Southern Baptists Help Build US Mosques in Interfaith Coalition
(TRUNEWS) The Southern Baptist Convention, the US’s largest Protestant denomination, is now helping to build mosques, right here in ‘Christian America’.
In a legal struggle to allow the building of a mosque in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, a coalition of faiths have come together to help promote the building of an Islamic religious center whose core principles are in direct opposition to to basic Christianity.
In a quote from BaptistNews.com:
“…a legal dispute between a Muslim community and a New Jersey township is showing a different side of inter-Christian relationships. Baptist and other Christian organizations accustomed to cultural and legal sparring have joined the fight for the construction of a new mosque.
“It’s good when we can join hands with … folks we are sometimes on the other side of,” said Brent Walker, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
Those folks include the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and the International Mission Board, both agencies of the Southern Baptist Convention. The National Association of Evangelicals is also supporting the mosque-building case.”
According to the Becket Fund website:
“In March 2016, the Society sued the town for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Becket’s amicus brief was joined by a diverse coalition including the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, Interfaith Coalition on Mosques, International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, International Society for Krishna Consciousness, Muslim Bar Association of New York, National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, National Association of Evangelicals, New Jersey Muslim Lawyers Association, Queens Federation of Churches, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sikh Coalition, South Asian Bar Association of New Jersey, South Asian Bar Association of New York, and Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey.”
According to the New York Times, the building of the mosque has not been without opposition. The process of approval has been tough. Lori Caratzola, a resident of Basking Ridge who opposed the mosque, attended virtually all the hearings and regularly put questions to the technical witnesses.
Although she is not named as a defendant in the suit, her affiliations with “anti-Islamic” groups and websites are cited. “I stand by that,” Ms. Caratzola said when asked about her support for the American Public Policy Alliance, which maintains that American legal institutions are under threat from Islamic codes.
Those views were irrelevant, she maintained, to the board’s decision.
“Let’s say someone or people did have feelings about Islam — the fact that every single terrorist attack in the last 20 years was committed by Muslims — they never spoke about that during the planning board meetings,” Ms. Caratzola said.
Criticism of the mosque proposal on land use grounds, she said, should not limit what she and other members of the public express elsewhere.
“Are we not allowed to voice concerns about a religion, or is it not O.K. just about Islam?” Ms. Caratzola asked.
This coalition to assist the mosque in New Jersey is just part of an overall strategy by the Southern Baptist Convention to create ‘strategic interfaith alliances’ with other faiths, especially outside of the realm of evangelicals and protestants.
According to Baptist Press:
Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, Mormon and Muslim representatives explained to an audience on Capitol Hill why their faith perspectives support universal religious freedom despite the distinctions in their beliefs.
“Our differences are too important to be adjudicated by the state or to be applied through pressure,” said Southern Baptist leader Russell Moore, who explained he thought he could speak for the entire panel in making such an assertion.
Religious freedom, Moore said, is “about having the freedom and the opportunity to be genuinely different, to be able to genuinely respect one another and to be able to have disagreements with one another, including about issues that we believe are of ultimate, ultimate significance, while at the same time saying, ‘These are not matters of coercion, and we do not need a government referee to come and settle those issues.’
“A religion that needs cultural or political pressure behind it,” he said, “is a religion that has lost faith in its deity.”
Russell Moore serves as the eighth president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the moral and public policy agency of the nation’s largest Protestant denomination.
A widely-sought cultural commentator, Dr. Moore has been recognized by a number of influential organizations. The Wall Street Journal has called him “vigorous, cheerful, and fiercely articulate” while The Gospel Coalition has referred to him “one of the most astute ethicists in contemporary evangelicalism.”
TRUNEWS recently presented an article in which Moore described presidential candidate Donald Trump as ‘a lost person’.
Moore told CBN reporter David Brody in an interview that:
“My primary prayer for Donald Trump is that he would first of all repent of sin and come to faith in Jesus Christ. That’s my prayer for any lost person. And then that he would be somebody who would act in terms of principles of justice, which would mean a change, not only in terms of the way in which he’s changing the moral character of people, including the people that are supporting him and getting on the bandwagon, having had to excuse things that they’ve never had to excuse before and then of course in terms of being a ruler in a limited sense within an American constitutional framework who understands principles of justice. That would be a remarkable change. Of course I believe people can change but that would be a remarkable change. The same thing would be true in terms of Hillary Clinton. This is someone who has a different set of problems and issues. But really, regardless of what happens in November, my primary focus is not November of 2016. My primary focus is 2017 and preparing the church to be a church which is going to have to be a sign of contradiction regardless of whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump is in The White House.”
