Nabeel Qureshi and the Context of Together 2016

Instead of making a scholarly comparison between a bandwagon and a garbage truck, let’s look at the historical context.

The Historical Context

  • We all went berserk when Together 2016 announced that the Pope would be delivering a “special video greeting” during the event on the National Mall.  Mysteriously after Nick Hall’s visit to the Vatican, those Facebook and Instagram posts disappeared, and inquiries/complaints to Together 2016 about the Pope’s video greeting were often met with a friendly reply that the Pope’s only involvement was an invitation video filmed during Hall’s visit.  No such special video greeting from the Pope was presented at Together 2016 despite reports to the contrary that relied entirely on secondary sources.
  • In a video called “The Vision Behind Together 2016,” Nick Hall declared Catholics and evangelicals to be “on the same team.”
  • Nick Hall refused to answer publicly whether the Roman Catholic gospel is salvific.
  • Nick Hall presented the social gospel on a radio show.
  • Tim Challies reviewed Nick Hall’s book Reset.  He opined that “The full truth of the bad news and the full beauty of the good news is obscured by this soft ‘reset’ gospel,” and he recommended staying clear of the event.
  • In my book review, I made the following observations on Reset.
    • It relies too much on visions rather than scripture.
    • It skips over original sin.  According to Reset, sin is a bad decision that leads to bad consequences, and it just isn’t God’s best for us, rather than being an offense to a holy God.
    • It skips double imputation, by which the Father poured out his wrath on the Son — the wrath that we deserved! — and the Son’s righteousness was imputed upon us.
    • I concluded, very charitably and very much trying not to cross the line into false claims, that Reset is semi-Pelagian at best.
    • By the way, the book’s foreword is written by Josh McDowell, Luis Palau, and Ravi Zacharias — Nabeel Qureshi’s mentor and employer.

July 16th

Nick Hall introduces the charismatic Roman Catholic unity party: Lou Engle, Bishop Robert (somebody please help me find his last name), Matteo Calisi, and Bruno Ierullo.  Unity is declared between Catholics and evangelicals.

Just under two hours later, Nabeel Qureshi speaks on stage.

The gospel does get out there, and equally does a call to evangelistic mobilization. Though I must say that the “change the world” thing triggered me — it often is a mark of the social gospel — I’ll hold back from targeting that, as I can’t prove that was Qureshi’s intention.

From this context alone, to what degree is Nabeel Qureshi culpable for ecumenism with Roman Catholics by agreeing to speak?  He did not present a false gospel, but I submit that Qureshi’s appearance and speech at Together 2016, given the context in which it is being delivered, confuses the critical gospel issue of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  Although there was nothing in particular that was wrong about the speech, it was in a setting and in such a way that any Roman Catholic could also have agreed, clapped, and been left there still under the false impression of being right with God.

Conversion Spin

If a Roman Catholic converts to Islam, would we say that his statement “I converted from Christianity to Islam” is an intentional lie on the part of the convert?  No, though we confess that Roman Catholicism is not Christianity, we would also understand that Roman Catholicism claims to be Christianity, and that is the sense in which the convert is using the term.  Trying to knock Qureshi on this point is off base.  So is nitpicking whether he was standing or sitting in his dream.

I’m a cessationist too, by the way.  I frankly don’t make much of the dream.

A Plea

In the future, let’s try to improve our model of evaluation.  If we are going to criticize Nabeel Qureshi for being at Together 2016, we ought to evaluate what he actually said at Together 2016 as well as more of the context than just the list of speakers on the website.

We also need not lean on other religions’ apologists with questionable credentials or upon minor instances of poorly-spoken words such as confusing ‘sitting’ versus ‘standing.'”

Updated with grammatical corrections.

Christian News corrects Together 2016 article, but there’s still something fishy.

Following my post pointing out its factual error, Christian News has now corrected its article.

Editor’s Note:An earlier version of this story stated that a message from Bergoglio was played at Together 2016, which was previously promoted by the organization PULSE, led by Nick Hall, in a national press release: (see“Pope Francis to Address Americans at National Mall Event ‘Together 2016’ With Special Video Message.”) For unknown reasons, PULSE decided to circulate a video invitation/endorsement from Bergoglio via their social media channels rather than playing a video message at the event as the group initially announced.

The obvious lingering issue, of course, is Jordan (JD) Hall (no known relation to Nick Hall or Mark Hall), the personal and vitriolic nature of whose comment and subsequent podcast requires no defense except to point out one item: the fat joke on Facebook is inappropriate.

Jordan Hall claims that Christian News’ “jumbotron” error was minor, not unlike any error that may be published in a newspaper.  How did such an error arise, what is its level of seriousness, and how might have it been prevented?  I submit the following.

