Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Open Letter on the Interfaith Service

To the Congregation of First Baptist (and anyone else interested),

As many of you have heard, I have reached a decision that I cannot take part in the Medfield interfaith service in good conscience. As you all know, I have taken part in it since I started as your pastor. I did so because it seemed to be something that our church had been part of, and a duty of the position. However. I have always felt uneasy about taking part, and over this last year, came to this decision. I feel I owe you an explanation for discontinuing my involvement. Here are my reasons.

First, there has been increasing pressure to avoid the mention of Jesus. For example, last year, in the meeting preparing for the service, a strong objection was raised to the passage in Luke where men come and show thanksgiving to Jesus for healing them. In fact, anything specifically that mentioned about Jesus is viewed as unacceptable by some of those participating in the service, and this has led to an increasing pressure to avoid referencing Jesus and His saving work. If Jesus is all but taboo, and if there is a strong pressure to make Christ disappear, what am I doing there as a Christian pastor? If I, as a Christian, am asked not to pray in Jesus name, or preach about my Lord and savior Jesus Christ (and that is, in fact, the request), lest I offend someone, it seems clear to me that I’m at the wrong service.

Now, on one hand, it makes sense to say, “well, why don’t you, and we (first Baptist), fight to put Jesus back in it”. Here’s the problem. The whole logic of interfaith dialogue and interfaith worship flows in this direction. The idea is to highlight our commonality, and downplay the things that divide and make one distinct. But to do that, we have to give up the things that make us distinct, and that thing that makes us Christians distinct is Christ. The good news - that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all and that Jesus is the way the truth and the life - is not welcome at the interfaith service. How can I take part in that in good conscience?

Second, it’s syncretism. Syncretism is “an amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought”. Think of it this way, it’s pouring all the traditions together and calling them the same thing. But what’s left when that is done is that we (those taking part), have stripped off everything distinctive, and what we are left with is a focus on the act of giving thanks, but a deliberate avoiding of clarity about to whom thanks is being given. It’s just “Thanksgiving for the sake of Thanksgiving”, because if you can’t agree on the concept of God (and that is the case Unitarians, Christians, and Jews don’t agree on their doctrine of God), you are giving thanks to what, collectively? The point of the service is to express thanksgiving… to whom? To God? How is God defined and understood? In what meaningful sense can Christians, Jews, and Unitarians (or for that matter, Hindus and Muslims, Buddhists, or any of the other many different religions) come together for an “interfaith” service? We are unable to agree on the concept of God. We can’t agree on what we are declaring the “worth-ship” of (since that is what worship is, declaring the worth and value of something)? What is the point? We aren’t praying to the same God. We don’t even share the same conception of God, which means that at best it’s a thanksgiving to the nebulous sense of “deity”. But more accurately, it’s just “Thanksgiving for Thanksgiving sake”. It's clearly not a service of thanksgiving to the God who has done more then we can ask or imagine through the saving work of Christ. Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with warnings against idolatry. I cannot take part in that.

Third, and most importantly, I believe that I may be damaging my Christian witness, and the Christian witness of First Baptist, by sending a confusing, dangerous message to the world around. By taking part in this interfaith worship and  by standing sholder to sholder with religious leaders of other religions (not other Christians- other religions- those that do not claim Christ as Lord and savior in any way), some might fairly infer by the fact that I am there that I (or First Baptist) feel there is agreement on essential matters of faith. And why wouldn't they? When we gather and worship in this way, aren’t we saying, in essence, that we all agree in faith, and are brothers and sisters in faith. Aren’t we saying that all religious traditions and spirtualities and faiths are equally valid and that “it’s ok to believe whatever, as long as you are a person of faith”? That is the message we send when we worship together in this manner, and this clearly is not the case.

