Resource, Article

In choosing to take a trip to Israel/Palestine, persons need to reflect carefully on what type of tour they wish to join. Read about the different types of tours that we have come across in our years of leading groups on pilgrimages there.

August 17, 2017 0 0 comments
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Not only can we learn from the history of the land and its peoples, but the present conflict also presents an opportunity to learn about God’s justice and peace from people who are seeking it with diligence and grace.

August 11, 2017 0 0 comments
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As Christians, we need to stop talking about people—whether youth in the church or Muslims or atheists—like they are a problem to be solved. We don’t own Jesus so it is not our job to offer Jesus to others. 

June 29, 2017 1 16 comments
Discussion Topic

English translations tend to smooth over any of the ‘less than beautiful’ aspects of the names of Allah of Islam. This calls for diligence on the part of the English reader to know what is being communicated.

April 5, 2017 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Is our goal to evangelize our Muslim friends? Or is to promote social justice, community cohesion and peace? There isn't an easy answer except to enter into relationships with a spirit of honesty and authenticity. 

March 20, 2017 3 22 comments
Discussion Topic

….in Christianity Jesus came to save us…in Islam, one must save the reputation of Muhammad and Allah...

Nonie Darwish, a former Muslim, discusses her newly released book “Wholly Different: Why I Chose Biblical Values Over Islamic Values” here.

Darwish, an American-Egyptian,...

March 17, 2017 0 0 comments
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       In 1932, Frank Hugh Foster penned an article entitled “Is Islam a Christian Heresy?” He set out to prove the affirmative by making his case by showing the affinities of Christianity and Islam. That same year, in the journal, The Moslem World, another author, D.S. Margoulith...

February 10, 2017 0 0 comments
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Hugh Fitzgerald, drew up a list of 38 questions about Islam. I wonder how the readers of The Network would answer these questions and what resources they would use to answer them. 

February 3, 2017 0 0 comments
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At a recent conference, one of the attendees reported on a trip to a local mosque. There the imam told the group, “As Muslims, we agree with 90% of what you Christians believe, except for the 10% part about who Jesus is.” Is this imam telling the truth?

 

A comparison of worldviews...

November 7, 2016 0 0 comments
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Convergence thinking effectively says, "It is possible and positive to blend together the best of any and all religions in order to come to the truth of a super-religion." Sometimes divergent is better than convergent.

September 28, 2016 0 1 comments
Blog

In an interview concerning his latest book, Answering Jihad, Nabeel Qureshi (a convert to Christianity), details the change of his own thinking from being convinced that his religion was a religion of peace, to thinking otherwise. The interview is here. 

In an earlier video series at...

July 7, 2016 0 0 comments
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A large gathering of people came to hear a speech. Among the audience were nominal Christians, committed Christians, Sufi-Muslims, and a few others. The main speaker was from a “Christian” denomination known for its ‘God of many understandings.’ Near to the beginning of his talk, Dr. Grinwonder...

May 3, 2016 1 2 comments
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Sometimes when we teach, it’s easy to forget that students also have knowledge to offer to us.

March 10, 2016 1 0 comments
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Elsewhere on this site, Staci asked if readers would be willing to submit a theme word for 2016. Here is mine. 'Possessio.' No it is not about demonic possession, or how much I possess my possessions, but something else. The Dutch missiologist, J.H. Bavinck, whose work has become more accessible...

January 4, 2016 0 0 comments
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I finished preaching a sermon and a person met me in the aisle. I was told that the sermon that I preached was judgemental because I mentioned that some people are lost in sin and that conversion and repentance are what God calls people to. At another venue I preached and a person took offence...

December 26, 2015 0 0 comments
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For the last six or seven years, I have had the challenging situation of dealing with/living with/dialoguing with a special interest group in the global Church. This group swears allegiance to Biblical orthodoxy, uses the name Jesus frequently, and gives passionate appeals to the fact that they...

November 30, 2015 0 0 comments
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On November 13, ISIS released the following document (A Statement on the Blessed Onslaught in Paris against the Crusader Nation of France) celebrating their "holy war" or jihad against France who they call a "Crusader nation." It is noteworthy that the attacks are justified by citations from the...

November 14, 2015 0 7 comments
Resource, Article

Operation Reveille, a ministry of Act Beyond that helps Military Christians understand the character, knowledge, and behavior of Jesus Christ in cross-cultural contexts, features 6 posts on the "Social Implications of Different Christian and Muslim Beliefs." The helpful summary chart is found...

October 22, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Is it theologically careless to use the term "Muslim brothers and sisters"? If so, is there a better term that we can apply?

September 3, 2015 0 4 comments
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“... there can be no doubt that the aim of the Qur’an is to substitute Muhammad for Christ as the Head of the human race”

A teaching resource used to introduce people to Islam situates its video in a former church which is now a mosque and instructs the audience that Muhammad was called...

July 15, 2015 0 0 comments
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The German poet-philosopher, Gotthold Lessing (1729-1781), became the spokesman for Germany's intellectuals whose religion focused on human goodness. Do we have a bit of "Lessing" in us?

June 25, 2015 0 1 comments
Blog

William Kilpatrick a Roman Catholic professor and author states in one of his three posts that Catholics could learn more about Islam from the Egyptian president al-Sisi, than from a crowd of Bishops pontificating about their positive views on this religion.

Kilpatrick obviously cares...

June 10, 2015 0 0 comments
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Work of the devil? Work of the Triune God? Work of angels? Work of humans? Touchable? Untouchable? Genius in its composition? A disordered work of fiction? These are no new questions for the Christian who would approach the sacred text which Muslims describe as "noble" "unchanged" "final" and "...

May 24, 2015 0 0 comments
Discussion Topic

Not long ago, the leader of a large school of missions said, "We view all missions' practice through the lens of the social sciences." Knowing the context in which this was spoken would tell this observer that:

The social sciences like anthropology and sociology are becoming the main...

May 9, 2015 0 0 comments
Resource, Article

The perennial lure of idolatry--not just measured by some kind of human-fabricated actual statue made of solid materials of wood, or stone, or kryptonite,--is that they are creations of the human imagination.

April 30, 2015 0 0 comments

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You are absolutely right to say that I don’t know you or the relationships that you speak of.  It sounds like you may be a great person, as well as your relationships.  That we don’t know each other is typical of websites like this that encourage blogging.

As I listened to your previous comment, it sounded like you are very enthusiastic and passionate about your faith relationship.  In fact you wondered why others weren’t like you in your enthusiasm.  You incessantly talk about Jesus with your atheist friends, and at every opportunity will point to the divinity of Christ with your Muslim family, even though you obviously know that this is a point of contention between Muslims and Christians.

