Is Interreligious Dialogue Possible? (By Russ Robinson)

Russ Robinson is the lead pastor at First Baptist Church, Provo, UT. This article first appeared at Paul Thompson’s “The Bridge.”

It’s a cool fall morning on the campus of Brigham Young University, and I’m in a hot, high-ceilinged auditorium filled to capacity with clean-cut Mormon students and faculty. As far as I know, the only evangelicals in a room of more than 800 people are myself, the six friends that came with me, and the speaker that everyone has come to listen to: Dr. Albert Mohler.

As a Southern Baptist pastor with a church that meets a mile from Brigham Young’s campus in Provo, Utah, I’m used to being a religious minority, but I’m not used to seeing evangelicals of Dr. Mohler’s integrity and intellectual caliber address Latter Day Saint audiences. When I first heard of BYU’s invitation’s to Mohler, after I got over my initial shock, I wondered if he knew the history of this place, how evangelical leaders come here with the best intentions, only to compromise the gospel and leave those of us who minister in Utah to pick up the pieces. For instance, several weeks before Dr. Mohler’s address, another evangelical leader was invited to BYU, and he delivered a speech that blurred the lines between biblical Christianity and the faith of the Latter Day Saints. Please understand that I love Latter Day Saints— all of my neighbors and many of my friends are LDS— but as much as I love them, I can’t say that their faith is the same faith that the Bible teaches. Would Dr. Mohler compromise for fear of being labeled “anti-Mormon,” as so many others had before him?

It wasn’t long after the announcement that Dr. Mohler would be speaking at BYU before the blogosphere began to accuse him of selling out. Of course, Dr. Mohler’s critics were assuming that he would be part of an LDS worship service when, in reality, he was the third speaker in a lecture series entitled Faith, Family, and Society, a series that other evangelical leaders had already participated in (in fact, as far as I can tell, every speaker for the series has been an evangelical.) Still, I couldn’t help but wonder, in spite of my admiration for Dr. Mohler, if there was some truth to what they were saying. Maybe Mohler would give a speech that only talked about our shared social values, and ignored the theological gap between faiths. And really, I wondered, is interreligious dialogue even possible?

After only two minutes of listening to Mohler’s speech in that close-packed auditorium, I knew I’d been worried for nothing. Dr. Mohler’s address was titled “A Clear and Present Danger: Religious Liberty, Marriage, and Family in the Late Modern Age,” and his thesis was that religious liberty is under attack and that Mormons and evangelicals, as people of faith, must “push back against the modernist notion….that meaningful and respectful conversation can take place only among those who believe the least.” Mohler showed that respectful interreligious dialogue is possible, and he did it without any theological compromise; in other words, he spoke the truth in love to his LDS audience. The quote from his speech that got the biggest response from both the crowd in the auditorium and the local press was: “I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.” Prior to that, he lovingly explained why he does not believe that the LDS faith is a path to salvation, and he proclaimed the biblical gospel with a boldness that I haven’t seen in other visiting evangelical leaders.

Dr. Mohler’s speech pointed the way for evangelicals who want to be part of an interfaith dialogue without giving up their integrity. In my opinion, if we can share the gospel, and if we can speak in a way that doesn’t tell the watching world that all religions lead to the same place, then we can and should join the conversation. I recently participated in a public forum with a Latter Day Saint bishop, a Krishna priest, a Roman Catholic priest, an Eastern Orthodox priest, and a Seventh Day Adventist elder. We were each able to state our positions and our objections to the other points of view, and, most importantly, I got to tell a crowd full of unbelievers about the Jesus of the Bible. I am convinced that we have to take every opportunity we get to proclaim the gospel, even in front of unfriendly audiences.

Finally, a word to other evangelicals who would come to Utah: don’t let your ignorance of LDS teachings or your desire to avoid an uncomfortable situation lead you to water down the message of salvation by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. Let Dr. Mohler be your example.

Comments

  1. says

    The tone of this article, where someone proclaims that they won’t compromise, that other views lack integrity, and that they’re the only ones who read the Bible correctly, are the reason that there is not more dialogue. Talking to someone like this is about as enjoyable taking to a wall.

    However, there is hope, because those who would cheer this post on don’t really need dialogue. They need ways to make others feel as bad about who they are and what they believe as it takes to make them abandon all of their convictions and fall in line.

    So I’d say no, dialogue is not possible, but that’s okay, because you don’t rely need it.

    • Dave Miller says

      You are rigid and dogmatic, Matt, in your unwillingness to dialogue with people who have firm convictions about the Bible.

      We are willing to talk to people who do not share our convictions, without compromise.

      You disdain believers if they are not willing to compromise to fit in with your views.

      • says

        Thanks for your response, Dave. Calling me derogatory things isn’t the best way to start a dialogue, but perhaps my sarcasm isn’t either, so I appreciate your taking the time to engage the topic nonetheless.

        I came to Christ through the ministry of Campus Crusade in college about 20 years ago. I’m hopeful that, as a disciple of Jesus Christ, you are including me in that “we.” I love Jesus Christ and give thanks for his grace and mercy in calling me–full of shortcomings, sin, and weakness–to be a part of his work to bring the kingdom to “come on earth as it is in heaven.” What a gift to me. Humbling.

        Dave, my problem is with the language and posture I noted above. For one thing, there is no one normative reading of the Bible. Everyone reads it through the lens of their own experience–you, me, everybody. Otherwise, it would have the same effect on everyone that read it.

        I fear that Christians have become so invested in the “warfare” motif, that we see everyone who isn’t a five-point Calvinist as an opponent. Thus we celebrate the person who will beat their chest and refuse to compromise, as if to “compromise” is on par with punching my grandmother or something. Thus we celebrate the person whose reading of the Scriptures is similar to our own, saying that they have “integrity,” while someone who “compromises” lacks it. How can you start a dialogue with someone by saying that they lack integrity, they read the Bible wrong, and no matter what they say, you won’t be changing your mind about anything?

        I’ve been to seminary and have a “master of divinity” degree. Is it just me, or is that one of the most pretentious things in the world that a human being could say they have? I have “mastered” divinity? Someone can actually do that? Seems that some of us think we can–we have all the answers and need to hold on as tight as we can to what we believe, because to loosen my grip means to give up my integrity.

        However, why is it in the Scriptures that, when someone encounters God or a messenger of God, the first thing said is, “Fear not!” Why does Isaiah, one of the foremost of God’s prophets, fall on his face and confess how far he’s fallen short of God? You’d think that someone with all the answers would look at God and say, “Ahh, yes… just as I suspected!”

        I have a lot to learn, Dave. You might as well. Either way, when we open our eyes in eternity and see God face to face, “Ah-ha! I knew it!” will not be the first thing we say. We will see how much we didn’t know, how much we didn’t love God, how much we didn’t love our neighbor, how much more was possible for us–and then, by an act of infinite grace, we will be embraced by that same God that we failed to love with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and welcomed into his presence–not because we believed all the right things and had “saving knowledge” of Jesus Christ, but because of the grace of God, and the grace of God alone. God doesn’t need my help to save me. God will do what God wants. If he wants Mormons and Muslims and Hindus and Catholics and Protestants and atheists and gay people and even–gasp–liberals to be with him for eternity, they will be there. If not, they won’t.

        There are plenty of debatable points throughout the Scriptures, but if there’s anything crystal clear in there, it is this: In the end, God wins. “We” won’t win anything… God wins. We can pat our backs all we want about how much we know and how smart we are and how we have figured out how to read the Bible correctly and how we didn’t compromise and didn’t lose our integrity, but there’s not going to be any room for us to boast about that in the presence of God. There is one winner, and it is not me, not you, and not any of the world’s “we’s.” God wins, and God alone.

