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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Should Christians stay in manipulative interfaith relationships?

by Aaron

Suppose you are in a dialog with someone over the most important things in all of reality--eternal life and the heart and holiness and the heinousness of sin and the glory of God and the nature of deity and the worship of the Creator and the promise of everlasting joy for believers and the future of eternal, conscious torment for idolaters. Whew. Important stuff, isn't it? What would you do if this friend told you that if you ever asked penetrating questions or seriously challenged his beliefs or made an embarrassing moral accusation against him that he would cut off ties from you?

To be frank, I would not actively seek to continue interfaith dialog with such a person, nor do I think anyone else should either. This kind of relationship is manipulative, and it fosters a fear-driven, tip-toeing, truth-minimizing interaction that hardly is constructive or edifying. It usually ends up in the dead-end alley of worldly, teacup dialog, the kind that obscures boundaries, suppresses any overflow of a passion for the glory of God, and conceals moral outrage against what is objectionable before our holy God. If Mormons and Christians want genuine dialog (and I know many of us do), then we should be prepared for the real thing. Otherwise, it's just a silly game.

Listening and understanding is very important, but as redeemed sinners we are also called to speak the truth in love. This is a far higher calling than casually sharing each other's perspectives for mutually increased personal understanding. We are called to speak the truth as truth, not as a mere human viewpoint. We are called to do this lovingly and courageously--with brokenhearted boldness, not with cocky impudence or superficial affability.

We are ambassadors with an urgent message. We are emissaries with the very word of God in our hands and at the tip of our tongue. Our King's message is not a suggestion. It is a call to repentance. It comes simultaneously as a plea from the heart of the caretaker of the planet and as an authoritative command from the sovereign of the universe. Humanity stands at the edge of the precipice. Either ever-increasing heavenly joy in the community of the saints or eternal punishment in the lake of fire await us.

As subordinates to the Great Commission we are called to give law to the proud and the gospel of grace to the humble. It is not an option to let our neighbor's conscience sleep. If he cannot see his own sin, we are to expose the deeds of darkness (cf. Ephesians 5:11) and shine the light of the law using the word of God. There are only two kinds of responses to this: repulsion or humility. Humility opens the door for a key opportunity to share the gospel. Repulsion means you'll probably have to move on.

As royal priests we are all called to what might spoken of as "supremacy evangelism": we are to proclaim the excellencies of the resurrected and exalted Christ--the one who is King, Creator, Judge, Savior, and God (cf. 1 Peter 2:9). This involves heralding the uniqueness of the divine majesty over and against the prevailing idolatry of our day. If someone essentially tells you that their idols are too sacred for open comparison with the great God of the Bible, do not believe them. No idol is sacred to our God, certainly not too sacred as to be torn down with his truth. People are precious in the sight of our God, but their idols are an abomination. Never forget this.

This of course can be done in a way that is flavored with recognizable humility and patience and love and genuine concern. In fact, it shouldn't be done in any other way (cf. 2 Timothy 2:24-25). But this doesn't mean cowering to the demands of those who want immunity from correction. No matter how affable a person is, demanding exemption from the scrutinizing and exposing light of truth is egotistical and arrogant. Instead of casting your pearls before such people, move on to seek out the people whom God has prepared to be humble recipients of the kingdom of God.

Oh Lord, please bless your people with fruitful, evangelistic dialog, both with the best of long-term friends and with strangers with whom we have no future certain contact. Help us to speak the truth to their conscience, and help us overcome the fear of rejection. Help us to do this in love, having prepared ourselves in prayer and having immersed ourselves in your word and having felt compassion on the lost. Help us not to be enslaved or restricted by the fear of losing the praise of man. But Lord, help us to be winsome and strategic so that we may maximize and elongate our opportunities to share the truth in love to those whose hearts are receptive.

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13 Comments:

  • At March 28, 2007 1:44 PM, Blogger rick b said…

    I seem to Recall Jesus and the Apostles saying some really hard things, But it was the truth.

    I find many times I tell people the Truth as hard as it may be for them to hear it, and they reply with, that was not done in Love.

    Honestly, how can you say, your going to end up in hell if you contiune to Reject Jesus as Lord and saviour.