I guess my response was a knee jerk reaction to what I thought might be normal for a non Christian listening to such enthusiasm about Christ.  After all, even Scripture points out that the cross is foolishness to the non Christian.  In part such foolishness is that non Christians know that Christians think of their Christian faith as exclusive of all other religions.  After all, there is no other name than Jesus by which one can be saved.  The message of Christ, or the gospel, devalues all other religions.  Just read the apostle Paul.  Isn’t that the point of the gospel?  If you are not trusting my Savior, Jesus, then you’re not going to make it to heaven or have acceptance with God. So we try to dissuade non Christians from trusting whatever they may have been trusting in, to that of trusting in Jesus Christ.  So it seems perfectly natural for a non Christian to be offended by an overly enthusiastic gospel spreader.  I think Paul warns us that such an offense is normal.

Thanks, Shannon, for the correction to my misunderstand of you, your friends, and family and my knee jerk reaction to your previous response.

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Thanks for your comment, Roger, but you don't know me, nor the relationships that I speak of. My friends and family members who are atheists do share ideas that offend me at times, but that does not mean that we can't be friends. They actually strengthen me as a Christian. Their diversity is not a threat or a barrier to our relationship. It is a gift. As Christians, we are called to testify to our faith in our relationships with others, but that does not mean we need to cut ourselves off from those who we disagree with. Do people prejudge me when they hear I am a pastor? Certainly. Will people occasionally be caught off guard or offended by my Jesus-talk? Yes. But does that mean that I must be offensive because of my faith, or unable to live in relationships with others that are loving and honoring of who they are? No.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

Thanks Shannon for your thoughts on witnessing.  You say, “It is difficult for me to understand the mindset that is not compelled by faith to share our faith.”   You are speaking as an ordained minister of the church who has spent years in formal education preparing for ministry.  What other mindset could fellow Christians expect from you?  But for you to say that of others is a bit surprising.  And it is also surprising, the response that you receive from non Christian friends and family such as atheists and Muslims.  If you are as enthusiastic as you claim for Christ (incessant Jesus talk) it is a wonder that you have friends outside of Christian circles (and maybe even within Christian circles).  Put the shoe on the other foot.  If your Muslim family incessantly talked about their submission to Allah how long would you want to listen?  Or if your strongly committed atheist friends incessantly denied God and spoke often of the foolishness of religion including (especially including) Christianity, how would you feel?  I am guessing that you are so excited about your Christian faith that you lack sensitivity to the religious convictions of others.  And by your enthusiasm you diminish the value of their faith and beliefs.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

Amen, Greg. It is difficult for me to understand the mindset that is not compelled by faith to share our faith. I have so many friends who are not Christian, and it would be difficult for me to hide my faith with them. I know it can lead to uncomfortable moments between us, but because we love and trust each other, my atheist friends "put up" with my incessant Jesus talk, my Muslim family know that I will point to the divinity of Christ at every opportunity in conversation. I seriously have no idea how I could muzzle that kind of talk. Is it a problem of timidity we face, or are people so wrapped up in their Christian communities that they are failing to be in deep relationships of mutuality and trust with people who aren't Christians? I wonder some times. 

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

The dilemma I face is that my evangelical friends (mostly Baptists) have more success motivating people towards personal sharing of their faith through an "it all depends on you" Arminian type of theology. Perhaps it is similar theologically to efforts to lead moral lives among LDS followers - who are motivated by a "works theology." My point I guess is that if we are going to have good theology we still need to be working, serving, sharing, even though God doesn't need us - we have the privilege of being on mission for Him. I hope that makes sense and would love to hear others ideas on motivating people towards verbal witness.

 

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

Yes I believe in the sovereignty of God in this process and love Luke 10:9 "Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The Kingdom of God has come near to you.'"

 

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

I should have mentioned that I really appreciated the touching story about your family, and think it's horrible what that guard tried to do. I enjoyed the article generally, it was just the next to last paragraph that seemed to call evangelism into question in a rather general way, so I felt it important to poke a little bit. Blessings.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

Sure, Kyle. The thesis would be: God is speaking to the people of the world in many ways, while one of those ways is through Christians called to testify to the hope we have in Christ, God doesn't need us to accomplish his purposes. He chooses us to do that. And he speaks to people in spite of us sometimes.

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Hey, Shannon. I think I am a little bit cloudy in the head this afternoon as I am having a difficult time interpreting your post.  So, if you would not mind helping me out,  I was wondering if you could provide me with a one or two sentence summary of what your main thesis is. For I think if I have a summary of your thesis I will be able to re-read and benefit more clearly from the message you are hoping to relay.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

I appreciate your thoughts, and I think you are misunderstanding. When I was in Seminary, I remember one of the professors pointing out how the quote that says "Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet..." from Teresa of Avila wasn't exactly correct. Because God still is at work, around us and at times in spite of us. I think that is the beautiful thing about Reformed theology--that God's salvation is not dependent upon us, but on God, and God's choosing. That is what I hoped to convey in this article, not to take responsibility off of us for living it in word and in deed that the world may know that Christ is Lord. I probably could have conveyed that more clearly. Thanks, again.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

This is a great story – but the conclusions drawn from in in the second-to-last paragraph lost me. There seems to be a theologically (and logically) invalid jump from "We don't own Jesus" directly  into "we don't proclaim Jesus" (cf:"it is not our job to offer Jesus to others.") . I’m preaching on Colossians 1:24-2:5 on Sunday where Paul’s point is “We proclaim him [Jesus], admonishing and teaching everyone…to this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:28-29).

I was hoping I was misunderstanding, but that same summary paragraph goes on to suggest that somehow God’s general revelation makes proclamation of His special revelation unnecessary. Specifically, the article moves from God’s work in general revelation (“…revealing himself in and through the world he created”) to the author being called merely to be "reflecting the love and mercy and grace of Jesus in the place where God has planted me" as opposed to naming the source of that grace and mercy and calling for belief in him (cf. "It is not and has never been God’s will that I 'save' [those] who don’t follow Jesus.").

Herman Bavink affirmed general revelation, but he did not do so in opposition to clearly and robustly calling for faith in Jesus.

To put the above in denominational context, I wonder if concerns with the argument put forth by this article were reflected at Synod by those who felt that bald calls to social justice (cf: “reflecting the love and mercy of Jesus”) was indeed being offered as a substitute for Gospel proclamation (cf: “its not our job to offer Jesus to others”).  Personally, I think we need both – and our language honors the Gospel best when we scrupulously avoid suggesting a choice must be made between them.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

I agree, Greg. We need to live the gospel, in word and in deed, and trust God to do the work that we cannot, which is changing hearts and minds.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

I think you are missing the point of the article, but thanks for your comment, David.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

Beautiful article Shannon - thank you for pointing us to the sovereign work of God and away from evangelical individualism that puts the onus on us and then gives us the glory (look at the good work I have done). I would go further though and say while God has revealed himself through general revelation - we still need to present God's special revelation to those who 1.) don't know about it 2.) have greatly misunderstood it. This is our responsibility - verbal witness. It's not about us, it is about God, but we still have to be active. I raise this because there is some concern about our declining numbers - and need for more training in evangelism - and more active evangelism. I think we need to develop in our congregations a culture of evangelism - and that indeed means we don't own Jesus - but we do have a responsibility to not only live in a way that honors Jesus but also points directly to him. In our culture today our passion for Jesus will either be misinterpreted as religious zeal or attempts to gain merit. We will have to verbalize that we are motivated and indeed saved by grace through our Lord and Savior Jesus.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

It is true that we don't own Jesus, he owns us. 

