SMU religion prof calls Baptist pastor ignorant, fear monger for comments on Islam

by Gregory Tomlin, |
First Baptist Dallas/Screengrab

DALLAS (Christian Examiner) – A prominent professor of religion at Southern Methodist University is taking Robert Jeffress to task after the pastor of First Baptist Dallas said in a sermon Nov. 15 that Islam was an evil religion born of Satan.

Robert Hunt, who currently serves as director of global theological education for SMU's Perkins School of Theology and director of the Center for Evangelism and Missional Church Studies, wrote in a blog posting that Jeffress represents a type of "darkness in the heart of Dallas."

"If Dallas is going to be the city it wants to be then Christian pastors who now rail against Islam out of ignorance and fear need to engage Muslims in dialogue and learn about the religion from its followers," Hunt writes at Patheos. Hunt is the author of several works on Islam and Christianity.

"My city, Dallas, wants to be something. It wants to be an international hub of commerce. It wants to be a cosmopolitan center for the cultivation and appreciation of the arts. It wants to be a place whose citizens or all races thrive, whose families are safe from violence, and whose children excel."

According to Hunt, however, this cannot happen as long as pastors like Jeffress "systematically attack the foundations of a diverse society by attacking its foundation of tolerance and respect for religious minorities."

Hunt wrote that Jeffress' words were offensive to the 100,000 Muslims who live in the city, and he disagreed with Jeffress' interpretation of Romans 13 which permits the U.S. government to bomb Islamic State radicals.

"What the pastor is saying to Dallas area Arab Muslims and Christians is that the US government has an obligation to engage in bombings that will slaughter their relatives and friends. He's saying Jesus has empowered the US government to kill untold numbers of innocent people. That hardly seems likely to help us develop a diverse and civil society," Hunt wrote, adding that Jeffress' interpretation of Romans 13 – used to justify military action – also says Christians should obey their government.

Hunt accused Jeffress of repeatedly calling for Christians to defy the federal government on issues related to abortion and same-sex marriage.

The SMU professor, however, reserved his harshest criticism for Jeffers' claim that Satan inspired Islam.

Islam, Hunt wrote, is a monotheistic religion with angels, prophets – including Moses, David and Jesus – sacred writings, and a belief that Jesus will return. He also claims Muhammad called Muslims only to prayer, fasting, feeding the poor and religious pilgrimage.

Hunt did not mention that Muslims reject the divinity of Jesus Christ, believe the Koran has supplanted the Old and New Testaments, and that Jesus is not the Mahdi, or the messiah of Islam. He also did not mention the continuing tradition of jihad within Islam, based on the paradigm established by Muhammad in the seventh century.

Hunt also took exception with Jeffress' comment that no single verse in the New Testament commands Christians to kill infidels.

"He can't be serious," Hunt wrote. "He knows that Jesus said that not one word of the law will pass away. And he knows that the Law of Moses is pretty explicit about the religious obligation, in at least some cases, to slaughter every single person who doesn't worship Yahweh."

"And he seems to have forgotten that Jesus also says, 'Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.' And Jesus said: 'But now, the one who has a purse must take it, and likewise a bag. And the one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one,'" Hunt wrote.

"It seems pretty obvious that Jesus was arming his disciples to do some pretty serious harm. And as Jeffress himself has acknowledged elsewhere, Christians have committed atrocities in the name of Christ."

According to Hunt, Jeffress' style of preaching is a risk to Dallas and the city will "never reach what it aspires to be" as long as he is in the pulpit, leading his congregation "into rebellion against God and God's divinely appointed authorities."

Hunt wrote that Jeffress and his congregation are abusing God's word, striking out blindly at what they believe threatens them.