Jerry Vines made the news in St. Louis. He is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida. In his message during the Pastors’ Conference that preceded the Southern Baptist Convention, Vines referred to Mohammed as a “demon-possessed pedophile.” Of course the secular press took this one statement out of four days of meetings in St. Louis and made it the headliner. Controversy sells newspapers.
My first encounter with Jerry Vines was almost thirty years ago at a camp meeting in northern Mississippi. From that time forward, he was one of my favorites. He is a personal soul-winner. His life is above reproach. He is one of the greatest preachers in the Southern Baptist Convention. We can debate his choice of words. We cannot debate his intent. Pastor Vines was trying to counter the political correctness of pluralism.
The American culture has adopted the position that there are no absolutes. This is a result of neo-orthodoxy and liberalism attacking the authority and inerrancy of the Bible. One of the first tenets of our faith to be abandoned when there are no absolutes is the exclusivity of Jesus Christ for salvation. The culture and many in the religious world espouse a religious pluralism. In this system Jesus is just one of many ways to God.
Although quaint with phrases unfamiliar to the 21st century ear, the words of George Truett ring true on the message of Jesus Christ. “This is the gospel and the only gospel that has infallible and invincible credentials that it is the power of God unto salvation. This gospel has conquered South Sea cannibals, African Hottentots, Indian pariahs, Chinese opium sots, Korean demon worshippers, Confucian scholars, Mohammedan fanatics, Brahmin priests, Buddhist devotees, and men of every type and temperament out of every kindred, tribe, and tongue under the heavens.” There was no doubt in Truett’s mind that Jesus was the only way to heaven.
Truett preaching a centennial celebration of Charles Spurgeon’s birth said, “Mr. Spurgeon believed with His whole being in the divine authority, the divine sufficiency and the divine finality of Christ’s gospel. He had no fellowship with any suggestion that we are to have a syncretistic salvation composed of fragments of Confucianism, bits of Buddhism, and pieces of Hinduism, and the rest. His soul was fixed in the conviction that such a hash of religions is not to be substituted for the Bread of Life.”
Islam is not our most serious spiritual threat. Pluralism and political correctness in the Baptist pew may be. Jesus said emphatically that He was the only way to heaven, John 14:6. The apostles preached it, Acts 4:12. Our Baptist forefathers believed it. If we do not see revival or win people to Christ, Jerry Vines owes us no “mea culpa.” It falls to us to have the conviction that Jesus is the only One who can save.