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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Thursday, June 20, 2002
9:00 AM

Alan Cooperman writes about reactions to attacks on Islam by Rev. Jerry Vines, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. Vines recently said:

"They would have us believe that Islam is just as good as Christianity. Christianity was founded by the virgin-born son of God, Jesus Christ. Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives, the last one of which was a 9-year-old girl," Vines said.

Now that's not going to help us distinguish between generic Muslims and radical Islamists, is it?

Cooperman does a good job of sounding out other preachers, some of whom are providing Vines cover, and of giving the Bush Administration a line about religous tolerance. But in a "greatest hits" graf about other Southern Baptist outrages, he fails to make some pretty basic distinctions:

In 1980, one of its former presidents declared that God does not hear the prayers of Jews. In 1988, the convention said salvation was found only through Jesus Christ. In 1998, it said a wife should "submit herself graciously" to the leadership of her husband. And in 1999, it published guides to praying on Muslim, Hindu and Jewish holy days for people of those faiths to become Christians.


1. God not hearing prayers of Jews, not cool
2. Salvation is found only through Jesus Christ, standard Christian belief, try not to be outraged
3. Wife submitting graciously to husband, good luck
4. Publishing guides on praying for Christian conversion by Muslims, Hindus, and Jews, see #2.

The New Testament is very explicit about the need for conversion; e.g, Mark 16:15-16, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation." I don't know a thing about Cooperman and do not, in any way, want to attack him personally here. But I do wonder whether this is an example of Posties not being familiar with mainstream religious belief.

As an aside, for Catholics, salvation is possible outside what is sometimes called the visible church, but it's still salvation through Christ. My copy of The Essential Catholic Catechism states on p. 103, e.g. "In God's mercy it is possible for those who are not Christians to be saved through the grace of Jesus Christ."

I won't go into a long discussion on this point, other than to say that the church is not exactly indifferent about Christ, which is how some people interpret the line I just quoted. There are explicit passages in the New Testament explaining that if you hear the gospel preached and reject it, you can be condemend. At the same time, the Second Vatican Council states that "divine Providence" does not "deny the help necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explcit knowledge of God, but who strive to live a good life, thanks to His grace."

Catholics are supposed to be taught that they cannot know the fate of individuals, and they don't.

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