Remember, not long ago (last winter), a local Unitarian “church” (Milford), was hosting a "medium connection"? For $25 you could attempt to chat with the dearly departed. Great. Another word for that is séance. It’s witchcraft, pure and simple. Now, to be fair, that has not happened here in Medfield. But to even allow someone to think that we are of “like faith” with those who might call the actions of this Unitarian church acceptable, and call those in that “church” “brothers and sisters in faith” is to create a confusing witness. Christians are not brothers and sisters in “like faith” with Unitarians (or Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or whatever other faith might get added in). “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial (2 Corinthians 6:15)?” None. There is only one name in which salvation is found, and to take part and possibly confuse the watching world around is a failure to be salt and light. It sends a dangersous message, and it damages my witness, and the witness of First Baptist. The more I think about it, the more I believe it. Some who take part in the service are brothers and sisters in Christ. But other “churches” and religions are not, and we send a confusing message that “it’s ok to believe whatever, as long as you are a person of faith”, when we worship together in this manner.

Now, I know that some of you have some objections forming in your mind. 

First, didn’t you work with the Episcopal church and the UCC on the VBS? Yes. I worked with Christian churches on a Christian VBS. Churches that at the very least, could agree on the top level issues without which you cannot be a Christian. And furthermore, I insisted that it be a Christian VBS right from the start (and may I say, we were all in agreement- lest anyone take this to mean that we had any disagreement on this- To my knowledge we were all on the same page from the start). So it was not interfaith work, it was ecumenical work- all were Christians, partaking in a Christian VBS that pointed kids to faith in Christ.

Second, so what about ecumenical worship? Christians worshiping together as Christians of a variety of Christian traditions. I have no problem with that, in fact, I think it’s absolutely acceptable and honorable to worship alongside other Christians traditions. In that, we are expressing that we are brothers and sisters “in Christ” (This is probably a watered down litmus test but the question I ask is, could they recite the creed’s of Christianity in good faith. Could they say, with you and I, “I believe in God the father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our lord? Could they confess the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and that someday he will come to judge the living and the dead?). But this is not ecumenical worship, this is interfaith. And that’s where the rub lies.

Third, for a church trying to reach the community with the hope of the gospel, doesn’t this cost us influence? Maybe, but I don’t think so. In fact, I think it will actually heighten our influence. When we say, we are Christians, we worship as Christians, and we do so, because salvation is found in no other name, it will push some people to consider the claims of Christ in a new and fresh way. To think through the message that we proclaim to the world: To consider the message of Christianity. God made the world. He made it perfectly, with us ruling under His authority, and living in relationship with Him. But then something terrible happened. Our first parents, Adam and Eve sinned by disobeying and rebelling against God. They wanted to run things their way, and sought to be their own Lord and God. The result was that they brought God’s judement on themselves and all humanity. Everyone was marred by their sin, so that all follow their steps, sinfully rebel against God and bring God’s just judgment on themselves. That’s the bad news. But in his love, God sent Jesus Christ, the second member of the trinity, God in the flesh, to live perfectly and sinlessly, to die as an atoning sacrifice paying the price that God’s justice demanded for this act of cosmic rebellion, and reconciling us to God if we place our faith in Chirst. Christ rose again on the third day, proving he accomplished all that he claimed he would do. He now sits on the throne of heaven, and someday He will judge the world. We are called to repent and believe the good news, and worship the triune God who has provided this great salvation.

If that message is banned at the interfaith service, if we are not going before our saving God with thanks, I think that it is far more preferable, to not take part and find venues that allow for the message of the gospel to be stated clearly. 

Fourth, does this mean that I feel that I am above the fray, and that we Christians at First Baptist are better than others? Do I think Christians are superior people to those that do not believe that salvation is found in Christ. No and No. I am not saying that Christians are superior or better people than those that are not Christians. It may be that a Unitarian, or Jew, or Hindu, or Muslim is in fact a kinder, nicer, more compassionate, just person than many Christians. Being a Christian does not mean that you are proud because you are a better person than someone else, in fact, the logic of the gospel strikes at the very root of that attitude. It calls us to recognize that we are sinful people in need of salvation because of our deeply flawed, sinful nature. That’s the entrance fee to Christianity, if you will. So we aren’t saying that we are better than others in any way. 