    Do you say it, with a wimper in your Voice? Do you wisper it? Not me, I tell it like it is, I notice Neil once felt I was being Contentious for speaking the truth, Many LDS have accused me of the same thing.

    Sadly, people who dont want to hear the truth and have honest debate will simply say, Your being contentions or your not doing it in love.

    What more Loving, warning you about Hell, or not telling you, because you might get offended? Rick b

     
  • At March 28, 2007 4:30 PM, Blogger Interested said…

    AAron said
    "What would you do if this friend told you that if you ever asked penetrating questions or seriously challenged his beliefs or made an embarrassing moral accusation against him that he would cut off ties from you?"

    This is exactly where I am with someone very close to me. If I want a relationship, I must keep quiet.

     
  • At March 29, 2007 12:23 AM, Blogger Jordan said…

    Good stuff, Aaron. Thanks for these important reminders.

     
  • At March 29, 2007 12:07 PM, Blogger Neal said…

    I have long believed, and said many times, that I believe many of you do what you do out of love. The Truth is hard. I have only said someone was being contentious if I felt they were! IT had nothing to do with the message -- only the spirit in which it was delivered. Since I have been commenting on this site I have been respectful and candid. I have tried to be understanding of your viewpoint and point out where I think you are being unfair.

    I believe Aaron's point to be only partly true. It is true that Truth can be a hard thing and people not prepared to hear the Truth can find it a hard thing. I also believe that if we leave people alone who we love because they are NOT prepared to know the truth, who will they turn to when the Lord softens their hearts and prepares them? It seems such a draconian and unChristlike position that if people are unprepared we cease the dialogue. I believe we continue to sek to understand them, to go to where they are. Christ taught that when a sheep is lost the Shepherd "Goes into the Wilderness" or "inot the high mountain" to find them, and then carries them back. As His undershepherds, isn't the same required of us?

    I confess (hopefully not arrogantly) that some of Aaron's comments were directed toward me. I seem to be the only one commenting on this blog with an alternative viewpoint. I have tried not to be strident or argumentative. This is NOT my forum, but you have been kind enough to let me express some views that I hope are helpful. I don't want to abuse that privilege. At the same time, I have never indicated that we don't have deep differences. We do. Perhaps when I get the gumption to have my own blog I will address those in my own way. Until then, we will disagree, I will be pleasant and affable. I will be interested and critical. I will be certain that my heart is right before God. I will continue to believe that your efforts to teach and persuade are based on your very real belief in your interpretations of ancient scripture. I will continue to be interested in your interpretations, but will not be discouraged that you, as fallible people (as am I), do not deem me a Christian. Please understand, I consider myself a Christian NOT because I want to be like you (no offense), but because I want to be like Christ. If you find that manipulative, chek your own agenda.

     
  • At March 29, 2007 12:54 PM, Blogger Aaron Shafovaloff said…

    Neal,

    My blog post was not personally directed toward you in any way. The post was triggered by comments made by an official LDS Church spokesman regarding the DVD controversy.

    It wasn't me who warned against throwing pearls before swine, it was Jesus Christ. The issue isn't whether or not we should continue meaningful religious dialog with those who are willing to be in it. Of course we should. The issue is this: what should we do with those who no longer want to engage in meaningful dialog, specifically those who manipulatively threaten to cut the dialog off if they are challenged? If anything, we shouldn't continue in dialog with them as though it is meaningful and honest and open. There are certain kinds of relationships that can or even must continue. An easy example is a wife with an unbelieving husband. She is directed by scripture to set a quiet example. There are other kinds of relationships like this, but they are abnormal and we shouldn't pretend they are relationships of meaningful dialog. Because we should be strategic about our evangelistic relationships, I think it's important to move on when we can to people who are more open to significant and meaningful dialog. There are thousands of Mormon laymen out there who are open to this kind of dialog, and we should primarily direct our evangelistic efforts toward them.

    Grace and peace in Christ, who justifies the ungodly like me (Romans 4:4-8),

    Aaron

     
  • At March 29, 2007 3:04 PM, Blogger Neal said…

    Wonderful response, Aaron. Thank you.

     
  • At March 29, 2007 3:06 PM, Blogger Qahal said…

    I just came across this blog the other day. I am already a big fan.

