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What do YOU Believe: Part 4, my view

I want to get back to my series on the SBC choice to support a mosque being built in a New Jersey town. The first post in this series explained the story. The second post gave the reasoning behind the support. The third post gave reasoning or those who don’t support. In this final post I want to give you my view.

Before I go forward, I want you to know that I have friends on both sides of the argument. The fact that someone disagrees with me will not change how I see them. To me, this is not a salvation issue. I understand the argument that people make that says it is, but it simply is not. And to say that religious liberty is at stake is very true, but that is also not Scriptural.

That said, I do NOT believe that supporting the building of the mosque is the appropriate thing to do.

I believe that Russell Moore and the SBC made a mistake in supporting it.

First, religious liberty is never promised in the Bible. Christians are not to focus on religious liberty, we are to focus on Christ alone. Political messages are only to be shared that will lead people to Christ. We should not be entering a political arena other than to spread the good news of the Gospel.

Whenever we heard about Christians in the first century, we heard about the persecution. Early persecution happened between Jews and Christians. Jews were scared of Christianity. They saw this religion spreading quickly and felt it needed to be ended as quickly. Beginning in AD 64, Rome joined in the persecution when Nero blamed the Christians for a large fire that engulfed the city of Rome.

When we hear the word “freedom” in the Bible, we hear about how we are set free through the truth (John 8:32), that we are to use our freedom to love one another through serving each other (Galatians 5:13), and that we are not to use our freedom to cover up evil but to live as a servant of God (1 Peter 2:16).

It is that last verse that gets me.

If we combine that with the 10 Commandments, then we realize that it is evil to have another god before God. If that is evil, then it stands to reason that it would be evil to support another god.

I am not talking about baking cookies for a gay wedding or joining with other religious organizations to stop a strip club from coming to town. I am talking about an outright watering down of the Gospel through claiming that all religions should be seen as equal.

We serve a jealous God.

He desires us.

I am talking about doing similar to what Israel did in Judges 2, which is support other religions.

This happened in Israel for a multitude of reasons. First, they kept trying to live in the past, before they had the blessings of the Lord.

Next, they kept forgetting God’s Word. How many times do we get angry before we study the Word when we hear something? Rather than acting out, it is important to understand God’s Word first.

Next, Israel kept following new trends. Israel was watching the religious ceremonies of their enemies and they found them exciting. They started incorporating them into their worship. How about us today? I believe that the SBC has fallen prey to a world’s definition of tolerance. Tolerance in the Bible is very different than tolerance in the world. We can’t just accept everybody’s beliefs as our own. We do need to accept that others will believe differently, and we cannot force them to believe our way of life, but we cannot allow their views to infiltrate our beliefs. We are to remain holy, or set apart.

Fourth, the Israelites got too busy. They allowed their success and personal lives take precedence over their worship.

Finally, they refused to drive evil out of their land. As Christians in America, we have no “land” per se. But we do have our churches and denominations. If we allow evil to live inside those holy walls then we will find that we will lose our status of being holy.

So, it is very easy to mask politics as Christianity.

They are not one and the same.

If we don’t take a lesson from the first century Christians and the early Jews, then we will lose our ability to truly be a church of the risen Christ.

What do YOU believe? Part 3 – Against

The past couple of weeks I have been writing about the Russell Moore’s decision to allow the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC to support, through amicus brief, the building of a mosque in a New Jersey town.

A lot has happened since then.

There have been calls among the SBC for Moore’s resignation. The calls have fallen among racial lines with the majority Caucasian churches calling for his resignation and the majority African-American churches calling for there to be grace shown to him.  This is leading to even bigger divides inside the SBC, and will have some long-term repercussions.

Last week I looked at Russell Moore’s side, trying to understand his viewpoint. Many of my Facebook friends showed their approval when I posted the question asking about whether they supported his choice or not.

But just like any controversial question, when you have people who support it, you have people who don’t.

While some told me that everyone should have the right to practice their religion and that we should not discriminate against others, other people said that a leader in a church should not advocate for another religion and some brought up remembering 9/11 as a reason for us to not allow the mosque.

