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When Religions Collide Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
June 22, 2022 1:00 am

When Religions Collide Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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June 22, 2022 1:00 am

Christians are living in a pluralistic world filled with conflict. Different religions, different ideologies, different philosophies abound. In this message, we journey through history to understand where Christians came from in the first century to contemporary America. Will we respect the opinions of others while we courageously show them the exclusive Way to God?

This month’s special offer is available for a donation of any amount. Get yours at or call us at 1-888-217-9337.

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. America has been called a melting pot. Trouble is, varying religions don't melt together very well.

Despite our Judeo-Christian roots, the Ten Commandments are now censored even when they hang over courtroom benches. Today, a story of conflict and how to handle it. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line.

Pastor Lutzer, tell us about the series that begins on today's program. Well, you know Dave, the kind of challenges we have in America today are not new. We say to ourselves, there are many different religions here among us, and there are, but that's what the early church also confronted. Christianity was a minority religion.

So the question is, how did believers live in the midst of other religions? And of course, that's exactly what we face today. Not only that, but we face political issues. I don't need to tell you that we are living at a time of great polarization, accusation, finger pointing. How do we as Christians manage in the midst of a world that seems to be in conflict? Well, let's listen carefully.

Well, the agenda today can be simply stated. How do we live as authentic Christians in a pluralistic society, a society of many different religions? That question was brought home to me this past week. I spent a few hours in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania this past week, flew there Monday morning and came back Monday afternoon, Monday evening. Spoke to some pastors in a hotel, and then we went over to the Capitol, the state Capitol, surely one of the most beautiful in all of America. I was told that some weeks ago there was a prayer meeting that was planned by evangelicals. Evangelical Christians went to the powers that be and said, can we have a Commonwealth prayer meeting? And the answer was yes. And so they had a prayer meeting, but a Buddhist wanted to pray and was denied.

Well, that made front page news in Harrisburg. These intolerant Christians, who are they? Who do they think they are by excluding others?

Why are they so incredibly intolerant? There was a rabbi who actually wrote a letter to the newspaper in response to the controversy. He says that we have many different faith traditions here in Pennsylvania, in the Interfaith Alliance, a national network of people from 70 different faith groups. We've met with Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Mennonites, Brethren, and many other committed Protestant Christians.

We've encountered Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Baha'i, Sheiks, Unitarians, Wiccans, Atheists. First I read that I thought, now, why are atheists in the community of faith? Come to think of it, they have more faith than any of the other groups listed here because they believe that nothing times nobody equals everything.

And I think that takes a lot of faith. So they belong here. God bless them. We've encountered Jains, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, and others right here in central Pennsylvania, and they are not guests. They are Pennsylvanians, part of that rich cultural fabric. Certainly our legislators must understand how insulting it is to have such a large part of their constituency unrepresented.

Well, that would be an interesting primiting to have all of those 70 groups represented. Now there was another way that I began to realize the kind of changes that we have in America. I went into the Supreme Court room in Harrisburg. There you have seven chairs and the justices sit beneath a picture of Moses and very clearly spelled out the Ten Commandments. So that is there. That's not been touched. That's been there a hundred years or more. But when they hand out the Supreme Court booklet for tourists, it's very interesting and I know that you can't see this that far away. And if you're listening by radio, you can even see less, I'm sure. But you'll notice that here in this panel, there are seven justices and above them are the Ten Commandments, but they are censored out.

They are actually out of focus and they cannot be read. Now to be fair, in the rest of the book, there is a picture of the Ten Commandments along with the other kinds of law, the law of Justinian and the law of the Greeks and so forth. So the Ten Commandments is mentioned there and it is pictured, but not above the justices, even though that's what hangs above them, even as they deliberate. Now why is it that they censored out the Ten Commandments?

Well, I can understand that probably there was opposition. They said, you cannot privilege Christianity. You cannot privilege the Judeo-Christian heritage. We must be favorable to all religions and therefore the Ten Commandments have no place in hanging above the justices as they do their work. Did you know that there are those who want to rewrite the textbooks in America?