        • says

          Matt,
          One thing God can’t do is lie.
          And he has given us His Word so that we can know what he wants us to know and so that we can act as He wants us to act.
          Now we understand His word imperfectly and that leaves room for His followers to debate just exactly it is God wants us to know and just exactly what it is God wants us to do.
          And one thing we can be sure about is that love isn’t really love outside the boundaries of truth and though we all stray in sin, we who have the Spirit can at least recognize the boundaries and can know what sin is and therefore know what love is.
          And one boundary is that only through faith and trust in the risen Lord Jesus can one be found acceptable to a holy God. So they that remain Muslims and Mormons, and Hindus and atheists until death have earned the wrath of God they will receive. And those who put their trust in Jesus will not receive the wrath of God they earned, but instead it was poured out on their Lord.
          Or as the Lord tells us:
          Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
          But in all openness of dialogue would you say you agree with God there in all He says?

          • says

            Thanks for the response, Mike.

            I think it’s important to clarify what we mean when we talk about the kingdom of God. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s kingdom would “come on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus came to introduce a new kind of kingdom, different from the kingdoms of the world, a kingdom in which people prioritize the love of God and love of their neighbor above all. This kingdom breaks in to this world when people empty ourselves of self-interest, and replace that with the interests of God and others.

            So, I think that the “kingdom of God” (Matthew uses “kingdom of heaven” where Mark and Luke use “kingdom of God,” but they all refer to the same concept) is something to be constructed on earth. It is with this understanding that I agree–those who choose to serve themselves first do not help create this kingdom on earth. [As far as the use of this Corinthians passage to call out individual sins–that’s bait to take another time. :-) ]

            This passage is the conclusion of an admonition to be a community that creates this very kingdom on earth, rather than settling disputes among believers in the courts. Paul does not switch at this point in the passage to talking about the afterlife. Living for others and not ourselves builds the kingdom here, and living for ourselves will not help us experience it, and will certainly not help create it.

            We do a disservice to Paul and the other writers of Scripture when we take their work to build a kingdom community–as aliens and strangers in a foreign land–and turn it into a formula for getting eternal fire insurance. These people were doing their best to hold this whole thing together and make sense of the astonishing things that were happening in the face of brutal persecution, not to mention that they couldn’t just post on their blogs to try and teach these various communities how to live as kingdom outposts in their neighborhoods. They had to walk and sail (and avoid shipwrecks) and send letters that took months to arrive around the known world to do it. For us to read what they were doing as building a life raft for those who worship the correct version of Jesus Christ in the correct way and correctly understand the right five key points… we’re really missing the boat.

            And further, this world needs a church of Jesus Christ who is willing to build the kingdom of God right here, right now; rather than trying to convince them to get themselves eligible to get into the lifeboat so they can leave the rest of the world behind. God’s reaction to the condition of this world was not to look for a way out of it–God stepped into it to become a part of it in Jesus Christ.

          • says

            Matt,
            Thanks for your reply,
            True what you say there but this kingdom has boundaries that show how it is different than the world that we are aliens in.
            And part of loving God and neighbor does include preaching that all is not love but that God is holy and therefore there is wrath for sin.
            And thus building His kingdom right here and right now includes telling how one MUST be eligible for the eternal kingdom. And that Gospel proclamation includes telling others how they are wrong in their understanding of God and of His kingdom.
            For if you see a man sitting calmly on the railroad tracks unaware of the speeding train headed his way, and do nothing to warn him, that is not love, but hate. And even if you feed him and clothe him and put balm on his wounds, if you fail to tell him of the train, it is all hate. All of it.
            So my friend, get off the track you are on. For when you preach against the Word of God you put yourself on that track and you drag others along with you. You do a disservice to the kingdom of God for God is holy and those who call sin good show they have no part in His kingdom unless they repent.
            I am praying for you. May God have mercy on you and your people.

  2. says

    I know Al Mohler is a bit of a lightning rod, but in situations like this, he is brilliant. He stands for gospel truth in a compelling way.

    Thanks Russ.

  3. Christiane says

    “I do not believe that we are going to heaven together, but I do believe we may go to jail together.”

    from Dr. Mohler’s comment,
    I can see an attempt at ‘solidarity’ in two ways:

    1. he uses the term ‘we’
    2. he states his belief in the possibility of people of faith having to go to jail rather than give up their beliefs

    then there is the confusing part, Dr. Mohler’s statement this:
    ““I do not believe that we are going to heaven together . . . ”

    did Dr. Mohler, in his address, clarify in more detail what he meant by that part of his statement?

    or did he leave it ‘as is’ for people to assume what it might mean?

  4. David Rogers says

    I am undecided what I think about this. Thinking it through does bring up a few questions in my mind, though:

    1. What was the stated purpose of the meeting?
    2. What did Dr. Mohler ultimately hope to accomplish by going? Was his main purpose to proclaim the gospel? Was it “interreligious dialogue”?
    3. What, from the perspective of the organizers at BYU, was their purpose in inviting him? Was it so that he could proclaim the gospel to them? Was it interreligious dialogue?
    4. What do each of us (Evangelicals and Mormons) understand by the term “interreligious dialogue”? What is the ultimate aim of “interreligious dialogue”?

      • David Rogers says

        Yes, I saw that article when it first came out in TableTalk a couple of weeks ago, and liked it so much I actually posted a link on Facebook and Twitter, if I remember correctly. While it does help to clear up Mohler’s thinking and philosophy on various questions, it still doesn’t really answer for me the specific questions I pose above, though.

        Since Russ’s article used the term “interreligious dialogue,” I am particularly interested in what the ultimate aims of interreligious dialogue are. Are we seeking out new ways in which we can cooperate? Are we just seeking to understand each other better? Are we taking turns at giving each other a chance to proclaim what we believe (or, in a more cynical, wording, mutually proselytize each other)? Is it primarily about political coalition-building? Is it just saying, “Let’s be friends”? …

  5. Greg Harvey says

    Being able to directly and boldly discuss both shared interests AND specific differences in a comely, intelligent manner permits adherents to the other faith to “hear” (assuming their ears aren’t closed that is.)

    We love unbelievers through truth about our own continuing challenges from a faith perspective as well as the Truth of Scripture. That both LDS and Muslims acknowledge Jesus to some extent or another as a significant personality provides the opportunity to be direct. That there are significant differences provides the opportunity to be faithful as well as honest.

    That doing all of that is the essence of biblical reasoning–which is different and essentially superior to human reasoning–especially when we use the words of the Bible directly provides a substrate for the Holy Spirit-induced response which includes both conviction and grace-provided clarity (whether you consider it of the prevenient or irresistable variety.)

    We preach Jesus Christ as an act of profound respect and love. That Mohler models a helpful way to do that should be a source of exhortation and encouragement to each of us. And, it goes without saying but I want to make certain that it is said, he isn’t the only one that does this among our leaders!

  6. says

    This discussion is important. Where it is true that Dr. Mohler is not the only one who speaks at interreligious events… there are few who will are still willing to note that eternity is at risk when we don’t articulate that Mormonism is a not Christianity in any form.

    Leaders in the SBC, please exercise bold-kindness when you speak of LDS doctrine. Never be afraid to say that the Mormon doctrine is not biblical. Don’t dance in the political arena for what appear to be common values for a temporary government when the kingdom of God stands against it.

    Help pastors like Russ and others who faithfully preach the Word of God in Utah. Don’t give their Mormon neighbor reason to say that we are on the same path to heaven.

    Good job on this Russ. I look forward to Mohler’s return to BYU in February.

    • says

      Eternity is at risk based on what WE do? Again, we think too highly of ourselves. Jesus came and stood WITH people in order to grow the kingdom. The ones who stood against people and kept their religion good and pure were the ones who wanted to get rid of Jesus. Fortunately for us, it didn’t work.

      • says

        Matt,
        It goes to attitude. Attitude and right knowledge that is.
        One should ask themselves, “Am I obeying Christ by obeying His Word?”
        For example, if one says the God ordains gay marriage, are they following His Word or their own?
        Our attitude then should be this: What God condemns, i will as well. And what God allows, so will I. But whether in condemning or allowing we should preach the good news that Jesus came to save sinners and that by repenting of their evil deeds and of their sins and turning away from themselves and seeking to obey the Lord, and thus trusting in Him for salvation alone, they will be saved.
        So yes Jesus stood with people alright, and he preached repentance as well, for did he not tell the woman CAUGHT in adultery not to sin anymore?
        That is much different than telling people that God is okay with your sin, don’t you think?