This week I want to show the side that is against Russell Moore and explain what I’ve seen people say about as well as what the Bible says. Next week, when I finish this series, I will share my viewpoint.

Across my Facebook friends, there were a variety of Scripture to support their views:

  • 2 Corinthians 6:14-18
  • Exodus 20:5
  • 1 Corinthians 10
  • Exodus 23:30-32

These are all very valid points. Just like last week, I would like to remind everyone that it was a Christian king, Negus, who allowed the continuation of Islam when others would have seen them destroyed.

So what is the purpose behind Christians not supporting the building of a mosque?

Well, the arguments seem to be twofold, and much of it because of what has been happening with Islamic extremists. The other reason is the Scriptural one.

According to Islamic belief, the Qu’ran was “revealed” to Muhammad as he spoke with The Divine. Some parts of the Qu’ran are given to specific instances while others speak to spiritual principles. In looking at the main verse in the Qu’ran that people use to show they are to kill infidels, Sura 9:5, we find that Muhammad tells the believers (in Islam) to “slay” the infidels “wherever you find them.” The only way someone could avoid this was to convert to Islam and pay a tax. This is generally called the “Sword Verse.” It is the one most people use when they say Islam is a violent religion. But that specific verse was given for a specific time.  It was given to the believers who had fled away from persecution. The idolaters are those who waged war against Muhammad and his crew. If we look at that verse in complete context, Muhammad tells his believers to protect those who had made treaties with them and to attack those infidels who broke their treaties. This verse was never about killing all non-Muslims. If that were the case, then every year after the holy months in Islam, we would have seen an increase in fighting.

Now this is not say that I am going against what I am writing about here.

I am specifically writing about the reasons Christians are to not support the building of a mosque.

But when we do so, we MUST take everything in context.  If we do not, then we are being led by Satan, not God.

So before I go any further, you need to know that if we are using the argument of “them versus us” then we are wrong. We CANNOT allow our emotions of 3,000 people killed to get in the way of what the Word of God says.

The Bible is specific:

Proverbs 30:5-6 – Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

Galatians 1:6-9 – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

So, in this post we are ONLY going to look at it from a Scriptural standpoint. It is very easy to go eisegesic versus exegetic. If we look at the emotion first and the Scripture last (eisegesis), then we run the risk of translating the Scripture to our emotion. If we begin with Scripture (exegesis), then we allow God’s Word to change how we think and believe.

Then what does God’s Word say about this?

To begin, we start with John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If we start with that alone, then we need to know that in the Christian worldview, Jesus is the only way to heaven. There are no other choices. While Christians can live side by side with people of other faiths, we cannot condone of those faiths for any reason because doing so would water down the message that Christ alone is the Way.

The next verses we need to look at deals with the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:1-3, “And God spoke all these words: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”

So, as of now, we have that Jesus is the only way to the Father and that we shall have no other gods before Him. The argument is getting pretty clear.

If we look at those 2 sets of verses alone, then we can presume that anything that runs counter to knowing Jesus as the only Way and that puts another god above is against Christianity as a whole.

As a matter of fact, John 6:44 states, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

So you need to be drawn by the Father in heaven in order to come to Jesus.

And, as last week, we need to discuss Christian love. Why was Jesus sent?

John 3:16-18 tells us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

It is love that brought Jesus into the world. It is love that gives us the saving blood of Christ. It is love that gives us a way to communicate, and be in fellowship, with God.

Love does not cause confusion. If there is confusion, then that love is not of God but of the world.

If we were to support another religion that runs counter to the deity of Christ, then we are supporting a gospel of confusion.

Galatians 1:8-9 specifically calls this out. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”

We cannot preach another gospel.

Supporting another god supports another gospel.

Ad you can say to me that you aren’t supporting the god, but the people to have freedom to believe as they will. And to that I say to you, “nice try, but you are wrong.”

Supporting another religion is always about serving another god. You can mask it in religious liberty or supporting people, but it is about supporting that other god and their beliefs.

Mark 13:22 says that there will be false christs and false prophets that will rise up to lead people, including the elect, away from the Gospel of Christ.

We cannot support another religion over ours. If we do then we are just as worthless as the religion we are supporting.

