Monday, June 18, 2007

"I am both Muslim and Christian" - Huh???

The Seattle Times featured an interesting story about an Episcopal priest who is also a devout Muslim. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Union Seminary in New York, her bishop finds the combination “exciting.”

The pastor in question, the Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding, seems quite sincere and earnest in our search for God. My point is not to besmirch either her integrity nor her sincerity. Nor do I want to speak against the value of respectful interfaith dialogue. However, the reactions by her ecclesiastical authorities raise all kinds of questions about the uniqueness of the Christian faith and Christ's exclusive claims.

In our world of designer religion and Burger King faith (i.e., "Have it your way"), why not cobble together your own concoction of this and that? Who cares what normative Christianity means. If it doesn't "mean" that to me, it doesn't matter.

So, in this case: "she graduated from Brown University, earned master's degrees from two seminaries and received her Ph.D. in New Testament from Union Theological Seminary in New York City." If you reject the trinitarian form of Christian faith, deny the deity of Christ, deny original sin, relegate Christianity to just another ideology (i.e., the "world religion of privilege"), and put yourself in a position to "hear" God's voice calling you into a non-Christian faith ("when God gives you an invitation, you don't turn it down"), why not play on both sides of the street?

Sortof reminds me of the old joke about a person who was dying who summoned a priest, a rabbi, and a Muslim cleric to his bedside to pray . . . just to keep his "bases covered."

I wonder what her New Testament PhD dissertation topic was at Union?

Probably NOT Johannine lit . . .
After all, John keeps telling us that Jesus is the "one and only" . . .

* One and only God - John 1:1-18
* One and only Way - John 14:6
* One and only Savior - 1 John 5:6-12

Evidently John's vision of the uniqueness of Christ and the exclusivity of his truth claims brooks no rivals, even ones sporting a star and crescent.

My guess is that her dissertation was probably not Greek grammar either . . .

After all, Karl Barth always liked to say that υπερ ("for") was the most important word in the New Testament, as in Gal 1:4 where Paul says that the Lord Jesus Christ "gave himself for our sins."

Maybe she wrote on the "Meaning of και in Jude," or "Radical Feminist Trajectories in the Third Search for the Historical Jesus," or "Templates for Feminist Reader Response Hermeneutics in a Context of a World Religion of Privilege" or even "The Origin of the Aspirate with Special Emphasis on the Distinction Between Spiritus Asper and Spiritus Lenis in Ancient Greek During a Time of Increasing De-aspiration (Psilosis)."

Regardless of the topic of her research, one can hardly reconcile the thought of two seminary degrees and a PhD in New Testament being used to justify a synthesis of Christianity and Islam. If the theology of John does not persuade a scholar to believe in the singular truth claims of Jesus Christ, what about the author of Hebrews? Virtually the entire book shouts out the superiority of Jesus Christ to all other powers, authorities, and rivals.

Yet, at the heart of it, I found it particularly telling that her bishop, the Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner, says he "accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting."

Exciting? A ride on the "Scream" or "Superman the Escape" at Six Flags is "exciting." The syncretistic mish mash of mixing Christianity and Islam is "heretical," a "betrayal" of Christ, or "stomach turning" at least. What is with a bishop who can only gush at the "possibilities"???

Also of note, Redding's announcement, first made through a story in her diocese's newspaper, hasn't caused much controversy yet, according to the bishop. YIKES! Like the old tale of St. John in the bath house hearing that the heretic Cerinthus had arrived . . . perhaps we should all run screaming from the scene lest the Lord cause the house to fall in on us.

And MSNBC's Keith Olbermann says that John MacArthur is "runner up" for "worst person in the world" for suggesting that God may have finally given America "over" to our own depravity? Sheesh! If the theology professed by Redding and her bishop are indicative of contemporary Christianity in America, MacArthur erred on the side of understatement.

Read The Seattle Times piece for yourself:

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