Jan 2008

Midlands Bible College interview with Paul Wilkinson, author of For Zion's Sake

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In November 2007 Paul Wilkinson's book For Zion's Sake: Christian Zionism and the Role of John Nelson Darby was published by Paternoster. Already on its third print run, Midlands Bible College contacted Paul for a brief interview concerning his research and book, as well as asking him about responses to the book and opportunities arising out of it. The full interview with Paul can be found below. Further details of the book, together with a special purchase offer currently being made available by Paternoster, can be found on the publisher's promotional flyer.
 

 




MBC:  First of all, please tell us a little bit about yourself, for example your Christian experience, education and ministry.
PW:  I was born into a non-Christian home in Oldham, Lancashire, in 1971. I enrolled at York University in 1989 to study Mathematics and Statistics, and during my second term attended a Christian Union meeting where I heard the Gospel preached by a visiting speaker. I was convicted of my sin, responded to the appeal, and was born-again by the grace of God (praise the Lord!) After graduating in 1992, I was employed on a fast-track management scheme with Refuge Assurance in Wilmslow, Cheshire. In 1996, believing that the Lord was calling me into full-time ministry, I enrolled at the Nazarene Theological College in Didsbury, South Manchester. During my five years there I received a Diploma in Theology and Youth Ministry, followed by a BA (Hons) and MA in Theology from Manchester University. I also taught the college’s Introduction to Biblical Studies course for one year. In 2003, I began PhD research at Manchester University. The title of my thesis was John Nelson Darby and the Origins of Christian Zionism. I graduated in December 2006. I am currently serving as the Assistant Pastor of Hazel Grove Full Gospel Church in Stockport, Cheshire, where I have been in fellowship for 8 years.

What is your main area of expertise and current research interests?
Church history, with a focus on Christian Zionism. I am currently writing in the areas of dispensationalism, philo-Semitism, and the Holocaust.

Very briefly, please explain what the book is about.
The book aims to dispel the confusion surrounding Christian Zionism by defining it, charting its historical development, locating it firmly within the Evangelical tradition, and emphasising the pivotal role played by John Nelson Darby.

In a nutshell, what is your central thesis or argument in the book? How does this contribute to the current literature on the topic?
Christian Zionism lays the biblical foundation for Israel’s restoration and Christ’s return. The book gives the opposing movement, which is rooted in replacement theology and political revisionism, a proper name – Christian Palestinianism - and refutes the scholarship of men like John Stott and Stephen Sizer who have grossly misrepresented Christian Zionism.

Share with us what led you to write this book and why you believe it is important for Christians to read it.
I believe that the Lord led me to consider the 19th century, and the Christian response to the return of the Jewish people to their land. Darby and the early Brethren were instrumental in countering amillennial replacementism and postmillennial revivalism, and in restoring belief in the literal and future fulfilment of prophecy. The book is important because many Christians deny the miracle of Israel’s rebirth, others are confused about whether they should support Israel or not, and others that do support Israel often do not fully understand why.

What kind of reader will it mainly appeal to (for example scholars, students, lay Christians, etc)?
Academics and non-academics alike. In short, everyone I hope.

Were there any aspects of your findings which particularly stood out or surprised you, or which you struggled with, during the research process?
The two most surprising aspects of my research were 1) to discover just how deep-rooted our Evangelical heritage is concerning belief in Israel’s promised restoration, and 2) to discover just how important a role dispensationalists have played in preserving this heritage.

Are there any aspects of For Zion’s Sake which you feel might be particularly controversial, and if so, how?
Any negative appraisal of Roman Catholicism and Islam will always be controversial in today’s climate. Exposing the political revisionism and replacement theology of the Christian Palestinianist movement will undoubtedly ruffle feathers in certain quarters. However, the most controversial aspect of the book may well be my definition of Christian Zionism, with its focus on the pre-tribulation Rapture of the Church.

Describe some of the opportunities that have arisen out of the book’s publication.
I was one of the research consultants for The Destiny of Britain, which was released by Hatikvah Film Trust in December 2007 and which charts British Evangelical belief in Israel’s restoration prior to the Balfour Declaration. I also gave a paper at the Third International Brethren History Conference in Liverpool, and was invited to attend the 16th Annual Pre-Trib Study Group Conference in Dallas, where the book was promoted. I will be presenting a paper at this year’s conference. I have also been asked to speak at a seminar on Israel being organised by Midlands Bible College, and at a conference on Christian Zionism organised by Love Never Fails in May.

As far as you can gauge, what has been the response to the book so far? How have people responded when you have been invited to speak about For Zion’s Sake?
It is early days (the book was only published late November 2007), but it is already on its third print run. I have only seen one review to date, which is very positive and is posted on the Penfold Book & Bible House web-site.

Do you have or can you recommend a website which provides further details of your book or your thoughts on this subject?
I don’t have a web-site. The best source of information is the flyer posted on the Midlands Bible College web-site [see above]. I anticipate that other ministries will promote the book in due course once they have read the book.

Do you think you might eventually write further on this subject?
Yes, but that is subject to the leading of the Lord.

For readers of this interview interested in further material on your subject, what other books do you recommend which are generally sympathetic to the position you’ve taken in your book?
Books published in the U.S. by Tim LaHaye, Dave Hunt, Mark Hitchcock, Thomas Ice, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, and Randall Price (all of whom endorsed the book), and those published in the UK by Tony Pearce.

Finally, are there other research or writing projects on the horizon you have planned for the future?
At present I am writing articles for several journals, including Bibliotheca Sacra and The Jerusalem Connection, and researching a chapter on dispensationalism and philo-Semitism for another Paternoster book due to be published later this year.

Paul, thank you for your time.