From Voice, Mar/Apr 2015. Used with permission.
We need to make Bible believers aware of a new ecumenical trend called Chrislam, which attempts to reconcile Islam and Christianity based on shared common beliefs. It is a pattern developing in Christian-Muslim interaction with the goal to bring acceptance of Islam as a peaceful religion while rejecting the uniqueness of Biblical Christianity. In this article I will try to inform the readers as to how has this come about, what we should make of this trend and suggest how we might respond.
History of Chrislam
Due to religious tensions between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria in the 1970s, a group was formed that embraced both the Bible and the Quran as holy books of faith and this group held both combined and separate services to meet everyone’s background. The leaders believed they had special angelic revelation to create this syncretism of religions.1 A similar grouping developed in 1993 following the Lebanon-Israel conflict. Several Catholic, Orthodox, and Muslim leaders formed the “Islamic-Christian National Dialogue Committee” to promote understanding and dialogue between religious groups.2
On the American scene in 2004, the Cordoba Initiative began with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as founder. In 1997 he co-founded the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), a Muslim organization with the goal of building bridges between Muslims and Americans through interfaith collaboration. He is also Imam of Masjid al-Farrah, a mosque located in Lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center, and he serves as an advisor to the Interfaith Center of New York.3 Added to the Cordoba Initiative is the strategy of the Islamic Society of North America to seek and develop inter-faith activities. Since 2005 they have increased efforts to achieve Muslim acceptance by Americans and provide speakers for churches to learn more about Islam and to help Muslims integrate into American culture.4
Moving toward a wider world acceptance of Islam as a peaceful religion, 138 Muslim scholars and clerics sent an open letter on October 13, 2007 “to leaders of Christian churches everywhere” which was entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You” (ACW). The signatories to ACW included top leaders from around the world representing every major school of Islamic thought. The document purports to be a solution for inter-religious conflicts in the world.
It supposedly bases its ideas on the theological basis of both religions “to love God and neighbor,” as shared by both Islam and Christianity. Claiming abuse of religions for causing world strife, it states that religions should be a part of the solution and not the problem. This irenic approach has initiated numerous conferences, articles and books and in 2008 encouraged the Wamp-Ellison Resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives as well as helped begin the movement to adopt a U.N. resolution for the World Interfaith Harmony Week as a U.N. observance which started during February 2011.5 Many Christian leaders have responded and expressed agreement with “Common Word.” Among Christian leaders some well-known evangelical names are found.6 One will find a wide variety of pastors, scholars, college and seminary professors as well as many Catholic and various Orthodox leaders who have expressed their support.
Analysis of Chrislam
What should we make of all this? Ecumenism began as common agreement between Catholic and Orthodox leaders which then spread to include many Protestant churches and leaders. But the Chrislam movement now extends beyond Christendom-type churches (all who profess to be Christian including Catholic, Orthodox and mainline Protestant denominations) to include Islam. Those who are familiar with the Fundamentalist-Modernist debates in the early 1900s may remember their missions-related arguments: “should we or should we not extract Christian converts from their cultural and religious practices?” The view of the Modernists was truth is found in all religions of the world and that other religions were just waiting to hear of Jesus so they could enter into the truth of the Gospel. The Modernists believed that sin and separation from God and the need for justification and redemption were not essential points to discuss.
In the 1960s and 1970s I remember missiologists encouraging “contextualization,” which envisioned “Jesus Mosques” that retained Islamic forms but had something of Jesus in them. This fit well with the growing multicultural views of American society that sought the acceptance of all forms of cultural expression and labeled any criticism of societal action as “intolerant.” Today the “insider movement” church planting goals are to incorporate Muslim cultural and religious practices so that the convert can feel comfortable as a Muslim with his faith in Jesus. How well this syncretistic effort works is yet to be determined. Many who have turned to Christ from Muslim backgrounds have rejected this approach, seeing Islam as something they left and to which they do not want to return.
As teachers and preachers we have the power to influence the world and eternity through the Bible and its message of salvation. Such a high calling demands that we carefully and accurately hold fast to the teaching and promises of God’s Word and disciple others to do the same. However, with the current worldviews of equality, diversity and tolerance, many churchmen have turned from the reality of Christ to accept as truth a parody, considering that both the Bible and the Quran are God’s Word. This is false, yet those who make this claim believe it to be superior despite its watered down beliefs. Several churches now share their facilities to provide for mosque services, perhaps hoping to build relationships and present the gospel to Muslims saying “we both worship the same God.”
(Tomorrow: Responding to Chrislam)
5 Congressional Record Volume 154, Number 151 (Tuesday, September 23, 2008) House, pages H8655-H8657 can be viewed at http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CREC-2008-09-23/html/CREC-2008-09-23-ptl-Pg….