It is a great honor for me to be invited to speak to you this evening. I care deeply about the kind of in-depth dialogue that you folks are engaged in at this conference, and I am honored by the very fact that you would ask me to add some of my own thoughts to the discussion. I have to be clear at the outset, though, about something that I hope you know already: that when it comes to the in-depth understanding of the subject matter of this conference, I am at best an amateur among experts. But I do care deeply about relationships between evangelicals and Muslims. And the fact that the title of this conference refers to the larger context of “religion in the public square” gives me a little bit of encouragement, since I have devoted much energy to thinking about, and contributing to, the broader dialogue about religion and public life.
And there can be no doubt that relations between evangelicals and Muslims is an important topic of public commentary these days. Indeed, the relationship between our two faith communities has been much in the news lately. We are all aware, I’m sure, of the widely reported recent comment by a well-known evangelical leader, that Islam is “an evil religion.” Nor is that an isolated opinion. Indeed, a phone survey conducted recently of 1000 Protestant leaders revealed that the vast majority of them agreed with the “evil religion” assessment. The minority of leaders who dissented tended to come from mainline Protestantism rather than the evangelical camp.
I think that I can safely say that the evangelicals who are present at this conference—myself included—do not subscribe to the “evil religion” viewpoint. I certainly firmly oppose that assessment. We want to engage in friendly dialogue with folks in the Muslim community. The image employed in convening this gathering—“Bridges of Faith”—captures nicely what we genuinely hope for. We want to help build a bridge between Muslims and evangelicals, a meeting point where we can form friendships, build trust, and talk with each other about matters that are for each of our communities issues of eternal importance.
This paper was presented at the Evangelical Christian and Muslim dialogue, titled “Foundations of Our Faith: Religion in the Public Square,” Toronto, Canada, May 13–15, 2010
If you are interested you may download and read the whole article in PDF form at the link below.