One of my central texts is the beginning of the book of Acts. The disciples imagine that now post-cross and post-resurrection the real show is about to begin. "Now will you restore the kingdom to Israel?" and the answer is Ascension and Pentecost. "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses..." This is the thesis statement of the book of Acts. Paul is pretty set upon a clear verbal witness, and the book is pretty honest when in chapter 26 Agrippa basically says to Paul 1. "you're mad" and 2. "Do you really think you can convert me with your little sermon." 

This is bracing honesty in a book which is in many ways a book filled with sermons which are supposed to do just that for the readers. Paul it seems knows what he's doing and is under no illusions (neither is Luke) about how it will be received. What then to make of this enormous Christian tradition of outright conversionism? 

It can't be mere tribalism either given the fracturing of the church and the constant divisions. 

I've also never really gone along with either the evangelical version of "What God is up to" by Blackaby's Experiencing God or the rather progressivist version that tends to see God in alignment with the agenda of Western post-Christendom. I'm rather taken by Tolstoy's observations of the elites of his time and place. 

 

Life in Europe and my acquaintance with leading and learned Europeans [Footnote:  Russians generally make a distinction between Europeans and Russians. -- A.M.] confirmed me yet more in the faith of striving after perfection in which I believed, for I found the same faith among them.  That faith took with me the common form it assumes with the majority of educated people of our day.  It was expressed by the word "progress".  It then appeared to me that this word meant something.  I did not as yet understand that, being tormented (like every vital man) by the question how it is best for me to live, in my answer, "Live in conformity with progress", I was like a man in a boat who when carried along by wind and waves should reply to what for him is the chief and only question. "whither to steer", by saying, "We are being carried somewhere".

Tolstoy, Leo. A Confession (Kindle Locations 175-181). Unknown. Kindle Edition. 

I don't own Jesus, and he need not be faithful to me in the way I must be faithful to him. What he does with others is his business. I need to figure out what being publicly owned by him looks like. 

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

I feel like some of your statements are half truths that could be misleading. Your next to last paragraph, taken as it is written, would seem to undercut all verbal evangelism. Yes, we shouldn't feel superior to others and see them as problems, but they still have a spiritual problem that we are called on to provide solutions to. Yes, we don't 'own' Jesus, he owns us, but we do have a fellowship with him that is necessary to have if one is to be saved, and so we urge others to have fellowship with him, too, so that our joy may be complete (1 John 1.3-4). And yes, I agree we don't 'save' anyone in and of ourselves, that saving people is the Holy Spirit's work (although, see James 5.20). But our testimony to people who don't believe is a crucial element in their being saved (Romans 10.14), which God does desire (1 Timothy 2.4). And so God does want us to communicate Jesus and his message to people who don't believe, so that they will be saved.

posted in: We Don't Own Jesus

Some of the us and them mentality is also found in scriptures.  "If they are not against us, they are for us."   but also "they went out from us"   "Being in the world, but not of the world."   There is an antithesis between good and evil, between right and wrong, between God and Satan.   In that way, the muslims are an example to Christians.   Even Jesus said, "Love your enemies.", knowing Christians would have enemies, and Jesus did not say, "have no enemies".   Jesus said that daughters would be set against mothers , and sons against fathers.  That he did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  Again, Jesus highlighted the dramatic changes that would occur, which were life changing.  Part of the struggle.  The antithesis.  Not peace at all costs, but surrender to God.  

 

On the other hand, Jesus did say, "Love your enemies."  Go the extra mile.  Give the extra cloak.  Forgive seventy times ( or more).  Follow the example of the Good Samaritan.  The sword Jesus talked about was not a sword of steel, but the sword of the word of God, the sword of the spirit working in men's hearts.   The armor was the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation.  

 

Muslim book, muslim faith, and muslim practice does not follow Jesus, but follows the sword carrying Mohammed, who has only one book, Quran, and did nothing more than many other leaders did who merely attempt to gain a following and gain earthly territory.  At most, he was a king like Alexander the Great, or Julius Ceasar of Rome.  At worst, he was a fraud and a charlatan, like the emperor Nero, or the leader of the Moonies, Sun Myung Moon.   In no way could he be shown to have a legitimate revelation from God, or to be a true prophet in the order of Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, Moses, Isaiah, Nehemiah, Jeremiah, the apostle John.   By neglecting the writings of these prophets, and the writings of the gospels, and of history, he has even lost the title of scholar or preacher or teacher of God's truth.  

That does not mean that everything that Mohammed has written or spoken is false.  Some things are true no matter who says them.  There are some truths in every faith and in every culture, and in every religion.   But these truths should not obscure the fact that the underlying basis is shaky, unstable, or false.  The bible clearly says that in the last days there will be false prophets and anti-christs.   

It is no good to merely say that Jesus was a prophet, and then ignore the most credible witness accounts of what Jesus said.  Ignoring those accounts (the gospels) is merely a way of making Jesus into the image of man, into a follower of other men such as Mohammed, rather than actually treating Jesus like a prophet.   It would be more honest for Moslems to say that Jesus was not a prophet at all, than to give him a superficial lip service.  It would be more honest to say that Jesus was not a prophet at all than to ignore the witness and testimony of those who lived with him for three years before his death, and talked with him for forty days after his resurrection.   Those followers followed Jesus teachings, and followed Jesus example.  Mohammed did not do so, and thus in practice disregards Jesus as a true prophet.  

 

Just as many atheists attempt to discredit the scriptures (unsuccessfully), by attributing human failings to writing, transcribing and translating, so Muslims put themselves into the same camp as atheists by using the same reasons for discrediting scripture.  So how are Muslims and atheists then different in this regard?   Do they not both attempt to impose their own wishes and desires on who Jesus should be, and on what Jesus can do?   Would this not be like attempting to say that Mohammed was actually Chinese, or Norweigan, instead of an Arab?   It would be false, just as the Moslem portrayal of Jesus is entirely false. 

The irony is that it is harder to love your enemies than it is to hate them.  It is harder to surrender to God, than it is to commit suicide.  It is harder to give your life for others, than it is to take the life of others.  Unless you have the spirit of God in your heart.  Unless you really know the Lord Jesus.  

