Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Muslim and Christian? No.

"I am both Muslim and Christian." So said the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, the former director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, Washington. Read the article here. I want to share a few comments regarding Rev. Holmes Redding's claims.

First, the Reverend has denied Christ by professing the
Shahadah. How so? Here is the English rendering of the Shahadah: "[I testify that] there is no god (ilah) but God, and [I testify that] Muhammad is the messenger of God." Why does affirming the Shahadah deny Christ? Read the words of this Islamic scholar:

"The theological beliefs are irreconcilable," said Mahmoud Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. Islam holds that God is one, unique, indivisible. "For Muslims to say Jesus is God would be blasphemy."

Yes, for a Muslim to say that Jesus is God would be blasphemy for them. So when Holmes Redding, as a Muslim, proclaims that there is no god but God, she is denying the deity of Jesus Christ because Jesus is not God for the Muslim. As the professor said, it would be blasphemy to claim such a thing. If Holmes Redding is truly professing this fundamental tenet of Islam, then she is necessarily denying Christ and Christianity by denying the deity of Jesus Christ. She may say that she is doing no such thing. However, either Muslims are correct when they claim that Jesus is not God or Christians are correct when they claim that He is.

But isn't "Allah" just another name for God? Yes and no. Arab Christians today call God "Allah." This is what "Allah" means in it's basic sense. Arab Christians do so because the term pre-dates Islam. "Allah" and "Muhammad" are Arabic names, not Islamic ones, and carry no inherently Islamic meanings. When Christian Arabs call God "Allah" they do so in a pre-Islamic sense as Christians did during the first centuries of Christianity before Islam. They use the name "Allah," not because they believe that Allah of the Koran and Yahweh of the Bible are the same God. They do so because it is historically accuracte and legitimate to choose to use the name in the manner it was used in the centuries before Islam. So in this sense "Allah" is another name for God.

But "Allah" is not just another name for God in the way that many suppose today. Some believe that the Allah of Islam and the God of Christianity are the same God. Muslims prefer one name, Christians another. This is a popular notion but it is simply not accurate. I am no scholar but the Koran and the Bible do not describe the same God. Take the love of God for mankind for instance. The Koran does not speak of God's love for the sinner. To the best of my knowledge, the only love of God spoken of in the Koran is Allah's love for those who have great virtues that benefit mankind, for example. The Bible actually criticizes this sort of love. It is no great virtue to only love the lovely. Compare this with Romans 5:6-8: "For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." The contrast between Allah's lack of love for sinners and the Christian God's great love for sinners is enough to conclude that the Allah of Islam and the God of Scripture are not merely different names for the same God.

It is one thing for Arab Christians today to call God "Allah." But claiming that the Muslim's Allah is just a different name for Yahweh can only come from ignorance of both Islam and Christianity or willfully ignoring the facts. Unfortunately, Rev. Holmes Redding has chosen to devote herself to a man-made idea about God that has no basis in reality.

What the Reverend is doing is actually disrespectful to both religions. By claiming to be both Muslim and Christian, she is denying the central doctrines of both religions. Rather than serving as a bridge between Islam and Christianity, the Reverend is poking her finger in the eyes of both. Affirming one necessarily denigrates the other. For instance, the article states, "Being Muslim has given her insights into Christianity, she said. For instance, because Islam regards Jesus as human, not divine, it reinforces for her that 'we can be like Jesus. There are no excuses.'" Denying the deity of Christ is a tremendous insult to and a basic denial of Christianity. Likewise, a failure to deny the deity of Christ is blaphemous to the Muslim. It is that simple.

There are several other points raised in the article that are worthy of discussion but I will bring this post to a close. The Rev. Ann Holmes Redding is something but she is not both a Muslim and a Christian. No one can be. I wish the Reverend well on her spiritual journey but I am saddened that she believes "I could not not be a Muslim." I hope that she will look beyond her childhood baptism and finally come to a conclusion one way or the other regarding the deity of Christ, which she has struggled with "for years." I hope she will be reconciled to God by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone as all Christians have been for centuries.

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