Babel in Cape Town
The gathering of Buddhists, Hindus, Zoroastrians, Bahai’s, Taoists, Jews, Shintos, Confucians, Muslims, Catholics, witchcraft adherents and others for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Cape Town 1-8 December 1999) presented a unique evangelistic opportunity. As reported in UCANEWS 4/99, members of UCA were busy with personal and literature evangelism, distributing many thousands of Gospel tracts and Scripture booklets to delegates of the PWR.
Surprisingly, some Christian leaders have come out in support of the PWR and have criticised those of us who opposed this inter-faith event. Port Elizabeth Methodist minister Peter Woods produced an extravagant endorsement of the PWR: "Having feasted on a rich smorgasboard during the Parliament of the World’s Religions . . . I have a taste for Inter-faith Dialogue and a desire to stay away from the sectarian . . . ghettos of exclusionist dogma . . . The agenda was Harmony in Diversity, and Convergence without Consensus . . . I saw the Spirit of Christ so powerfully at work in the life of a Zen Buddhist master. The Venerable Jinwol of Seoul, Korea and I were discussing the beautiful notion Buddhists hold of the Bodhisatvas (which) can be likened to the Christian idea of saints. They are enlightened beings who have achieved the potential to enter Nirvana (Heaven), but who choose to forgo this reward so as to come back to this life in order to help fellow pilgrims to achieve their own enlightenment . . . Of course you know, the greatest Bodhisatva is Jesus Christ! . . . We may call this presence of God, Father, Brahman, Allah or Yahweh, but the presence and the being are the same!" With presentations and workshops such as "The role of the Guru, The Sangoma, The Sacred Earth, What is Wicca?, Dancing with the Divine, The Jain Principle of Oneness," the PWR seemed to offer a very diverse buffet of belief.
Those pastors such as Peter Woods who support the inter-faith agenda of the PWR have some problems.
The Bible teaches that there is only one way of salvation:
"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men." 1 Timothy 2:5,6
Our Lord Jesus Himself declared that there is only one way to God:
"Jesus answered, ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’" John 14:6
This has been the apostolic message from the very beginning:
"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12
This was acknowledged by a PWR delegate, a Roman Catholic, during one session when he declared: "the only problem that we have is our Scriptures!" Well, actually they have some other problems too. Reincarnation is not the same as the resurrection. The Theism of Christianity is incompatible with the atheism of Buddhism. Neither can Heaven be confused with Nirvana (a formless cessation of desire and being). The Cosmic unity (Brahman) of Hinduism is not the same as God nor can Christ be compared to the Buddhist bodhisatvas! Only those with a superficial grasp of Christianity could claim to find any common ground with new age eastern religions.
Nevertheless, some evangelicals, like Marc de Chazel, found some agreement with the Dalai Lama and denigrated those of us who opposed the Parliament of World Religions. Robert Zins, a UCA member who attended the PWR (and was evicted for calling some delegates false prophets), responded in this way:
In "When Faiths Conflict" (Today February/March 2000), Marc de Chazel asked, "Can we encounter other religions without compromising our Faith?" It certainly is possible (Daniel and Elijah confronted false religion without compromise); yet one would not have expected, that in order to report on the Parliament of the World’s Religions (PWR), that a Christian journalist would have to become an apologist for their cause.
The article seemed to portray PWR participants as "spiritual seekers." Yet the majority of the PWR delegates whom I encountered had come to consciously advance the inter-faith agenda. They were not "spiritual seekers" any more than were the prophets of Baal and Asherah who assembled at an earlier interfaith gathering at Mount Carmel more than 2,500 years ago (1 Kings 18:20-40).
The "Jesus" that was spoken of at most PWR lectures was not the Jesus of the Bible. For example, an American theologian proposed that when the Syro-Phoenician woman said, "Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs" (Mark 7:28), that she had actually instructed Jesus in some earthly wisdom that He somehow lacked! According to the lecturer, Christians ought to learn from other religions today! Such a view is a twisting of Scripture and is a misrepresentation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As this lecture had to do with "Soteriology" (the doctrine of salvation) and "Christology" (the doctrine of Jesus Christ), I asked the lecturer why did he neglect to address the mediatorial role of Jesus Christ, "For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all . . ." (1 Timothy 2:5). The lecturer replied that he rejected the apostle Paul’s interpretation of the Gospel. He also denied that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ! He maintained that for salvation, what we do is more important than what we believe.
The very idea that someone might be encouraged to convert to faith in Jesus Christ was generally considered repugnant. At the PWR many lecturers lamented the effects of the great Christian missionary movements of the 19th century and specifically called for African converts to Christianity to revive their pre-Christian traditions and practices. (In other words to go back to animism and witchcraft).
