Chris Katulka & Jim Showers : Christian Zionism
Christian Zionism is our passionate belief today, but this movement started long before us. Looking back in American history we can see a precedent set forth by many presidents: a desire to see national Israel restored. Miraculously, the world witnessed this come to pass in 1948, and we’re thrilled to see the Jewish people in their homeland today. But the world critics have spoken: Many people aren’t happy to see Israel resurrected. That’s why our support is so important!
Chris interviews The Friends of Israel’s Executive Director Jim Showers about Christian Zionism—what it is, why it matters, and what it’s accomplished over the centuries. God’s Word has always made its importance clear, and it’s our job to preserve this truth. Tune in for this excellent discussion, plus you’ll learn about William Blackstone, a hero of Christian Zionism in America with an inspiring story!
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, and with me is our host and teacher, Chris Katulka. I want to encourage you to visit our website, foiradio.org to find out more information about The Friends of Israel Today. There you'll find our archive pages and you can listen to six years worth of Chris's teachings. Again, that's foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Steve, I'm really excited because today we have Dr. Jim Showers, who's the executive director of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry with us in studio. We're actually going to be talking about an article that we wrote that will be published in a book. It's called An Understanding of Evangelical Christian Support for Israel. We're actually going to make it a free PDF download for our listeners. You're going to want to be sure to stick around to find out how you can get your copy of that.
But before we get to Jim, let's see what's happening in the news. Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell died on October 18th at the age of 84 due to COVID-19. Colin Powell will be remembered in history as the first black US National Security Advisor, the first black Military Chief of Staff, and the first black Secretary of State. He is responsible for brokering the roadmap to Middle East peace, which still guides much of US policy in the region today. Well, here's my take. Did you also know that Colin Powell knew how to speak Yiddish? For many years, he worked for the Sixers, a Jewish owned shop in the Bronx. Many of his colleagues were Jewish people who spoke Yiddish as a first language. Powell was also a Shabbos goy, which means as a gentile, he turned on the electricity for Orthodox Jewish families on Shabbat. That's where he picked up the language and a love for Israel and the Jewish people. Thank you, Secretary Powell.
It's an honor to have Dr. Jim Showers in studio with us. Dr. Jim Showers is the executive director of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Jim, when did you ... I'm trying to remember. Was it 2012 when you officially became director, executive director?
Jim Showers: Yes. So first of all, it's a pleasure to be with you, Chris. It's exciting to be here today. And yes, it was May of 2012 when I became executive director of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry.
Chris Katulka: And a lot of great things have happened since then, a lot of amazing progression has happened at Friends of Israel to continue to advance our mission. Jim, recently you and I were able to put together called An Understanding of Evangelical Christian Support for Israel, which will be published in a book. But we're actually, which we're really excited about, we're going to make it available to our listeners. You can download it as a free PDF download by going to foiradio.org. But I want to talk about this a little bit because you think it's really important. First of all, Jim, when we're talking about Evangelical support for Israel, we're talking about Zionism. So would you maybe explain what Zionism is?
Jim Showers: Sure, Chris. That's really a wonderful question that I get all the time from people because I mention the word Zionism, and I have Christians come up to me afterwards and say, "Well, what does that mean?" And so Zionism basically is a belief that the Jewish people have a right to live in the land that God promised to them, and that they also have a right to govern themselves to be a nation.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. And that term, Zionism, can often, I mean, people can often use it in a derogatory term. But you're trying to say, "No, it's pretty basic understanding that the Jewish people, if you believe they have a right to exist in their ancient homeland, then you're a Zionist."
Jim Showers: Yes, Chris. And I'm a Christian Zionist, which means that not only do I believe that, but I believe that's based in the Bible. As a Christian, I turn to the Bible. And the Bible says to me that the Jewish people were given that as their right, as their inheritance, the land that got promised to them, we call it the Holy Land, the Land of Israel was promised to them through covenant. And that is the only nation God's ever promised to possess that land. Now there are others who make historical or rational arguments that Israel has a right to the land, that the Jewish people are the only ones who have ever existed as a nation over the land, which is true.