And they want to rewrite these books and take out references to God and the pilgrims and their Bible and I've actually read the reason they say is because it privileges one religion, namely Christianity above the others and you're not supposed to privilege one religion above another. Sin basically no longer exists in America, but there are still two sins left. One is eating chocolate and the other is privileging Christianity above other religions. So the question is, how do we live?

Now that's the agenda for the next 20 or 25 minutes and by the time I'm finished, you're going to have your answer. But before I turn to the scriptures, this is going to be a different kind of a message. If you're visiting here at the Moody Church, I want you to understand that normally the pastor does not give a lesson in history, but we're going to look at history because history is then going to illuminate the text of scripture and will understand its importance and its relevance, particularly for those of us who are Americans.

Now the history. In the early days of the Christian church in Rome in the first century, it was absolutely unthinkable to the Romans that one could be a good Roman citizen and at the same time be a Christian. It's not because they objected to people worshiping Jesus. All kinds of gods were worshiped and if you wanted to worship Jesus, you would have that freedom. The trouble that the Roman authorities had was that there were Christians who were worshiping Jesus and claiming that he was lord over all the other religions, that he was king of king and lord of lords, and they said that cannot be tolerated because if you believe that, you cannot be a part of our commonwealth. You can't be a good citizen. We have to understand that the glue that holds us together is our Roman religion with all of its diversity and polytheism.

You must fall into that to be a good citizen. When the Christians said no, they were thrown to the lions. Now later on after the time of Constantine, he crosses the Tiber River in 312 and Christianity gained a lot of power and a lot of adherence. Now Constantine and subsequent generations, they said let us Christianize the empire. At last, the Christians were in charge and now the Christians had the ability to persecute the heretics. At first, the sword belonged to the pagans. Now the sword belonged to the Christians and so they made everybody become a Christian. Forced conversions, 3,000 pagans being converted to Christianity in one meeting at times, and everybody had to profess faith in the Christian God. Mind you, the pagans didn't like it very well and some of them brought their own ideas into the church.

For example, the Romans had a God if you were going to buy something, a God if you were going to sell something, a God if you were going to go on a journey, and those gods couldn't be brought into the church, but those assignments were given to saints within the church. And so what you had now is the people who were in charge, the Christians, the Christians in charge, there was no freedom of religion. You look at the history of medieval theology and the history of the church and you find martyrdom. You could deny the Trinity and be burned at the stake.

No such thing as freedom of conscience. Because just like the pagans believed that you had to be of the same religion to be a good citizen, the belief was now that you had to be a Christian in order to belong to Christendom and to be a good citizen within what was called the Holy Roman Empire. Christendom now demanded that you be a Christian. And infant baptism was proof that you were a Christian.

That's why when Charles the Great said that all those who are not baptized as infants, those parents must be thrown in jail or put to death. It's not that he was interested in theology, but the similar religion you see held the Roman Empire together. Now let's go to the time of Luther. 1517, he nails his 95 theses on the castle door in Wittenberg.

Four years later, he is asked to go to Vorums. The pope had said that he was to be condemned and put to death, but the emperor, Charles the Fifth, did not want to put him to death unless at least Luther was able to be granted a hearing. So Luther comes before the Diet of Vorums.

And by the way, this has nothing to do with losing weight or anything like that. Actually, you know the word diet means like a synod. And in German, the word worms is Vorums. The W is pronounced like a V. Luther goes there a hero.

It was said that 90% of the people in Vorums were shouting that they were in favor of Luther and the other 10% were shouting death to the pope. So he comes there as a hero. He's asked, will you recant your writings? He said, I need to think about it.

And they said, we'll give you till tomorrow. Because I may not have another opportunity, I want to read parts of the prayer that he prayed that night because he knew that he would not recant. And he also knew that if the law were followed, he would be put to death, if not instantly, within a few days.

