by Nick Peters
In an age of pluralism, it’s not really a surprise to see an attempt to mix Christianity and Islam. This has been attempted by Shamsuddin Saka, a pastor in Lagos, Nigeria. His church is highly unusual in that when one looks on the lectern in it, one will see both the Bible and the Qur’an.
The basis for this is Saka going on the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. According to Saka, this was nineteen years ago (from the time of this writing) when he was in prayer and told by God to make peace between the two religions. While there is nothing wrong with peace between the two religions, provided they are allowed to disagree and reasonably discuss their disagreements, there is a problem with trying to take two contrary worldviews and put them together.
In the services at Saka’s church, they begin with a Qur’anic prayer. The mood of the prayer is intense and like that of what we’d see in a Pentecostal service. There is nothing wrong with expressive worship of course, but one has to be on guard to make sure one’s mind is fully aware of what is going on and able to deal with the information that is coming in.
After this, the sermon speaks on prayerfulness and the commonality between Islam and Christianity. Of course, there are some similarities between the two religions. Both see Jesus as sinless, sent by God, Messiah, and born of a virgin. Both believe in a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. It is where they differ that matters, such as Islam’s denial of the deity of Christ and the triune nature of God.
Also noteworthy of what happens in Saka’s church is that Christianity appears to be taught as a Word of Faith Christianity with an emphasis on miracles being done. There are reports of women who say that they were unable to conceive and then came to Saka’s church and conceived.
Saka himself drives a Hummer. While this raises some eyebrows, Saka assures those who question him that it does not come from the money he gets from the ministry, as not much is collected. Instead, this was a gift to Saka from some followers based on an answer to prayer. It is a wonder, however, why it is that those who have an answered prayer give a gift to the pastor instead.
How ought Christians to respond? First, it the major differences that exist between Islam and Christianity should be noted. Of course, each person has the freedom to hold his own views and we do not want to see Christianity spread by the sword. However, we also do not want the faiths to be seen as equally valid paths to the same God. Christians should familiarize themselves with the Qur’an. It would do no harm for many a Christian to actually read Islam’s holy book in order to better be able to dialogue with Muslims.
Second, Christians also need to be wary of people who say, “God told me.” Of course, there’s no denying that God can tell a message to someone if he desires, but that message should be authenticated somehow, be it by checking prior revelation given or by some kind of bona fide miracle, much like Jesus and the apostles did. Of course, we must also remember that according to Deuteronomy 13, doing a miracle is not enough. The checking of prior revelation is more important.
Third, Christians should be aware of the health and wealth gospel taught by the Word of Faith churches. Faithfulness to God is not measured by how much money is in one’s bank account, but about how much treasure one has built up for himself in Heaven, something we cannot see on this side of eternity.
Finally, Christians need to make sure they know the essentials of their own faith and how to share it. What difference does the Trinity make and how can it be demonstrated from Scripture? Why should it be important for a Christian to know that Islam does, in fact, teach the virgin birth? Can a Christian answer the questions that Muslims have for them on topics relevant to Christianity?
At the time, this is a small movement, but Christians do need to be aware of attempts to synchronize contrary faiths. While there are areas of disagreement allowable within Christian circles, Islam denies that which is essential to the Christian faith, so Christians cannot view Islam as a valid path to God.