Analysis of “The New Christian Zionism” (3)

As we’ve seen in the Introduction and Chapter 1, this work make some very specific claims as to its aims. However, when scrutinized does not follow through on these claims. Chapter 2, unfortunately, is not any different.

The thesis statement for Chapter , titled a History of Christian Zionism, is as follows:

The burden of this chapter is to show that Christian Zionism is at least eighteen centuries older than dispensationalism (46).

This is a tall order, and one that McDermott fails to establish. What follows in the chapter is a series of inconsistent arguments, technical issues, and misappropriations of quotations.

After attempting to root Christian Zionism in the Old Testament by defining it into alignment, he proceeds to support his argument with a word count comparison of the words Covenant and Land. Making a large point of the fact that the word Covenant is connected to the word Land in a majority of cases… without noting that that also means that in those cases the word Land is connected to Covenant. He presupposes that Covenant is informed by Land, without demonstrating that the reverse is not the case. Furthermore, a simple concordance search of the word bĕriyth reveals that rather than the reported 250 times (49), it actually appears 285 times. While it may seem like a pedantic act to point out a discrepancy of 35 instances… when your argument relies on numbers, you should get those numbers right. Furthermore, assuming his count of the association between Covenant and Land is correct (which we have no reason to believe that it is given the previous mistake… but let’s assume it is), that changes the percentage from 70% of instances to 62%. 8% is a significant amount when your argument rests on that percentage.

He then proceeds to make a statement that will cause most so-called supersessionist ears to hurt.

As Jack Schechter has shown in his study of Deuteronomy – which was probably written as Jews were repossessing the land after exile from the land… (51)

The reason this is significant will become apparent. However, it is something the reader of this book should be aware of. Both Dispensationalists and Covenantal theologians alike would reject the idea that Deuteronomy was written a thousand years after the events. Most would place it, by and large, with Moses with some editorial assistance by Joshua after the former’s death. McDermott here, either by conviction or convenience, accepts the Critical Theory that this is a post exilic writing.

After a few roughshod citations from the Prophets he proceeds to the New Testament. The argument he is making is not complicated. Essentially it breaks down to “Jesus and the Apostles were Zionists, we should have the same view as they do. However, this is an inconsistent argument to forward… given that he, two pages earlier, advocated that we believe a theory about the origin of Deuteronomy that Jesus and the Apostles would have rejected. Should we hold their position… or not? Perhaps we should only when it aligns with the argument we’re trying to make. The Critical presuppositions again surface when he refuses to call John the writer of the book of Revelation (53). Again, this is inconsistent. One of the main reasons thus far that he has argued that we should accept Christian Zionism is because of its historical pedigree… however when it comes to the authorship of Deuteronomy and Revelation he readily abandons their historical attributions.

Next he engages in what can only be called a stunningly irresponsible argument, and actually one that was offensive as a reader. He actually quotes the same Early Church Fathers to support the presence of Zionism in the Early Church, that he did to establish the origin of Anti-Zionism in the Early Church. Pointing out that figures like Justin Martyr and Irenaeus believed that the physical location of the eschatological Church would be a restored Jerusalem, he argues that this is somehow the seeds of Christian Zionism… even as he in the same breath calls these figures Replacement Theologians (54). I don’t ask this question to be glib… but does he think that his readers are idiots? Such an inconsistent argument would quickly receive a failing grade at any reasonable seminary in the country. One has to ask how this sloppy inconsistency between two essays in the same volume made it past the volume editor… but then the sad truth dawns that not only are the two contradictory essays in the same book, but they were penned by the same author.

He then proceeds to argue exclusively from British examples (remind me again where Dispensationalism started… oh yeah… Britain) to root Christian Zionism in the Reformation era. He cites the Venerable Bede’s belief that the “earliest Britons […] to be descended from Noah’s sons” as though this was evidence of Bede’s Zionism… everyone was descended from Noah’s sons. He also cites an English tradition that “held that Joseph of Arimathea, an Israelite, was the founder of Christianity in England (57).” He fails to note the obvious that Joseph of Arimathea was a Christian as well.

I will end with one more example of this kind of strange argumentation. He cites three influential books. One by John Bale, who McDermott himself calls a supersessionist… who argued that Bale had a “hope for a national conversion of Jews to Protestantism and assigning to them a place at the throne of the Lamb at the end of history (58).” He also quotes Foxe’s Book of Martyrs despite noting that it “is not without its own denunciations of Jews and Judaism (58).” I think that it is a fair assessment to say that if one cannot avoid using compromised sources in your support for a position… it is because one cannot find uncompromised ones in sufficient abundance.

Finally, I will close with what may be the strangest citation of all. Remember, one of the things that McDermott has argued he will prove, is that Zionism is not related to Dispenationalism. In trying to root Zionism in the Puritan era, he cites Henry Finch. To refute the idea that references to Israel in the Bible can be interpreted as references to the Church, he cites the following from Finch:

Where Israel, Iudah, Tsion, Ierusalem,&c. are named in this argument, the Holy Ghost meaneth not the spirituall Israel, or Church of God collected of the Gentiles, no nor of Iewes and Gentiles both (for each of these have their promises severally and apart) but Israel properly descended out of Iacobs loynes (60 sic, Italics are original in McDermott, he does not indicate if they are original in Finch. Bold emphasis is mine).

While it is true that Finch is writing 200 years before Darby… the primary difference that McDermott has drawn between his view and Dispensationalism is the division between the Church and Israel as separate people of God. He cites what might be called a proto-Dispensational view to support his position… despite promises that he is separating himself from Dispensationalism. Furthermore, he does not include a citation of what Finch was commenting on, but the context appears to be limited to “this argument,” meaning that Finch probably did not argue that this is a universal principle.

At this point, I have to be honest… I dread continuing in my reading. So far the scholarship has been shoddy at best. Perhaps it will improve since the remaining essays are by other authors.