Moore obvious has a great deal of passion when it comes to Donald Trump. Why doesn’t he show the same passion in opposing the invasion of Islam in America?
It could be that Southern Baptists, as well as other major denominations, may be worshiping a defective brand of ‘American Christianity’. The writers at ‘Pulpit and Pen‘ offer this observation,
Herein lies a critical issue when your flavor of faith is first “American” and then “Christian.” The Word of God nowhere offers such a contracted definition of faith. While some may claim “Christianity” is the priority – as surely the ERLC and IMB would – it is their behavior that reveals the truth. “American” takes precedence.
Proclaiming “there is no other name under heaven by which men may be saved” seems uncannily hollow when you’ve just joined hands to help build a Christ-denying mosque. Once again, Christianity becomes just another flavor of religion to an onlooking world and our witness as Southern Baptists diluted by our religious liberty defenses.
The ‘Chrislam’ alliance has not been without push-back among Southern Baptists opposed to the idea of helping to build mosques. However, in an ironic twist, the opposition comes on political, rather than doctrinal grounds:
Gerald Harris, editor of Georgia’s Christian Index Newsjournal, has argued Islam “may be more of a geo-political movement than a religion” and may not qualify for all the First Amendment protections granted to religions. Again from Baptist Press:
In his editorial, Harris asserted that “Muslims around the world and in our own country” have shouted “death to America” on some occasions and that mosques “often promote Sharia Law and become training grounds for radicalizing Muslims.” He quoted four commentators who have argued Islam “has a religious component” but, taken to its logical end, seeks to overcome western civilization.
That led Harris to state, “Do Southern Baptist entities need to come to the defense of a geo-political movement that has basically set itself against Western Civilization? Even if Islam is a religion must we commit ourselves to fight for the religious freedom of a movement that aggressively militates against other religions?”
Harris added, “Freedom of religion in America is designated to protect the rights and dignity of different religious communities, so they can practice their respective rites and ordinances without fear and interference. However, religious freedom for Muslims means allowing them the right to establish Islam as the state religion, subjugating infidels, even murdering those who are critics of Islam and those who oppose their brutal religion. In essence they want to use our democracy to establish their theocracy (with Allah as supreme). Their goal politically is to destroy the Constitution with its imbedded freedom and democracy and replace it with Sharia Law.”
Just as “Americans kept Communism in check during the Cold War,” Harris wrote, “will we do the same when another political ideology endangers our future?”
This situation with Southern Baptists partnering with Islam to help build a mosque (wrap your mind around that just one more time) is just another sign of how the church in America seems to be more devoted to gaining political power and influence than in committing themselves to preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
What should Southern Baptists do? Ask questions of your pastor and local cooperative fellowship as to where they stand on this issue.
THE DANGERS OF ECUMENISM WITH ISLAM
While it is undeniable that there are many similarities between Christianity and Islam (and Judaism, for that matter), Islam ultimately fails because Christianity and Islam are diametrically opposed on the most important of issues – the identity of Jesus Christ. True Christianity declares Jesus to be God incarnate. For Christians, the deity of Christ is a non-negotiable, for without His deity, Jesus’ death on the cross would not have been sufficient to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the entire world (1 John 2:2).
Islam adamantly rejects the deity of Christ. The Qur’an declares the idea that Jesus is God to be blasphemy (5:17). Belief in the deity of Christ is considered shirk (“filth”) to Muslims. Further, Islam denies the death of Christ on the cross (4:157-158). The most crucial doctrine of the Christian faith is rejected in Islam. As a result, the two religions are absolutely not compatible, making Chrislam a concept both Christians and Muslims should reject.
Walter A. Elwell, in The Concise Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, defines ecumenism as “the organized attempt to bring about the cooperation and unity among Christians.” On an international level, the World Council of Churches represents ecumenism when it states its purpose this way: “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, ‘so that the world may believe’ (John 17:21)” (www.wcc-coe.org). On a national level, a document called Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium, published in 1994 and endorsed by some rather prominent representatives of evangelical Christianity and Roman Catholicism, is another example of ecumenism.