An interesting passage in Romans 6:14... " for sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law but under grace."   So If you are under grace, through faith in Christ Jesus, you will follow Jesus.  Jesus has said, as recorded in the gospels, a lesson that there will be some or many who will come to the gate and claim they preached and healed and performed miracles in Jesus name, and yet God will say that he never knew them.  How could that be?  Did they not follow?  

What were they following?  an idea in their head?  or the real Son of God?  Were they trying to fit the category, or was the spirit truly working in their hearts?   Was their following a matter of duty and performance, or was it a matter of love?

Jesus said to follow, you had to give everything you have.  Money, time, effort, purpose, direction, desire.  Or maybe be prepared to give everything you have?  To do so willingly and not reluctantly?  

Maybe it is to demonstrate the grace that Christ gave to us.  To forgive as he forgave, and because He forgave our much larger debt. 

But the answer is not the same for everyone;  it is a matter of the heart.  

And God knows the ways of the heart, while we see only the outward things. 

Thanks Bill for highlighting these misunderstandings and bringing some clarity to our discussion. The Mormon-Muslim comparison is interesting.

Greg, your comment that "many Muslims feel threatened " needs some explanation. If we can figure out what threatens them here,  we can try and understand over a cup of coffee .... and sign language!

Hello Greg,

I appreciate your posing this "dilemma."  This tension, as I have come to understand it, comes from misunderstandings I have had.  Maybe somewhat like my misunderstanding about the spelling of "dilemma," which I--and I think many others—always thought was d-i-l-e-m-n-a.

My limited experience with Muslim people has come through volunteering to help in resettlement of Iraqi refugee families who have become very good friends, frequently welcoming me into their homes even for the 'breaking of the fast' feast during Ramadan.  However, I have been interacting in various ways with Mormon people for over forty years in a variety of settings, including structured dialog.  While there are many big differences, Muslims and Mormons have certain things in common--different scriptures, a revered founding prophet, Abrahamic ancestry, and high respect for an historic Jesus.  These elements, especially the last two, provide a uniqueness in our response to the Great Commission as we relate to Mormons, and I would think. Muslims also.  In my experience, dialog becomes the best context for an evangelistic witness to Jesus.

One misunderstanding that I have had, is to feel that somehow I had to prove Mormonism (or Islam) wrong before there would be any openness to my explanation of the truth.   This approach was almost always met defensively, and the intent of the interaction became winning an argument and making sure I got the last word.  On the other hand if I actively listen to their perspective, without thinking about what my rebuttal might be and even being open to learning something valuable from their experience, defenses are reduced and an atmosphere of mutual trust, respect--and "love of neighbor"--is fostered.  In that context a reasoned account of my understanding and faith in Jesus can be presented much more directly, and I find it is heard in a way that is much more likely understood in the way I intended it.

A second and related misunderstanding is to feel my role is to convert.  And if that does not happen, either I failed or this person is unreachable, and so the best thing to do is not “waste” more time relating to this person, but move on to someone else and try again.  But is this what Jesus really commissioned and commanded us to do?  I have found it most liberating to leave the converting role to the Holy Spirit, and simply find ways to build and enjoy loving relationships and look for opportunities to relate what a loving relationship with Jesus is and can be.

Then one more misunderstanding, the one implied in your raising the question:  With dialogue “there seems to be a spirit of compromise that also doesn't seem right.”  I suppose one might say giving a Muslim an audience to proclaim his faith is an admission of his faith being a legitimate alternative to Christianity.  Two comments:  I have not felt that I was making, or even understood to be making, such an admission, but rather giving a respectful acknowledgement of what is important to that person, and a genuine interest in understanding him or her more fully.  Also, in the process I gain insight into the hopes and fears he has in his search for meaning, with which I likely identify, at least in part.  This can lead to “deeper dialog,” and becomes a bridge to further conversation about what Jesus offers, something both Mormons and Muslims (I have met) are quite ready to discuss.  The goal of the dialog then becomes a mutual desire to know Jesus more fully.

There are 5 strategies: 1. Understand Islam accurately (no need for Islamaphobia) 2. Make local churches healthier and become disciples of Christ in all areas of life and live as salt and light in society 3. Embrace increasing foreigners in Korea with love and care. If not, then they will turn to Islam. 4. Increase the rate of faith transfer from older generation to younger generation instead of losing the youth into secularism/consumerism/pluralism. 5. Evangelize the Muslims intentionally unlike the Europeans and Americans who without reservation accepted Muslim immigrants last 100 years, now facing unprecedented crisis everywhere (home grown terrorists from extreme Muslims, etc). 

Thanks for sharing that Paul. Very eye opening. As a Korean that must be very sad and frustrating. I lament with you. I pray that the Korean churches will ramp up their outreach and focus on Muslims. I suspect that they will also have to find ways to co-exist with Muslims in ways that bear witness to Christ in every day life. We have talked briefly in the past - but what kinds of strategies does the Korean Church have to prepare for this change and to equip themselves for outreach to Muslims?

Thanks, Greg. 

Let me share with you and all about the growth of Islam in Korea. 

See the picture first: http://www.churchheresy.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=197 

1. Reasons for the growth of Islam: There are many, but these are major ones. Low birth rate among the Korean population as people enjoy wealthy lifestyle. Low labor force population in the lower class jobs. Super aging population as people live longer with better health. Islam (Middle East) world's intentional strategy to grow Islam in Korea as a strategic and fertile location for East Asia region to reach out to Japan and China. 

2. In Arab League News on July 11, 1988, there was an article about Korea. "100 years ago, there was no Christians in Korea. But now Christian population is about 25%. It shows an amazing growth of Christian population. Korean people must be very religious. There are only 30,000 Muslims in Korea now, but within a few decades, Korea will become a Muslim country." 

3. As to the Muslim population, the growth is like this: In 1970, 3,700 people. In 1980, 22,000 people. In 2009, 70,000 people. In 2016 (last year), the unofficial number of Muslims in Korea has reached 400,000 Muslims! Everyone who read the Arab League News in 1980 thought it was a non-sense then. Now everybody thinks it has become a reality to grapple with. Leaders of Korea estimate that by 2050, Muslim population will reach 4 million people. Currently South Korea has 50 million population. It is nearly 10%. By that time, Christian (Protestant) population will be less than Muslim population. As Muslims become "majority" in Korea, they will show their true face to establish Sharia law. They will take advantage of Korean culture and technology to reach out to Japan and China. 

4. Muslim nations use Oil money for investment, scholarships for students, Mosque building projects, International marriage (big reward of $65,000) for a Muslim man who gets married to a Korean woman, as their strategies. Muslim wives are expected to give birth to many more children than Korean women, which is their century old strategy to be dominant population. 