    I think another example can be found in Christ's example in John 6. He does not pursue those who turn away because the teaching is hard. It is not to say that he does not wish salvation for them, but that he recognizes their complete hardness of hearts. There are many who are disingenuous when they say that they are pursuing Truth. They are unwilling to accept legitimate inquiry or criticism.

     
  • At March 29, 2007 4:49 PM, Blogger Interested said…

    "There are many who are disingenuous when they say that they are pursuing Truth. They are unwilling to accept legitimate inquiry or criticism. "
    Gahal I think you hit the nail on the head. My mormon friends don't want to hear a challenge to their truth because it is easier to continue in the same path. They feel that the truth is less important than the dificulty of the struggle.

     
  • At March 29, 2007 6:20 PM, Blogger Qahal said…

    The main problem that I have encountered in my conversations with Mormons (I have a good friend that is one, but also with the several missionaries that I have met) is that we don't have any common ground. They have redefined everything that the Christian Church spent 1800 years dying for. They tend to use very similar language but it usually carries drastically different meaning. It is a temptation to believe that we are operating under similar constructs, but our foundations couldn't be more different.

    They accept Scripture and historical tradition (gotta throw that in because I'm Catholic, but don't worry I'm down with ecumenism) only in so much as it serves their purpose. While I am operating under a construct that employs both faith (revelation/Scripture) and reason, they operate under a construct that derives entirely from their own personal testimony, they are an ultimate authority unto themselves. In such an environment we very rarely find any common ground.

    I think this is really the heart of the issue. To entertain any type of criticism or inquiry is to question their personal authority and the authenticity of their personal revelation (which justifies their authority). If we are called as the Apostles were to be fishers of men, then Mormons are particularly challenging "to hook" if you will.

     
  • At March 29, 2007 7:39 PM, Blogger Neal said…

    Interested,

    How do you respond when they present their "truth" to you? How do you feel when they challenge the things YOU believe to be true? Do you respond cheerfully? Do you determine to change YOUR path? Remember that whether or not you agree with them, THEY hold to the things they beleive as strongly as you do! It is the reason we love, discuss, dialogue, listen, seek to understand, learn, etc.

     
  • At April 03, 2007 11:58 PM, Blogger Ginger said…

    gahal said: "While I am operating under a construct that employs both faith (revelation/Scripture) and reason, they operate under a construct that derives entirely from their own personal testimony, they are an ultimate authority unto themselves. In such an environment we very rarely find any common ground."

    Don't you belive that everyone can have a personal relationship with God and that God answers prayers and provides direction? Maybe I've misread, but that's what I get from your comment. I find the whole idea of not having a personal relationship with God and a personal testimony of his divinity and the idea of wholly relying on another fallible person's teachings strangely creepy. By the way, Mormons DO believe in revelation and scripture.

    rick b, since I live in Georgia, I recognize your fire and brimstone approach to sharing your beliefs. Telling people that they are going to hell if they don't walk your line isn't sharing beliefs with love. Telling what you believe and allowing others to pray about it and make up their own minds, however, IS. That's what being contentious means. Not that you're saying something that someone doesn't want to hear, but that you're saying it in a VERY offputting manner.

    Aaron, I have to say that this is a well-written article. You state your case and offer support to your arguments without making personal attacks. Thank you.

     
  • At April 04, 2007 12:38 PM, Blogger rick b said…

    Ginger, My approach might be called Fire and brimstone, But show me from the Bible where I am supposed to avoid telling people they will go to hell if they reject Jesus as Lord and Saviour.


    I can show you many places in the Bible where Jesus and the Apostles spoke about eternal damnation.

    Ginger, I am not telling people to walk my way or go to hell, I am saying, this is what Jesus said, follow him or reject him, not me. Rick B.

     
  • At April 05, 2007 6:20 PM, Blogger Interested said…

    Neal
    How do you respond when they present their "truth" to you? How do you feel when they challenge the things YOU believe to be true? Do you respond cheerfully? Do you determine to change YOUR path? Remember that whether or not you agree with them, THEY hold to the things they beleive as strongly as you do! It is the reason we love, discuss, dialogue, listen, seek to understand, learn, etc.
    I suppose my answer to those questions would be all too telling so let me just say that I have nothing at stake. I am an investigator, a researcher and a scientist. I look at facts, documentation and history for my truth. In mormonism there seems to be a lot of history, some documentation and many denied facts.

     

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