DIALOGUE or INTERFAITH CO-OPERATION?
A critique of the recent Dialogue between Dr James White and Dr Yasir Qadhi
by Mark Fitzpatrick
On the 24th and 25th of January 2017 a two-part dialogue was conducted between Dr James White of Alpha and Omega ministries and Dr Yasir Qadhi who is the Resident Scholar of the Memphis Islamic Center.
Dr White is an elder in the Phoenix Reformed Baptist church, Arizona. He has written over twenty books and has been involved in over one hundred and sixty moderated debates with various religious representatives. The first of these meetings was held in the Grace Bible Church, Malone Road, Olive Branch, Memphis. The second was held the following night in the Memphis Islamic centre.
Public meetings between Dr White and Muslims are nothing new. What makes these two meetings different was their purpose. As was said at the very outset, this was not a debate! In fact, in the promotion of the meetings they were advertised as “Christians and Muslims – Agreements and Differences” This immediately raises a fundamental question. Can we, as Christians, “agree” with Islam as the promo suggests? The banner for the first night read – “Stay with us afterwards for a time of hospitality and fellowship”. (emphasis added). Do Christians and Muslims have any agreements? Can we, the church of Jesus Christ, have any form of fellowship with Islam?
There are many other issues which could be raised with regard to these dialogues, which are important in themselves; nevertheless, we will restrict ourselves to what, we believe, is the most pressing issue. Therefore in the following analysis we are not dealing with anything of a secondary nature; but we are in fact dealing with central questions of the faith and the gospel!
What would the Apostle Paul have said respecting the questions of whether we have agreements or fellowship with Muslims? We do not have to wonder, in fact we have his precise response to such questions in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
He writes to the believers in Corinth five Rhetorical questions in the direct context of our relationship to false religion.
1 – Can we have fellowship with false religion?
The first question is – “what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). The answer is clear; NONE! There is no fellowship between Christianity and Islam, or any other false religion!
In fact, in another place we are told, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” Ephesians 5:11. The present writer has been rebuked by James White for misunderstanding and misrepresenting the use of the word fellowship and that it only referred to the “Tea and Cookies afterwards”! (Tea and cookies are covered by the word hospitality, not fellowship). He is suggesting that I am overemphasizing the use of the word “fellowship” in the promo. I will let you judge for yourselves whether it is appropriate to use such gospel centered terms in the context of meetings with Muslims? Remember, that our fellowship is “with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:3. Words are not to be misused at any time, but especially in such circumstances! Words convey thoughts and thoughts convey ideas and ideas lead to actions! We must be careful with our terminology. With the words we use. Especially in such areas that we are dealing with now!
If this was the only time that such a “mistake” (ie, the idea of fellowship with false religion) was made we might be able to overlook it. But what was said in the dialogue only reinforced that this was the message and meaning of the word used.
During the dialogue it was stated by Dr White – “We all may be facing being a religious minority. How are we going to get along in that situation?”
“we are going to want someone to come alongside us. Then we need to extend the hand now”.
Friends, this is more than dialogue! This is joining hands with Islam to fight against secularism! Do we NEED Islam to “come alongside us”? Really? Is that the message that Dr White wants us to accept? The scripture declares, “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!” Isaiah 31:1. (Also compare Isaiah 30:1-2)
2 – Can we have communion with false religion?
The Second question by the Apostle is, “and what communion hath light with darkness?” Again, the answer is self evident!
With reference to same-sex marriage it was stated by Dr.Qadhi – “If we had joined hands we could have effected change”. And that we have a “Similar sentiment in our faith tradition”.
Could you imagine the Apostle or the Lord Jesus Christ using such language with the Pharisees? A quick read of Matthew 23 will clarify that for us. There is nothing that unites us with Muslims!
Dr Qadhi went on to say, “Coming together will bring about so much good . . . This is one of the main areas of co-operation we need to work together on, to preserve the sanctity of the family”.
Do we need to join with Muslims to protect the family? Do we want family as Islam defines it? Really? Is that what Dr James White wants?
False religion and they that are in its darkness have nothing to offer the church of Jesus Christ in our contending with this world. They are part of the problem and not the solution! False religion and Atheism are equally the enemies of the truth and we are not to stand with one in opposition to the other!
“Unregenerate persons are “darkness” itself; they are dark and ignorant of God in Christ, of the way of salvation by Christ, of the work of the Spirit of God upon the heart, and of the mysteries of grace; they know not themselves, nor the sad estate they are in; they are born, and brought up in darkness worse than Egyptian darkness; they go on in it, and if grace prevent not, will be cast into utter and eternal darkness. Now, what “communion” can there be between persons so different one from another? for what is more so than light and darkness? These the God of nature has divided from each other; and they are in nature irreconcilable to one another, and so they are in grace.” – John Gill
We are The light of the world! The light cannot be mixed with darkness, or else the light is dimmed and men cannot clearly see the truth!
