An Example of “Building Bridges” Gone Awry

A month ago tomorrow the New York Times published a document titled, “Loving God and Neighbor Together.” This document was a response to an open letter signed by “138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world” titled, “A Common Word Between Us and You.”

“Loving God and Neighbor Together” has been signed by a staggering number of self-proclaimed representatives of “the worldwide Christian community,” including (regrettably) the Rev. Dr. John Stott of All Souls Church in London, Dr. Richard Mouw (the President of Fuller Theological Seminary), church-growth gurus Bill Hybels and Robert Schuller, and emergent figureheads Brian McLaren and Scot McKnight.

Also signing this document was Rick Warren, whose Saddleback Church is (unless things have recently changed) still associated with the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Loving God and Neighbor Together” is a type of ‘bridge-building’ effort between Christians and Muslims, based on the supposed “core common ground” of love of God and love of neighbor. The document ignores the fact that Christians and Muslims define “God” differently (what Muslim would agree with a definition of who God is informed by, for example, John 1:1-14?) and it also ignores the fact that Christians and Muslims define “love of neighbor” differently (the unequal standards for justice offered to Muslims and “infidels” under Islamic law is a far cry from Jesus’ example of love for enemies as expressed in, for example, the parable of the good Samaritan).

The preamble of “Loving God and Neighbor Together” ends with the following statement:

Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world.

Now, Jesus Christ is truly the “All-Merciful One,” but in a Muslim understanding this title is only applied to Allah, and so the document gives the appearance that Christians are seeking forgiveness from the unitarian God of the Muslims rather than calling our Islamic neighbors to repentance and faith in Christ, which is their only hope of eternal life.

Brothers and sisters reading this post, “Loving God and Neighbor Together” is just the kind of bridge-building that Baptists must reject. We must not only reject seeking building bridges to other religions that are at enmity with the Christian Faith, but we must reject seeking common ground with other Baptists that would influence us to build such bridges and thus compromise the Great Commission. This, I believe, is an illustration of the necessity of Jeff Noblit’s warning, quoted in my last post.

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17 Comments on “An Example of “Building Bridges” Gone Awry”

  1. There are a few disturbing lines in the Christian statement. No doubt the authors were trying to be concise and were unable to clarify with much depth, but it would be difficult to clarify some of the statements to my satisfaction. One thread running throughout was the implicit belief that peace between Muslims and Christians can bring peace to the world. Many of the signers might disagree that this could happen, but they nevertheless signed a document which seemed to make that claim. Also as several have noticed, it is almost impossible to read the statement as saying anything other than that the God of Islam and of Christianity are one and the same. That is, they might say that Muslims are actually worshipping God, they are simply doing so in the wrong way. And toward the end of the statement there seems to be the claim that one must seek this kind of reconciliation in order to bring salvation. That is, unless we make the kind of efforts indicated in the statement, then our eternal souls are in jeopardy.

    Most of the signers were unknown to me. Some were not surprising. I was a little surprised to see Rick Warren, but reading his response on WorldNetDaily leads me to say that he signed it out of a great act of recklessness. He mentioned in the interview that he hadn’t even read the whole statement!?!?

    Other names were disturbing. I wasn’t sure what to make of John Stott’s name being on the list, and I was somewhat dismayed to find my own dean had signed the statement.

  2. Darrin Says:

    If Elijah had only reached out in this manner, he could have brought down fire from the Lord AND Baal, for himself and those prophets, and everyone would have been happy in the end. Would have been a win/win all around! Too bad the men of God back then weren’t as smart as we are!
    Once again, the status of man and of this world is much more important than the glory of God and His kingdom, according to humanists inside and out of the church.

  3. kelly Says:

    If Spurgeon were alive today.we’ve gone from a downgrade to a freefall!

  4. Matt Svoboda Says:

    The truth is that we have a bunch of cowards leading many of our churches, denominations, and seminaries! Christ didn’t come to bring peace, but a sword! The people who signed this document need some courage to stand up for truth!

    Live the Word

  5. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Why is it that we are trying to preserve the peace.

    If you do not mind good reformed doctrine with a Lutheran flavor there is a good piece on “Two Kingdoms” here.

    We as S. Baptists do have a history of ecumenism but this kind of bridges building goes far beyond that. The nation of Islam is a pan-international religio/polical reality. To them an agreement of mutual commitment is tantamount to a treaty between nations. They do not recognize borders, just religious nationalism. Where we have a clear bibilical distinction between the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of Heaven, Islam does not. And, I would have to say that neither does the RCC nor the LDS. And we could list others.

    To me it is amazing that SBC entities would sanction Acts 29 but not condemn the actions and theology of Warren and the likes. This I believe is what you might be getting at. We cannot do these kinds of things and we need to be clear about our doctrine and just how we are going to go about inter and intra chuch discipline and how we are going to relate to the cultures of this world to whom we are strangers. As I said, it is amazing that when it is politcally expedient we can muster the “holiness” to pass judgement, but when there is hay to be made by maintaining political alliances even when forbidden by Scripture we are all too willing to formulate our interpretations to accomodate.

  6. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    I should have made that Acts29.

  7. Barry Says:

    All this and Christmas a week away.

    I would caution some to think carefully before they profess a militant attitude and yet don’t have the wherewithall to serve their country in uniform.

    I’d also like to remind people that it is the moderates who end up reeling in those on the ends of the spectrum (left and right) when things have gotten out of control. It’s always the mainstream that fights and the mainstream that pays and the mainstream who has to live and deal with extremists–irrespective of the religion.

    Some here may not like the concept of “building bridges” between movements (or even variants within a movement) but I think anytime people are willing to sit at a table together and talk there can be progress.

