Howard Diehl, one of the smartest guys I know who serves as a missionary in France that our church supports, commented on McLaren’s praying during Ramadan. I thought his comments to be very insightful.
Here is an article by McLaren on why he was doing it.
There were quite a few Christians here who did the Ramadan fast and used it as a time to pray for the salvation of Muslim friends and acquaintances. There was a prayer guide that circulated for those who were interested in joining the prayer fast. I had thought about joining, but I missed the beginning of it, and ended up not doing it. I think I will join in next year.
I think part of the problem is that McLaren has come down as somewhat slippery on some issues, and that has tarnished a lot of what he’s said lately. Talking with a few friends who know him and at one time followed some of McLaren’s teaching, they all say that he is skating along the edge on some stuff. One friend, who actually was a member of McLaren’s church in the US, believes that he has lost his voice on a lot of issues.
One thing McLaren likes to do is go for shock value. I do agree with his approach to people, going without an agenda, i.e., “I’m here to get you saved or straighten you out”. I think that is his view of doing Ramadan (i.e. not as part of some agenda). If he is doing it for the reasons listed in the article above, I have no problem with it.
One aspect of Muslim evangelism is that you need to be up front with your faith and religion. If a Muslim knows you for a few weeks or months, and the issue of your faith is never mentioned by you, their assumption is that it must not be important. So from that standpoint he is correct in being up front about why he is doing this, that he is a Christian and wants to affirm certain values and ideas that both faiths have in common.
So I guess what I think is, that if he is being authentic in why he is doing the Ramadan fast (based on his article above), then I applaud him. But I have learned that I have to look at each item that pertains to McLaren, because some of his stuff can be a bit dicey. I won’t turn McLaren away out of hand, but I do want to dialogue with him when he makes a point or declaration. I can learn from the conversation, even if I don’t go away agreeing with him.
One last thought, McLaren has been vilified and demonized by a lot of Christians who should know better. But on the other hand there are also many emerging types who will do something like this because of some misshapen idea that this is how emerging church is done, with little thought or knowledge of what the gospel is really about. They stand for nothing so they have nothing to stand for.
I am also beginning to take a new tack in my thinking about evangelism. I am always struck by the impression that I get about evangelism when I hear it mentioned. It always sounds like a job description. I focus now on the reality of witness and testimony. Tertullian once said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” The idea is that a martyr is one who is faithful to their witness for Jesus Christ until the end, even death. I also notice that he didn’t say evangelism. So what are the implications for this?
Here is Howard’s blog site.