Furthermore, we are not saying that we don’t want to interact with those of other faiths, or no faith at all. As a Christian, I believe that I, First Baptist, and other Christians are called to enter into our community, loving the community, serving the community, and declaring, we are here for the good of the community as Christians. We can work and serve for the good of others, Christian or not. We are not partisan in wanting the best for others. Do unto others as you would have them to you, Jesus says. “Seek the good of the city”, God says through Jeremiah. “Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jeremiah 29:7) We aren’t just here just for ourselves. But to seek the best for all humanity, and certainly Medfield. Hear me on this. I’m not trying to be mean or exclusive, or make our church mean or exclusive. I think it’s one thing to work alongside of someone, or be friends with someone. Christians can work alongside of anyone for the common good, and be friends with anyone. Anyone. And we can talk with anyone. There is no one from whom we withdraw and say, I can have nothing to do with you. But worship is different. When it comes to worship, we must not engage in syncretism and damage our witness, as one writer put it, "genuine witness in the public square can take place through discerning dialogue and engaging conversation as well as acts of human care and mercy. We witness in the public square, but we do not worship there. "

So those are my thoughts. I am not partisan in wanting good for all, and I do not want First Baptist to be some partisan “holy huddle” that looks out for its interest alone. I want First Baptist to be loving and serving the community, seeking it’s good as I and it proclaims the distinctly Christian message that there is hope in a hopeless world, the gospel. But when it comes to worship, I do not believe that I should be taking part and helping lead this service. I am not a religious leader, and Christians are not religious people, or people "of faith". I am a Christian Pastor, and First Baptist is a Christian church, and we are all about worshiping the God who has done more than we can ask or imagine in providing salvation through Christ Jesus. To pretend we’re all the same waters down or worse, eliminates our distinctively Christian message that salvation is found in Christ alone, and thanks belongs to God alone for our provision, hope, and life itself. Christians must not send any other message to a world desperately in need of the hope of the gospel. I must not send any other message. 

I have no quarrel with those of other faiths who do what they wish to do. They can worship as they wish, and we can have sincere disagreements, and live at peace with each other. I don’t begrudge them their worship or practice. But let’s not kid ourselves, we are not all in agreement in faith. A nebulous sense of the “holy” is not the God of the Christian bible, and we must not send any other message. Christians should not pretend something that is not true, is true so that everyone can hold hands and sing. 

As I say this, I’m not trying to be a mean curmudgeon, or arrogant; I’m trying instead to be logical and wise. And the more I've thought about it, the more convinced that my participation in the interfaith service sends the inadvertent message that I believe it’s ok to believe whatever - even if it's contrary to the Gospel - as long as one is a person of "faith”, and while I am not so proud as to think that I can come to the end of any subject, I’m with Luther in saying that “unless I am convinced by scripture and plain reason” this is the position I will hold. I leave it to you and your conscience to do what you feel is right regarding your participation in the interfaith service.

But as you consider what to do, let me point you to the words of one of my favorite bloggers and writers, Kevin Deyoung. He captured part problem with interfaith services a few years back when looking at the inauguration of the president. He wroteImagine it's early in the first century, in and around Palestine. A new emperor, or local governor, has come to power. As a nod to the diverse religious traditions of the land, there is a prayer service to the gods on behalf of the new leader. In the mix we find worshipers of Asclepius, priests of the Artemis cult, believers in Hermes, leaders in the local fertility cult. Would we find any Jews there? What about Jesus? Can you imagine Jesus participating in such an event?  With the warnings of Israel's history and the seriousness of the Ten Commandments, is there any way Jesus, would possibly agree to participate in such a ceremony? We aren't talking about giving taxes to Caesar, or praying for the Emperor in synagogue worship, or living out your faith in public. We are talking about a worship service where the "God" worshipped is the "God of our many understandings", to borrow a recent phrase. and the tacit assumption is that we can all share in genuine spiritual fellowship. In Revelation, as best as we can tell the context, Jesus rebuked several of the churches for simply going along with ritual meals to various gods in the guilds of the day. What would he say about sharing a worship service? Would the Apostle Paul, who warned his churches of syncretism and idolatry so often, consider for even a moment participating in a worship service where several different gods were invoked? The same points all stand in relationships to interfaith thanksgiving services. I leave it to your consciences to make the choice about whether you participate in the interfaith service of Medfield.

