Abraham Returns to Iraq

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What would Abraham do?

That’s the question one Jewish commentator thinks the American media establishment should ponder before they denounce evangelistic activity in the newly liberated Iraq.

David Klinghoffer, author of a new book on Abraham, does not endorse the theology of Franklin Graham or the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  Still, he argues, this missionary zeal doesn’t originate with them. Instead, it goes all the way back to Abraham, who left Ur (located in what is now Iraq) to establish a nation that would be a light to the world.

Writing in National Review Online, Klinghoffer contends that missionary activity is the imperative of people who take their beliefs seriously. It is also, he says, essential to a free society.

“How could any religious believer, who thinks his faith has the answers to ultimate questions, not share those answers others?” he asks.

“The patriarch operated in a free market of ideas, where he was able to share his conception of the One God,” Klinghoffer writes.  “Part of his legacy is missionary work.  Another part is the liberty to make friends by offering food, and then to tell them about your God.”

The chattering class doesn’t seem to understand this. Neither do the bureaucracies of mainline Protestantism.  Even so, right now evangelical churches are boxing up food to send to Iraq—just because they love the people there.  Klinghoffer seems to think Abraham might approve.  Evangelical Christians know he would.

Jesus once told a group of Abraham’s descendants that monotheism was not enough. Abraham’s faith, Jesus said, finds its fulfillment in the Christ of God.  “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day,” Jesus said. “And he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).

Evangelicals want the Iraqi people to enjoy political freedom.  We also want them to be free from hunger and thirst.  But we also want them to share in the inheritance of Christ Jesus, through a gospel that can transform a believing Iraqi into a son of Abraham (Gal 3:29).

Perhaps we will live to see the day when the gospel is freely preached in Iraq, when the Iraqi people have the liberty to hear and believe in Jesus Christ.  Perhaps then we can say that Abraham has returned to Ur.

What would Abraham do?  He would preach the gospel.

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.