Fast bowler for the South African cricket team, Wayne Parnell converted from ’Christianity’ to Islam in January this year, although he has only gone public with this information on the 28th of July[i]. He claims this happened “…after a period of personal study and reflection and it is a faith that I have always been interested in[ii]”.
What is surprising to me is the media’s (and apparently Parnell’s) idea of what Christianity is. While I do not doubt that Parnell has had some experience, it is probably better described as a transferral than a conversion. Let me explain what I mean:
In one report it was written, “In October 2009 Parnell was dropped from the Warriors’ side after he partied until the early hours of the morning in a Port Elizabeth nightclub before a SuperSport series match against the Dolphins.[iii]” Is this the kind of report that can be made of a Christian? This seems to not have been a once off bad judgment, but a regular problem with the young man[iv]. However the Bible is replete with Scriptures that forbid drunkenness (Luke 12:45, Romans 13:13, 1 Cor 5:11; 6:10 to name a few), furthermore regarding partying anyone with a simple view of the Scripture would know that Christians do not behave like the world (Romans 12:2).
Now I do not know the man, however from the reports about him I find it hard to believe he was a Christian; a secularist perhaps, a cultural ‘Christian’, a nominal ‘Christian’ even, but a Bible-believing follower of Christ? I think not. Theologically we know it is impossible for a Christian to lose their faith, since God makes a Christian, and God keeps a Christian, but Parnell is merely another victim of watered down, weak Christianity.
A helpful question to ask is what can we learn from Parnell’s transference from serving the idol of self as a secular South African to serving the idol of religious rigour as a Muslim?
1. Christians should learn not to put their evangelist faith in sportsmen and other celebrates. This is a common scene in churches across our land, if we can get a ‘Christian’ celebrate in to speak, we think that perhaps more people will be saved, but that shows no faith in the message, it is the gospel that saves people (Romans 1:16). John Bunyan was a pauper with very little education, yet many were saved through his ministry, not because of the man, but because of the treasure of the gospel he proclaimed.
2. Churches should not be satisfied with mere professions of Christianity, the God given process of Church discipline should be practised, so that people are not left thinking they are Christians when they are not. It is high time for evangelical churches to think through the role of pastoring and what is meant by church discipline in Scripture (for more information on how to do church discipline properly, and related topics to church life, check out 9 Marks).
3. Muslims who celebrate this event as some kind of sign of the growth of Islam, and Christians who despair that another professor of Christianity has revealed his true colours should bear in mind the following. According to Islam, more people depart from Islam than will ever join Islam, thus making Islam actually the fastest shrinking religion in the world; consider this quote, “The Prophet Muhammad said, ‘No babe is born but upon Fitra (as a Muslim). It is his parents who make him a Jew or a Christian or a Polytheist.[v]’” Thus the majority of people in the world who ‘convert’ do so away from Islam. Secondly Christians must remember that the validity of our faith does not rest on the profile or number of people who are converted (Matthew 22:14; 1 Cor 1:26).
4. Another lesson that may be observed is how Islam (along with most other religions) destroys culture, whilst Christianity redeems it. If you have been following the story of Parnell you will know that he is considering changing his name to Waleed. Islam as it creates adherents to its religions forces them back to 16th century Arabic culture, be it in dress or even economics. Christianity on the other hand saves cultures, so that not every Christians is a westerner, or a Arab, but rather every tribe, tongue and nation will worship the Lamb Who was slain (if you would like to read an article on Christianity and how it is to influence culture click here).
5. The last lesson we learn from Parnell’s transference is that a heart without Christ will never be at rest until it finds Christ. The great king Solomon depicts that for us, like Parnell he to tried parties, drinking and pleasure but did not find meaning in it (Eccles2:1-3), Solomon also tried learning and searching through the philosophies of the world (Ecclesiastes 1:16-18; 2:12-16) but found it also to be empty. It is my prayer that Parnell would hear the gospel and see the hope that there is in Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of sins and peace with God that is available not through his own effort, but through the finished work of Jesus on the cross.
If you would like further good resources on Islam consider this site over here
[iii] http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global[_id]=65484. Accessed 2011-07-31
[iv] http://www.sport24.co.za/Cricket/Parnell-clarifies-Islam-stance-20110728. Accessed 2011-07-31
[v] Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6426