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Monday, May 3, 2010

Mary and Islam - Common Ground, or End-Times Deception?

Recently, I read an article in the magazine Sophia, which is published by the Byzantine Melkite Catholic Eparchy of Newton, which gave me cause for concern. The article was written by a Melkite religious by the name of Br. John Samaha, S.M., of Cupertino, CA, and it was titled "Mary, A Bridge Between Christianity and Islam." This has been a growing trend among Catholics for some time, in particular Middle Eastern Catholics who, for many generations, have lived under Islamic rule and have been stratefied as what the Islamic establishment calls dhimmis. Dhimmitude is a state of existence afforded by Islam to non-Muslim communities which although on the surface signifies "protection," in reality it is a sort of extortion - basically, these non-Islamic minorities receive this "protection" by paying a tax and abiding by a set of restrictive rules. This has been the case for centuries actually, and has assured the Muslim powers that be of complete control in their nations without the interference of Christians, Jews, or other indigenous religious/ethnic minorities. As a result, there has been a noble, albeit misguided, attempt on the part of many religious leaders of many Christian and Jewish communities to be "neighborly" to their Islamic overlords by supposedly seeking common ground, and one of the ways of doing this has been through the Marian doctrines, which Catholics believe in. Ironically, there are indeed many references to the Theotokos in the Quran, with an extensive number about her perpetual virginity, etc., in Surat 3. For many reasons, many Catholics have taken this to heart and have believed that this provides common grounds of belief with Islam, and some have even viewed it as an evangelistic opportunity, that is reaching Muslims via the Marian doctrines. Some of this has validity, because there have been Muslims won to Christ by both Catholics and Evangelicals by these methods, but at the same time they present a problem because the motives are ambiguous at best. So, here, we are going to address this issue today, and I am hopefully going to provide some insight into this matter that will prayerfully enlighten and educate my fellow Catholics concerning the true nature of Islam, and how Muslims can truly be reached for Christ without whitewashing and compromising of our faith.

The Marian doctrines are vital to Catholic Christianity, and although Roman Catholics have included a couple of extra things the early Church did not believe - one is Mary's Immaculate Conception, which is not substantiated by either Church Tradition nor Scripture, and the other is Mary's sinlessness - for the most part ALL Catholics, Roman and non-Roman, do have some clearly-defined beliefs which are affirmed by the early Church and Scripture. Among those are the following:

1. Mary is Ever-Virgin - she had no more children naturally after Christ.
2. Mary as the Theotokos, or God-Bearer, and thus an icon of the Ark of the Covenant also.
3. Mary's intercessory ministry - like all saints, Mary can pray for and intercede with our requests on our behalf (we don't pray to saints, in other words, but can ask them to pray for us as they are the Church Expectant)
4. The Assumption - Many early Church Fathers believed that Mary was bodily assumed into heaven upon her death; this is also a good case for the early development of the doctrine of the Resurrection of the body, which is fundamental to our belief as Christians.

That being said, Mary and her legacy have an important place in Christian belief and practice, and thus it is acceptable to accord her a place of honor. Ironically, Islam also affirms the Virgin Birth of Christ, as well as several other things Christianity believes about Mary, largely due to the fact that Muhammed did receive early instruction from a renegade Assyrian monk by the name of Behara, and thus he incorporated these things into the religion he invented from the bits and pieces of Christianity and Judaism he supposedly favored, although in doing so he corrupted the doctrines to suit the demonic influences he later received. However, although Islam affirms some truth of our cardinal doctrines as Christians, it does not mean that Islam is compatible nor does it necessarily have common ground with us. As a matter of fact, if studied extensively, Islam is something we should be very careful of, because in the latter days it is very possible that it is from an Islamic background that the future Antichrist may come, and therefore any of these noble but misguided efforts to find this elusive "common ground" may be setting up another scenario we will discuss shortly. Any rate, I want to now tackle some of the premises that apologists for this "common ground" issue have stated, and attempt to address them from a standpoint that is in line with the teachings of the Church and Scripture.

