It was predictable in this age of wishful thinking.
After 138 Muslim leaders wrote an open letter last month to Christendom calling ostensibly for peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding, self-proclaimed Christian leaders and other celebrity Christians took the bait.
The appropriate response would have been to search their own Scriptures, to get down on their knees to beseech God to give them wisdom and to seek the counsel of others, particularly experts on Islam, history and the persecution of the church in Muslim lands. Instead, some get-along-with-the-world Christians apologized for the past and current actions of their fellow churchgoers in defending their lives and their beliefs against Islamic aggression and terror.
Among more than 100 theologians, ministry leaders and prominent pastors, signing the letter were Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners, Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church and Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
As a Christian myself, I want to make it very clear these men do not speak for me. More importantly, I do not believe they speak for Jesus.
"If we can achieve religious peace between these two religious communities, peace in the world will clearly be easier to attain," they wrote. They called for interfaith dialogue to build relations that will "reshape" the two communities to "genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another." And they asked the Muslim leaders to forgive Christians for their sins — including the crusades and "the excesses of the war on terrorism."
Some of that might sound quite appealing. In fact, without true spiritual discernment, the substance of the open letter from the Muslim leaders might seem to be a genuine breakthrough in mutual understanding, worthy of such a contrite response.
For instance, take the Quranic verse that served as the inspiration for the Muslim leaders in "A Common Word Between Us and You":
"Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him)." — Aal ‘Imran 3:64
It sounds nice. But any student of Islam would understand the real message. What does it mean? The key is the third sentence: "And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him)."
The word "Muslim" literally means "one who submits to Allah." In other words, far from attempting to find common ground with Christians, these Muslim leaders are in fact using the words of their own holy book to proclaim themselves as the only true monotheists in the world today. While Muslims are, of course, free to believe that, it hardly forms the basis for interfaith dialogue and the search for common ground.
Looking at the verse in context, it is obvious this part of the Quran is little more than an argument with the other "people of the book" — Jews and Christians.
3:65: "Ye, People of the Book! Why dispute ye about Abraham, when the Law and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have ye no understanding?"
3:66: "Ah! Yes are those who fell to disputing (even) in matters of which ye had some knowledge! But why dispute ye in matters of which ye have no knowledge? It is Allah who knows and ye who know not!"
3:67: "Abraham was not a Jew, nor yet a Christian, but he was true in Faith, and bowed his will to Allah’s (which is Islam) and he joined not gods with Allah."
3:68: "Without doubt, among men, the nearest of kin to Abraham are those who follow him, as are also this Apostle and those who believe: And Allah is the Protector of those who have Faith."
3:69: "It is the wish of a section of the People of the Book to lead you astray. But they shall lead astray (not you), but themselves, and they do not perceive."
3:70: "Ye People of the Book! Why reject ye the Signs of Allah, of which ye are (yourselves) witnesses?"
3:71: "Ye People of the Book! Why do you clothe Truth with falsehood, and conceal the Truth while ye have knowledge?"
This section of the Quran, like most sections of the Quran, is hardly a call for finding common ground. It is an indictment of Judaism and Christianity, a forceful call for conversion. In fact, that’s all it is.
In the eyes of orthodox Islam, there is only one way for Jews and Christians and Muslims to get along: Jews and Christians must stop accepting lies, submit to Islam, become Muslims or accept the harsh treatment they deserve living as "dhimmis" under the thumb of followers of the Quran.
Likewise, it is a perversion of the Bible to assume Christians should seek peace first over truth. It is hardly what Jesus preached in Matthew 10, where he told believers they would "be hated of all men for my name’s sake" — even within our own households and families.
"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword," Jesus said in Matthew 10:34.
This message is reiterated in Luke 12:51: "Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division."
Jesus did not teach believers to seek common ground with the world. He did not teach us to conform ourselves to the ways of those who deny him. He did not teach us to compromise our faith to find peace. He did, however, command us to "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." — Mark 16:15
If today’s Christian leaders want peace, they should be about the business of their Lord, spreading the Gospel to Muslims and other nonbelievers, rather than conducting interfaith dialogues with those who keep those nonbelievers in darkness.
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