Your Pastor,
Jonathan Chechile

P.S. Here are some articles that helped me clarify my thinking over the last month as it became clear this would be an issue.
Salt & Light: Syncretism? - Prof. John T. Pless 
The Problem with Interfaith - Nadeem Abdul Hamid (a Muslim take- Very interesting)
Interfaith Prayer Services - Dr. Albert Mohler (Audio Interview)

Are interfaith worship services appropriate for Christians - Ray Pritchard


  1. Food for thought from a girl of faith and no religion...

    Medfield Interfaith Thanksgiving Service is described as an "opportunity to thank God in the context of the larger Medfield community" with representatives from all the churches in Medfield, as well as Temple Beth David in Westwood.

    The Thanksgiving holiday, historically acknowledged by the nation by proclamation as "a day of SOLEMN THANKSGIVING to GOD". [see the proclamation of 1782 below]

    There is no one way to give thanks. Joining together, as people...people who share "faith" even they practice with different religions...can not be a negative. It does not judge, it does not exclude. It honors. I find that something to be thankful for.

    World English Dictionary
    faith (feɪθ) — n
    1. strong or unshakeable belief in something, esp without proof or evidence
    2. a specific system of religious beliefs: the Jewish faith
    3. Christianity trust in God and in his actions and promises
    4. conviction of the truth of certain doctrines of religion,
    esp when this is not based on reason

    "Interfaith" as it's defined by Merriam-Webster as ": involving people of different religions."

    This proclamation was published in The Independent Gazetteer; or, the Chronicle of Freedom on November 5, 1782, the first being observed on November 28, 1782:

    By the United States in Congress assembled, PROCLAMATION.

    It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in a time of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner, to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf; therefore, the United States in Congress assembled, taking into their consideration the many instances of Divine goodness to these States in the course of the important conflict, in which they have been so long engaged, – the present happy and promising state of public affairs, and the events of the war in the course of the year now drawing to a close; particularly the harmony of the public Councils which is so necessary to the success of the public cause, – the perfect union and good understanding which has hitherto subsisted between them and their allies, notwithstanding the artful and unwearied attempts of the common enemy to divide them, – the success of the arms of the United States and those of their allies, – and the acknowledgment of their Independence by another European power, whose friendship and commerce must be of great and lasting advantage to these States; Do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these States in general, to observe and request the several states to interpose their authority, in appointing and commanding the observation of THURSDAY the TWENTY-EIGHTH DAY OF NOVEMBER next as a day of SOLEMN THANKSGIVING to GOD for all His mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience to His laws and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.

    Done in Congress at Philadelphia, the eleventh day of October, in the year of our LORD, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, and of our Sovereignty and Independence, the seventh.

    JOHN HANSON, President.

    CHARLES THOMSON, Secretary.[21]

  2. Yo-jean, glad to have you weigh in as a girl with “of faith and no religion”.

    Can we look at what you wrote, keeping in mind that this is a discussion aimed at Christians, by a Christian? I have three thoughts that stem out of this.

    First, let’s look at the fact that the “Medfield Interfaith Thanksgiving Service is described as an "opportunity to thank God in the context of the larger Medfield community" with representatives from all the churches in Medfield, as well as Temple Beth David in Westwood. The question ehre is how is God defined? Are we talking about the trinity? One God in three persons? God as mono- as Jews and Muslims understand God to be. A spiritual force that pervades the entire universe, with everything being somewhat divine? Or are talking some nebulous sense of “the Holy”, as some like to define God as. Don’t even ascribe personhood to God? That’s some in this town. How can we gather to worship God when we don’t have a working definition of God that we all agree on? Which means that we are all left with a question, to whom are we giving thanks? Not the God of the bible. And that’s where the rub lies, because Christians are not given the luxury of worshiping one other than God. Those that are not Christians, do what you want. Go for it, have fun. Enjoy. But Christians are warned repeatedly to worship God and no other. And not “God as we understand it”, but the God who defines his nature and character through the Old and New Testaments. We are also warned time and time again about idolatry, and what is idolatry, making God in our image, making a God of our understanding, making God, instead of recognizing the God who is. Again, as a girl of “faith and no religion”, go for it. But know that it doesn’t really make sense because each group has a different conception of God, and it’s like where getting together and having a party to different “god’s” in the same room.

