Tagged: LifeWay

Protestant pastors view Islam with suspicion

The following story was released April 23 by LifeWay Christian Resources.

By Rob Phillips

Protestant pastors in the U.S. have a negative view of Islam and more than half agree with Franklin Graham’s statement that Islam is an “evil” religion, according to a just-released study by LifeWay Research. More than four in 10 agree that Islam is dangerous and promotes violence.

Graham, son of Billy Graham, stirred controversy in 2001 by saying Islam is an “evil” religion. Recently, Graham called Islam offensive and wants Muslims to know Jesus died for their sins. In response, the U.S. Army yesterday rescinded an invitation to Graham to speak at a May 6 prayer service at the Pentagon, calling his comments “not appropriate.”

Most Protestant pastors, however, agree with Graham according to a telephone survey of 1,000 church leaders conducted March 1-9, 2010, before the current controversy.

The survey included questions about the differences between the religions, giving the respondents the opportunity to choose between positive and negative descriptors.

“When given the choice, they consistently chose the negative descriptions,” explained Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research. “This should not surprise us – Protestant Christianity is, in a sense, a competing faith, and that comes through in the survey.”

Protestant pastors were asked which is closer to their beliefs: Graham’s widely reported comment that Islam is “a very evil and a very wicked religion,” or former President George W. Bush’s remark that “the Muslim faith is based upon peace and love and compassion.”  

Forty-seven percent of the pastors surveyed believe Graham’s assessment of Islam is accurate, and an additional 12 percent agree with both Graham’s and Bush’s statements. Twenty-four percent agree with the former president’s statement. The rest could not decide.

“This means a majority of Protestant pastors chose statements that agree with Franklin Graham’s statement,” Stetzer said. “Of those who chose only one statement, respondents agree with Graham over Bush at a 2-to-1 rate.

“Franklin Graham’s belief about Islam is a mainstream view among Protestant pastors.”

Additionally, those identifying themselves as evangelical are more than twice as likely to agree with Graham’s assessment of Islam.

Other findings:

  • Three out of four pastors disagree with the statement, “Christians and Muslims pray to the same God” – 69 percent disagree strongly.
  • Eighty-two percent say Islam is “fundamentally different from Christianity.”
  • Forty-two percent agree that Islam “promotes violence.”
  • Four in 10 say the religion is “spiritually evil.”
  • One in three says Islam “promotes charity.”
  • Twenty-eight percent consider the religion “relevant today.”

However, a minority of pastors, especially those from mainline denominations, hold a more positive view of Islam.

One-quarter of all pastors agree “the Islamic religion is a relevant and viable religion for today,” including 11 percent who strongly agree. Similarly, 19 percent say Islam is “spiritually good” and 16 percent characterize the religion as “tolerant.”

Those who strongly agree they know a Muslim personally are more likely to agree with Graham that Islam is “evil” (43 percent) than with Bush’s statement that it is a religion of “peace and love and compassion” (28 percent). Despite agreeing that Islam is an “evil” and “wicked” religion, those who strongly agree they know a Muslim personally were more positive in their reaction to statements about Islam promoting charity and being spiritually good.

“We should not say that Protestant pastors are uniform in their view and in no way does this study show they think that Muslims are bad people, but it does show concerns about the religion and its impact,” said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research.

Regardless of their views about Islam, six in 10 pastors agree that Christianity and Islam should seek to coexist in America.

“This is not the first survey to look at the perception of Islam,” explained Stetzer. “Pew and others have pointed to negative perceptions among the American people. However, it is important to consider the religious view of the leaders of the largest faith group in America: Protestants. The fact is Protestant pastors tend to hold a negative view of Islam, but they also believe they should seek to coexist.”

LifeWay Research is an evangelical polling organization in Nashville, Tenn. More details of the study may be found at www.lifewayresearch.com.

Methodology: LifeWay Research commissioned Zogby International to conduct a telephone survey of Protestant pastors March 1-9, 2010. The completed sample of 1,000 phone interviews with senior pastors, ministers and priests provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed ±3.2 percent.

Catch the Kingdom at Walmart

I was grateful this morning to receive word from my good friend Phill Burgess at CrossBooks that Walmart.com is now carrying a select number of CrossBooks titles including The Kingdom According to Jesus: A Study of Jesus’ Parables on the Kingdom of Heaven. The book explores 17 parables of Jesus having to do with the kingdom of heaven and, I believe, is helpful in personal or group Bible study. Earlier this month, The Kingdom won a first-place award from the Baptist Communicators Association.

Check it out at Walmart.com.  The book also is available at CrossBooks, LifeWay Christian Stores, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. If you read the book, be sure to post a review. I’d very much like to hear your critique.

Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

Jeremy Howard

Each spring Christians around the world gather to celebrate Easter, commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and His victory over sin and death. The Bible provides convincing evidence of Jesus’ resurrection, yet even Scripture records that some people in Jesus’ day doubted His return from the grave.

Today, skeptics echo these sentiments. Some even provide alternative explanations for Jesus’ 40 days on earth following His crucifixion. So the question remains: Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

Yes, says Jeremy Howard, managing acquisitions editor of Bibles, reference books and commentaries for B&H Publishing Group and author of such books as “The Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Jesus.”

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Howard for an “Inside LifeWay” podcast. In the interview, Howard said there are many good reasons to believe that Jesus died, was buried and rose on the third day.

“One thing everyone agrees on is that Jesus’ tomb was empty on the Sunday morning after His crucifixion,” said Howard, arguing that the best explanation is that Jesus in fact rose from the dead. Even though doubters raise alternative theories – someone stole Jesus’ body, for example, or the disciples went to the wrong tomb – Howard said the evidence for Christ’s resurrection is solid.

“The resurrection matters,” said Howard. “If Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christianity is untrue, the Bible bears false witness and humanity is left searching for answers. But since He did rise from the dead, we have a word from God, by faith we have forgiveness from God, and we’re left neither in our skepticism nor our sins.”

Listen to the complete podcast.

World Religions & Cults

This week I finished teaching an eight-week study on world religions and cults for employees at LifeWay Christian Resources.  What a great group of men and women with a passion for God and a compassion for the lost. Employees gave up their lunch hours each Wednesday to learn more about Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Mormonism, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology and other belief systems. We had two common goals: 1) to better understand the beliefs and practices of other faiths, and 2) to learn how to more effectively share our faith with those who don’t share our faith — kindly, respectfully, and truthfully. Many thanks to LifeWay’s leaders for encouraging this type of training. And many thanks to each person in the class who invested in God’s Word and the lost of this world.

I am including a downloadable version of the booklet used in this study. Feel free to print out copies and/or forward electronic versions to anyone who might benefit from this study.

Booklet – World Religions and Cults 2010

Can apologetics be a hobby?

Evidently so. LifeWay videographer Jennifer Tramel recently interviewed staff members in the communications department to learn more about their hobbies. Do I hunt? No. Fish. Uh-uhn. Collect stamps? Puh-lease. I can’t even spell what they call that hobby. Guess I’m kind of nerdy … but I enjoy apologetics, defined as a reasonable defense of the Christian faith. Here’s the video, also posted on the LifeWay News Facebook page. Thanks, Jennifer.