In 1994, several well-known Christians signed a document with leaders of the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) called “Evangelicals and Catholics Together," or ECT for short. Much has been written about this unholy union that does not need repeating here, but one of the motivations for ECT was that the RCC agrees with Christians on many “moral” issues (e.g., abortion, homosexuality, etc.).
Together, the signers of the document reasoned, we can be a united force to shape American society, to make it more “moral;" together, we can have a greater voice in these discussions. The RCC, as she plows down the slippery slope of ecumenism, actively seeks such unions, and increasingly, so do some Christian denominations. On the surface, we might ask what's wrong with such a union? After all, shouldn’t Christians seek to influence the morality of society? Implicitly (and sometimes explicitly, as we will see), these unions have a larger political agenda than meets the eye.
It is in this context that I want to make Christians aware of a sermon that was recently preached by a United Methodist, Dr. William J. Abraham, entitled, “Striving for Holiness and Peace in a World of Abortions." This sermon was reproduced in the newsletter Lifewatch – Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality (for those wishing to read the entire sermon in context, you may do so here). This is a pro-life organization, one that actively supports the RCC due to their similar stance on abortion. What caught my eye were a few statements made by Dr. Abraham, which I quote below:
Second, we sally forth in the company of our brothers and sisters in other faiths. Of course, there will be differences between, say, Christians, Jews, and Moslems. Here we need to be theologically clear, if controversial. Contrary to what is commonly said, Christians, Jews, and Moslems believe in the same God.
We all believe in one and only one Creator of the universe. And we all believe that human agents are precious creatures that come from the hand of God. Such claims are not a matter of political expediency. They are a matter of conceptual fact. Of course, Christians, Jews, and Moslems differ radically. We disagree on the content of divine revelation. We disagree on what God has done for the salvation of the world. And we disagree on how to articulate how God is best understood doctrinally.
However, these differences should in no way undermine the crucial theological point that Christians, Jews, and Moslems share a common, if minimal, vision of God and human agents. It would be theologically wrong-headed and politically imprudent to ignore this. On the issue of life and abortion, we can work in peace together with other robust theists in our midst.
Clearly, Dr. Abraham believes it is politically prudent to work with those of other faiths. While that may or may not be true, the real question for us as Christians is should we join with other faiths simply to make society a better, more “moral" place. I believe we will see more and more of this kind of thinking leak into “mainline” Christian denominations.
Consider this: Dr. Abraham is the Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. He is a prominent professor at a mainline Christian seminary teaching soon-to-be pastors. Certainly, he is not the first seminary professor to teach false theology, and he certainly won’t be the last, but an increasing number of professing Christians are willing to become yoked together with those who do not believe in the Biblical gospel of Jesus Christ for the sake of “morality."
While we may assume their intentions are good (and even acknowledging that American society continues to decay at an alarming rate), is joining hands with those who do not believe the Gospel truly the best way for Christians to reverse America's moral decay?
For example, let's consider some of Dr. Abraham’s statements in light of Scripture:
Dr. Abraham makes clear he believes people of other faiths are “brothers and sisters” to Christians. This implies that we are of the same family, and therefore, we have the same Father. Are we brothers and sisters with Jews, Moslems, Jehovah Witnesses, Roman Catholics, etc.? To answer this, let's turn to the Scriptures.
The Bible says all people are sinners (Romans 3:23), but more importantly we are told that all men prior to faith in Christ are not God’s children; instead, they are called children of the devil:
“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” (Ephesians 2:1-3)
“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.” (John 8:44)
“Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right!” (Acts 13:9-10)
Clearly, all people, prior to faith in Christ, are not God’s children. The good news for those who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is we are born again, born into a new family, the family of God. Believers (and only believers) are God’s children, born of the Spirit and not of the flesh; only those who are born again are Christians. The Bible makes this clear.
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)
“Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” (John 11:51-52)
“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:15-17)
“But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.” (Romans 9:6-8)
“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3)
“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:8-10)
Consequently, Dr. Abraham is wrong. Christians are not brothers and sisters with those of “other faiths."