So he knows that this is his death warrant. And that night he prays, oh almighty and everlasting God, how terrible is this world. Behold it openeth its mouth to swallow me up and I have so little trust in thee.

How weak is the flesh and Satan how strong. If it is only in the strength of this world that I must put my trust, all is over. My last hour is come, my condemnation has been pronounced. Oh God, my God, help me. Help me against the wisdom of this world. I have nothing to do here, nothing to contend for with these great ones of the world. I should desire to see my days flow on peacefully and happy, but the cause is thine and it is a righteous and eternal cause.

Oh Lord, help me. Faithful and unchangeable God, in man I do not place my trust. It would be vain. All that is of man is uncertain. All that cometh from man is uncertain. Oh God, where art thou? Thou canst not die.

Thou only hidest thyself. Thou has chosen me for this work. And then he continues to pray and I must for lack of time skip until the end. I will never separate myself from thee, neither now or throughout eternity. And though the world should be filled with devils, though my body, which is still the work of thy hands, should be slain or stretched out upon the pavement, be cut in pieces, reduced to ashes. My soul is thine and thy word is my assurance of it. My soul belongs to thee. It shall abide forever with thee. Amen. Oh help me God.

The next day there were more people at the meeting than the previous one, including the emperor. Here's Luther before Charles V, before all of the German princes, and he is asked by Eck to recant. Luther then says those famous words, my conscience is taken captive by the word of God. I cannot and I will not recant. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.

So help me God. Amen. There was a hush in the hall. He was escorted out. Charles V wrote a document condemning him to death, but through some friends he, Luther was able to go to the Wartburg Castle and escape. And he lived a normal life and died at the age of 62. But here's the point. The idea that one could stand up and say that my conscience trumps church and state was unthinkable at that time.

Let's go eight years later. The Diet of Spire takes place. Charles has to call the Lutherans because he needs their support in a war against the Turks. So he has this diet and he says basically this, that in Catholic territories only Catholic services can be held, not Lutheran, but in Lutheran territories there were at least 14 cities that had Lutheran princes.

In Lutheran territories Lutheran services can be held, but no Catholic services can be held. Well, you can understand that the Lutherans protested and that's where we get the word Protestant. Whenever you think of the word Protestant, the Diet of Spire 1529. So what the Diet said was, the Protestant said, in matters of conscience, the majority has no power.

Good line. But the darker side is this, they still condemned the Anabaptists, that is the re-baptizers, those who were baptized as adults upon profession of faith. The Diet of Spire, the Lutherans agreed that these people should be put to death if necessary to stamp out this heresy. You see, a few years before this Diet, a man by the name of Felix Montz was a student of Wingley, the great reformer in Zurich, and Felix Montz was drowned because he was baptized as an adult. You couldn't do that in those days because the whole medieval order of the unity of Christendom was going to be broken up.

That was the argument. So they took him and they bound his hands, they put him in a little boat near the Rathaus in Zurich. There's a friend of mine who's here today who grew up in Zurich who knows exactly where this place is, and they pushed him out and they let him drown in the deep, dark waters of the Lamont River.

And his good friend, Swingley, says, well, if he wishes to go under the water, why indeed let him go under. If he wants to be baptized, we'll baptize him good and proper and let him drown. Now, beginning then, Anabaptism began to spread, but so many Anabaptists were massacred, whole villages of men, women, and children massacred.

Why? Because they believed that the church should be distinct from Christendom, and they believed that one should be baptized upon profession of faith rather than as an infant. But Felix Montz was the first Protestant to be forcibly drowned by Protestants, of all things. Now, there was no freedom of religion in Europe until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which brings us to America. Later on, the Puritans come and they have a European understanding of freedom of religion. They wanted freedom of religion for themselves, but not for others.

