As Christians, we have to be extremely careful about what we say and how we say it. In particular, Christian leaders must make certain that the message they intended to deliver is both true as well as understandable. In the recent case of statements made by Hillsong Church Pastor Brian Houston, he had a message that was partially correct and he delivered it in a way that was easy to misconstrue.
For the record, I have never listened to the sermons or researched the doctrine that Houston preaches. This is my first experience with him and it’s an important one. Here’s the quote that has gotten him into hot water with many church leaders saying that he is promoting a concept of “Chrislam” where the God of Abrahama, Isaac, and Jacob is the same god that the Muslims worship:
“How do you view God? In a desert there’s two types of birds: there’s vultures and there’s hummingbirds. One lives off dead carcasses; rotting meat. The other lives off the beautiful, sweet nectar in a particular flower on a particular desert plant. In the same desert, they both find what they’re looking for,” Houston says in the sermon.
“Do you know – take it all the way back into the Old Testament and the Muslim and you, we actually serve the same God. Allah to a Muslim; to us, Abba Father God. And of course through history, those views have changed greatly. But let’s make sure that we view God through the eyes of Jesus, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the beauty of a Saviour, the loving open inclusive arms of a loving God.”
The statement highlighted in bold is the one that most are attacking as well as the one that follows it. It is possible that he was making a proper factual statement, that the roots of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity stemmed from the same source initially. All three major religions were born from the initial contact that God made with Abraham and then branched out from there. Judaism and Christianity followed the line of Isaac, Abraham’s son with his wife Sarah, while the Muslim faith followed the line of Ishmael, Abraham’s son with Sarah’s handmade, Hagar.
The biggest challenge that many have is in understanding what took place in these early days. The Bible does not go into detail about what became of Ishmael other than how his children and nation expanded and influenced the lives of the Hebrews. We know that God built great nations through Ishmael and we know that there was contact between Ishmael and Isaac (including the burial of their father) but there is no indication of what happened from a religious perspective. Somewhere along the lines, the God of Abraham was not the one that was worshiped by Ishmael and his people.
That is all up for a much longer debate. The key point here is that those who will teach others about the Bible and the path to salvation through Jesus Christ must be very clear about the messages that they put forth. It’s easy to misstep. It’s even easier to be misled. Brian Houston and his church are under fire now based upon the statements. It isn’t relevant whether or not that fire is deserved. The important part is that the world is already loaded with too many distractions when it comes to spreading the Gospel. There is no need to add to those distractions by making irresponsible statements.
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