Reading Bryan’s post yesterday made me think of something (because of the context not the content of what he wrote) I had just read in Faith Undone by Roger Oakland.  Now I do not, by any shape or form, agree with everything in this book.  There are times when the spirit and content of the book makes me want to throw it across the room.  He does bring up some good points, however.

He mentions a Charisma News article by Andy Butcher (“Radical Missionary Approach Produces ‘Messianic Muslims’ Retaining Islamic Identity”) written in 2000 about Youth With a Mission’s work in Muslim countries.

“Messianic Muslims” who continue to read the Koran, visit the mosque and say their daily prayers but accept Christ as their Savior, are products of the strategy (allowing converts to hold onto their religious traditions), which is being tried in several countries, according to Youth With A Mission (YWAM), one of the organizations involved…. They (the new converts) continued a life of following the Islamic requirements, including mosque attendance, fasting and Koranic reading, besides getting together as a fellowship of Muslims who acknowledge Christ as the source of God’s mercy for them.

This was at the root of my comment on Bryan’s post.  We do need to find common ground as we reach out to Muslims in order to share our faith in Christ.  What happens after they come to Christ?  To me it seems like being a “Messianic Muslim” means I’m a Muslim, but I’ll add Jesus and you won’t really see any changes. 

Now I recognize there is much persecution that goes on in Muslim countries in regards to people who place their faith in Christ.  I’m sympathetic to this, and understand that this is very hard and that the discipleship process doesn’t happen overnight.  That is a far cry from actually pursing it as a strategy.  Many emerging church leaders embrace methods like this.  Take for instance what Brian McLaren said in his book, Generous Orthodoxy.

I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion.  It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain with their Buddhist, Hindu or Jewish contexts.

The only context I can even see that happening, at least in terms of what McLaren wrote, would be Messianic Jews since that would be very similar to what was going on with the Church in Jerusalem.  But Buddhism?  Hinduism?  Islam?  This is like follow Christ, but go ahead and participate in idolatry here, and false religion there.  I don’t see this gelling with Jesus’ words in Matthew 16.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?  Or what shall a man give in return for his life?  For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done, (Matthew 16:24-27, ESV).

What do you think?

20 comments
  1. How much like a 21st century American Evangelical Christian must one become to be a “real Christian”? If I read the Bible, must I stop reading the Koran? If I acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior, must I stop fasting during Ramadan or praying to God five times a day? There is only one God. People who have called themselves Christians have fasted, people who have called themselves Christians have prayed a fixed number of times a day. To what degree must I abandon my own culture to become one of Christ’s chosen? If Jesus is the center of my life, perhaps we should leave it to him to direct how I live the rest, and to forgive me, as I’m sure he forgives you, for the ways in which I fail to live up to his commands.

  2. How much like a 21st century American Evangelical Christian must one become to be a “real Christian”? If I read the Bible, must I stop reading the Koran? If I acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior, must I stop fasting during Ramadan or praying to God five times a day? There is only one God. People who have called themselves Christians have fasted, people who have called themselves Christians have prayed a fixed number of times a day. To what degree must I abandon my own culture to become one of Christ’s chosen? If Jesus is the center of my life, perhaps we should leave it to him to direct how I live the rest, and to forgive me, as I’m sure he forgives you, for the ways in which I fail to live up to his commands.

  3. I think the issue here is what is in your heart when you continue to practice the forms of your beliefs prior to accepting Christ. It is an issue for anyone; Muslim, Jew, Hindi, Christian (those who previously professed but now confess) to face. It is an issue for all of us to face, we are to have no false gods, no idols.

    If what you are doing is taking Christ out of the preeminent place in your heart, soul and mind then it is a problem.

  4. I think the issue here is what is in your heart when you continue to practice the forms of your beliefs prior to accepting Christ. It is an issue for anyone; Muslim, Jew, Hindi, Christian (those who previously professed but now confess) to face. It is an issue for all of us to face, we are to have no false gods, no idols.

    If what you are doing is taking Christ out of the preeminent place in your heart, soul and mind then it is a problem.

  5. John 17:3 ‘ And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.’
    Somethings may be cultural, and not pertaining to faith, but the Bible is clear on the way of salvation.

  6. John 17:3 ‘ And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.’
    Somethings may be cultural, and not pertaining to faith, but the Bible is clear on the way of salvation.

  7. What about Roman Catholics who say the rosary (i.e. pray to Mary) and pray to dead saints. Or Messianic Jewish congregations who observe Jewish customs and holidays?

    I think we need to be careful about drawing the orthodoxy circle too tight or we find ourselves alone in it.

  8. What about Roman Catholics who say the rosary (i.e. pray to Mary) and pray to dead saints. Or Messianic Jewish congregations who observe Jewish customs and holidays?

    I think we need to be careful about drawing the orthodoxy circle too tight or we find ourselves alone in it.

  9. We need to be careful that we’re not forming God into our own image. Making Him into what it is we want Him to be so we can worship however we feel like it is in direct contradiction to Jesus’ saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life”.

