WASHINGTON, D.C.—We all know that far too many leaders at the United Nations, much of the left wing “mainstream” corporate media and many progressive academic institutions are reflexively and aggressively hostile to the state of Israel and towards the notion of Zionism.
Sadly, that’s a bitter fact of life.
The good news is that the vast majority of Evangelical Christians love and support Israel and believe that God has given the Jewish people the right to live in their ancient homeland.
A new survey just released by the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem strongly reaffirms this belief among most American Evangelicals that the covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis chapter 12 is still valid and operational.
However, the survey also reveals a troubling trend: younger Evangelicals are far less certain than their parents and grandparents about the validity of the Abrahamic Covenant and the right of the Jewish people to live in the Holy Land in their own sovereign state today.
And some are actually turning against Israel.
WHAT DO EVANGELICALS BELIEVE ABOUT MODERN ISRAEL AND THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT?
Consider two of the questions that were asked of 1,000 born-again Evangelical Christians.
“Do you believe God’s covenant with the Jewish people remains intact today?”
67.2% of all self-identified American Evangelicals said yes, they believe this.
Only 6.7% said “no, the covenant has ended.”
Only 3.3% said that “God never had a covenant with the Jews.”
However, nearly 1-in-4 Evangelicals (22.9%) said they didn’t know. More on this in a moment.
“Do you believe the Jewish people today have the right to the Land of Israel by the virtue of the covenant God made with Abraham?”
68.2% of all self-identified American Evangelicals said yes, they believe this.
Only 8.3% said no, they don’t believe this.
However, 23.5% said they didn’t know.
WHAT DO YOUNGER EVANGELICALS BELIEVE ABOUT MODERN ISRAEL AND THE ABRAHAMIC COVENANT?
Overall, I’d say these numbers are very encouraging because they confirm that most Evangelicals are theologically very pro-Israel.
That said, I need to make two points.
The first point is this: the numbers make it crystal clear that there is a real generational divide.
Let’s start with this question: “Do you believe God’s covenant with the Jewish people remains intact today?”
Fully 69.6% of Evangelicals age 30 and above believe that the covenant remains valid and operational today.
However, we see an 11-point drop among Evangelicals under 30 — only 58.3% of them believe the covenant remains intact.
Also troubling is that 11.5% of younger Evangelicals believe the covenant has ended — that’s twice as many as older Evangelicals (5.4%).
Still troubling is that nearly three times as many younger Evangelicals than older ones believe that God never had a covenant with the Jewish people — 6.4% versus 2.4%.
The number of Evangelicals who say they don’t know is roughly equal between younger and older Evangelicals — 23.9% versus 22.6%.
Now let’s look at this specific question: “Do you believe the Jewish people today have the right to the land of Israel by virtue of the covenant God made with Abraham?”
Here the generational divide is not quite as bad, and the numbers are somewhat more encouraging.
64.2% of younger Evangelicals believe this, compared with 69.2% of older Evangelicals.
Unfortunately, 12.4% of younger Evangelicals do not believe this, compared with only 7.2% of older ones.
The “I don’t know” category remains a problem in both groups — 23.4% of younger Evangelicals aren’t sure what they believe on this question, as do 23.6% of older Evangelicals.
ARE WE SEEING A DROP IN OVERALL EVANGELICAL SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL?
This brings me to my second point.
A survey that I helped design with the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem — released in December 2017 — found that fully 80% of Evangelicals believed that the Abraham Covenant was still valid and operational in the 21st century.
Does this mean, then, this new survey represents a drop from 80% to 68%?
Perhaps, but I don’t think so.
Let me explain why.
In this new survey, the pollsters asked randomly dialed respondents to a telephone survey, “Are you an Evangelical or born-again Christian?”
If a person said yes — thus self-identifying as an Evangelical — then the pollsters continued with the rest of their questions.
This is a perfectly legitimate method of polling.
However, in the 2017 study, we took a different approach. We did not allow respondents to self-identify as Evangelicals.
Rather, our pollsters asked people who were randomly dialed to respond to four theological statements published by the National Association of Evangelicals, the method the NAE uses to describe the core beliefs of all true “born again” Evangelicals.
The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Jesus Christ’s death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God’s free gift of eternal salvation.
If a respondent said that he or she “agreed strongly” with all four statements, then the pollsters classified them as Evangelicals and continued asking them the rest of our survey questions.
If they did not agree with any of the statements — or didn’t agree strongly — the pollsters politely thanked them for their time and ended the survey.
Because our goal in 2017 was to narrow the survey only to people who shared the same core theological convictions, and only then to understand what they thought about Israel and other related issues.
The polling method used in this new survey casts a wider net. It pulls in many Americans who call themselves Evangelicals but may not actually be orthodox in their theological views.
Thus, it includes a wider range of people with more liberal theological, social and political views than the method we used in the 2017 poll, including young people who may go to Evangelical churches but not believe exactly what their parents and grandparents believe.
Thus, we should be cautious about making apple to apple comparisons between the two surveys.
WHAT DOES ALL THIS TELL US?
When we released the first survey in December 2017, we were already beginning to see some erosion of the theological views of younger Evangelicals towards Israel.
There was little evidence at the time that they were turning hard against Israel, but they were definitely moving into the “I don’t know” camp.
This new survey, however, provides the first real evidence that some younger Evangelicals are actually turning against Israel.
Tomorrow, I will explore why.
Today, let me restate a point that I made at the National Press Club exactly four years ago.
[Younger Evangelicals] are sending the Church a sobering message. They’re not against Israel. Not yet. Not at all. But the survey makes it clear that many of them really don’t understand Israel’s place in the biblical narrative. Thus, their support for Israel is nearly 20 points less than their parents and grandparents.
Now, extrapolate that going forward.
Unless the Church gives younger believers a healthy, balanced, solidly biblical understanding of God’s love and plan for Israel, overall Evangelical support for the Jewish State could very well plummet over the next decade as Millennials [and Gen Z] represent an ever-larger percentage of the overall Church body.
It was a problem four years ago.
It’s a bigger problem today.
I’m very concerned about it, but I’m also reporting these troubling truths so the larger Christian community is aware of them and can address the growing problem knowledgeably, prayerfully and biblically.
WHO DID THE NEW SURVEY?
The latest study was designed and conducted by Dr. Kirill Bumin and Dr. Motti Inbari, both of whom are experienced and respected professors at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP).
It was commissioned by Chosen People Ministries and the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem, a coalition of Evangelical scholars, seminary professors, ministry leaders and authors, including myself, who helped found it in 2017.
It was fielded by the Barna Group in July, after Netanyahu left office (but before the very serious tensions between Bibi and former President Donald Trump became known).
Together, the professors and Barna surveyed 1,000 Evangelical or born-again Christians.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.