Episcopal Priest, Practicing Muslim -- Same Thing, No?
- Friday, June 22, 2007
Members of the Episcopal Church must brace themselves these days when they pick up the newspaper. The church is currently roiled by controversies over homosexuality and a host of other issues. Indeed, the Episcopal Church, US [ECUSA] is in danger of losing its relationship with the larger Anglican Communion over the issue of homosexuality alone.
As if that were not sufficient to fret the faithful, along comes the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding of Seattle. Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times featured a major article on Rev. Redding and her claim to be both an Episcopal priest and a practicing Muslim. She is serious, of course, which is what makes the story so interesting.
Janet I. Tu, the paper's religion reporter sets out the story:
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?
Well, at least the question is right -- How can someone be both a Christian and a Muslim. The simple and profoundly obvious answer is that one cannot be both a Christian and a Muslim, at least not until you completely redefine what it means to be both Christian and Muslim.
The case of the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding makes any sane person long for Aristotle and his law of non-contradiction. As Aristotle famously argued, two contradictory propositions cannot be simultaneously true. Nevertheless, the outright denial of the principle of non-contradiction is one of the hallmarks of the postmodern age. Postmoderns gladly embrace contradictions and refuse any responsibility to resolve them. This tactic, we might observe, works better on some issues than on others. Their denial of non-contradiction abruptly ends when it no longer serves their purposes.
Rev. Redding wants to claim to be both a faithful Christian and a faithful Muslim. The problem with this is immediately clear to anyone who understands the most basic teachings of Christianity and Islam.
Christianity stands or falls on doctrines such as the Trinity and the deity of Christ. The heart of the Christian understanding of Jesus Christ is that He is the only begotten Son of the Father, fully human and fully divine. Christianity also points to Jesus death on the cross as the means of our salvation and to Christ's bodily resurrection from the dead as the Father's vindication of the Son and the promise of the resurrection of believers yet to come.
Islam acknowledges Jesus as a historical figure and a great prophet, affirms the virgin birth, and points to a future role of Christ in judgment. Nevertheless, Islam explicitly denies that Jesus Christ is in any way begotten of the Father, that He died on the cross, and that He was raised from the dead.
These are merely the most obvious foundational contradictions between Christianity and Islam. Furthermore, these most obvious contradictions are affirmed by all major Christian denominations and both historic branches of Islam.
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