It's a historical fact... that's existed. There certainly were people groups in the land before Israel, settled in the land, but never a nation like Israel before or since. Even that period from the time shortly after Christ until they reentered the land, became a nation again, there was never another nation there. There were foreign nations who came in and ruled over the land, but the only nation to ever exist there is Israel.
Chris Katulka: Sometimes I think Zionism is one of those words that can be divided up into two different ways. One is political Zionism, that there's a Jewish ... Like there's a political right to the Jewish people to exist in that land. But like you were saying, as Bible believing Christians, I actually think it all kind of trickles back down to the Bible because that is where the roots of what we believe. We're Bible believing Christians. I think the scriptures are very clear that Israel belongs in the land, that God's given it to them. That's why we're Christian Zionists.
Jim Showers: Well, and I'm 100% with you. And as I told a Jewish friend in Jerusalem one day when he said to me, "I know you believe the Bible says that we have a right to be here. I don't need the Bible. I believe we have a right, and the Bible isn't really important to me in that." And I said, "Well, here's the thing. If the Bible doesn't give you the right to be here, I'm not going to be sitting here talking to you."
Chris Katulka: Exactly.
Jim Showers: It's what brings me to the table. It's what brings me to Israel, is what the Bible says about Israel and the Jewish people.
Chris Katulka: And there were political movements that were drawing the Jewish people back to the land. But really, this idea of Christian Zionism, I think a lot of people, they like to talk about it as if it's just something new. It's this new concept within theology that we would believe that the Jewish people have a right to be restored to the land. So is Christian Zionism something new? Or is it something that the church has been practicing for 2000 years?
Jim Showers: Well, my answer to that, Chris, is that there's a sense in which it is both.
Chris Katulka: Yeah.
Jim Showers: Okay. Listen, just open your Bible. Open it up, for example, to Acts chapter one. And the burning question on the hearts of the disciples when they met with Jesus in his upper room, just before he ascended to Heaven is, "Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" So that question in and of itself tells us that the apostles believe that Israel had a right to the land and that they had a future in the land. And Jesus never corrects them that they're wrong in their thinking. He only corrects them that it's not their business to know when the timing of that is. That's God the Father's prerogative and not theirs. So we see that the apostles and early church fathers all were pro Israel, all. They didn't deal with the issue of Israel being removed from the land because they were still in the land.
Chris Katulka: That's right.
Jim Showers: But they were very favorable to Israel being in the land and saw a future for Israel in the land. Jesus himself did that in Matthew 24. The things he talks about that are yet to happen presume that Israel's in the land. You cannot make sense of what Jesus said in Matthew 24 if Israel is not in the land, of those things that are yet to come. But on the other hand, Christian Zionism is a more recent movement within the church. And when I say recent, I don't mean in the last 50 or 100 years. I mean the last few hundred years. It's connected really to the American church and the founding of our country.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. I was reading through the paper, and I was reading through the sections that you had written. And I was struck by the history of Zionism, how it even kind of goes back, Christian Zionism goes even back to some of our founding fathers. This isn't in the paper, but I was even reading recently that our three branches of government that were put in place through the Constitution by James Madison when he wrote it down, he got the idea of the judicial, executive and legislative branch by reading through Isiah, I believe chapter 32, where he talks about God being the judge, God being the lawmaker, and God being the king. And so he said, "We need three branches of government." And so you see even out of the Hebraic mortar, that was one of the words that our previous presidents used, you see the birth of America, but also this still longing that the Jewish people would return to their homeland. And there were presidents like John Adams early on, our second president that were saying things like, "We hope to see the Jewish people restored to their land," and things of that nature.
Jim Showers: So Michael Warren, who was ambassador from Israel to the US, and is a great historian, wrote a book about a dozen years ago called Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East 1776 to Present, fascinating book.