    If God went to the trouble of specifying exactly how He wanted the tabernacle built, I’m guessing He has a specific way for us to worship and learn about Him. I don’t recall Him allowing much vacillation on the subject.

  10. We need to be careful that we’re not forming God into our own image. Making Him into what it is we want Him to be so we can worship however we feel like it is in direct contradiction to Jesus’ saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life”.

    If God went to the trouble of specifying exactly how He wanted the tabernacle built, I’m guessing He has a specific way for us to worship and learn about Him. I don’t recall Him allowing much vacillation on the subject.

  11. These are intriguing thoughts. Having had a professor who has been ministering to Muslims for over 20 years and who has joined a mosque (in the Middle East) there is much to be said for this method, at least on the surface. There are pitfalls too. I do think that the question is easier if only the Abrahamic faiths are considered–monotheistic religious systems. The best question for us all is simply the one referred to here already..what does it mean to have faith in Christ? And the corollary to it is, what things in our lives are merely cultural trappings that help frame who we are, where we come from, and our general framework of how we see things. Being a “Christian” is an image we have viewed as having certain outward manifestations, yet many of them are American or at least Western ideas. There are people with amazing expressions of Christian faith who look nothing like us and love and serve a whole lot more passionately and humbly.

    But there are also blatant syncretistic problems of putting some other “gods” along with Christ.
    Spreading the Gospel cross-culturally is no easy process.

  12. These are intriguing thoughts. Having had a professor who has been ministering to Muslims for over 20 years and who has joined a mosque (in the Middle East) there is much to be said for this method, at least on the surface. There are pitfalls too. I do think that the question is easier if only the Abrahamic faiths are considered–monotheistic religious systems. The best question for us all is simply the one referred to here already..what does it mean to have faith in Christ? And the corollary to it is, what things in our lives are merely cultural trappings that help frame who we are, where we come from, and our general framework of how we see things. Being a “Christian” is an image we have viewed as having certain outward manifestations, yet many of them are American or at least Western ideas. There are people with amazing expressions of Christian faith who look nothing like us and love and serve a whole lot more passionately and humbly.

    But there are also blatant syncretistic problems of putting some other “gods” along with Christ.
    Spreading the Gospel cross-culturally is no easy process.

  13. @ Roberta – I guess I don’t see where in my post I said they had to be like 21st Century American Evangelical Christians.

    Regarding the Koran, why read it? Is is still considered scripture? Are you reading it for insight to share Christ with Muslim family and friends who don’t yet know Him? Or are you reading it devotionally?

    Regarding fasting – what is the purpose of your fast? Is it to hunger for God or is it a religious duty to make sure you are doing the five pillars in order to enter paradise? The same with prayer? Why only five times? The Bible says to pray without ceasing – it should be something we are prompted to do throughout the day. Who are you praying to? I don’t have any problem though with praying a fixed number of times during the day though. Do you still face Mecca though?

    I do not agree that the God of Islam is the God of the Bible. Just because Allah means God in Arabic doesn’t make them the same. The Koran and the Bible paints two completely different pictures of the character and nature of God. Which is to be believed?

    Do you still say the Shahada? – “There is no true God except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

    Do you still partake in the Hajj?

    @Andy – You last sentence in your comment hit the nail on the head.

    @Jungle Mom – I think that is the rub. Is fasting wrong? No. Is prayer wrong? No. Just who is the object of your worship. I think saying the Shahada would be inappropriate for a follower of Christ.

    @Kansas Bob – while I disagree with the Rosary prayer this isn’t necessarily what I’m getting at in this post. While prayer to Mary and dead saints, I think are ineffective and inappropriate, I also know that it isn’t meant as a form of worship.

    Also have no problem with Messianic Jewish congregations – I think they probably look very similar to the early church when it was still mostly Jewish.

    @deb – I agree with you mostly… where I would be cautious is that some people have been dogmatic about how we do church – what we wear, what we sing, what version of the Bible we read, etc. There are general principles that we do see within the Church – I think Acts 2:42 is a great model, and one that can be applied to different cultural contexts and will look different in different cultures.

    Randy – I agree that it isn’t easy, but I don’t feel the end justify the means in this case.

  14. @ Roberta – I guess I don’t see where in my post I said they had to be like 21st Century American Evangelical Christians.

    Regarding the Koran, why read it? Is is still considered scripture? Are you reading it for insight to share Christ with Muslim family and friends who don’t yet know Him? Or are you reading it devotionally?

    Regarding fasting – what is the purpose of your fast? Is it to hunger for God or is it a religious duty to make sure you are doing the five pillars in order to enter paradise? The same with prayer? Why only five times? The Bible says to pray without ceasing – it should be something we are prompted to do throughout the day. Who are you praying to? I don’t have any problem though with praying a fixed number of times during the day though. Do you still face Mecca though?

    I do not agree that the God of Islam is the God of the Bible. Just because Allah means God in Arabic doesn’t make them the same. The Koran and the Bible paints two completely different pictures of the character and nature of God. Which is to be believed?

    Do you still say the Shahada? – “There is no true God except Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah.”

    Do you still partake in the Hajj?

    @Andy – You last sentence in your comment hit the nail on the head.

