Can Muslims know God? Can atheists? Jews? Are only “born again” Christians part of the Body of Christ?
Recently on Facebook, I got into this not so cozy little conversation on these questions. My view was met with intense resistance. By fellow Christians.
One guy called me a heretic.
But my view was not my own.
One’s religious views are shaped by others — in my case, two men in the very best of the Evangelical Christian tradition, and a saintly Roman Catholic woman who gave her every fiber to welcoming outsiders in Jesus’ name.
So if you find my view controversial — the view that many can know God, even though they don’t identify as Christian — please understand that I didn’t invent it.
Dr. Billy Graham, one of the greatest Christian evangelists of our time, said this:
“I think everybody that that loves Christ, or knows Christ, whether they’re conscious of it or not, they’re members of the body of Christ. And that’s what God is doing today. He’s calling people for ‘eh, out of the world for his name whether they come from the Muslim world, or the Buddhist world, or the Christian world, or the non-believing world uh they are members of the body of Christ because they’ve been called by God. They may not even know the name of Jesus but uh they know in their hearts that they need something that they don’t have and they turn to the only light that they have. And I think that they are saved and they are going to be with us in heaven.”*
And Mother Teresa, this:
“There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said that we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”
C.S. Lewis’s held the same view. His articulation of it is far longer, more literary, and just beautiful. So I won’t be so vulgar as to copy and paste it here. But if you’d like, read it in chapter 15 of Lewis’s Narnia series, The Last Battle.
In my work with the Christian-Muslim Alliance, I am often invited to join Muslims for prayers. And when I’m there kneeling and standing and kneeling and standing — practicing their way of worship — I always feel peace. I always feel calm. I always feel a deep connection with fellow journeyers.
I always feel peace.
In fact, the more time I spend with Muslims, the more I realize how virtues like humility and wisdom and peace are universal forces of good — that they are present throughout the spectrum of world religions, and even amongst the non-religious.
Some of you are reading this and might be thinking, Wow, Paul is really losing it.
That’s okay. I get that these views will confuse many, especially my Evangelical Christian friends. If they do confuse you, I’d like to ask you three questions.
First, why do they make you so uneasy?
Second, and respectfully, what do you know that Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and C.S. Lewis don’t?
Finally, do you think God might just big enough to be okay with people knowing him, but not his exact name?
I’d love to hear your thoughts! You may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*the video of Billy Graham’s statement can be watched here.