  3. Second, you say, “There is no one way to give thanks. Joining together, as people...people who share "faith" even they practice with different religions...can not be a negative. It does not judge, it does not exclude. It honors. I find that something to be thankful for. Again, that’s great for you, but once again, I as a Christian find myself caught up against holy Scripture, which calls all other religions false, and warns Christians against affirming the other religions as true and valid paths to God (Note that I am defining Christian as those who believe in the life death and resurrection of Christ and his saving work- Protestants of various stripes, Catholics, Orthodox, Copts, Etc.). Instead, Christians are called to be salt and light. We are called to proclaim a life saving message of salvation. And to say, quite clearly, that salvation is only found in Christ. To join with the other religions in some way affirms that they are a legitimate path to salvation, and that I believe that they are a legitimate path to salvation. I begrudge no one their right to worship. Their freedom of religion is my freedom of religion. But I do not affirm that I think the path they hold out is a right and true path, I believe what Jesus makes clear in John 14, that He is the way the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by Him. Furthermore, keep in mind that last winter, the Milford Unitarian “church” was hosting a séance. For me to stand next to a Unitarian minister, and to even create the impression that we are of “like faith”, is problematic. It deadens the impact of the gospel message, that salvation is found in Christ alone. Now, again, I recognize that this is an inside church discussion that you are jumping into as a “girl of faith and no religion”. Christianity doesn’t say all religions are alike. Christianity says, all are lost, and Christ provides salvation. In many ways, it does judge. It judges the legitimacy of the path, and calls out to everyone, turn and be saved. But at the same time, it is not exclusive, the door is open to all, people of every tongue, tribe and race, and “to all who received him, to those who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God-- children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God (personalization of John 1:12-13).

    Third, you cite the thanksgiving proclamation of 1782, and note that “The Thanksgiving holiday, historically acknowledged by the nation by proclamation as "a day of SOLEMN THANKSGIVING to GOD". Here’s the problem that we run into when we come to Interfaith services. At one time, we could say, lets give thanksgiving to God, and everyone was working off of the same template. The Christians understanding of God. even those with notable objections to Christianity (like Jefferson) had been steeped in Christianity and Christian thinking, and the thanksgiving proclamation of 1782, and all others that you can find coming down through history come from a time when most where steeped in a Christian understanding of God. But can we honestly say that is the case now. I don’t think so.


  4. Now, I know that my whole argument probably doesn’t make it very far if you’re looking at it from the outside. You look at it and say, “What’s the big deal? Really? We live in a pluralistic postmodern world where truth is relative. Get over yourself.” The big deal is that Christ says that “a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. (Joh 4:23)”. We Christians are called to worship in Spirit and in truth. Furthermore, we face the challenge of choose this day whom you will serve (Joshua 24:15). Will we jump into our pluralistic pagan culture and say, every path is valid, or will we say, scripture calls us to go in another direction. To politely decline even when it’s unpopular. This is not to say we can’t dialogue, talk, and work together. That’s not to say we can’t get together at a barbeque, have laughs, and enjoy each other’s company. We can. Furthermore, Christians are called to seek the good of the city in an absolutely unpartisan way. But when it comes to worship, we must not go along to get along. The early church faced this challenge. In a day of pluralistic paganism, the only test was, will you bow to Caesar? Say, Caesar is Lord (Kurios Ceasar), and offer him a pinch of salt. Two words, one pinch of salt, no big deal... Christians wouldn’t do it. Because Christ alone is Lord. And you can worship the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, or you can worship someone else, but you can’t do both. Time and again Christians are warned against syncretism and idolatry. 2 Corinthians 6:15-18 gets at it so clearly when it says, “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.""I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." In Revelation Jesus says to the church in pergamum, “I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. To the church in Thyatira he says, “I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols” (From Revelation 2:14-20).No big deal, just a little bending. Eat food sacrificed to idols and fit in. Honor everyone. God says that’s a problem.
    At the end of the day it all comes down to this. Do I as a Christian believe that there is something distinct about Christ and his work, and what will I do in light of it? this is why I can no longer participate in good conscience. The question that lies before you is in some ways the same, as a girl of faith. Faith in what? Faith in whom. Faith in Christ? What do you do with a man getting out of the grave, and being seen by his disciples, and even 500 people at one time? If He did that, if He died for your sins and rose again, and He comes and claims, I am God’s sole provision for your salvation, what do you do? Do you believe Him, do you believe in His claims and trust His finished work and then live for Him, or do you say, I’ll figure it out on my own? I know your working through allot. Keep thinking. Keep evaluating. Know that I’m praying for you on a number of levels.