        Their is no salvation outside of the Lordship of Jesus.

        None.

        If you or I preach different we will be condemned for our sin.
        SAo yes, eternity hinges on what we do. God condemns sin:
        For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

        • says

          Thanks again, Mike. I’m with you on a lot of stuff here.

          Preaching the good news about salvation in Jesus Christ… check.
          Repenting of evil and sin… check.
          Turning away from selfishness… check.
          It’s bad to tell people that God is okay with sin… check.
          No salvation other than that offered by Jesus Christ… check (although I think Scripture sees salvation as bigger than going to heaven when you die.)
          Jesus ate with sinners and forgave them and told people to go and sin no more… check.

          Just a couple items of dissention.

          If salvation comes by:
          1.) Repentance of evil and sin
          2.) Turning from ourselves
          3.) Seeking to obey the Lord
          4.) Trust in Jesus for salvation ALONE…

          Can you use “alone” here since there are actually four things mentioned? Or are #1-3 gravy, while #4 is the dealbreaker? You mention a lot of specific behaviors here and in your post above where you’re quoting from Paul, but if we’re talking about what it takes to go to heaven when you die, which is it? Seems to me, by this line of thought, that the only one needed to go to heaven when you die is #4. if that’s the case, why #1-3? In my view, #1-3 only matter if salvation is bigger than afterlife. If salvation is something happening in this life as well as in the life to come, now I can see all four working together.

          If you listen to Jesus, it sure does sound like he believes that we’re saved by our works. Consider Matthew 25. While it can be sometimes debated about whether a writer in Scripture is talking about eternity or the here an now in discussions of the kingdom, that is a passage ABSOLUTELY talking about the afterlife. In there, we are saved by caring for the poor, sick, or imprisoned. I don’t find much mention of “right knowledge” having anything to do with it. According to Matthew 25, the greedy are out and the charitable are in, whether you’re a Mormon or not.

          A view of salvation that only incorporates the “penal substitutionary atonement” model requires ignoring Scripture such as Matthew 25, or Jesus admonition to cut your eye out or your hand or foot off to avoid going to hell. [Though “hell” here is thus translated from “Gehenna,” or the “Valley of Hinnom,” an area southwest of Jerusalem into which animal sacrifice carcasses and the unclaimed bodies of executed criminals were cast, and where there were always fires burning to consume the bodies and prevent their decomposition. So it’s also not clear whether Jesus was using the Valley of Hinnom here as a metaphor to say that a life of sin is like a life spent on a fiery pile of burning animals and criminals and garbage, or an allusion to the afterlife. Either way, it paints sin in a negative light, so avoiding it is probably a clear takeaway regardless. :-) ]

          Other models are helpful, such as the “Ransom” or “Christus Victor” atonement theories; wherein the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ pays a ransom for us to Satan, or where Satan is simply overcome by God. The “Moral Influence” theory says that Jesus primary work was to spiritually form us and create good character in us, and that his death and resurrection shows us that avoiding shortcuts and sin will bear unexpected fruit, even if it’s hard to stay faithful in the moment. The “Economic” theory talks about how we were “purchased.” These and other work together to paint a grand and sweeping salvation epic, in which God’s salvation accomplishes holiness in our lives, in this world and in the world to come.

          So, all this to say that we miss out on so much if our salvation is all about going to heaven when we die. In fact, if we can leave the saving to God and focus on rolling up our sleeves and getting to work reforming the systems of this world that cause suffering for others, we could do a lot of good. When the theory of evolution began to circulate, the fundamentalist movement chose five key doctrines that every Christian should hold fast to, and became something of a belief and behavior police. If we continue to abdicate our role in creating a better world, then we’ll continue to sit back and continue to complain about people that aren’t us, about “how back it’s getting in the world, arguing about worship styles and projector screen fonts while the church continues to shrink and the government continues to expand to take over hospitals, schools, youth sports, and other charitable work that God had given us to do. Every time the church makes what happens to you when you die the main issue, we shrink even more, because what we’re accomplishing just isn’t that important to people who can’t wait until they die, and need to be saved from stuff now. The good news is that salvation is big enough to include all of these and more, because salvation isn’t up to us–no one can boast–it’s the work of God.

          • says

            Matt,
            Hey thanks for the dialogue but it is obvious to me that you are not even a Christian. You seem like a guy who wants to do good things for people, like feed them and clothe them and put balm on their wounds and all that, but like i said, if you don’t tell them about that train you know is coming, it isn’t really love. Maybe you just don’t really believe the train is coming.
            And you seem a little contradicted after talking about all the trouble and hardships the early Christians went through and then say people want saved from stuff now,
            There is no salvation now or later without trusting Jesus and having Him as the Lord of ones life. So Mormons might get some good in this life, but then there is that train that splatters them.
            And one doesn’t have a better life now living in sin, even if they think they do, like say, gays getting married. It is better to be celibate than to choose a life of rebellion against God.
            If salvation is the work of God, and it most certainly is, than whether the church shrinks or grows is on Him. He can grow it without me but I just as soon do my part.
            But those, like you, that preach that sin, like gay marriage, is okay with God, show yourself to be deceived by His enemy.

            So though hardship is hard, it is to be preferred to sin and sinful lifestyles. And Mormons, no matter what worldly good they do, are living in a sinful God rebellious lifestyle and need to repent or go to eternal damnation.
            And married couples of the same sex are as well. Neither are part of the kingdom of God now and can only be later if they repent of their sinful lifestyles.

        • says

          Mike,

          I understand that it’s hard to talk with someone about our most closely held convictions when we don’t know them at all. Neither you nor I have had the chance to observe the life of the other, to know whether we should have credibility enough to be listened to.

          So, I have the impression that you’re not really able to hear anything from me that you’d take seriously, which is fine. Like I said, I haven’t had the opportunity to demonstrate to you that I’m worth being taken seriously. We probably don’t have much farther we can go here, but God is a miracle worker, so who knows…

          If you’ll indulge me, a couple final observations: The enthusiasm for the train in your posts is disheartening. You need to decide which way you’re going on this train thing. You’re either saved by faith in Jesus, or you’re saved by behaving yourself–like in your favorite example, which seems to be not getting married if you’re gay. You have trains in mind for all kinds of people–because they’re gay, because they’re a Mormon, or because they didn’t accept Christ. Is it faith or works, brother? You can’t have it both ways.

          You mocked my talking about being saved from things before being saved in the afterlife. Dave, you can yell at the guy on the tracks all you want about what a sinner he is, but if he’s an illegal immigrant he probably can’t understand your enthusiastic warnings shouted in English. If he’s blind he won’t know which way to run. If his legs were blown off by an IED in Afghanistan, it doesn’t matter how convincing you are that gays shouldn’t get married, that he shouldn’t be a Mormon, or that he needs Jesus. Until you solve that leg thing, he’s not going anywhere. You mock my belief that this world matters and that people can’t always wait until they die to need salvation. Your salvation is too small, your anger is too great, and your God looks and sounds just like you. You’ve created God in your own image, which is way easier than listening to him and repenting of your sin. Every time you see the word “save” in the Bible you add “from hell.” The problem with that is, “everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book.” That’s in Revelation 22.

          Read the Bible Mike, and use your brain. I’m 39 years old–are you saying God Almighty doesn’t have any salvation in store for me until I’m dead? If I make it to the average, I have to wait 40 years or so to experience the grace of God? When Scripture talks about salvation, being saved, etc., it is USUALLY NOT TALKING ABOUT THE AFTERLIFE. Can you leave room for the possibility that the writers of the Scriptures were saying that living like Christ saves us in this world, and that the death and resurrection of Christ saves us in the next?

          Second to lastly… Okay, I’m now ready to take the bait. I hope you will be able to handle it when you open your eyes in eternity and discover that you were right–God didn’t need you to build the kingdom. Apparently what we’ll see is “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white.” God didn’t need to do it your way to accomplish what he sent Jesus to do. You see, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It seems that, “For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so ALL will be made alive in Christ.” It seems that you can’t find a way that gay people or Mormons could be saved. Praise be to God Almighty who does not seem to share your limitations in that regard.

