There’s a supplicant from the Navaho Nation. A few from the now-defunct faith of Judaism. There are Roman Catholics. There’s at least one Hindu. Mormons are represented, as are Baha’is of the United States. Islam and Sikh’s will be there. Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, Presbyterians, independent charismatics, and Buddhism have a place in the line-up too. And, because no event of ecumenism could possibly be complete without them, so too will Southern Baptists be involved.
The Washington National Cathedral is the site for the “interfaith” prayer service that is to be held the day after the inauguration. Many high profile evangelicals have been involved in the event during recent history. In 1985, Billy Graham preached a sermon at Reagan’s inaugural service. Since then, the likes of Foursquare’s Jack Hayford, Soujourners’ Jim Wallis, and North Point’s Andy Stanley have all stood on the dais.
This year will find former Southern Baptist Convention Presidents Ronnie Floyd and Jack Graham engaged in the prayer service for the newly inaugurated President. They will be joined by Greg Laurie, David Jeremiah, and a granddaughter of Billy Graham, along with the many other interfaith representatives. Jack Graham and Greg Laurie will be offering a prayer. Jeremiah and Floyd have been picked to read Scripture.
But, do you see the problem? The problem is not about praying for the new President. Scripture commands us to do that.
The preeminent problem is that those who should know better … Graham, Floyd, and Jeremiah, for example … are serving – to those who know what Scripture teaches on such matters – as a clear example of willful violation of Scriptural commands. To engage in a spiritual enterprise with non-believers is unequivocally forbidden by our God.
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”
2 Corinthians 6:14-18
We don’t get to make the rules on this. God does – and has. We are not to ferret out “exception” clauses from Scripture that allow for professing believers to join hands with professing unbelievers in an intentional spiritual endeavor. There are no “exception” clauses. There’s no “well, it’s America” clause that justifies it. There is no “it’s an honor for us to be notably featured” clause that permits it. There is no “we’ll get to speak to Truth” clause that allows it. There is no “Trump” clause that allows these high-profile evangelical leaders to “trump” what Scripture teaches and clearly forbids.
As a result of this intentional, willful violation of Scripture, not only will faithful, onlooking evangelical believers be served up a poor example of “situational obedience to Scripture,” so too will the unbelieving world looking on see what the God-less, Gospel-less world already thinks it sees – that all religion is the same, in just different garb, with different lingo, and with different words. The world sees a synthesis of choices that all point to “God.” It reaffirms the deception to the observant unbeliever that there are many paths up the mountain.
And this is why God has forbidden it. He is the One True, Living God. Ours is “the faith … once delivered.”
“When Paul then says, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers,” he is calling for separation…listen carefully…at the religious level. That’s what he means. At the spiritual level. He’s talking about in a spiritual enterprise. You can’t…you can’t play with false religion. You can’t yoke up true teachers and false teachers. You can’t take true Christianity and link it to a false, damnable demonic lie. You can’t do that. You have to separate yourself from all of that. ” John MacArthur (Source)
What he is saying is you cannot link up with unbelievers in religious causes or religious enterprises. You cannot go to their worship and become a part of it; you can’t make them a part of the kingdom of God. You can’t engage them in anything that involves ministry, teaching, or worship. Where there is ministry, teaching, and worship there has to be absolute separation.” John MacArthur (Source)
When Ronnie Floyd reads from the Bible, he’ll be following behind a guy who may have just offered a Native American prayer to the spirit god of the eagle. (Carlyle Begay, the Navajo Nation representative, is also an Arizona state senator, who, according to Wikipedia, “was raised under the teachings of his ancestry, instilling in him the importance of remembering the story of his people and carrying it on to his descendants.”)
When Jack Graham and Greg Laurie take their respective turns praying, they will be following a Muslim who will have offered prayer to a false, dangerous, demonically-conceived deity. The Apostle Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, has forbidden such alliances. We are to be obedient servants to the Word and faithful stewards of the Gospel. Inserting that Gospel and that Word as just other options in a spiritual enterprise where various faiths have an equal voice is not obedient and is not faithful stewardship of the single most important Truth in the world.