(1) The primary (as in original) source from which Christian News falsely learned that the Pope had addressed the crowd on the “jumbotron” can only be from previous social media postings from Together 2016 which were deleted well prior to the event.  The event itself was streamed live, and a full-length recording — albeit littered with conspiratorial commentary — is freely available on YouTube.

(2) It is understandable that a casual observer would have shown up to Together 2016 believing that a Pope video would be played for the audience. Together 2016 issued many smaller statements to individuals who lamented the Pope’s scheduled video appearance, but they did not release a dedicated statement that explicitly cancelled the “special video greeting,” and they never gave a reason for the change when I pressed them for one on two separate occasions.

From left: Nick Hall, Bruno Ierullo, Matteo Calisi, Lou Engle, “Bishop Robert”

(3) If Christian News came into July 16th believing that a Pope video would be presented, the fact of the event’s demise five hours prior to its scheduled end should have caused them to question whether the video had been scheduled during the cancelled portion of the event between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m.

(4) As long as the article was on the subject of ecumenism with Roman Catholicism and went into enough depth to mention Roman Catholic musician Matt Maher, it would stand to reason that Nick Hall’s direct address of the Pope invitation controversy, the appearance of a Roman Catholic delegation on stage, and the specific proclamation of brotherhood between evangelicals and Roman Catholics should go in such an article at Christian News.  In fact, the article mentions Lou Engle whose portion of the program was in fact standing with the charismatic Roman Catholic delegation, but the article only mentions Engle’s addressing of “racial divides” in relation to “Minneapolis, Ferguson, and Dallas.”  This fact was mentioned in the Washington Post devoid of its context in the middle of the Roman Catholic ecumenical portion of the event.

(5) The end of Christian News’ article contains the following quote attributed to Nick Hall:

Hall, aware of the concerns, told the crowd on Saturday, “We’re not saying it’s time to compromise Scripture. But there is something about reaching across the aisle.”

But is that what Nick Hall said?  Let’s go to the tape.

(video time 10:31)

Here’s the deal, guys. When it comes to unity, we’re not saying today that it’s time to compromise on doctrine or beliefs or stances. We’re saying we want to stand on the truth of God’s Word in the scriptures, and we want to point to [Jesus], the only way to God.  But we do believe that there’s something about reaching across the aisle for some conversations that’s valuable in this time.

And so I’m gonna have Lou [Engle] come and pray one more time.  We’re just praying for revival.  Let’s pray for the rest of this day.  Let’s just pray that God would hear from heaven, that He would be pleased, and that we don’t want a show today.  How many of you guys know we didn’t come for a show?  We didn’t come for a concert.  We didn’t come to hear from some person. We need to hear from heaven.

(video time 11:12)

SIDEBAR: No, Nick Hall. This IS compromise.

And a simple Google search for the quote in Christian News’ article yields this quote from the Washington Post.

“Together” is the brainchild of Hall, a 34-year-old evangelist and event planner. Almost all of the people appearing at the event Saturday were evangelical, but Hall shared a greeting from Pope Francis.

Francis did a promotional video for the event, encouraging viewers to “Give [Jesus] a try! You don’t have anything to lose!” but some evangelical leaders discouraged too much involvement of the Catholic leader.

“We’re not saying it’s time to compromise scripture,” Hall told the crowd. “But there is something about reaching across the aisle…. We didn’t come for a show, we didn’t come for a concert…. We need to hear from heaven!”

“Hall shared a greeting from Pope Francis.”  Yes he did, but not during the event.  Hall did share a greeting during the event from President Obama, not Pope Francis.  This is sloppy on the Post‘s part.

Let’s bring the Christian News quote back to our minds here now.

Hall, aware of the concerns, told the crowd on Saturday, “We’re not saying it’s time to compromise Scripture. But there is something about reaching across the aisle.”

What this makes apparent is that Christian News likely pulled the quote from the Washington Post and then shortened it as if to say that these two sentences in the quote came one after the other, which they did not.  It moreover completely misses the surrounding context, namely the Roman Catholic ecumenical portion of the program that was indisputably worthy of inclusion in Christian News’ article.

The preponderance of evidence testifies that Christian News obtained its information about Roman Catholic involvement at Together 2016 from one or more secondary sources such as the Washington Post rather than taking the time to watch the Together 2016 event itself, which resulted in the incorrect “jumbotron” sentence and missing critical details about what actually occurred with Roman Catholicism at the event.

How then should we characterize this error on the part of Christian News?  At very best, it’s extraordinarily sloppy.  The title of the blog post was “Did Christian News Actually Watch Together 2016 Before Reporting On It?”  The answer still appears to be ‘no.’