For the past year and a half I have been in dialog with religious leaders in my community. Not a “ministerial alliance” of sorts. Not an effort to formulate a unitarian front for all religions to showcase equality among religions even. It has been an honest dialog among evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, and others that we can live civil lives as neighbors while holding different and even incompatible religious views about God.
In this thriving community of Twin Falls there have been fiery discussions in the public forum about refugees coming through our refugee center. I expect the conversation is far from over. The Christian concerned about Islam and not about Mormonism is inconsistent in logical expression. The citizen not wanting a mosque in Twin Falls and has no issue with a Mormon temple in town is uninformed. Any attempt to coerce the local government to refuse the free expression of one religion in favor of another is in violation of religious freedom from government coercion upon the conscience of humanity.
The risk in what I’m about to say is not that I’m saying what I’m saying. I’m pleased to stand with my Baptist heritage upon this matter of religious freedom. I have not been quiet on what I believe the Bible teaches about truth. Truth is truth. My church has hosted open conversations about the truth of Islam and the danger of an uninformed citizen on the incompatible spiritual status Christianity has with Islam. I’ve had the same conversation about Mormonism, Freemasonry, Jehovah Witness, date setting false prophets, and military funeral protesting Baptists in Topeka, KS. A misunderstanding among many is that to take a position on truth is unfair or unkind. Another misunderstanding among others is that to behave neighborly toward someone you disagree with is a compromise on truth.
Today I post my personal reflection on Religious Freedom as an attempt to clarify any unintentional misunderstanding. I welcome open dialog on my position. And welcome any discussion about truth with all. Not because I think my religion is missing out on what another religion knows, but because I want to have an uncoerced conversation with anyone willing to dialog. I’ll bring my uncompromising belief about truth with me and I am pleased to do so while living next door or across town from you.
Where it is my hope that all people everywhere would be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ as defined by the Bible and I wish that all would hold to Biblical principles and precepts. I have no right to enforce or require doctrines by coercion. There is no authority among men who has the right to force any doctrine upon anyone by institutional statute. I hold that all are at liberty to exercise their religion, whether it is Judaism, Paganism, Roman Catholicism, Mormonism, or Islamic practice, so far as the civil law is concerned.
This is not a statement of equality of all religions, as some will charge, it is statement of the liberty of the conscience of humanity to worship as they desire within the reasonableness of mutual respect within the common human experience in this temporal day. Therefore, all persecution to force the conscience of any soul to maintain, convert, or agree with any other religion is radically wrong.
This is a consistent historical place that I stand in regard to this belief. I am in agreement with my Baptist heritage that we have never been oppressive upon the conscience of others in regard to liberty. Baptists have been unwavering in respect to religious and civil liberties. It has been, and must always be, the right of every human to worship God or not worship God.
Where I hold that the Bible is the only reliable source by which we can know God or know how to worship God, I must not behave outside of the practice of liberty of the conscience of my neighbor. This liberty does not forbid me from speaking of my belief, or attempting to persuade my neighbor to repent and turn to Christ, humanity’s only Redeemer. It does however constrain me to behave, at times, as a defender of religious liberty for my neighbor who disagrees with me. This is not to be confused with tolerance.
I do not practice religious equality that is unitarian where all religions claim they are leading to the same God. Hear me clearly, I hold that there is only one God, there is only one way to God and that is through the Lord Jesus Christ as defined by the Bible only. I would not allow a Mormon teacher to teach the Bible in my church, I would not participate in any community event that requires my Muslim neighbor to leave our country, while at the same time I do not concede that we worship the same God at all. Tolerance is a concession that all beliefs are equal and would require me and my Roman Catholic neighbor to ignore our religious liberty to worship as we see without either one being forced against our conscience.
It is as George W. Truett once said (1920), “It is the consistent and insistent contention of our Baptist people, always and everywhere, that religion must be forever voluntary and uncoerced, and that it is not the prerogative of any power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, to compel men to conform to any religious creed or form of worship, or to pay taxes for the support of a religious organization to which they do not believe.”
Where I hold that there is only one Living, Triune God as defined by the Bible alone, it is biblically clear that God wants free worshipers and no other kind.
Twin Falls, Idaho