Friday, September 18, 2009

'Christians' celebrating Ramadan?

The following article appeared in WorldNet Daily late last month but I only just became aware of it this week.  Read it over and let me know what you think.

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'Christians' celebrating Ramadan?
Posted: August 25, 2009
By Joel Richardson

As the Islamic observance of Ramadan begins this year, an increasing number of Christians will also be entering into 30 days of prayer and fasting. Across the world, a growing number of Christians have been joining the movement led by the 30-Days Prayer Network, which calls Christians to pray and fast for Muslims during the month of Ramadan. The focus of their prayers is the increase of the ongoing revival among Muslims converting to Christianity. In recent years, a historically unprecedented number of Muslims have come to Christ, many through divine dreams and visions. The 30-days website describes the genesis of this movement:

The origin of this international prayer network came about as a group of Christian leaders were praying during a meeting in the Middle East in April 1992. God put a burden on the hearts of these men and women to call as many Christians as possible to pray for the Muslim world.

But a smaller left-wing Christian sect, often referred to as "the emerging church," is now also taking a very different approach. This year, a group of emergent Christians led by one of the United States most influential pastors, Brian McLaren, has announced that it will actually be "observing" the Muslim holy month, along with a Muslim "partner." Ramadan is the month that Muslims thank Allah, their god, for revealing the Quran to Muhammad, their prophet. On McLaren's personal blog, he recently announced his intentions: "We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness." But does such an interreligious observance go beyond mere "neighborliness" and cross the line of religious compromise and syncretism? Does observing the religious holy month of Ramadan create the impression of an endorsement of Islam?

Every year, during the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, the Muslim world celebrates a month-long fast known as Ramadan. The timing of the fast in the month of Sha'aban is specifically intended to commemorate the month in which the Quran was "sent down" or "revealed" to Muhammad. During Ramadan, Muslims will abstain from smoking or drinking, from sex or sexual thoughts and eating during the daylight hours. Muslims also believe that good deeds done during Ramadan will be doubly credited before Allah.

McLaren, a leading voice in the growing left-wing Christian movement, wants everyone to know that he has not converted to Islam, but is a "deeply committed Christian." But McLaren is not fasting for the salvation of his Muslim friends. Instead he is seeking through the practice of this Islamic ritual to promote "the common good, together with people of other faith traditions."

Our main purpose for participating will be our own spiritual growth, health, learning, and maturity, but we also hope that our experience will inspire others to pray and work for peace and the common good, together with people of other faith traditions … as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them. Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.

Christian theologians have pointed out that the notion that Jesus had to overcome his own personal prejudices is contrary to fundamental Christian belief. Such a notion could only be considered if Jesus were merely a human prophet, as Islam teaches.

Despite McLaren's well-articulated niceties, what is clearly missing among his five posts on his personal blog is a single mention of praying for Muslims to come to Christ. This stands in stark contrast to the 30-Days Prayer Network website, where a loving but firm position is maintained:

Most Muslims have actually been trained not to believe that Jesus died and rose again. In general they know little of His forgiveness. They believe that Jesus was a prophet sent from God, but they generally never think of Him as God's appointed King who reigns over the nations (Mt 28:18-20). It is precisely "believing the Gospel of the Kingdom" which is a problem. Like all people everywhere and in all cultures, Muslims are called to turn from evil and believe the Gospel of the Kingdom. Most Muslims around the world have not even had an opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus' death for sins and His resurrection, which liberates us from the power of sin, death and demonic bondage.

Although McLaren has said that he and his followers "will seek to avoid being disrespectful or unfaithful to our own faith tradition in our desire to be respectful to the faith tradition of our friends," some have expressed that the very act of observing a Muslim religious season is itself highly unorthodox and contrary to historical Christian practice. While loving and befriending others is paramount to the Christian faith, the Bible is clear that Christians are to avoid actually participating in their religious ceremonies:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)

Yet fellow emergent Pastor Tony Campolo has argued that such interfaith prayers and even mystical unions are critical for all true peacemakers:

If we are looking for common ground, can we find it in mystical spirituality, even if we cannot theologically agree? Can we pray together in such a way that we connect with a God that transcends our theological differences?

What is also so concerning to observers of the growing emergent Christian movement is its tendencies to rarely express the Christian gospel while loudly and often proclaiming either a classic humanist message or outright religious pluralism. McLaren and other emergent leaders are often heard expressing the need to de-emphasize "doctrinal barriers" between various religions including Christianity and Islam

While Jesus was adamant that adherence to the Christian message would cause a measure of division between peoples of differing religious persuasions, Campolo staunchly disagrees. Speaking on the relations between Muslims and Christians, in an interview by Shane Claiborne, Campolo demands, "We cannot allow our theologies to separate us."

The trend to de-emphasize doctrine by prominent teachers such as McLaren and Campolo has caused deep concern among many conservative theologians and pastors because such opinions likewise tend to cause the central Christian message to be significantly de-emphasized as well. "I'm not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians," stated Campolo. In fact, he has even gone so far as to say he believes many Muslims do not even need to be evangelized.

[W]hat can I say to an Islamic brother who has fed the hungry, and clothed the naked? You say, "But he hasn't a personal relationship with Christ." I would argue with that. And I would say from a Christian perspective, in as much as you did it to the least of these you did it unto Christ. You did have a personal relationship with Christ, you just didn't know it."

The corrosive nature of this liberal and somewhat experimental approach to Christianity has taken on even more significant expressions in recent years. In 2007, Episcopal priestess Rev. Anne Holmes announced that she had become a Christian-Muslim. The Christian Post reported the story:

A Seattle priest has become a Muslim while also retaining her clergy status in the Episcopal Church. Her local bishop has described the development as "exciting." "I look through Jesus and I see Allah," explained the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding to the "Seattle Times," which reported that Redding puts on her Islamic headscarf on Fridays and her clerical collar on Sundays. … she still sees Jesus as her Savior, even if not divine, and plans to remain both a priest and an Episcopalian. Bishop Vincent Warner of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia told the Seattle Times that Redding's embrace of Islam has not been controversial in his diocese.

As in Seattle, so also now in Nigeria and China, there is a small but growing movement of what some are calling "Chrislam," a movement that seeks to combine Christianity and Islam, preaching from both the Quran and the Bible. One Chrislamic gathering brings in roughly 1,500 adherents each week.

Each year, tens of thousands of Americans convert to Islam, including many who were raised in a Christian church. Many students of Bible prophecy see all of this as part of the fulfillment of what the Bible predicted long ago when it described the "great falling away" (1 Timothy 4:1, 2; Thessalonians 2:3).

The word orthodoxy comes from the Greek and essentially means "straight belief." Correct practice (orthopraxy) always flows out of orthodoxy. As the plowman would grasp the plow, he would fix his eyes on some distant mark on the far side of the field. The goal was to walk as straight as possible to the other end. Any small departure would result in missing the desired destination. From this picture we have the idea behind Christian orthodoxy. Each generation makes an attempt to pass on that which was faithfully delivered to them before extending back to the apostles and to Christ. This week, one group of Christians will gaze upon the opposite end of the field and resolutely walk forward for 30 days with determination to cry out for their Muslim friends to become Christians. The other group, led by one of the most influential pastors in the United States, will be embracing a whole new tradition.

The Apostle John warned that the doctrine of the antichrist was seen in any denial of the Father and the Son: No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22, 23) Yet Islam's Quran says that anyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God commits the greatest blasphemy imaginable. They said, "The Most Gracious has begotten a son"! You have uttered a gross blasphemy. (Quran 19:88) Some, like Rev. Ann Holmes or the Chrislamic "churches" in Nigeria, have abandoned orthodoxy altogether and aligned themselves with this antichrist revelation. As to where the emerging church finally ends up is yet to be seen. But if choosing to observe a month dedicated to thanking Allah for inspiring such brazen anti-Christ theology is any indication, I think we can safely say they are probably not even on the right field to begin with.

9 comments:

pbbcc said...

A thoughtful article

It seems that a focus of trying to reveal that we "love our neighbor" can lead us away from Christ as the central/primary focus of our love. Jesus told us that the first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37). The second command is "like it" but it isn't the greatest commandment.

vanityofvanities said...

This is an incredibly interesting article. Last year, I fasted from lunch during Ramadan in order to follow the prayer guide provided by the 30-Days Prayer Network. I wasn't "observing" Ramadan, but I was setting aside time I would usually use for eating in order to pray for Muslims. This year, Ramadan sneaked up on me and I missed the beginning.

I am startled and dismayed by the merging of Christianity and Islam, of which I'd never heard. I am even more bothered that the Episcopalian's choice to renounce Christ's deity "has not been controversial."

All the more reason to hold fast to Christ and His Words, and to weigh everything accordingly.

Laurel said...

This article is rather scary, along with what I read in last week's McLeans about what they're teaching children in sex-ed classes in our Canadian schools.... I get overwhelmed with the evil that is happening all around me... Then I remember that the harder we pray, the harder we fight for the coming of God's Kingdom, the harder our enemy will fight back, so what should I expect...

I am so thankful that God placed me, as a baby Christian, in a Bible-believing church that gave me the solid foundation I needed to stay faithful to Jesus. And He got me hooked up with ministries like Voice of the Martyrs, whom I can trust to also stay faithful to His Word.

God bless you all as you continue to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.

Anonymous said...

I have just finished reading"The Lost History Of Christianity",by Philip Jenkins.
The thousand year golden age of the church in the Middle East,Africa,and Asia ---and HOW IT DIED !
This book should be read by all christians who love the church of Jesus Christ.The bride of Christ should not veil her self with Islam.
I wish that the so-called learned theologians would learn from history!!Before becoming shepherds who lead the flock astray with false teachings.
Jesus said:"NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT BY ME !!
Suzanna Meyer

Anonymous said...

The article should be startling, but one has the sense that today it is not. The celebration of Ramadan mentioned in the article seems to go beyond secular enjoyment and respect, as is often shown for Christmas around the world. It seems from the article that some Christians are seeking for something more spiritual. . . to grow spiritually from a ritual dedicated to Allah.

And yet, at the heart of things, the promise of God is life in Christ. . . that it is the living presence of Christ alone that makes us alive to the things of God.

While tolerance and respect for the rights of others for their own religions and rituals is to be encouraged, and it is a measure of a good soul not to hate others for their beliefs, this should not be confused with finding spiritual life or growth.

Here in New Jersey, which has a variety of religious expression, over the next few weeks the very large Hindu population is celebrating Navratri, in honor of a goddess. Everyone is invited of course. While it may be an interesting cultural exercise to visit the festival, and it may promote peace and understanding, which is commendable, I would not expect to find spiritual life there. . . Christ is not there.

Campolo's belief that those who do good to others already unknowingly know Christ misses the point of things. There are many 'Christians' who do good works who are not alive in Christ either. The call of Christ is that we deny ourselves & follow Him. . . not merely that we do good things to others to the best of our ability. . . but rather that in Christ we learn like Paul, "I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh." We are meant to turn utterly from what we are in ourselves, and find in Christ life. The power of His resurrection is meant to be in our lives. . . there is a life for our souls in Christ.

But that life & growth that comes only from utterly denying oneself and following Jesus, does not come unknowingly. And it is never the call from other religions. It is not doctrine that separates, it is the presence of life.

Anonymous said...

Glenn,

If these folk want to fast [and praise God that they do!], how about joining with the original?
The traditional Christian practice of the Lenten fast, leading up to Easter.



Your blog aligns with some on-the-ground observations of Ramadan that my wife & I made in Indonesia this year.

(We are Australians, she is of Indonesian origin, and we maintain close links with family & friends in suburban Jakarta.)

We've just returned to Australia from our annual family visit to Jakarta, including the first week of Ramadan. What a curious experience this year!
It's almost like the muslim moderates are copying the protestant Christians. In supermarkets there was incessant islamic 'prayer & praise' type music being played over the store entertainment systems - very much like we might hear Christmas Carols in western shopping centres. Not arabic wailing - sounded just like western contemporary Christian acoustic folk/pop/light rock, in contemporary Indonesian language, and clearly and explicitly islamic.

We also noted for the first time (for us, anyway) that muslim family groups were gathering at some of the local mosques for 'fellowship meals' as they broke the fast at the end of each day.

Coincidently, we noticed the absence of more hard-line expressions of Islam on this visit. I have clear memories in previous years, for example, of people collecting money to support the jihad against Christians in the Maluku Islands. Nothing like that now - family told me that the government is working hard to shut down religious extremism, and such public displays are no longer tolerated. We even saw a large billboard announcing that true jihad was the war against personal passions and temptations, not war against people. (Really regretting not having had a camera with me at that moment.)


There is a flip-side to this caring sharing image of Islam - the blurring of the line of distinction between us and them, and the possible seduction of well-meaning Christians into embracing Islam.


The Indonesians have always been friends with each other other across the faith boundary, and it's normal to hear Christian and Muslim friends wish each other "Salamat Labaran" (Happy Labaran = end of Ramadan) and "Salamat Paskah" (Happy Easter) at Ramadan and Easter respectively.
That has always been seen as a 'safe' expression of friendship and tolerance of each other. This year we've noticed something far more disturbing from some of our Christian friends (in person and via Facebook): Greetings to Muslims, such as "May God bless your Fasting".

When does 'tolerance' become 'embracing'?
How can a Christian wish the blessings of a strange and foreign god?
Are the Christians being seduced?


blessings
Nick in Melbourne, Australia

Anonymous said...

Glenn,


If these folk want to fast [and praise God that they do!], how about joining with the original?
The traditional Christian practice of the Lenten fast, leading up to Easter.



Your blog aligns with some on-the-ground observations that my wife & I made relating to Ramadan in Indonesia this year.

(We are Australians, she is of Indonesian origin, and we maintain close links with family & friends in suburban Jakarta.)

We've just returned to Australia from our annual family visit to Jakarta. We were there for the first 10 days of Ramadan. What a curious experience this year!

It's almost like the muslim moderates are learning from the protestant Christians. In supermarkets there was incessant islamic 'prayer & praise' type music being played over the store entertainment systems - very much like we might hear Christmas Carols in western shopping centres. Not arabic wailing - sounded just like western contemporary Christian acoustic folk/pop/light rock, in contemporary Indonesian language, and clearly and explicitly islamic.

We also noted for the first time that muslim family groups were gathering at some of the local mosques for 'fellowship meals' as they broke the fast at the end of each day. It looked just like the Christian practice.

Coincidently, we noticed the absence of more hard-line expressions of Islam on this visit. I have clear memories in previous years, for example, of people collecting money to support the jihad against Christians in the Maluku Islands. Nothing like that now - family told me that the government is working hard to shut down religious extremism, and such public displays are no longer tolerated. We even saw a large billboard announcing that true jihad was the war against our passions and temptations, not war against people. (Really regretting not having had a camera with me at that moment.)


There is a flip-side to this caring sharing image of Islam - the blurring of the line of distinction between us and them, and the possible seduction of well-meaning Christians into embracing Islam.


The Indonesians have always been friends with each other other across the faith boundary, and it's normal to hear Christian and Muslim friends wish each other "Salamat Labaran" (Happy Labaran = end of Ramadan) and "Salamat Paskah" (Happy Easter) respectively.
That has always been considered a 'safe' expression of friendship and tolerance of each other. This year we've noticed something far more disturbing from some of our Christian friends (in person and via Facebook): Greetings to Muslims, such as "May God bless your Fasting".

When does 'tolerance' become 'embracing'?
How can a Christian wish the blessings of a strange and foreign god?
Are the Christians being seduced?


Blessings
Nick in Melbourne, Australia

AP said...

I'm not surprised to see this coming from the emerging/emergent (or whatever the latest term is) church. It all seems to be a very personal "do what is right in your own eyes" philosophy ("That's the way I see it, but you may see it differently and that's ok"). There's no right or wrong. The Bible seems to be not much more than a suggestion to consider, so why not the Quran to go with it (or the Gitas or whatever the next fad will be)?

I'm rather surprised this group has lasted as long as it has. Give it time. The fad seems to be fading as the fruit of their philosophy starts revealing itself.

Anonymous said...

Just as scripture tells us... There is a day coming when that which is evil will be called good and that which is good will be called evil. We are not far from this day being in full effect. The enemy of Christ is working very hard to perverse the message of the Gospels and there are many willing to embrace it. How anyone can belive the Quran, a book of abuse, hatred and violence towards nonmuslims can accept a common ground or acceptability with the one True God is beyond me. You KNOW it has to be spiritual blindness.

These two books are diametrically opposites and there can be no marraige between them. Do NOT be fooled.