A Framework, Not a Roadmap" Christians Can Foster Peace, Justice, and Freedom in the Middle East
The Political Dilemmas of Arab Christianity by Alan F. H. Wisdom
What can we do to help Christians and others in the Middle East? Too often the debates in churches and society are exercises in finger-pointing. Pro-Palestinian advocates blame Israel. Pro-Israel advocates blame the Arabs. Is there a constructive way forward, not only for Israelis and Palestinians but also for all Middle Eastern peoples who suffer oppression and violence?
This is the challenge that Alan Wisdom addresses in the May/June issue of Theology Matters. Following on his survey of biblical teachings in the March/April issue, now he grapples with how we apply these teachings in the messy situation we face today. As Alan recounts the region’s history, we see how modernity came as a shock to the Middle East. People who boasted proud and ancient civilizations felt vulnerable in the face of innovations backed by the superior military, economic, and technological prowess of the West. There have been two main responses: nationalism, seeking to build up centralized authoritarian states to restore national glory, and Islamism, aiming to reconnect societies to their religious roots by making shariʻa the law of the land.
Both of these responses have so far disappointed the hopes that have been invested in them. Many Middle Eastern nations have found themselves submerged under corrupt and repressive regimes, trapped in economic stagnation, and embroiled in disastrous wars. The Middle East, by global standards, is a middle income area; however, human rights monitors classify it as the least free region of the world. The situation is particularly desperate for Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities.
Alan does not claim to possess a roadmap to Middle East peace, justice, and freedom. He admits that U.S. Christians have limited influence in the situation. But Alan does outline a series of “points of ready consensus” that might provide a framework for using that influence prudently in accord with our Christian convictions. He also notes several “unresolved questions” on which U.S. Christians would not agree, and on which we must await further experience. I invite you to weigh his analysis and see if you find it helpful. May/Jun 2013 Theology Matters
Lands of Promise and Conflict: The Middle East in Biblical Context by Alan F. H. Wisdom.
Wisdom carefully examines what Scripture says and does not say in both the Old Testament and New Testament about the nation of Israel. God called Israel his own "treasured possession" and he vowed that he would curse those who curse Israel and bless those who blessed Israel. Furthermore, God promised that through Abraham and his descendants all the nations of the earth would be blessed. This historical review informs our thinking today about how Christians should understand Israel's role today in the Middle East. By following the theme of God's call and promises to Israel through the whole of Scripture, we understand God's faithfulness, his promises, his discipline, his planned future for us and Israel today and most importantly, how Christ is the fulfillment of God's promises to Abraham. Mar/Apr 2013 Theology Matters p. 1
Stretching Scripture Too Far: Apocalyptic Prophecy As Mideast Policy Guide by Alan. F. H. Wisdom
"Christians Look to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as God's authoritative revelation of his purposes for humankind. But these sacred texts, written originally for Jewish and Christian audiences thousand of years ago, do not give detailed instructions for church or U.S. policy in the 21st century. They do not identify which governments should be supported and which should be opposed. They do not tell us which peace proposals should be advanced and which should be rejected. These are questions that today's Christians must decide prudently, as the Holy Spirit enables them to asses current situations and apply biblical principles to them. " Wisdom looks at some of the apocalyptic prophecies of some Christians who hold a high view of Scripture yet are stretching Scripture too far concerning unfolding events in the Middle East today. Mar/Apr 2013 Theology Matters p. 12