Can You Be a Christian and A Moslem At The Same Time?

The religious blogoshere is all abuzz about a Seattle Times article that tells the story of an Episcopal priest who claims to be both a Christian and a Muslim:

Shortly after noon on Fridays, the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding ties on a black headscarf, preparing to pray with her Muslim group on First Hill.

On Sunday mornings, Redding puts on the white collar of an Episcopal priest.

She does both, she says, because she's Christian and Muslim.

Redding, who until recently was director of faith formation at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, has been a priest for more than 20 years. Now she's ready to tell people that, for the last 15 months, she's also been a Muslim — drawn to the faith after an introduction to Islamic prayers left her profoundly moved.

Her announcement has provoked surprise and bewilderment in many, raising an obvious question: How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim?

But it has drawn other reactions too. Friends generally say they support her, while religious scholars are mixed: Some say that, depending on how one interprets the tenets of the two faiths, it is, indeed, possible to be both. Others consider the two faiths mutually exclusive.

"There are tenets of the faiths that are very, very different," said Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. "The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?"

Christianity has historically regarded Jesus as the son of God and God incarnate, both fully human and fully divine. Muslims, though they regard Jesus as a great prophet, do not see him as divine and do not consider him the son of God.

Read it all.

The key issue, of course, is how Rev. Redding views the divinity of Jesus. That would appear to be the critical difference between Islam and Christianity:

Most significantly, Muslims and Christians disagree over the divinity of Jesus.

Muslims generally believe in Jesus' virgin birth, that he was a messenger of God, that he ascended to heaven alive and that he will come back at the end of time to destroy evil. They do not believe in the Trinity, in the divinity of Jesus or in his death and resurrection.

For Christians, belief in Jesus' divinity, and that he died on the cross and was resurrected, lie at the heart of the faith, as does the belief that there is one God who consists of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It appears that even before becoming a Muslim, however, Reddings' views on Jesus look very similar to the Arian heresy (the belief that Jesus was divine, but not God):

Redding's views, even before she embraced Islam, were more interpretive than literal.

She believes the Trinity is an idea about God and cannot be taken literally.

She does not believe Jesus and God are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus.

She believes Jesus is the son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.

What makes Jesus unique, she believes, is that out of all humans, he most embodied being filled with God and identifying completely with God's will.
She does believe that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, and acknowledges those beliefs conflict with the teachings of the Quran. "That's something I'll find a challenge the rest of my life," she said.

She considers Jesus her savior. At times of despair, because she knows Jesus suffered and overcame suffering, "he has connected me with God," she said.

I am a "big tent" Episcopalian, and accept that the Episcopal Church has room for a wide variety of theological views. I must say, however, that the case of Rev. Redding may suggest that there are some theological views that fail outside even my view of a big tent.


Alice MacArthur said…
Hi Chuck,

Interested in this as I was faced with a similar issue. After practicing in a Hindu tradition for 30 (Siddha Yoga,)three years ago I was suddenly pulled into the orbit of Jesus Christ, experiencing Him coming into my life with great power and Love. Although I recognize both paths to lead to the same One, I felt that I had to choose to follow one or the other, not both at the same time. My previous Master used to say you cannot ride two horses at the same time.

As to the Arian heresy, I certainly know plenty of Episcopalians that would subscribe to it. I personally feel it is less important to judge whether someone is ascribing to "right belief" than that s/he sincerely walks the path to God with whole hearted devotion.
Alice MacArthur said…
I see I should have previewed my comment. That should be "practicing in a Hindu tradition (Siddha Yoga,) for 30 years"
Ann said…
Although I am a "big tent" Episcopalian too - I think clergy need to choose and commit to one tradition or another. A time of discernment is perhaps what is needed.
writing_here said…
I don't think there is a tent big enough to get around the wording of ordination vows, at least how they are printed in my copy of the BCP.

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