  5. Thanks for pushing back. I hope this helps you some, looking at it from the inside of Christianity. I know that from the outside, it seems strange. I’m Ok with that. My job is to be faithful to the Christ, even when it seems strange.

    Have a great thanksgiving.

  6. "My job is to be faithful to the Christ" you said, and I respect that. Standing together with the community you live in to thank God does nothing to diminish your own faith. The specifics interpreted from stories of another time, and the growth and knowledge/education of people in the world has changed the labels, and the rituals, but the core of it all--a moral, loving and respectful life, is still valid.
    There are "bad" people in every religion---ones that have asked for forgiveness, redemption, taken Jesus to be their savior, whose lives are selfish and small.
    Your convictions are no less because others believe differently, no less for offering it quietly vs. loudly, no less if your message respects the diverse group.
    If anything it would seem like a great opportunity, a test of faith to offer it in such a context. Life is often not a direct and easy path. If you join others on their path, you have a chance to lead and guide them, but if you aren't there, you do not have that chance. An important thought, and relevant to many areas...in many aspects of all of our lives.


  7. Yo-jean. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve thought that our core failure to communicate is based in premises. Your premise (if I understand it correctly) is that all religions are the same, and that they lead to the same place. Christianity is just one path up the same mountain That’s what your comment that “The specifics interpreted from stories of another time, and the growth and knowledge/education of people in the world has changed the labels, and the rituals, but the core of it all--a moral, loving and respectful life, is still valid” leads me to think.
    But Christianity says something completely different. There are two roads, leading to two places. The core is not “a moral, loving and respectful life”. The core is all are lost. All rebelled. All are lost. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But God. But God acted, and offered salvation through Jesus Christ. God loved the world so much that He takes on flesh, enters into human history, lives, dies for our sins, and then rises, and someday will judge the world, and right all wrongs, and while all deserve judgment, “whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life”. The choice is yours. You can take the wide road that leads to destruction. Or you can take the narrow road offered in Christ.
    In regards to interfaith services, the assumptions lead to two different conclusions. One, to a place that says, I’m Ok, you’re Ok, we’re Ok, every faith tradition is the same. The other says leads you to a place that says, make sure you know what the bible says, and then live in light of it, and it leads to the conclusion that we are not all on the same page. Therefore, we can all declare the worth-ship of the God of all paths in unison. Christianity says, we are different religions. Different faiths, with a radically different view of God, and we have no business worshiping together, because we aren’t declaring the worth-ship of the Triune God, but “god as we make him out to be”. It is written, said Jesus, 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.' " (Luke 4:8). Just one more thought on this. Israel had interfaith worship, God called it idolatry. THe only time I see God being OK with interfaith worship was a worship war, where the challenge was made, if Yahweh is God, let Him be God, if Baal is God, let him be God. That ended not with kumbya, but something else (check out 1 Kings 18 for the story).

  8. Furthermore, you state. There are "bad" people in every religion---ones that have asked for forgiveness, redemption, taken Jesus to be their savior, whose lives are selfish and small. True…I agree... In fact, let me just say that the entrance fee to Christianity, if you will, is that we all start with the acknowledgement that we are bad, and more than bad, rebels against a holy God, and always in need of grace. No argument.

