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ss triple helix - summer 2002,  'Religious Tolerance' on Campus - A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

'Religious Tolerance' on Campus - A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

A disturbing trend was highlighted by the recent publication of a document entitled Religious Tolerance and Respect on Campus. [1] Written by a Muslim chaplain at Oxford University, it claims the support of several organisations, including the National Union of Students.

Its aim is the establishment of interfaith discussion groups on campus, a seemingly innocent goal, and yet on closer reading there is a distinct undercurrent against evangelical Christianity. Proposals for a code of practice include: 'no university student organisation should discriminate on grounds of religious belief in their rules for membership or leadership, and no doctrinal test should be imposed on members or leaders'.

Specific mention is made of the 'discriminatory doctrinal test' of CMF and UCCF groups. This strange proposal would leave groups open to infiltration by anti-Christian elements and even leadership by Muslims or anyone else.

The document mentions groups such as Al-Muhajiroun (a Muslim group with links to terrorist organisations such as Hamas and Hizbollah), alongside 'fundamentalist missionary groups' such as the 'Ishmael mission' (a reference to CMF's 'Ishmael my Brother' conferences) and All Souls' church in London.

It then describes fundamentalism as 'throw[ing] out entirely the heritage of centuries of both modern and ancient sacred scholarship and debate'. Furthermore, 'the Fundamentalist's Bible or Qur'an is a 'loose-leaf' text, where you selectively tear out the pages that don't suit you.'

Further proposals include that 'no proselytising activity should be directed against another faith community'. This would outlaw any dialogue between Christians and other faith groups aimed at reaching objective truth and allow only that aimed at gaining understanding of another person's beliefs.

Biblical dialogue, on the other hand, is concerned not only with seeking understanding, but also with opposing challenging false belief, albeit 'with gentleness and respect'.[2] It is seen in the many instances of the use of dialegomai in the New Testament, such as Acts 17:2,3, where Paul 'went into the synagogue, and… reasoned (dialexato) with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead' (Acts 17:2,3).

Andrew Carey responded to Religious Tolerance in the Church of England Newspaper: 'under the guise of tolerance, we have a clear attack on religious freedom'.[3] Don Horrocks of the Evangelical Alliance stated that 'it is unrealistic to expect religious groups to leave their religious beliefs at the door of public debate in pursuance of some politically correct, ridiculous, lowest common denominator'.[4]

This initiative is disturbing in its subtle attack on religious freedom of speech. It reflects the rising tide of aggressive pluralism, where any and every opinion is welcome, just so long as it doesn't claim to be objectively true. We must pray for our students on campus, who are in the 'front line' of evangelism, that they will take their lead from those like Paul and not be afraid to stand up for the truth of the gospel.

  1. Available at
  2. 1 Peter 3:15
  3. Carey A. New threat that could close Christian Unions. Church of England Newspaper 2002, 12 April
  4. Bonthrone PJ. Muslim's call on Christian groups is 'ridiculous'. Telegraph 2002, 1 May. See also letters of same edition.
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