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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A Common Word

Today, I heard the testimony of a dear brother who has lived in an Islamic state. He did not mince words or try to claim that Christians and Moslems should be seeking unity. He does not applaud their monotheism...for they worship a false, non-trinitarian god.

However, there are some Moslems who think we should celebrate our similarities: A Common Word

What is their motivation? Could it be an underhanded move to catch Christians off guard? Possibly. Could it be that they simply don't understand the differences in our faiths? Apparently. Is it understood by the fact that "the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ? Certainly (see 2 Corinthians 4:4).

Whatever their motive, we should not be surprised. However, if evangelicals then wrote back to them, applauding their efforts...now that would be troubling.

What, you say? That has already happened!

So the real question must be asked, "What is their excuse?" (By the way, read the full article with list of signatures here to see if your favorite author/speaker/advocate or your child's dean/professor signed the document.)

There was an urgency to this brother since he had seen the persecution first hand. He did not try to pretend it is a religion of peace. He did not try to portray a "positive spin" to Islam. Bottom line: Islam, like all faith systems that deny the Biblical portrayal of Christ, is Satanic.

And why has the church lost her urgency to say so? Somethings wrong if a field trip would have to recovery it.


  • At 9:27 AM, Blogger Ned Denlinger said…

    Mark 10:34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword."

    I spent some time in Acts 5 this morning. If there were a group with which Christians would find mutual worship of the same God, it would have been the Jews. Yet when the apostles were persecuted by the Jewish leaders for preaching Christ, their response was not to "seek peace" since both groups worship the same God.

    The apostles response was to preach Christ even more boldly and more widely, right under the noses of the Jewish leadership. Their response was not to convene a counsel and see where the two groups were in agreement. Finally, their response was to preach Christ at the cost of their lives. It was not the Christians that resorted to violence, but the Jews.

    I see within our pluralistic culture a tendency for Christians to embrace those of other false religions, and try to find commonality. To me, this stems from a lack of faith that what we believe in the Gospel of Christ is TRUTH. If there is some measure of embracing commonalities with other religions, is it not with a hint of thinking that what they believe is perhaps "truth" for them? Are we seeking peace, because it makes the world we live in more comfortable? How we love our American comforts!

    This is what shocked our Pakistani brother as he came to the USA. That portion of the Body of Christ with all the freedom and all the resources to advance the gospel, seems to be hindered by the comforts that define our lives.

    Truth is mutually exclusive, and Christians are not the ones responding in violence to those who disagree. Islam worships a false God that was demonically created. If the apostles weren't interested in finding "common ground" with the Jewish leaders, how dare we seek to find commonality with those who worship false gods! If the Moslems want peace, then they just need to stop being the initiators of the violence.

  • At 8:12 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    This is what shocked our Pakistani brother as he came to the USA. That portion of the Body of Christ with all the freedom and all the resources to advance the gospel, seems to be hindered by the comforts that define our lives.

    "Rich and in need of nothing" comes to mind, doesn't it?

    Isn't it extraordinary to find names like Rick Warren, The Vineyard, Willow Creek, Brian McLaren, The Navigators, Emergent Village, Mennonite Central Committee, Biola University, Christianity Today ... all signatory to this "common word". What do we do with that? Do we cease our support of The Navigators? Do we finally affirm the criticism of Brian McLaren? Should Grace Brethren churches really be part of the Willow Creek Community?

    If the apostles weren't interested in finding "common ground" with the Jewish leaders, how dare we seek to find commonality with those who worship false gods!

    Strong words, and a hearty amen to them! I think that's what some of us have been saying here in the blogosphere for almost three years. Which makes me wonder why we have been chided from time to time for publicly opposing pastors who assert that movies can preach the gospel, Buddha can be a referent to Christ, or that Lent can recharge your faith. All three of those assertions are the documented words of pastors here in this district. So what constitutes the chasm that we "dare not" construct a bridge over? Is it one thing when its "out there" in Pakistan, and another when it is in our own house? Does it have to reach a certain level on the evil-meter before it is a work of Satan?

  • At 9:25 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    you both hit on the interesting point...

    are we as willing to call catholicism, mormonism, jehovah's witness and even prosperity gospel demonic? we should be. but does the fact that those folks have not flown planes into our buildings make us take a softer stance.

    (i'm not directing this question at you, ned. but at our entire district to personally think through.)

    what does this mean for cooperation with those that signed the document? well, i probably come from a slanted view to some, but i think their signing shows the end result of their faulty thinking...not a new diversion from truth. but that's just my thoughts.

    i agree with david regarding district engagement in these things. if we believe catholicism, humanism, buddhism are all demonic...why would we applaud practices that integrate these things? but how do we have this interaction?

  • At 7:02 PM, Blogger Joy said…

    I am very concerned for my own church, the district and for the fellowship. I believe satan has established a stronghold as most of the church sits warming the pew.

