There has been a general decline in New Zealand Evangelicism in the last 30 years and perhaps no two institutions are more emblematic of that decline than Laidlaw College and Tear Fund NZ under the direction of Stephen Tollestrup.
With 3.4 million Christians massacred by Afro Arab Islamic militias in Sudan, 98% of the Evangelical Pastors in Iran martyred, and churches and New Testaments outlawed in Saudi Arabia as the Wahabist Saudis fund the construction of mosques and Islamic institutions all over the Western Judeo-Christian world including New Zealand, it appears well beyond the normal limits of religious hypocrisy that Church and Tollestrup continue their campaign of anti-Israel polemics given the fact that Israel is the only nation in the Middle East fully protecting the human rights and religious freedom of Arab Christians. This is to say nothing of the fact that Israel also has beyond any doubt the best record of women’s rights in the region, where even in moderate Jordan upwards of 1,000 Islamic honor killings with the murder of Arab women by their own families take place annually to say nothing of such prolific practices ofÃ‚Â clitorectomy (female circumcision) and forced arranged marriages of little girls, some as young as eight. While we do not condone homosexuality, Israel also has the best record of protecting the human rights of homosexuals and lesbians as opposed to what transpires under Islamic Sharia law. None of this takes place where Arabs live under Israeli law. All of these savage Islamic injustices, including the brutal suffering of the church (particularly the Evangelical churches) throughout the region with the exception of Israel are simply ignored by Church and Tollestrup in favor of misrepresenting the facts against the one Middle East nation where Evangelicals are legally safeguarded. Such hypocrisy is sick.
The week after the shooting of 10 Turkish Islamic activists aboard the flotilla (which the Israelis agreed could unload in the nearby port of Ashdod and transport its wares to Gaza after screening for Iranian rockets and other weapons) Hamas attacked a rival mosque in Gaza killing 22 people including an 11 year old girl. Most of the media did not even report it. But when Israel defends itself from Iranian supplied weapons of terror the left wing media is up in arms. Steven Tollestrup and Philip Church do not appear to be any different. They even seem to reveal themselves more than willing to turn their backs on the persecuted church suffering under radical Islam as long as they can use the supposedly Christian ministry of "Jesus the Jew" in order to kick the nation and people of "Jesus the Jew" for protecting itself from the same radical Islam that persecutes the Christian church.
Despite their tragic rejection of their Messiah the Jews remain beloved of God according to Romans 11, and Zechariah 12 makes it clear that upon their coming recognition of Jesus as their Messiah He will destroy those surrounding nations who come against Israel and who have persecuted true Arab Christians. Again, Philip Church creates the distinct impression that Laidlaw College is a "pick-and-choose" doctrinal cafeteria where one only selects the bits of Scripture pleasing to one's theological taste and congruous with one's political prejudices, where anything not fitting into that category can be conveniently ignored. This is not true theological education either doctrinally or academically; in fact it is doctrinally not even true Christianity. But the focus of Philip Church does not really seem to be theological - it appears to be merely political where his pseudo-theological political rhetoric and Bible college provides a convenient platform for the brand of diatribe activism to which he subscribes at the expense of not preparing the students with the full gamut of scriptural dogma.
The very week that Mr. Church was attending a conference critical of Israel in Bethlehem Bible College (a hot bed of pseudo-Evangelical liberation theology), the Palestinian Authority closed down the local Arab Christian TV station that Israel was happy to allow to broadcast the Gospel message and play Christian music and sermons. This was omitted from the Philip Church article .
The conference was attended by Tony Campolo who teaches "a theology of mysticism is the common ground between Christianity and Islam", by Lynne Hybels whose Willow Creek church hosted an Islamic Imam to preach on Islam (find me a mosque that will invite an evangelist to preach on Jesus and salvation) and Colin Chapman who rejects the notion that the church can teach that Muslims and Hindus cannot be saved without converting to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. They were joined by liberal Anglican Naim Ateek and the Professor Awad whom I debated successfully on UK TV leaving him publicly unable to argue from the Scriptures in support of Replacement Theology. Yet somehow Philip Church imagines those rejecting fundamental tenets of the scriptural Gospel are fellow Evangelicals, raising the question whether or not he is indeed one himself.