When Franklin Graham stands to pray at a political event alongside a charlatan or a rabbi, the distinction of the apostle is not precluding. An inauguration is not a spiritual enterprise. It is not a prayer event. It is a secular gathering for a secular purpose. But when a gathering is intentionally labeled as a prayer service – a purposefully spiritual endeavor – it is in clear violation to participate unless those joining in also share the same fundamental faith, “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3)
Participation in such a show of unity may make for an impressive addition to one’s ministerial resume. It may enhance one’s Christian conference tour credentials. It may make access to the Oval Office more likely and it may make one’s influence in the Congressional halls of power carry a little more clout.
But what it does not do is serve as a faithful example for Scriptural obedience to the Sovereign God who commanded that such behavior not occur. It does nothing to advance the Gospel – in the event that it is even shared. Indeed, it dilutes the gospel as an also-ran among other, perhaps culturally palatable, flavors of religion.
Ours is a narrow path. Increasingly the superficial church in America is more about the sovereignty of Americanism than it is the sovereignty of God. And, correspondingly, the church has fewer and fewer leaders who will exemplify obedience to the Word. It’s far easier and far more popular to exemplify tolerance to the world, to acquiescence to calls to “co-exist,” and settle into the smorgasbord of religious ecumenism, grateful to the secular and pagan powers for a seat at the ecumenical spread.
We must not forget that never has our God needed any person or any nation to advance His agenda. Instead, by grace, He has chosen to use individuals to declare His manifest revelation to the world. He has not needed His people to forge alliances with the false gods of foreign nations to propel His mission, His Kingdom, or His Truth forth. But He has chosen us as stewards of His gospel of grace that, by our faithful proclamation of it to the nations, He might save whom He will.
When the interfaith representatives in this prayer gathering coalesce in the National Cathedral, while Ronnie Floyd puts his Bible where moments earlier a koran was placed, or when Jack Graham bows his head to pray after the spirit of the eagle may just have been summoned, they aren’t obediently representing Christ or His Church. They aren’t distinguishing Christ’s Gospel. They aren’t serving as a bold witness to His Truth, but rather, they are serving as hirelings all too eager to sing kum-bah-yah with pagans in order to achieve some temporal influence and exude some affinity for culturally-approved unity.
They will be serving as witnesses to what drives so much of the evangelical church today, not obedience to the commands of Scripture, but the illicit ambitions of “American” Christianity. But our God is not enthroned in Washington, D.C. His Gospel is not a static display in the National Archives. The faithfulness of our God is not measured in the number of conservatives in the Congress or by pro-life votes on the Supreme Court. And His Truth is never to be contaminated by engaging in spiritual endeavors with pagans and those who follow the doctrines of demons. (1 Timothy 4:1)
It’s worthwhile to recall God’s displeasure at such associations of His Holiness with pagan idolatry. Consider 1 Samuel 5:1-12
When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. 1 Samuel 5:1-6
The men who did not die were struck with tumors, and the cry of the city went up to heaven. 1 Samuel 5:12
Authentic believers in the God of His Word realize that we must pray for our leaders. (2 Timothy 2:1-2) We must daily intercede for their salvation, for their wisdom, and for their pursuit of godly justice. But we must never sacrifice the preeminence of our God, His Word, or His Gospel by presuming to place it alongside the Dagons of America in the pursuit of the American dream or “interfaith” unity.
We have a God who has commanded us against such things, and He has given us a Gospel that does not unite. He has given us a Gospel which divides. (Luke 12:51) That is what we are to protect, proclaim, and obey.
“Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Jesus, Luke 12:51
To be sure, we will not unite by temporal efforts in a secularly-sanctioned event what Christ and His Gospel intend to divide. Neither should we try.
[Contributed by Bud Ahlheim]