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    Driscoll:  McLaren’s Ramadan Fasting Observance is “Insane at Best”

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    Driscoll:  McLaren’s Ramadan Fasting Observance is “Insane at Best”
    We reported a few weeks back about Brian McLaren's announcement that he will observe fasting for the Muslim Ramadan along with some of his muslim friends.  Mark Driscoll and Al Mohler weigh in on their thoughts of this 'inter-faith' play...

    FROM USA TODAY:  Like Muslims worldwide, Ben Ries has refrained from food and drink from sunrise to sundown in an act of self-restraint during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, which ends this weekend.

    Each evening, the 31-year-old Ries joins Muslim families in a room above a hardware store in Bellingham, Wash., to find fellowship and break the fast with a handful of dates and a welcome glass of water.

    Only Ries is not a Muslim. He is pastor of 70-member Sterling Drive Church of Christ and a self-described committed Christian who just a few weeks ago had to turn to Google to find a Muslim in his community.

    Ries is among a small group of Christians who've joined well-known evangelical author and speaker Brian McLaren in observing a Ramadan fast, opening a new chapter in interfaith relations between two traditions often at odds.

    To McLaren and his Christian and Muslim fasting partners, it's a neighborly gesture of solidarity that deepens their respective faiths and sends a message about finding peace and common ground.

    But the project also has faced fierce criticism. Some evangelicals say that fasting alongside Muslims at Ramadan, however well-intentioned, is a dangerous blurring of the lines and runs contrary to Christianity.

    McLaren, 53, is the godfather of the "emerging" or "emergent" church, a loose-knit movement that seeks to recover ancient Christian worship practices and, in some cases, question traditional evangelical theology.

    While fasting is part of Christian tradition, it isn't exactly a widespread practice. Some college students from different faiths have started interfaith "Fast-A-Thons" during Ramadan to raise money to fight poverty. But that usually involves fasting for a day, not committing to an entire month.

    In announcing his Ramadan fast plans on his blog last month, McLaren wrote, "We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them." The goal is to join Muslims in the observance as "a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship and neighborliness," he wrote.

    McLaren, a former pastor, said his Ramadan fast is also part of his post-9-11 worldview.

    Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, said the idea of Christians fasting at Ramadan appears at first to be neighborly solidarity, but it's more than that.

    "The logic of Islam is obedience and submission," Mohler said. "It's by following these practices that a Muslim demonstrates his obedience to the rule of the law through the Quran. For a Christian to do the same automatically implies a submission to the same rule. And beyond that, it's an explicit affirmation that this is a good and holy thing. From a New Testament perspective, it is not a good and holy thing."

    Christians should have friendships with people of other faith, but engaging in other traditions' worship practices is problematic, said Mark Driscoll, lead preaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Driscoll said that in this case, Christians and Muslims fast for different purposes and do not worship the same God.

    Christians observing a Ramadan fast is "insane at best ... Sad, tragic, horrific, misguided, dangerous, wrong," Driscoll said. "If Christians want to pray during Ramadan, they should pray not with Muslims but for Muslims — that Muslims would come to know Jesus. To pray with Muslims absolutely dishonors Jesus."

    What do you think?  Insane?  Sad?  Tragic?  Wrong?  or Helpful?  Beneficial?



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    1. Richard on Tue, September 22, 2009

      Once again, Driscoll nails it.  I would have no respect for a Muslim or Jew who celebrates Christmas or Easter.

    2. Gordon Marcy on Tue, September 22, 2009

      Mohler and Driscoll have very different ministries and styles, but share same gospel, same Jesus. That comes through in the like-mindedness of their analysis of McLaren’s observance.

      Thank you for bringing this news to our attention Todd. Jesus commands us to watch and pray.

    3. patrick on Tue, September 22, 2009

      I’m not so sure Driscoll and Mohler are right. In fact I think Driscoll is a little overboard here. “horrific” - really? I can think of a lot of things that are horrific, but not fasting with Muslims…

    4. bishopdave on Tue, September 22, 2009

      What about Christians observing Seder/Passover?
      Protestants in our area that work at the Catholic hospital put that mark on their forehead for ash wednesday.
      \ I don’t find much in common with Maclaren; his thing on the Nines didn’t impress me much; fasting isn’t a big deal, but making it public is—Jesus said not to. If we fast, we fast unto the Lord, not unto our Muslim neighbors. I wonder if Maclaren is joining the big prayer meeting on capitol hill

    5. Brian Mayfield on Tue, September 22, 2009

      While I may agree with some/much of what Driscoll says, my problem is with HOW it’s said. I understand that we’re to confront false prophecy & wrong teaching - BOLDLY - but I also understand John 13:34-35 pretty plainly as well.

      And I would also wonder, how many Muslims has Driscoll led to Christ?

    6. Graeme Codrington on Tue, September 22, 2009

      I have a good friend who is a missionary in Indonesia, amongst the Muslims.  He wears a full beard, and his wife wears a head covering and Islamic required clothing.  They don’t have to do this, but they do it in order to connect with the local community.  They observe Ramadan for the same reason.  I assume we’d all be OK with this attempt to bridge the faith bridge in a “creative access” country.

