A new campaign has been launched to encourage Christians, Jews and Muslims to reconcile and focus on their areas of agreement, rather than subjects on which they disagree.
The effort, the Trac 5 program, is being run by former three-term U.S. Rep. Mark Siljander, who is building a national network of personal representatives, colleges, churches, synagogues and mosques.
In the program, Christians openly presenting Jesus to Muslims and attempt to show them that their beliefs about Jesus aren’t that far apart from Christians.
The program de-emphasizes the contradictions between Christianity and Islam, such as the Quran’s statement that Allah “has no son” while the Christian faith centers on the resurrection of Jesus, God’s “only son.”
In the program’s first five months, the network has grown to have representatives in 20 states and involves professors, pastors, rabbis, imams and lay people who focus on creating an alternative to traditional interreligious dialogue.
Siljander said he believes his program will succeed where others have failed.
His website explains that the first four tracks are diplomats negotiating peace plans, politicians implementing agreements through legal processes, military pressure to comply and economic strategists motivating with incentives.
Then the “Trac 5″ is an effort to “coach key influence makers through a process so powerful it can turn enmity into reconciliation.”
“In Trac5 we have found a spiritual model by which if enough people get engaged in this process, it can help undermine radicalism in anything, Islam, Christianity, whatever radicalism’s face may look like,” Siljander stated.
“And empowering hopefully the majority of people who support peace and the way of life we enjoy here in America,” Siljander said.
Siljander admits that frequent efforts at “dialogue” have been manipulated by the Islamic groups.
“A lot of these so-called dialogues are rehashing the Abrahamic similarities. We all believe in one God, Abraham, Noah and so forth. They often lead to nothing being done as a consequence and can be manipulated,” Siljander observed.
Siljander says his new method is the product of extensive research.
“The difference we’re proposing is what we’ve discovered through years of research and meeting with scholars from the Vatican and all the way to Harvard University,” Siljander stated.
“We’ve discovered a connect between Muslims, Christians and Jews in particular of the monotheistic faith, a spiritual connect taking the very issues that radicals use to suggest that Christians and Jews are infidels and worthy of death,” Siljander continued.
Those issues, he said “mostly tend to center around the Trinity, the deity of Jesus the Son of God and very important issues that none of these dialogues deal with.”
Siljander adds that discussing Jesus changes the nature of the dialogue.
Worldview Weekend president and cultural analyst Brannon Howse says the talk about Jesus is good, but the key is which Jesus is presented.
“It depends on how you define Jesus. The New Agers talk about Jesus. Mormons talk about Jesus, but if we’re not talking about the Jesus of the Bible, then their Jesus doesn’t forgive sins,” Howse stated.
“So we have to be very specific about Jesus. Are we talking about Jesus Christ, God in His flesh who laid down His life as a ransom for sinners? That this Jesus Christ of the Bible is the One with whom you have to place your trust,” Howse continued.
“You have to repent of your sin and accept His atoning work on the cross in order to have true salvation. Otherwise we’re talking about the Jesus of the Mormons, the Jesus of the New Agers. You can pray all day long to that Jesus and still end up in hell,” Howse added.
Siljander says that his plan wrestles with the exclusive claims Jesus makes about Himself in his presentation to Muslims. He also believes he can use the Quran to start the dialogue.
“We apply new biblical research, new biblical understanding using Hebrew, Arabic, Aramaic, and the other Semitic languages. We find that in the process of doing that, the focus tends to be around the biggest problem,” Siljander stated.
“The biggest problem tends to be the nature and cause and person of Jesus Christ. As you focus on Jesus and lift His name up in an honoring way, it doesn’t matter to the most extreme radical in the world or you’re Mother Theresa, your heart and mind is, maybe not changed, but certainly impacted by it,” Siljander added.
“Cultures can change. People can influence cultures. It only takes a handful of Gandhis to influence an entire world power. No, Islam doesn’t believe the same way we believe about Jesus in some critical fashion,” Siljander said.
Siljander uses the example of how Muslims believe that Jesus is “The Messiah.”
“That’s significant because what does Messiah mean? I spoke to 300 Muslims and shared the view about Messiah from the Semitic languages. It means ‘to wipe,’ in one of the etymologies of the word. It also means the ‘Anointed One,’” Siljander explained.
“I said ‘In your Quran it says that Jesus could wipe away disease and leprosy and even blindness, even death. He raised people from the dead in the Quran.’ They were all shaking their heads,” Siljander continued.
“I said, ‘So why couldn’t it be that at judgment day where you believe Jesus Messiah will be present, that this anointing of the Messiah could also mean to wipe away the evil deeds of those who are believers in the One God and the One Messiah?’ and they all stood up and applauded,” he said.
Howse expressed doubts about much of the new biblical scholarship referenced by Siljander and points out that Muslims still don’t believe in the same Jesus of the Bible. He also says that the Quran can be used, but it can only go so far.
“It’s OK for Bible-believing Christians to say to a Muslim, ‘Does the Quran speak of Jesus?’ And if they say OK, then we ask them if it would be OK to study about Jesus from the Bible,” Howse explained.
“If they say sure it will be OK, then you pull out your Bible and share the Gospel with them. That’s different than trying to make the Jesus of the Quran the Jesus of the Bible,” he said.
Howse says he doesn’t have objections to using the Jesus of the Quran as “leverage” to bring a Muslim to the Bible to talk about Jesus. He again points out that the Jesus of the Quran is not the same Jesus of the Bible.
“The way the Quran defines Jesus and what the mission of Jesus was, is not describing the Jesus of the Bible. They have made Jesus in the Quran to be someone who is simply a forerunner, if you will, to the teachings of Muhammad and Allah,” Howse said.
“We have to be very careful that we don’t confuse people into believing that He’s the same Jesus of the Bible,” he added.
Howse noted that many of the movements to reconcile Muslims with Christians are also behind movements that promote the concept of “Messianic Muslims,” that is, people who follow both Jesus and Islam.
Howse said that is impossible because Islam and Christianity are not doctrinally compatible.
“There are actually groups out there that are using the phrase, ‘Messianic Muslim.’ Now we see churches that want to get Muslims and Christians together to have a joint reading of the Quran and the Bible. This is where we’re headed,” Howse warned.
Howse was referring to the June 26 Faith Shared program in which Christian churches invited imams to Sunday services to read the Quran.
WND reported that churches across the nation participated in the event.
“This is the religious syncretism that I have been writing and speaking about now for a few years. Syncretism is where world views and religious beliefs that were thought contrary to each other and in conflict are coming together and synthesize and merge their beliefs,” Howse stated.
“This is part of the Hegelian Dialectic process or third way, that is often used to bring opposites together to merge together and produce a new thesis, and the process starts all over,” he said.
“And this is how we’re going to move toward a one world religion. I don’t now that Islam will be a part because in Ezekiel 38 and 39, Islam for the most part is taken out in a massive intervention by God,” Howse said.
“But I do believe we are beginning to see a coming together of the world’s religions that will create the woman that rides the beast as revealed in Revelation 17,” he said.
WND also reported on an effort to focus on what Christians and Jews consider inspired instructions from God, in a joint effort to read portions of the Torah, which both Judaism and Christianity honor.