5. When I was working in Korea at a Christian University 5 years ago, there was a news article about Seoul National University where a Muslim student who wanted to go out of the classroom to pray during the prayer time yet scolded or prohibited to do so by her professor mobilized other Muslim students to threaten that professor by emails and phone calls and etc as a revenge. Seoul National University (best in the country) was under a lot of pressure from the Muslim nations' embassies to have an accommodating school policy for the Muslim students in return for significant grants to the university. 

6. Japan and China are much more difficult to penetrate into the society due to the strong government's policy, but Korea is much more lenient toward Islam, they realized. Thus they chose Korea. Also they know the potential of the Korean population in sending over 20,000 missionaries all over the world. The strong religiosity of the Korean people is what they are taking advantage of. It is so sad and frustrating! I don't want to see what Islam did to Turkey (by conquering Constantinople in 1453) happen in South Korea!

Paul - I just posted an article on Muslims in Europe converting to Christianity and reviving the churches there - so that is encouraging. I would be interested to know about Islam in Korea and if it is increasing - if you have info about that please share it (or email me). I think it is important to point out that Muslims still comprise only 1% of the US population (higher in Canada) so we are a long way from the US becoming a Muslim country. On the other hand, we shouldn't be complacent in our outreach to Muslims. The challenge, according to a recent Christianity Today article, is that many evangelicals do not have Muslim friends (nor do they want to).

Thanks Craig. My comments come from observing a wide variety of Christians across the theological spectrum. I agree with you. I am also cognizant that our Muslim friends are just as eager to see us adopt their faith - so being honest about this is a good start. I am not sure if this would true for other kinds of dialogues with different faith traditions but it is true for sure with Muslim-Christian dialogue.

Sounds like a healthy approach. Thanks Bonnie.

Hi Craig, 

I appreciate your comments. I do agree with you 100%. I watched a documentary about a former Baptist Christian in Texas last night who got converted to be a Muslim just prior to becoming a baptist preacher... He and his wife are openly sharing with their neighbors and friends about the "true religion" of Islam with a hope that some day American would become a strong Muslim country. They believe that if USA becomes a Muslim country, then this world will become much more peaceful world. Having studied the history of Islam expansion last 14 centuries, I know no ethnic groups that used to be Muslim becoming Christian ethnic group, but I know TONS of the opposite realities. Islam is the FASTEST growing religion in the USA. They (the Texan White Muslims) were thankful to Allah to spread Islam all over the USA after 9.11. He was thankful specifically about 9.11 because after that, many ignorant white people became curious about Islam and in the process of learning more about Islam, they realized about the beauty of Islam and they got converted. I am sad about this trend and movement. I am deeply concerned about this reality of rising Islam religion in Korea (it's growing by leaps and bounds as well) and in North America. 

I appreciate you raising this question, Greg.  I think it's timely.  I also appreciate your conclusion.

I confess a rather strong negative reaction to the idea that wanting to evangelize Muslims (or anyone) contains some kind of objectionable hidden agenda.  How could there be anything objectionable about wanting others to come to know the hope of Jesus Christ and therefore being vigilant for opportunities to share that hope with them?  If we really believe the gospel, what more loving desire could we possibly have for someone?  Even in formal / structured settings, my hope would be that we have the desire to be as winsome as we can in whatever ways we can for the sake of drawing others to Christ.

I want to insist that there's no need to hold the Great Commandment and the Great Commission "in tension."  I can't see how they contain any opposing elements.  One of the most important ways in which we love our neighbours is by making disciples of Jesus.

I think at least part of the answer about balancing evangelism and dialog lies in authentic relationship, being willing to be open and vulnerable with others. If I'm open with others, and Christ is in me, then others will see Christ there as I'm honest and open with who I am. We are called to BE witnesses; it's something we are not something we do. Although even that is a false dichotomy because our words and actions also come from who we are. We need to live as authentic Christians in the world, wherever God has called us. If we did that better, I believe we would see the Lord use us to draw others to himself. What if we truly loved our neighbor as we love ourselves? Can we even imagine it? The context of authentic relationship seems to me to be a valuable tool in God's hand. Cultivating those relationships, for their own sake is important. It's like working the soil so that it can perhaps be ready for any seed that might be sown (remember from the parable how important the soil is; preparing the soil is critically important in providing the right environment for the seed to sprout and grow). One might sow while another reaps, but it's God that does the real work. Spending time with others around areas of common concern is a great way to build genuine relationships. Justice and community issues provide a great opportunity. I loved working in the field of domestic and sexual violence, something I'm passionate about, with others who are not Christian. I often felt a greater camaraderie and fellowship with others in those circles than I did in some of my Christian contexts. They shared my passion; and I was also free to share in the intersection of Christ and his Church. We are called to love our neighbors, whoever they are, empowered by the Holy Spirit, who will guide each step.

Thanks for your comment, Roger. But as a Christian, I don't know why the agenda should be "hidden." We are called to be followers of Christ. Christ commanded us to spread the gospel all over the world, including our neighbors. Being a friend is wonderful. We need to do that. But having a hope for our Muslim neighbor to become a Christ-follower to be saved (as those suicide Muslim terrorists won't go to Muslim version of heaven although that's what they believe) is even greater. That hope should not be hidden agenda. It should be our agenda. Paul said that he became to all men to win as many as possible. His goal was not hidden at all, I don't think. 

Sounds like a dilemma to me.  Do we evangelize or dialog?  Which side do we err on?  You mention that this concern is raised in the structured setting of formal conversation rather than informal dialog.  But then you ask, is our goal to evangelize our Muslim friends?  That sounds less than the formal setting.

If the conversation is formal with a goal of reaching agreement on social justice, community cohesion and peace, why would evangelization (talk of Christ’s saving benefits) even be brought into the conversation?  That would incite division immediately.  It would be seen as a Christian attempt to push the Christian religion as the religious answer to social justice or community peace.  If the Muslim party involved in this dialog attempted to promote their religion as the answer to social injustice, you as a Christian would, no doubt, be insulted, as well.  Most people don’t see religion as the answer to social and community needs.

As to personal relationships, I’d say, be careful.  The only religion that is attractive to another is one’s own religion (a general principle).  Just as the gospel is foolishness to those outside of Christianity, so the gospel of the Islamic religion is foolishness to those outside of Islamic circles.  Test for yourself.  What gospel outside of Christianity do you find to be attractive?  Probably none.  And those outside of Christian circles don’t really want to hear about the Christian faith.  It is “foolishness” as Paul says.  So if any of these responders came close to a good approach to a Muslim, I’d say Bill Harris comes closest.  As a Christian, be a friend with no hidden agenda.  If there comes a time in which your Muslim neighbor wants to talk religion, let them ask.  Otherwise, just be a caring friend.  And you and your friend will likely both be richer for the relationship.

