The Anglo-Israel Belief
Is It a Cult?
By Pastor Curtis Clair Ewing
People who believe that the Anglo-Saxon and kindred peoples of the earth are the Israel people of the Bible should never be spoken of as a sect, nor be called a cult. Whoever is guilty of this manifest a great deal of ignorance as to the proper use of words, as well as the nature of the Anglo-Israel belief.
Some time ago the writer was told an account of a minister who referred to a Christian lady belonging to the British-Israel sect. The minister was off to a bad start, for Americans are not British, so should never be called British-Israelites. If we have to be labeled, let it be Anglo-Israelites. But let us examine the word “sect” and we shall see that Anglo-Israel believers are not a sect.
Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary defines a “sect” as: A. “A party dissenting from an established or parent church; a body of sectaries.” B. “One of the organized bodies of Christians; a denomination.” So we are not a sect, not having a denomination.
The word “sectarian” refers to a denomination, or one of the Christian sects. The word “sect” comes from the word “section” meaning part of the whole. Just as a slice of an orange is a section of the whole, so the various denominations are part of the whole Christian community of believers. Anglo-Israel believers are found among all the major denominations, so how can they possibly be a sect?
Dr. Mordecai F. Ham, under whom Billy Graham was converted, was a Baptist; Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, “the prince of expositors” was a Congregationalist; Bishop Jonathan Holt Titcomb was an Anglican; Dr. Dinsdale T. Young and Dr. Clarence True Wilson were great Methodist ministers; Evangelist F. F. Bosworth belonged to Christian Missionary Alliance; but all of these men believed that the Anglo-Saxon people are Israel. There is no sectarianism here, for they all had something in common. So never call Anglo-Israel believers a sect.
Neither should they be called a cult. The same dictionary we quoted above says, “a cult is a sec.” But the use of the word has broadened out its meaning. The writer asked a professor of a nearby seminary, who majored in comparative religions and cults, how he would define a “cult.” He defined it as “a professed Christian movement which had departed from the mainstream of evangelical Christianity.” To this the Anglo-Israel believers plead “not guilty.”
We are evangelical Christian. We believe in the inspiration, infallibility and authority of Scripture. We believe in the Deity of Jesus Christ, His virgin birth, resurrection and ascension and second coming to judge this world in righteousness. We believe that His death on Calvary was for our redemption and as a sacrifice for sins.
We believe in the necessity of the New Birth and the present work of the Holy Spirit. If this is the evangelical position, then we have not departed from the mainstream of evangelical Christianity. But we have supplemented something to enhance that position.
No one can go beyond the believers in our Israel identity in regard to the place of the Scriptures in both the individual's life and the life of the nation. And if we believe in Calvary, as we must certainly do, we outdo others, for we believe that at Calvary Christ died also as a confirmation of the great covenant promises made to the fathers of Israel. His blood ratified these great promises and opened up the flood gates for their fulfillment. The Anglo-Israel believer believes more than others, not less.
What, then, is the Anglo-Israel position?
It is an interpretation of Scripture consistent with the evangelical position, yet adding to and supplementing it. Just as there are varied views among the Christians on baptism, election, the millennium, or church government, so there is on the subject of Israel.
Christians are divided on the subject of baptism, for some pour, some sprinkle, some immerse and a few do without baptism altogether. Then there is the great theological differences between Calvinists and Arminians. As to the millennium, there are three views such as Postmillennialism, Amillennialism, and Premillenialism. There are almost as many views on types of church government as there are churches.
We also find when it comes to the subject of Israel that there are three views entertained by Christians. (1) The view promoted by the reformed churches that the church is the inheritor of Israel's promises; (2) the view that the Jews constitute all Israel; (3) then the position that Israel is found in the Anglo-Saxon and kindred people.
Why is it considered honorable to say the Church is Israel, or that the Jews are Israel, both contradictory positions, but heresy and the formation of a cult if one says that the Anglo-Saxons are Israel? Especially when 95% of all Christians and the larger amount of Jews reside in Anglo-Saxondom?
No friends, the Anglo-Israel believers are neither a sect nor a cult, but a well-reasoned and rapidly growing school interpreting the Bible. This interpretation explains world conditions as no other view of Scripture ever did or ever will. So let us reject any label men would place upon us as not in keeping with the facts.
Some years ago one of America's great Christian leaders pointed out that every great Christian movement has had to fight its way to popular acceptance. Then he stated the three stages through which the movement passed. First, that of ridicule; second, persecution; third, recognition as a legitimate branch of the Christian church.