3 – Can we have concord (accord) with false religion?
The Apostle’s third question is, “And what concord hath Christ with Belial?” Again, the answer must be NONE at ALL!
In the words of Pastor John MacArthur –
“this passage identifies two opposing worlds. The terminology is clear. One of those worlds is marked by righteousness, light, Christ, believers, and the presence of God. The other is marked by lawlessness, darkness, Satan, unbelievers, and the presence of false gods. And these two worlds are utterly different and distinct, so much so that they are mutually exclusive.
They cannot work together in common partnership; they cannot fellowship together. They are not in harmony with one another. One is old; the other is new. One is earthly; the other is heavenly. One is deadly; the other is life giving. One is wicked; the other holy. One is built on lies; the other is all truth. One perishes and the other lives eternally.”
Dr Qhadi appealed – “Do we have to make the world a living hell” This is an appeal to the temporal, and a practical ignoring of the far greater eternal issues!! We must be governed, not by the temporal issues of the day, but by the weightier issues of eternity!
The ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) agreement back in the 1990’s had similar arguments to what was being presented at these “dialogues”. There was a plea to standing together in the face of secularism and atheism etc.
“As Evangelicals and Catholics, we dare not by needless and loveless conflict between ourselves give aid and comfort to the enemies of the cause of Christ.” This is human reasoning and not the logic and wisdom of God!
Interestingly enough, in the context of our present issue, ECT states – “Mutually respectful conversation between Muslims and Christians should be encouraged in the hope that more of the world will, in the oft-repeated words of John Paul II, “open the door to Christ.”
Christ does not need us to open a door for Him! He opens the doors for us! “For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.” 1 Cor. 16:9
4 – Can we unite with false religion?
Fourthly, “or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?”
There is nothing that unites us. NOTHING! We do not say this because we hate them, as has been charged to us. We say this because it is what the word of God says. We must be true to scripture and conscience! Anything less is not safe for the soul, as Luther would say. Five hundred years on the need is the same; Truth in the heart exercised in love for God and man. Brethren, it is not loving to Muslims to say anything less. If we love them we must declare the truth and support it with our actions. The actions of Dr White are an undermining of the very gospel he professes to believe!
“Any unequal yoking for the purpose of serving God is misconceived, it is irrational and it is sacrilegious. And we need to understand that. That is foundational to our Christian experience.” – John MacArthur
5 – Can we Agree with false religion?
Fifthly, “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?”
Dr Qadhi said, “We agree on many things”. The Apostle says that there is no agreement! In witnessing recently to a Muslim in London I said, Allah is a false God and the Koran is a lie! Did I say this out of hatred? No, I said it out of love to the true God and out of love to that man’s immortal soul.
We are not here to save the culture as Dr White implied during the dialogue. Our calling is not to save culture, but to save souls! Anything less is sidestepping the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Again, John MacArthur puts it well;
“There is no compatibility between the temple of God and idols. That’s the point. It is impossible to bring the two together. It is more than that, it is irrational. It is more than that, It is sacrilegious; it is blasphemous to attempt to do that.
Listen, pagans don’t mind joining with Christians in religious activity. They love it. But we can’t allow it. We cannot allow it. We cannot join with unbelievers in worship or ministry or any enterprise that involves God, nor can we invite them to join our enterprise. And it is because of the sacrilege of it.”
In conclusion –
What is the right response of the believer? The word of God leaves us in no doubt. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing” At the beginning of the the second dialogue, Praise and Thanks was offered to the false god Allah. Dr White did look slightly uncomfortable. No wonder! In light of what Paul says in the above scripture he had much reason to be uncomfortable!
The greatest testimony and witness we can be to Muslims is to completely reject their false god and religion by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Timothy 2:5)
Compromise will never have the blessing of God; though it might for a time enjoy earthly success. Again, by the word of God, we appeal to Dr White to reconsider the folly of disobeying the clear dictates of scripture and following human wisdom and methods.
We are not only to declare the gospel but we are to defend it against the wiles and schemes of the enemy. Adding to the truth is as dangerous as taking away from it! Separation is an essential element of gospel faithfulness! The attending promises at the end of 2 Corinthians 6 are for those who trust and obey God’s methods and will.
“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” 2 Corinthians 6:17-18
In the cause of Christ and Truth, Mark Fitzpatrick (Pastor) – Arann Reformed Baptist Church, Dublin, Ireland.