    You state… Standing together with the community you live in to thank God does nothing to diminish your own faith. Actually, I reject the premise. As I have already noted, the logic of interfaith services is to say, we all worship the same God, in different ways. Christianity says, no we worship different Gods. Decorum demands that we all hold hands and pretend that we are all on the same page. Nothing distinctive. So even when, for instance, Jesus name is mentioned by name, there is nothing distinctive about said Jesus stated, nothing about his work on our behalf, nothing about his distinctive view of the relationship between himself and God ( that he is the son of God). Furthermore, we skip the cross, and any mention that we are all lost. And while we say God, thank you, what’s left out is the thing that we should be truly thankful for. In the words of Wesley “And Can it be that I should gain an interest in my saviors blood. Died he for me who caused him pain, and bled for Adams helpless race. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose went forth and followed thee”. That’s not mentioned. Because to do that is to bring up the fact that something is wrong that needs to be fixed, and the only solution is found in Jesus.

    Your convictions are no less because others believe differently, no less for offering it quietly vs. loudly, no less if your message respects the diverse group. If anything it would seem like a great opportunity, a test of faith to offer it in such a context. Life is often not a direct and easy path.
    Yo-Jean, while I agree that life often doesn’t have a direct and easy path, I think this situation does. I bow out. I also disagree that this is a test of faith to offer it in this context. If the whole flow of the logic of interfaith services, which makes it better to just bow out than make a jerk of myself on the way out. That was my original intent (the jury’s out on whether I’m succeeding).

  9. Also, you state” If you join others on their path, you have a chance to lead and guide them, but if you aren't there, you do not have that chance. An important thought, and relevant to many areas...in many aspects of all of our lives.
    Let me just say that I get what your saying, but I think that it can be done in different ways while still being faithful to where I think scripture demands Christians land. The way I see it, the only place we can’t join people at is in terms of worship. There, we say, join us in worshiping the God of salvation. As I see it, the issue is not being in our community, working, serving, loving, supporting. The issue is acting like we agree on the same things, if only for a few minutes.
    As for the rest of life, we should be in the community. We should be joining others on the path. Christians should be in the community. Seeking it’s good. Helping the hurting. Caring for the sick, the poor, the oppressed. Working to make this a wonderful community marked by love. Working to help people know each other. Working to help families that are struggling with brokenness. Working to provide help for those that struggle to learn. Working to help those without a job, find a job. Working to give single moms support. Working to teach boys how to be men so they can marry that nice girl and be a dad to his baby and a husband to her mom, rather than just another statistic who lives in poverty. You get the idea.
    Also, notice something else. This service does nothing to reach people for Jesus, or bring anybody to any faith commitments. We can’t, that goes against the premise of the whole interfaith event. You gather, you sing, you try to pretend that we’re all the same, then you go home. how about we do something useful with the time. I’ve wondered if I’ll do more good by pushing Christians to consider what Gospel fidelity looks like in this age of spiritual but not religious? Who knows. Who knows if I have more impact on the community because I stop holding hands and pretending, and say, Christianity is not just one way up the mountain. Who knows?

  10. Finally, there’s no doubt we’ve probably wandered way past the original scope of the letter. I think we can see the issues. I don’t know if we’ve come to any consensus, but the issues are pretty clear. I would encourage you to read some of the things I put in the footnotes. They are there to be read. Think through what they are all saying. Thanks for the debate. If you want to keep pushing, go for it, I’ll answer when I have a chance.

  11. Terri, you stated over at the churches FB page, “This was like a sermon Jonathan. Not quite sure how to respond to it.. Many questions in my head? Many questions? What happened to "Love God and Love Each Other?”

    I think that both are there. I think that the more loving thing to do is say, we don’t agree, we love you, we want you to meet Jesus, we don’t agree. Better to tell the truth than pretend to say something we know isn’t truth. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”.

    As to loving God, I think the best way to love God, is to honor His commands about worshiping No other God. Which leads me to bow out.