          Lastly, who do you think you are to decide whether or not I am a Christian? Much to your chagrin, you’re going to discover that you have invented your God, because he is nothing like the God of Scripture. Being like you is not the measuring rod by which God decides who to save, either in this world or the world to come. But, the beautiful thing is, Jesus came to earth and lived and died and rose again for all of us, even those who would invent God in their own image and pretend he only came for them. That’s one of the many miracles given to us in salvation by Jesus Christ. Praise God.

          • says

            One last thing… you’re on to me. I hope someday that gay people can get married and be held to the same covenant commitment we hold straight couples to. Jesus didn’t talk about it, and Paul and the other writers didn’t want to, having other things they cared about much, much more. They did the best they could with it, but we now know more than they did back then. Here’s my take–just try to not read angry. :-)

            http://reemergent.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/compatibility/

          • volfan007 says

            Matt,

            First of all, I don’t hate you, or any other gay person. Secondly, I’m not a homophobe….I’m not scared of homosexuality. Thirdly, I’d love for you to visit my Church, someday.

            BUT, the Bible is very clear that homosexuality is a sin against God, and that homosexuals will not go to Heaven. 1 Corinthians 6 and Romans 1 are very, very clear that homosexuality is a sin against God….just as adultery, lying, stealing, and murder are sins against God. So, there’s just no way to be right with Almighty, Holy God, and live as a homosexual.

            David

          • says

            Matt,
            I do know a way gay people and Mormons can be saved:
            Repent from their sins and false doctrines and lifestyles and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ despite the hardships that this life imposes on them.

            and there is no salvation outside of faith and trust in the Lord Jesus.

            And whom am I to decide whether you are a Christian? It is by your own words that I judge you, and by those words others should judge you as well. How does one decide who a false prophet is except by comparing their words to Words of God.

            Have a good day Matt.

          • says

            Matt,
            I am not mad or angry. I already read your sermon.
            When one is running with the other sheep and they see a wolf amidst the flock, they are supposed to bleat out an alarm.

            But Matt, please understand this, my fight isn’t really with you, it is with the forces of darkness that have taken you captive with false doctrines and deceptive understandings. I fight for you and I will pray for you as well.

          • cb scott says

            “I do know a way gay people and Mormons can be saved:
            Repent from their sins and false doctrines and lifestyles and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ despite the hardships that this life imposes on them.”

            No truer words can be spoken.

          • says

            Hey everybody, thanks for your responses.

            I really feel like I’ve made some at least interesting points here, but I’m not sure anybody is hearing a word I’m saying. Is there anybody in the SBC who is willing to respectfully listen to a dissenting view and at least consider what I’m saying before telling me that I’m a false teacher and I’m going to hell?

            Anyway, I’m not sure it’ll matter, but…

            The writers of Scripture believed that homosexuality was wrong. I’ll concede that all day long.

            God did not write the Bible. People wrote the Bible who had had an encounter with God so inspiring that they were compelled to share it with others. They did the absolute best they could with what they had at the time, and their stories have continued to inspire ever since. They did not write their words to me, or you, or anyone other than their intended recipients. Heck, they thought that Jesus would be back any second, in their lifetime–they didn’t have the remotest assumption that we’d be reading what they wrote 2000 years later.

            They did the best they could, and I don’t fault them for it. They lived at a time when having children was seen as a sign of God’s approval, and not having them was seen as a sign of God’s disapproval. So of course a relationship that could not produce children would be seen as the worst kind.

            I’m not gay, and thus a gay relationship doesn’t have appeal for me. (I guess it would double my wardrobe options, but other than that, not so much.) I can imagine that the New Testament writers, all of whom appear to not be gay, would find it similarly unappealing. So I don’t fault them for assuming it was wrong.

            The sciences of sociology, neurology, psychology, or psychiatry were not available resources to the writers of Scripture. Their friends were being imprisoned, tortured, beheaded, crucified, fed to lions, etc., so it’s possible they didn’t have a lot of time for academic reading of any kind. I don’t fault them for not knowing anything of what we’ve discovered over the last 2000 years.

            Accounting for new learning is not their job–it’s ours. We now know that being gay is not a choice or an act of defiance. Whether caused by biology, environment, or a combination of the two, that’s how they’re wired. Clinics that claim they can cure homosexuality do not have much of a track record of long term success in permanently “converting” someone.

            Lastly, if you think about it, what harm is there? There’s no evidence that gay couples who adopt children cause them to become gay. In fact, straight parents produce gay kids all the time. What if we asked gay couples to live up to the same standards of fidelity and commitment that we ask straight couples to live up to?

            In short, the only knock on homosexuality is that the Bible says it’s wrong. Now, there are plenty of other things that the Bible says are wrong that we don’t follow anymore, so how do we decide?

            God loves us enough to be patient and graceful with us as we think together about how to read the Scriptures faithfully, while accounting for new learning over the centuries. Are we to assume that God hasn’t revealed anything to us in the last 2000 years? C’mon guys, you can do it. Let’s trust that if we hold our beliefs out to God with an open hand, and trust that if he replaces something, it’s for the best.

          • Dale Pugh says

            “God did not write the Bible. People wrote the Bible who had had an encounter with God so inspiring that they were compelled to share it with others. They did the absolute best they could with what they had at the time, and their stories have continued to inspire ever since. They did not write their words to me, or you, or anyone other than their intended recipients.”

            And this, Matt, is the problem for you and every other Emergent church leader out there. You see the Bible as inspirational, but not as authoritative. Heck, why not just preach Shakespeare then? He had some interesting stories to tell, and some of them are inspirational to boot.

            We see the Bible as authoritative. It means something. It was written to its intended recipient AND for our instruction. God is saying something TO ME in His Word. Has it been “replaced” with something else? What has He “replaced” it with, pray tell? The Qu’ran? The Book of Mormon? Matt Horan’s preaching? Brian McLaren’s thoughts?

            Come on, Matt. If you want to be taken seriously here, then be honest. You don’t believe the Bible is to be taken seriously. You want to pick and choose your points of “inspiration.” You want to re-write the rules to fit your own Emergent viewpoints. No surprise there given the stuff we’ve seen come out of that movement. Sorry, but you and Brian McLaren don’t get to do that. You’re an Emergent Revisionist, a theological liberal who sees no value in the Bible for our current world. Just say so and move on.

            I’d really like to know, given your viewpoint, what you see as the point of being a follower of Jesus. If it means nothing more than building community, or seeking peace, or whatever postmodern mumbo-jumbo you’re espousing on any given Sunday from the pulpit of your church, then why do it? It has no heart, no soul, no meaning, and you are without true hope. Forget being burdened down with all the Jesus stuff and just live your postmodern life the way you want to. It’ll be a whole lot easier for you. You’re doing it any way, you’re just putting all this pressure on people to talk about stuff they really don’t believe. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter”–Matthew 7:21.

          • cb scott says

            “God did not write the Bible. People wrote the Bible who had had an encounter with God so inspiring that they were compelled to share it with others. They did the absolute best they could with what they had at the time, and their stories have continued to inspire ever since. They did not write their words to me, or you, or anyone other than their intended recipients.”

            Duckman Dale,

            You are “ten ring at a thousand yards” in your rebuttal to the above statement.

            That statement is a perfect example of the theological predisposition of having a “low view of Scripture.”

            Matt Horan,

            It may be the case that you simply need to ask God to reveal to you the truth of the gospel by and through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. That may be highly likely what you need to do as revealed from having read your comments in this thread.

            However, one thing is certain and sure. You need to resign from serving as a local church pastor and you need to do that today.

          • Dave Miller says

            I appreciate Matt Horan demonstrating to us what happens when we abandon loyalty to God’s Word and the gospel of Jesus Christ to make ourselves “relevent” and popular in the world. We become wishy-washy, deny the Gospel, and are driven by our own reason into a theological mish-mash.

            Dale, you said it way better than I ever could. But a low view of Scripture leads to a lot of awful theology.

            Lord, save your church from emergent theology and its lies.

