Is Interfaith God’s Way?
“A little yeast ferments the whole lump.”—Gal. 5:9, NW.
1, 2. What has Truman urged churchmen to do, and why will true religion refuse?
JEHOVAH is a God of truth. He does not compromise with error. No crisis can panic him into abandoning his principles of truth for the sake of expediency. No peril can frighten him into uniting forces with error to present a more powerful front against a common enemy. No threat can make him view the difference between truth and error as petty and insignificant, thus making a merger of the two seem justifiable under such circumstances. His truth is recorded in his Word the Bible, and despite any crises or perils the future of that truth is assured: “The word spoken by Jehovah endures forever.” (Deut. 32:4; John 17:17; 1 Pet. 1:25, NW) Hence the true religion will not merge with false religions to face with greater numbers the double peril of communism and world war, as President Truman strongly urged in a speech to churchmen on September 28, 1951:
2 “In this crisis of human affairs, all men who profess a belief in God should unite in asking his help and his guidance. We should lay aside our differences and come together now—for never have our differences seemed so petty and insignificant as they do in the face of the peril we confront today. It is not just this church or that church which is in danger. It is not just this creed or that creed which is threatened. All churches, all creeds, are menaced. The very future of the word of God—the teaching that has come down to us from the days of the prophets and the life of Jesus—is at stake.” (New York Times, September 29, 1951) Nearly two years earlier, when pledging support to the Brotherhood Week of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, Truman said: “Brotherhood is not only a generous impulse but also a divine command. Others may be moved into brotherhood only by sentiment. We acknowledge brotherhood as a religious duty.” (New York Times, November 12, 1949) But is brotherhood among differing church groups a divine command and religious duty? Since this is a Bible matter, to the Bible we go for an authoritative answer.
3. In the beginning how did God show himself against interfaith?
3 In unquestionable terms it testifies that Jehovah God has been against interfaith from beginning to end. From the time true and false worship first appeared side by side, Jehovah has accepted the true and rejected the false. He did not sanction interfaith by looking with favor upon both Cain’s and Abel’s worship: “Cain bringeth from the fruit of the ground a present to Jehovah; and Abel, he hath brought, he also, from the female firstlings of his flock, even from their fat ones; and Jehovah looketh unto Abel and unto his present, and unto Cain and unto his present He hath not looked; and it is very displeasing to Cain, and his countenance is fallen. And Jehovah saith unto Cain, ‘Why hast thou displeasure? and why hath thy countenance fallen? Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at the opening [door] a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it.’” Abel’s animal sacrifice showed recognition of his need of a sin-atoning sacrifice; it prefigured Christ’s death as a ransom. Cain’s bloodless offering was empty formalism. Even after correction from God the hurt religious pride of Cain would not let him copy Abel’s acceptable way of worship by offering a suitable animal, which was close at hand for use. He murdered Abel instead. (Gen. 4:3-8, Yg; Heb. 9:22) Who showed intolerance? Abel? Jehovah? Neither; it was the false religionist Cain.
4, 5. Centuries later what did God do to show he still opposed interfaith and false gods?
4 Many centuries later Jehovah demonstrated in a spectacular way that he still opposed the idea of interfaith. The captive Israelites in Egypt wished to worship God, but could not freely do so in the midst of their Egyptian captors, who were steeped in false religion. (Ex. 8:25, 26) In the ten plagues that followed, Jehovah showed that he opposed the gods of the Egyptians and would tolerate no interfaith movement involving his people and false religions. This is clearly shown by the following quotation, from the book What Has Religion Done for Mankind?:
5 “By each of the plagues the demon gods of Egypt were put to humiliation and disgrace before Jehovah whom Pharaoh defied: first, their river god the Nile, by the turning of it and all waters in Egypt into blood; then the frog-goddess Heqt; then Watchit the god of the ichneumon fly; then by the deadly pest upon Egypt’s livestock the cow-goddess Hathor and her corresponding divinity Apis the bull; then by the plague of boils and blisters Imhotep the god of medicine; next by the plague of hail Reshpu and Qetesh the gods of storm and of battle; next by the plague of locusts the deities of providence responsible for Egypt’s fertility and harvests; next by the three-day plague of darkness Thoth the counselor of Osiris and god of the moon as well as systematizer of sun, moon and stars; also Amon-Ra the god of the sun; and by the tenth and last plague the god Ra, who occasionally appeared as a male sheep and to whom all the firstborn were sacred, being dedicated to him from birth.”—P. 118.
