Mr. Kalsbeek is a teacher in Covenant Christian High School and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan. Previous article in this series: Decemeber 1, 2005, p. 106.
And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.”
One might be able to understand why a secular society would be sympathetic to Islam and antagonistic to biblical Christianity, but that that which calls itself the Christian church would be conciliatory, and even supportive of what historically has been a fierce competitor, appears almost unbelievable. Those seeking to understand the times should examine where nominal Christianity is coming from in this regard, and where it appears to be going.
Before the use of airplanes as bombs by radical Muslims on September 11, 2001, there was a growing acceptance of Islam by much of what could be identified as nominal Christianity. As early as October 1986 Pope John Paul II brought representatives from nearly all the world’s religions to Assisi, Italy for an ecumenical day of prayer for world peace. In this setting Pope John Paul II “proposed that they all worship the same God.”¹ The obvious implication of that idea in the context in which it was presented is that people of any religion are saved even apart from the knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Evangelist Billy Graham expressed this same heresy on Robert Schuller’s “Hour of Power”television program of June 8, 1997. In response to Schuller’s question: “Tell me, what do you think is the future of Christianity?” Graham replied:
…I think there’s the Body of Christ which comes from all the Christian groups around the world—or outside the Christian groups….
…He is calling people from out of the world for His name, whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world, they are members of the Body of Christ because they have been called by God.
They may not even know the name of Jesus, but they know in their heart that they need something that they don’t have, and they turn to the only light that they have. And I think that they are saved, and that they are going to be with us in heaven.²
Notice that Rev. Graham isn’t saying that God will call out from these groups those who will follow Christ. Rather it his belief that while they are still in these religious systems they are members of the Body of Christ. Astoundingly, Graham makes these assertions without support from Scripture but solely on the basis of what he thinks. If there is any doubt as to what Graham (and Schuller) believes, they will be dispelled by reading a little more of their discussion:
Schuller: What I hear you saying is, that it is possible for Jesus Christ to come into a human heart and soul and life, even if they have been born in darkness and have never had exposure to the Bible. Is that a correct interpretation of what you’re saying?
Graham: Yes it is. Because I believe that. I’ve met people in various parts of the world in travel situations, they had never seen a Bible or heard about a Bible, and never heard about Jesus, but they believe in their heart that there was a God, and they tried to live a life that was quite apart from the surrounding community in which they lived.
Schuller: This is fantastic! I’m so thrilled to hear you say that! There is a wideness in God’s mercy!³
The interview then goes on to challenge the listeners to bring Muslims the message of God’s love for them wherever they are, no matter their religious background.
If one would have thought that 9/11 would move nominal Christianity to pause and rethink its acceptance of Islam, he would be disappointed. Apparently nothing has changed since 9/11.
That Rome’s position has not changed is evident from what Pope John Paul II expressed twelve days after 9/11. In a message to the predominantly Muslim nation of Kazakhstan the Pope declared:
There is one God. The Apostle proclaims before all else the absolute oneness of God. This is a truth which Christians inherited from the children of Israel and which they share with Muslims….
(W)e can bring together Christians and Muslims, and commit them to work together for the “civilization of love.” It is a logic which overcomes all the cunning of this world and allows us to make true friends who will welcome us “into the eternal dwelling-places” (
), into the Homeland of heaven.4
Pope John Paul II then concluded his homily with this prayer:
And in this celebration we want to pray for Kazakhstan and its inhabitants, so that this vast nation, with all its ethnic, cultural and religious variety, will grow stronger in justice, solidarity and peace. May it progress on the basis of particular cooperation between Christians and Muslims, committed day by day, side by side, in the effort to fulfill God’s will.5
That’s Rome’s non-response to 9/11, but what about some in the Protestant fold? Rev. David Benke, president of the Atlantic District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, took part in the interfaith service at Yankee Stadium, which was conducted in response to the attacks of 9/11. Benke’s participation in the event was challenged. In the process of defending himself, Rev. Benke had this to say:
Theologically, when Christians interact in the public arena by prayer or reading or speaking, they are presenting themselves as witnesses to the truth. God takes care of the rest. The Muslim God is also the true God (there is only one true God) but worshipping in an inadequate way. In other words, the Muslim is worshipping God but understanding God’s law (and there is really no religion like Islam when it comes to the law).6
Others in the Protestant camp echo that sentiment:
A leading evangelical Christian seminary is using federal funds to launch a $1 million program to ease strained relations with Muslims with an interfaith code of ethics.
Fuller Theological Seminary’s proposed code would ask members of either faith to refrain from making offensive statements about the other, affirm a mutual belief in one God and prohibit proselytizing over the two-year span of the project.
The initiative, funded by a grant from the Justice Department, includes teaching the code to Muslims and Christian community leaders in the Los Angeles area and publishing a book….
Some Muslim leaders who have already begun participating in the initiative said they were delighted by the Fuller program.
“We are changing the course away from accusations and poisoning the well of relations to what can develop into a project in the service of God,” said Yahia Abdul-Rahman, who began participating in the initiative last year when he headed the region’s network of mosques, known as the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California.7
In light of the above it might be concluded that nominal Christianity’s post 9/11 response to Islam is one of syncretism. Emphasis is placed on what various members of the “People of the Book” (Jews, Christians, Muslims) have in common, while at the same time downplaying, if not totally ignoring, the significant differences. In the approving words of Philip Yancy it sounds like this:
…We disagree over important doctrines, but are united in our being accountable to God, our being objects of God’s concern, precious in his eyes.