          • says

            Matt,
            It is not as if we haven’t heard before a position like yours.
            We heard, we listened, we compared it to the Word of God and thus we judged it false and ungodly.
            So are you hear to learn or to preach?
            Obviously to preach.
            And you are preaching untruths and false ideas.
            So while you feel like you have made interesting points, we do not find them interesting but rather we find them as leading away from God and truth.
            Now we stand by the Bible and use it to compare ideas.
            What do you use as a point of reference? It seems like you use your own self and your own mind.
            So turn from your self and turn and submit and surrender to Jesus, the Word of God, and to His book, the Word of God.

          • Dale Pugh says

            Just to be clear here, it isn’t like you came on here and found a bunch of theological robots who all espouse the same views or march in lockstep with one another. The fact is that we’ve all disagreed at certain points. Some of them have been pretty strongly held beliefs over which we’ve had some strong disagreements.
            One thing is certain, though, we each hold to a very high view of the Bible as God’s written revelation of Himself to us. We don’t believe that the Bible is just inspirational, but that it is inspired and authoritative for our lives, teaching and preaching. We can’t just point at it and say, “You might want to take a look at this for some help.” No, we look at it and say, “Herein lie the words of life that every one of us needs. Hear it, believe it, live it!” If it doesn’t fit what we think ought to be, it isn’t the Bible that needs to change, but us and our dearly held presuppositions.

      • says

        Matt,
        How we speak of the kingdom of heaven and biblical doctrines have a leading or misleading effect.
        Matthew 23:15 “woe to you, scribes and Parishes, hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to make one proselyte, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as fit for helll as you are!” (HCSB)
        Yes, eternity is at stake for the hearer. This is why it’s important that professing followers of Christ speak biblical Truth. Always. Making interreligious dialog both risky and important.

          • says

            Hey everyone, thanks for responding. It has been helpful to me to hear your points. I do owe apologies for my tone before–I confess that I was somewhat blogging angry. ParsonsMike, especially, I apologize to you for my angry tone, and should find a way to respond with more kindness. You asked if I came to learn or preach, and that was a spot on question. I know better–I should first seek to understand before seeking to be understood. The “not being a Christian” bit got me worked up when it shouldn’t have. I hope you can forgive me for that.

            So I was praying about how to respond to you all today (or whether to at all). Usually in prayer it’s just time for me to sit with God and share my soul and be slowed by a rare time of silence, but occasionally I get a powerful sense of a response, and this was one of those times. I felt God’s response was, “Stay.”

            To which I asked a follow up question, “Do I stay because I need to hear them, or because they need to hear me?”

            I heard, “Just… stay.”

            So, here I am. I thank you for your grace in taking time to share what you see. I do hope that I might listen and understand you better. I have many questions for you, and hopefully the end result of these posts might be redeemed and produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Come Holy Spirit into me and all of us who might converse together.

          • says

            I’ll try to say a word or two to give response to some of your questions and observations in case it’s helpful.

            My understanding of the “Emergent Church” movement comes largely from reading “Intuitive Leadership” by Tim Keel; and a fascinating read called the “Celtic Way of Evangelism,” by George Hunter. I highly recommend both, but especially Hunter’s book. Incredibly interesting survey of the contrast and conflict between St. Patrick’s Irish Christianity and the pope’s Roman version.

            The common thread is that the best local church ministry is just that–local. The mission and ministry of a church should arise out of the gifts and passions of the people an the neighborhood around us, rather than taking formulas on because they worked at Northpoint or Willow Creek or Church of the Resurrection. Trying to force my congregation in Florida to act like a congregation in Georgia or Illinois or Kansas is like pushing a boulder uphill. But as the people attend to their spiritual disciplines–prayer, study of the Scriptures, financial generosity, serving according to their gifts, evangelism, small group participation, corporate worship, sacraments, etc.–they will begin to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, and a character and mission for that church will naturally “emerge” from within, rather than being imposed from without. It takes a little more faith, because the other methods seem tried and true–but I’ve seen it play out in my own congregation, and in another one of those moments of response from God, I heard, “Why did you doubt me?” Touche, Lord. Touche.

            Anyway, all this to say that the “Emergent Church” philosophy isn’t really tied to a certain series of theological positions, nor is it tied to more darkness and more candles. It’s simply trusting that the Spirit will move within the hearts of your people, and will reveal what’s next. At least that’s my understanding of the origins of the “emergence” idea.

          • says

            Also a word about my theological location. I feel peace about being a part of the Wesleyan theological tradition. John Wesley taught that “There is no holiness without social holiness.” This is to say that as one works on building their own personal holiness, they will invariably effect change in the world around them, thus yielding a more holy society.

            Conversely, as one works for the good of others to create a more holy society, this will no doubt accomplish sanctifying work in their own spirit, yielding greater personal holiness. It’s an “upward spiral,” so to speak.

            Thus, Wesley saw “salvation” as a grand work of God, happening both in this life and the life to come. This view feels comprehensive to me, making room for Scripture passages about the kingdom in eternity AND the kingdom in this world. Though some of you observe a leaning towards one over the other in me, it seems clear that both kinds are in there, and thus both require our attention.

          • says

            And now a question for you. What do you do with passages like Matthew 25? It sure does seem to me that Jesus is saying that generosity and charity are the keys to the kingdom, doesn’t it?

            I know that there are other passages to consider in forming a theology of salvation, but still, from an exegetical standpoint, what do you feel Jesus is saying? I’d be glad to hear your views.

          • parsonsmike says

            Matt,
            If one only had Mat. 25 to go on, then I suppose that would be the extent of their theology.
            Two things.
            One, they would find themselves falling short of the ideal. What, they might ask themselves, if I only acted in the proper way most of the time? Would God accept me for trying but failing to be perfect?
            The answer would go back to their understanding of God, and whether it was true or false.

          • says

            “Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and testify of what we have seen, and you do not accept our testimony. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” – John 3:10-12 NASB

            Rob

          • says

            “Making an open stand against all ungodliness and unrighteousness, which overspreads our land like a flood, is one of the noblest ways of confessing Christ in the face of His enemies.” – John Wesley, The Almost Christian

          • says

            What do you do with passages like Matthew 25?

            Matthew 25, taken as a whole, seems almost calculated to frustrate both the modern left *and* right.

            You start off with the parable of the virgins. The left would object that the prudent virgins should have been made to share their oil with the foolish virgins, never mind that the result would have been that *everyone* fails. They at least would have all failed equally. Jesus doesn’t take that position. Without getting into potential symbolism, the lesson of the parable is almost pedestrian: the Kingdom of Heaven rewards prudence, and lets the imprudence of the foolish fall on their heads, so to speak.

            Next, the parable of the talents. Again, there’s something for the left to object to: the servant with the least resources has his resources taken away from him and they are given to the servant with the most resources. I can hear the protesters shouting something about “robbing the poor to give to the rich” already. But Jesus doesn’t take their position. The “pedestrian” lesson of the parable: the Kingdom of Heaven rewards diligence and responsibility and actively punishes laziness and irresponsibility.

            At this point, you can hear the modern right cheering.

            Then we come to the sheep and goats. Those who enter the Kingdom of Heaven are characterized by reaching out to the needy and oppressed. Those who don’t, aren’t. The right may not be quite so cheerful now.

            The modern tendency appears to be to take either the first two parables seriously, or to take the last part seriously. If you’re going to be a full-on disciple, you take the whole thing seriously.

          • says

            Ben Coleman–I think you’re right on the money. When preachers share a small piece of the Scriptures for a 20-40 minute sermon, we are hopefully doing some good for those in attendance, but at the same time, I fear that we harm them by conditioning them to feel that reading a passage of more than the average Lectionary reading size (8-12 verses or so?) is unneccessary. But really, there is so much to be gained by a long sitting with the narratives, seeing the twists and the turns in the apostles journey with Jesus.

            Once in seminary a New Testament professor gave us a copy of the NASB (on the spectrum, NASB puts more emphasis on precise translation than on readability, so they loved it there…) version of Matthew’s Gospel, but it had none of the line numbers, chapter numbers, or paragraph headings, as they weren’t added until the Archbishop of Canterbury came up with the system we have now in something like the 12th or 13th century.

