Prison Fellowship founder and Watergate hatchet man Charles Colson termed Islam "a vicious evil" and "Islamofascism"--a blending of religion and ideology present in the world today--"evil incarnate" in a message Sunday night to Southern Baptist pastors.
The closing speaker of the opening session of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors Conference in San Antonio, Texas, Colson challenged pastors to battle both Islam from without and atheism from within by arming church members with a biblical "worldview" that understands Jesus as concerned with more than saving souls.
Colson, a member of First Baptist Church in Naples, Fla., said American Christians understand what secular liberals cannot about Islam.
"These are two completely different views of life and reality," Colson said in a sermon Webcast live. "Islam is a theocracy, which means that it is a church state."
"We believe in free will," Colson said. "We believe man is created in the image of God free and to make his own choices. We believe that the gospel advances by love, and Islam believes that it advances by conquest.
"Islam is a vicious evil," Colson said later. "Islamofascism is evil incarnate."
"Christians will give their lives and die for what they believe, and all through the years they have done so, but Islamists are very different," Colson said. "We will die for what we believe. They will kill for what they believe."
Colson said what started out as a cultural debate in the United States during the 1960s, when moral relativism raided American life to challenge values like abortion, gay rights and the family, "today with neo-atheism has become an all-out war."
While atheists were formerly a fringe presence arguing about whether God exists and if it can be proven, Colson said, best-selling books today by authors like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris contend that Christianity is dangerous and should be regulated.
"We're up against a vicious attack by neoatheists," Colson said. He defined the term as a "virulent of strain of atheism that seeks to destroy our belief system."
"The only thing you do to respond to something like this is to do a better job of explaining what we believe and why we believe it," he said.
"We've got to stop looking at Christianity as simply a personal relationship with Jesus," he said. We have to understand that Christianity is a worldview. When Jesus came he announced the kingdom, which means that the reign of God has come upon earth and the kingdom will come in power when he reigns again for a thousand years. That's what he's announcing, and that's a worldview. That's a way of seeing all of life, every aspect of life under the Lordship of Christ."
Colson introduced a new six-week DVD course he recently released with Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren, Wide Angle: Framing Your Worldview, summarizing Colson's writings over the years about what it means to have a biblical worldview.
According to product descriptions on both Colson's and Warren's Web sites, the study tackles issues like truth vs. relativism, creationism vs. Darwinism, tolerance, terrorism and more.
"What is our purpose in life?" Colson asked Southern Baptist pastors. "It is to restore the fallen culture to the glory of God. It's to take command and dominion over every aspect of life, whether it's music, science, law, politics, communities, families, to bring Christianity to bear in every single area of life. And that's exactly what Rick and I teach in that series. That's what I have been teaching."
Colson and Warren have collaborated before. Two years ago Prison Fellowship was announced as a major partner in Warren's global P.E.A.C.E. to put Purpose Driven's Celebrate Recovery program in more than 2,000 prisons worldwide, while exposing more than 20,000 purpose-driven churches around the world to Prison Fellowship's Angel Tree ministry to prisoners' children.
Recent opinion articles have contrasted older Christian right leaders ready to leave the scene like Colson, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell with younger influential pastors like Warren, 53, and Bill Hybels, who are less openly partisan and more willing to embrace liberal issues like poverty, global warming and AIDS.
Last year Warren split with Colson and friends by signing, along with several other evangelical leaders, a call to action on climate change.
In 2004, however, Warren weighed in just before the presidential election with a letter to his pastors' network outlining "non-negotiable" issues like abortion, same-sex marriage and stem-cell research, a tacit endorsement for President Bush and against Sen. John Kerry.
On a video promoting their new worldview series, Warren described Colson as a "dear friend" and endorsed Colson's books, The Body, How Then Shall We Live?, The Good Life and others.
Colson's remarks on Islam echoed past comments by another speaker on the program at Sunday night's Pastors Conference. Five years ago at the SBC Pastors Conference in St. Louis, Mo., Jerry Vines made headlines by declaring Muhammad a "demon-possessed pedophile" and Islam a violent religion.
In Sunday's message, a sermon on Acts 8 reprising a message he preached 20 years ago titled "Catching Chariots" and now renamed as "The Chariots are Changing," Vines, the retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla., urged tolerance.
"We must ask the Holy Spirit to rip every vestige of racial prejudice from our souls," Vines said. "Your next-door neighbor used to be a Methodist or Presbyterian. Now they may be Muslim and Buddhist. We must learn everything we can about their religions, so we can catch those changing chariots."
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.