LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–A Lutheran minister and national radio host has commended Southern Baptists for their stance on biblical truth and their belief that Christ is the only way to salvation.
Todd Wilken, host of the nationally syndicated radio program “Issues, Etc.,” made his comments in December while interviewing Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. on the subject of “religious pluralism.”
Wilken, who served as a parish pastor in The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod denomination for nine years, praised Southern Baptists for not joining those saying that all religions are equal. That belief — also known as religious pluralism — has become more widespread following the events of Sept. 11, Wilken said.
“As a Lutheran pastor, I thank God for Southern Baptists like Dr. Albert Mohler, who appear to me to be standing alone since Sept. 11,” he said. “[They’re] simply not accepting the invitation to the big party of religious pluralism. … This willingness to stand upon the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ — to be the only way of salvation for all sinful mankind — is real courage. This is real leadership.”
Wilken and Mohler discussed a wide range of topics during the program, including:
— A column by The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, in which he argued that Christianity and other faiths should succumb to a pluralist worldview.
The real war, Friedman asserted, is between pluralism and religious totalitarianism, which he described as “a view of the world that my faith must reign supreme and can be affirmed and held passionately only if all others are negated. That’s bin Ladenism.”
Friedman said that some Jews and Christians “have gone back to their sacred texts to reinterpret their traditions to embrace modernity and pluralism, and to create space for secularism and alternative faiths. Others — Christian and Jewish fundamentalists — have rejected this notion, and that is what the battle is about within their faiths.”
Mohler said Christians must stand first on the truth of the gospel.
“Tom Friedman is at the intersection of that modern and postmodern mind,” Mohler said. “He sees anyone with sincere faith — and anyone who claims that there is only one God and one way to know him — not only as odd but dangerous. That’s just the way we look to the modern, secular world. We look dangerous because we believe some things are absolutely non-negotiable.”
As an example of where pluralism can lead, Mohler pointed to the book, “That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist.” The author, Sylvia Boorstein, claims that she has successfully blended the two religions.
“That’s the way people want to think of morality, truth and faith,” Mohler said. “They want a smorgasbord from which they can take a little bit of this and a little of that. Everything is equally right, everything’s true.
“[But] it’s interesting to note what they leave out. They leave out all the hard demands of discipleship. They leave out all the propositional truth claims — what Paul says is the offensiveness or the scandal of the gospel. What you’re left with is a Christianity … that basically tells people they are not sinners and therefore not in need of a Savior.”
— The comments by evangelist Franklin Graham. Late last fall, Graham became the focus of a media storm for comments he made about Islam and the exclusivity of Christianity.
In October Graham said, “We’re not attacking Islam, but Islam has attacked us. The God of Islam is not the same God. He’s not the son of God of the Christian or Judeo-Christian faith. It’s a different God, and I believe it is a very evil and wicked religion.”
A media storm ensued, and Graham eventually wrote an editorial in The Wall Street Journal clarifying his comments. He wrote that he does not believe that Muslims “are evil people because of their faith. But I decry the evil that has been done in the name of Islam, or any other faith — including Christianity.”
Muslims criticized Graham, but Mohler said that Graham was simply proclaiming the truth of the gospel.
“He was not only right, [but] he was courageous in those statements,” Mohler said. “In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 events, I have been very careful in my public comments to say that I am not a specialist in Muslim theology. I’m quite knowledgeable about it, but I’m not a specialist. I will leave it to others to debate about the inherent violence in Islam. I believe it is there, but that is up for Muslims and specialists to debate.
“My concern is that Islamic theology kills the soul. It is a false gospel. Allah is not the God of the Bible. Franklin Graham was absolutely right. He spoke as an authentic evangelist. His task is to bear witness to the gospel. We must be clear that Allah is not Jehovah, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
— The differences between Christianity, Judaism and Islam. One caller to the show argued that Christians and Muslims pray to the same God because they both worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
But Mohler said that those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord also reject the Father.
“We have to come back to the fact that Jesus said that the only way to genuinely know the Father is through him,” he said. “We didn’t come up with that. That is what Jesus himself said. Now, this is really politically incorrect.
“Jesus had the boldness to say to the Jews of his day who rejected him that they did not know the Father. And I as a Christian preacher can’t preach anything other than what Christ himself said, and that means insofar as the Jews reject Christ, they do not know the Father. The same thing is true of Allah. The Muslims reject Christ as the Savior, as the Messiah.”
— The need for more Christian ministers to speak the truth about the gospel.
“The fact is that in America today there are just too many Christian leaders who are afraid to be rejected,” Mohler said. “They’re afraid to be disliked.”
Mohler said ministers must keep in mind the words of Christ.
“[In Luke 10] He said, ‘If they reject you, they’re rejecting me. If they’re rejecting me, they’re rejecting the Father.’ That’s what we have to have in mind. It’s not about us. It’s about Christ.
— The participation in interfaith services following Sept. 11.
Saying he would not participate in them, Mohler compared such services to offering “different flavors of ice cream — just giving options. I can’t dignify a Hindu priest or a Muslim imam by suggesting that we really are mutual religious professionals. I’m not a religious professional; I’m a minister of the Word. I really cannot share that platform with anyone who does not also stand on the Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Wilken then asked Mohler what he would do if he unknowingly found himself in such a setting.
“What would we say?” Mohler asked. “I think the only thing we can say is modeled by the apostle Peter in the Book of Acts. We have to stand up, face the crowd and say, ‘I want to tell you about the one name under heaven and earth whereby men must be saved, and that is Jesus Christ.’
“If we do not declare the exclusive truth of the Christian gospel and call all persons to repentance and faith, then we’re not preaching the gospel. We would be in good company. The apostle Paul got beaten and kicked out of more towns than most of us would ever visit. He shook the dust off his feet and just carried those scars as badges of honor for the preaching of the gospel.”