Ah, yes, I thought we were done with this, too, but it seems weâ€™re not. Try as I might to ignore it, it just keeps popping up like a bad jack-in-the-box and smacking me in the face. Beginning with the debate over whether an Orthodox Jew (or any Jew, for that matter) can go to â€œheaven,â€ continuing on through the discussion on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishopsâ€™ ruling on conversion, and slinking through sly ongoing comments and references on various blogs, this topic erupted again in full force last Tuesday on Phil Donahueâ€™s show. And now Josh Trevino, whoâ€™s comments on this subject Iâ€™ve made a point of ignoring up until now, has thrown up this remark and linked to this polemic. And Judith Weiss had to go and tell me about it.
(Really big sigh, here) OK, letâ€™s go around one more time, shall we?
In Donahue's studio on August 20 were Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, radio talk show host (among other things), Dr. Michael Brown, president of â€œIsrael, the Church and the Nation Ministries,â€ and Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. A celebrity rabbi, a Southern Baptist minister and a â€œmessianic Jew.â€ Hoo, boy! Let 'er rip.
DONAHUE: So a good Jew is not going to heaven. OK, nothing new here. Letâ€™s move on.
MOHLER: Well, all persons are sinners in need of a savior. Jesus Christ is the sole mediator. And the gospel, we are told by the Apostle Paul, comes first to the Jews and then to the gentiles. And salvation is found in his name, and in his name alone, through faith in Christ.
DONAHUE: â€¦. You know, Reverend Mohler, this is such a vast organization. You have so many wonderful members. This just breeds anti-Semitism. I am sorry. You cannot possibly look a person in the eye and say, if you donâ€™t come to Jesus, if you donâ€™t change your faith, youâ€™re not going to heaven. Reeks of prejudice, and also stirs the soul to evil behavior, in my opinion.Yeah, typically goofy rambling Donahue style, but at least he got it right, didnâ€™t he? Guess not.
MOHLER: Well, if the church had just come up with this in the 20th century as a novel idea, perhaps it should be subjected to such a critique. But this is the gospel that has been received from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who said he came, first of all, for the people and children of Israel, and then also for the gentiles.
And he himself declared that he is the way, the truth and the light, and no man comes to the Father but through him. He spoke as a man born of the Jewish race, but who was also the son of God.
DONAHUE: Well, three cheers for the Catholic bishops. And itâ€™s been a while since anybody has given them cheers.
Well, Rabbi, it took us long enough, but we are no longer calling upon our faithful, Catholic faithful, to evangelize and convert the Jews. Praise the lord for that, whichever lord may be your favorite.
â€œWell,â€ says Josh , â€looks like Catholics can evangelize Jews after all. Sort of. Perhaps. We're working on it.â€
(Well, say I, of course you are. Youâ€™ve been working on it for 2,000 years. Ma nishtanah? Why should today be any different?) Josh links to an article in FrontPage Magazine by Dr. John Zmirak called â€œAmericaâ€™s Bishops: No Jews Invited.â€ Josh thinks itâ€™s â€œpretty good.â€ Judith Weiss comments that, well, she doesnâ€™t.
I wonâ€™t delve too deeply into the propositions of Dr. Zmirakâ€™s argument. He basically rehashes the same justifications that we just heard from the Rev. Dr. Mohler and which have already been discussed ad nauseum on this and other blogs in the recent past. But as the name of his article suggests, the main theme here is a two-part premise. First, true Christianity negates the possibility that another faith could possibly stand on its own merit in the eyes of God. Second, by accepting such a possibility Catholics would be rejecting the humanity of the adherents of that other faith and maliciously sentencing them to everlasting damnation. Letâ€™s go back to Rev. Mohler for a minute.
MOHLER: Well, all I know is that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ, and that all who are there come by his grace and mercy alone. There is nothing in us to merit salvation. And so humility has to be the Christian posture. So these are eternal truths that are supported by quotes from the New Testament which, of course, is all the justification that is necessary. If what is written in the Holy Scriptures is politically incorrect or morally offensive or tends to incite the destruction of other cultures and civilizations, itâ€™s not for us to question and certainly not for us to change or reinterpret.
DONAHUE: There is nothing humble about telling me Iâ€™m going to heaven if I donâ€™t believe in Jesus. That is not humility. Thatâ€™s arrogance.