In addition to the Sophia article I noted, there appeared another interview in the April 2010 issue of Maronite Voice that echoed the same party line, and essentially it was an interview with an Islamic Lebanese leader by the name of Dr. Mohammed Al-Sammak. What bothers me about this interview is that, on the premise that Muslims and Christians must learn to live together and get along in Lebanon in particular (getting along is not the issue, as we should respect people and treat them accordingly), Al-Sammak is saying that any questioning of interreligious dialogue between Christians and Islam is basically "tainted" by Western prejudice, which is a load of manure to be honest. Maronites in particular, being a non-Arab Christian minority which has been suppressed, oppressed, and persecuted by Islamic governments for centuries, should know better - some of their own saints were mercilessly slaughtered by those Islamic regimes, which ironically were not radically extremist, but were the accepted Islamic norm for centuries. History does not lie, and it has nothing to do with "western prejudice" or anything else; up until political correctness dumbed-down Western civilization, as a matter of fact, these were facts that were fairly well-documented on both sides - Islam championed it as "cleansing the infidels," while Christians spoke out against such stuff as the atrocities they were. Therefore, for Eastern-rite Catholics in particular to dismiss and sweep under the carpet those facts, as well of the memories of the martyrs who died in cold blood to preserve their faith and people, is unthinkable. It is what writer Bat Ye'or calls "ideological dhimmitude," which basically says that some Christian minorities are still bowing to Islamic will even in their diaspora communities in the West. There is nothing requiring Christians to do this, but they seem to do it willingly, and it is largely due to talking-head bureaucrats among the clergy and other influential communities who don't want to create a fuss because it might compromise their own egos and prestige. Meanwhile, their people, whom they claim to spiritually represent, either die or are so oppressed that it is almost unfathomable to imagine the intolerable cruelty that these poor people go through. And, for all this talk of "common ground," I beg to ask some of these people like Bro. Samaha what he thinks about converts to Christianity in some Islamic countries getting their heads lopped off for confessing Christ as their Lord and Savior?? And, although the Quran may acknowledge some truths about the Theotokos that we Christians accept, it has little to do with "common ground" and more to do with deception. I do see the missionary possibility however of using the Theotokos to minister to Muslims, but what they really need to hear is that Jesus Christ is their Savior, and that He died for their sins. We as Christians, and particularly those of us as Catholics who have a direct link to the Apostles themselves, need to be bolder. Church Tradition agrees with me on this, as in 1850 a Catholic visionary by the name of Bartholomew Holzhauser warned against spiritual complacency when he wrote the following as quoted in Desmond Birch's book, Trial, Tribulation, and Triumph: Before, During, and After Antichrist (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing, 1996):

Are we not to fear, during this period, that the Mohammedans will come again,
working out their sinister schemes against the Latin Church?...During this period,
many men will abuse of the freedom of conscience conceded to them. It is of such
men that Jude the Apostle spoke when he said "These men blaspheme whatever
they do not understand, and they corrupt whatever they know naturally as
irrational animals do.
During this unhappy period, there will be laxity in divine and human precepts.
Discipline will suffer. The Holy Canons will be completely disregarded, and the
clergy will not respect the laws of the Church. Everyone will be carried away and
led to believe and do what he fancies, according to the manner of the flesh. (Birch,
pp. 332-333).

Reading that, we see that this so-called finding of "common ground" with Islam and other such religions is a bigger problem of today's Church. And, although Holzhauser addressed this to the Catholic Church, it applies equally, and is Scripturally sound based on II Timothy, where a great falling-away from the faith is prophesied as inevitable. Greek Orthodox lay scholar Apostolos Makrakis, writing in his book Interpretation of the Book of Revelation (Chicago, IL: Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1972 reprint of original 1881 text) identifies the red horse of Revelation 6:2 with Islam:

The red horse emerging from the second seal depicted the piratical and warlike
nation of the Arabs (Muslims - italics mine added) who, being by nature inclined
to rapine and robbery, enthusiastically embraced the religion of war and conquest
championed by the pseudo-prophet, Mohammed, and by means of the great sword
given by Satan destroyed the power of the Byzantines and made the Eastern
Christians subservient to their own pleasures and appetites (Makrakis, 147).

