In the last edition, we featured the letter written by 138 Islamic leaders suggesting that the same God is served by Christians and Moslems alike; and that a Common fundamental principle links the two dominant monotheistic faith together, compelling that they close ranks and launching out from a kind of hybrid faith, jointly square up to the task of making the world a better place for mankind. One hundred evangelical pastors in the US responded with a letter of their own, praising the Islamic initiative, apologizing for perceived intolerance of Christians towards Moslem, and offering to close ranks as requested by the Islamic faithful.
However, top administrators from Wheaton College, one of the most influential evangelical colleges in the United States, who had earlier signed the joint evangelical reply now say they have had a re-think, and can no longer in good conscience continue to endorse that joint statement According to Wheaton College president Duane Litfin, “I signed the statement because I am committed to the business of peace-making and neighbor-love….. I did not savor the document’s unnuanced apology section…” Also backing out are provost Stanton Jones and chaplain Stephen Kellough of the same University.
The so-called “Evangelical Response” had drawn sharp criticism from highly respected theologians including R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who called it a “profound disappointment”. John Piper, pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church, issued a public statement criticizing the document, emphasizing that the love of God for Christians is starkly different from that of Islam. According to Pastor Piper, “The love of God is … uniquely expressed through Jesus Christ as the propitiation for our sins because he died on the cross and rose again. All those things, Islam radically rejects,..So they do not believe in the love of God we believe in.”.
In withdrawing his endorsement for the joint statement, Litfin said he was not pressured to make the withdrawal, only that “It was simply a matter of conscience, combined with the fact that I had put the College on the line in a way I was no longer comfortable in defending.” He emphasized that he could not support a statement that speaks as if Quran’s Allah and the God of Christians are the same.
For us at Church Arise!, the only sad part of this heart-warming development is that many other evangelical leaders who had signed largely on the example of the influential Wheaton leaders may not find it easy retracing their own steps! For instance, one of the signatories who admits to having been influenced by “other evangelical leaders more knowledgeable in Islam than himself” into signing the letter was the President of the very influential National Association of Evangelicals, Rev. Leith Anderson. According to the Christian Post, Anderson said the unnamed “more knowledgeable” evangelical leaders had suggested to him that “not signing could be damaging to … Christian brothers and sisters who live among Muslims”. “So I agreed to add my name to the letter,” www.christianpost.com/article/20080104/30738_Evangelicals_Rebuke_NAE_Leaders_over_Islam_Letter.htm.
Meanwhile, the Vatican is currently preparing to receive the 138 Islamic scholars for more dialogue, with the first meetings held early February – http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=11727