  • At 9:33 AM, Blogger Paul Klaw said…

    Hi Danny,

    Had not before heard of “A Common Word.” Thanks. I just read both it and “A Christian response to…” Allah being the Arabic word for “god” muddles things more than a bit, and Islam does view itself as being the continuation of the Jewish and Christian faiths. I was extremely surprised to read Muslim scholars talking about love for Allah for in the Qur'an, Allah seems transcendent, unapproachable, definitely not a “Father.” Let me preface my remarks by saying I do NOT believe that Allah of the Qur'an is the same as God in the Bible.

    Just a few thoughts concerning the motivation of the Islamic writers of "A Common Word" and our relations with evangelical signatories to “A Christian response…”.

    I did not at all see that the Muslim authors were seeking some neo-ecumenism. They baldly state their purpose (pp.15-16), “Christians and Muslims… make up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.”

    What if this really is their chief purpose (naïve me)? It actually looks political to me, a sort of religious détente. What if pacific elements within Islam are truly seeking to counter the radical elements in order to pursue peace? Now one can talk about peace theoretically, but bombings are nasty. I watched the Madrid and London bombings on the news. It was a sobering thought that I had been through the very same Madrid train station just two weeks earlier that was now a smoking hole in the ground. My colleagues felt the blasts, saw the rescue copters, some helped victims; all were quite shaken. So provided that it is not backdoor syncretism, encouraging peacemakers has some merit to it.

    Concerning those evangelicals who signed “A Christian response to A Common Word.” I would look at them person by person. Yes, Harvey Cox and Brian McLaren have signed. What else would one expect? But, for example, a scholar whom I know very well is also on the list and it didn’t surprise me to see his name either. He lived through the most recent Balkan war, a war ostensibly between Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim nations. And unless I miss my guess (I have not talked to him about this because I just read the documents this morning) I know that he is not there to sign an ecumenical pact. He is a fire breathing Assembly of God evangelist. He will uncompromisingly share the gospel of Christ.

    A very helpful work that deals with dialogue with other faiths is Timothy Tennet’s Christianity at the Religious Roundtable: Evangelicalism in conversation with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. He talks about the “c” word — conversion — being taboo in inter-religious dialogue. He rejoins (16), “Rather than viewing conversion as a taboo… I am free to make the best case I can for the Christian gospel, realizing that in the end I may remain the only convinced Christian.” It is interesting that I did not find his name on the list of signatories.

    Some of the comments above point out that Paul did not seek common ground. Yes and no. No, not in order to create an amalgam religion gleaned from the appealing bits of many beliefs. Yes, he absolutely sought common ground in order to uncompromisingly share the gospel.

    I Corinthians 9:19-23 With unrighteous clergy, Paul became convincingly religious among the religious; they had the Scriptures (our Old Testament) in common. And he also knew how to talk and behave as an “outlaw” (anomos—lawless, one without law 1 Cor. 9:21), yet remained scrupulously careful to neither sin, nor compromise the gospel. His purpose? “To win as many as possible,” for the sake of the gospel, and to “share in its blessings.”

    In light of this, would the apostle have been on the “A Christian response…” list of evangelicals in order to promote peace and have opportunity to share Christ? Would I associate with him if his name were found there?

  • At 9:33 AM, Blogger danny2 said…


    interesting comments...perhaps you will allow me to push your thoughts a bit further, for clarification?

    i guess i don't understand how islam considering itself the continuation of judaism and christianity is pertinent. every false religion considers itself to be true. shouldn't this cause us as believers to draw the lines even more clearly...since they are under deception?

    we should not even share the same motivation at them for world peace. it should have been stated that:

    a) those political war aggression movements by those claiming the name of "Christian" cannot be supported Biblically. all those who love the Bible would state that a war or oppression movement in the name of Jesus was by people quite deceived and wrong. our Scriptures would condemn, not approve of their action. the same cannot be said of the Quran.

    b) while politics are a real element or our society, they are not the Christian response to seeing ultimate peace won. to believe the day could come when war would cease (apart from Christ sitting on the throne in Jerusalem, or after the GWT judgement is not only naive, it is biblically ignorant. again, "Christian hostilities" cannot be biblically supported, so if there is a group of "believers" persecuting muslims, i will publicly rebuke that group...if that is what the moslems are looking for. but to see this effort as a 50/50 unilateral process toward peace is a deceptive process, in which we just play right into their hand.

    c) again, if their pursuit is peace, then this letter should be written to their fellow muslims, not to the Christian community. i'd defer to ravi zacharias here, if islam would resolve the wide divide between their extremists and "conservatives." why don't the conservatives call out the extremists? because the extremists have their "holy book" to support their actions, and the conservatives don't. so instead, these conservatives (who are actually quite liberal, in regard to their approach to their "scripture") are calling upon Christianity to change her approach? seems like a process of deflection to me.