This is interesting, because Islam is a religion of war, and more than any other world belief system, it has gained converts more by the sword than by conscience. That being said, the Theotokos, who embodies peace and the salvation of the Messiah she bore in her womb who is the Prince of Peace, cannot be considered a common-interest point between Christians and Islam. Islam is essentially a demonic religion, and despite any conciliatory talk, it will always be so. And, if one studies Bible prophecy, it is interesting that the so-called "peace" that is promised by the Antichrist in the future will in reality be something tied with a lot of attached strings, because as Perry Stone rightfully points out in his book Unleashing the Beast(Cleveland, TN: Voice of Evangelism, 2003)what the word "peace" as mentioned in Daniel 9:27 actually means "security," and what that entails is that this future dictator (Stone believes him to be a radical Islamic leader, which we will get to shortly) will tell people he will give them security if they do what he says (Stone, 145). That, to me, sounds eerily similar to those dhimmi codes that Islamic rulers have subjected non-Muslims in their occupied territories to for centuries, and it provides something of great insight that I wish to talk about now.

A lot of teaching now is starting to circulate in some Pentecostal and Evangelical circles about the future Antichrist prophesied to arise in Daniel and Revelation being an Islamic leader, and as I have looked into this myself over the past several years, I am becoming convinced of the possibility of this myself based on earlier teachings of such writers as Apostolos Makrakis, Bartholomew Holzhauser, Juan ben-Ezra, and others. It does make some sense actually, given the high profile of the Islamic world in at least the past 4 or 5 decades, and it does make me wonder if perhaps people have been ignoring the obvious. There are many things to consider, one of which is that Europe is gradually becoming more Islamized every day - it has been predicted that Islam could be the majority religion in Europe in less than 50 years actually. Pat Buchanan and other people have written of this actually over the years, as many commentators have noted that indigenous European populations are in decline while the Islamic world grows. If this be the case, then it is possible that the European Union, which so many prophecy scholars said would be what the Antichrist would rise out of, could be predominantly Muslim in years to come, and perhaps that Antichrist could be Islamic maybe. This also correlates with an obscure Islamic eschatological teaching that an Islamic "messiah" called the Mahdi is supposed to emerge in its end-time scenario and convert the world to Islam. This Mahdi was actually the subject of Perry Stone's book I quoted above, and given Islam's preoccupation with winning converts by basically threatening to chop their heads off, it does line up quite well. That all being said, we now go back to this ideological dhimmitude on the part of some Eastern Christian leaders and their "common ground" thing regarding the Theotokos as a bridge with Islam.

