Did Jesus participate in Interfaith Dialogues? That is the claim that is now being made by Pastor Phil Johnson, who is an elder at John MacArthur’s Grace Community Church and Executive Director of Grace To You. Here is what he said:
There’s so much that could unpacked about these statements… But I want to begin to build the case that Jesus did not participate in IFDs in the same way that James White did.
One of the recurring arguments being made is that Jesus participated in an Interfaith Dialogue with the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-45. Let’s take a look at this passage.
Jesus was by himself, sitting near Jacob’s well, after a long journey. A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus asked for some water. She was shocked that he would speak to her, as Jews don’t speak to Samaritans. Jesus immediately turned the conversation into the Gospel, as exemplified in verse 10: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”
Obviously, she didn’t understand that he was referring to salvation. She wasn’t understanding, yet Jesus kept taking it back to the Gospel. In verse 13, Jesus states, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
Now, for many Christians, this would be enough of a gospel presentation. However, she was still not understanding. So Jesus moves into the next step of making this woman understand her sin and the need for repentance by telling her that she has had multiple husbands. She immediately knows that this is not just a normal man, and Jesus eventually declares to her that He is the Messiah.
What was her response? To run back to the town to bring as many people back to hear Jesus speak as she could grab. This woman clearly repented of her sins and placed her faith in Jesus as the Messiah. She shared her testimony, and her fellow townspeople also placed their faith in Christ.
If you notice, Jesus was not asking her, “So how do you believe that you receive eternal life?” or “What is your theological position on…”
This example is not a valid justification of the type of Interfaith Dialogue that James White participated in. This woman was not a religious leader. This was not a public dialogue. Jesus was not sitting under this woman’s teaching for several years to understand what she believes. He was not trying to create community with the Samaritans against the pagan Roman rule.
This was an evangelistic private conversation between Jesus and this Samaritan woman. Once she believed, her immediate response was to run back into her town and share her faith with her fellow townspeople. Jesus’ goal was not to “open up the dialogue.” He got right to the point, declared truth, and that was that.
Please understand that Interfaith Dialogues are unbiblical and are not exemplified anywhere in Scripture. I will continue to show that, if needed. I hope that Pastor Phil Johnson will recant his statements that Jesus participated in IFDs, as well as the fact that Jesus’ conversation with this Samaritan woman was an IFD. I also hope that after these confusing claims by Pastor Phil, Pastor John MacArthur will see the need to clarify what he believes to be true about IFDs and Jesus’ participation in them.
Again, if Jesus did participate in Interfaith Dialogues, I would fully support Christians participating in them. However, I have not seen any evidence that this is a biblical tactic, not have I seen any evidence that Jesus or any of his apostles used this for evangelistic purposes.