This blog is devoted to discussing the pursuit of eternal life.
Discussion and participation by readers is desired,
but contributions should correlate to the book,
The Race Set Before Us: A Biblical Theology
of Perseverance & Assurance

Thomas R. Schreiner
& Ardel B. Caneday

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Be Reconciled to God!

Recently, I posted an entry I titled, An Urgent Need for Steadfast Perseverance. I called attention to the fact that many, who identify themselves as evangelicals, have endorsed a statement drafted and sponsored by the Yale Center for Faith & Culture, under the direction of Miroslav Volf. The statement is titled, Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to 'A Common Word between Us and You'.

Receipt of a forwarded news letter from a couple of retired missionaries to the Arabic world, Bassam and Shirley Madany, prompt this fresh entry that offers further background for why I posted my urgent appeal. Shirley's letter, forwarded to me by a reader of this blog, prompted me to do a little more inquiry concerning the original "A Common Word Between Us and You" drafted by 138 Muslim clerics. The letter begins,

Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.

The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour.

These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following are only a few examples:

Of God’s Unity, God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He is God, the One! / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of all! (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Of the necessity of love for God, God says in the Holy Qur’an: So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil, 73:8). Of the necessity of love for the neighbour, the Prophet Muhammad said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”

In the New Testament, Jesus Christ said: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. / And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)

In the Holy Qur’an, God Most High enjoins Muslims to issue the following call to Christians (and Jews—the People of the Scripture):

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)

Read Cranmer's Muslim clerics demand peace, or else.... Cranmer understands the cleric's letter as I do. Their call for peace necessarily entails submission to Allah. They craftily recast "Allah" as "God," for ingenuous readers, such as those at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture and those who endorsed their Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to 'A Common Word between Us and You'.

In their piece on "Reconciliation Program," Miroslav Volf and his joint drafters of the above letter of response juxtapose three quotations, one from the Qu'ran, one from the New Testament, and one from the Torah.

Bring about reconciliation between your brothers, and fear God, that you may receive mercy. — Qur’an, Surat al-Hujurat (49):10

God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them. / And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. — New Testament, 2 Corinthians

You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself. — Torah, Leviticus 19:18

Volf and associates lift the passage out of context from Qur’an, Surat al-Hujurat (49):10. Once again, here is the citation by the Yale Center for Faith & Culture: Bring about reconciliation between your brothers, and fear God, that you may receive mercy. — Qur’an, Surat al-Hujurat (49):10. Now, consider the quoation within a little more of the context.

And if two groups of the Muslims fight each other, then make peace between them, but if one of them commits excessiveness against the other, then fight the one that has committed excessiveness till it reverts to the command of Allah. Then if it reverts rectify between them with justice and do justice. Verily Allah loves the equitable.

Muslims are brothers, therefore make peace between the two brothers and fear Allah that the mercy may be shown to you (Qur’an, Surat al-Hujurat [49]:9-10).

Is it not evident that the Yale Center folks cherry-picked the portion that served their purpose and pulled the quotation out of a context that speaks of making peace with fellow Muslims, not with Christians? Do Christians not properly correct their own as well as Muslims and others who lift a statement out of either the Old or New Testaments and exploit it in ways that its meaning within context neither bears nor permits?

Furthermore, consider the source of the title of the letter from the 138 Muslim clerics, "A Common Word between Us and You." The expression, "a common word between us and you," derives explicitly from the Qu'ran, Surah Al-i'Imran [3]:64. Here is the verse within the context of Surah Al-i'Imran 62-68.

This verily is the true Narrative; There is none worthy of worship save Allah; and verily only Allah is All Mighty, the All Wise.

Then if they turn back their faces, then Allah knows the mischief mongers.

Say you, O people of the Book! Come towards such a word which is common between us and you, that is we worship none but Allah and associate no partner with Him; and none of us make one another as Lord beside Allah; then if they do not accept then say, 'bear witness that we are Muslims.'

'O people of the Book! Why do you dispute about Ibraham? The Torah and Injil (Gospel) were not sent down, but after him, then have you no reason? Behold! you are those who disputed in that of which you had knowledge, then why you dispute in that of which you have no knowledge, and Allah knows and you know not.

Abraham was neither a Jew nor Christian but was a Muslim separate from every falsehood and was not of the polytheists.

Verily, the more rightful claimant of Abraham than all people were those who followed him and this prophet and the believers, And Allah is the Protector of the believers.

Is it not evident that the expression, "a common word between us and you," is used within a polemical portion that calls for Christians and Jews to become Muslims? The Yale Center of Faith & Culture response to the clerics in Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to 'A Common Word between Us and You' fails to recognize this and fails to address it.

It is not difficult to understand that Surah Al-i'Imran denounces Christians and Jews, unless they become Muslims. Read further through Surah Al-i'Imran [3]:85-87.

And whoso will desire for a religion other than Islam that shall never be accepted from him and in the next world he shall be among the losers.

How Allah shall wish to guide such a people who disbelieved after believing and had borne witness that the Messenger is true and to whom had come clear signs? And Allah guides not a people unjust.

Their need is this that on them there is curse of Allah, and of angels and of men, all together.

Does this read like Islam is truly desirous for peace, harmony, reconciliation, and unity with Christians and Jews?

In my previous entry on this subject I commented on the urgent need to be wary of the seductive power of "multiculturalism and diversity," under the tyranny of political correctness, lest we be ensnared to endorse the efforts of the Yale Center of Faith & Culture. I also commented on the pseudo-reconciliation they suppose that they are achieving by offering up presumptuous confessions of alleged sins committed by other alleged Christians in the past and in the present, as though they were priests for others. One of the reasons Volf and his associates do this is that they have embraced the worldview called "multiculturalism and diversity." Do you doubt my assessment? Read what the Reconciliation Program says.

The goal of the Reconciliation Program is to promote reconciliation between Muslims and Christians, and between Muslim nations and the West, drawing on the resources of the Abrahamic faiths and the teachings and person of Jesus.

The Reconciliation Program is the newest program at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture. In its initial phase, the Reconciliation Program is focused primarily on bridge-building scholarly research on the major theological, political, cultural, social and ethical issues which traditionally divide Muslims and Christians, and on concerns which unite them.

This is reconciliation? Indeed, this is the kind of reconciliation that "multiculturalism and diversity" worldview preaches and advocates. Is this not "multiculturalism and diversity's" bastardization of the biblical and Christian teaching concerning reconciliation? Consider the words of the Christian apostle Paul.

From now on, therefore we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:16-21).

The only reconciliation program directed toward Muslims that any Christian should embrace is the one that the apostle lays out. Reconciliation with Muslims requires their reconciliation with the one and only God, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The only kind of reconciliation that we Christians should seek with regard to Muslims is their acknowledgment of Christ Jesus as Lord and their spurning of Mohammed and Islam.

Dear readers, let us not be seduced by the kind of reconciliation with which "multiculturalism and diversity" tempts us, the kind to eliminates the offense inherent within the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead, be reconciled to God and implore others, including Muslims, to be reconciled to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ through Christ Jesus.

For a news article on the Muslim clerics' letter, read Muslims point to common ground in The Christian Century. Not to be left out is The Peacemaking Process: A call to evangelicals to respond to a significant Muslim overture in Christianity Today by J. Dudley Woodberry.

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