In the course of refuting the claims of cults or false religions, one of the most frequent feedback I get from people is: “Why are you attacking people’s religions? Why don’t you just preach Jesus?” Some take it further: “A real Christian does not attack other people’s beliefs. You’re a false Christian.” At first glance, these responses appear legitimate, but when it comes right down to it, they are really masks of ignorance, self-righteousness and passive aggression.
For one, most false religious systems seldom reject Jesus outright, instead, they “re-work” Him into their beliefs. Thus, just “preaching Jesus” to them is not enough, we need to carefully distinguish Him and the Gospel from the clever counterfeits and misrepresentations being peddled by false religions and false teachers today.
It must be emphasized that critiquing beliefs is not bigoted, unchristian or unethical, rather, it’s the epitome of proper Christian conduct where a very vital part of the Christian witness is concerned. If we don’t scrutinise beliefs for fear of being labelled as “haters,” how are we going to arrive at the truth?
Many Christians think it’s beneath their dignity to attack beliefs because they think a criticism of another’s religious beliefs is the same as having a personal antagonism towards those adhering to the beliefs. This is not true. A person can be deceived and still have morals. When some Christians are told, for example, that Islam is a wicked religion, the images of their loving and gentle Muslim friends, relatives or colleagues flash through their minds with the thought: “If these folks are mild, then Islam couldn’t be violent.” So, by projecting the positive qualities they’ve observed in some Muslims on Islam, they rise to defend it. But Islam is neither a race nor a person, it’s a religion, and the extent to which an individual follows it is the extent to which he/she expresses its “fruits.”
Many people are also influenced by the “live and let’s live” societal ideas. This relativistic school of thought assumes that other people’s beliefs are just as valid as ours. This is what constitutes “political correctness” – a concept that emerged from Communism. It’s really an isolationist thinking that fails to situate complex issues in their proper contexts.
Controversy and criticism have always served as a stimulus to novel ideas and catalyst for needed reforms in advanced societies. All through church history, exposing and refuting objectionable heresies have always had their merits – whether in making the Christian church to define her doctrines more clearly, define the limits of Christian belief or drive the saints to study the Bible more diligently to know the real truth. Such confrontations have led Believers to develop a confident, refined and self-disciplined community.
To suggest that aberrant teachings within or without the church mustn’t be challenged chokes the seeds of truth in people’s hearts and stacks the desk to favour deception. This neutrality to false religions among Christians is also a reflection of some “versions” of modern Christianity. Before one can see the necessity to “contend for the faith” – the body of teaching entrusted to God’s people – one firsts need to know and understand the essentials of the Faith (Jude 3). But when a Christian is being reared on a steady diet of “21 Laws of Success,” or “45 Principles of Wealth,” countering heresies will leave a bad taste in his/her mouth.
The current trend of Christians bending backwards to appease world religions is an outgrowth of a “feel good” religious culture and ecumenism which elevate feelings, sensations and unity above truth.
Thou Shall Not Judge!
A Bible passage frequently flogged around by those who want us to stay silent is Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” Their point: Jesus says Christians shouldn’t speak against other faiths. Is this what Jesus was really saying or people are ignorantly (or willfully) taking this verse out of its context? A text without a context is a pretext. Let’s look at the next 4 verses:
2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Jesus was addressing hypocrites – those who refuse to take responsibility for their own faults before judging the faults of others. It was a warning against hypocrisy. Apostle Paul echoed this in Romans 2:22 “You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” This hypocrisy is seen in how cults attack others for what they are guilty of.
Jehovah’s Witnesses carp about Christendom encouraging people to sacrifice their lives for their states, but the Watchtower Society doesn’t mention how it has sacrificed the lives of many of its followers with its prohibition of blood transfusion. Seventh Day Adventists denounce the papacy as devilish, but steadily bring up their “popess” Ellen White from under the carpet as an alternative guide to truth. This is what Jesus was condemning.
This also plays out among the rock-not-the-boat crowd. A Christian lady recently messaged me saying, “Why don’t you leave God himself to judge who is right or wrong?” But her final line reads: “You are hurt, very hurt about something. That’s basically my idea about you.” She’s telling me to allow God judge and at the same time judging my heart and motives! People who reason like this don’t realise that a judgemental criticism of judgement is self-refuting, because to determine that a person is wrong or right requires judgement.
In vs. 6 of Matthew 7, Jesus said: “Give not that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” These are directives for us to judge what is holy and people if they are symbolically “dogs or pigs.” In scripture, the term “dogs” is used of fools (Pr. 26:11), false prophets (Is. 56:10), wicked men (Ps. 22:16), homosexuals (Dt. 23:18) and backsliders (2 Pet. 2:20-23). Thus, Jesus was telling us to judge lives and teachings.
