Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Pleading Letter to a Brother

Today I received a letter inviting me and members of our church to participate in an interfaith prayer meeting in October that will be presided over by the Dali Lama. Here is my letter of response:

Dear Brother,

I am writing to inform you that I will respectfully decline your invitation to be a part of the Interfaith Prayer Service with the Dalai Lama, for the glory of my utterly unique Savior Jesus. To accept this invitation would compromise the uniqueness of Jesus and communicate to others participating and attending that Jesus is a peer with Allah and Vishnu, when in fact he is sui generis – in a class by himself. Such is the Biblical teaching that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, ESV), and that Jesus is “the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14, ESV).

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is to me too precious to risk tarnishing in this manner, and to intentionally or unintentionally communicate that Jesus is not entirely unique is to tarnish his glory and his gospel. To unite with others as though we worshipped and prayed to the same God is an offense to this gospel and to the God who offers his “one and only Son” for the forgiveness of sins and for life. Moreover, I believe participation in this event would confuse those seeking after God by communicating that any of the religions participating are equally valid paths to salvation and God. Again, the offer of the Gospel is life in Christ, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12).

In addition to declining, I am pleading with you as a proclaimed follower of Jesus Christ to reconsider your involvement in this Interfaith Prayer Service. I understand the desire to peacefully coexist with people of other religious persuasions. However, to cooperate in such a way compromises the Gospel and the Glory of Jesus Christ. To participate in such a service is always an act of syncretism, and a violation of the first commandment. Such was the opinion and ruling of the Council of Laodicea in 364AD. The ecumenical council condemned this practice, saying, “No one shall join in prayer with heretics or schismatics” (Canon 33).

I do hope this letter is received as a kind word from someone who desires to be a brother, but who also desires to preserve the beautiful uniqueness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Solo Christus,

Rev. Daniel L. Waugh Jr.

6 comments:

Scott said...

Dan,

I have to admit that I'm a little disappointed to hear this. It sounds like a fruitful opportunity for peacemaking and transformative dialogue. I don't expect you'd find anyone forcing you to pray to anyone whom you don't wish to (and even then, I hear there's a special bonus for martyrs). Of course, I understand that's where you're at and it is your decision.

Give me a call back sometime..just any time after 9:00 am. 7-something is a bit early ;-).

Cheers,

Scott

Paul said...

I don't know, I read Dan's response and wished he was a little more gruff :)

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Scott. I am quite disappointed that you're missing out on an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation with people of other faiths. Engaging in dialogue with people of other faiths in a listening, mutually understanding and loving manner doesn't tarnish the gospel of Jesus Christ. Recognizing that people of other faiths deserve respect and love is the OPPOSITE of an offense to God. You cite the Council of Laodicea's law in your response, but what about Jesus' livng example, the Peacemaker, the One who loves all? Do you really think this is what Jesus Christ would do? the Jesus Christ who, when asked who should be considered one's neighbor, replied with the story of the good Samaritan? I really feel that your response only reinforces the stereotype that Christians feel they are too righteous to associate with anyone else. I'm sorry if this response is harsh, but it's diffcult for me to express how disappointed and surprised I am.

-Sara M.

Dan Waugh said...

Maybe I need to make it clear that this is a Prayer Service, not a dialogue. I am all for dialogue, and enter into regular dialogue with people from other religions (and if I saw any of them beat and bleeding on the side of the road, I assure you I'd stop and help - that is closer to Jesus point in the Good Samaritan than saying that because we're neighbors, we should worship together).

In addition, I do respect the faith of other religions. In fact, I would argue that I respect the teachings of the great religions more than those who would act as if they were all different paths to the same God. In fact, in the invitation, reference was made to 'praying to the one Creator we all serve' or something like that. I doubt Mohammed would have said he worshipped the same God as the Hindu, and I know that Buddhism rejected much of Hinduism (that's why it was founded). To act as though there is no real profound difference is disrespectful in the extreme to the founders of these religious movements, not just Jesus. (For more on this see my response to the IDS Religious Blog Post, How can we bridge our differences?.

As for Jesus, he absolutely would refuse this invitation. The issue isn't, did Jesus hang out with pagans. That is clear, and I think I follow that example (even when I spend time alone)! The more appropriate question is, did Jesus go the the pagan temples to pray? Or, would he have invited pagan priests into the Temple for a common worship service? The answer is a definite, NO.

Lets be clear, Jesus was more consumed with God's glory than any other man who has ever lived. It was his heartbeat and passion and his dying breath.

In declining, I am in no way trying to communicate that I am more religious than other. In fact, there are many in the group that are more religious than me! However, my God does claim to the one and only true and living God.

Mark said...

Elijah participated in an interfaith prayer service of sorts. :) Not that he was aiming at peaceful coexistence, particularly when he hacked the prophets of Baal to bits at the end of it. But that's a part of the Old Covenant we no longer emulate, right?

Dan, I support your refusal to participate. However, your letter seems like letting your correspondent have it with both barrels. Calling it a "kind word", though I'm sure you intended it kindly, is a bit of a stretch. Those of us who are passionate about abstractions (and I include myself in that group) often find that our passionate defense of our beliefs is perceived by others as a personal attack. I don't know who you're writing to or what level of trust and relationship you've built there--I hope it's a strong one. Maybe you can sit down over coffee and ask how it came across.

I write this as my own "kind word" :), having unintentionally lacerated many people and found out the hard way.

Sarah Oyehreenday said...

Dan, I found your blog through the connexion blog. I used to attend/be a member of ECC. Anyhow... not that you need my approval, but I just want to encourage you that your decision is pleasing to God which shows here in this comment section, as it is not pleasing to mankind.

I say... and this is not to be cruel or insensitive... but let people be lacerated. Christ wasn't some passive wimp... he offended people. If people get offended, oh well, let God take care of them, let His spirit convict them or do whatever it is that He wants to do. Sometimes you plant a seed and it offends, and you just move on.

More later here.

Thanks for standing.