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Friday, November 25, 2005

More on Syncretism - A Missouri Baptist Discusses David Benke and Other Stuff 

From The Pathway. By Don Hinkle:

Anyone who thinks Missouri Baptists are the only ones dealing with theological conflict these days should consider the growing rift in the theologically conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

The controversy began in the days following the World Trade Center catastrophe in which the Rev. David H. Benke, pastor of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Brooklyn, participated in an ecumenical prayer service for those traumatized by the Sept. 11 tragedy. Offering prayers with Benke at the service were Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs.

The Rev. Wallace Schulz, second vice president of the Missouri Synod and the main preacher for "The Lutheran Hour," a St. Louis-based Gospel program carried by more than 1,000 radio stations, ruled Benke guilty of "syncretism" – mixing Christian and non-Christian beliefs – "because he prayed with pagans"....

Praying with people of other faiths is seen as an act of betrayal to their history and beliefs by many members of the Missouri Synod and it does raise a legitimate theological concern: does the mere appearance by a Christian clergyman participating in a religious service on a public stage with pagan leaders constitute syncretism?...

As one might expect, in its coverage of the Benke case, the theologically shallow Washington Post asked if Christians should "take the gospel into the public square in a pluralistic, multicultural society?" I find it deeply disturbing that an American newspaper the stature of The Washington Post would even ask such a question. Not only should Christians take the Gospel "to the ends of the earth," but Christians MUST if we are to fulfill the Great Commission....Thus The Washington Post misses the point in the Benke case because the Lutheran pastor was not engaging – at least directly – in an evangelistic role at the time....

From Mt. Carmel to Mars Hill, Scripture is full of examples of God’s men standing on the public stage with pagan leaders, but in each case the pagans were confronted with their worthless beliefs (Elijah even taunted them). I am certainly not an advocate of Christian leaders haranguing anyone because that, too, can hurt our Christian witness. But I am suggesting that our Christian leaders prayerfully consider what events they should – and should not -- be participants. It is one thing to stand on the county courthouse steps with a Presbyterian pal, but it is another to do it with the prophets of Baal.

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