ISRAEL WARNED AGAINST INTERFAITH
6. How did Jehovah’s law forbid interfaith movements for his people?
6 After separating his people from the false faiths of Egypt, and disgracing the Egyptian cults in the process, Jehovah gave his law to his people in the wilderness. This law specifically forbade any interfaith movements. Certainly brotherhood with the false worshipers in the Promised Land was not being established by “a divine command” or as “a religious duty” in these words of instruction from Jehovah: “You must be careful never to make any compact with these natives of the land to which you are going, lest that allure you into danger; you must demolish their altars and break their obelisks and cut down their sacred poles (for you must never worship any other god: the Eternal whose [disposition] is jealous is a jealous God), lest you make a compact with the nations, deserting to their gods, sacrificing to their gods, agreeing to partake of their sacrificial meals, marrying your sons to their daughters, who will desert to their gods and make your sons desert also.” (Ex. 34:12-16, Mo; Deut. 7:1-6, 16, 25, 26) Interfaith compacts with false worshipers were outlawed by Jehovah. Even such nonreligious associations as marriage were forbidden as being dangerous to the integrity of the true worshiper.
7. What resulted when Israel failed to heed this command?
7 However, the Israelites did not heed this command against interfaith and intermarriage with the demon-worshiping heathen in Canaan, and as a result they were oppressed and enslaved and were no longer effective in Jehovah’s service. They compromised and made compacts with the native inhabitants of the Promised Land and failed to root out and utterly destroy demon religion; rather they came under bondage to it. Therefore Jehovah said: “I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” (Judg. 2:3) Because of their unwise tolerance of false worship the Israelites were pierced with thorny demonism and snared by false gods. Even Israel’s wisest human king was unable to ignore with impunity Jehovah’s counsel against entangling alliances with the heathen. The account of this king’s disobedience and the disastrous results is found at 1 Kings 11:1-11, Mo:
8. Into what plight did Solomon’s disobedience on this point plunge him?
8 “Now king Solomon was a lover of women; he had seven hundred royal wives, and three hundred mistresses. He married many foreign women—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Phoenicians, and Hittites—belonging to nations against whom the Eternal had warned the men of Israel, ‘You must not mix with them, nor let them mix with you, for they will be sure to seduce you to follow their gods.’ Solomon clung to these women in love. When he grew old, he had no undivided mind for the Eternal his God, as his father David had; his wives seduced him to follow foreign gods. Solomon did what was evil in the eyes of the Eternal; he did not follow the Eternal faithfully, as his father David had done. For he put up shrines for Astartê the goddess of the Phoenicians, and for Milkom the detestable idol of the Ammonites, and for Kemôsh the detestable idol of Moab, on a hill to the east of Jerusalem. He did the same for all his foreign wives, burning incense and offering sacrifice to their gods. The Eternal was angry with Solomon for letting himself be seduced from the Eternal, the God of Israel, who had twice appeared to him and given him this order, that he was not to follow foreign gods; he did not obey what the Eternal had ordered, and so the Eternal said to Solomon, ‘Since this is your mind, since you have not obeyed my compact and the rules I laid down for you, I will tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant.’”
9. In what did Solomon’s interfaith activities result, and who else have placed themselves in similar circumstances?
9 Solomon really believed in interfaith, plunging into it on a big scale. This may have promoted good will with his foreign wives and brought a measure of religious peace into his household life, just as interfaith movements today may subdue religious differences in national life. But it brought no peace with God. Along with his catering to the demon gods of his foreign wives, he kept up a pretense of also serving Jehovah, but he flouted the divine law: “You must love the LORD your God with all your mind and all your heart and all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5, AT) “He had no undivided mind” for Jehovah’s worship, but split his attentions. The psalmist expressed Jehovah’s view when he wrote: “I hate men who are half and half.” Prior to the fall of unfaithful Judah in 607 B.C. condemnation was pronounced against those who did “swear to Jehovah and swear by Malcam”. (Ps. 119:113, Mo; Zeph. 1:5, AS) They were like many of the faiths in Christendom today that take the name of God and Christ on their lips but teach and practice demon doctrines and pagan ceremonies. (Matt. 7:20-23) Such interfaith fence-straddlers are neither hot nor cold for Jehovah’s worship, so to these indifferent compromisers Christ Jesus says: “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were cold or else hot. So, because you are lukewarm and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth.”—Rev. 3:15, 16, NW.
10. What religious unity existed in Jesus’ day?
10 Centuries later when Jesus the Messiah was on earth the Jewish religionists were split into several sects, yet they were united in taking the Lord God’s name upon their lips and they were also united in certain political purposes and social goals and even in the religious end of silencing Jesus and his followers. But this surface cooperation in certain matters brought no real unity in the important field of worship, as shown by their being divided and set at odds with one another even while they were uniting for a common purpose, the squelching of the one true worship.—Acts 23:6-10.
