Does Stephen Sizer misrepresent Walter Riggans?

In this post, I will attempt to show that Stephen Sizer has misrepresented Scottish theologian Walter Riggans. He does this by claiming that Riggans says Christians should support both the existence and the policies of the state of Israel. Riggans does indeed say that Christians should support the sovereignty (i.e. the right to exist) of the state of Israel, but says that Christians should support Israeli policies only in accordance with biblical criteria, and not unconditionally. The post is divided into three parts:

Part A: what Stephen Sizer says Walter Riggans says

Part B: what Walter Riggans actually says

Part C: Conclusions

Direct quotes from Stephen Sizer are in blue. Direct quotes from Walter Riggans are in red. Emphasis is mine throughout.

Part A: what Stephen Sizer says Walter Riggans says

(i) On pp.19-20 of Christian Zionism: Roadmap to Armageddon? (IVP: 2004), Stephen Sizer writes the following:

Walter Riggans, for example, elaborates on the relationship between theology and politics in Zionism:

A biblical Zionism, which is surely the desire of every Christian, will be fundamentally about God and his purposes. Thus Zionism, when seen in a proper Christian perspective, will be understood as a branch of theology, not of politics… The state of Israel is only the beginning of what God is doing for and through the Jewish people.

Sizer’s footnote states that this quote comes from pp. 91 & 93 of Riggans’ book The Covenant with the Jews (Tunbridge Wells: Monarch, 1992). The first two sentences quoted are from p.91; the third from p.93.

(ii) Sizer then writes the following:

[Riggans] goes on to suggest that Christians should not only support the idea of a Jewish State, but also support its policies: ‘…in the most modest of ways, I would suggest that Christians… must give support in principle to the State of Israel as a sign of God’s mercy and faithfulness, and as a biblical mark that God is very much at work in the world.’

Sizer’s footnote indicates that this quote comes from p. 21 of Riggans’ 1988 booklet Israel and Zionism (London: Handsell Press, 1988). This is incorrect – it is actually from p. 31 (no doubt a typo on the part of Sizer and/or his publisher).

Note that Sizer claims that Riggans suggests Christians should support Israeli policies; but then quotes an extract that says nothing about support for Israeli policies. Note, also, that Sizer is duplicating what he wrote at pp. 14-15 of this own PhD thesis. Part B, however, will show that Riggans nowhere says that Christians should support Israeli policies, but should be free to disagree about them and judge them on biblical criteria. 

Part B: what Walter Riggans actually says

(i) This is what Walter Riggans says on p. 91 of The Covenant with the Jews.

What we need to do is to find a mediating way between rejection of Israel and the full-blooded ‘Christian Zionism’, so-called, of those who see Israel as the key to all of God’s work in the world today. Modern political Zionism is secular, it is not centred on the desire to seek the will of God. A biblical Zionism, which is surely the desire of every Christian, will be fundamentally about God and His purposes. Thus Zionism, when seen in a proper Christian perspective, will be understood as a branch of theology, not of politics. This does not mean that there will be no political implications or applications, but support for any given decision or action in Israel will have to be judged in accordance with the full range of biblical principles, and not in some unconditional manner. In the same way there should be no such thing as unconditional support for every decision or action taken by the churches or any ‘Christian country.

The highlighted text, which clearly states that Christians should not give unconditional support to Israeli policies, is omitted by Rev Sizer (see Part A(i) above).

(ii) On p. 93 of The Covenant with the Jews, three paragraphs before the extract quoted by Rev Sizer (see Part A(i) above)), Walter Riggans writes this:

it is our responsibility and privilege as Christians: (a) to support the sovereignty of the State of Israel, even though we must be free to disagree with one another on the proper borders, government policies, etc….

Here, again, Riggans does not say that Christians are obliged to support the policies of the Israeli government. Stephen Sizer omits this clear statement. This omission is worse because Riggans is actually repeating a statement he makes previously, on p. 75 of The Covenant with the Jews.

(iii) On p. 31 (not p. 21) of Israel and Zionism, Walter Riggans writes this:

each Christian is free to make their own judgement about the decisions and performance of any Israeli government or agency… in the most modest of ways I would suggest that Christians… must give support in principle to the state of Israel as a sign of God’s mercy and faithfulness, and as a biblical mark that God is very much at work in the world.

The highlighted text makes Riggans’ view clear, that there is no obligation on Christians to support Israeli policies. It is omitted by Rev Sizer, even though it is on the same page as the extract he actually quotes (see Part A(ii)).

Part C: Conclusions

Walter Riggans repeatedly says that Christians are free to disagree about particular Israeli policies, that they should not support those policies unconditionally, but should weigh them in accordance with biblical principles. Rev Sizer, however, says that Riggans says Christians “should not only support the idea of a Jewish State, but also support its policies”. He is only able to do this by quoting selectively from Walter Riggans and ignoring those statements of Riggans that state the clear opposite. It is submitted that such a methodology falls far short of IVP’s stated commitment to “the highest possible standards of academic writing.”

 

 

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One Response to Does Stephen Sizer misrepresent Walter Riggans?

  1. Pingback: IVP: three writers, double standards? | Large Blue Footballs

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