Support for Israel, dispensationalism declines among younger Evangelicals: study

Evangelicals under 30 increasingly embrace amillennialism, postmillennialism

Israel supporters, including Christian Evangelicals, participate in the United for Israel march outside of Columbia University on April 25, 2024, in New York City.
Israel supporters, including Christian Evangelicals, participate in the United for Israel march outside of Columbia University on April 25, 2024, in New York City. | Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

The number of young Evangelicals in the United States who support Israel and view it as crucial to the End Times is declining as they increasingly move toward amillennial and postmillennial eschatology, according to a recent study.

The Jerusalem Post noted earlier this year that support for Israel among young Evangelicals has cratered by more than 50% over three years, as laid out in the 2023 book Christian Zionism in the Twenty-First Century: American Evangelical Opinion on Israel, by Kirill M. Bumin, Ph.D., and Motti Inbari, who serves as professor of Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.

'Thinking less and less about the role of Israel'

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Drawing on three original surveys conducted in 2018, 2020 and 2021, the book examined the religious beliefs and foreign policy attitudes of Evangelicals in the U.S. and found that a generational divide appears to be emerging over such issues.

According to data Bumin and Inbari presented at The Center for the Study of the United States (CSUS) at Tel Aviv University in February, 33.6% of young Evangelicals under 30 expressed support for Israel in late 2021, compared to 67.9% in 2018. In 2021, 24.3% of young Evangelicals said they support the Palestinians, compared to only 5% in 2018.

Bumin, who serves as an associate dean of the Metropolitan College at Boston University, told The Christian Post that he and Inbari discovered in their research that premillennial pastors are significantly older than amillennial and postmillennial pastors, and less ethnically and racially diverse.

"Conversations with some of the leaders in the young Evangelical community — such as Robert Nicholson and Luke Moon of the Philos Project, as well as other anecdotal evidence — lead us to believe that the greater racial diversity of amillennial and postmillennial pastors, combined with their relative youthfulness in comparison to the premillennial pastors, helps attract a larger share of the under-30 Evangelicals to those churches and eschatological positions," Bumin told CP.

As amillennialism and postmillennialism grow increasingly attractive to under-30 Evangelicals, Bumin said that demographic is "thinking less and less about the role of Israel and the Jewish people in the End Times as catalysts for the Second Coming and salvation."

"And, without explicit eschatological relevance, support for the Jewish people and support for Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict becomes a matter of a peripheral concern," he continued, adding that postmillennialism especially gathers younger adherents because of its emphasis on social justice and improvement of the human condition through social activism.

Bumin maintained that postmillennialism "resonates with young people and aligns with a pro-Palestinian, rather than a pro-Israel, view in the current political environment in the United States."

'Poisoned by this brainwashing philosophy'

While both forms of premillennialism separate the Second Coming and the Last Judgment, pre-tribulational premillennialists — or "pre-tribs" — believe that the tribulation described in Revelation 7 will take place after the Church is raptured, and that Christ will return with the Church to reign for the 1,000-year period in Revelation 20 before the Last Judgment. Such a view was popularized by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins in their bestselling Left Behind series.

"Post-trib" premillennialists, by contrast, adhere to the belief that the Second Coming will occur after the tribulation, followed by the millennium and finally, the Last Judgment. Mid-tribulational premillennialists fall in between, believing that the Church will be raptured midway through the tribulation and spared the brunt of it.

Postmillennialism teaches that the Second Coming and Last Judgment will take place at the same time following an extended period of Christian dominance on Earth, while amillennialism teaches that the millennium is symbolic, and that Christians have been in the End Times since the first century.

Amillennialism also teaches that the Second Coming and Last Judgment will take place simultaneously at the end of the age.

Richard Land, executive editor of The Christian Post and president emeritus of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina, attributed the decline of young Evangelical support for Israel in part to the influence of cultural Marxism in U.S. colleges and universities.

"First of all, it's true, unfortunately," Land said of the shift. "I see it all the time. I think there are several reasons. One is that the younger Evangelicals have been to university in the last 20 years, and the universities have, to a significant degree, been subverted by Arab oil money."

Land maintained that many schools have also been infiltrated by a form of cultural Marxism that sees Israel as an "oppressor state."

"Some forms of cultural Marxism see Jews, in particular, as a white oppressor class, so it breeds antisemitism," he said. "You look at what's been going on recently, and that can't be that widespread without ideas. Ideas have consequences. And for the last 20 or more years, the younger generation of Americans have been poisoned by this brainwashing philosophy."

Land also pinpointed that the children of many pre-tribulational premillennialists are increasingly changing their views to post-tribulational premillennialism, a trend he said he could not readily explain.

"I don't know exactly why, but I do know the result," he said. "The result is that they are much less focused on Israel. There's a cause-and-effect relationship: as 'pre-trib' wanes and 'post-trib' waxes, the intensity of the support for Israel wanes."

"And then, as they've been influenced by cultural Marxism and by seeing Israelis as oppressors, some of them have become amillennial. Of course, if you're amillennial, then you don't believe God has anything to do with Israel," he added.

Land also believes that Israel, in general, has been "asleep at the wheel" regarding soliciting support from American Evangelicals, mistakenly assuming that they would always have their support.

'More Christo-centric'

Charles E. Hill, who serves as emeritus professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, told CP that while the influence of antisemitism could be playing a role in declining support for Israel, another major reason that some younger Bible-believing Christians would depart from dispensational premillennial eschatology is because the internet has allowed them wider access to differing theological teachings.

Hill, who said he used to adhere to a dispensationalist theology, now describes himself as amillennial in his eschatology and penned the book, Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity, which argues that many in the early church held to an amillennial position.

“For most of my lifetime, the mere existence of Israel in the Middle East as a nation has been seen as an apologetic for dispensationalism, because it was viewed as a major fulfillment of prophecy: the simple fact that they're there means that God's timetable is moving forward and so forth," Hill said. "And I just think that younger people are further removed from the founding event of the modern state of Israel, and so maybe that argument doesn't make as much sense to them."

Hill said he was ultimately convinced of the amillennial position after his studies led him to "seeing the unity of Scripture and the unity of the people of God throughout Scripture."

"Those are very big for me, seeing that there's always been a spiritual Israel; that the land promises always had a typical function of pointing ahead to Christ and to His ownership of the world."

"For me, it was really coming to the conclusion that the apostles in the New Testament have a different hermeneutic than what I was getting in dispensationalism," he said. "And it was trying to follow the apostles' hermeneutic, their way of interpreting the Old Testament. And I found that I couldn't reconcile that with a literal-only interpretation of prophecy. It was more Christo-centric and not Israel-centric."

"I imagine that once they start looking into it a little bit more, some of them just find the amillennial and postmillennial views more satisfying," Hill added of the younger Evangelicals. "So, I'm sure there are a lot of things that are playing into this."

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