Chris Katulka: Yeah.
Jim Showers: But in there, he talks about how the settlers, those that initially came over from Europe who were fleeing religious persecution and came to the US really likened their experience to that of the Jewish people leaving Egypt in the exodus. And so Europe was their Egypt. The Atlantic Ocean was their wilderness wandering, and America was the new land that they were entering into, the promised land. And so there's been a Biblical connection to the founding of this country that goes way back to that. And the great awakenings that happened in the 18th and early 19th century had a great influence on that, especially the second great awakening that raised up missionaries to the Middle East and Israel. They had a burden for both the Jews and the Arabs in the Middle East. And they developed a belief called restorationism. Restorationism was the idea that through taking the gospel to the Middle East, it would lead to the restoration of the Jewish nation and ready the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
And so this had great influence on churches of all denominations in the US. And restorationism led to the acceptance of really I believe, of Charles Nelson Darby's teachings. When he came to the US, he was well received because people believed in the dispensational teaching that Israel would be restored to the land, that God would honor his promises to bring the Jewish people back from the four corners of the Earth. And yet, what is little known by most Christians today is that Zionism really began as a Christian movement before it became a Jewish movement.
Chris Katulka: Yes, exactly. Exactly. I've talked about William Heckler on this program, who is a devout, Bible believing Christian that was with Theodor Herzl. And he had a profound impact on him, but he reminded Herzl, who was who they call the father of modern Zionism, he reminded him that what he's on is a Biblical mission, and so it is a Biblical mission. It is Biblical. Christian Zionism is incredibly important. And for our listeners who are tuned in right now, I'm speaking with Dr. Jim Showers, who's the executive director of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. Jim and I actually co-authored a paper together. It's actually going to be published in a book. But we want to offer it to you as a free PDF download by going to foiradio.org. All the things that we're talking about right now, you'll find in this chapter, so I want to encourage you to go to foiradio.org. And there, you can get what's called An Understanding of Evangelical Christian Support for Israel.
Now listen, when we come back, Jim's going to talk about a pretty significant person who helped with Christian Zionism, and who helped in many ways see Israel become a nation again. His name's William Blackstone. It'll be a great conversation. We'll see you on the other side.
We're speaking with Dr. Jim Showers about Zionism, what Zionism means. Well, that's why I want to share with you a fantastic resource that we have at the Friends of Israel. It's called The Case for Zionism: Why Christians should support Israel, by Dr. Tommy Ice. Antisemitism has adopted many forms throughout history, whether out-rightly displayed by the Nazis, or inwardly fostered by ISIS forces. It has manifested itself differently because it has existed since the creation of Israel.
Even in Evangelical circles, antisemitism can be found at the heart of replacement theology. This resource strongly advocates Zionism and the responsibility of Evangelicals to love and support the Jewish people. To get a copy of The Case for Zionism: Why Christians Should Support Israel, please visit our website, foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org.
So we've got a couple minutes here and I want to talk about this prominent figure, a Christian man named William Blackstone. He really had a profound impact on American Christian Zionism in the 20th century. And you actually wrote about him pretty extensively in our paper. And so I wanted to see, maybe you could give some history and context to who William Blackstone is.
Jim Showers: I'd love to, Chris. William Blackstone was a successful businessman from Chicago. And he became an evangelist in the second half of the 19th century. He was an Evangelical Christian who was committed to a pre-millennial restoration of Israel in the rapture of the church. And he wrote a book called Jesus is Coming, on the return of Christ. So in 1988, William Blackstone visited the Holy Land, and this was during a time when there was great Jewish persecution. Jewish people were suffering severely in Russia and Eastern Europe, and he was aware of this. And as he visited the Holy Land, he concluded that the only answer to ending the Jewish persecution was for the Jewish people to return to the Promised Land, where they could defend themselves. This was really the birth for him of Zionism. And so he returned to the US a year and a half later. 1890, he organized and held the first pro Zionist conference on the past, present and future of Israel. It was attended by both Jewish and Evangelical Christian leaders.