      If it’s Ok for them, then we’ve established that it is OK in some circumstances.  We must then ask whether it’s OK for someone like McLaren.  Surely the answer has to do with (1) why he’s doing it, and (2) how he’s doing it.  Since I am certain he’s not worshiping Allah (although “Allah” simply means “God”, I mean that he’s not worshiping the Islamic god), and since I am sure he is not abandoning his Bible in favour of the Koran, then what really is the problem?

      We share common practices with other religions, and it seems clever to use these common practices to build bridges to those who need to hear about Jesus.

    7. David Buckham on Tue, September 22, 2009

      @Brian Mayfield,

      I wonder how many Muslims McLaren has brought to Christ?

      Then does it matter?

    8. Gordon Marcy on Tue, September 22, 2009

      Some well reasoned positions here. Raising some questions.

      Akbar Ahmed, chairman of the Islamic studies department at American University, said about McClaren’s gesture, “Here is a pastor who wants to understand us, who does not want to convert us, and who is even prepared to walk with us, to fast with us. That is a big gesture.”

      Question: Should any Christian, much less a pastor, leave the impression (to a watching world) that he’s not interested in the salvation of his friend?

      Take a look at this site and review the words carefully.

      Question: If Christians, that want Muslims and the whole world to know Christ, are positioned as intolerant, then what does this statement mean…


    9. Gman on Tue, September 22, 2009

      I find it odd and amusing that a COC minister is called pastor; and then lumped into McLaren ...a big jump for this paper. If they knew the COC - they might of seen it for what it was ... witnessing and not the same as what McLaren might.

    10. David Buckham on Tue, September 22, 2009


      Being from a restoration background I wondered the same thing.  But there are several types of CoC.  There is non-instrumental CoC, independent CoC and don’t forget the 2 different cults that call themselves CoC.  I wonder which this man falls in with.

      all about Christ,

    11. Josh R on Tue, September 22, 2009

      I think there may be a bigger difference in philosphy here..  McLaren’s approach seems to be to convince people that the God that they worship is really Jesus.  While Driscoll’s approach is to tell everyone that the God that they worship is really Satan, and that they should switch and worship Jesus.

      God is who God is,  and he is offensive.  Jesus offended.  He offended on purpose.  He spoke authoritatively and certainly.  People either wanted to follow him or they wanted to kill him. 

      He may have been kinder to the non-religious folks than the religious folks, but he still straight up told them to go and sin no more.

      For those reason’s Driscoll’s ministry seems more authentic than McLaren’s.

    12. Ben Ries on Tue, September 22, 2009

      As one the persons featured in the article, I’m always interested to read comments about me. I am grateful for those who do it with grace and love. I am always disappointed at those who do not.

      I’d like to answer a few questions:

      Gordon - Please remember that those were Ahmed’s words, not mine. Contrary to what the article implies, I am concerned about converting others for Christ. However, I want you to know that I use the word “conversion” much differently than others. My goal is not to coerce others into a confession that Jesus is Lord. This is a confession even demons can make. I want to embody the love and way of Christ in such a way that others choose to give their life to this way. Also, I don’t think we convert people, I think God is the only one who can do that sort of thing. Our job, as Christians, is to plant! Because of this belief I’ve chosen to love others, speak openly about the love of Christ, and pray for ways to join God as he works and moves in this world. From there, I have a radical trust that God is the one who performs the needed “heart surgery” on others, not me.

      Gman and David - I’m lumped with McLaren because he is a friend of mine. Also, I’m called “pastor” because that is my job title. The Church of Christ tradition is not so easily pinned down as this or that. Nor is it easily split into two (or four) different streams. Since there is no governing body and each congregation is autonomous, you will likely find that one Church of Christ is very different from another Church of Christ that may be just down the street.

      Todd - Thanks for providing space for such civil dialogue. Contrary to many blogs I’ve seen in the last few days, your readers seem to be of the “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry” variety. I’m confident this is a reflection of your character.


    13. bishopdave on Tue, September 22, 2009

      Ben Ries: “Todd - Thanks for providing space for such civil dialogue. Contrary to many blogs I’ve seen in the last few days, your readers seem to be of the “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry” variety. I’m confident this is a reflection of your character.:

      Ben, you caught us on a good day. But you’re right about Todd.

    14. Peter Hamm on Tue, September 22, 2009

      From the above article, Mohler’s quote [For a Christian to do the same automatically implies a submission to the same rule.] This would be the big concern to me with this practice.

      Much of what the Qu’ran teaches is problematic to me, at best, as a Christ-follower.

      Also, there is a HUGE difference between a Christian celebrating a Seder and one celebrating one of the five pillars of the Muslim faith.

    15. bobby on Tue, September 22, 2009

      For the most part, I like Driscoll.  I appreciate most of his theology and think God has shaped him and placed him in a way that he can reach many that others cannot.

      That being said, I’m also getting kind of tired of hearing his “heresy whistle” all the time.  Sometimes it seems like he makes a way bigger deal over things than they need to be or should be.  For me, the Shack is another case in point.

      Perhaps we should even be more willing to learn from those of other faiths.  Fasting is an expected spiritual discipline that most of us suck at, and we could even learn a thing or two from Muslims commitment to it during Ramadan.  I definitely don’t agree with everything McLaren says either, but in this case, it seems to me like a great way to direct this time of fasting toward Jesus and learn and grow with believers of another faith in the process as well.

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