            The assignment was to do all we needed to do to give ourselves a complete read-through in one sitting. Get whatever snacks you need, glass of water, go to the bathroom first, turn your phone off, etc. And then read the whole thing from beginning to end without taking a break.

            Honestly, I’d read Matthew before, so I didn’t stumble upon something new that I hadn’t previously seen. But it was a powerful experience for me.

            Jesus often employed the common Greek rhetorical styles of the first century. (Paul made it an artform, but maybe he learned from the best…) Examples include hyperbole intended to connect to the audience’s experience yet shock or disturb them at the same time, or setting up a straw man to ridicule and argue against any opposing views of the point you’re trying to make. At one point, someone hears Jesus and says, “This is hard teaching. Who can accept it?” Before this exercise, I thought very little of that guy–he needed to get over it and get on board.

            But when the extremes Jesus often used wash over you one after another for an hour or so, when you see how he talks to some people harshly and others with grace, how some loved him and some hated him, how sometimes he encouraged the apostles and sometimes rebuked them, when he used metaphors like millstones tied around people’s necks or eyes gouged out… I was exhausted!

            I had two main lingering impressions. First, that guy was right… this IS hard teaching! Who CAN accept it? There were several bites that are really hard to swallow and needed to be choked down!

            Second, I’d always heard these stories in short segments in the context of worship with music and singing and friendship all around, or in a small group study with close fellow disciples, or by myself sitting comfortably in a couch or something. It never occurred to me what a profoundly SAD story the Gospel of Matthew was. After all the apostles had been through and seen and done with Jesus–even after the joy of the resurrection, it ends with him leading them up to the top of a mountain to give them some final words. I always assumed that right after this was when he ascends–I suppose it wasn’t necessarily, but if not it was soon to follow. Yes, the Holy Spirit will come and change everything a few days later, but where Matthew left me was at a place where I was really feeling the loss that the apostles must have felt when he was gone once again. Reading it all together drew me in, and made me feel like I’d walked with them the whole time, so their loss affected me too.

            So again, you made the point better than I have been. I find inclusivism in the Bible, and when I see a verse that sounds like penal substitution, I have to give an answer for why it’s there if I’m to keep to that conviction. Others find penal substitution in the Bible, and thus, when a passage that sounds like inclusivism pops up, they need to give an answer for why it’s there if they are to keep the opposite conviction.

            I’m hard pressed to find a story in Scripture when someone hears the teaching of Christ, smiles wide, elbows his buddy next to him, and says, “Hear that? I’ve been saying the same thing!” Thus, I think Ben’s response is best of all–no one should be too comfortable that the Bible is all on their side. There’s most likely plenty wrong with positions on both the left and the right, and God seems awfully content to let the uncertainty keep us honest.

        • says

          Matt,
          Don’t you have a MDiv degree?
          And while you may not agree with the Gospel as the only way to salvation, you surely know what Gospel believers believe, do you not?

          An oak tree has roots, a trunk, branches, leaves and acorns. But it did not start out with all those things in a visible way, they were there in its DNA, so to speak. But if it is to be an oak tree it will have those things.

          A Christian has DNA so to speak. It is not quite a direct analogy. A Christian will exhibit good works [Eph. 2:10]. One doesn’t become a Christian, which is also saying one doesn’t become a child of God, accepted by God. by their good works. Rather it is in faith and trust in the Lord Jesus. And surrendering to His Lordship includes perforce, repenting of sin, of sins, of false beliefs, of ungodly lifestyles, and embracing His Word and His people. It isn’t being perfect so it becomes a life of repentance and maturity in godliness.
          Now a Elm tree has roots and a trunk, branches and leaves but no acorns. A person who does good works like feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and visiting the homeless and imprisoned can be commended by humans as a good person. But in denying Jesus as Lord and refusing to accept His Word [the Bible] and seeking to obey it, they show themselves to be a hater of the One True God and if they die in that state, no matter how exemplary a life we think they lived, they have fallen short of the glory of God [they are human after all and have sinned] and they deserve eternal condemnation.
          So consider the story of Cain and Abel. Both brought the fruit of their labor to the Lord and offered it to to Him, But God rejected Cain’s. And Cain showed who he really was and murdered his brother. The sacrifices of the ungodly are an abomination to God.

          Consider the Pharisees who sought to live righteous lives under the Law of God. Yet Paul writes of them :
          For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

          Man needs the substitutionary atonement of Christ because they are unrighteous and stand condemned before a holy God.
          I need it, You need it. Your congregation needs it.
          I implore you to seek it from the Lord and then preach it to your people.

          • says

            Mike, thanks for helping me understand your view. I appreciate your patience.

            I’m curious how you understand Matthew 25. Specifically v34-36, “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’”

            I know verses can be found saying that salvation is by faith and not by works, but this is Scripture too. What do you do with it?

          • says

            Matt,
            I wasn’t clear enough, sorry about that. The good works done are done by people of faith. One can claim to be a person who trusts the Lord but if their life fails to show obedience to Him, they were, to use my metaphor above, never an oak tree.
            But we also read that not all who say, “Lord. Lord” will enter into the kingdom, though they did works in His name. This shows us that they were never of the Lord for He never knew them.
            But what about those ‘good’ Mormons or gays? What if they do good works? It neans nothing if they have not submitted their hearts to Jesus and in doing so have repented of their false lifestyles.

            To break it down somewhat:
            “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
            God has chosen from before the world began whom to bless, and has prepared the kingdom for them. These are all those who have come or will come by faith. Those that reject Jesus and those who have rejected His Father perish in their sins.

            For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

            Those that trust in Jesus are filled with the Spirit. They are no longer self-centered but God centered. They love His brothers and give their lives for them. Some of these brothers or sisters] turn to Jesus because of the love given them in His name.

            “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

            These people who are born just as self-centered and self-worshiping as the former ones never become God centered in their hearts and minds. Even those who may do good to others are not doing so out of love for God but love for self. As I said, even the sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord.

            The bottom line is that theology is not built on selected verses but on the whole counsel of God. You would think it rash if someone read or based their understanding of you on just a small part of what you had written. You were unhappy with me for judging you, were you not?

            Now let me ask you:
            Why should I consider you a Christian?

          • says

            Mike,

            Thanks. I appreciate your response. I’m not sure that there’s much value in trying to “prove” to someone that I’m a Christian. We’re not supposed to pray on street corners or make a show of our charity. I hope that as I follow Jesus Christ, it will become apparent to anyone that I am, but that would be a by-product of faithful discipleship, rather than putting on some sort of demonstration. As Jesus said, “You can tell a tree by it’s fruit.”

            If I hear you correctly, you’re saying that you avoid interpreting a Scripture passage without considering it in light of other passages, or “the whole counsel of God.” I agree that good Biblical scholarship uses all information at our disposal.

            That said, it wasn’t until the invention of the printing press that it became possible for individuals to own an entire copy of the Bible. Usually there were some pieces in one place and some in another, and perhaps different churches or communities would share what they had in exchange for what was held by another. It was only the rarest of cases in which someone could really have access to the whole thing for the first 1500 years of Christianity.

            So sometimes you had to do your best with what you had. I trust that in those instances the Holy Spirit came alongside people and helped them in some way, but still, there were times that the “whole counsel” was not available.

            I think it’s worth considering a passage and seeing what it means on it’s own. Different pieces of the Scriptures had different authors with different purposes and audiences with different needs, and I don’t know how helpful it is to really see what the relationship was and what was happening between an author and their audience if we interject other authors and audiences.

            Matthew 25 does not say that the sheep were people of faith. It does not say that the goats were not. I’m not saying that it isn’t possible that they were, but I don’t like adding something to a passage that isn’t there. All Jesus talks about is an eternal reward in return for caring for the poor. That’s all that’s there in the passage.

            In the end, how can we be sure that, when we read a passage and connect it to others, we aren’t doing so because we already know what we think the Bible should say, so we’re looking for passages that can counteract the ones we don’t like?