Dr. Abraham calls the answer to this question “a matter of conceptual fact." Keeping in mind that Dr. Abraham teaches future church leaders, is he correct about his "facts?" Again, let’s look to Scripture and reason to see if this is so.
Before Christians, Jews and Moslems can claim to believe in the same God, they would first need to agree on Who God is and where that knowledge is found. As Christians, our source for this revelation is Scripture. On the other hand, the Muslim worshipper find his divine revelation in the Qur'an. The Bible itself teaches that there is no other source of revelation concerning the true God except that which came from the Jews and Jesus Himself. Obviously, Christians believe this and reject the Qu'ran, which which came hundreds of years later and without divine inspiration nor authority.
If Muslims and Christians receive their revelation concerning the Person of the Diety from different, mutually exclusive sources, then it is not "factual" to say Muslims and Christians believe in the same God, since we know the Muslim god is a false one found in the Qur’an while the Christian God is the true Deity revealed in His own words through the writers of the Bible.
Furthermore, the Bible and the Qur’an contradict each other in many ways, which would innevitably create confusion if we were to believe they are both inspired by the same God. Yet the Scripture says, “For God is not the author of confusion but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)
Furthermore, the Bible reveals that God is found in the person of Jesus Christ; Jesus is God in the flesh. Anyone who rejects Jesus as God also rejects God entire. We see this clearly in several verses:
“He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16)
“He who believes in Me, believes not in Me but in Him who sent Me. And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.” (John 12:44-45)
“The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” (1 John 5:10-11)
“For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” (John 5:22-23)
Both Jews and Muslims reject Jesus as God, therefore they reject Who He said He is. If Scripture tells us that Jesus is God and that to reject Him is to reject the Father (i.e., God), then it is impossible to conclude that Jews and Muslims believe in the same God as Christians. Obviously, the professor’s statement is not “conceptual fact." It is no fact at all.
Dr. Abraham states that it is a “crucial theological point that Christians, Jews, and Moslems share a common, if minimal, vision of God and human agents.” To this list, I would add (following Dr. Abraham’s logic) Jehovah Witnesses, Roman Catholics, and any other “faith” that believes in one God but presents a false gospel. Is Dr. Abraham correct to say that these faiths share a common view? Once again, this is not logically possible if we reason out of the Scriptures.
Christians believe that man is sinful and cannot, in and by himself, do anything to be reconciled to a holy God, yet all of the above groups believe that man not only can but must do something to be reconciled to God. Christians believe that it is God who does it all through Christ's work and that we are reconciled to God only through faith in His Son. Our works count for nothing!
The Christian view of salvation through faith and apart from works is hardly the “common” view among these religions. In fact, the view of God offered by Dr. Abraham is of a god created in his own image, and that is the ultimate outcome of ecumenism – bible idolatry.
As you can see from the above Scriptures, Christians are not brothers and sisters to followers of these other faiths, nor do we worship the same God they worship, nor do we share even a common view of God them. So the question remains: should Christians join hands with religions that do not believe in the gospel? Scripture again provides the answer:
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:8-11)
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)
When we join hands with those who are enemies of the gospel, we legitimize their false religion and bring disgrace to our Lord. We put “moral” issues on a higher plane than the gospel itself, and therefore, than Jesus. This is not to say these issues aren’t important nor that we shouldn't be active in our own way on certain issues.
Nonetheless, let us all be bold in sharing our faith, in presenting the words of life to those who are in other faiths or of no faith at all knowing that we were once just like them. The certain way to true revival and a more “moral” society is one in which there are more Christians, children of the living God. May God forgive us for not sharing the gospel as we should, and may He be merciful to our country and bring a true revival.
No doubt, though, we will continue to see the lines between religions blur as the way is paved for the antichrist. THough the world desires “unity," idolatrous people create gods in their own image and teach a lie to be truth. Our Lord warned us about the false teachers that would arise: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
Likewise, in Acts 20:28-30, Paul through the Holy Spirit says:
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”
But all of this simply means our Lord’s coming is nearer still. "Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)