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A Baptist minister often critical of Islam said Sunday the current Mideast conflict “is a war against the God of Israel.”

“There’s never been a time when the body of Christ is needed as much as it is today,” Ergun Caner, the president of Liberty Theological Seminary, said in a sermon at Jerry Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va. “Somebody has to be left to take a stand for Israel. And every time they call for peace, it is always at the expense of Israel.”

Caner, author of Unveiling Islam, said he was raised to hate Israel. He grew up as a Sunni Muslim in Turkey and converted to Christianity as a teenager after moving to the United States. “As a Muslim we were taught that the Jews drink the blood of the Palestinian children,” he said.

Caner charged Islamic leaders preach war against Israel in Arabic in the mosque and then come to the United Nations speaking in English saying they want peace. “The only peace they want is a piece of Jerusalem,” he said.

“There is nothing worse than a holocaust taking place,” Caner said. “It’s been all over the news and yet Scripture is clear.” Preaching on a text from Revelation Chapter 5, Caner said Christianity is “grafted onto the nation of Israel” and cannot afford to be grafted onto a dead vine.

“They worry about 10 million Jews when there are 400 million Arabs who want to see the death of every Jew and the destruction of the nation of Israel,” he said. “I stand now and proclaim that evangelical Christianity, if we are silent in our defense of Israel, we are as bad as those who persecute them. Because someone must stand and say it is biblically right, it is ethically right, it is ethnically right. And the silence of evangelicalism in the midst of this war is killing me.”

“This is not a war against Israel,” Caner said. “This is a war against the God of Israel. And I will not apologize for standing with our kinsmen according to the flesh.”

Caner also criticized the United Nations, saying it is a misnomer. The nations of the world “have never been united,” he said. “As a matter of fact the only thing they are united on is their common hatred for America and their common hatred for Israel. And they’re also united in their common need for America. As soon as there’s a crisis, ‘Where’s America?’ They want to burn our flags and then turn around and ask us to buy them more matches.”

Caner co-wrote his 2002 book Unveiling Islam, which is subtitled “An Insider’s Look at Muslim Life and Belief,” with is brother Emir, who is dean of the college at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Former Southern Baptist Convention president Jerry Vines said the book was his source for his controversial statement at the 2002 SBC Pastors Conference in which he described Muhammad as “a demon-possessed pedophile.”

Elie Haddad, provost of Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, declined to comment about Caner’s comments.

“Having 90 refugees at our seminary in Mansourieh, 760 refugees in our school in west Beirut, thousands upon thousands of refugees all around us living in miserable conditions, our fuel, medical, food, and hygiene supplies getting scarce, and having no prospect of a quick resolution to the problem, I really am not in a frame of mind to respond to such remarks,” Haddad said in an e-mail to EthicsDaily.com.

“At ABTS, we have made this decision,” he said. “We cannot participate in a military war, and we have no intention at this time to participate in a political war. Instead, we want to fight wars of a different sort. We are involved in a spiritual war and a humanitarian war. We are active on the spiritual front by holding extensive times of worship and prayer for Lebanon, for our region, and for the people of our region (including our ‘enemies’). And, we are active on the humanitarian front by getting involved in relief efforts. Both fronts have been extensively supported by our partners in the West, especially Americans. Thousands are praying for us and are actively helping us in our relief efforts. We thank God day and night for the amazing love of God that is evident in them. We cannot do it without them.”

Faysal Sharif, Arabic/Muslim Kingdom Advance ambassador for the Baptist General Association of Virginia, said he is not surprised by Caner’s remarks, because he belongs to the “Christian Zionist” movement that is taught at Liberty Theological Seminary.

Sharif said Caner’s interpretation relies mainly on the Old Testament, which depicts the ancient Israelites as God’s chosen people, and applies them to the New Testament. He said the gospel does not support Caner’s position, because Jesus taught he came to fulfill the Old Testament promises and that Paul said the church is heir of God’s promises made to Abraham.

He also said it is false to say that all Arabs are anti-Semitic and it is essential to distinguish between believers in Judaism and the original Israelites, who were ethnic Hebrews. Most modern Israelis are of European descent and many are secular.

Sharif said Jesus taught that his kingdom was not of this world, but referred to a heavenly kingdom including a New Jerusalem. “As far as Jesus is concerned, all this world is cursed,” he said. “That includes Palestine, or modern Israel.”

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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