            You and I have already stated our positions. Therefore, don’t we each have an expectation about what we should find in the Bible before we even begin reading it? I don’t think anybody can fully put down their baggage–experiences, relationships, history, point-of-view–when reading the Scriptures, which is why talking about them together with others who might sharpen us and shine a different light on them is so invaluable.

            I’ve been thinking about all of the things that are at work against either you or me changing our mind on some element of the Scriptures we disagree on. I mean, let’s say I change my mind about something. What is it like for me to go back to my friends and my church and people in the class I teach or the youth group I lead (it’s a small church–everybody has more than one job…)? What would it be like for you?

            I always wished that, one of these days, one of the people that CNN puts up on TV to argue with each other would hear a point by another and say, “Oh. Gosh, that’s a good point. I hadn’t considered it that way. i think you’ve swayed me.” Then they leave the TV show and go and see constituents, co-workers, friends, family, and others who held their previous position on the issue. What do they say? What is that like? If they’ve been very vocal, it could be pretty embarrassing.

            So, sometimes I wonder what it might take to change a person’s mind. In a conversation like this, I wonder the same thing. Most likely, such a change is best done gradually. I was once of the belief that accepting Christ in prayer was the one way to go to heaven when you die. I believed that this world didn’t matter, and that it was all going to burn someday anyway and i wouldn’t be here to worry about it.

            But then in Seminary they made me learn Greek and Hebrew and church history and archaeology and made me wade through the Scriptures at a different level and speed. That experience pushed me and made me consider that it’s possible I’d been wrong about some things. My theology now is a product of a ten year ordination process. Some days I would have liked for it to move a little faster, but I think God knows my need to learn patience, and so, ten years it was!

            Thanks for letting me think out loud. MH

          • parsonsmike says

            Matt,
            Part one of my answer ended up in the middle somewhere. I broke it into two posts because my phone doesn’t let me do long posts.
            The second thing is this: Could the Israelis reject Jesus and the truth He was bringing to simply continue on in their old practices? Nope.
            One can’t ignore Gods Word and expected to be one of Gods people.They couldn’t, and you can not either.
            Since Matthew 25 is accompanied by other Scriptures that are available today,
            to reject their message is to reject God.

          • says

            Mike, the key word in your last comment is PHONE.

            For some reason, the threading seems to break down easily and permanently when I make comments with my phone. Someone explained it, but at my advanced age, I already forgot the reason.

          • says

            First, let me say thank you to you both and anyone else who has been having this conversation on their phone. Not only do you fear that I’m a false teacher pastoring a church in the wrong direction, but now I’m giving you Carpal-Tunnel syndrome. Seems I’m digging my hole deeper and deeper! :-)

          • says

            So a couple weeks ago I started participating in the commentary on the blog, “SBC Voices.” It was a spirited discussion, but need to address the manner by which I went about it.

            Some good friends called me on the tone I was using–I made sweeping generalizations about those who adhere to the “five fundamentals” and/or to the “T.U.L.I.P.” doctrines.

            The voices quoted and priorities set forth by some of those adherents have really disappointed and angered me at times. However, I have to confess that, while Scripture asks “In your anger, do not sin,” I did indeed express my anger in such a way that it was sin. It was self-serving, belittling to others, and unfairly generalized about a group when in fact there is diversity of belief and practice among them.

            If I hope to be a credible voice in discussions of theology, Biblical exegesis, and church leadership, I need to participate in those discussions in a respectful and compassionate manner. Further, as an appointed leader of the church, I set a poor example about how to engage in such dialogue–especially hypocritical since just a few weeks ago I preached a sermon about Christians getting engaged in politics so that loving and peaceful voices might be heard and someday prevail against the angry and hurtful ones.

            James 3:13-18 says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.”

            My words fell far short of this standard for sure. I owe apologies to those who look to me for leadership, and to those which whom I spoke disrespectfully. And I owe thanks to those who love me enough to call me out when I go astray. “As iron sharpens iron, so one of us can sharpen another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

            http://reemergent.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/my-apologies/

          • says

            Matt,
            I appreciate your apology.
            You are right, there is a diversity of theological voices on this website. But as far as I can tell, we hold to certain core principles as outlined in the BF&M2000. Myself, i am one,who would be called a Calvinist and a 5 pointer. Others are called Traditionalists, and there are many shades in between.

            The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 [BFM2000] states this about salvation:
            Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

            There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.

            Of Jesus, the BFM2000 states:
            Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord.

            and of God, it states:
            There is one and only one living and true God. He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe. God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections. God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures. To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience. The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.

            Matt, in our conversations you stated that Mormons and gays are saved. That, in your opinion, they could continue in those specific lifestyles and God would be accepting of them because of the good works they do for those in need.

            So I said that I did not think you were a Christian, and later asked you to tell me why I should consider you as one. Your reply is that were not going to prove it. No one can ‘prove’ it. I didn’t ask you to prove it, but to state why I should consider you one.

            As you peruse our document excerpts, you can see what we believe. And you can see why I, and I believe many if not most of our readers, do not consider you to be a Christian.

            Our documents do not say we simply must believe that Jesus is the risen One, but that we must trust Him as Lord. Those that trust Jesus as Lord are to seek to serve Him in all that He commands, including that passage in Matthew. And those that do not care to obey Him show by their fruits they are not part of His family.

            You said,
            “If I hope to be a credible voice in discussions of theology, Biblical exegesis, and church leadership, I need to participate in those discussions in a respectful and compassionate manner.”

            Certainly that is true, but it is only part of what is needed. In order to be a credible voice, at least here and in my thinking, you must also have a credible profession of faith, and an acceptable soteriological theology.

            And as far as I can tell, you lack both.
            Faith in Jesus is the only way to acceptance by God. It is a faith that believes and trusts in Him as Lord, both at the time of ones conversion and throughout ones life.
            As long as you confess, preach, and teach something else, no matter how many good works you perform, you are unaccepted by God and remain destined to the eternal punishment your sins have earned.
            I will continue to pray that He might have mercy on you.
            -mike

  7. dr. james willingham says

    I watched that speech on the seminary web site, I think. Anyway, it was really interesting and worthwhile. It makes me think that perhaps there is hope for what I have been praying for these 40 years, namely, a third great awakening. One of the factors about an awakening which I have not mentioned, discussed or said much about is the intellectual. In fact, there is a great deal of prejudice about earned doctorates, especially Ph.Ds. in any SBC churches other than a few FBCs and others that are in an educational setting. Unfortunately, the fact that so many of the doctors were of the liberal persuasion seem to justify all prejudice against people with education. I remember one member of a pulpit committee commenting to his fellow members, “He has to be radical; he taught at South Carolina State College.” There was definitely an element of racial prejudice in that comment, a little over 14 years ago. However, where there was no racial prejudice involved, there still the matter of education standing in the way, especially when a committee found out that one of my degrees was actually in Intellectual History and that I was listed in the International Who’s Who of Intellectuals. III. Cambridge, Eng.: International Biographical Centre, 1980. The sad part is that I knew where much of this prejudice began; it began primarily in Virginia in the 1700s with a heavy emphasis on illumination (the spiritual gift for ministry) and a reaction to the educated ministers of the State Church who were involved in the process of persecuting our Baptist ancestors and predecessors (others did the dirty work, but the educated ministers were a spark in the process, a matter that has escaped the attention of historians). While the educated ministers of the day, especially with the passing of the Puritans, showed little dependence on the Holy Spirit for help, the Baptists and others were denied the opportunity for education in the established schools. Thus, they began the effort of establishing institutions of learning, a slow process due to their being at the bottom of the economic scale for the most part.
    However, during the period of the sixteen and seventeen hundreds, Christian thinkers were the leaders in the thought of Western Civilization. Baptists had their thinkers. Just consider the success of the poet John Milton of Paradise Lost and John Bunyan of Pilgrim’s Progress fame. Add to that Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke and, later, John Leland. Williams and Clarke would especially make a significant contribution in the political realm by establishing religious liberty in precept and practice.
    Then came the turn away from thinking and study. Baptists sought to maintain the connection between education and/or illumination as is indicated by the example of John Gano and Shubal Stearns. When the former visited the Sandy Creek Baptist Association in their Annual Meeting, the young men refused to hear that educated Regular Baptist from the Philadelphia Association. Stearns who was very much dependent upon the Spirit, due to a lack of education beyond being able to read and write, determined to have Gano preach in his pulpit at the Sandy Creek Church. The young firebrands of the Sandy Creek Association, of course, stayed to hear the man whom they would not hear in the Association. After they heard the man who would baptize Washington and who would be the last person to speak to the Continental Army before it disbanded, they said that they supposed that they might never preach again seeing as they did not know how.(or something to that effect as this is written from memory and my records on the matter are lost in a mountain of stuff yet unboxed and likely to remain so past my lifetime).
    In any case, we need people who will discover the challenge of scholarship and the wonder of it as well as its place in the Christian Faith, a place much greater than many suppose. And I say that because our Lord made a change of mind primary, when He called for repentance, a truth that is all to often defined as a turning around without any regard for what is involved. The actually meaning is a change of mind based upon reflection and thought, metanous (change, meta, nous, mind) or metanoia (I am trying to transliterate the spelling of the Greek into the English.). Faith also involves a use of the mind, seeing that it involves evidence of things unseen. Paul even use a form of a word for logic in the Greek which is actually the source for our word logic in English, and the KJV does a pretty good job by translating it as “reasonable.”(Roms.12:1). Another translation is “rational.” One version renders it as “spiritual.” I thought, when I saw that, “Well, yes, if one thinks of the fact that it leads to the spiritual.
    With the 19th century, the Christian Faith began to lose ground, and this will have to be finished later. Other duties are now calling (fix lunch for wife, and get ready for Computer man to come and take it to be worked on).