Ecumenism can also be defined more broadly: “a movement that promotes worldwide unity among all religionsthrough greater cooperation.” For example, a Christian priest may invite a Muslim imam to speak in his pulpit, or a church may get together with a Hindu temple to hold a joint prayer service. Defined this way, ecumenism is definitely wrong. We are not to be “yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14; see also Galatians 1:6–9). Light and darkness have no fellowship with each other.
For this article, we will restrict the definition of ecumenism to “the move toward unity among Christian groups.” The important question is this: are ecumenical ventures right and biblical? Should we be involved with other “Christians” in joint ventures locally, nationally, or internationally? The answer is not absolute. Of course, unity among true Christians is important (Psalm 133:1; John 17:22). But what if some of those who profess Christianity actually deny certain fundamentals of the faith? One must consider each situation individually. Here are a couple of questions that will help us make God-honoring decisions regarding ecumenism:
First of all, are those we are joining with truly Christians in the biblical sense of the word? Many people and organizations reference the name of Jesus Christ and even state He is Lord and Savior yet clearly reject what the Bible says about Him. Obvious examples of this are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ and claim to be “Christian” yet deny what the Bible declares concerning Christ’s nature and work. A not-so-obvious example is liberal Christianity. Liberal Christianity is found in almost every denomination, and, although it may seem Christian, it usually rejects several essential truths. Liberals often deny or diminish the inspiration and authority of the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16), the exclusive nature of salvation in Christ (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5), and the total dependence upon God’s grace, apart from human works, for salvation (Romans 3:24, 28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8–9).
There is a major emphasis in our day on ecumenical unity among evangelicals and Roman Catholics. Those who promote such unity state that both groups are Christian and both are God-honoring systems of faith. But there are substantial differences between the two groups. Biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism are two different religions that practice and believe different things about how one is saved, the authority of the Bible, the priesthood of believers, the nature of man, the work of Christ on the cross, etc. The list of irreconcilable differences between what the Bible says and what the Roman Catholic Church says make any joint mission between the two impossible. Those who deny this are not being true to what they say they believe, no matter which side they are on. Any Catholic who is serious about his faith will reject what a serious evangelical Christian believes, and vice-versa.
One of the draws of ecumenism is that often theologically divergent groups are passionately like-minded regarding certain issues. Biblical Christians usually hold a strong pro-life stance, a traditional view of the family, a conviction to care for the homeless and sick, and a desire to see justice in the world. Other groups, which may have unbiblical theology, can hold the same social positions. Thus, the temptation to pool resources in pursuit of a common cause is sometimes great. This leads to the next question.
Second, what is the ultimate goal of this ecumenical venture? Scripture gives clear guidance as to how Bible-believing Christians are to live. Colossians 3:17 states our purpose this way: “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Regarding our interactions with the lost, Jesus says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 28:18–20 and 1 Corinthians 2:2 make the gospel our top priority. All that we do is to bring glory and honor to God, we are to live in good works before a lost and dying world, and we must bring to the world the life-changing message of the gospel. Sharing the death and resurrection of Christ brings glory to God and should motivate our interaction with the world.
Regarding ecumenical ventures, we need to ask whether or not these goals are being pursued. Often, sharing the gospel becomes an afterthought, if it is even thought of at all. In place of the gospel, ecumenism tends to focus on political and social messages. Rather than seek to transform hearts, ecumenical endeavors often seek to transform environments—political, social, or financial. The ultimate goal of our actions should be the salvation of lost sinners (Ephesians 2:1–3). The angels of heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10). There is nothing in the Bible that says the angels rejoice when a law is passed, when a well is dug, or when a street is paved. (Not that there is anything wrong with accomplishing those things, but they cannot be allowed to overshadow the gospel.) As we contemplate ecumenical ventures, we need to make sure God’s kingdom is being expanded through evangelism.
In conclusion, should we be involved in ecumenical cooperation with other Christian churches and other groups of believers? If there is no doctrinal compromise on core Christian belief, if the gospel is not being watered-down or sidelined, if believers can maintain a clear testimony before the world, and if God is glorified, then we may freely and joyfully join with other believers in pursuit of God’s kingdom.
Additional content provided from GotQuestions.org
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