With his company of mystics, heretics who deny the scriptural gospel, and non-regenerate clergy, Philip Church bemoaned the plight of the Palestinian people. He of course did not mention that until 1970 they were called the Jordanian people. Neither did he mention that those in refugee camps which the Islamic world has refused to integrate left their homes at the behest of the United Arab Command despite Israel's appeals that they remain. Neither did he mention that according to the UN World Health Organization the so-called Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank saw their standard of living improve under the Israelis by 320% in everything from longevity to employment to reduced infant mortality over what it had been under Islamic Arab rule. There was of course no mention of the fact thatÃ‚Â the standard of living of West Bank Arabs is higher than the averages in Egypt and much of Jordan and Syria, to say nothing of Yemen and a list of other Muslim countries. Omitted from his report also was the central issue of the mis-allocation, pilferage, and embezzlement of international aid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) that constitutes the actual root cause of most economic hardship. Even Hamas recognizes this which in large part accounts for the political popularity of Hamas in reaction to PA corruption.
The fact that the Israeli defensive perimeter was only built in desperation after hundreds of Israeli Jews and Arabs were murdered by Islamic terror did not seem to factor into his equation either; indeed it has saved countless innocent lives including Arabs and children both Jewish and Arab. Some may consider Philip Church to be a mere liar, others an apologist for terror. I make no such judgments. What I must wonder about however is if he did not engage in the dissemination of half truths whether he would have anything whatsoever to say.
Most troubling to me however, was his shabby handling of God’s Word. He rightly responded to assertions of temple prophecy from John 2, but did so selectively ignoring the other New Testament passages supporting the view of a reconstructed temple that will accommodate the designs of "the man of lawlessness" in 2 Thessalonians 2, Revelation 11, and to say nothing of the mound of Old Testament prophetic predictions that make sense only if the New Testament ones are taken literally and not spiritualized away by what amounts to a faulty hermeneutic of Gnostic mysticism.
I personally can not recommend that anyone considering an education in academic theology taught from a scripturally Evangelical perspective should enroll at Laidlaw college.
Even more sad is the pathetic argumentation of Stephen Tollestrup of Tear Fund NZ which seems to have degenerated into a mere social welfare organization with a political agenda and no firm scripturally Evangelical foundation any longer. I hope Scripture-believing Christians will send their contributions to a more deserving ministry.
In his badly attempted effort at doctrinal argumentation Mr. Tollestrup ignores flatly the unambiguous statements of Jesus that the Jews would one day need to return to Israel and Jerusalem to facilitate His return as if such passages as Luke 21:24 and Matthew 23:39-40 did not exist. Devoid of doctrinal arguments, Tollestrup resorts to political ones, but devoid of factual political arguments he invents non-facts as he goes along in his position paper Views on People, Land, and State.
He speaks of "loss of homeland" as if it were a fact just as Mr. Church speaks of occupation. In fact no Palestinian state has ever existed. From 1948 until 1967 the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem were all firmly in the hands of Arab Muslim governments. If there was cause for a second Palestinian homeland in addition to the one already existing in Jordan (in 1968 and 1970 respectively both King Hussein of Jordan and Yasser Arafat declared that Jordan is Palestine), why did the Arab Muslim world establish one when they had nearly 20 years to do so? This escapes Mr. Tollestrup. As we might expect, also absent fromÃ‚Â Mr. Tollestrup’s biased account of events is that the majority ofÃ‚Â those claiming to be Palestinians are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of illegal immigrants who entered the land illicitly during the British mandate to benefit from the infrastructural development, increased agrinomic capacity, improved health care and education and employment opportunities brought by the British and the Jewish Zionist pioneers which initially worked to the advantage of Arabs, and still work to the advantage of Israeli Arabs, Arab Christians, Druses, and Bedouins holding Israeli citizenship.
