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Barnette, panelists advocate evangelization of Islamic world

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–As Henlee Barnette sees it, Christians spend more money on coffee and Coke than they do on missions.

But if the Islamic world is to be won to Christ, the church’s priorities must change.

The former Southern Baptist Theological Seminary ethics professor joined a diverse group of theologians, pastors and professors at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., Feb. 6 to discuss the ethics of America’s war on terrorism. The panel discussed many issues, including the role of religion in the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We have a mandate, folks, and we haven’t made much out of it,” Barnette told the crowd of 550, most of whom were Southern students. “We spend more money on Cokes and coffee and stuff like that than we give to missions. … We’ve got to see this thing in terms of a worldview.”

Joining Barnette on the panel were R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary; Joe Phelps, pastor of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville; Mark Coppenger, pastor of Evanston (Ill.) Baptist Church and former president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; and Kenneth Magnuson, assistant professor of Christian ethics at Southern. Russell Moore, instructor of theology at Southern, served as moderator.

The panel discussion, titled “Onward Christian Soldiers? Christian Witness in a Time of Terror,” was sponsored by the seminary’s Carl F.H. Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement.

Although the panelists were not unified in their beliefs on war ethics, they all agreed the Christian church must spread the gospel in the Islamic world.

When speaking of Islam, Christians must keep the church and state separate, Mohler said.

“I don’t want America to declare war on Islam,” he said. “That’s not America’s business. America needs to tend to establishing a just order. America and the church are not the same thing, and we both better keep that clear. The church has a mission, and our mission as the church is not to take up an army against Islam, but to preach the gospel.”

Christianity and Islam, Mohler said, have very different worldviews.

“It doesn’t take a theologian to see that we have two fundamentally different worldviews here,” he said. “… As I said in a chapel sermon here, the biggest threat from Islam is not that it leads a person to kill other human beings; it’s that it kills the soul. It is an anti-gospel. It is a way that leads to destruction and death.”

Barnette said Jesus’ worldview could be summed up in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20).

“This [war] is so complex,” he said. “Here we have the whole population of the world being guided by two books” — the Koran and the Bible.

“I may be wrong, but we have a new kind of war.”

Coppenger said he is praying that militant Islamic governments will begin to crumble — much like totalitarian communism fell in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I hope that we’re praying that God will use this to loosen the soil for the planting of the gospel,” he said.

Barnette — who opposed the Vietnam War but supports the war on terrorism — said it is impossible to deal rationally with terrorists.

“With this type of terrorist, I don’t think you can negotiate with them,” he said. “That’s another thing we overlook. We’re naive to think that we can negotiate with terrorists — with this religious motivation. … You have to practice justice with people like this.”

Barnette said America must out-think and out-love the terrorists.

“When you have stupidity on the loose, it’s dangerous,” he said. “We really need to think this thing through. We [should also] out-love them.”

Phelps, who was the lone panelist opposed to military action, said Christians must use the word “evil” with caution.

“I think the enemy is evil, and evil gets located in many different places,” he said. “Certainly I would locate it in fundamentalist Islam, which is not the same as all Islam. I would also locate some of it in some of our systems that we have power over that we need to attend to. … I don’t want to say that fundamentalist Islamic system of thought is the only source of evil. Is it evil? Yes.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: MOHLER & BARNETTE.

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  • Michael Foust