Yes, amen. Thanks Bill. If more people would make friends with Muslims I think many people would feel more positively about this group of people. Friendships break down all kinds of barriers, dispel misconceptions that many of us hold (and I am sure that this also applies to Muslim about Christians). The dilemma is that it is hard to get people to befriend a group that they are suspicious of or hold negative views of. So it is a Catch -22 senario. But I do agree that serving on neighborhood committees, PTA, volunteering - these are all good ways to connect with people who hold other world views. This can be a very stretching experience but necessary in an increasingly pluralistic world.

Thanks Michael for your words of wisdom. I think that you are right in that we are not dealing with a binary situation - evangelism versus social justice. It is more of a continuum with redemption through the cross and resurrection of Jesus as the focal point. Without that it is all rather pointless. Perhaps some are reacting to a more aggressive approach to evangelism (proselytizing) that puts so much emphasis on conversion that the individual in question becomes a target and a box to check - as opposed to a more Reformed approach involving a Kingdom perspective involving all of life - and that allegiance to King Jesus is a critical part of that. I think Kingdom living and "lifestyle evangelism" is synonymous and so we are on the same page.

Thanks Paul for sharing your global experiences of interacting with the church in different contexts. Much of what you relate is on the minds of people in North America and I have heard it expressed quite often. In the US there is the travel ban and in Canada M-103 to study Islamophobia. There is a lot of fear of Islam in our churches, mainly due to ISIS and other terrorist groups. Students of history also warn us of what can happen when Islam is in the majority. For example, the book The Lost History of Christianity speaks of the decimation of the church in the east. On the other hand, many Muslims feel very threatened in our society today - and I believe our first reaction should be to welcome the stranger and extend a cup of water (or coffee) to our Muslim neighbors. So while not downplaying the threat to democracy of any authoritarian idealogy - I want to emphasize neighborly love and welcome - respecting the other as an image bearer and making sure their rights are protected. All this I also hope will be a powerful witness and open doors to sharing the Gospel.

Thanks for the practical example Michael. Doug Kindschi talks about thin dialogue and thick dialogue. If I understand the concept right, thin dialogue is thinking that we are basically the same.  Thick dialogue is representing our faith deeply and well as you said.

Our interfaith dialog group has openly addressed Greg's question a number of times.   

I have been in a situation where I felt some participants in a dialog group wanted to show that we Christians and Muslims were basically the same.  Neither I nor the Muslims in our group wanted to go down that road.  It isn't fun to be "evangelized" in a dialog group; it made me feel unsafe.  

We do urge everyone to represent their religion deeply and well.  Our group dialogues have led me to dig more deeply into our tradition and find ways to express it in understandable language.  This has really helped me grow!  

Is the Muslim neighbor first a "Muslim" or is she my neighbor? It seems the jump to twin ministry options is a sort of false dichotomy. The more basic way, that pioneered by InterVarsity, is that of good old friendship evangelism (see Rebecca Piper's Out of the Saltshaker & Into The World). The command to do good to all certainly applies, as does Peter's word about us always being ready to give an account for the hope that it is us. That's not the hope of some evangelism program, but the hope of a shared life. The division between evangelism and social justice likewise misses all the occasions where our lives do intertwine, volunteering say, serving together on school's PTA, etc. These are the places where we get to know other lives, and in doing so can hear their joys and their struggles, and if we have ears, their need. 

 

So my word is, let's make a friend. 

I’m wondering if the tension we sometimes feel is because we tend to believe that we can separate the gospel from justice and peace; or that we can actually have true shalom and love without Holy Spirit-fueled redemption. Isn’t that the message of the gospel: that love and peace and justice can finally break into the world because our sin is crucified and through faith we are becoming the righteousness of God? Obviously, this is a primary argument. There are all sorts of secondary issues when dealing with people and culture. Jesus didn’t just preach and die – he grew up and walked and ate and drank and lived and laughed with the sinners he came to save. “Lifestyle evangelism” (as some call it) is right on the money, precisely because living the witness of the Kingdom day-in and day-out is not a program; it’s an abundant life with our God which is shared with neighbors. So, I’m guessing Jesus didn’t feel a lot of tension between evangelism and promoting social justice.

As to the original paragraph of the article, evangelism only seems to be a hidden agenda if you believe you have to hide Christ to truly have peace. On the other hand, if redemption is the greatest step toward true peace and justice, why would you hide Christ? The answer to the question seems to depend on how you see peace and justice realized on earth. If the victory of God over sin can come without the Son of God, then put him away and be done with him.

HI Greg, 

Thank you for your post. Let me offer some of my responses here. 

About 6 years ago, when I was still working in South Korea at a Christian University, there was a public festival where a number of different organizations set up their booths and advertise their organizations, one of which was Islam of Korea. So I visited there and asked about some "recent" violence caused by the Muslims around the world. The president of the group strongly emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace, that Islam never teaches people to do violent things against any other people in any religion. We all know that it is not true. It hasn't been true since the birth of Islam. As I visit the Central Asian countries, millions of Christians (Nestorian churches and the Church of the East) were murdered by Muslim conquerers and armies for centuries. The Egyptian Christians I met in Egypt 2 years ago shared with me a long history of systematic oppressions of Islam against Christians. ISIS have been trying to eradicate Christians in the region of Iraq and Syria. Let me say that Islam is not a religion of peace! In this context, the best way to love them is to evangelize them through the medium of relationship building, community support and  whole different ways of showing love and care. If Jesus were here, he would do the same. His purpose is not just having conversation with them, but teach and demonstrate the truth about the Way, the Life and the Truth through loving care. 

I know their tactic in Nigeria and Europe and Asia that have worked for centuries: Once they become the majority in their country and gain political power, then they begin to oppress others and Christians by quoting later parts of Quran. Islam is still a minority religion in North America, but if and when they become the majority in this continent, then it will be too late as our countries are of democracy and each person's vote counts. What Australia, the Netherlands, Switzerland and France are doing have merits and keen point in saying, "If you don't like our democracy and freedom, get out of this country and go back to your country." Before they become majority in Canada and the USA, we should set a high priority to evangelize (as true purpose) them to become Christians. That's best way to love them and leave a legacy of peace in this country and all over the world. 

Very interesting article. Thanks for the link to the original paper. 

Makes me think of the value of our Confessions. If we use the confessions properly, they will continue to drive us to Scripture to see the unique place of Jesus as the Savior and Son of God – both titles and works which cannot be syncretized with Islam.

Thanks, John, for clearing up what it means to be a true follower of Jesus.  The problem, though, is that I’ve never known a true follower of Jesus as you have described him/her.  Maybe you should read over your description of a true follower yourself.  Have you ever known someone who fit the description that you have given?  Do you even fit that description?  So how are these other so called (false) followers in any worse shape than those who don’t stand up to the standard that you describe as true?  If you can’t cut the mustard of being a true follower (by your standard) then you are no better off than these others.  

