NEW ORLEANS (BP)–Citing his belief in dialogue with Muslims, a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary has set forth his rationale for joining some 300 evangelicals in signing a letter seeking to nurture such dialogue.
Mike Edens, NOBTS professor of theology and Islamic studies and associate dean of graduate studies, acknowledged criticisms that some evangelicals have raised over the letter, “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to A Common Word Between Us and You,” penned as a response to a 29-page document signed by 138 Muslim scholars and clerics titled “A Common Word Between Us and You.”
Of concerns voiced by R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for example, Edens said in a statement to Baptist Press that “I personally agree with him in the areas of theology and assessment of Islamic teaching about God or our Lord Jesus Christ. However, we disagree in methodology. From my experience of over 20 years living as a missionary among Muslims, I am committed to a Christian dialogue and conversation with Muslims. So, in continuity with my witness there, I signed the document.”
Mohler, president of Southern Seminary, set forth his criticisms of the evangelical letter Jan. 8 during his national “Albert Mohler Radio Program” (see accompanying Baptist Press story).
Edens, who joined NOBTS’ faculty in January 2007 after 25-plus years of work in the Muslim world as a Southern Baptist International Mission Board missionary, penned two extended comments about the letter:
“First, many of us have chided Muslims for their unwillingness to address the culture fostered by their co-religionists which breeds violence and death in our world in the name of Islam. This is the first time I have seen a document from Muslim scholars seeming to respond, in the aftermath of a violent clash between East and West, with a request for a reasoned discussion between Muslims and Christians. Such documents need a response.
“Secondly, Muslims misunderstand the Bible, Christ and Christianity. We who are redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ are to bear witness to Him and the Bible. The best hope for clarification of the confusing theology in Islam is through witness shared by Bible-believing Christians. For me, such witness is best delivered in close conversation. I do that best with Muslims I know and see here in New Orleans but I do that in community with followers of Christ all around the world. From my experience where Islam is dominant, our witness with individuals is hurt when Christian leaders refuse such offered conversations.”
Edens concluded his statement by noting that he does not know the four professors at Yale who framed the evangelical letter nor does he know many of the signatories; “however those I know seek to enter conversation with Muslims as clear disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the only Way to God the Father.”
Rick Warren, who also signed the letter, declined Baptist Press’ request for comment, according to a spokesperson. Warren is pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., and author of “The Purpose-Driven Life.”
Art Toalston is editor of Baptist Press. The text of “Loving God and Neighbor Together: A Christian Response to A Common Word Between Us and You” can be accessed at www.yale.edu/faith/abou-commonwo