Often when we speak and write on religious liberty versus spiritual adultery we may speak in abstract terms of doctrine, without understanding or explaining how the right view of doctrine applies to our practice. There is a fine line for Christians to walk between supporting freedom of religious views and actions while not bidding Godspeed to those who do not hold the true doctrine of Christ. Trying to find exactly where this fine line is can be a matter of Christian liberty. Here are some (in my opinion) practical suggestions on dealing with religious liberty and spiritual adultery.
I have mentioned a number of times the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Muslim mosque amicus brief. I am not a Southern Baptist and the outcome of their internal debate is not personally applicable to me. We do not support the SBC Cooperative Program or the ERLC, neither do we engage in any denominational programs, policies or politics in such ways. Nevertheless, the situation has brought forth a broad debate concerning religious liberty and spiritual adultery, not only among Southern Baptists, but a broad spectrum of Christians throughout the United States. It is a debate that should be had. [See More on Moore.] I don’t believe there is some vast sin or collusion with evil in simply presenting an amicus brief that asks a government to abide by the laws it has on the books. I don’t see this as the same as aiding and abetting the spread of Islam. That said, if I had been making the decision, I wouldn’t have filed the brief. Not filing the brief is not the same as actively working against the right to religious freedom, and entering the legal arena is not the wisest use of church time and money. [E.g., “The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends.” – Baptist Faith and Message]
A recent freedom of religion situation in Georgia involves a preacher of a different faith and practice than Baptists. Eric Walsh, a doctor who is also a lay preacher in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, accepted employment as a director for the Georgia Department of Public Health. Walsh is a highly regarded and highly accomplished member of the medical community. Shortly after he accepted the position, someone found out from his sermons online what he believed on homosexuality (among other things). The Georgia Department of Public Health retracted his job offer.[i] Despite having serious disagreements on doctrinal issues with the Seventh Day Adventists, I find no compromise or spiritual adultery in defending and supporting the rights of Eric Walsh. My support for his right to employment free from inspection of his religious beliefs does not equal support for his religious beliefs. Such support could, at least in theory, increase his ability to proclaim the doctrines which he believes and I do not. Yet that support is not spiritual adultery, but rather support of religious liberty.
Here’s an illustration of how I try to walk the fine line and reconcile the existence of religious liberty and spiritual adultery. I believe in religious liberty. I believe we should avoid spiritual adultery. I believe the group called Jehovah’s Witnesses do not hold the true doctrine of Christ. If a Jehovah’s Witness owns a mini-mart I don’t automatically refuse to shop there based on that fact[ii] – even though I realize if the owner is an active Jehovah’s Witness that he or she may use some of the proceeds from the business to support their false worship. But I am not supporting the false worship. I am simply shopping at a business, and the owners choose to do what they will with the profit from their business (as with any owner of any business). If we can’t do any business with anyone engaged in false worship “then must we needs go out of the world (I Cor. 5:10).” On the other hand, the Jehovah’s Witnesses might host a bake sale to raise money for their Kingdom Hall. I can support their freedom to have the bake sale free of molestation and with the same rights as any other group that might host a bake sale – but I won’t be buying any of their bread. This is directly and deliberately supporting their false worship. Christians may have trouble deciding and even come to different answers whether shopping at a store owned by a Jehovah Witness, buying the Jehovah’s Witnesses’s bread at their fundraiser, or supporting their right to have the fundraiser are all the same kind of relationship of the Christian to those who do not hold the true doctrine of Christ (or if they are substantially different).
[i] Walsh won a suit against the Georgia Department of Public Health for religious discrimination. Dr. Eric Walsh Exonerated in Georgia Discrimination Case
[ii] Actually I am never consumed with the idea of finding out who owns a store where I shop.