Sunday, 26 August 2012
The Nineteenth Century Culmination
Moving on to the nineteenth century, my book "Passion for Israel" now looks at the formation of the movement that would come to be known as Christian Zionism.
The nineteenth century and early 20th century would see the triumph of the idea of the restoration of Israel, the birth of many new pietist denominations and the political actions, which would lead to the eventual birth of the Jewish state. Though such Christian Zionists desired to see Jewish people believe in Jesus, their commitment to the Jewish people was not contingent on Jewish conversion ... Their love for and commitment to the Jewish people was a clear doctrinal matter, which would not change according to the vicissitudes of history.
The 18th century closed with Napoleon invading Palestine and issuing a proclamation for the Jewish people to return to their land. This stirred those who had this hope of return fixed in their theology. George Stanley Faber (1773-1854) held that France would fail in restoring the Jewish people, but England would succeed, and that their conversion would be part of this restoration. The sentiments were even found in the poetry of William Blake:
England awake! Awake! Awake!
Jerusalem thy sister calls!
Why will those sleep the sleep of death
And close her from thy ancient walls?
Lord Byron also wrote a series of poems also supporting restoration in his Hebrew Melodies (1815).
At this time, the connection of the British movement with continental Lutheran Pietism was made. In this case, the idea was that if the Jewish people were to return to the Land then there should again be a movement of believing Jews in the land as part of this fulfillment. What this Jewish movement ought to look like was not carefully considered. Pietist leaders influenced the Prussian King, Frederick William IV, toward the Pietist concern for the Jewish people. He was greatly influenced by Pietist teaching in general. Pietist leaders saw an opportunity to foster the unity of the Church through a unifying project. These Lutheran Pietists saw it important to establish a Protestant Jewish presence in the Land. Because of their desire for unity, the idea arose to approach Anglican Church leaders. Since the Anglicans believed in apostolic succession, the Lutheran Pietists would be willing to play a supportive role to the project and not the governing role. Eventually Lutheran Pietists in Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark would support this effort in prayer and finances.
By the mid 19th century, Jewish settlement in Israel had begun, amazingly by an American convert to Judaism, James Finn who became the new Consul in Jerusalem. He and his wife were warm friends of the Jewish people. He himself started a settlement and invited Jewish people to cultivate it. Through Lord Shaftesbury's intercession with British government leaders, the Turkish Sultan issued a decree giving a right to settlement to Jewish people. After the Crimean War, Article 9 of the settlement gave Jews rights equal to Christians and a right to settlement.
Theodore Herzl finally achieved that success among Jewish people for a restoration of the Jewish people to Israel that had been hoped for by Christian restorationists.