JESUS NO CHAMPION FOR INTERFAITH
11. What do some today contend concerning Mark 9:38-40?
11 However, some professed Christians today say that Jesus himself was for interfaith, quoting in support Mark 9:38-40 (NW): “John said to him: ‘Teacher, we saw a certain man expelling demons by the use of your name and we tried to prevent him, because he was not accompanying us.’ But Jesus said: ‘Do not try to prevent him, for there is no one that will do a powerful work on the basis of my name that will quickly be able to revile me; for he that is not against us is for us.’” They contend that this shows the propriety of separate religious organizations, each doing good work in its way; yet since they all operate on the basis of Jesus’ name they can and should join in interfaith movements that work toward the accomplishment of certain mutual, broad aims, while allowing complete doctrinal independence for each organization.
12. What do such contenders ignore and fall to appreciate?
12 In using this text to support the existence of separate church groups or faiths, they ignore the circumstances of those times. Not all believers in Jesus followed him along with the twelve apostles. Some who wanted to follow Jesus were told to go back home and bear witness to him there. (Mark 5:18-20) Hence it was not necessary for this man to bodily follow Jesus to be on his side. When Jesus sent out his twelve apostles to preach, his instructions did not include any directions to establish congregations of Christians, nor was this command given to the seventy sent out later. (Matt. 10:1-42; Luke 10:1-16) They were merely to give a witness from house to house and locate believers there. Jesus was not then establishing the congregational arrangement in opposition to the synagogues, but he allowed the synagogues to remain and his believers to attend the services there. He went there himself and preached about the Prophets and the Law, which Law was still in effect and which he did not oppose. (Matt. 5:17; Luke 4:15-21) So this young man who was preaching and casting out demons on the basis of Jesus’ name did not have to be in the immediate company of Jesus and the twelve apostles, and his being separated from them did not imply that he was of a separate congregation, for the Christian congregation had not been set up at that time.
13, 14. How did the situation change after Pentecost, and what incident proves a change took place?
13 After Pentecost when Jesus did build up his spiritual congregation on himself as the anointed King, then distinct congregations of Christians were established. Then if this young man wanted to be a real follower of Christ he could not keep himself apart from the company of Christians, but he must associate with some company of Christians and function with them in order to receive the outpouring of the holy spirit and the spiritual gifts through or in the presence of Jesus’ apostles. The time was past for such individual preaching and ousting of demons, and if the young man had tried that he would have been wrongly trying to build up an organization of followers for himself. His use of Jesus’ name in exorcising demons would have been wrong, and the results would have been as disastrous as in the case of the sons of Sceva, Jews who used Jesus’ name without becoming Christians. Note that the record of their improper use of Jesus’ name continues on and shows that sincere converts abandoned such former practices and became a part of the established Christian congregational arrangement:
14 “Certain ones of the traveling Jews who practiced the casting out of demons also undertook to name the name of the Lord Jesus over those having the wicked spirits, saying: ‘I solemnly charge you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ Now there were seven sons of a certain Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, doing this. But in answer the wicked spirit said to them: ‘I know Jesus and I am acquainted with Paul; but who are you?’ With that the man in whom the wicked spirit was leaped upon them, got the mastery of the two of them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled naked and wounded out of that house. This became known to all, both the Jews and the Greeks that dwelt in Ephesus, and a fear fell upon them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus went on being magnified. And many of those who had become believers would come and confess and report their practices openly. Indeed, quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody. And they calculated together the prices of them and found them worth fifty thousand pieces of silver. Thus in a mighty way the word of Jehovah kept growing and prevailing.”—Acts 19:13-20, NW.
15. How do sects and cults today show themselves against Christ?
15 So the case of this young man cannot be used to justify the existence of numerous sects and cults operating in Jesus’ name. They are against Jehovah’s faithful witnesses who now preach Jesus and his kingdom, and, since they are against the least of these his brothers, they are against him and their mere use of Jesus’ name does not gain favorable recognition of them as true followers. (Matt. 7:21; 25:40, 45) They are like the religious sects of the Jews in Jesus’ day that used God’s name but sought to scatter the sheep: “He that is not on my side is against me, and he that does not gather with me scatters.” (Matt. 12:30, NW) There is no neutral ground; one is either for or against. No loose bonds of interfaith can draw the two sides together.
