Thursday, July 14, 2016

Worshipping with Muslims?

"Our ultimate goal and divine mandate is not co-existence with Muslims but their conversion—as it is for all the children of men." —Fr. Lawrence Farley

In the below outstanding essay — which may have been prompted in part by the recent Presbyterian Church USA's (PCUSA) General Assembly, at which a Muslim Imam was invited to offer a prayer in which he denied the divinity of Jesus Christ and denigrated Christians — Fr. Lawrence Farley presents in a very gracious way the message I have been stumbling to articulate for the past seven years through my book, Facing Islam, and since early 2011 with this blog.

Fr. Lawrence's essay is one of the most clearly written pieces on Islam and Muslims from a Christian perspective I have yet encountered, and is a welcome antidote to the deeply misleading writings of Metropolitan George Khodr of Lebanon and others who promulgate the "Same God Heresy". Met. George Khodr has written:

I am completely sure that if you are a Christian and you know a lot about Islam and love what you know, your heart will embrace the Muslims around you and if you are educated, you will hold in esteem much from their religion and openly recognize the truth that is in their religion.

Alas, there is not much truth in Islam, the Muslim religion, because Allah himself and Muhammad explicitly reject the Way, the Truth and the Life, Jesus Christ, rejecting the Divinity of Christ, denying that he was even crucified and resurrected, even claiming the New Testament was corrupted to obscure the true teachings of Islam which Jesus brought (!). The Koran repeatedly calls for jihad against Christians who do not convert to Islam or at least submit to its rule. To take but one example:

Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth [i.e. Islam] among the people of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. (Koran 9:29)

Met. George Khodr has reversed everything with his confused theology, and is extolling the "truth" of Islam as the reason for Christians to love their Muslim neighbor. This is the complete opposite of the Gospel, and is a form of "soft apostasy." It is merely a more ornately worded version of the PCUSA's simplistic "Same God Heresy."

Rather, as Fr. Lawrence Farley makes clear, Christians are called to love all people, Muslims included, because God loves them. Christ commanded us to love our neighbor, to love even our enemies. We know that God "desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth." And as we know from the Gospel, the truth is not a book or a set of dogmas or teachings. Rather, the Truth is a Person, Jesus Christ. To the extent that we abide in Him, we will seek to share that Truth with others — including and perhaps especially with Muslims.

We do not love Muslims because we venerate their religion and long to find the beauty and truth in it. Rather, we love them because God loves them and we long to be like God. We love them because they are created in the image of God just like we are. We love them in spite of their false, pagan religion and its blatantly evil commands and beliefs. 

And how do we show our love for Muslims? By sharing the Gospel with them, by our deeds, and by our words. May the Lord deliver them from the spiritual deception and delusion inherent in Muhammad and the Koran, and lead them into the freedom and light of Jesus Christ.

Worshipping with Muslims
by Fr. Lawrence Farley, No Other Foundation, July 8, 2016:

In the current cultural debate over Islam, we sometimes meet people who rush to defend Islam and assert that Muslims and Christians both worship the same God. Sometimes they give liturgical expression to this assertion, and participate in joint Muslim-Christian worship services, in which both the Qur’an and the Bible are read. 

What are we to think of this? Can Muslims and Christians unite in worship? Is it true that they both worship the same God?

The question is deceptively complex, and since Islam post-dates the New Testament by six centuries, the New Testament cannot be expected to provide a direct answer. But the New Testament does help answer a similar question: Do pagans and Christians worship the same God? There were differences obviously, since paganism worshipped many gods and Christianity was staunchly monotheistic. But paganism did in some way dimly acknowledge that there was a supreme god of sorts, called Zeus or Jupiter (depending upon one’s geography). Could Zeus and the God of the Christians be more or less identified?

The answer (frustratingly for those who like to scream about such things on Facebook) is: Yes and No. 

