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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
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What does Rosaria Butterfield, an ex-lesbian, have to do with some so-called Muslim-followers of Jesus in various parts of the world? Both of them have to come to terms with their identity in Christ. Both have to ask the questions, as do everyone who claims to be in Christ, "Who am I", "What...

November 6, 2015 0 0 comments
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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
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The Islamic calendar contains two small letters which are a bit like the letters BC or AD or CE in the Gregorian calendar. These letters are "A.H" and they stand for the year of the hijrah. All of Islamic time is measured that way and to a strict Muslim this year is 1436 AH [until mid-October]...

September 22, 2015 0 4 comments
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Raymond Ibrahim, a Coptic Christian whose book Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians details the sufferings of Christians living as minorities in Muslim countries, posted a provocative blog piece entitled "Why Western Nations Should Only Accept Christian Refugees."  You can...

September 18, 2015 0 2 comments
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When you see the ISIS black flag or the Saudi Arabian green flag they both have something in common, which is the Muslim confession of faith written in Arabic. The 'shahadah' as it is known,  is part and parcel of the first words a Muslim infant hears and the last they might hear before death. ...

September 16, 2015 0 0 comments
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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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The story is about the Gospel, and the spread of the Gospel. That story continues today, and it continues through the joint work of Home Missions and World Missions coming together in missional ministry.

July 22, 2015 1 0 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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Remember the jingle: "Father Abraham had many sons...had many sons...I am one of them and so are you...". Not many people today would say that song could be sung with Jewish, Christian and Muslim people all holding hands—albeit with the inclusion of daughters—and each affirming that what they...

June 23, 2015 0 0 comments
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Undoubtedly you have read the statement to the effect: "Ramadan is when Muslims seek God more than ever." With Ramadan of 2015 coming up around June 17th, we might want to ask, "Is this statement true?" In this short exploration we will look at how Muslims see Ramadan and how Christians should...

June 4, 2015 0 1 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
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Undoubtedly you have heard the adage, "Show me your God [god] and I will tell you why you act the way you do."  Thus we would expect the person who has secular humanism as his/her god, to act consistently like a secular humanist, that is to say, there would be an absence of any "fear of God" in...

May 17, 2015 0 0 comments
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Does salvation belong to the LORD? And if so, how might that show up in your strategies in outreach to Muslims?

April 21, 2015 1 2 comments
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Accad says: "....Your view of Islam will affect your attitude to Muslims. Your attitude will, in turn influence your approach to Christian-Muslim interaction, and that approach will affect the ultimate outcome of your presence as a witness among Muslims."

            The Lebanese scholar...

March 11, 2015 0 3 comments
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Greetings scholars of Christ:

         The Mormon man said to me, "All I want to do is to help the children given to you from the Heavenly Father to love Jesus." Compelling at first glance, but at a second look, a great challenge. The challenge is that he used Christian words, which...

March 4, 2015 0 0 comments
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Rev. Mark Durie who is a human rights advocate, an Anglican priest, and an expert on Islam posted an explanation on Feb 21/2015 of the ISIS video that accompanied the slaughter of their Coptic victims. Earlier in the day he posted "Bearing the cross: a letter to the Islamic State". In that post...

February 21, 2015 0 0 comments
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So what is the big story, and why does that matter?

In a day and age when it is in vogue to bring "religious others" to the table to eat, talk and discuss, it is conceivable that the very big picture or the big story of each faith tradition is blurred or obscured or even sidelined in the...

February 16, 2015 0 2 comments
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The poem below, written in the last couple of days, comes rooted in reality, and is a means to help me continue to pray into the pain of persecuted Christians and Muslims in the Middle East.

January 3, 2015 1 0 comments
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One of the questions that churches are starting to ask is how we can dialogue with our Muslim neighbors in a way that is honest and faithful?

December 4, 2014 0 1 comments
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I watched a video in which the speaker affirmed that 'Isa of Islam, as the Muslim "Jesus" is called, is somehow the same as Jesus in the Bible. A closer look will reveal that this Muslim "Jesus" is what the Apostle Paul would say, is "another Jesus".

November 26, 2014 0 0 comments
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Recently I received permission from an ex-Muslim brother who lives and works and ministers in a Muslim-majority country to share his advice to you about how to evangelize a Muslim.

November 16, 2014 4 0 comments
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As Christians who have the orders to take the Gospel to every ethnic group on this planet, we might be well advised to understand some of the attitudes that we will encounter. As we encounter Muslim believers it would be wise to understand the Islamic doctrine of al-walāʾ wa-l-barāʾ. In a...

