On his historic trip to the Arabian Peninsula this past week, Pope Francis reiterated a position he has not been shy of promoting: the “brotherhood” that exists between Christians and Muslims. While some aspects of his comments and speeches are not controversial (for instance, his call for an end to violence between people of different religious belief systems), it was this statement about “brotherhood” that made headlines.
In the news coverage of this trip, his comments were almost universally praised. I think we can see a few reasons why this would be. First, the “brotherhood” of humanity (the pope used the word “fraternity” when addressing the Interfaith Meeting in Abu Dhabi) is a refrain that comfortably fits into almost every worldview, regardless of whether it is monotheistic, polytheistic, or atheistic. One cannot ignore the irony of a person who doesn’t believe in God chiding those who hold to a different worldview that all humans are “the children of God.” Second, there appears to be in the pope’s statements a liberal nod toward allowing everyone to search for and find God in whatever system suits them. Again, we cannot miss the irony of the head of a religious system predicated on a very intricate, detailed, and exacting set of doctrines and dogmas suggesting all are free to believe as they want. Indeed, those who have lauded this are quite ignorant of the Roman Catholic Church’s own official stance on this matter, as laid out in counciliar pronouncements. Finally, calling all of humanity “brothers and sisters” seems to many to be a path toward bringing about lasting world peace. A desire for world peace should be on the heart of every Christian, to be sure, but the key to understanding such a desire is the definition of the term “peace.” Just as it has always been, different worldviews possess different definitions of what “peace” is, and most often, it’s the absence of any resistance to or disagreement with that specific worldview (e.g., the Soviet definition of peace meant the acceptance of communism throughout the world).
When we hear the pope (or anyone else, for that matter) call all humanity “brothers and sisters,” what should we think? On the one hand, there is a basic truth in this statement. Every person on earth is the descendent of Adam and Eve (and after that, Noah and Mrs. Noah); as such, the idea of “race” is a construct that we have developed in order to describe the cultural and physiological differences between us. Therefore, there is only one “race” – the human race – and we are all related both in term of our composition and our Creator. On the other hand, when this commonality is expanded in order to declare that we are all “children of God,” regardless of whether we know Christ as Lord and Savior, we discover a complete lack of biblical support. Rather, we find that the Bible speaks something quite different. In Eph. 2:3, Paul says that in our lost state, we are actually “by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” You see, our sin makes us enemies of God (cf. Rom. 5:10) because all sin is rebellion against Him. Thus, to suggest that those who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ and those who remain dead in their sins, worshiping false gods (and make no mistake: the God we worship as Christians is not the same god of Islam or any other religion), are all “children” of the same God makes a mockery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and damages evangelistic efforts to share the Good News of salvation.
If we accept this worldly wisdom that all people are God’s “children,” on what basis is the doctrine of adoption special? How can we see it as such a high honor, if it is bestowed on everyone? But even more importantly, why would we ever bother to share the Gospel, if they are already our “brothers and sisters” in the sense of faith? In convincing Christians that all people are God’s “children,” our enemy has deployed a devastating strategy to sideline our evangelistic efforts. Just something to think about…