Monday, March 16, 2015

Could Christians Worship In Temples & Mosques? (Pope Francis Worshiped in a Mosque)

            Whether Christians could worship in mosques and temples is not a moot point, because Pope Francis has provided a panoramic backdrop through his worship at an Istanbul Mosque. Since we are wired to follow our leaders, we could think that worshipping in mosques and temples is acceptable to the God of the Bible.

            Christians’ worship in mosque or temples is predicated on our visit to these sacred places. So we should primarily clarify if Christians could visit a sacred place of another faith.

            Quite a few Christians believe that it’s a sin to visit a temple or a mosque. This thought cannot be blatantly dismissed.

            Let’s examine a couple of reasons cited by Christians to discourage visits to the sacred places of other faiths:

            A. Demonic – I was once invited to a Mormon tabernacle to defend historic Christianity with the local Mormon leadership. Friendly Christians cited the demonic presence in the Mormon tabernacle to actively discourage me from visiting the Mormon sanctuary. 

            B. Sacralization of the Impious – Removal of shoes (or wearing a headscarf / hijab) in a sacred place is cited as an act of reverence. Visitors are mandated to remove their shoes and / or wear headscarf in the sacred place of other faiths. Contextually, removal of shoes or wearing a headscarf by a Christian is considered a bad testimony, since the act affirms the sacredness of the place. In other words, the act reveres an unholy place.

            However, there are Christians who visit sacred places of other faiths. I visited a mosque when I accompanied an evangelist of a distinguished Christian ministry.

            Apostle Paul could have visited the idols at Athens (cf. Acts 17: 16, 23). He was taken to Areopagus (the hill of Greek god of war, Ares) from where he delivered his famous ‘The Areopagus Address’ (Acts 17: 22-31).

            Likewise, renowned Christian minister D. L Moody preached at the Mormon tabernacle in 1871 and 1899. In recent times, Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias preached the gospel at the Mormon tabernacle. Assemblies of God leader George O. Wood and Southern Baptist leaders Richard Land and Albert Mohler have also spoken at Utah before the LDS community.

            So Pope’s visit to an Istanbul mosque, per se, seems not an aberration.

            If the demonic is a valid reason to not visit a sacred place, then consider an open air evangelistic meeting. Would there not be demons in a large terrain where Christian evangelistic meetings are held? Don’t we attend such meetings?

            If we argue that demons in the terrain of an evangelistic meeting are cast out by prayer, then why not a visit to a sacred place be accompanied by a prayer that cleanses the place of demons or at least offers us protection?

            Moreover, demons could be at places we tend to visit (e.g. restaurants, super markets etc.). But that does not deter us from visiting those places or even sharing the reason for our hope in Christ to our non-christian friends in those places.

            Similarly, removal of shoes or wearing a headscarf need not necessarily subscribe to ‘sacralization of the impious.’ These are merely adherence to the rules of the authorities.

            In many parts of the world, Christian children study in schools and colleges belonging to non-christians. These Christian children may be required to participate in the assembly where prayers and rituals belonging to that particular religion are practiced.

            Participation of the Christian children in the assembly merely indicates adherence to the rules of the institution. It certainly does not indicate a conscious acceptance of the prayer or the ritual. Christian children remain Christians due to their non-affirming presence during such prayer and rituals.

            If a mere visit to these places does not hurt a Christian, then, in the same manner, a visit to a sacred place need not necessarily and adversely affect a Christian.

            However, if in doubt, Christians need not visit the sacred places of the other religions, although such a visit need not necessarily harm the Christian.

            Our focal point, however, is Pope’s worship in the Istanbul mosque. The Vatican termed Pope’s worship as a ‘moment of silent adoration.’1 So we ask:

            1. Which God did Pope Francis adore in the mosque?

            2. Was it necessary for the Pope to adore God while in a mosque? 

            Let us presuppose that the phrase ‘silent adoration’ referred to Pope’s adoration of God. If the context is an indicator (Pope’s presence in the mosque) and if the Pope does not offer clarity as to which God he adored from the mosque, we could assume that he prayed to Allah.

            An act of worship from inside the mosque is normatively directed to the native deity or could be assumed to have been directed at the native deity. In this case, the native deity of a mosque is Allah.

            Historic Christianity believes in the one living God. In fact, there can be only one God or only one absolutely perfect being or one maximally great being.

            The Bible categorically rejects the presence of other gods (Isaiah 45: 5a; Exodus 20: 3) and mandates worship of the only living God. Hence, Pope’s ‘moment of silent adoration’ in the mosque is unnecessary and uncalled for, for it is a sin against God, and has the potential to mislead naïve Christians.

            Some may argue that Pope prayed to the God of the Bible from the mosque. Why would Pope Francis desire to pray to the God of the Bible from the mosque?