16. What illustration is quoted for consideration?
16 Christ Jesus’ opposition to a mingling of different faiths is forcefully shown by an illustration he used on one occasion. Certain ones had stated, “The disciples of John fast frequently and offer supplications, and so do those of the Pharisees, but yours eat and drink,” and to this Jesus replied: “No one cuts a patch from a new outer garment and sews it onto an old outer garment; but if he does, then both the new patch tears away and the patch from the new garment does not match the old. Moreover, no one puts new wine into old wineskins; but if he does, then the new wine will burst the wineskins, and it will be spilled out and the wineskins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins. No one that has drunk old wine wants new; for he says, ‘The old is nice.’”—Luke 5:33-39, NW.
17. How did this illustration forcefully show there was to be no mingling of different faiths?
17 By this illustration Jesus pointed out that he was bringing in an entirely new system of things, and that it was not to be attached to the groups that followed John the Baptist or the Pharisees. The disciples of Jesus were not to attach themselves to such groups or conform to their customs or ceremonies. Jesus was not bringing in this new system of things to patch up or bolster up or prolong old worn-out systems of worship that were ready for the discard. The previous religious systems could not contain the new system of things, were not adequate for this new system, could not exist alongside the new system, but would be brought to their end by the new system of things. Even the Law of Moses was to be nailed to the torture stake as being fulfilled and canceled. Just as a new outer garment was not to be cut up and used to patch up hopelessly old garments, but was to remain intact and entirely new; just as new wine was not to be poured into dried-up old wineskins that had lost their elasticity and would burst, but was to have its own new wineskin, just so the new Christian organization must have an entirely new system of things, permanently separate from the old religious systems that had either failed or passed the period of their usefulness. Yet, the adherents of these old systems would cling to the old, saying they had become accustomed to the comfortable fit and mellow age of the old systems. To them the old was nice; they were satisfied with their religion, it had been in the family a long time, and they did not want to change to anything new. So there is a separateness existing that prohibits the inclusion of the true faith in any interfaith movement.
18. Why is it so necessary for the true faith to stay aloof from interfaith moves?
18 Christ Jesus in unmistakable terms showed that he wanted no interfaith movement with the clergy of his day. Instead of joining with them he told his followers: “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matt. 15:14, NW) On another occasion Jesus said: “Be on the alert and watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Seeing that his disciples were confused and thinking of literal loaves with yeast in them, Jesus enlightened them as to the meaning of his pictorial language: “‘How is it you do not discern that I did not talk to you about loaves? But watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they grasped that he said to watch out, not for the yeast of the loaves, but for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Jesus also said: “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” The great danger that this yeast of false religion would be to the true Christian congregation is stated for us, as follows: “A little yeast ferments the whole lump.” (Matt. 16:6, 11, 12; Luke 12:1; 1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 5:9, NW) So the true faith stays aloof from contaminating interfaith moves.
19. What facts crush the claim that Jesus favored interfaith?
19 If Jesus favored silent toleration of error, as do modern interfaithers, why did he unleash such torrid denunciations at the scribes and Pharisees, calling them hypocrites, blind guides, fools, outwardly beautiful but inwardly filthy, serpents and viperous offspring doomed to destruction? (Matt. 23:1-33) If he considered brotherhood “a divine command” and “a religious duty”, why did he tell religious leaders: “You are from your father the Devil”? (John 8:44, NW) Would he join with them in a Brotherhood Week? To acknowledge them as his brothers would be to acknowledge their father as his father. He would never link up with a brotherhood scheme that would make the Devil his father instead of Jehovah! Yet modern interfaith zealots would embrace all, as shown by an editorial on “Interfaith Day”: “Christian, Jew, Moslem, Buddhist, or whatever we may be, we are all children of God, however differently we may conceive him.” (New York Times, September 23, 1951) But our conception of God does matter. He is approached only through Christ. (John 14:6) Even professed Christians that do not allow themselves to be disciplined by God into conformity with his Word “are really illegitimate children, and not sons”. (Heb. 12:4-11, NW) The broad road of interfaith, on which “anything goes”, is the broad road to destruction.—Matt. 7:13, 14.
20. Centuries after Jesus’ day what interfaith move was launched, and on what Scriptural grounds did Christians shun it?
20 Centuries after Jesus’ day the Roman emperor Constantine launched an interfaith movement to fuse all religions, allowing the various sects and cults to retain their many conflicting beliefs, but agreeing on a few principal points, just as in interfaith movements today. Its purpose was to promote political solidarity and religious uniformity. Only true Christians resisted, knowing that the apostate Christians that merged with paganism and succumbed to the state-sponsored interfaith drive had violated Jehovah’s Word: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what fellowship does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said: ‘I shall reside among them and walk among them, and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing,’” ‘“and I will take you in.”’” Then Jehovah will be our Father and we his sons, but not otherwise.—2 Cor. 6:14-18, NW.