You say in your description of a true follower that they, “embrace the cross and the death to the old nature; they refuse to tolerate the seductive compromise of the surrounding culture of Rome...”  How many true followers of Jesus do you know who doesn’t drive a car, own a television or radio, live in a decent home, wear the latest clothing styles or buy their clothes at Walmart or other popular clothing stores, and give more than 10% of their earnings to the church?  I can’t think of any who have not compromised with our culture.  You may be the first or only one.  And if as you suggest, a true follower of Jesus embraces the cross and the death to the old nature, I don’t know anyone who does not daily give into the old nature.  In the fact that all people are miserable failures (by the description that you give of a follower), then I guess there are no true followers of Jesus.

I think that you need to rethink what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

To “Name Withheld”, I have tried (in a previous comment) to show that there is a deeper understanding of God and his purposes than what simply appears on the surface.  The Bible teaches a double predestination, a predestination of a chosen people unto salvation and eternal life, and a predestination of those chosen for damnation and an eternity in hell.  Granted, this is a difficult idea to swallow, but none the less it is clearly taught in the Bible.  Many or most Christians would prefer to acknowledge only a surface teaching of God’s love for all people and God’s desire to see all accept his offer of salvation.  So in a sense, there seems to be two teachings taken from the Bible, and both stand in stark contrast to each other (but not in reality).

I sense that those of the Muslim religion do the same thing.  Those Muslims that stand in sharp contrast to a radical Islamic viewpoint want to show or claim that the Islamic religion is really about a loving God who wants to embrace humanity in his love.  But that may be a more surface or superficial understanding of the Islamic faith.  When understood at a deeper level of the Islamic teachings, you get a teaching that may accord in principle with the position held by the radical Islamics.  This is what I seem to pick up from the original article and some of the comments.  So it could seem that the Muslims do the same thing as Christians, that is, talk out of two sides of their mouths.  Blessings to all at this Christmas season.

Thanks Nathaniel, for your response to my comment.  I can see, from your comment, that you want to hang on to the idea that the God of the Bible is a loving and gracious God.  But I think you are looking at the Bible’s teaching only at a surface level.  You are not considering what the Bible teaches about God below the surface at the deeper level.  As I see it, you are looking at the veneer on the surface and not the substance.  What I have appreciated, in the past, about the Reformed theological understanding of the Bible is that it goes deeper in trying to understand the Bible’s teaching.

You suggest that God was very patient and gracious with the people in the land of Canaan, in fact for 430 years.  I’m not sure where you get this time frame from.  Are you trying to calculate from the time of Adam up to the time when God told the Israelites to go in to the land and slaughter the people of Canaan?  You portray God as gracious, patient, longsuffering and tolerant for this length of time.  I’m not sure where you draw this from.  In fact it sounds more like your own summation of God’s character toward the Canaanites and Hittites, rather than the Bible’s.

If I read my Bible correctly, it is only the chosen of God who are loved by God. The chosen people of God, whether in the Old Testament or New, are the ones who are the objects of God’s electing love and of the special ministry of the Holy Spirit by which he draws them to himself.  But what about the others, the ones not chosen for salvation?  They may hear a general gospel invitation but are not enabled to respond to God’s invitation apart from the Holy Spirit’s empowering and enabling.  They are left to their own efforts to win salvation, which we know results in failure.

Those not chosen, the non-elect, are not only left to their own efforts to win God’s favor but are hindered or obstructed by God from having any success in pleasing him, according to the Bible.  You see it is not only the elect who are predestined to salvation, but it is also the non-elect who are predestined to damnation.  It’s a double predestination.  For instance, Romans 9:17,18 says, “For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.  So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen.”  God is the one who hardens hearts.  Most think the Canons of Dort adopt such a view of a double predestination..  

But not only does God predestine the ends (the damnation of those not chosen) but the means as well.  First, God has set the standard to please him at absolute perfection.  But of course accomplishing such a standard is an impossibility.  “There is none righteous, no not one.” or “All have sinned and fallen short...” or “Be perfect, even as your Father is perfect.”  By setting a standard of perfection God excludes anyone from accomplishing such an impossible goal.  Second, God credits everyone with the sin of Adam before they are even born.  Even as David said in Psalm 51:5, “For I was born a sinner, yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.”  So by God’s determination and act, all have failed the test of pleasing God because he credits all with Adam’s sin. This human failure was accomplished by God even before a person is born.  Then third, God has imputed a sinful nature to all human beings, also before birth, with the result that all people have a natural inclination to sin. The apostle Paul talks about his own entrapment by his sinful nature in Romans 7:14-25 where he concludes by saying he is one miserable person because of his enslavement to sin. (Paul finds his hope in Jesus because he is one of the chosen or elect.)   But you see, it was God who imputed or credited this sinful nature to all people before birth without asking if anyone wanted such a nature. God not only predetermined the ends of damnation for those not chosen to salvation, he also determined the means by which he would ensure such failure by human beings.  As Paul says, God hardens the hearts of those not chosen to salvation. This is the act of God.  And somehow, God blames human beings for their failure to achieve perfection.

Nathaniel, is this what you are calling the grace and love of God?  Is this what you are referring to as the grace, long suffering, patience, and toleration of God, which lasted some 430 years?  You see God’s hatred, according to the Bible, actually goes back to the mind of God before time.

A short response to Greg: If I read my Bible correctly, the gospel invitation may be extended to all people. That sounds like really good news.  But the question not answered is, if people cannot respond to the gospel invitation, is it a sincere offer or really good news?  “Many are called but few are chosen.”  If we don’t go below the surface of the Bible’s teaching, it might seem that both Nathaniel and Greg’s comments ring true about God’s great love for the masses, but below the surface we see a much more complicated picture of God and a picture that makes sense of verses that speak of God’s hatred of sinners.  But then we should ask, who made them sinners?  The Bible more than hints that it is God himself.  Either the Bible is true or it contains some contains some glaring contradictions.  Maybe it is better to stay with a surface understanding of God.  It feels so much better, and such a God is much easier to defend.

Thanks for listening.  Wishing you a Merry Christmas.

One other comment in light of this discussion that I think we can all agree on is that Jesus came to extend the message of God's grace to from the Jewish people to all people and to condemn the idea of a theocracy separate from the kingdom of God which elevates the servant over the master the last over the first. In the words of Isaiah 61 and Luke 4 the message is for the prisoner, the oppressed, the blind, the outcast. It is the restoration of exodus and exile and good news for all people, even ISIS.

Hi Roger:

One thing you might want to recall in the Old Testament is that small phrase "when the sins of the Amorites were full." From the Bible we know this took 430 years. That is a bit like waiting from 1585 to the present. John Calvin died 21 years earlier than this date. From 1585 to 2015 as it were, God was patient, continually extending grace to a debauched, child sacrificing, idolatrous group of people--i.e. the Canaanites or the Amorites, whose religion with a storm God, Baal with his unraised fist and all of the fertility rites that humans engaged in in order to cause the gods to do so was a continual affront to the holiness of YHWH.

