01 April 2008

Turning to the faith

When someone, or even a group of people, abandons one historic religion and converts to another, difficult issues are raised for many. Some people may become estranged from their families for taking such a step. In some countries persecution will surely follow, as it did in Rome in the first century of the christian era. Conversion is not infrequently a costly step, as it is even today in many parts of the world.

If the catechumen is a former Muslim turned Christian, the stakes become high indeed, given that many muslim states prohibit conversion and punish it with death. Thus when Pope Benedict baptized Magdi Allam at the Easter vigil at St. Peter's in Rome, he touched off a firestorm of controversy. Why, it was asked, did he see fit to do this in so public and provocative a fashion? Could not an ordinary parish priest have baptized Allam at another church away from the press? Yet it seems Allam is not alone, according to this Breakpoint commentary by Chuck Colson: 'They Want Jesus Instead'.

There are some churches where preaching the gospel to adherents of other religions is considered proselytism and thus frowned upon. Some ecclesiastical bodies prefer to court respectability, as this is defined by the larger society, by de-emphasizing the exclusive claims of the gospel and Jesus' Great Commission. But then, as they have done for two millennia, those seeking salvation turn to the incarnate Word and say: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).

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