James 1:26 – If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Russell Moore, and the SBC, should have not taken pride in their religion. According to many, they should have held their tongues in something they knew was against God’s Word.

Next week I will end my series by giving you my viewpoint. I believe you might be a little surprised as to what I believe. And I will try to give you as much detail around it as possible so that there is no confusion as to my stance.

What do YOU Believe? Part 2 – Pro

Last week I started writing about the SBC’s decision to support the Islamic Society in a New Jersey town  through writing a brief on religious liberty. Over the next few weeks I will look at both sides of the argument, for and against, and end with a post about my view.

This week, I will look at the SBC’s view and why they supported the mosque.

This process was led by Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the SBC. While Moore led the charge, it was supported by others in leadership, including David Platt, President of the International Mission Board. Not only did other SBC members join this brief, but so did other religions: The American Association of Jewish Lawyers, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, National Association of Evangelicals, and Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry among many others.

So what is the rationale behind the support?

Moore is quoted as saying “What it means to be a Baptist is to support soul freedom for everybody.” His rationale is that when one religion is persecuted, it is only a matter of time until all religions are persecuted.

At the end of the day, the question that Moore feels is of utmost importance is whether one religion can be subject to a different land-use approval than another. Those who don’t support Moore’s views believe the question that is most important is whether Christians and non-Christians can be unequally yoked.

I posed the question to my Facebook friends: Can a Christian in all integrity to Christianity support the building of a mosque?

To say that it was a lively conversation is an understatement.

Some of the comments for supporting the mosque are:

  • I believe that every religion has a right to be able to have a sanctuary in their city/town
  • If we are able to discriminate…then it is just a matter of time before the tables are turned
  • It would boost my trust in the leaders (who support it) that they are following Christ’s example
  • Many Christians want religious liberty…as long as it is theirs alone
  • Not allowing the mosque in the area hurts evangelism in that city
  • There is no theological conflict with civic religious freedom and being a biblical Christian
  • In Christ, we are to love all people, even those who want to harm us

Before I get into the scriptural evidences that others use to show it is ok to support the mosque being built, I want to share a quick story. This is the story about the first Muslims and how a Christian king allowed them sanctuary and the ability to grow and survive.

When Islam was first started to be proclaimed publically, the pagans in Makkan started persecuting the young Muslims severely. Many died. Many more were tortured. Eleven of the Muslims fled to Absynnia, a city that was led by a Christian king, Negus. They were offered sanctuary. Once the Muslims realized that they were in a peaceful area, they sent for more of their people.  The king continued to welcome the Muslims and offered them safety.

The Christian king asked the Muslims a simple question: “What do you say concerning Jesus?”

The Muslims said, “…we can only say what our Prophet has taught us: Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, the spirit and the word of God, whom God entrusted to the virgin Mary.”

When King Negus heard this, he picked up a twig from the ground and said, “I swear, the difference between what we believe about Jesus, the Son of Mary, and what you have said is not greater than the width of this twig.”

After the Makkan’s heard about the Muslims in Absynnia, they sent a delegation to request that they be deported back to Makkan. The king refused.

This is the first instance of Christians supporting Muslims.

While that is a great testament to Christians supporting others, the next question is: Is it Scriptural?

When I posed the Scripture question to my Facebook friends, I received a TON of verses and theologies as to why we should support the Islamic Society.

  • “The 10 commandments in Exodus 20 all point towards loving others unconditionally.”
  • The Good Samaritan story
  • 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
  • Matthew 25:35-40
  • Luke 6:27-36

All of those are very interesting views. the majority of those point toward one word, “love.”

But, as Haddaway sang in 1993, “What is love?” (admit it, now you are singing that song)

This is not the kind of post that is going to dig into the Christian definition of love. But I would be missing something if I didn’t at least touch upon it.

Christian love is not simply allowing everything. In Christian love, the idea of emotion, although part of our image of God, is not what the concept of Christian love, agape love, is about. Agape loves so deeply that we aren’t afraid to tell the truth and hold accountable. Agape bases love on the image of God, regardless of anything. And, since God is holy, we cannot allow evil to be part of the church.

But is this evil?