Those who have not studied church history (and that takes in most Christians) do not realize that some of the most honored and respected denominations of today were once terribly ridiculed and persecuted in their early history. They all passed through these stages. We do not mean that the stages are well marked and defined so that you can tell where one begins and the other stopped, for they often overlapped or were simultaneous. But they did have ridicule, persecution and other abuses before they were finally received.
The Anglo-Israel believers have been no exceptions. A few years ago, Dr. H. C. Morton, a great Methodist minister of international and interdenominational position, Editor of the Fundamentalists, and not an Anglo-Israel believer expressed himself as being shocked at the persecution which we have received, and mostly from Christian people. We personally could give many examples that would shock most anyone with a fair sense of justice.
But now, thank heaven, we are entering or merging into the third stage of Christian movements. This should prove heartening to those who believe. Let me give you a few examples of what I mean.
As far back as 1954 Dr. Horton Davies wrote a book called Christian Deviations, in which is found one chapter on the Anglo-Israel position. When this book was reviewed in The Churchman for September 1954 by Rev. J. Stafford Wright, M.A., Principal of Tyndale Hall, Bristol, he took issue with Dr. Davies in calling us a deviation, and pointed out that we accept the evangelical position. After citing how we accept the Deity and Lordship of Jesus Christ, he said further:
“In fact, I myself could never group B.I. with others; it would be fairer to recognize it as a particular interpretation of prophecy within the orthodox Church of Christ.”
In a similar strain, Dr. F. Townley Lord, Editor of The Baptist Times, carried an article on “The British Israelites” for February 16, 1956, in which he also said many complimentary things and admitted “from what I know of them, fervent and devoted to evangelical Christianity.”
Dr. James Black, outstanding Presbyterian minister and former moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, also says some complimentary things about us in his book New Forms of the Old Faith. After outlining our position he states:
“Note (1) it does not involve any question of Christian orthodoxy or heresy. It is . . . a view which many Christians add on to their ordinary faith. (2) It does not involve and breach or schism in the church itself; its members belong loyally to all churches. (3) Those who accept it say that it gives them a new view of their responsibility to bring the world under the rule of God; and they claim that it gives them a new vocation, and a sense of our national destiny and responsibility.” (pp. 266-267)
“Many good Christians whom I know and respect do keenly believe it. Its acceptance does not entail any heresy, or involve any less interest in the Church.”
Take another example. Back in 1953 Dr. Oswald J. Smith, Founder of The People's Church, Toronto, Canada, published a book called Who are The False Prophets? This book has one chapter against the Anglo-Israel position, and went through many reprints.
In 1962 and 1964 this book was republished and copyrighted under the title False Prophets. It contains the same chapters against some of the popular religious cults of today, but the chapter against the Anglo-Israel position has finally been deleted. Could it be that Dr. Smith finally is seeing the light?
Well, we can't answer that question, but we do know that while Dr. Smith was pastor of the great church he founded, there were three great evangelists who held meeting for him. They were Drs. A. P. Gouthey, Luke Rader and F. F. Bosworth. All three of these men were committed to the Anglo-Israel position. Furthermore, Dr. Smith admitted to the late Dr. Luke Rader that the greatest evangelistic crusades ever held in his church were held by Gouthey and Bosworth. We are encouraged that the good Doctor has omitted his attack from the latest issue of his book.
Since it is admitted on all sides that the fastest growing churches in our times are those of the Pentecostal position, let us state a word for their consideration too. I know three Pentecostal evangelists who are from Britain, each one belonging to a different Pentecostal denomination. Yet each in turn told me you could preach on our identity in their church in Britain, as long as you were gentleman about it, that is, if you are Christian and tolerant toward those who do not see it your way.
One man in England who should be mentioned here is the late Principal George Jeffreys, well known to all Pentecostal churches of Britain. Evangelist Jeffreys was the founder of two Pentecostal churches of Britain, The Elim Church and the Bible Pattern Church. Up to the Billy Graham era probably no minister in England in modern times ever spoke to larger crowds than did George Jeffreys.
At his death all his Brethren paid high tribute to him as one of God's choice servants for this day and generation. But please remember he was fully committed to a belief in our identity as the Israel people of the Book. There was no doubt as to his position on this subject. We only wish the Pentecostal churches in America had the same grace, light and understanding that their Brethren in Britain have.