The supporters of the PWR have already acquiesced to a new age religion separate and distinct from Biblical Christianity; it is a false religion where human reason is placed above the Bible, a religion where Man is exalted in the place of God. This is clearly seen in a book distributed at the PWR entitled, "The Coming United Religions." The author, American Episcopalian Bishop William E. Swing, claimed, "Once we have a law or a moral code, we have, indeed, defined right and wrong for ourselves." This is the same idea that got Adam and Eve into trouble.
Marc de Chazel pondered in his article why "so many Christians were openly alarmed, even agitated by his (the Dalai Lama’s) visit?" Frankly, the mere fact that the Dalai Lama came to Cape Town is nothing to worry about. But what is alarming is that there could be Christians who are so devoid of discernment that they would go and sit at the Dalai Lama’s feet for instruction!
Marc de Chazel commented that he did not think that the Dalai Lama’s speech was offensive. However it was offensive in a way that completely escaped his attention: The Dalai Lama, who is worshipped by his followers as being the "14th reincarnation of the Tibetan god Bodhisattva Chenrest," implored his listeners at the PWR to promote a "global ethic," which the nations of the world would be expected to implement among all of life’s institutions. In spite of Marc de Chazel’s insistence that "the Dalai Lama…did not implore (him)… to abandon the universal truth-claims upon which (his)…faith in Christ rests…," the Dalai Lama did insist that the "global ethic" must remain separate and distinct from one’s religion! But is this "global ethic" something that a genuine Christian can embrace? No. It is an explicit denial of the Lordship of Jesus Christ!
All of the religious leaders at the PWR, including the Hindus, Buddhists, sangomas, and witchcraft adherents to Wicca were apparently satisfied with the "global ethic." That in and of itself should be enough to prompt Christians to distance themselves from the PWR and all its efforts. Should Christians expect the PWR, which denies the Lordship of Jesus Christ, to make the world a better place to live? As one commentator of the PWR wisely remarked, "Can Satan cast out Satan?" In spite of Marc de Chazel’s scoffing that some Christians had considered the PWR to have been a modern day tower of Babel, the PWR was just that."
The PWR endeavoured to promote "a global ethic for the new millennium." While the PWR declares that its aim is to promote peace, there is no peace without Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Supporters of the PWR repeat the Pharisees’ error, for which Jesus rebuked them: "…laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8). Only God has the authority to define right and wrong. When men reject God’s Word, they then seek to define right and wrong on their own terms. Then they are most certainly in rebellion against God and have set themselves up to be a god. That is idolatry.
Unity at the expense of truth. It could be said of most (if not all) of the PWR supporters that they were united by an overarching Religious Humanism. At the PWR there was a willingness to put aside Scripture so that God’s Truth would not interfere with man’s attempt at unity. Having come to the position that "man is the measure of all things," they would then tolerate everyone having a little compartment in life called "personal religious tradition." Anyone is welcomed in the PWR inter-faith circle so long as one doesn’t allow his or her particular religious "tradition" to interfere with Religious Humanism. Religious leaders at the PWR prided themselves on not being held captive by their Scripture. Human Reason was lifted up as being supreme and all other distinctions were blurred.
Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve! During numerous sessions at the PWR, professing Christians prayed together with Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and those involved in witchcraft (both African Traditional and Witchcraft) …all asked God’s blessing on their combined efforts in facilitating world peace.
Should Christians be involved with the PWR in order to promote world peace? Well, consider an example from the Old Testament. A three-year drought is a pretty serious problem for an agricultural society. Yet when Israel suffered a three-year drought during the reign of the ungodly King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, the prophet Elijah did not pray together with the prophets of Baal and Asherah. Elijah’s God was different from the false gods worshiped by the prophets of Baal and Asherah. No, Elijah confronted them and opposed them (1 Kings 18). Drought is a serious problem, but drought was not the Israelites’ most serious problem. Their most serious problem was idolatry! Now let us consider the Parliament of the World’s Religions and its goal of peace. Today, war is not man’s most serious problem. Idolatry and rebellion against God continue to be man’s main problem! As noble as the task of "promoting world peace" may sound to the natural man, Christians are not to compromise the truth of the Gospel, even if they think that it may somehow be promoting world peace. Whatever peace might be gained through such efforts, it will be short-lived as God’s judgement will hang over those people who have rejected Him.
"Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing?" (Psalm 2:1). At a special three-day Parliament Assembly at the PWR, participants were to endorse a document entitled "A Call to Our Guiding Institutions," an ethical document to be delivered to all the nations of the world. The Parliament Assembly consisted of about 800 people who had been hand picked over the past three years. In effect it was a parliament within a parliament. At the time there was no way of even knowing who was in the Parliament Assembly as no listing was available. In the opinion of one commentator, the hundreds of lectures and symposia, the many delegates, and the parliament itself were a smokescreen, the real work being done by the Council of the Parliament of the World’s Religions (CPWR).
