I’ve changed the blog name for a couple of reasons. First, the word “discernment” is largely ruined. Secondly, I won’t be at Dallas Seminary for much longer, and I don’t even live in Dallas proper. Welcome!
I found myself once in the middle of something like this at a Sunday morning service at a relative’s church. I had left the Navy about five weeks prior, and they wanted veterans to stand up for their particular service anthems. I remained seated for “Anchors Aweigh.”
Moreover, they managed to “churchify” the song. You see, there’s a line in the song that goes “Through our last night on shore, drink to the foam,” and they’re not talking about drinking ocean water. But the church had purchased music along with accompanying lyric video from some company, and they changed the offending lyric to “hail to the foam.” The church leadership itself was probably completely unaware of this.
“Hail” to the foam? Really?
— Dr. Robert Jeffress (@robertjeffress) June 25, 2017
Yesterday was “Freedom Sunday” at the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. The pastor of First Baptist is Robert Jeffress. He is a Trump supporter, Christian nationalist, and prominent court evangelical. As the pictures attached to this tweet indicate, it was a day of patriotic celebration in the church sanctuary.
People waived American flags during the service.
The last time I checked, the waiving of the American flag was a sign of support or loyalty to the nation. Jeffress had no problem allowing such an act to take place in a church sanctuary–the place where Christians worship God as a form of expressing their ultimate loyalty. Patriotism is fine. Flag-waiving is fine. But I wonder if any…
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Instead of making a scholarly comparison between a bandwagon and a garbage truck, let’s look at the historical context.
The Historical Context
- We all went berserk when Together 2016 announced that the Pope would be delivering a “special video greeting” during the event on the National Mall. Mysteriously after Nick Hall’s visit to the Vatican, those Facebook and Instagram posts disappeared, and inquiries/complaints to Together 2016 about the Pope’s video greeting were often met with a friendly reply that the Pope’s only involvement was an invitation video filmed during Hall’s visit. No such special video greeting from the Pope was presented at Together 2016 despite reports to the contrary that relied entirely on secondary sources.
- In a video called “The Vision Behind Together 2016,” Nick Hall declared Catholics and evangelicals to be “on the same team.”
- Nick Hall refused to answer publicly whether the Roman Catholic gospel is salvific.
- Nick Hall presented the social gospel on a radio show.
- Tim Challies reviewed Nick Hall’s book Reset. He opined that “The full truth of the bad news and the full beauty of the good news is obscured by this soft ‘reset’ gospel,” and he recommended staying clear of the event.
- In my book review, I made the following observations on Reset.
- It relies too much on visions rather than scripture.
- It skips over original sin. According to Reset, sin is a bad decision that leads to bad consequences, and it just isn’t God’s best for us, rather than being an offense to a holy God.
- It skips double imputation, by which the Father poured out his wrath on the Son — the wrath that we deserved! — and the Son’s righteousness was imputed upon us.
- I concluded, very charitably and very much trying not to cross the line into false claims, that Reset is semi-Pelagian at best.
- By the way, the book’s foreword is written by Josh McDowell, Luis Palau, and Ravi Zacharias — Nabeel Qureshi’s mentor and employer.
Nick Hall introduces the charismatic Roman Catholic unity party: Lou Engle, Bishop Robert (somebody please help me find his last name), Matteo Calisi, and Bruno Ierullo. Unity is declared between Catholics and evangelicals.
Just under two hours later, Nabeel Qureshi speaks on stage.
The gospel does get out there, and equally does a call to evangelistic mobilization. Though I must say that the “change the world” thing triggered me — it often is a mark of the social gospel — I’ll hold back from targeting that, as I can’t prove that was Qureshi’s intention.
From this context alone, to what degree is Nabeel Qureshi culpable for ecumenism with Roman Catholics by agreeing to speak? He did not present a false gospel, but I submit that Qureshi’s appearance and speech at Together 2016, given the context in which it is being delivered, confuses the critical gospel issue of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Although there was nothing in particular that was wrong about the speech, it was in a setting and in such a way that any Roman Catholic could also have agreed, clapped, and been left there still under the false impression of being right with God.
If a Roman Catholic converts to Islam, would we say that his statement “I converted from Christianity to Islam” is an intentional lie on the part of the convert? No, though we confess that Roman Catholicism is not Christianity, we would also understand that Roman Catholicism claims to be Christianity, and that is the sense in which the convert is using the term. Trying to knock Qureshi on this point is off base. So is nitpicking whether he was standing or sitting in his dream.
I’m a cessationist too, by the way. I frankly don’t make much of the dream.
In the future, let’s try to improve our model of evaluation. If we are going to criticize Nabeel Qureshi for being at Together 2016, we ought to evaluate what he actually said at Together 2016 as well as more of the context than just the list of speakers on the website.
We also need not lean on other religions’ apologists with questionable credentials or upon minor instances of poorly-spoken words such as confusing ‘sitting’ versus ‘standing.'”
Updated with grammatical corrections.