A Christian Zionist leader has denounced the recent letter by some of America's leading evangelicals voicing support for a Palestinian state, criticizing the signers for their "appalling ignorance."
Dr. Jim Hutchens, president of the Jerusalem Connection and the Washington-area director for Christian United for Israel, acknowledged the "deep chasm" growing among evangelicals regarding Israel.
He contends, however, that the modern state of Israel is part of the fulfillment of God's covenant of a homeland for the Jewish people.
Evangelicals supporting a Palestinian state have an "appalling ignorance of both secular and biblical history," said Hutchens, according to OneNewsNow. The Zionist leader noted that there has never been a sovereign state of "Palestine."
In July, 34 prominent evangelical leaders signed a letter voicing support for President Bush's Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, emphasizing their support for a two-state solution.
The leaders also said they wanted to repair the "serious misconception" that all American evangelicals are against the two-state solution and the creation of a new Palestinian state.
"Historical honesty compels us to recognize that both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine," states the letter dated July 27 and published in the New York Times.
Signers included Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary; David Neff, editor of Christianity Today; Richard Stearns, president of World Vision; Tony Campolo, president/founder of Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education; Stephen Hayner, former president InterVarsity Christian Fellowship; and Joel Hunter, senior pastor of Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., and member of the executive committee of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Hutchens, however, disagrees and points to the Replacement Theory as the theological explanation for evangelical support of a Palestinian state.
"I would suggest that the basic theological underpinning of this is super-cessionism," he said, according to OneNewsNow, "and that is to say that the church is the new Israel, that Christians have replaced Jews as the covenant people of God … [and that] the covenants that God made with Israel and the Jews are now null and void because they have not accepted Jesus as the Messiah."
Yet Hutchens believes that the covenant between God and Israel still holds. He proposes as solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem that Israel annex the West Bank and Gaza and for the Israeli military to uproot terrorists in the region.
The debate on Israel and Christian support for the biblical land has stirred tension among evangelicals – arguably the world's most vocal supporters of the state; evangelicals make up 1/3 of American tourists that visit Israel, second only to American Jews.
Among the critics are those against the "blind support" that some Christians give to Israel despite the fact that the Knesset – Israel's legislative body – bans evangelism in the country and has proposed punishment including imprisonment and heavy fines for guilty parties.
Megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, one of the signers supporting a Palestinian state, noted:
"There is a part of the evangelical family which is what I call Christian Zionists, who are just so staunchly pro-Israel that Israel and their side can do no wrong, and it's almost anti-biblical to criticize Israel for anything," he said, according to the New York Times. "But there are many more evangelicals who are really open and seek justice for both parties."
Award-winning talk show host Janet Parshall is an example of a long-time pro-Israel Christian leader who has recently come to criticize the state.
"I thought, wait a minute: we can't just blindly support Israel," said Parshall after she heard that the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus does not associate with groups that share the Gospel.
"We have to able to tell them, as a friend, [that] you can't do that. You can't silence us."
Vocal pro-Israel supporters include Dr. Jack Hayford, president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel; Paula White, co-pastor of the 22,000-member Without Walls International Church in Florida; Pastor John Hagee, founder of Christian United for Israel and senior pastor of the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in Texas; Pastor Steve Munsey of the 12,000-member Family Christian Center; and Stephen Strang, founder and president of Charisma Magazine.