"The Call to Guidance," approved in a closed session of the CPWR, is a statement of goals for the future, to which all nations of the world are intended to conform. The PWR hopes to influence all areas of life with their "Call to Guidance" including religious organisations, government, agriculture, labour, industry and commerce, education, arts, communications media and international intergovernmental organisations.
"The Call to Guidance" is based on the earlier 1993 document, "Towards a Global Ethic." This is said to have been based on four universal directives that are the basis for a "global ethic": 1) do not kill, 2) do not steal, 3) do not lie, 4) do not commit sexual immorality.
Some Christians might be conned into thinking that there might be something good here. It appears that these four points coincide with the 6th, 8th, 9th, and 7th commandments found in Exodus 20. However it should be pointed out that the terms "kill," "steal," "lie," and "sexual immorality" as explained by the PWR differ from historical Biblical terms. Also it should be noted that the six remaining Commandments are ignored. It is no wonder that the first, second, and third commandments are conveniently forgotten, as a number of the PWR participants
falsely promote themselves as being a god! Even though the PWR seems to embrace four commandments, their application falls short of the rendering in Exodus. For example: The global ethic says "do not kill," yet they see nothing wrong with the killing of innocent preborn babies through abortion. The global ethic says "do not steal," yet they promote socialism, which is legalised theft and stealing by proxy. The global ethic says "do not lie," yet they promote the lie that all religions are equally valid ways to God. The global ethic says, "do not commit sexual immorality," yet they promote homosexuality. Christians who join together with the PWR commit spiritual adultery, as it was also written of the Israelites "For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray and they have played the harlot against their God" (Hosea 4:12).
In one lecture, Pundit D. H. Maharaj (a Hindu) made mention of how the European settlers brought with them Christianity and suppressed the traditional beliefs and practices of the African people. I asked him whether it was wrong for the British colonialists in India to outlaw sati, the Hindu practice of widow burning? He brushed off the question. Mr. Maharaj emphasised again that traditional beliefs and practices ought to be restored. This theme was repeated by a number of other speakers at the PWR.
False prophets speak. On the last day of the PWR the Dalai Lama addressed the plenary session audience numbering approximately 4,000. Behind him sat dozens of leaders from the various belief systems represented at the PWR. The Dalai Lama emphasised a new global ethic that he said everyone should promote. Where is this global ethic to be found? He said that good moral values are supposedly inherent within all people and that moral values must be taught outside the context of a specific religion. He said that as a Buddhist he must not promote Buddhism, but rather this global ethic. Yet as Christians, in submission to God’s Word, we come to learn what is righteousness in the eyes of Almighty God. For the Christian, ethics must be solidly rooted in the Law-Word of God as revealed in the Bible.
After the Dalai Lama spoke, a Jew, a Sangoma (an African witchdoctor), a Muslim, and a theologian from Chicago were asked to lead the assembly in prayer and to solicit God’s blessings. Who would they pray to? The theologian from Chicago began his prayer with, "God! Our mother and our father…" By that time the entire inter-faith abomination had carried on way too long. While positioned near the front row, I shouted at the theologian from Chicago, "Balaam speaks" (Balaam being something of a prophet for hire in Numbers chapters 22-24). Then to the blind spiritual leaders of the PWR I shouted, "Prophets of Baal." The PWR officials didn’t take kindly to that and I was escorted out the front door. As Christians, while we have the freedom to speak the truth, we had better do so. If we don’t, the day will come when our freedoms will be taken away.
How should Christians respond to the efforts of the PWR? First we continue to make true disciples for Jesus Christ; men and women who hold fast to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, who are not ashamed of the Gospel, and who are faithful to obey all that Jesus Christ has commanded. As Christians, we must endeavour to apply God’s Word to all areas of life, and to remain vigilant against anyone who brings "a different gospel" (Galatians 1:6-9).
Secondly we must expose the wolves in sheep’s clothing who would lead their churches into the interfaith abomination. In South Africa the following churches were listed as co-sponsors of the 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions: Catholic Archdiocese of Cape Town, Church of the Province of Southern Africa, Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Moravian Church of SA, New Apostolic Church, and Rhema Ministries - as listed on page 10 of the 1999 PWR program booklet.) If you are in a church that supports the PWR, make your objections known to the leadership and work to get your church out of the abominable inter-faith movement. If the denominational hierarchy refuses to separate themselves from the inter-faith movement, then Christians should separate themselves from the wolves in sheep’s clothing.
"Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God…Come out from among them and be separate..."
2 Cor 6:14-17
Soli Deo Gloria
Dr. Peter Hammond and Robert Zins
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