Thanks to Chris at Wings of the Wind for his indirect contributions to this post.
In my last “Weekend Roundup” post, I commented on a recent “dialogue” session held in Idaho featuring evangelical and Mormon apologists. The purpose of that dialogue was to promote understanding between the two “parties” and find common ground. Argh! I’m definitely of the opinion that evangelical apologists should debate false religionists rather than dialogue with them. Accommodation and cooperation with error are slippery slopes that always lead to compromise and betrayal of the Gospel. Try to imagine the apostle Paul endeavoring to dialogue with the priests of 1st-century Roman paganism in order to benefit “mutual understanding and respect.” Imagine, if you can, Charles Spurgeon, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John R. Rice, or James R. White having dialogue sessions with clerics of false religions. Stop the tape! James R. White? I should definitely rewind that statement in light of recent events.
I truly appreciate the ministry of evangelical apologist, James R. White. He’s done some excellent work examining Roman Catholicism and other non-Christian groups. I have favorably reviewed several of his books on this blog. Where other popular apologists have accommodated and compromised, White has stood firmly on the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. I can’t think of another apologist who has engaged in more debates with false religionists than James White. There are those who have criticized White for his sometimes brash approach but perhaps a debater needs a bit of a thick skin.
This past January, White inexplicably chose to hold two dialogue sessions with Dr. Yasir Qadhi, “one of the most influential conservative clerics in American Islam.” One of the sessions was held at an evangelical church and the other at a mosque. The purpose of the project was to increase understanding between Christians and Muslims. It appears that one of the specific goals of the dialogues was to convince the Christian audience that the extremist views of Al-Qaeda and ISIS are not representative of the majority of Muslims in this country.
Dr. White is currently catching a lot of flak from some concerned Christians for organizing the dialogue sessions with Dr. Qadhi. They wonder why a Muslim apologist was allowed to promote Islam in a church setting. They wonder why White felt obligated to help Muslims counter the general public’s negative perception of Islam due to jihadist terrorism. Is that White’s responsibility?
I believe Christian apologists should be debating false religionists, not dialoguing with them. Certainly, individual Christians “dialogue” all the time with unsaved friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances in order to ultimately lead them to salvation in Jesus Christ. But dialoguing with clerics of false religions in front of audiences in an effort to “increase mutual understanding and respect” is definitely not the mission of apologists of the Gospel. Despite this recent breach of prudence, I honestly don’t believe James White would participate in a dialogue session with Roman Catholic clerics. How then did he see clear to organizing friendly dialogue sessions with a Muslim cleric?
I believe Dr. White made a mistake in this case, a rather large one. But nobody’s perfect. We all have spiritual blind spots. We must pray for Dr. White as he deals with the repercussions of his regrettable choice. Unfortunately but predictably, some of the objections to Dr. White’s misjudgment are being posted on the internet in the form of ad hominem attacks.
“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” – Ephesians 5:11
White’s defense of his dialogues with Yasir Qadhi begins at the 27:50 mark of the video below: