25 Aug ‘Christians’ celebrating Ramadan?
By Joel Richardson: WND: 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.
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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 Šas 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.
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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
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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. Šshe 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.