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Can a person belong to two religions?

Harmonizing Christianity & Islam

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Sponsored link.

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How one might harmonize Christianity and Islam:

Most faith groups require their adherents to follow a specific group of beliefs. Comparing beliefs between two faith groups within the same religion, or between two religions will often produce conflicts. However, it is possible for some to harmonize liberal/progressive Christianity with the basic tenets of Islam. It remains impossible to harmonize Islam with Christian fundamentalist and other evangelical denominations.

For example, most conservative and mainline Christian denominations expect their followers to believe in certain cardinal beliefs, such as:

bulletThe Trinity -- the belief that God is a unity consisting of three persons.
bulletThe deity of Jesus,
bulletJesus' bodily resurrection,
bulletThe atonement as a result of the life, and particularly the death, of Jesus,
bulletThe virgin birth, and
bulletThe anticipated second coming of Jesus.

Most conservative Christian faith groups also include:

bulletPersonal salvation by grace,
bulletThe inerrancy of the Bible
bulletGod's inspiration of the Bible's authors,

However, many liberal Christians and Progressive Christians believe that the Bible contains God's Word but is not God's word in its entirety. They may point to passages in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) that condoned and regulated human slavery, forced rape victims to marry their rapist, forced widows to marry their brother in law, that described God ordering genocide, etc. They believe that God did not inspire the Bible's authors in the sense that he preserved them from including  any errors in their writing. Rather, the authors wrote of their concepts of God, humanity, and the rest of the universe from within the limitations provided by their own culture and minimal scientific knowledge.

Many liberal and progressive Christians reject the concept of the Trinity and the deity of Christ, and believe as the original Christians did. During the early fourth decade CE, before the arrival of Paul, Jewish Christians in Jerusalem were the only known Christian movement. Their group was composed of reform Jews, and was founded by the followers of Jesus. They were led by James the brother of Jesus, and by Peter. They regarded Jesus as a great prophet, but as a human and not as a deity. They believed that God was single and indivisible. They engaged in animal sacrifices in the Temple, observed the Jewish holy days, followed kosher dietary laws and circumcised their male infants. By adopting the beliefs of these earliest Christians, rather than modern-day believers, it is much easier to harmonize Islam and Christianity. Two of the main beliefs of Islam:

bullet

That God is single and indivisible, and

bullet

That Jesus was a fully human, not divine, prophet,

are shared both by Muslims and by these original Christians.

Potentially major stumbling blocks while harmonizing the two faiths involve the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus, as well as criteria for individual salvation:

bullet

Christians, throughout history, have believed that the Roman Army crucified Jesus, that he died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven. Most believe in the atonement -- that Jesus death gave some or all humans a path to salvation.

bullet

Muslims believe, and the Qur'an teaches, that another person was crucified in Jesus' place. They believe that God would never have allowed his greatest prophet up to that time to be executed. They do not believe that Jesus was resurrected. They do believe that Jesus ascended bodily to Heaven, but at a later time than Christians believe.

bullet

Many liberal and progressive Christians either reject or reinterpret the resurrection, ascension, salvation and atonement.

On the positive side, most Christians and all or essentially all Muslims believe in Jesus' virgin birth and anticipate his second coming.

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Rev. Redding's harmonization of Islam and Christianity:

As noted elsewhere, Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, 55, was ordained as an priest of the Episcopal Church, USA in 1984. She has since accepted Islam and regards herself as following both religions.

She realizes that there are many Christians and Muslims who will not accept her decision. She says: "I don't care. They can't take away my baptism." Also, once she has said the shahada she became a Muslim. It would take a decision by a Muslim court to rule that she is not a Muslim.

She told the Diocese of Olympia’s Episcopal Voice newsletter that:

"... the way I understand Jesus is compatible with Islam [While some Christians and Muslims] think I must convert from one to the other, the more I go down this path the more excited I am about both Christianity and Islam. ... I was following Jesus and he led me into Islam, and he didn’t drop me off at the door. He's there too."

"For me to become a human being means to identify solely with the will of God. Islam gives me the tools to do that."

"We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of Jesus and the pattern of life he offers, describe him as the 'only begotten son of God.' That's how wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal."

"When we say Jesus is the only begotten one, we are saying he’s unique in some way. Islam says the same thing. He’s the only human aside from Adam who is directly created by God, and he’s different from Adam because he has a human mother. So there’s agreement—this person is unique in his relationship to God."

"I agree with both because I do want to say that Jesus is unique, and for me, Jesus is my spiritual master." 4

She said that every day: "I pray not to cause scandal or bring shame upon either of my traditions." 1

She doesn't feel that she has to resolve all of the contradictions between the two faiths. She notes that people within a single religion often disagree on the details of belief. She adds:

"So why would I spend time to try to reconcile all of Christian belief with all of Islam? At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That's all I need."

According to the Associated Press, Redding believes that:

bullet

The Trinity is a concept of God that is not to be taken literally.

bullet

She does not believe that Jesus and God are part of the same Godhead.

bullet

She regards Jesus as the son of God, in the sense that all humans are the children of God.

bullet

She believes that Jesus is divine in the sense that all humans are divine and that God dwells within all of us.

bullet

She does believe that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus were historical events. She recognizes that these beliefs conflict with the Qur'an. She said: "That's something I'll find a challenge the rest of my life."

bullet

She regards Jesus as her savior. She said that: "He has connected me with God." 1

In adopting beliefs that conflict with traditional Christian concepts, she has almost certainly deviated from the doctrines of the Episcopal church. A case can be made that she has violated her vows taken at her ordination, and that she could be charged with heresy.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Janit I. Tu, "Reverend drawn to Muslim faith," The Columbian, WA, 2007-JUN-17, at: http://www.columbian.com/

  2. "Islam and Christianity; Common grounds," Reading Islam, 2003-JUL-13, at: http://www.readingislam.com/

  3. mOok, "The Theological Toilet," mOokblog, 2007-JUN-08, at: http://m0ok.wordpress.com/

  4. George Conger, "US Priest says Islam Christianity are united," 2007-JUN-07, at: http://geoconger.wordpress.com

As of 2007-JUN-18, A Google search for redding islam christianity returned about 2,800 hits; within two days, this had risen to 3,300.

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Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-JUN-18
Latest update: 2007-JUN-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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