Chrislam, as the name suggests, is a growing movement wherein some Christians are seeking to find common ground with Muslims. Indeed, it actually seeks to combine Christianity with Islam. It is a syncretistic movement that speaks about “spirituality without boundaries”. Whenever you hear that sort of talk, you should start heading for the hills.
Yet that is what we find in some leftist evangelical Christian circles today. Incredibly, it took place last year at the National Prayer Breakfast in Canberra. I wrote that episode up in several articles at the time:
But a number of leading American religious leftists are also pushing this cause in varying degrees. For example, Tony Campolo has argued that “interfaith prayers and even mystical unions are critical for all true peacemakers”. And given that a leftist vision of “social justice” seems to be the most important agenda item for Campolo, it is not surprising that he can praise Islam in these terms: “When it comes to what is ultimately important, the Muslim community’s sense of commitment to the poor is exactly in tune with where Jesus is in the 25th chapter of Matthew.”
More recently emerging church movement leader Brian McLaren has written a five-part blog entry on why Christians should join with Muslims in celebrating Ramadan. In it he said, “We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honouring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighbourliness.”
Once again the emphasis is on getting along, harmony and unity. Fine – to a point. But both these faiths are ultimately evangelistic, exclusive, and mutually incompatible. The heart of the Christian truth claim is that Jesus is God’s son, and he has come to save us from our sins. Islam claims that it is blasphemous to say God has a son.
So how far can two faiths get along when they are at heart directly opposed to each other? And the worrying thing about the McLaren posts is nowhere does he once mention that we in fact should be evangelising our Muslim friends, or praying for their conversion. This is really quite bizarre and worrying.
Of course all Christians should be in favour of making friends with Muslims, building bridges with them, and seeking to get close to them – but for the purpose of sharing with them the good news of Jesus Christ. If we simply aim for a warm and fuzzy ecumenical unity, where biblical truth is watered down or ignored altogether, then we are doing no one a favour, whether ourselves or Muslims.
Joel Richardson has recently written up this story, and is worth quoting from here. He rightly notes that Christians often are involved in concentrated campaigns of prayer for Muslims during their holy month. Many have joined in on these 30-days of prayer and fasting for their Muslim friends.
But what about this interfaith initiative? Is it really what Christians should be involved in? Asks Richardson, “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?”
He continues, “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’.”
While the motivations of McLaren and others might be good, we need to ask some hard questions: “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)”
Indeed, just how does the Christian gospel fare in all of this? “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.”
And Chrislam is not mere theory. It is a burgeoning movement in various places around the world, and liberal denominations are already starting to lap it up. Richardson mentions the story of Episcopal priestess Rev. Anne Holmes who announced in 2007 that she had become a Christian-Muslim. The story back then was reported this way:
“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.”
That is as good of a summation of where theological liberalism and the interfaith movement are taking us as you will find. In the end it is really an anti-Christ activity, despite any benign motivations. Any movement that takes people away from Christ as Lord and Saviour is a movement which is not coming from God. Christians need to be very careful indeed about getting on board such initiatives.
As I wrote in a comment last year, “Christians in the interfaith movement tend to engage in at least three unhelpful activities. One, they tend to downplay and minimise the exclusive truth claims of Biblical Christianity. Two, they tend to downplay and minimise the horrendous Muslim persecution and dhimmitude of Christians all around the world (while there is no equivalent Christian persecution and dhimmitude of Muslims). Three, they tend to fail in the most important calling of Christians: to evangelise and disciple all nations.”
For all the talk of harmony, unity and friendship, the Chrislam movement is a move in the wrong direction. I for one will have nothing to do with it, and I hope that all serious followers of Jesus Christ avoid it like the plague as well.