Brian Houston hits back at claims he believes God and Allah are the same
The senior pastor of Hillsong Church has released a statement countering allegations that he believes Muslims and Christians worship the same God.
The criticism was levelled against Houston after a clip from one of his recent sermons, during which he seemed to suggest that Allah and God are one and the same, went viral on the web.
"How do you view God? In a desert there's two types of birds: there's vultures and there's hummingbirds. One lives off dead carcasses; rotting meat. The other lives off the beautiful, sweet nectar in a particular flower on a particular desert plant. In the same desert, they both find what they're looking for," Houston says in the sermon.
"Do you know – take it all the way back into the Old Testament and the Muslim and you, we actually serve the same God. Allah to a Muslim; to us, Abba Father God. And of course through history, those views have changed greatly. But let's make sure that we view God through the eyes of Jesus, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the beauty of a Saviour, the loving open inclusive arms of a loving God."
Critics were quick to question his theology and accuse Houston of making false assertions. The Hillsongchurchwatch.com, which actively campaigns against the Australian-based church, said the sermon was "offensive", contrary to the Christian Gospel, and had caused "unjust damage" to both faiths.
In response to these allegations, however, Houston defended his comments and accused critics of quoting him out of context.
"Recently there have been false claims on social media that I believe Muslims and Christians worship the same God. This is incorrect. Those propagating these false statements have taken one sentence from an entire message out of context," he said.
"The spirit of the message was exactly the opposite of what some critics are claiming. If you listened to the message in its entirety, my point was that; who a Muslim extremist believes God is, determines what they believe God does, and what they believe God loves.
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"I was contrasting their harsh perspective of (their) god, with who I believe God is - (a loving God, the Father of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ) and therefore what I believe God does and what I believe God loves," he continues.
"The pmr sentence that critics are drawing huge conclusions from was clearly a (clumsy) way of me explaining that though both Christians and Muslims believe they serve the God of Abraham, they are very different 'entities' or 'deities' in both nature and action."
Houston finishes his letter by reaffirming his belief that Jesus is the only way to God, and that "anyone – irrespective of their religious upbringing, culture or background – can find grace, peace, freedom and eternal life through Christ".
Supporters of Houston and Hillsong have taken to Twitter to offer words of encouragement.
One user, Mark Godfrey (@MarkGodfrey) tweeted: "Don't judge a leaders words without hearing the proper context!"
Benny Perez (@bennyperez), lead pastor of The Church LV, tweeted: "Pastor Brian we stand with u."