Monday, May 12, 2008
Missions Gone Wild
Thanks to 'the Old Parson' for posting this blog. It's bad enough when members of the synod try to accommodate the Divine Service to reformed sensibilities, but to have the chair of the missions department at one of the Concordia's suggest that we should accommodate it to Muslim sensibilities is unthinkable.
The professor in question is Herb Hoefer, chair of Missions at Concordia, Portland. He begins with apparent giddiness that a group of Muslim academics visiting the chapel service approved of the fact that the hymns, assuming they sang hymns, did not mention the name of Jesus, saying, "They discussed that they could have worshipped with the same words that they heard, for it so happened that the songs they heard only referred to God and not to Jesus." What a shame that a chair of missions welcomes their approval. Sadly, it doesn't end there; he goes on to wonder what else could be changed for the sake of mission in the "the Muslim context."
Perhaps, making Jesus the, "object of our worship," is a mistake. He says, "We have strong biblical authority for using the most common term 'Lord' when addressing the Resurrected One. That term would not feed Muslim misconceptions, as the term :Jesus' does." Well, there goes the ancient Church's earliest confession that, "Jesus is Lord."
He proposes changing the wording of the creeds to avoid Muslim misconceptions about Christians worshiping more than one God. He proposes that the third article of the Creeds be changed to avoid the offensive words, "Christian," or, "catholic." Instead he advocates using the word "umma," a Muslim term that suggests a fellowship of believers.
He also asserts that we remove the epistles from the Divine Service, or any worship service, since the epistles are largely Pauline and Muslims think that Paul was a false teacher who altered the Christian message from its previous pristine purity. This was a purity that conformed to the teaching of Muhammad. Of course, if you take out the Pauline epistles you don't hear unhelpful things like, "I am not ashamed of the gospel," and, "The Word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness."
The gist of the Professor's proposals is that we should alter Christianity itself, at least in the Muslim mission context, and seems to want to allow the Muslims to interpret our faith according to their own. Take out anything that is offensive in the Christian faith and what do you have...nothing, or maybe in that context, Islam.
Here are some other gems from the professor:
"Whenever we use the term 'Son of God,' Muslims immediately think blasphemy. We need to explain to Muslims that the term is a biblical metaphor that is used of individuals and even of Israel. It is not a biological description but a theological affirmation using a human metaphor. The Second Person of the Trinity is a 'chip off the old block.'"
"We need to make that explanation, but public worship typically is not the proper venue for that discussion. It would be best simply to avoid the term (Son of God) in our preaching and guide our people also to avoid it in their witnessing."
"In all of these matters, the process of discussing the reasons for the changes would become a great opportunity for educating and training our Christians as well as they try to witness effectively to their Muslim neighbors."
Of course, orthodox Christians would say that were we to adopt these proposals we would not be witnessing at all but compromising the truth of the gospel. The Apostles words are appropriate here, "even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we have preached to you, let him be accursed."
In an earlier blog, I took Tiny Muskins, a Danish Roman bishop, to task for suggesting that Christians adopt the name "Allah" as a title for God in order to accommodate Muslim sensitivities. These suggestions by one of our own are just as bad.
Rather than altering the historical Christian witness and removing traditional language from the Divine Service in order to be "effective," perhaps Concordia should alter the status of the professor and remove him from his position at one of our colleges.