We could go on and on all month asking these philosophical kind of questions.

But I won’t.

So, getting back to the question at hand, is it ok for a Christian to support another religion?

According to Russell Moore, who spearheaded this entire debate, “One thing we need to be very clear about is that religious liberty is not a government ‘benefit,’ but a natural and inalienable right granted by God.”

He goes on to say, “When we say—as Baptists and many other Christians always have—that freedom of religion applies to all people, whether Christian or not, we are not suggesting that there are many paths to God, or that truth claims are relative. We are fighting for the opposite. We are saying that religion should be free from state control because we believe that every person must give an account before the Judgment Seat of Christ.”

He uses Romans 13:1-7 and John 12:42-43 to support his view. He says that government can only rule by the sword. The sword of government cannot save a soul. This means that it becomes a religion of external conformity. It comes from state mandate or peer pressure. This happened with those who heard Jesus’ words. They understood His truth, but they loved the glory that came from man more than that which comes through God.

He continues by saying forcing someone to Christianity will make a state of pretend Christians. He says that if you want to see people come to Christ, you do it through boldly proclaiming the saving power of Christ, not by forcing them into hiding through shutting down their personal journey to Christ.

For those who say that non-violent Muslims are inconsistent Muslims (similar to “cafeteria Christians”, then he has a rebuttal to that. He says that the government’s job is to punish evil-doers. not to decide who is most theologically sound and consistent with their religious books.

He believes that there are limits to our freedom, and government has an obligation to protect the people inside its borders from harm and violence. But, he continues, government has an obligation to protect the citizens from the government itself. It is an act of aggression to strip a religious community of its civil liberties.

This line of thinking believes that to believe in Jesus’ Gospel message means that we do not need the power of the government to carry it out. The precedent in the Bible comes from Revelation 13. This is the example of a church that is forced on its people. That is not the church of Christ.

Next week I will look at the opposing view to this.

What do YOU believe?

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 – For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

The next few weeks I want to discuss something that is pretty interesting, and important. Before I start writing about it, I want to explain this series. First, this is going to be a very polarizing topic. It crosses both political and religious lines, especially among Christians. Next, I am not going to give you my “opinion” until the final post in the series.

This series is going to span 4 posts. The first week I am going to discuss the event that brought about this series. Next week I will discuss the pro side of the argument followed by the con side the third week. In the final week I will discuss what I believe and why.

So, Fred, what is the story?

Back in May 2016 the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the Southern Baptist Convention joined an amicus brief to help protect the religious liberties of an Islamic group who was attempting to build a mosque.

An amicus brief is a legal document that is filed in an appellate court by people not associated with the case but who have strong interests in the subject.

The amicus brief was to help the Islamic Society in Basking Ridge NJ get approval to build a mosque. In December 2016, the court ruled in favor of the Islamic Society. The court found that the planning commission of the town violated the law when it required “more than twice as much parking in its site plan for a proposed mosque as it required for local Christian and Jewish houses of worship.”

Along with the ERLC, the International Mission Board (IMB) also joined the amicus brief. Because of that, one of the IMB’s trustees resigned because of the amicus brief.

Because of this, some Southern Baptist churches are withholding financial support of the Convention, including Prestonwood Baptist, a 41,000-member megachurch, who is withholding $1 million in support from the Convention’s state and national initiatives.

So after reading this, I decided to post on Facebook a simple question:

“How would you feel/react if your pastor or leader stood up against religious discrimination and signed a petition to allow a mosque to come into your town after the government intentionally made it extra hard for them to come in?”

I followed it up with asking everyone to give scriptural evidence for their views. There were over 70 comments and replies on the post, the most I have ever had on a post. The comments were by many people I consider strong Christians.

And the comments were all across the spectrum.

These comments were all by people I respect and admire

And they were all different.

I go to church with many of those who commented.

So over the next couple weeks I will look at the varying positions my friends took as well as those taken by others I admire as well. I will look at those who say that supporting the Islamic Society is an example of Christ’s love as well as those who say that we cannot support  Christianity and other religions.

So next week I will tackle those who say we can, and should, support the Islamic Society.

Deuteronomy 10:17 – For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.

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