This brazen silence...

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To be wrong, and to be carefully wrong, that is the definition of decadence. The disease called aphasia, in which people begin by saying tea when they mean coffee, commonly ends in their silence. Silence of this stiff sort is the chief mark of the powerful parts of modern society. They all seem straining to keep things in rather than to let things out…Even the newspaper editors and proprietors are more despotic and dangerous by what they do not utter than by what they do. We have all heard the expression "golden silence." The expression "brazen silence" is the only adequate phrase for our editors. If we wake out of this throttled, gaping, and wordless nightmare, we must awake with a yell.  - G. K. Chesterton

(by Lucas Weeks, a ClearNote Pastors College student) Last October, 138 Muslim scholars issued this open letter to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You”. One month later, dozens of Christian leaders responded in a full-page advertisement in the New York Times, the text of which can be found here.

The Muslim clerics who wrote the first document say that the common ground between the three Abrahamic faiths is the love of God and the love of neighbor. The Christian response to the Muslim call for “a common word” affirms, as I do, that love is at the very center of the Christian faith. The respondents write, “For Christians, humanity’s love of God and God’s love of humanity are intimately linked. As we read in the New Testament: 'We love because he [God] first loved us' (1 John 4:19). Our love of God springs from and is nourished by God’s love for us. It cannot be otherwise, since the Creator who has power over all things is infinitely good.”

These words are powerful and true. It is not what they say, however, but what they do not say that makes the Christian response to “A Common Word Between Us” so inexcusably bad...

While speaking about God’s love, it carefully avoids mentioning the
primary way that God has shown his love to us; that is, through His
son, Jesus Christ. Scripture is not unclear about this: “…but God shows
his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for
us” (Romans 5:8).

Please understand: for a professing Christian to
labor over a document written for Muslim readers about the love of God
and avoid speaking specifically of the death and resurrection of Jesus
Christ is no small feat. Commands to love God and neighbor will only bring despair and
condemnation apart from the grace and mercy of God that is demonstrated
at the cross of Jesus Christ. The radical difference between Jesus and
Muhammad is that Jesus did not simply come to remind men of the
commands of God. Jesus came as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin
of the world.

It is popular in ministry to Muslims to carefully avoid making comments
about Jesus with which Muslims disagree. Some reading this post might
be frustrated by my lack of “conviviality” in this interfaith dialogue.
“After all,” you might say, “the goal here is to find common ground
with Muslims. What is so wrong with that?”

I am certainly in favor of using our common ground to build bridges to
Muslims. Absolutely! But there are two important points to note in this
particular discussion: First, this is not a personal exchange of ideas
between friends. This is a discussion between scholars and religious
leaders who have given their lives to studying and teaching from the
Qu’ran and the New Testament. Consequently, the Christian response has
a duty to acknowledge the Muslims for their effort to build bridges
(which they did do) and to respectfully explain why a Muslim must be
united to Jesus Christ before his love for God and for neighbor will be
the love that God desires.

And it was precisely this that these Christian leaders certainly did not do.

Second, Christians who read these two documents must understand that
the Muslim document was basically honest, while the “Christian”
document was basically dishonest. This is a simple question of
integrity.

If the men and women who wrote and signed the Christian response
truly believe the foundational principle of the Christian faith is simply obedience of the two greatest commands, then
the matter is simple: they simply aren’t Christians and they need
someone to explain the gospel of Jesus Christ to them.

If, however,
these men and women do understand that the foundational principle of
the gospel is God’s love to us through Jesus Christ, then they very
carefully obscured it in their response to the Muslims. And that’s not
ignorance, but wickedness.

So who are the signatories to this Christian
response? Hundreds of men who claim to be among the most influential Chrisitan leaders in the English-speaking world including Richard Cizik of the NAE, Bob Cooley of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, David Davis of TEAM, Timothy George of Beeson Divinity School, Bill Hybels of Willow Creek, Peter Kuzmic of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Peter Maiden who heads Operation Mobilization, Richard Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary, David Neff of "Christianity Today," Roy Oksnevad who is Director of Muslim Ministry at Wheaton's Billy Graham Center, John Stott of All Souls, George Verwer of Operation Mobilization, , and of course Robert Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral and Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church. And of course, men like John Franke and Brian McLaren, but who's really surprised,there?

Anyhow, these men aren't ignorant.

But for their part, the Muslims were honest. They actually
did explain to the Western world the foundational principles of their
faith.

So what gives? If the gospel truly is good news, then why are these
“Christians” afraid to explain the basic premise of the New Testament
to Muslims in a plain, straightforward manner? What do they have to
lose? Tenure? The respect of men? What?

On the other hand, we Christians stand to lose
everything if we allow the wolves to take our eyes
off of Jesus, the Spotless Lamb of God Who came to take away the sin of the world.

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