    @Jungle Mom – I think that is the rub. Is fasting wrong? No. Is prayer wrong? No. Just who is the object of your worship. I think saying the Shahada would be inappropriate for a follower of Christ.

    @Kansas Bob – while I disagree with the Rosary prayer this isn’t necessarily what I’m getting at in this post. While prayer to Mary and dead saints, I think are ineffective and inappropriate, I also know that it isn’t meant as a form of worship.

    Also have no problem with Messianic Jewish congregations – I think they probably look very similar to the early church when it was still mostly Jewish.

    @deb – I agree with you mostly… where I would be cautious is that some people have been dogmatic about how we do church – what we wear, what we sing, what version of the Bible we read, etc. There are general principles that we do see within the Church – I think Acts 2:42 is a great model, and one that can be applied to different cultural contexts and will look different in different cultures.

    Randy – I agree that it isn’t easy, but I don’t feel the end justify the means in this case.

  15. “Just because Allah means God in Arabic doesn’t make them the same.” (Shane)

    Are there more than one God? If someone follows the tenets of Islam and lives a good and peaceful life – then I am not sure what the One God could truly hold against them – that could not be held against us? Is it idolatry – they are Monotheistic remember.

    For me, this is problematic. I have a friend who converted to Islam a few years back – and it has changed his life 180 degree’s. Do I discount his change because we want to squabble over the nature of both faiths? Do I also discount the faith of my Jewish friends – who do not accept Jesus as Messiah based on some great evidence? At what point do we stop drawing these lines of who gets to meet God?

    Good faith leads one to love God and love his neighbor – and whoever does this I cannot say much against – whether Christian or not.

    I would also like to point out – some of that is cultural and so tied to being Middle Eastern it’s hard to make such a disconnect to one’s culture to follow Christ (I contend one does not need to). For example, I am a First Nations person who loves his culture and partakes in some of the ritual and customs. Yet I am still a follower of Christ. I do not need to abandon my culture to serve the one God. I say this is true for all cultures…as much as we see them as religious.

    “Also have no problem with Messianic Jewish congregations – I think they probably look very similar to the early church when it was still mostly Jewish.” (Shane)

    Then maybe you should set apart some time to debate with them on core Christian values – I had one tell me that because I do not follow Jewish ritual and custom – I do not love God. I have some problems with them – namely that they are an insult to Judaism. But this is okay with you – that we have a sect of our faith that plays with another culture of this world to that culture’s insult? Believe you me – they misrepresent 2 faiths in the process – Christianity (which most of them despise) and Judaism (which most of them claim to be – even if they are not).

  16. “Just because Allah means God in Arabic doesn’t make them the same.” (Shane)

    Are there more than one God? If someone follows the tenets of Islam and lives a good and peaceful life – then I am not sure what the One God could truly hold against them – that could not be held against us? Is it idolatry – they are Monotheistic remember.

    For me, this is problematic. I have a friend who converted to Islam a few years back – and it has changed his life 180 degree’s. Do I discount his change because we want to squabble over the nature of both faiths? Do I also discount the faith of my Jewish friends – who do not accept Jesus as Messiah based on some great evidence? At what point do we stop drawing these lines of who gets to meet God?

    Good faith leads one to love God and love his neighbor – and whoever does this I cannot say much against – whether Christian or not.

    I would also like to point out – some of that is cultural and so tied to being Middle Eastern it’s hard to make such a disconnect to one’s culture to follow Christ (I contend one does not need to). For example, I am a First Nations person who loves his culture and partakes in some of the ritual and customs. Yet I am still a follower of Christ. I do not need to abandon my culture to serve the one God. I say this is true for all cultures…as much as we see them as religious.

    “Also have no problem with Messianic Jewish congregations – I think they probably look very similar to the early church when it was still mostly Jewish.” (Shane)

    Then maybe you should set apart some time to debate with them on core Christian values – I had one tell me that because I do not follow Jewish ritual and custom – I do not love God. I have some problems with them – namely that they are an insult to Judaism. But this is okay with you – that we have a sect of our faith that plays with another culture of this world to that culture’s insult? Believe you me – they misrepresent 2 faiths in the process – Christianity (which most of them despise) and Judaism (which most of them claim to be – even if they are not).

  17. Society – no I’m not saying there is more than one God. I’m saying that “Allah” in the Koran is false and nonexistent.

    We’ve had the debate on where salvation comes from. It is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Not going to budge on that point and I think it transcends culture.

    The only Messianic Jews that I’ve ever had a chance to encounter was through the Promise Keepers movement. I would say, obviously they are wrong and that teaching in contrary to the New Testament. This was settled by the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15.

    I’ll give you that you know more about them than I do.

  18. Society – no I’m not saying there is more than one God. I’m saying that “Allah” in the Koran is false and nonexistent.

    We’ve had the debate on where salvation comes from. It is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Not going to budge on that point and I think it transcends culture.

    The only Messianic Jews that I’ve ever had a chance to encounter was through the Promise Keepers movement. I would say, obviously they are wrong and that teaching in contrary to the New Testament. This was settled by the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15.

    I’ll give you that you know more about them than I do.

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