  8. Russ Robinson says

    As the author of the article, I do think that David Rogers has asked some good questions so here is what I hope to be a note of clarification.

    Dr. Mohler’s address was not an invitation for “Interreligious Dialogue” as far as I am aware. With that said, isn’t all interfaith or interreligious conversation a dialogue? Dr. Mohler was invited to speak on Marriage, Faith, and Family–topics which both confessing Evangelicals and Latter Day Saints agree is threatened in the public sphere. So while Dr. Mohler’s purpose was to stay on this topic, he gives a great example of how to take advantage of every opportunity to proclaim the Gospel and this is where I find interreligious dialogue profitable, useful, and helpful.

    I disagree with any interfaith forum where everyone is supposed to smile and sing Kumbaya together and pretend to be one big happy bunch. Mohler was not there for that reason. There was no question for understanding evangelicals who are familiar with Al Mohler and his ministry, that while he answered the invitation to speak on marriage and family, he was ultimately there to proclaim the Gospel. This is why I believe it is fruitful and fitting to take advantage of interreligious conversation as an evangelical when it can be done in such a way that the Gospel will not be compromised–thus the example of my taking advantage of the opportunity I had with other faiths to discuss our differences and commonalities–wherever commonalities actually existed. My purpose to speak at a Catholic church with people of other faiths was not to say we were all the same, but that we were not and that the Gospel of Christ is our only hope. A goal which I believe by God’s grace was accomplished.

    While I can’t speak for anyone else as to what they understand by “Interreligious Dialogue” I can speak only from conscience so long as it fits with Scripture. We see in Acts 17 Paul actively engaging those of another faith(s) by appealing to their own and then moving to truth. Living in the land of the Latter Day Saint, I can say that almost all of my conversations are interreligious or interfaith. I see these two terms interchangeably. My hope as a believer who feels burdened to proclaim the Gospel everywhere I can is that I will take advantage of every opportunity, including speaking engagements that are not set up to say we are all the same, so that I can proclaim the Gospel. One more example. I really enjoy basketball and keeping up with professional basketball. If I were asked to speak on a panel discussing basketball, I may go to talk basketball but my ultimate aim will be to proclaim Jesus. Dr. Mohler was asked to speak on the threat to Marriage and Family in our modern day, a subject that he is well versed and studied on, but I am confident after attending that his primary purpose was to proclaim Christ as King. This is where I believe Dr. Mohler and others like him are good examples worth emulating in how to have real interfaith discussion. I pray that all evangelicals would be emboldened to turn every conversation with an adherent of another faith into an interreligious dialogue.

    I hope this helps a little, if not a lot.

    • David Rogers says

      Thank you, Russ. Your answer is indeed helpful. As I said at the beginning, to some degree, I am still forming my own opinion with regard to certain aspects of this. What you have said here is helpful and I will keep it in mind. Blessings.

  9. says

    Interreligious dialogue and efforts against common foes can be worthwhile, but only if the gospel does not take a back seat or get watered down. Any so-called “multi-faith” or “inter-faith” outreach ought to ensure that their message does not blur the lines between pluralism and the exclusivity of Christianity. This is why I have criticized, with specific quotes and video links, some of the comments by Dr. Roberts of the Global Faith Forum, in my article, Serious Reservations about the Global Faith Forum. Evangelicals engaging in multi-faith dialogue cannot afford to be theologically sloppy at exactly those places where we ought to be clear, such as in the following comments by Dr. Roberts to his audience of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, and Christians:

    …I don’t want anyone to compromise their faith…

    …It means that we serve not to convert but because we are converted and we love God—and the greatest conversion that all of us can have is more conversion of our own faith in our hearts and in our lives…

    …Value your faith. It’s everything…

    …See, faith is important in a society, even regardless of the faith. Let me tell you four things faith does in society: it represents the character of a society; it represents the spirituality of a society; it represents the conscience of a society, and it serves to build convictions in the society…

    …But one thing I would say to you: keep in mind, no religion or no country is perfect…

  10. says

    Key is to honor others without dishonoring God and self. Intricate balance. I am called to dialogue with many cultures and faiths. I am not one to back down. I enjoy debate. God has sent many for me to minister to. It all started at 17 during the Iranian hostage crisis, 1979 ish… the night Lowell Lunstrom was in Cedar Rapids and sold me a book, “The Muslims are Coming” . I stayed up all night reading, kicked myself awake after little rest, went to school to find a shock. Assembly called to hear a local Muslim speaker, with q/a time to follow. With the Holy Spirit all over me that morning that man was speechless at the questions I asked him, teachers livid, students surrounded me after asking how I knew what to ask and thanking me. It was an ambush of a hundred young people to color their thinking and I tear up every time I realize God used me to protect them and will prepare me for any danger! Since then I had setbacks…which is when Dave Miller knew me. But God has set before me Gays, Muslims, Jehovahs Witnesses, etc. And I have more stories to tell. But key is, still can you shake hands later without them feeling you just gave them the impression you think they are stupid. Deception is rampant and the tool of the enemy can get the best of any of us. Talk with them like intelligent people can disagree. Ultimately the Holy Spirit has to go before us preparing the way and we have to say only what He leads us in. I recently advised a 3rd year Christian not to feel guilty for not telling her militant atheist Jew father or mother about her faith. At this point he would tear her to shreds and their relationship would be torn. I said lose the guilt first then start thinking in a new way. Honor her parents is the first duty. Pray for clear direction and that her father would say something …a clear sign from God for her to broach the subject. Arguing is not an option. Being disowned will end any opportunity she has to witness. Ask the Lord what God wants her father to hear, a question, a phrase…then stop and let God work on him. I figure she is in the phase of learning and gearing up for what it will take to speak to him. No need to enter a battle with no weapons or armor.

  11. says

    Another story… recently my Muslim stepson asked if he could invite a friend to our Sabbath dinner. Found out later from friends who do prayer booths at multicultural events that this is a Muslim missionary sent to help us question our faith! I mused later that night to my husband the young man has people praying for him to be sent to our house! I never had to tell him he was wrong. He asked the questions. I knew he had heard all the pat answers before because he is smart and came from a strong Christian background. So I circumvented the normal apologetics and took an alternative route. He was exhausted but honored , we felt honored and bonus was stepson had to listen to every word I said politely in front of his guest who had asked my opinion! My mission friends say they have spent hours dialoging with him prior to that and he never cracked. He was visibly shaken when he left our home but in a good way.