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Interfaith Dialogue: What does it mean for Christians? PDF Print E-mail

"Jesus Christus allein ist Herr über Deutschland!" Jesus Christ alone is Lord over Germany! So shouted one bold Christian German woman over the wailing prayer of an Imam who had been invited to pray before a concert at a Church in Speyer, one of the early centers of the Protestant Reformation. Here is a video of this woman who has been called the "brave German woman" in the media:

[Source: www.cbn.com/tv/3165134808001]


The video moved me deeply as I have been quite concerned about the spiritual state of both Europe and the US and the rise of syncretism between faiths (especially concerning what has been dubbed "Christlam") for some time, and it spurred me to think more about attempts at what is called "interfaith dialogue".

This woman got pretty fired up about it in this case. I found another video of what happened after she got kicked out of the Church and she was pretty furious about a Christian Church being used to spread falsehood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZGDLIvdaPU (completely in German). Starting at 0:50 in the video (while crossing the street) the man holding the camera says: "Mohammed in the Church. What does that have to do with Jesus?" Then the woman shouts: "I am ashamed! (Pointing at the Church) That is the Church of faith, of faith in Jesus Christ! And we let 'Allah Akbar' be called out in it!... In our Church!" She had every right to be angry about the reappropriation of a Church to give voice to an Imam's prayer to Allah before the audience gathered there. It brings to mind similar incidents of righteous indignation demonstrated by the prophets in the Bible against idolatry.

One person that I talked to about this suggested, however, that interfaith dialogue is okay but not inside of a Church. But may I sharply question what is meant by "interfaith dialogue"? What would such a thing hope to accomplish? It seems that things such as Masonic Lodges, for example, are designed to absorb those who are interested in syncristic (even generalized) deism and interfaith union, which I view with a high level of skepticism (any idolatrous compromise is in fact heresy from the Christian faith). The idea of interfaith dialogue evokes the idea of compromise to me, and this verse comes to mind to serve as a warning against such compromise: 

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God." (2 Corinthians 6:14-16a)

Now, what is meant by this is not a phobia of and certainly not a hatred or despising of those of other faiths, but rather a protecting of the boundaries of the Christian faith itself. Of course, it is not only legitimate but also desireable and commanded for Christians to love everyone and to share the good news of Jesus Christ with them. Another person in the conversation said, "When a person possesses the love of Christ within them, it is like a magnet that draws people toward God." Indeed, and amen. We should not be defined ultimately by being against something but rather by being for something in life. And in the Christian life that something is a someone. What I am trying to communicate here is not so much a stance of being of anti-Islam (or other faiths) as it is being pro-Christ, and when one is pursuing Jesus Christ the lines and contours of the faith must not be blurred or compromised.

However, to finish my line of thought I want to address the suggestion that refusing to have an "interfaith dialogue" means not speaking to someone of another faith. That is a misunderstanding of what "interfaith dialogue" means. If I say to the Muslim owner of a local store in my city "Thank you! Have a good day!" for processing my transaction, we did not just have an interfaith dialogue just because we are of two different faiths. That is just normal conversation, regardless of and not touching upon one's faith, in terms of subject matter. That is common courtesy to converse with someone in such a manner. Additionally, when looking at this at a political level, nations who have citizens of two completely different predominant religions also need to talk to establish good international relations, but that is not an interfaith dialogue either. We must clarify what we mean by interfaith dialogue then.

The Apostle Paul distinguishes between yoking and associating oneself with unbelievers (which I quoted above) and the practical and love-oriented interaction that we must have with unbelievers in hopes of winning them to Christ: "I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world" (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). But for example when representatives & leaders among different religions get together and try to find "common ground" between their faiths in the name of peace I always cringe because for a Christian representative it requires watering down the Gospel and shying away from mentioning Jesus as the only way to God (which is inadmissable for it to qualify as "interfaith"). Interfaith dialogue in this context means mixing, combining, and also cutting out incompatible parts between the participant faiths, thus making a new faith which is embraced in practice. This is in essence not just dialogue but true "interfaith union".

In 2007 a large group of Muslim scholars sent an open letter titled A Common Word Between Us and You, to Pope Benedict and the leaders of other Christian denominations. A well-known response to that attempt at interfaith dialogue was drafted by some academics at the University of Yale that they named Loving God and Neighbor Together, in which a Christian "reaching out" to Islam is proposed. That response has drawn criticism from articles like the following one, aptly entitled "You Don't Speak For Me". Particularly it levels this criticism:

"The assumption in the letter is that the God of Islam is the same as the God of Christianity. This is a denial of Jesus Christ, as Muslims absolutely refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is God. This is the very foundation of Christianity."

Even with the interfaith vigil ceremony in 2013 for the victims of the tragic Boston marathon bombing, the Christian minister's prayer was very generalized (I presume so as to not "offend" anyone). What is now being called "Christlam" (a merging of Christianity and Islam) is becoming more prevalent in Africa and in the western world, and represents the results of interfaith dialogue and "tolerance" which says that Allah is the same as the Christian's God. I am very opposed to such "interfaith dialogue", which in this context is only a codeword for religious compromise.

This is a caution for any Christian thinking of engaging in what is called "interfaith dialogue". So ultimately, in any situation, let us be wary of what is meant by "interfaith dialogue" and see through the agendas, the codewords, and slights of hand to make it seem like something other (and "better") than what it actually is and seeks to pursue. The pure faith and Gospel of Jesus Christ needs nothing added to it. The only need is for people to see the light of the Gospel's truth and to act in thankful obedience to it in response to a merciful God who sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins that we might not be condemned and perish but have everlasting life through Him!


Soli Deo Gloria!

 
 
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