The Bible talks about a religious leader who will be sort of the high priest of the Antichrist, and he is called in Scripture the False Prophet. This False Prophet is a fact that is accepted by almost all traditions of Christian thought regardless of denomination, and he is believed to be a religious leader. The factors that would usher in such a person would be a complacency among the churches - Laodicean mindset, basically - and thus such apathy would open professed Christians up to deception, and would prime them for the worldwide false religion called "Mystery Babylon." The prime candidate for a false prophet on this level would be a high-ranking religious leader, and some visionaries of the Church have foretold that a future Pope of the Roman Church would apostatize and serve the Antichrist. It is interesting that some of the top bureaucrats in the Christian Church, both in the East and in the West, are now talking about all this "common ground" with other religions, especially Islam. That is of concern to me, especially in lieu of new evidence that the anticipated Mahdi of the Muslims could be a future Antichrist possibly. And, this False Prophet is of interest too, because Islamic eschatology says that "Jesus" will appear with this Mahdi on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, renounce his Messiahship, and declare the Mahdi as the true "Messiah" and thus compel all Christians and Jews to convert to worship of this Mahdi, who would in essence (Islam denies this, BTW, but it makes sense knowing Bible prophecy and also human nature) be declared as deity. Although Islam is outwardly iconoclastic, I feel that in the future there may be changes afoot, and this too lines up with Bible prophecy. Being the future False Prophet will be a religious leader, possibly an apostate Pope, he will also be a religious universalist at first, not only seeking to find "common ground" with Islam but also with other religions, in particularly occultic practices as he will need some demonically-inspired supernatural power to convince people. One occult discipline is Judaic in origin and is called the Qabala, and a central tenet of this system is that some people are endowed with the ability to give life to an inanimate image called a golim, and a 12th-century Hasidic qabalist by the name of Eleazar of Worms codified this in his writings with recipes of how to create such a creature that was capable of causing destruction and ruin while under the control of its creator (Isaacson and Wigoder, The International Jewish Encyclopedia {Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1973} p. 126). This is actually the original source of the Frankenstein legend, by the way. Revelation 13:14-15, interestingly, talks about the False Prophet creating such an image of the Beast, and giving it basically the power of life - could this be a golem maybe?? I tend to think this is a valid assessment, because a miraculous (or apparently so) talking statue would even get the attention of devout iconoclastic Muslims, who upon hearing "Allah's will" speaking through such a statue would probably worship it as it if were their Mahdi himself. The prophecy in Revelation 13 would also correlate with the so-called denounciation of "Jesus" of his Messiahship, being that many deceived nominal Christians may even come to feel that their new leader would be a new Christ, and thus it would set the stage. Of course, this isn't the real Jesus, but is one of the false "Christs" that would arise, gain prominence, and become the False Prophet who would compel people to worship the Antichrist. And, being Christianity - both nominal and true - is the largest religion in the world closely followed by Islam, it would make sense that an apostate who would ascend the highest office of the Church would be the prime candidate for this. There are a lot of highly-qualified contenders among bishops and priests these days for this also, as many have embraced so much religious inclusionism and false ecumenism that it would only be a small step for them to apostasize from real Christianity and embrace a false counterfeit. What concerns me though in particular are the concessions being made by Catholics to Islam, and now unfortunately we are seeing more of that as well among so-called Evangelicals - a couple of well-known "Evangelical" authors come to mind on this, as well as the "seeker-friendly" form of Christianity they embrace which more or less says Islam is compatible with Christianity. It is a trend which is growing with alarming frequency in all sectors of Christianity, and today every denomination seems to be infected with this virus. Another new trend among so-called Charismatics and Evangelicals is the growing emergence of a doctrine called "Inclusionism,' which basically says hell is only temporary and that all people, even Satan himself, will be saved. It is just the old universalist heresy with a new dressing, and it is popping up in unlikely places - two prominent Pentecostal ministers, Carlton Pearson and the late Earl Paulk, were among those who accepted this and essentially apostatized from true Christianity as a result. Such stuff as this is priming many nominal members of Christian churches to cuddle up with their enemies, most prominently Islam, and it is creating along with the political environment in the West a sort of ideological dhimmitude in which Islam is getting everything it wants on a silver platter. If what I have said earlier has any substance, we as true Christians need to be very cautious of any attempts to find "common ground" with these false religions, many of which are openly hostile to Christianity and its true practice. And, thus is why when I read these things popping up in various Eastern Christian publications about "common ground" with Islam, I get personally nervous.

The above also highlights a strong spiritual deficiency in our churches today too. Churches don't teach the truths of the Gospel and our faith like they once did, and the spiritual malnourishment I am seeing in even supposedly conservative denominations is alarming. And, it reflects in the lives of the people - Christians are barely distinguishable from the world around them in their behavior anymore, and I see so-called Pentecostal and Catholic "Christians" playing around with horoscopes, cheating on their spouses, joining Masonic lodges, and as a result many of them have also forsaken sound doctrines and spiritual discipline. When, for instance, have you seen in your particular church a burden to "pray through" and also seen true revival?? For some, these are now foreign concepts; only a couple of decades back though, they were the norm in some of those same churches. What has happened?? My opinion: Laodicea is coming to pass. Churches are lulled into a false complacency and thus they are letting their guard down. They are being deceived and primed by the enemy into accepting things God has said NO to, and as a result the dulled discernment has opened some doors that were better left closed. That is why, instead of trying to reach Muslims for Christ, many so-called "churches" are rather trying to seek "common ground," and that "common ground" is dangerously thin ice. So, God has been taking on the job himself recently - Muslims who have never heard of Christ are now getting visions of Him in their lands and isolation and are being born again without the aid of a priest or missionary! It is a wonderful thing, but also a tragic testimony on how lazy, complacent, and even apostate Christian churches are becoming - instead of us yielding ourselves to God to reach these people, He has to reach them Himself, and unfortunately that will be accounted of us on day. Especially the "talking heads" who are bishops and administrators of churches - while they are trying in their failed human wisdom to find "common ground" with an Islamic religion that would kill them as quick as look at them, people are dying and going to hell. But, God is merciful, and is supernaturally working despite our idiocy as a people. Thanks be to God for that.

And, we will be back next week with another good teaching, so keep visiting, as you are always welcome to be blessed by this material.