MOHLER: It would be if this was our message. But if that is what the son of God said himself, if that is the truth, then it would be hateful and it would be intolerant not to tell you what we believe to be the truth. I canâ€™t compel any person to believe in Christ, but I do have the responsibility, with gladness and joy, to share the good news of the gospel, knowing that all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved, whether Jew or gentile.
Now why does that sound so familiar? Oh, yes. Itâ€™s exactly the same argument Iâ€™ve been hearing on TV lately from Hamas and Al Qaida apologists. Funny. The word of Allah as revealed in the Koran does not permit tolerance of unbelievers nor the possibility of their salvation absent acceptance of Islam and its Prophet.
If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good).
True, there are those who assert that the methods of conversion required by Islam are more offensive than those required by Christianity. But moderate Muslims as well as those who lived (or, more to the point, did not live) through the Crusades or the Inquisition may beg to differ.
As weâ€™re constantly told, there is a controversy in Islam. Some feel that the Koran commands that conversion to Islam be effected through reason, example and gentle persuasion. They are convinced that Allah will rightly guide all of humanity to this path if they are patient and determined. Others believe that the Koran demands that all kaffirs be converted through reason if possible but if that does not immediately succeed, then through military Jihad. Those who do not submit must either agree to be subjugated or be killed. Both of these camps point to clear and unambiguous verses in the Koran.
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya [tribute] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Either way, by compulsion or persuasion, there is no question but that a literal reading of the Koran requires the most strenuous efforts on the part of Muslims to convert all non-Muslims until they submit or perish. Is this acceptable to devout Christians? Letâ€™s take one pivotal paragraph from Dr. Zmirakâ€™s article,
...Because Catholics believe this, and because we wish all human beings to follow the easiest and most secure road to eternal union with a loving God, we have an absolute duty to evangelize Jews (along with Protestants and all Godâ€™s other children). If we did anything less, it would deny their fundamental humanity. Period.
and modify it just a bit:
Precisely. Because Muslims believe this, and because we wish all human beings to follow the easiest and most secure road to eternal submission to the will of Allah, we have an absolute duty to convert Catholics (along with Jews, Protestants and all other infidels). If we did anything less, it would deny their fundamental humanity. Period.
How would Dr. Zmirak or Dr. Mohler be likely to respond, if confronted with a Muslim making the second argument? I suspect it would be something like â€œgo ahead, deny my humanity if thatâ€™s what it takes for you to get that Koran out of my face.â€
A few days ago, I linked to an article entitled â€œHow to make America an Islamic nation.â€ It described a utopian USA, where alcohol is illegal, where presumably the consumption of pork is prohibited and women are required by law to dress and behave in accordance with the Muslim view of modesty. This ideal is to be attained by demographic expansion, education and exposition. In short, by peaceful means.
And yet, I doubt that this is what our leaders, our news moderators and our fellow bloggers mean when they call for the emergence of a â€œmoderate Islam.â€ Moderate Islam, it is supposed, will encourage tolerance and understanding, Muslim communities living peacefully alongside Christian and Jewish communities, each respecting the traditions and beliefs and lifestyles of the other without having to adopt them as their own and without seeking to impose them on others. Weâ€™re told that Islam must change, must abandon its practice of conquest, must reinterpret its Scripture (as Judaism and Christianity allegedly have done) to become a faith that respects other faiths. A faith that respects other faiths.
Now a moderate voice along those same lines has tentatively emerged in the Catholic Church. This voice suggests that perhaps itâ€™s time to reevaluate the policy of denigrating every other faith and belief system on earth, that perhaps itâ€™s time to take a new look at the word of God in light of what humanity has hopefully learned in the past 2,000 years. And this voice is met with ridicule and derision. "Apostasy," says Dr. Zmirak. "Can the US bishops do anything else wrong this year?" asks Josh Trevino. "They don't mean it," says Mark Shea. Why is it that the people who counsel moderation to the Muslims canâ€™t begin to apply their counsel to themselves, their co-religionists and their colleagues?
Tomorrow (or maybe the day after) some thoughts on the differences between genocide by conversion, assimilation and execution and the ancient but still futile mission of the â€œJewish Christians.â€