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Copts under seigeThe recent posts on Muslims and Jews and who is and isn’t in ‘the Church’, raises the question of how we evangelise others. My friend Servus Fidelis makes an excellent point here:

Where does evangelization start with those who know nothing of Christ? It must start with two ideals that we neglected in the past: love and dignity of the person being converted. We cannot just pour out our faith into empty vessels for those vessels have lids or are filled with something other than what we wish to give them. And we do not admix these faiths and call that ecumenism. It is an emptying out that must occur by God’s Grace that will make these souls able to hold the Grace that Christ wants to give them.

He takes that further, noting:

It is better to begin with non-Christians not from the understanding we have but from the understanding the non-Christian has. If we can agree that there is 1 God then we have a starting place. If we can agree that value of a human person has infinite value, we have another. Should we start with the Gospel or should we start with the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy?

Now, I’ll defer to Rob here, but I think the two go together; if we are truly inspired by the Spirit we will bring them the Gospel though our work with them; but I’d begin there. They need to know that what brings us to them, to want to know and to love them, is that we are known and loved by Jesus, who died that we should all be forgiven.

Servus is undoubtedly correct when he comments”

To merely tell a Jew or a Muslim or a Pagan that they are heathens and faithless (as true as it might be) will not help save a single one of their souls. 

That has to be true. But how do we deal with the fact that from the Christian point of view they are in error?  Not, in my view, by saying that we all believe in ‘the God of Abraham’. That seems dangerous.  It could lead to a Muslim or a Jew becoming very offended if, for example, one refused to pray with them.

I don’t have much experience of Jews, and feel, instinctively, closer to them as we Christians have a common background; they threw the Christians out of the synagogues during St John’s lifetime, and since then we’ve gone our separate ways. Then, of course, there is also the long and sorry history of Christian anti-Semitism to bear in mind, and a man would be a fool if he didn’t bear that in mind when discussing this topic. But, at best, they have part of truth, but not The Truth, who is Jesus.

Muslims are a different matter. They come later in time. Mohammed was clearly aware of the Christian message but chose to believe what he was told by his ‘angel’. Well, it is a hard saying, but there are only two possibilities here: either Mohammed was right, and what he was told was the full truth; or he was listening to a demon: if the first, one must convert; if the latter, one must stay away.  I have no idea what John Paul II thought he was doing kissing the Koran, although I suspect it was an ‘ecumenical gesture’, but he was wrong; plain wrong. Symbols matter, as anyone involved in religious dialogue must know; we Christians should think seriously what message such gestures send out.

Muslims do not think they worship our God, and I, for one, am not disposed to disagree; the consequence surely is that they need to be evangelised?