  8. Barry,

    Building bridges is great and I am fully supportive of Christian-Muslim dialogue – so long as we continue to remember that one side is Christian and the other Muslim. What some dialogues seek to do is erase those distinctions, and statements such as these move in that direction. I believe we should be talking with those with whom we disagree, but we should also continue to make it clear that we are different sides, that we do disagree, that those disagreements are what distinguish us from one another.

    It seems that in the world today people don’t want to give you the right to talk with them until you agree with them. “You want peaceful dialogue? First you have to stop saying I am wrong!” But that is pointless. It is something other than dialogue.

  9. Darrin Says:

    “I would caution some to think carefully before they profess a militant attitude and yet don’t have the wherewithall to serve their country in uniform.”

    This is somehow relevant?

  10. Barry Says:

    Chris. I agree with your sentiments. No one on either side of a topic need be made to conform to the belief of the other in order to establish amiable dialoge.

    On the other hand I have seen resistance amongst Christian brethern toward each other for precisely the same thing–that they don’t think exactly the same.

    Darrin. I would say there is a great deal of relevance, inside religion and out, for those who enjoy talking tough but aren’t quite willing to walk the talk. Take a look at the plethora of conservative politicians and especially the pundits (from Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Will, Buchanan–one could go on for a very long time with this list) who profess towards militancy and jingoism–and yet couldn’t bring themselves to serve their own country. That is relevant–especially today, and especially to those who did serve and are serving.

  11. Darrin Says:

    I think I can appreciate your concerns and I apologize if I sounded like I was dismissing them. I hope that we who express concern about the doctrinal integrity of modern evangelical Christianity do not sound like our interest is in destroying her opponents. I certainly wasn’t trying to make any political statements. Just stating, as I think some of the other posts have, that the biblical scriptures are disctinct from all other writings, and the gospel of Christ distinct from all other beliefs, so we displease the Lord if we even give an indication of willingness to conform or compromise. This of course does not mean that we should be mean-spirited.

  12. George Rank Says:

    There is so much to disagree with in “Loving God and Neighbor Together” that it’s difficult to know where to begin. Two statements in the text jumped off the page as I read through it. The first being “Since Muslims seek to love their Christian neighbors, they are not against them, the document encouragingly states. Instead, Muslims are with them.” Some how that statement doesn’t jive with what I see on a daily basis in the news. The second statement “If we fail to make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony you correctly remind us that “our eternal souls” are at stake as well.” Can someone please explain to me how my “eternal soul” is at stake if harmony doesn’t exist between me and Islam.

  13. kelly Says:

    U.S.M.C ’87-91′
    Desert Storm veteran (since it’s relevant)

  14. Barry Says:

    Hats off to you Kelly. And, thanks.

    Darrin, you have a good point about conforming and compromising. But, on the other hand, isn’t that what each one of us does every day just to get by? I conform to the wishes of my wife (most of the time) and daughters and vice versa. I put up with a boss who’s not much brighter than a box of granola. We acquiese when needed and stand up for ourselves when that’s called for.

  15. Darrin Says:

    Barry, Certainly there daily compromises we do and should make, but it’s important to distinguish what should not be compromised. If it’s a personal preference (ex. where are we going to eat, should I mow the lawn today because my wife wants me to, etc.), then we can definitely yield and sometimes even have the privilege, when it impacts us more, to act sacrificially. I don’t think we really even need to “stand up for ourselves” unless keeping our peace would be dishonest or in some other way displeasing to God. However, in the case of God’s revealed truth to us, there truly isn’t any place for compromise. If my wife decided she didn’t want us to teach the kids about salvation by grace, I would in no way compromise or conform to her wishes. If I had a Muslim relative or co-worker, I might get together with the approach of seeing what they base their beliefs on, and maybe even finding what we have in “common”, but the sole purpose would be in desiring to properly present the gospel to them. It seems worse when the approach is a large, media-ridden, official sort of gathering like the one addressed in this post. Here there is little personal touch, but the impression of a more politically-correct “meeting of the faiths”. I guess the bottom line to me is that whatever we have in common with those of other religions is insignificant compared to the vast difference of knowing Christ. We are not any better inherently (the doctrine of election makes that clear), but yet we shouldn’t pretend that God has not enlightened us when indeed He has, nor should we who have been given this light pretend to have fellowship with those who are in darkness. Evangelize, yes; but take mutual counsel together, no.

  16. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    George- Don’t you know, blessed are the peace makers: Matthew 5:9 😉

    The interesting thing is that peace cannot be made between plaintiff and defendants without judgement, verdict and sentencing. That’s as you indicate is where we get into trouble. We must condemn along with the Lord rebellion against his Word or be found in contempt ourselves, and that is why we cannot sit at the table with scoffers:

    I think anytime people are willing to sit at a table together and talk there can be progress.

    This is rank progressivism. Islam is a world governmental/religious system which is bound by its own precepts to destroy all who oppose it. Saddam Hussein was the nephew of a Nazi collaborator who raised him to be the next Fuehrer. The nation of Islam (not to be confused with Farakan’s Nation of Islam) is not a single country; it does not recognize borders. That is in part why these guys didn’t sit at the table at the end of WWII, because to them there can be no peace. They are still fighting the war.

    The rest of this response is found at my other blog here, if you would care to read it and if Andrew will allow this link. There, I give my reasoning as to why this situation and the situation within the SBC are similar.

    My attitude is not militant Barry. There is a considerable difference between accomodation and Chamberlinesque appeasement.

  17. […] This past Sunday the Fox News network aired an interview with Joel Osteen that provides another example of building bridges gone awry. […]

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