between 1867 and 1921 but none had been adopted in the subsequent 75 years.
Eckstein became an outspoken critic of Southern Baptists in December 1999, declaring in a news release, “I have no choice but to suspend cooperation with the SBC until it clearly and unequivocally repudiates the targeted proselytizing of Jews.” Eckstein’s announcement was carried by the Associated Press, The New York Times and other national media; he also wrote an op-ed piece for The New York Times voicing his displeasure with Southern Baptists regarding Jewish evangelism.
Among the reasons Eckstein cited for distancing himself from Southern Baptists were:
— the SBC’s Strategic Focus Cities outreach for Chicago for the year 2000, which had drawn criticism from the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago.
— a 10-day Jewish prayer guide issued by the SBC’s International Mission Board in September 1999, focusing on the Jewish “Days of Awe” or “Days of Repentance” period between the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashannah (the Jewish new year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the “Day of Atonement”).
— the SBC’s 1996 resolution on Jewish evangelism.
Then-SBC President Paige Patterson responded in a letter to Eckstein stating in part that Eckstein’s break with Southern Baptists “does not change our loyalty and love for Jews…. [A]nd it does not change the fact that if misunderstood and misrepresented to the whole world, we are going to continue to share the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ with every human being on the globe and that includes our Jewish friends.”
Ric Worshill, president of the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship, released a statement to Baptist Press concurring with the resolution by the North American chapter of the LCJE. He listed three main reasons why people don’t believe in evangelizing Jews, including a lack of belief in the Bible as God’s inerrant Word as well as anti-Semitism.
“Some Christians believe in and practice Replacement Theology, and in that, they don’t believe that the Bible is Truth and inerrant,” Worshill also noted. “If G-d has replaced the people of Israel as His chosen people,” the Baptist Messianic leader wrote, omitting vowels for deity in keeping with Jewish tradition, “He would not be sealing 144,000 Jewish evangelists to go out in the tribulation period telling the nations about Salvation in Jesus. This is found in the book of Revelation Chapter 7. G-d tells us in Revelation Chapter 14:4b that, ‘These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto G-d and to the Lamb.’ If they are following the Lamb of G-d, then they are charged to go and make disciples of all nations.”
Worshill added, “I am a Jew who is eternally grateful that some wonderful Christians loved me enough to tell me the Gospel of Salvation in Mashiach Yeshua [Jesus Messiah].”
Erin Roach is a staff writer and Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press.