430 years of grace, patience, long-suffering, and toleration is a long time in my estimation, and more or less changes the equation, when you portray the Old Testament YHWH as a blood-thirsty, vengeful deity. Like it or not He is able to bring about judgment due to his Holiness, and he refrains from bringing it about immediately because of his long-suffering.

Have a good Christmas

 

 

So, the question is, what do we call those who don’t share the same religion with us, whether it be Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jehovah Witness, or agnostic.  We are all human beings, so physically, intellectually and psychologically we share a common human identity.   We are all on this journey of life, some looking to this religion or that religion for guiding principles, others not following any particular religion at all, some following a religion in name alone, like the many nominal Christians. It might be nice if we could simply recognize that we all have differences, including differences of religion, and work cooperatively toward a better life for all.  But it doesn’t work that way, does it?

As Christians, we are more concerned that we don’t call someone of another religion a brother, sister, or even a cousin.  Our religion, like most other religions, is mutually exclusive.  And because we believe that our own religion (Christianity) identifies us at the deepest level of life, we look at everyone outside with suspicion or intolerance.  We don’t really consider ourselves on the same journey of life that outsiders are on.  We are too different from the others to share a common journey or a common destiny (heaven for the Christian and hell for the others).

In fact, it is this difference of religions that has been a root cause of many wars in the course of history, including the Christian Crusades.  But long before the Crusades, the God of the Jews and Christianity was demonstrating his animosity toward those of other religions.  In the Old Testament, God told his chosen people to slaughter all the people, men, women, and children, who were in possession of the promised land prior to the Jews arrival.  Hmm, kinda like ISIS, but more severe.  The Jews were acting on their faith in God, just as Muslim extremists are acting on their faith in Allah.

Of course, we Christians want to claim with the further revelation of God in Christ, our God is now a loving God.  We invite all to share in our God’s wonderful salvation and love.  But in the last decade or two we seem to have forgotten that although there is a general call or general invitation to all, there is a specific call by the Holy Spirit only to the chosen people of God.  “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  And those not chosen by God will experience God’s wrath and damnation for eternity.  God isn’t really so different from his revelation in the Old Testament.  According to the Christian faith, God chooses a specific people as the objects of his love (the Jews in the O.T. and Christians in the N.T.).  All others have or will have received from the hand of God his wrath and anger.  So it is quite understandable that we would not call an outsider to the Christian religion a brother, sister, or even a cousin.  They definitely are outsiders, non relatives.  I think Benjamin made that pretty clear in his theological evaluation.  

Of course in our present historic situation with the advent of ISIS, we want to blame the Muslim religion, especially, the extremists.  They obviously are exclusive of those outside of their religion and have the same attitude as the O.T. Jews and the God of the Bible; those outside of our religion are infidels and deserving of God’s wrath.  Those outsiders certainly are not related to our family.

The problem with the variety of religions, is that each one believes that ours is the only true religion.  Christians believe that our religion is the only true religion because it is based on God’s inspired revelation and word, therefor absolutely true.  The problem though, is that all the major religions of the world believe the same thing.  All are in possession of God’s truly inspired word and cannot be faulted.  And it’s a statement that cannot be proven false or true.  It is merely accepted as true based on faith (for each religion).  So how do we really know that all other religions are false and only ours is true?   Like other religions, our religion (Christianity) becomes true by faith, at least true to us.  Our faith makes it true. Faith is believing what cannot be seen (Hebrews 11:1) And based on the same such faith, the tenets and teachings of other religions are absolutely true to them.  But can one religion over the other be proven to be objectively true?  You tell me.  So you see, religion (even the Christian religion) has not contributed to peace and harmony in the world, in fact just the opposite.  And that makes the prospect of true peace in the world very unlikely in the future.  So like the Muslims, let’s not call them brothers or sisters, but infidels.  Isn’t that what they are to God?

Greetings Benjamin:

    Love your good theological thinking. Keep up the good work.

An F.YI. Former Muslims that I know state that the doctrine of the adoption of sons is one of the most, if not the most precious truths to them.

That is why they fought tooth and nail to discourage translation agencies with taking liberties with Father and Son in translations targeted for Muslim majority audiences.

The family of the old Adam has been split asunder as a result of sin.  Through the saving work of Christ we are reborn and now live "In Christ" as the family of God.  This is the "adoption of sonship" spoken of by Paul.

I don't think "cousin" is much better as it seems to posit some genetic link which would undermine the understanding of rebirth in Christ. Family ties that bind the household of God are found in repentance, baptism and shared faith in Christ.  I would say there are no cousins as our "genetic link" is the blood of Christ.

This refusal to name them cousins should not stem from a denial of their humanity or the reality that they are image bearers of God.

Thanks Salaam for your articles articulating the basic Muslim perspective.  I am by no means an expert in Islamic thinking.  So such an article helps with getting into the mind set of those who have a Muslim religious bias.  I realize that the Islamic religion upholds a theocratic form of national government, unlike the U.S., Canada, or other democracies.  The theocratic form of Islam seems, to me, to come close to what we read of in the Old Testament when God was perceived as Israel’s only ruler.  There was not a separation of church and state by which the state was governed by separate laws from that of religious law.  That helps me to understand how a Muslim mind set can consider that all others (other than Muslims) are infidels and worthy of death.

When Israel (in the Old Testament) was told to go into the promised land and take possession of this land by killing all the inhabitants of this land, this killing was to include men, women, and children.  It didn’t matter if some of these inhabitants were good or not.  In God’s mind they were all infidels and deserved to die.  The Israelites were not given any other option than to destroy the people living in this promised land.  It didn’t matter that this land had previously (previous to God’s promise) and legitimately belonged to other people.  The Israelites were not to question God but to simply obey.  God’s honor was at stake and disobedience as an affront on his honor.  This is the God whom we, as Christians, worship.  Just as killing non Muslims makes no sense to me, neither does our Old Testament concept of a just Jahweh God.

I think also contributing to this Old Testament and Muslim perspective is the idea that God’s greatest concern was for his own chosen people.  God has a right to chose a chosen race (people) out from the sea of humanity to demonstrate his love particularly on them.  Those outside of the chosen race were deemed as of little worth unless these outsiders were to acquiesce to the chosen nation’s God or deity.  We see this today, and seems to be made clear in your article, Salaam.  And it also seems to be clear from our own historic Christian roots, as well.  If we can pretend to understand the God of the Old Testament, then we should have some understanding of the ISIS mentality of today.  God help us.

P.S: Just as there are many Muslim groups disassociating from a radical Islamic perspective, so there are many Christians who try to redefine Christianity into a more moderate and loving religion, as well.  Just as many Muslims can find sympathetic scripture passages to soften the core of Islamic belief, that same is true of Christianity.  You can make Scripture say whatever you may want, whatever the religion.

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