Indeed, an indigenous people cannot by definition be an "occupying presence". Maoris cannot "occupy" New Zealand nor can Apaches "occupy" Arizona "“ the archaeological record proves them to be indigenous. So too archaeology proves the Jews to be the indigenous people of Israel including the West Bank. It seems that in the theology of Tollestrup or Church a people native to a land cannot be called an occupation "“ unless of course they are Jewish like Jesus, Mary, and the Apostles. The Word of God however, says otherwise.
Somehow in Mr. Tollestrup’s mind an alien people with a historically recent presence become the indigenous people while the archaeologically, historically, and biblically verified indigenous people with an ancient presence become a form of "colonization".
When Mr. Tollestrup writes of the "Palestinian being maligned", does he mean in Black September of 1970 when 18,000 of them were systematically exterminated by the Jordanian Legion?Ã‚Â As Philip Church praises what he describes as the patient endurance of the Palestinian people suffering under the Jews who increased their standard of living as opposed to their fellow Muslims the Turks who enslaved them or Jordanians who massacred them, Steven Tollesterup also lauds the virtue of the Palestinian people as seeking peace. Indeed, the most recent Al Arabia poll shows that 74.3% of the West Bank Muslim Arabs support Hamas who not only demand eradication ofÃ‚Â Israel but of the Jews and advocate continued jihad against the West. It was not the Israelis who killed 300,000 Christians in East Timor off the coast of Australia or 80,000 in the Philippines, or who were responsible for the Mumbai attacks, September 11th, the London tube bombings, the Bradford riots, the Sydney riots, the Paris riots, or the Beslan slaughter of children "“ it was the same Islamic terror Israel battles daily.
It is pathetic and factually dishonest how both Philip Church and Steven Tollestrup moreover write as if their views were somehow representative of all Arab or Palestinian Christians. From Joseph Fara, to a host of Evangelical Palestinian pastors including Shmuel Rin Said, to a now Evangelical son of a founder of Hamas, and others financially supported by our Moriel ministry, they do not speak for all Arab Christians and especially not for all Evangelicals. For every Arab Evangelical they can produce opposing Israel’s position I can produce one if not three supportive of Israel due to Israel’s protection of Christian rights and human rights denied and violated by Islamic law.
What Tollestrup and Church do not want people to know is that at the present moment there are 25,000 Arabs (including Bedouin Muslims) serving in the Israeli military on a voluntary basis, defending Israel from the same jihadist extremism that threatens the Western world.
In their poorly sculptured distortion of theological, historical, and geo-political reality misrepresenting factual actuality they attempt to paint a convoluted portrait of an imperialist Israel with no thought to the Islamic occupation of the north of mainly Christian Cyprus, once Christian Constantinople, or once Christian Lebanon to say nothing of the Turkish occupation of Kurdistan, or the Arab occupation of once Christian Berber North Africa; places where Christians are still persecuted until this very day. The selling of abducted Black African Christian children by Arab Muslim militias into slavery in Darfur or the 1 million dead Christians in Northern Nigeria murdered by Islam since 1968 is simply not on their radar screen. Instead of defending the persecuted church from their Islamic persecutors, Tollestrup and Church buy into the Islamist orchestrated agenda of defending the persecutors of the church from the Israelis who are forced to stand up to the Islamists in order to survive and protect their lives and the lives of their children. The Arabic battle cry of Hamas is "today the Saturday people, tomorrow the Sunday people" - today we murder the Jews, and tomorrow the Christians.
We invite anyone wanting to hear the truth about the so-called Christian theology of Palestinian liberation to watch my TV debate with Dr. Alex Awad from this same Bethlehem Bible College which is archived on YouTube here.
The only thing more empty than their warped version of history is their utterly warped theology.