Today I am pleased to introduce my first guest poster on Life Blessons, and none other than my very own husband! Michael is reviewing the book "Seeds of Turmoil" by Bryant Wright. Enjoy!
In his first major publication, Pastor Bryant Wright seeks to uncover “the Biblical roots of the inevitable crisis in the Middle East” in Seeds of Turmoil, recently published Thomas Nelson and provided to me for review.
Wright is head pastor of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, a church with a membership of 7,500, which (in complete transparency) I personally attended for two years during high school. I was also a part of a Bible study Wright led for a group of high school senior guys.
I like Wright, and he contributed a great deal to my personal growth as a Christian. He is a gifted communicator and has a love for God and for people. Yet, after reading this book, I see that Wright and I fall on differing sides of the issues he addresses in Seeds of Turmoil, especially many of the assumptions he draws from Old Testament promises and prophesies that have dire repercussions.
In Seeds of Turmoil, Wright attempts to explain the strife in the Middle East by looking back to the Bible and the story of Abraham and Sarah. As many of us know from Sunday School, the Lord promised Abraham descendants as numerous as the sands of the seashore and the Promised Land “flowing with milk and honey.” But in a move of impatience to bring the promise to fruition (rather than waiting on the Lord and his perfect timing), Abraham and Sarah took things into their own hands when Abraham slept with Hagar and Ishmael was conceived.
It is here that Wright says the “seeds of turmoil” were sown, regarding the conflicts and violence we see today in the Middle East. That’s because God’s promise was intended to be fulfilled through the legitimate child of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac, not through Hagar and Ishmael. It is through the lineage of Isaac and his son Jacob, who is later re-named Israel, that we get the people of Israel.
Wright focuses in on Ishmael, whom an angel prophesies will be “a wild donkey of a man,” and who later settles in an area in what Wright believes is the modern-day Arabian Peninsula. Because of this, Wright believes that Ishmael is the father of all Arabs, and because Muslim’s founding prophet Muhammad was an Arab, Wright deduces that Ishmael is the father of Muslims. Wright also states that the prophecy that Ishmael will be “a wild donkey of a man” extends even to his descendants—essentially, today’s Arab/Palestinian Muslims—and that they are destined to be violent people, with a special hatred for Jews, the descendants of Ishmael’s half-brother, Isaac.
Wright believes that the promise God made to Abraham that his descendants would inherit the Promised Land as “an everlasting possession” still holds for today’s Jewish Israelis, in that they have a Biblical right to the land. However, according to Professor of Old Testament Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, John Goldingay, the emergence of the nation-state of Israel is of political significance, as opposed to theological significance. The original promise was for Abraham’s descendants to inherit the land “flowing with milk and honey” and be set apart (in terms of worship, governance, etc.) from all the other nations around them. There was not, however, any promise made that the Jews would possess the land in the same ways other nations did.
Wright states that Bible believing Christians should (must?) support modern-day Israel, and that this extends to their possession of land as well as their violence toward Arab/Palestinian Muslims. What I found troubling about Wright’s book is how he is unashamedly supportive of Israel’s actions, which include military preemptive strikes against their enemies. To Wright, the fact that Israel, a small country compared to its enemies in the Middle East, has managed to survive and defend itself, must mean God is on their side and is helping them “win.” Because he sees the Jews as God’s chosen people and that they have right to the land, it seems that he believes that any and everything must be done for Israel to keep the land. That Wright supports all the acts of violence Israel has leveled against its enemies in the Middle East is troubling to me.
Wright also tends to group all Muslims into one category, as if the religion is monolithic among its millions of followers. No doubt, there are Muslims who are violent and who want to kill Jews and Christians, yet there are also Muslims who are peaceful. Wright would disagree with my last statement, saying there is no such thing as a truly peaceful Muslim.
As a follower of Jesus, I believe I am to pray for and to love both sides of this issue. That means that I can be tough and compassionate on both Israeli Jews and Arab/Palestinian Muslims. The New Testament exhorts us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors and to do good to those who do evil. Jesus’ Kingdom is about living in a new way, where love for enemy wins out over bombing our enemy.
In the end, Wright acknowledges the only hope for not only the Middle East, but all of us, is Jesus. This, I completely agree with.
For anyone who wants to know why or how Christians are so supportive of the present-day nation of Israel, this book is a good explanation of such views. Personally, though, I do not believe that any such views ought to excuse the violence or hatred that’s occurring in the Middle East.
Find Seeds of Turmoil by Bryant Wright on Amazon.
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