That's why Roger Williams was run out of town, because he was a Baptist. But you have the constitution of the United States of America. The idea that a nation could be unified under a constitution rather than a similar religion was a whole brand new experiment. This, at the grand scale of America, had never been tried before, that we could have one nation under God and we could say, you can belong to whatever religion you like or believe in no religion, and you also are a valid citizen of a great country. This was an experiment that in history had been beyond thought.

Nobody believed it could be done. And here we are in America today, believing that it's possible to be a good American and belong to any faith or no faith at all. Now, how do we relate in a pluralistic world? You see, in Europe and America, Christianity has always been privileged. You go to Washington and you find verses of scripture on virtually every government building. I was given a book of all the verses of scripture in the Pennsylvania State House, and it's quite a booklet.

But those days are no more. The question is, how do we live in a pluralistic world where the government may or may not anymore favor Christianity? There are three or four possible reactions. One would be to say that we accommodate our faith, that we say, let's give up the distinctiveness of the Christian faith. I was asked to pray at a political rally years ago, and I prayed in the name of Jesus. And one person was very, very incensed and says, why don't you pray an ecumenical prayer? In other words, don't mention Jesus.

I smiled very kindly and I said, I'm really sorry, but I said, you know, I don't know how to pray in any other way because Jesus is the one who brings us to the Father. Now, what we could do is we could just water it all down and say, you know what? Christianity can blend nicely with any other religion. We just simply water it down and say that it is nothing but a list of moral duties.

The other possibility is to privatize our faith, to say it belongs only to me and we'll go through our rituals, but we're not going to witness to anybody in this pluralistic world. Just the other day, somebody told me about a pastor of a large church, not in Illinois, but in some other state, who went to get a manicure. Now, just lay aside for that for a moment. Put that on the shelf, okay?

I can use a fingernail clipper and do pretty well in about a minute and a half, but anyway. And he was there and there was a Christian woman present who recognized him. She knew who he was. When he left, one of the women who worked there said to the other, you know, he's the pastor of such and such a church. And the other woman said, no, that's not possible because he's been coming here for three years. If he were the pastor of that church, surely that's something I would know about him. Shame on him. In a place like that for three years, never telling people, explaining to them the good news of the gospel, just living in your little ghetto, you know, we go to church on Sunday, but we don't share Jesus Christ when we get a haircut or when we work with a person next to us at work.

Oh no, no, no. That's another possibility. The other possibility is militarism, to become very fighting and angry and to say, what are all these people doing with our freedoms and with our country? And we can get more angry than we are repentant.

That's another possibility. The other is to engage the culture, to say, God, you've given us unique opportunities to prove, to prove ourselves in a different kind of environment and welcome the opportunity, welcome the opportunity to live for Christ authentically in a pluralistic culture. Well, my friend, that's exactly where we are today, isn't it? In the midst of a pluralistic culture, God has given us the opportunity of representing Christ. We must do so with courage, but also humility with a repentant heart.

To mention to men and women that we actually have a savior, not just a guru or a teacher, but a savior who can save us from our sins. I'm so glad for the many of you who support the ministry of running to win because of you, we are in more than 20 different countries in four different languages about to go into a fifth language. Thank you for helping us.

Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly, with their prayers and their gifts. Here's what you can do to get more info. You can go to

That's When you're there, you click on the endurance partner button, or you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. I hold in my hands a letter from someone who says, your sermons are hard hitting in my sanctification and daily growth. I found them to be a needed addition to our family discussions about faith throughout the week.

Well, testimonies like that bless me, but they are also a testament to you who support this ministry. Consider becoming an endurance partner. Go to When you're there, click on the endurance partner button, or you can pick up the phone right now and call. You can call 1-888-218-9337.

Of course, the amount that you give is entirely within your discretion. Pick up the phone right now and call 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. The Bible gives clear direction on how Christians should respond to an antagonistic culture. It also tells us how not to respond. Next time, more from 1 Peter 3 on how to react to people who reject the Christian message. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-30 14:32:51 / 2023-03-30 14:41:39 / 9

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