This semester I’ve been teaching World Religions in our evening program. During one class session, I mentioned that there’s been a concerted effort from some religious and political groups to minimize the differences between orthodox Christianity and other factions.
For example, many Americans have promoted the idea that Islam and Christianity are not all that different. They point out that both religions are Abrahamic, they’re monotheistic, and they share certain core values. Some have proposed that we make much of the things we have in common with Muslims, that we focus less on our disagreements, and that we enter meaningful dialogue.
Another example would be the relationship between Christianity and Mormonism. For most of their history, Mormons were seen as distinct from Christians. But in the latter half of the twentieth century, many Mormons began to primarily refer to themselves as Christians, positioning themselves as just another Protestant Christian denomination. And some of those people contended that more dialogue was needed between Mormons and Protestants. Is such dialogue possible?
When many genuine Christians use the term dialogue, they mean quality conversation, where people refrain from demonizing one another. However, for many people in our culture, the term dialogue has often implied something more than just irenic conversations. Most people approach dialogue as being an exchange of ideas, specifically with the hope of reaching some consensus. In the political sphere, a dialogue often assumes that both sides will compromise from their current positions, meet somewhere in the middle, and reach an amicable settlement.
With these definitions and assumptions in mind, it becomes clear, genuine dialogue is not possible. We are exhorted dozens of times in the New Testament to hold firm to good doctrine. We must not capitulate.
Of course, we can acknowledge where we agree with the Muslims, Mormons, and others. There are indeed some core values shared across religions. And, certainly, we can and should enter conversations with the goal of being irenic. Our conversations should be marked by kindness, compassion, meekness, and Christian sympathy. Yes, and amen! However, we must simultaneously be careful that we do not unintentionally allow our desires to be irenic to open us up to a willingness to swerve away from good doctrine.
Furthermore, we must be willing to boldly and clearly point out where they have gone wrong. People from other religions have theological convictions that are radically different than what the Bible teaches. We must not shy away from highlighting their errors in the name of being amicable. We must be willing to contend for good doctrine. We must be willing to show them that their souls are in jeopardy. And we must point them to Jesus!
Kenny Ortiz, M.Div.
Assistant Professor of History and Theology
Associate Director of College Recruiting
- Pray that our students will be willing to boldly proclaim truth and contend for good doctrine.
- Pray for the potential students and applicants that are still considering a decision to come to Bethlehem this fall.
- Pray for the admissions team as they are already thinking about recruiting initiatives for the 2023—2024 recruiting cycle.
- Pray that the staff and faculty of Bethlehem would model kindness while contending for good doctrine.
- Pray for our students as they finish their final papers and ready themselves for finals.
- Pray for our first graduating seminary cohort in Cameroon and the group traveling to celebrate with them.
- Praise the Lord with us for his continued faithfulness and pray that he would provide the remaining funds for our On The Double match.