    d) as for Christians signing the document. you're right, i can't know the motive. however, i do know that mclaren has an ecumenical agenda (obvious from his writings). i would simply offer that regardless of your opinion of the ministries of hybels and warren, i believe this is just one more sign that they have both become bogged down with "civilian issues" (for you yourself said this was political) instead of the spiritual warfare pastors have been called to engage in. i am not stating that either is distorting the gospel by signing this statement, merely that each has been clearly distracted from their task of gospel ministry they have been called to.

    why aren't other pastors calling them to return to our primary calling, instead of buying all their books and joining all their conferences? and in pastors have (and i assume some have), why haven't hybels and warren repented?

    e) would apostle paul have signed this document? i think your quotation of 1 Corinthians 9 really has nothing to do with this. i just can't see it.

    1) i don't think paul would have wasted his time with these issues, he wasn't called to the political arena.
    2) i agree with ned. acts 5 and the entire book of galatians shows paul had no regard for an ecumenical, compromised standard. he drew bold lines between truth and error. even acts 17 (the suppossed "finding common ground" justification) is filled with paul CONTRASTING mar's hill philosophy with Biblical standards.
    3) i can't see paul ever penning anything that does not clearly articulate salvation through Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone. "A Common Word Response" falls way short...therefore, without MASSIVE revisions, i can't see paul putting his john hancock to that document.

  • At 2:10 PM, Blogger Keith said…

    Danny and Paul . . .

    My concerns go deeper than what I see represented in this discussion so far. I think the concerns are much more serious than compromise or ecumenism. I think that what is happening with the "cw" and the response is full-scale deception.

    It is not just that Allah is not the God of the Bible (Yahweh - The Triune God), but that Allah is actually more like Satan than like God at all. I do not have time to prove this in writing right now, but I base this on a survey of the Quran, the Bible, and Islamic practices. One simple, yet pertinent, example should suffice though. In the Quran, lying is not always considered to be wrong. In fact, sometimes it is commended and required for the spread of the Islamic kingdom. Allah initiates and promotes this. Mohammed used it often to his advantage. This is normal Islam, not just extremist terrorism. On the other hand, in the Bible it is Satan, not God, who is the father of lies.

    Therefore, what is happening with the "cw" and the response is much more dangerous than "backdoor syncretism", as terrible as that would be. What is happening is a kind of "bait and switch" deception. While "Christian leaders" get sidetracked on the promotion of world peace, Islam will make more and more inroads into more and more countries, make more and more converts to Islam (while Christian missiologists discuss the virtues of "conversion"), and establish more and more headquarters for terrorist activity, with more and more bombings, and so on.

    So, the "cw" response is a deadly document. At best, some signed it naively, deceived into thinking they could buy a little "common ground" to do evangelism (i.e. Paul's AG friend, maybe Hybels and Warren), while others are deceivers themselves advancing a humanist agenda (Cox, McLaren, et.al.).

    Interestingly, not one word of Christian support for Israel. The signers of the response must be (I suspect) "replacement theologians". Islam does not really see itself as a "continuation" of Judaism or Christianity, it sees itself as a replacement of these because it sees them as having failed, or at best having outlived their usefulness. So maybe these "Christian replacement theologians" have more in common with Islam than anyone wants to admit. The issue of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem will continue to be THE issue, and there will be no peace until it belongs to the Jews.

    If Europe is not evangelized for Christ within the next decade or so, our missionaries there will be living and working under Islamic rule, if they are permitted to live at all. America is not far behind at all, and could even get there first.

  • At 3:23 AM, Blogger Paul Klaw said…


    I must have expressed myself poorly because you missed my point. You mention Acts 17, Paul does in fact use the common ground / starting point of Greek writers to enter into discussion, from there he moves to Christ. Now possibly Rick Warren or my friend, Peter Kuzmic, are “clearly distracted from their task of gospel ministry” getting bogged down in ‘civilian issues’” but possibly they are using this as a means to share Christ with Imams that you and I would never meet. In this way the Christian response becomes a starting point for moving the discussion to Christ. And in this way 1 Cor. 9 becomes 100% pertinent to the situation in order “to win as many as possible.”

    Keith, I read the Qur’an with a particular focus (an exchange with a Muslam man that I met; I was to read the passages about Jesus in the Qur’an and he was to read the Gospel of John) so did not pick up on the permission to lie. In any case, I agree with you. The distraction and deception factors are great.

    France has the highest Muslim population in Europe. And the Muslims have a saying that they will conquer Europe "through the bellies of their women." European birth rates are so low and Muslim birthrates so high that I have read some who believe France has already lost the battle. In light of history and prophecy, this does not give great hope for a peaceful future.


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