(Posted on February 14, 2008)
The purpose of this book is responding to the claim that the land of Palestine belongs to the Jewish people (p. 8). Consequently, the author dedicates seven chapters explaining the theopolitical struggles from a Palestinian perspective. The writer starts by justifying the need for coining a contextual Palestinian theology that responds to Zionism as well as to the Israeli occupation (chapter 1). He points out that Godís incarnation is heavenís response to oppression (chapter 2), and Christís incarnational model is the standard for the Palestinian church (chapter 3). In addition, the author contends that Christís birth is similar to the birth of many Palestinian children in refugee camps. His struggle against evil is similar to their struggle against the Israeli occupation (chapter 4). After presenting his contextual concerns, the author takes us to a seen in heaven in order to proclaim the divine answers to the Arab-Israeli conflict (chapter 5). He argues for two states and for co-existence. Then he points out that this co-existence is only possible if justice prevails (chapter 6). Last, the author avers that justice can prevail only if Israel withdraws from the Palestinian land that was occupied in 1967 (chapter 7).
The strength of Khouryís book lies in asking the right questions and in analyzing the sociopolitical Palestinian struggles. However, Khoury fails in several ways. First, he does not provide any convincing answers. In fact, his book is a monologue that does not engage seriously any arguments against his perception.
Second, ironically, he criticizes fundamentalists for their corrupt hermeneutics but he does not provide any hermeneutical justification for his approach. Moreover, most of his biblical use is proof-texting that neither takes into consideration the illocutionary force of the text nor its discourse nor its historical or cultural backgrounds. Although, I agree with him that Palestinians are oppressed, I find his usage of scriptures abusive.
Third, Khouryís assumes that the reader accepts his perception of God. He rightly argues that God is the God of justice but he overlooks the notion that biblical justice cannot be divorced from divine election. Strangely, Khoury does not address the issue of election!
Fourth, Khouryís soteriology is dubious and raises several questions. His heaven is full of Jews and Muslims who did not accept Christ while living on earth. Nevertheless, they made it to heaven because they resist evil or suffered oppression. Unfortunately, Khoury does not discuss the biblical or theological basis of his soteriology. I also think that he overlooks the fact that the Palestinian church includes evangelicals who donít necessarily accept the teachings of the Catholic Church pertinent to salvation.
Fifth, Khoury is church centered. He claims that the church saves us and its main mission is to resist evil and oppression (p. 65). Sadly, Khoury ignores the Bibleís insistence that the church is the community of Christ who advocate not only social liberation but also a right relationship with God based on the death and resurrection of Christ. Khoury hastily defines the church without justifying his definition or without providing biblical or theological warrants. He sees the church as a group of denominations that are recognized by Palestinians. In short, Khoury combines some components from liberation theology and other components from his Catholic gestalt. He combines these two elements and provides an ecclesiastical Palestinian theology that interprets both text and context through the eyes of the Catholic Church. Khoury recognizes that his ecclesiastical theology cannot work if it ignores the ecumenical work in Palestine. Consequently, he argues that there is only one church among Palestinians i.e. the Palestinian church (62-63). Strangely, Khoury ignores the enormous theological differences between the different churches in the Holy Land. He defines the church in national terms instead of theological ones. I agree with Khoury that we need to advocate unity but nationalism is not a sufficient base for a healthy and lasting unity. It is not enough in a country that has Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Ethiopians, Arabs, Russians, Romanians, etc.
Last, although I share many of the concerns of Khoury and agree that Palestinian Christian must respond to the false teachings of Zionism, I donít think that Khoury has provided a convincing answer in his book. I hope that this review opens up further dialogue and hones Khouryís skills as well as mine so that the Kingdom of God will continue to progress among all the inhabitants of the Middle East.