The contributors to Choosing Hats have unanimously chosen to comment upon the recent controversy surrounding Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries.
White has faced extreme criticism related to his apologetics ministry to Muslims. Since Choosing Hats embraces what is known as the doctrine of Total Depravity, we also believe that no man, including White, is above correction.
Additionally, we believe the greatest care should be given to any apologetic endeavor. An apologist is under constant attack – not just from his unbelieving opponents and methodological detractors – but from his own flesh, the world, and the devil.
The aforementioned obstacles to faithful apologetic witness are particularly strong when engaging with members of some false religions, like Islam, which, along with other unique characteristics, is at this very moment in the center of the political spotlight in the United States of America. For these reasons, we call upon Christians – particularly those gifted or interested in the area of apologetics or knowledgeable about Islam – to pray for White, recognizing what he faces on a daily basis, particularly when he is addressing Islam.
The discussion of Islam in America includes a wide array of what can sometimes be extremely complex and emotional topics. Sharia law, violence, terrorism, refugees, and freedom of religion factor into almost any conversation surrounding Islam. We face uncertain times in our nation, not because what is happening all around us is unprecedented, but because we act like it is.
Unfortunately, it’s becoming popular to read a warped understanding of the ‘doctrine of separation’ into several different texts of Scripture in an attempt to justify anti-evangelistic, anti-intellectual, and even hateful (we use this word carefully, wondering what the alternative to loving dialogue is?) attitudes toward more ‘undesirable’ groups of unbelievers such as Muslims. These attitudes are easily accented by our current political climate. Thankfully, as Christians, our unchanging source of truth is plain with respect to how we as Christians must respond to false faiths, even those that tend to produce the really bad sorts of sinners. We should pay close attention to the context of one of the most crucial texts of Scripture related to apologetics in the Bible.
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17)
Unfortunately, a number of conspiracy theorist Christians are placing the supposed significance of their political affiliations and ideas far above the importance of the gospel. They pretend to have inside information on jihad and terrorism that the rest of us do not have access to. They claim White is duped about this information. They imply that the United States government either does not know or does not care about their supposed inside information. A closer look reveals they are very clearly placing their own health, wealth, and prosperity above the proclamation and defense of the gospel in terms of importance.
We do not believe false teachers should be granted a platform without opposition during a regular corporate worship gathering. We reject any attempt to work from supposed “common ground” outside of the imago Dei and context of God’s created order. We deny that local gatherings of believers are identifiable with the physical buildings wherein they happen to meet. And we think White would agree.
White’s relationships with particular Muslim apologists have been called into question. We note such relationships are not unique for White, nor unique to White. Indeed, White has joined many other Christians before him who have faithfully defended the gospel in exchanges with Muslims without compromising on any of his beliefs. His friendships with Muslims have provided him opportunity to highlight and affirm the common ground of the imago Dei, obtain firsthand knowledge of Muslim beliefs, and draw a sharp distinction between Christianity and Islam in terms of the authoritative revelation of God, the Trinity, the person of Christ, and salvation by grace through faith.
Although some believers have lovingly and truthfully expressed their concern about this controversy in a civil manner with the best of intentions, it is clear that many others have not attempted to lovingly build White up, but to tear him down. If White’s supposed error cannot be pinpointed in his doctrine or morality, and if he has not broken the law, then there is simply nothing here to make such a great fuss about. We condemn their shameful reaction to a perceived fault in a brother and encourage them to repent. As it stands, they are only bringing disrepute upon themselves and the name of Jesus Christ.
We express our admiration and support for Dr. White. He did not ask us to do so. We are not jumping on a bandwagon (although some of White’s critics have claimed they are doing exactly that). We commit to praying for him, his opponents, and his critics. We continue to strongly recommend his apologetic work, especially pertaining to Islam, as we always have.
– The Choosing Hats Contributors