That is, Yes, since there is only one God, and anyone consciously directing his prayers to The One God will find that The One God of the Christians receives his prayers, since He is the only God that there is. That is what St. Paul meant when he wrote that God is not the God of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles also “since God is one” (Romans 3:29-30). A pagan might direct his prayers to “the Unknown God”, but these prayers would be received by the God of the Jews and Christians, since He was the only true God who existed (Acts 17:23).   Our God therefore has some sort of relationship to any who sincerely seek Him, regardless of their religion.

But the answer to this question is also No, since all pagan religions had an element of the demonic. Though a devout, ignorant, and well-intentioned Athenian pagan’s prayers to Zeus may have been received by the God of Israel, this is did not mean that his Athenian paganism was more or less interchangeable with Judaism or Christianity. 

While his heart and intention may have been acceptable to God, his actual religion, cultus, and sacrifice were not.   

Islamic worship does not, in fact, connect the Muslim worshipper with the one true God of the Christians.

Paul affirmed that “What the pagans sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God” (1 Corinthians 10:20). Idolatrous worship, though perhaps intended for and aimed at the Most High God, was intercepted and used by the demons, and Christians in the early centuries always regarded pagan religion as infected with the demonic. That is why pagans converting to Christianity in baptism renounced their former religion as the worship of Satan. Pagans and Christians did not in fact find their acts of devotion received by the same God.

This analogy with paganism therefore would suggest that Islamic worship does not, in fact, connect the Muslim worshipper with the one true God of the Christians.  (Emphasis added.)

Our God is the God who eternally begets the co-eternal Son, and from whom the Spirit eternally proceeds to rest in the Son, and who therefore may be described as the holy, consubstantial, life-creating, and undivided Trinity. The Second Person of that Trinity died by being crucified on a cross under Pontius Pilate—all of which is emphatically denied by the Qur’an. 

Despite their shared theoretical monotheism, Christian and Muslim worship does not focus upon the same God, and (more importantly) the objective and spiritual reality present through their worship is not identical.  (Emphasis added.)

Just as the early Christians said that the demonic was present in the sacrifices of the pagans, that same terrible reality is present now liturgically in Muslim assemblies.

In Christian assemblies, Jesus Christ is present, for He has promised to be present whenever two or three gather together in His Name (Matthew 18:20). In Muslim assemblies, Christ is not present in the same salvific way. 

Rather, just as the early Christians said that the demonic was present in the sacrifices of the pagans, that same terrible reality is present now liturgically in Muslim assemblies.  (Emphasis added.)

Does this mean therefore that every Muslim is therefore damned? 

Like I said, the question is deceptively complex. If a Muslim has no real exposure to or understanding of the Christian message, he might still be spared on the Last Day after all if his heart was in ignorance seeking the true God.  

C.S. Lewis wrote about such a possibility in The Last Battle, the last volume of his Narnian series:  a worshipper of the god “Tash” (a thinly-veiled version of Allah) finds himself in the presence of the true God, the lion Aslan, an image of Christ.  He realizes that his life-long worship of Tash was the worship of a false god, and that Aslan was the true God after all.  In his own words, 

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc [or, King] of the world and live and not to have seen Him.  But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine, but the servant of Tash.  He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service to me… But I said also, Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.  Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.  For all find what they truly seek.”   

I believe this. I believe that those Muslims who have sought the true God so long and so truly may yet be accepted by The One God. I believe that our God, who loves the sinner, will not reject any who are happy to see Him, but will save them through the Cross of Christ.

Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? No, and therefore Christians should properly avoid a worship service containing elements which suggest that they do. 

Our task as Christians is to proclaim the Gospel and bring all truth-seeking hearts to the saving and transfiguring waters of baptism. All pagan religions contained some elements of truth, but Paul still proclaimed the one true God to the pagans standing before the altar to the Unknown God on Mars Hill, and exhorted them to renounce their past errors and embrace Christ. We must do the same for the Muslims of our time as well. Our ultimate goal and divine mandate is not co-existence with Muslims but their conversion—as it is for all the children of men.