What Does Christ Have To Do with Muhammad?

A number of conservative and Christian outlets (such as this one) are very concerned that a prominent Church of Sweden theologian claims that “Christians can view Muhammad as a prophet.” Jakob Wirén, in To Make Room for the Other?, advises Christians to view the founder of Islam as analogous to an Old Testament prophet. (I cannot find any information about this book other than second-hand; and all the links in the afore-cited article go to Swedish sources. However, Wirén’s 2017 book Hope and Otherness: Christian Eschatology and Interreligious Hospitality seems to cover the same topic. Perhaps his new one is a more popular version this work.) Wirén is a systematic theologian at Lund University and an advisor to the Archbishop of Uppsala.

First, the Lutheran Church of Sweden is (in)famous for its extreme theological liberalism. It not only ordains women, but blesses homosexual “marriages” and ordains practicing homosexuals. That might have something to do with its membership going from 95% of Sweden’s population in 1972 to 56% in 2019–and many of those are not even practicing, or believing, Christians.

Second, this attempt to mainstream Muhammad into Christianity goes back many years, and is not new with Swedish apostates. The French Catholic scholar of Islam, Louis Massignon (d. 1962), was perhaps the 20th century’s leading proponent of such. His ideas greatly influenced the Vatican II documents such as Lumen Gentium and Nostra Aetate which, among other things, declared that Islam was a fellow “Abrahamic faith” and that it contained genuine, if imperfect, revelation from God. In more recent years Catholic theologian Hans Küng has argued that “if we acknowledge Muhammad as a post-Christian prophet, then to be consistent we shall also have to admit…that…his message is not simply Muhammad’s word, but God’s word” (Christianity and the World Religions, 1986, p. 31). He also contends that “perhaps…it is only dogmatic prejudice when we recognize Amos and Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah, as prophets, but not Muhammad” (p. 26).

Muhammad (on camel) and Jesus (on donkey), from Muslim World Today.

Perhaps it’s because I’m trained as a historian, not a systematic theologian–but I cannot find a logical way to acknowledge the prophecy of a man whose utterances, enshrined in the Quran, deny the Trinity, condemn the Incarnation, and claim the crucifixion is a lie. Yes, I’m sure Massignon and Küng and Wirén meant well–but so what? This “can’t we all just get along?” approach still amounts to telling people what their itching ears want to hear. Either Jesus Christ is “the way, the truth and the life“–as He said about Himself–or He’s not. Muhammad taught otherwise, and granting Islam’s founder authoritative status in the Church reeks of antichrist.

I just recently finished a slim bio of the Ethiopian Christian martyr Reverend Gudina Tumsa, killed by the Communist regime there in 1979. Tumsa was the head of the Ethiopian Evangelical Chuch Mekane Yesus (EECMY) before his untimely murder. He had studied in the US and traveled to South Africa, where he met Anglican Bishop (then) Desmond Tutu. While Gudina agreed with Tutu on the horror and ungodliness of apartheid, he parted ways with him on the ecumenical movement. Reverend Gudina believed that salvation is NOT possible outside of Christianity and that the primary task of the Church is to evangelize the world. “His concept of ecumenism was based on the authority of Scripture” (Urga, p. 46).

African Christianity in general is growing by leaps and bounds. Even a decade ago 1/4 of the world’s Christians lived in Africa–the percentage here in 2021 is undoubtedly higher. Five of the world’s ten largest Lutheran bodies are found in Africa or Asia. The Ethiopian church is the world’s largest, followed by the one in Tanzania. Also in the top ten are Lutheran churches in Indonesia, India and Madagascar. One might well speculate that Africans’ adherence to orthodox Christianity has something to do with this. The EECMY, for example, broke with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) back in 2013 over its support for abortion and homosexuality. Now the Ethiopian Lutherans are affiliated with my own denomination, the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod–which so far still takes I Corinthians 6:9, 10 seriously. And refuses to heed the Quran.

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