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BWA’s Lotz notes choice between religion of the cross or the sword

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Baptists, who have a heritage of defending religious freedom, must choose between the religion of the cross and the religion of the sword and raised fist, said Denton Lotz, general secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
“Missiologists say the last decade before every century in a sense sets the pattern missiologically for the next century,” Lotz said in an Oct. 6 chapel message, recalling the work of pioneer Baptist missionary William Carey in the 1790s and Dwight L. Moody in the 1890s.
As Baptists face the year 2000, “do we see great movements of the Spirit or do we see a movement of evil?” asked Lotz, a missionary to Eastern Europe during the communist era.
The answer to that question, he said, depends on whether Christians embrace a religion based on power and control or one anchored in Jesus Christ.
“We as Christians have to make a choice, because the fact is, God’s not dead. The Holy Spirit is moving all over the world,” he said.
Embracing a religion of the sword — one based on dictating to others what they are going to believe — is the wrong path, Lotz said, quoting from Matthew 26 in which Jesus told the disciple who cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
The alternative to a religion of the sword, Lotz said, is found in Mark 8, in which Jesus’ disciples are commanded to take up their cross and follow him, even at the cost of their lives.
The religion of the sword is “the religion that wants to raise its fists. It wants authoritarianism. It says, ‘We’re going to rule over you, because we know what religion is,’” he said, noting that this is against Baptists’ historic defense of religious liberty.
The religion of the cross is power, but not the kind that comes out of the end of a rifle, Lotz said.
It comes from the love of Christ and can overcome even seemingly inflexible symbols of oppression, he said.
After the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union, Lotz recounted, the people tore down the statue of the founder of the KGB and replaced it with a cross. Though the police took the cross down, it was raised again.
“Thousands went to their deaths in the gulags [under communist rule],” Lotz said, “but now the cross is raised. It is that religion of the cross; it is that power that makes the difference.”
The religion of the cross also is one of suffering, Lotz said.
“It is the suffering of Christians that has brought more to faith all over the world,” he noted.
The religion of the cross offers the freedom to die, Lotz continued.
“We who live in the freedom of the West have no comprehension even this morning what’s happening to brothers and sisters in the world,” he said.
Lotz told of a young man overseas who accepted Christ and began sharing his new faith. The religious leaders of the area demanded to know where he had heard about Jesus, but the young man would not tell them even after three of his fingers had been cut off. The next day he died, and his death was reported as a suicide.
It is acts of faith like this that help the church grow, said Lotz, not the raised fist.
And the church is growing, he said, reporting that the number of churches in China has grown from one in 1979 to 13,000. Every five days, nine churches are started in China, he added.
“Mao Tse-tung was going to erase religion, but where is he today?” Lotz asked.
Every day in Africa, Lotz said,16,000 people become Christians, and he said that the center of the church overseas is moving from “pagan Europe” to the vast continent to the south.
As the church continues to grow, Lotz urged his audience to strive for unity.
“Let’s hand out Bibles and not fight about the Bible,” he said. “Let us be men and women of the cross.”

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  • Cory J. Hailey