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Islamic doctrine of salvation is Roberts’ topic at conference

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Soteriology — the doctrine of salvation — “really does matter,” said Phil Roberts, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. “How a person gets to heaven, or how they think they get to heaven, will determine how they live and how they die.”

Roberts’ comments came during the annual conference of Evangelical Ministries to New Religions hosted by New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary Jan. 29-31. EMNR is a professional association for individuals and organizations in ministry to “cults” of Christianity, new religious movements and world religions. The EMNR gathering brought many of the top thinkers in apologetics to New Orleans to discuss ways to reach people with the Gospel of Christ.

During the opening session, titled “Why They Blow Themselves Up: Islamic Soteriology and Terrorist Martyrdom,” Roberts noted that some Muslims, based on their interpretation of the Koran, believe that being a martyr for Allah in jihad is the only way they can have assurance of salvation.

“What is the reward for those who bear the sword, who go forward into the jihad and die in its cause?” Roberts asked. “It is forgiveness of sins, mercy from Allah and a life everlasting in paradise.”

The Koran only offers assurance of salvation for those who die during a jihad or those who die on a pilgrimage to Mecca, Roberts said, noting that “you could be the perfect Muslim … if you do it all well enough, long enough [then] maybe, maybe, you might make it to paradise.”

This belief, Roberts said, is what incites Islamic terrorists to devise and execute plans involving taking their own lives in order to accomplish the directive of the Koran to “fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them” found in Sura 9:5.

However, Roberts said there is a problem with the equation for Muslims who honor the Koran — the Koran prohibits suicide.

“Yes, there’s a promise of encouragement and salvation for those who die in jihad, but for those who die in suicide, they are to face the judgment of Allah,” he said. “The twist the modern suicide bombers and their rationalizers make is that if you die in jihad using your body as a weapon, it’s not really suicide.”

Roberts contrasted the Islamic view of salvation with the Christian belief in the assurance of salvation based on the work of Jesus Christ. The key to evangelizing Muslims, Roberts said, is an accurate communication of the greatness and goodness of the Gospel, emphasizing not that God says he is merciful, but that He demonstrated His mercy through Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.

“Soteriology is the coronary artery; if it gets plugged up, blocked, confused, it changes perceptions on virtually everything,” Roberts said. “It makes all the difference temporally and eternally.”

Chuck Kelley, president of NOBTS, said he was encouraged by EMNR’s work in the area of apologetics and interfaith witness. In this age of plurality, there is a gap between what evangelical churches say about evangelism and missions and the reality of what churches are actually doing, he noted.

“One of the greatest challenges we are facing is a functional universalism that is found in many a pew in evangelical churches,” Kelley said. “So many of our people don’t draw any distinction between any kind of religion, saying, ‘All roads lead to the same place’ or ‘We’re all worshiping the same God, we’re just doing it in different ways.’

“The favorite religion in America today is a cafeteria where they pick and choose from every kind of religious belief, Christian and non-Christian alike,” Kelley continued. “It’s convinced me of how important the work of EMNR is in helping the church understand the non-Christian religions that are out there, and helping them to separate and sort out truth from error, in the midst of a culture that prizes tolerance and relativism above all things.”

While much of the conference focused on the beliefs of the many cults and world religions Christians encounter today, Wayne House, president of Faith Seminary in Portland, Ore., and Bruce Ware, professor of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, examined and refuted the beliefs of open theism — a new, unorthodox approach to Christianity in which God is viewed as limited in His knowledge of the future. They argued that open theism is a flawed and inadequate view of God.

“These scholars [open theists], who are orthodox in most other core doctrines of the Christian faith, nonetheless argue that the God of the Bible is a limited being in various forms of His attributes,” House said. “Despite the proclamation of the orthodox church for nearly 2000 years, they substitute a ‘God’ who is comprehensible and acceptable to modern man.”

House described the issue of open theism as “more important than almost any area of theology.”

“The basics regarding creation and evolution, the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, and the nature of the resurrection and the body of Christ pale in comparison, for all doctrines depend on what kind of God we know, worship and serve,” House said.

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  • Katherine Albers