Dear followers of

It came to my attention this week that in my haste to post this blog I made a mistake about the doctrine of salvation in Islam.

For your records I have pasted in the corrected version of the article below. As I know some of you like to share these with friends I would appreciate it if you would do the same with this correction.

I apologize for my mistake and going forward will do my best to fact check before I post.


It’s all very confusing, is it not? ISIS slaughters left and right, Christians as well as fellow Muslims. Boko Haram murders its way through northern Nigeria in the name of Muhammad. And the creators of Charlie Hebdo are ruthlessly assassinated by Muslim converts shouting, “The prophet has been avenged!”

In response, leaders in America from the White House to famous athletes deny any substantive connection between Islam and violence. It is mind-boggling to say the least.

I’ve written about that disconnect in the past and others are writing brilliantly about it today, see:, so I’ll leave that job to them. I do however want to address some basic theology that, because it is so often left out of the discussion, adds to the confusion.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, (I remember when he was basketball star Lew Alcindor), revealed the heart of the theological confusion at the beginning of his January 26, 2015 article in TIME, Paris Was Not About Religion, saying, “For me, religion–no matter which one–is ultimately about people wanting to live humble, moral lives that create a harmonious community and promote tolerance and friendship. All religious rules should be in service of this goal. The Islam I learned and practice does just that … Violence committed in the name of religion is never about religion–it’s about the money.”

Who could argue with that? He’s paraphrasing Micah 6:8. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I have deep respect for Mr. Abdul-Jabbar. He has contributed much to the goodness of our country since his basketball days, but his theology is more akin to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD, the phrase coined by Christian Smith ) than it is to Quranic Islam, or Biblical Christianity. In fact, many cultural Christians follow the same basic theology: there is a god–that’s the deism part, he wants us to be good–that’s the moral part, he helps us with our problems–that’s the therapeutic part. But MTD leaves out core doctrine that drives both religions, and that explains the violence of the one and the peace-loving nature of the other.

That doctrine is the holiness of God, or Allah, take your pick. In Biblical Christianity, God is so holy, so perfect in righteousness, so morally pure and infinitely good, and man is so sinful that God cannot be reconciled to man apart from some kind of atonement. Some price for the sins of men and women must be paid in order for justice to be satisfied.

In Christianity that price was paid on the Cross by Jesus, who, as God in the flesh, was the only perfect human being who ever lived and the only one competent to take on the sins of the world. When we accept his gift of payment for our sins we are “cleansed from all unrighteousness,” and made acceptable in God’s sight. God’s holiness and wrath against the sins of man is satisfied. (See 1 Peter 3:18; Romans Ch. 3-6; Colossians Ch. 1 etc.)

Biblical Christians live in the joy and peace of that gift and seek to share it with others, following the command and example of love, service and sacrifice set by their savior. The characteristics lauded by Kareem are acts of gratitude for the goodness of God.

In Quranic Islam man is basically good, but fallible. Men and women must live perfect lives in order to deserve paradise and nations must live according to the Quran in order to honor the righteousness of Allah. Allah can tip the balance if he chooses, but his will is unknowable and one should always live in fear of Allah and the judgment. Every nation which refuses to submit, (submission is the basic meaning of Islam), must be forced to do so and every offense against the holiness of Allah and his prophet must be avenged. This is the Islam practiced by conservative Muslims everywhere.

Quranic Muslims live in constant fear of judgment, ever doubtful that their righteous deeds will be enough to save them from hell. It is no wonder then that even if they do not participate in violent jihad (one of the few things guaranteed to tip the scales of judgment in their favor) they do not actively oppose those who do.

So as much as I’d like to agree with Mr. Abdul-Jabbar, it isn’t about the money. It’s about the theology.

WHY YOU AREN’T A CHRISTIAN: An Open Letter to the “Nones”

Anyone involved in American Christianity on any level at all would have to be in a coma to have missed the anxious discussion about the departure from the church of the millennial generation. They’re called “the nones” because of the way they answer the religion question on census surveys. We’ve had that discussion at FCC and it was and continues to be an important dialogue. FCC was founded almost thirty years ago by people who were trying very hard to “major on the majors of the Christian faith and minor on the minors … It would be inclusive of all people, contemporary in style, yet conservative in beliefs …” addressing the deep longings of the human soul with sensitivity and insight. Only God can say how effective we’ve been at fulfilling that dream, but I can say that we’ve tried very hard.

Nonetheless, some of the criticisms of the church brought by the millennials are important. It is far too easy, as baby-boomers, to be seduced by the siren song of politics. As Cal Thomas rightly noted in a recent post: “The moral quality of America did not improve during the two terms of Ronald Reagan, who rarely attended church, or the one term of Jimmy Carter, who did. The moral compass did not point in a different direction during the two terms of George W. Bush, who said in a 2000 presidential debate that his favorite “philosopher” was Jesus.” And contrary to some of our most cherished notions, post-modernism may turn out to be a greater friend to evangelism than modernism ever could be, as it at least allows for the idea that truth might be determined by something other than the material sciences.

These and many other explanations are cited as the motive for millennial disenchantment with Christianity, but as I meditated through the Gospel of Luke recently I came upon another, much older reason. It’s buried in Jesus’ explanation of the parable of the sower, which comes just before it in Luke 8:4-8 (which you should read).

Before I go on, I’d like to ask my millennial friends to think of me, not as “Pastor Dane,” but as a regular guy, just like you, with the same struggles and problems you face, only I’ve had twenty years longer to work on mine. No, make that thirty, (gee I am getting old!).

In answer to his disciple’s request to explain the parable, Jesus says:

11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.

In Jesus’ explanation, people leave the faith not for sociological reasons, not because of politics, and not because of worship styles; they leave for spiritual reasons. In some cases, the seed bounces off of hardened hearts and the word of God is easy pickings for the king of thieves. Never discount that. Some just don’t want to hear. Others aren’t clearing the ground for God’s word in their lives. They have shallow souls, strewn with rocks and rootless, no match for the tests that will surely come. Finally, in Jesus’ assessment, many are spiritually overcome, too focused on worldly – as in “not-spiritual” – concerns and drunk on pleasure to experience real growth. They like the whole spiritual life thing, but they like pleasure better and they’ve realized they can’t have it both ways, so they leave.

From that I draw two conclusions that I would like to offer to my millennial friends:

First, it takes a certain, well not exactly arrogance, but shall we say, overconfidence, for a 20-something adult with no job, no spouse, no children, no mortgage, no house to care for, pretty much no responsibilities and a liberal education his parents probably paid for, to tell people who’ve served the kingdom for twice as long as he’s been on the planet that they’re doing a lousy job of carrying on the Kingdom’s work. Go do all of that, accomplish something, see how hard it is, and then start and staff your own church, or pour yourself into serving in just one of the ministries of the one you left, and you’ll learn that it’s a lot tougher than we make it look.

Second, take a look in the mirror. Ask God, “What is the condition of my soul? If you were to drop your seed in it today, what would happen?” And listen for his answer.

By God’s grace, we’ll still be here, chugging along doing our best to keep the Kingdom going, when you’re ready to come home and go to work.