I would like to lay to rest a meme that has been repeated over the past few weeks. It is not that I have not already pointed out the foundational error in the reasoning that is utilized here, for I have. But falsehood mutates over time, and once it takes on a different form, it can still bring confusion, even if it has already been refuted. So let’s take care of this one, shall we?
Dr. Gregory Williams of thegospelmandate.org has alleged sin on my part in participating in the dialogue with Dr. Yasir Qadhi, focusing upon the fact that part of the dialogue took place in a Christian church. Of course, it was a week night, it was not a service of the church, and it was a ticketed event, which means everyone who came knew exactly what they were going to see and desired to see and hear just that, but that kind of context is normally ignored by the critics. It fits the “meme” better for people to assume it was a Sunday morning service and an Imam was invited to preach the sermon. In any case, Dr. Williams has been insisting that his view has the support of Dr. John MacArthur. He has provided a graphic of Dr. MacArthur’s commentary on 2 Corinthians 6:14ff. The assertion is that by engaging in a discussion of the agreements and differences between Christianity and Islam, I am becoming ἑτεροζυγέω with an unbeliever. Before looking at MacArthur’s commentary, let’s consider this perspective for a moment. Given that Dr. Qadhi and I did not view ourselves as being “joined” in any fashion, did not proclaim ourselves fellow servants of the same God, say that we were cooperating together in trying to accomplish a spiritual goal or mission, etc., wouldn’t the application of this text end up prohibiting almost all activities within the human sphere for Christians? If discussing differences in beliefs means we are “unequally yoked,” then all witnessing encounters would fall under this condemnation, would they not? Was Paul unequally yoked with the philosophers and religious men on Mars Hill? With his unbelieving opponents in the synagogue? How about in business? If Paul had to buy animal hides from unbelievers to make his tents, was he “unequally yoked”? Clearly, the only way to interpret Paul’s words has to do with specifically religious and spiritual activities where there is a need for *commonality of faith* to accomplish the ends, such as, for example, evangelism, church planting, etc. So with this in mind please read the graphic containing Dr. MacArthur’s comments (as provided by Dr. Williams I note).
Now let’s note Dr. MacArthur’s specific words: “He called for separation in matters OF THE WORK OF GOD….” I.e., in the church. Dr. Qadhi has not, to my knowledge, applied for membership in any Christian churches, let alone leadership positions therein. He had no intention of working in Christian work, pretending to promote Christianity, proclaim the gospel, etc. We continue, “…since such cooperation for spiritual benefit is impossible. The false teachers…” Please note that in context these are false teachers *who claim to be Christians and are in the church at Corinth.* These are not members of other religions outside the church who are the objects of the church’s evangelistic efforts. We continue, “were eager to blend the people of God with the pagan worshipers, because that hinders the gospel. That is what this text forbids.” This seems to be in the context of the meat offered in sacrifice to idols and the pagan idolatry rampant in Corinth. Again, this is in reference to *false teachers* within the church that were opponents of Paul’s and who were seeking to undermine his authority there in Corinth.
“To infiltrate churches under the guise of tolerance and cooperation is one of Satan’s most cunning ploys. He does not want to fight the church as much as join it. When he comes against the church, it grows stronger; when he joins with the church, it grows weaker.” Please note again: this is all in the context of joining with the church, infiltrating the church (and, I hope I do not need to point out that the church at this time did not have “buildings” per se, so the church is the assembly of believers wherever they meet for prayer and worship and proclamation and discipline) etc. Continuing, “Undiscerning believers who join in a common spiritual cause with unbiblical forms of Christianity or other false religions open the door wide to satanic infiltration and forfeit the blessing of God.” The phrase “common spiritual cause” is defined by the Greek term ἑτεροζυγέω—the beasts are supposed to be pulling the same direction for the same result, but cannot do so because they are of different breeds. “Further, embracing those heretical systems….” Please note “embracing.” “…falsely reassures their followers that all is well between them and God, when actually they are headed for eternal damnation.”
The thinking reader has already seen numerous problems with the application of these words to the dialogue in Memphis, or any future dialogues (as we certainly hope to have them). Phrase after phrase jumps out. These comments are about engaging in the work of God in the church, not evangelistic efforts or discussing each other’s faiths so as to foster good will and an atmosphere where the gospel can be given a fair hearing with understanding. The context is about false teachers who claim to be Christians, not those representing other faiths. Reference is made to joining the church, not joining a dialogue *at* a building where the church meets on the Lord’s Day. Common spiritual cause would assume a common goal, worship, faith, etc., which the dialogue with Dr. Qadhi specifically recognized does not exist, nor was any effort being made to cause it to exist (i.e., through ecumenical compromise). What it envisions involves “embracing heretical systems” which I surely did not do or suggest. Finally, this activity “falsely reassures” the followers of these false faiths that all is well between them and God: Dr. Qadhi and I said the exact opposite, actually, which is what makes the false application of these words to our discussion so ironic.
I think these considerations are more than sufficient to lay to rest the inappropriate application of these comments to the Memphis dialogues.