Now this is fully seven years before Theodor Herzl's going to hold his first world Zionist congress in Basel Switzerland. But Blackstone called for the world powers to return the land of Israel to the Jewish people. And coming out of the conference the next year in 1891, he began a petition supporting a call to return the Holy Land to the Jewish people. It came to be known as the Blackstone Memorial, and it was signed by 431 prominent American Christian and Jewish leaders. Let me give you an example of some of the people that signed this, John D. Rockefeller, JP Morgan, Cyrus McCormick, senators, congressmen, chief justices of the US, leaders of all major denominations, editors of major newspapers like The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and many others.
And when he had collected these signatures in March of 1891, Blackstone presented it to President Benjamin Harris. And so every president after that, he would take in his memorial and present it to the president to lobby on behalf of returning the Holy Land to the Jewish people. And then in 1916, this is now World War One is underway, one of our Supreme Court justices, Justice Brandeis, petitioned Blackstone to update and present to President Woodrow Wilson an updated version, so he did. He went around and collected new signatures, brought it in to him. And we understand that was very influential in gaining the president's support for the Balfour Declaration that came out the next year.
And so there's this amazing story, what God did through one man, a Christian man, to raise up support in the US. And when you think about it, the Jewish people in the US are a minority. For the US to get behind this, it took more than just Jewish support. It took the support of Evangelical Christians.
Chris Katulka: When I hear you list all those names, JP Morgan, Rockefeller, all the businesses, all the newspapers that supported this idea of the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland, which is Zionism, I think about today, the complete opposite experience that we're having in businesses, in newspapers, in media, and all of this, where it's almost like it's a complete 180, where it's almost hard to find people who have a passion to make sure that that Jewish people have a right to exist in their ancient homeland. You're almost seeing the opposite of it. I want to ask this though because I think we're going to talk about that next week. But I want to ask. Did Christian Zionism help play a role in reestablishing the state of Israel?
Jim Showers: Oh, it absolutely did, Chris. In the late 19th, early 20th centuries, Christian Zionism was fueled by prophecy conferences. And as Christians, we began to understand the significant role that Israel played in God's plan for the age. They became more supportive of the return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel. So God used many Christian Zionists, men and women who read their Bible literally and believed that God would restore Israel to help bring Israel back to the land and to become a nation again. People like British Prime Minister Lord Balfour, who authored the Balfour Declaration, a British officer by the name of Orde Wingate, who was sent to Israel by the British because they occupied the land after World War One until Israel became a nation again. And he taught the Jewish people how to fight, how to defend Israel. He is called the father of the modern Israel defense forces today.
Chris Katulka: Wow.
Jim Showers: And one I just have to mention is President Harry Truman. He's a Southern Baptist. He knew the Bible. He spoke favorably of the rebirth of Israel. He felt like he was president of the United States for such a time as this. And on May 14th, 1948, that's the day that Israel declares independence. His whole administration was against the US recognizing Israel. They felt that Israel was going to be defeated immediately by the Arab armies and that we didn't want blood on our hand, and so their position was against it. So within 11 minutes of Israel's declaration of independence, he released a statement giving official US recognition of Israel, and that was so critically important because once the US recognized Israel, then the world began to recognize Israel. Other countries came in.
He was in such a hurry to do it before his administration could get to him and stop it that the official statement has hand edits. His secretary typed it for him, and then he went through and edited it and handed it out right away. It's incredible. I have a copy of it up in my office.
Chris Katulka: I've seen that.
Jim Showers: Yeah. It's an amazing document. It just shows you how God used various people. And one of our presidents was key to that, President Truman.
