No sooner had the Indianapolis Star broken the story over the weekend about mega-church pastor Rick Warren speaking at the upcoming annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America than conservative Christian bloggers started barking their disapproval.
Ground zero for evangelical criticism is the doctrine of God.
The blog “Bible Prophesy Today” quickly merged America and Christianity, linking Warren with an Islamic speaker who allegedly burned the American flag and asserting that “Islam and Christianity do not worship the same God.”
Christian efforts at common ground are “based on the false and dangerous assumption that Allah and Jehovah are one and the same,” blogged Eric Barger.
“Rather than trying to see how much we have in common with them,” wrote Barger, “concerned believers might better spend their time pointing out the stark difference between Islam and Christianity — the resurrected Jesus Christ, who is calling Muslims to exchange worthless religious bondage for true peace and everlasting joy.”
At the blog “Slice of Laodicea,” Ingrid Schlueter asked if Warren would feel “impelled as a follower of the one true God to let the Muslims know that true happiness is only found through the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son?”
She said, “I can say, authoritatively, that ‘God’ will be talked about a great deal. That Muslims worship a false God and are lost for all eternity unless they repent and believe the Gospel, will not be said to these lost souls. You can take that one to the bank.”
Labeling Warren as a “false teacher,” the blogger at “Files from Toni” said Warren would not present the Gospel of Christ to the Muslims. Instead Warren “plans on tickling the ears of his audience,” a New Testament reference to false prophets.
“Why are you speaking at this convention, Mr. Warren?” asked the blogger at “Lose Your Life!”, who answered his own rhetorical question. “I’m sure he would give me some weak answer about ‘unity’ or ‘showing love’ blah, blah.”
The blogger added, “Warren’s decision to speak at this Muslim conference is just another in a long line of choices that show he does not take a definitive stance on the Gospel.”
These bloggers and many other conservative evangelicals refuse to engage in respectful interfaith dialogue with Muslims. They think the only reason to relate to Muslims is to convert them to Christianity.
However, neither doctrinal conformity about God, nor agreement about salvation, is necessary for American evangelicals to seek the common good with American Muslims. Unfortunately, too many evangelical leaders have forgotten Jesus’ great commandment.
Jesus did not spell out prerequisites for doing right for one’s neighbor. Jesus did not tell his followers that they had to agree with their neighbors about God and the source of eternal salvation before they could love their neighbor. Love for neighbor wasn’t a doctrinal issue, it was a moral imperative.
Love for neighbor is a moral obligation — no matter who the neighbor is or what the neighbor believes.
American evangelicals seek the common good with American Muslims because it is the right thing to do.
Robert Parham is executive editor of EthicsDaily.com and executive director of its parent organization, the Baptist Center for Ethics. A shorter version of this editorial appeared yesterday on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” Web page.