In vs. 13, He speaks of the “narrow gate” and the wide gate of destruction through which many enter. But to suggest today that a respectable cult with millions of adherents is a broad way of destruction is deemed hateful and rude. Jesus said: “Beware of false prophets [or teachers] … You will know them by what they produce.” (vs 15-16) To know true or false teachers, we must judge their lives and teachings. In John 7:24, Jesus gave us a guideline for judging: “Stop judging by outward appearance! Instead judge correctly.”
Apostle Paul said to the Corinthian church “I have already judged the man who did this as though I were present with you” (1 Cor. 5:3). “Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge” (1 Cor 14:29). He warned us against those teaching another Jesus or against receiving a false spirit and a false gospel (2 Cor 11:4-5). The need to judge false beliefs and evil actions is well spelt out in the Bible. It was commanded by Christ and practiced by His apostles and Satan hates it because it unmasks his lies.
Let’s Respect other Religions!
We are told that attacking other people’s beliefs may provoke riots or chaos. Those with this utopian worldview believe truth must be sacrificed for the sake of peace and Christians should just silently flow along with every erroneous beliefs or at best, complain in their closets. In his presidential release over the Christian woman killed by a Muslim mob for alleged blasphemy this past month, President Muhammadu Buhari said:
“Let us learn to respect each other’s faith for there to be mutual co-existence.”
This is a stylish victim-blaming remark. It presumes that the woman overstepped her bounds by allegedly blaspheming, hence, if she had respected this peaceful cult, she wouldn’t have been killed. This is preposterous. If one doesn’t believe in the god of Islam, one doesn’t have to shut one’s mouth to avoid allegations of blasphemy, particularly in a democratic clime. Why must we be given the option of either believing or pandering to a religion so we can keep our lives? That is dehumanisation and a gross violation of human rights.
To assert that religions must be respected for mutual co-existence is a fallacy. If all religions must be respected, it must include witchcraft, satanism or any death cult that comes along. The sword of religious freedom cuts in both ways. If people are free to believe a thing, they must also be free to question and reject it. If the pope of Rome is worthy of reverence, he is also worthy of ridicule. Anyone who doesn’t want his religious hero or sacred book to be attacked should lock them up in private vaults or seal them in a chest and bury them. But so long as they occupy the public spaces, and are shoved in our faces, they are liable to criticism and scrutiny from anyone.
Many a time, Muslims, for example, don’t want to be “offended” or have Islam attacked, but can go to any extent in attacking others, especially Christianity. A Christian guy once told me that exposing the errors of Jehovah’s Witnesses on social media is “counter productive.” I asked him to explain to me why it is “productive” when JWs attack Christianity but “counter-productive” when we respond to them. He became silent. Such hypocrisy.
Some will say “we just need to love them.” Yes, and the first duty of love is to “speak the truth” (Eph. 4:15). A “perfect love gets rid of fear” (1 Jn. 4:18), but if we are afraid to speak the truth to the deceived, our love is not complete. Love without truth is whoredom. While the Bible instructs us to “show proper respect to everyone,” it doesn’t tell us to respect religions that are leading people into eternal judgement (1 Pet. 2:17).
Jesus attacked religious leaders calling them “hypocrites…teaching for doctrines the commandments of men…blind leaders of the blind … fools and blind … whited sepulchres… serpents, generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell” (Matt. 15:7,9 : 23:19-27). If some Christians were alive then, they would demand Jesus return to these leaders to apologise for hurting their feelings. Jesus said “Go…and teach all nations…all things I have commanded you” (Mt. 28:19-20), but some modern church leaders are teaching: “Go into all the nations and try to find agreement with the major religions as possible.”
Stephen was described as “full of God’s grace and power.” When the unbelieving Jews tried to dispute with him “they could not stand up against the wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.” There is a wisdom God bestows on us as we respond to the enemies of the Gospel (Acts 6:8, 10).
Paul went to the Jewish synagogue and for three days “reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving” who Jesus is and what He has done (Acts 17:2-3). Today, we can do more than tell people trapped in false religions that Jesus loves them, we should also reason with them, explaining what we believe and why.
“So he [Paul] reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day…” (Acts 17:17)
“They arrived at Ephesus where Paul … went into the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews” (Acts 18:19).
“For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.” (Acts 18:28)
“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” (Acts 19:8)
We can thus understand why the people screamed that the early Christians “have caused trouble all over the world” (Acts 17:6). The Bible is not an ecumenical book. It warns us against false beliefs, false teachers, and false churches, and it’s our responsibility to expose and reprove them. Christians attacking us for not respecting false religions need to get off their soap box and start studying their Bibles to obey it.