            However, this issue was settled through Al Jazeera’s report that Pope Francis took part in a Muslim prayer as a mark of respect to Islam.2 So it’s quite evident that Pope did not pray to the God of the Bible from the mosque.

            To conclude, we could show our utmost respect and love to our non-christian brethren in more ways than one. But we need not participate in their religious practices or worship from their sacred precincts (cf. Acts 15: 29; 1 Corinthians 10: 18-22, 28).

            Pope's prayer in the mosque could lead weak Christians to do the same and be destroyed (cf. Deuteronomy 6: 14, 8: 19, 11: 16; 1 Corinthians 8: 11). The Pope then is responsible for the destruction of the weak Christians for he has sinned against Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 8: 9-13). 

            The Bible says that in whatever we do we are to glorify God. This essentially refers to abstinence from participating in the religious practices of the non-christians (1 Corinthians 10: 21-23).

            The Pope may have justified himself if he had merely visited the mosque without participating in the Islamic prayer. However, his participation in the Islamic prayer provides us an opportunity to address this significant aspect, so that naïve Christians do not get ambushed into destruction. Amen.





Roshan said...

The news reporter does say they prayed towards Mecca but there's no hint of what the Pope said or what he prayed for. It may have been a moment of prayer but could we not for a second look at the other end of spectrum and assume or wonder that yes though he prayed in the direction of Mecca, he was actually praying for their salvation?

This is the same man who said "Stimulated by the Year of Faith, all together, pastors and faithful, we will make an effort to respond faithfully to the eternal mission: to bring Jesus Christ to humanity, and to lead humanity to an encounter with Jesus Christ: the Way, the Truth and the Life, truly present in the Church and, at the same time, in every person. This encounter makes us become new men in the mystery of Grace, provoking in our hearts the Christian joy that is a hundredfold that given us by Christ to those who welcome Him into their lives.[8]"

So is it not within reason to question whether he prayed was a truly a muslim prayer despite the article labelling it as so.

Raj Richard said...

Dear Roshan,

Thank you very much for your response.

The Catholic Church believes that Muslims are saved. Please refer to their catechism # 841, which goes like this...
CCC #841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

So when the Catholic church believes in the salvation of Muslims and even the atheists, I do not think that Pope would have prayed for their salvation.

You may also want to read this....

Thanks again for raising this pertinent question. Please respond for further clarity.

God bless.

Roshan said...

I didn't know what catechism is nor did I realise its significance with the catholic church. However, in the interest of a well spirited debate, catechism 841 raises two points:

i. Mentions the "plan for salvation includes those" i.e. it doesn't intend to mean that they are already saved but there is a provision for them to be saved since they hold to the faith of Abraham. But then this would leave out those of the non-Abrahamic faiths like the hindus, buddhists and the other faiths, no?

ii. Catechism 841 then would attest to their belief that we basically serve one God, am I wrong in understanding that from this passage?

In the article you've kindly referred me to, the Pope says "all are beneficiaries of Christ’s redeeming blood". In principle, isn't that true - Christ's redeeming blood was for the lost and the unsaved. Except, there is an onus on an individual to recognise this great sacrifice in order to benefit from this exchange. It's like someone leaving behind a large inheritance for you to claim but you can't since you are not aware of it.

Thank you for the reply and post. I apologise for the late reply, didn't know you had replied :/. Looking forward to your words of wisdom as always.

Raj Richard said...

Hello Roshan,

Apologies for not being able to inform you of my response. I do not think this website allows the feature of informing the questioner of the response.

CCC 841: My understanding of salvation is that the plan of salvation includes those who believe and worship the Lord Jesus Christ. It's not any other way around.

In the article referred by me earlier, I elucidated my understanding of the Catholic doctrine of salvation - it includes Muslims and even Atheists, which brings us to your third point.

Yes, Christ died for all. But the fact remains that all people do not receive Christ.

So what happens to those who do not receive Christ? The historic Christian understanding is that those who reject God will live eternally without God in hell. I agree with you on this count.

As to whether CCC 841 attests to one God, yes I would think so.

I hope my response is useful, else please respond.

Thanks again,

Soc Wor said...

Dear Raj,
Catholic Church does not believe all muslims are saved. God's plan is for all humans to be saved which includes christians , muslims, Hindus, atheists everyone . Christ died for all. But not all are saved as they reject God by sin. Christians are saved by faith through God's grace and they need to stop rejecting God by committing sin. If they do sin they need to repent. If they continue in sin their faith may not save them.Non christians who are ignorant of Christ but yet assisted by God's grace and mercy , if they do not reject God by sin can be saved. God may apply Christ 's death to them in unknowing ways beyond our comprehension. For eg Catholic Church says apart from baptism with water there is a baptism by blood and desire. There are non christians who desire baptism but cannot be given due to persecution.They are killed before baptism but desire Christ. Will not God save them? This is considered as baptism by desire and baptism by blood. Refer CCC.