Chris Katulka: Next week, we're going to have Jim come back to talk about the state of Christian Zionism today. You wonder what happened over the past 120, 130, 140 years since then. So next week, Jim's going to come back and talk about that. You can also, don't forget, go to foiradio.org, and you can download our free PDF download of the paper that Jim and I wrote together, An Understanding of Evangelical Christian Support for Israel. Jim, thanks for being with us today.
Jim Showers: Thank you, Chris.
Steve Conover: Now, Apples of Gold, a dramatic reading from the life and ministry of Holocaust survivor, Zvi Kalisher.
Mike Kellogg: This year, we are celebrating 50 years since Israel's declaration of independence in 1948. I immigrated to Israel after passing through the horrors of the Holocaust in Europe. I came here hoping to make a new life for myself after losing my entire family in Hitler's gas chambers. But only days after I arrived in Israel, eight Arab countries attacked us. We were thrust into a new Holocaust, a new destruction. Our enemies thought that they would win because of our small number. They came against us with millions of men and the best weapons, but they failed.
At that time, I did not know the Lord. Then one day, I was given a Bible. I read the account in First Samuel 17 of King David's victory over the Philistine hero, Goliath. I then realized that just as the Lord fought David's battle, the Lord fought for Israel against the Arabs. As Psalm 124 verses two and three says, "If it had not been the Lord who was on our side when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive." Many Israelis think our own strength defeated our enemies in 1948, but we never could've defeated our enemies in our own strength. A few weeks ago, some high school students asked me about the War of Independence.
They had received a homework assignment requiring them to interview a veteran of that war. One asked, "How could such a small nation make such a great victory?" I answered by reading Deuteronomy seven, verses 17 and 18. If you should say in your heart these nations are greater than I, how can I dispossess them? You shall not be afraid of them, but you shall remember well what the Lord, your God, did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. I told them, "We did not win this victory alone. The Lord fought for us then, just as he does now."
Finally, we came to the subject of faith. One asked, "Why do you speak so much about the Bible?" I said, "It's impossible to speak about war without reading in God's word about the great things the Lord has done for us. Without the Lord's help, King David, who was only a child at the time, could not have fought a beast like Goliath." But what did David say to him? You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today, we also stand before our numerous enemies. If you do not say in your report that the Lord was on our side, you will be lying. Each of the young students then asked for a Bible. I pray the Lord will open their eyes to the truth and they will see him as the great defender of his people, Israel.
50 years have passed since I came to Israel. And the Lord has protected me through many battles. But most importantly, he saved my soul and has given me the great privilege of being his servant here in his Holy Land.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us today. It was great to have Jim Showers with us. He'll be our guest once again next week. Chris, where are we headed?
Chris Katulka: Yeah. So we're going to have Dr. Jim Showers back, and he's going to be talking about the state of Christian Zionism today.
Steve Conover: Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. Mike Kellogg read Apples of Gold. And I'm Steve Conover, executive producer. Our mailing address is FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099. Again, that's FOI Radio, PO Box 914, Bellmawr, New Jersey 08099.
And one last quick reminder, to visit us at foiradio.org. The Friends of Israel Today is a production of the Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide Evangelical ministry proclaiming Biblical truth about Israel and the messiah, while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
The Case For Zionism
Evangelical support for Israel is falling, anti-Semitism and Replacement Theology are rising, and many question the Jewish people’s right to the Holy Land. How can we fix this mess? Thomas Ice answers the arguments of both secular and religious communities by presenting the biblical, historical, and legal reasons for Israel’s right to the land in this excellent exposition on Zionism!
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Apples of Gold: Fifty Years…And Counting
Zvi reflected on the fifty years that had passed since Israel’s Declaration of Independence and his 50 years living in the nation. Though many Israeli soldiers couldn’t help but boast about their military victories over powerful enemies, Zvi knew that it was God who had safely brought His people through to safety. Listen to him reminisce on the past fifty years and how the Lord had protected him through many battles, and most importantly, saved his soul.
The Friends of Israel Today theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
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