Monday, November 26, 2007

Rethinking P.E.A.C.E. - Loving God and Neighbor Together

Is this the "Emergent Moment"?
Is this this tipping point, the time for us to really have an impact on the future of the church? It sure seems so. The interest continues to build, and the pressures continue to mount. The cries of "Heresy!" continue to come from one side of us, as we push into some new theological territory.
--Tony Jones, "The Emergent Moment," Emergent Village, letter 11/8/07

Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, Tony Jones, Brian McLaren, Leith Anderson, Jim Wallis, and other evangelical leaders have signed onto a common ground document to work with Muslims for world peace. This fact sheds considerable light on the potential agenda of Robert Schuller's upcoming Rethink Conference. And it may explain Rick Warren's strange foray into Syria last year.

For the world's major religions to find "common ground" or "reconciliation" with one another requires a substantial rethinking on the part of evangelical Christians. And finding "common ground" requires building consensus: i.e., syncretism and ecumenism.

The background for this breaking story is summarized here. Last weekend (November 18th) a statement was run in the New York Times, bringing this common ground document to the attention of the public at large. A November 18th press release about this event can be found at the Yale Divinity School's Center for Faith & Culture, which has masterminded this effort to promote reconciliation between faiths "in all spheres of life." It reads in part:


NEW HAVEN, CT—Nearly 300 prominent Christians representing a broad spectrum of theological perspectives have endorsed Loving God and Neighbor Together — a document calling for Christian and Muslim leaders "at every level" to carry forward "the earnest work of determining how God would have us fulfill the requirement that we love God and one another."

The statement. . . was initially released by four Yale Divinity School scholars in mid-October in response to the widely publicized open letter to the Christian community from 138 Muslim leaders,
A Common Word Between Us and You. In that letter, Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals pointed to love of God and love of neighbor as shared principles that can serve as a solid foundation for peace and understanding. . . .

Loving God and Neighbor
says, "A Common Word Between Us and You identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism. Jesus Christ's call to love God and neighbor was rooted in the divine revelation to the people of Israel embodied in the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18). We receive the open letter as a Muslim hand of conviviality and cooperation extended to Christians worldwide. In this response we extend our own Christian hand in return, so that together with all other human beings we may live in peace and justice as we seek to love God and our neighbors."

A copy of this groundbreaking "Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to 'A Common Word Between Us and You'" document can be found here. The signers of this document agree that "the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians" based on the idea of "love" and "brotherhood." But this love, peace and brotherhood involves reshaping communities and nations.

The Task Before Us

“Let this common ground” – the dual common ground of love of God and of neighbor – “be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us,” your courageous letter urges. Indeed, in the generosity with which the letter is written you embody what you call for. We most heartily agree. Abandoning all “hatred and strife,” we must engage in interfaith dialogue as those who seek each other’s good, for the one God unceasingly seeks our good. Indeed, together with you we believe that we need to move beyond “a polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders” and work diligently together to reshape relations between our communities and our nations so that they genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another.

The document to which these Christian leaders are responding, "A Common Word Between Us and You," was an open letter from leaders of the Muslim faith to leaders of the Christian faith, calling for world peace and common ground. The document explains that:

Between Us and You

Finding common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders. Christianity and Islam are the largest and second largest religions in the world and in history. Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they make up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.

The language "our common future" is one that many will recognize in the decades-long work towards building a world government system. Our Common Future is the name of a report, published in 1987, from the UN World Commission on Environment and Development chaired by Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway. Dr. Dennis Cuddy described this report as

"actually a map or program for the world's future covering nearly all areas of life, and calling for 'new norms of behavior at all levels . . . changes in attitudes, in social values' and population control." (Now is the Dawning of the New Age New World Order [Hearthstone, 1991), p. 260)

An article in the Christian Post indicated that

Christian leaders urged for an interfaith dialogue that moves beyond “polite” ecumenical talks between selected leaders. Instead, leaders of both faiths should hold dialogues to build relations that will “reshape” the two communities to “genuinely reflect our common love for God and for one another” . . . .

It is likely that there will be additional concerns expressed about these documents and corresponding activities of evangelical leaders in the weeks to come. This is definitely an "emergent moment" in the rise of a new form of global ecumenism and syncretism. While the surface agenda is lovey-dovey, the Dominionist tenets of these key evangelical leaders overshadows this "brotherhood" agenda. These men believe they are "building the kingdom of God on earth."

Just how will they build this kingdom upon their newfound common ground? These evangelical leaders have already demonstrated their profound willingness to abandon the tenets of the Christian faith. While they pander to an emerging nebulous spirituality, the biblical foundation of true human compassion is eroding.

The Truth:

It is a mental exercise to identify "some core common ground between" faiths. But what of the Gospel? John Flavel wrote in 1680 that

there are everywhere to be found more professors than converts--unregenerate professors, whose religion is but the effect of education. Christianity, by the favor of an early providence, was the first comer; it first bespoke them for itself. These are Christians of a human creation, rather born than new-born believers. Now, all these are self-deceived, and hastening to damnation under the efficacy of a strong delusion; . . .

Surely our birth-privilege without the new birth is nothing, yea, worse than nothing, as to our last and great account. That which stands for a great sum in our arithmetic is nothing, is but a cipher in God's. "Except a man be born again," say the lips of truth, "he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Poor self-deceivers, ponder these words of Christ. You have hitherto thought your moral education, your dead and heartless duties, enough to constitute you Christians before God: But go now, and learn what that scripture means; and be assured that you must experience another manner of conversion or else it is impossible for you to escape eternal damnation.

(Touchstone of Sincerity [Old Paths Gospel Press, PO Box 318, Choteau, MT 59422, 406-466-2311]) Reformatted for blog use.