A Different Kind of Blog

news and things sacred and irreverent put together by opinionated people.

Should Christians ‘respect’ other religions?

Posted by kayms99 on May 20, 2009

 R. Albert Mohler, Jr. – Guest Columnist – 5/19/2009 8:40:00 AM

AlbertMohler   The world we now know is marked by religious pluralism and the clash of worldviews. The modern world brings individuals and groups of different belief systems into both proximity and potential conflict. How should Christians respond when asked about this? Should Christians “respect” other religions?

Headlines throughout the world announced this week that Pope Benedict XVI, while visiting Jordan, spoke of his “respect” for Islam. This came on the heels of the Pope’s notorious 2006 speech at Germany’s Regensburg University. In that speech Benedict quoted Emperor Manuel II, one of the Byzantine monarchs, who said: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

The outrage throughout the Muslim world was immediate and overwhelming. The Pope issued clarifications and explanations, but Muslim outrage continued. This week, with the Pope scheduled to make his first papal visit to an Islamic country, the sensitivities were high. The Vatican’s official transcript of the Pope’s comments at the Amman airport records him as saying: “My visit to Jordan gives me a welcome opportunity to speak of my deep respect for the Muslim community, and to pay tribute to the leadership shown by His Majesty the King in promoting a better understanding of the virtues proclaimed by Islam.”

There are so many different angles to this situation. First, we have the spectacle of a Pope being received as a head of state. This is wrong on so many counts. Second, we have the Pope speaking in diplomatic jargon, rather than in plain and direct speech. Third, we have the Pope speaking of “respect” without any clear understanding of what this really means. Does the Pope believe that Muslims can be saved through the teachings of Islam? Actually, he probably does — at least within the context of a salvific inclusivism.

The Roman Catholic Church officially teaches that Muslims are “included in the plan of salvation” by virtue of their claim to “hold the faith of Abraham.” In the words of Lumen Gentium, one of the major documents adopted at Vatican II: “But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.” The same language is basic to the current official catechism of the church as well.

Within the context of the document, this language clearly implies that Muslims are within the scope of God’s salvation. While the Roman Catholic Church teaches that Islam is both erroneous and incomplete, it also holds that sincere Muslims can be included in Christ’s salvation through their faithfulness to monotheism and Islam. Thus, when the Catholic Pope speaks of “respecting” Islam, he can do so in a way that evangelical Christians cannot. Within the context of official Catholic teaching, the Pope can create a fusion of diplomacy and doctrine.

While evangelical Christians face a different context to this question, the urgency is the same. We are not playing a diplomatic role as head of state, but we are called to be ambassadors for Christ and His Gospel. In this light, any belief system that pulls persons away from the Gospel of Christ, denies and subverts Christian truth, and blinds sinners from seeing Christ as the only hope of salvation is, by biblical definition, a way that leads to destruction.

Islam, like every other rival to the Christian gospel, takes persons captive and is devoid of genuine hope for salvation. Thus, evangelical Christians may respect the sincerity with which Muslims hold their beliefs, but we cannot respect the beliefs themselves. We can respect Muslim people for their contributions to human welfare, scholarship, and culture. We can respect the brilliance of Muslim scholarship in the medieval era and the wonders of Islamic art and architecture. But we cannot respect a belief system that denies the truth of the gospel, insists that Jesus was not God’s Son, and takes millions of souls captive. This does not make for good diplomacy, but we are called to witness, not public relations.

We must aim to be gracious and winsome in our witness to Christ, but the bottom line is that the gospel will necessarily come into open conflict with its rivals. The papal visit to Jordan points directly to the problem of the papacy itself and to the confusion of Roman Catholic theology on this very point. To understand Islam is to know that we cannot identify Muslims as those who “along with us adore the one and merciful God.” To deny the Trinity is to worship another God. Respect is a problematic category. In the end, Christians must show respect for Muslims by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the spirit of love and truth. We are called to love and respect Muslims, not Islam.


9 Responses to “Should Christians ‘respect’ other religions?”

  1. princessxxx said

    i dunno…should they?
    well, maybe as soon as christians can learn to respect other christians,
    perhaps then they should give it a try, respecting other religions.

    but i doubt that is ever going to happen.


  2. Wyndee said

    ouch! so true….. its not common, but its starting in our town. and its causing our town to see it. yay! the city came to the church asking for help because our city and county have no money or way to help the people. the state funded programs are so full, and we have no behavioral health unit in our town… its pretty bad. so we have a program now that the church works in to help the town. idk about it really coz i have not gone thru the class. but its been a really good thing.


  3. dorian9 said

    i can give testimonials to some church groups that have done good. even the catholic charities group have helped a lot of people, especially children, in poor countries and also here in the states. respect is something that should be automatically given without asking, right? why the resentment between different christian sects-i guess the human factor…


  4. Wyndee said

    i agree. honor/respect should be given regardless. idk why christian groups are so seperated. i suppose the differences make some feel they know better and look down on others….? i know in our town, we have an organization that meets every month. its all youth pastors in town. (that want to connect) regardless of denomination- and they were telling our youth staff, ‘at the ralley, when you guys are praying for the youth (our staff was the only youth staff that offered to do an alter call and pray for them) do NOT pray in tongues- no praying for healing and so on. we dont teach that!!’
    so it was like, they were nice and all, but we were like, soooo… youre gunna limit what they receive. but we honored their request in our hearts and actions. 🙂 and we prayed good prayers. i just think sometimes, denominations get hung up on that and cant get along. sad..


  5. dorian9 said

    prayers help in healing too but i’d let the esoterics kundalini and reiki those chakras and get rid of those dis-eases in the next room also.
    between yours and kay’s prayers none of us on this here blog have anything to worry about!!


  6. Wyndee said

    omgosh. that entire sentence confused me.


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