Indeed, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have much in common: They honor the authority of Moses and the Hebrew prophets; they believe in the Creator, the God of Abraham; they want to fulfill God’s commands of justice and mercy; they see life as sacred. All three acknowledge that we must oppose evil with a holiness that begins with a proper humility before a sovereign God.8
These ideas of religious tolerance and pluralism are not mere wishful thinking on the part of a few. The World Council of Churches (WCC), no less, is busy promoting the same program. In November of 2005 a WCC colloquium was held in Geneva, the theme of which was “My Neighbor’s Faith and Mine.” WCC spokesman and speaker at the event, Rev. Dr. Hans Ucko, in part had this to say:
This colloquium is to explore an issue that speaks to, as well as challenges, religion and society. The theme “End of Tolerance” has been chosen because it would hopefully help us to take a closer look at the concept of “tolerance” itself, and would open up dimensions of relationships of living in pluralistic societies especially as minority and majority communities. In this way, it is closely related to the overall theme of this weekend: living together interreligiously.
…One needs to go beyond tolerance, because tolerance is today mostly understood as non-interference…. We need to find a new concept of society, where plurality is affirmed….
Can we re-imagine and rethink a society that is able to cope constructively with religious and cultural plurality? In such a process, there are some questions to be addressed…. In re-imagining and rethinking a society that needs to be truly plural, can we speak of a common universe of discourse? Are concepts such as truth, freedom, justice, prudence, order, law, authority, power, knowledge, certainty, unity, peace, virtue, morality, religion, God, the human being, universal or what are the equivalents in order for us to reach a consensus, robust enough to build the truly interreligious and intercultural society?9
A Post-modern Delusion
This developing syncretistic thinking appears a lot like what Revelation 17 describes as the deception by the whore of Babylon. About this Rev. Herman Hoeksema wrote:
In the words of our text, therefore, we have a picture of the harlot church, the false church, the counterfeit church. For even as the devil aims at establishing a counterfeit kingdom, so he also establishes a counterfeit church. Naturally! We have told you before that he uses all the institutions which God has placed on earth in this dispensation for the maintenance and establishment of his kingdom, that he employs them all for his own purpose and for the propagation of his own principle. The same is true of the church. Also the church as an institution in this dispensation, designed to be the army of the kingdom,—also that church the devil shrewdly employs in his service.
…Gradually her bridal alliance with the opponent of Christ shall be brought to light.
…the false church will openly reveal herself as such, will openly separate herself from all that calls itself after the true and living Christ, not so much in name, but in very fact. The church shall deny the Christ, shall trample under foot the blood of Christ, shall invent a religion, a Christianity, of its own, and thus shall become a mighty, apostate church, calling itself Christianity, and in reality being related to the kingdom of Antichrist.10
Modern-day Issachar might wonder, What is going on here? Are we witnessing the development of the Kingdom of Antichrist: a kingdom in which even the religions of the world can unite? How can these things be?
In a series of moves to make Christianity compatible with science and some accepted biblical contradictions (which some call paradoxes), nominal Christianity has made some fatal concessions, and in the process has given up its only weapon, the sword of the Word. Consequently, nominal Christianity is left with a Bible that merely “contains the Word of God,” and that no longer expresses itself definitively on much of anything. With nothing left on which to base doctrinal conviction (if such a thing still exists) or with which to combat Islam (or any other false religion), nominal Christianity is vulnerable. About this Alvin J. Schmidt, in his book The Great Divide, concludes:
…American society resembles Jahiliyah (state of religious ignorance), similar to what Muhammad found in Arabia in 622 when he began to fabricate the religion of Islam…. Americans, exposed to years of relativism and secularism in their schools and the media, have lost their biblically based moral beliefs and values. This phenomenon has gained momentum in recent years through the dogma of political correctness, which portrays all religions as having equal value. Truth, religious or any other, lies only in the eyes of the beholder. What is true for you is not necessarily true for me. If this is what Westerners, including Americans, have accepted—and research shows many have—then what harm could there possibly be if Islam became the religion of the West and the United States? If that someday should happen, America and the rest of the West will have traded their Christian heritage for a mess of religious pottage concocted by a man who on the Arabian sands, 1,400 years ago, distorted the work and teachings of Jesus Christ and replaced them with his own man-made religion.11
Whether the West accepts Islam, as Schmidt suggests, or a new religion of consensus is forming, as Hoeksema believed, it really makes little difference. At bottom, both Islam and nominal Christianity have an impotent God: a God that is dependent upon the will of man. That being the case, Allah and the Christian God are nearly indistinguishable!
… to be continued.
1. “New Gospel Emerging,” Media Spotlight, vol. 20, no. 2. 1997:24.
2. “New Gospel Emerging”: 24.
3. “New Gospel Emerging”: 24.
4. Richard Bennett and Robert Nicholson, “The Papacy and Islam,” The Christian News 10 March, 2003: 14-15.
5. Bennett 15.
6. Frederick E. Davison, “The Muslim God Is Also the True God,” The Christian News 17 March, 2003: 16.
7. The Journal, A Summit Ministries Publication, February, 2004: 5.
8. Philip Yancy, “Hope for Abraham’s Sons,” Christianity Today, November, 2004: 120.
9. Ucko, Hans. “An End to Tolerance?” 14 Nov. 2005. Available WWW: http://wcc-coe.org/wcc/interreligious/ forbetterorforworse-ucko.html.
10. Herman Hoeksema, Behold He Cometh (Grandville, Michigan: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2000) 561-564.
11. Alvin J. Schmidt, The Great Divide (Boston, Massachusetts: Regina Orthodox Press Inc., 2004) 257.