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Mohler blasts congressman’s foray against Baptist evangelism efforts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–A recent “Dear Colleague” letter from Congressman Jim McDermott to fellow House members should serve as a “wake-up call for evangelical Christians,” wrote R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., in the Dec. 18 issue of World magazine.

McDermott, a Washington state Democrat, sent a letter Oct. 28 to all 434 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, criticizing the recent Southern Baptist Convention Hindu prayer guide as “an aggressive, intolerant approach” to evangelism.

But rather than Baptist outreach efforts, Mohler wrote, “it is McDermott’s letter that should disturb American taxpayers, who should be outraged at the intrusion of governmental officials into the evangelism efforts of American Christians.”

“Evangelical Christians now face a critical time of testing. Today it is the Southern Baptists, but the attack is directed to any church or denomination that believes in what the late Francis Schaeffer called ‘true truth’ and obeys the Great Commission.”

Mohler echoed the response of Morris H. Chapman, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, who received what Mohler called “a slightly less hysterical letter” from McDermott and six other members of Congress. Chapman responded in a Nov. 18 letter to McDermott: “Your letter presents us with a real dilemma. Do we attempt to obey God, or do we take signals … from persons such as you…?”

McDermott also “rewrites India’s history,” wrote Mohler, who took issue with the congressman’s praise of India as a champion for religious liberty and as a country maintaining “fundamental respect” for all religions.

“Anyone aware of the intense sectarian strife that has marked India from its beginning as a nation must find Mr. McDermott’s statement uninformed, if not ludicrous,” Mohler wrote. “Recent massacres and the murder of Christian missionaries are a strange way to demonstrate ‘fundamental respect.'”

The congressman’s letter followed on the heels of similar criticism from a group of Chicago religious leaders who urged Southern Baptists to cut back on an organized evangelistic outreach planned for the city next summer, on the basis that such efforts might lead to hate crimes.

To label evangelizing as hatred and intolerance is “theological cowardice posing as courage and compassion,” Mohler wrote.

“What they oppose is the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Mohler continued. “Their greatest fear is that someone, somewhere, for some reason, may be offended by gospel witness. The result of their cowardice and compromise — if followed by others — would be that no one, anywhere, by any means, would be confronted with the authentic gospel.”

Such criticism, though, is nothing new for Christians. “The church has heard all this before and heard it early,” Mohler wrote. “The McDermott letter is a wake-up call for evangelical Christians. This warning to the Southern Baptists came on congressional stationery. What comes next?”

Christians should respond, Mohler wrote, as the apostles Peter and John in Acts to the religious leaders of the day: “‘Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.'”

Mohler’s column can be read in its entirety on the World magazine Internet site at www.worldmag.com or on the Southern Seminary site at www.sbts.edu.

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  • Bryan Cribb