October 28, 2014 1 0 comments
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The Bible calls us to respect our neighbor and extend hospitality to him or her. Rather than using social media to increase anti-Muslim sentiment and fear, why not use it to promote peace?

October 20, 2014 1 2 comments
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            Confusion seems to reign supreme as to the nature of jihad.  A Chicago bus ad showing friendship people of different races and religions reads  #MyJihad is to build friendships across the aisle." - What's yours?. This advertisement would suggest that jihad is largely 'striving for...

October 12, 2014 0 1 comments

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thankyou for your clear thinking and writing on this.  

Just to be fair, Jesus used some tactics not highlighted by this article, namely pointing out the woman’s sin [Jn 4.17-18], as well as denigrating her religious tradition [Jn 4.22].

The “dialogue” with others is fun and outright necessary. But eventually, pre-evangelism gives way to evangelism, and a definite truth must be passed from one to another. The Spirit decides whether that truth is received as “an aroma that brings life” or “an aroma that brings death.” [2 Cor 2.16] Let us enjoy pre-evangelistic dialogue, but use it for what it is: an exercise leading up to conveying the absolute, saving message of Christ crucified.

Thank you for posting another fine piece on how we can better love our Muslim neighbors, Greg. It is much needed in a culture that spends far too much time demonizing the "other." I have been particularly discouraged by how church prayer lines have been hijacked by false reports. Thank you for being persistent in calling us to be holy as our God is holy. Salaam and shalom, Brother.

Greetings Greg:

   I just read the following headline on the Clarion Project blog:

  • "Canada: Parliament Shooter Was Muslim Convert" that follows the following other headlines:
  • "ISIS Attack in Canada: Inspired by Online Al Qaeda Magazine?" and

  • "America's "Most Influential Muslim" Endorses Sharia Law"

Now you might reply that this is social media that is portraying Islam in a bad light. Is it? Just for information this is a blog that features Muslims as correspondents as well. Here is their by-line: 'CHALLENGING EXTREMISM -- PROMOTING DIALOGUE'

Greg, I think it is time to smell the roses:

a. People are using social media to talk about Islam, because in many politically correct quarters one cannot do so. As well they are expressing fear, rage, anger and frustration. Fear at the fact that many politicians seem paralyzed into inaction, rage at the fact that gross injustices are being done in the name of religion and that so called Christian clerics stand by and sing Kumbuya, anger at the fact that supposedly wiser people seem to have duped them into saying that there is nothing to worry about from Islam, and frustration that hard-fought values of free speech, freedom of expression of religion and freedom to disagree with someone are being eroded away.  Are there those who express these things in inflammatory or incendiary ways that are returning evil for evil? Absolutely. Yet to wish things away under the rubric of peace, is to be either willfully blind, multi-culturally paralyzed, or to love political correctness more than being enraged that one religion on this planet feels that it can squash anyone in its way. [Just for information,  this comes from its core texts and not from some kind of "violent aberration."]

     I do agree that the challenge to separate the "supremacist, war-mongering, ideology of Islam"--to quote a former Muslim--and the eternal destiny of one's Muslim neighbour--who is a fellow human--is no small challenge. In your post above, you frequently conflate the words "Muslim" and "Islam." This is not helpful.

 May I be so bold as to challenge you to use social media to actually speak the truth about Islam instead of coming to its rescue repeatedly? Oh yes, thank you for the challenge to pray for ISIS leaders as well. That is helpful.

Shalom

 

 

 

 

 

 

Your seventh recommendation is to embrace both truth and love simultaneously... which is good.  But to put it slightly different, without truth, there is no love.  And for the christian, to tell the truth without love, is not christian.

Thank you Salaam for your comments and I especially liked your comment about the power of love overcoming the love of power. The problem that ISIS is presenting to the world is a serious one, and I noticed in the news that even the Pope has changed track and allowed for limited military engagement to protect religious minorities in Iraq. He did say that they should be stopped although he did not want to use the word bombed. He also (rightly I think) urged more of a UN response rather than a unilateral US response. The protection of religious minorities is a clear need in this case (Christian and other). But I hesitate to promote the use of force further than necessary - especially as other factors play into the stability of Iraq - sunni - shia conflict for example. It is not always easy to separate the spiritual from the political in the Middle East. To quote Dr. Shenk, Muhammad rode into Mecca with an army of 10,000 soldiers. Jesus road into Jerusalem on a donkey surrounded by children. It seems that our default position should be to seek peace, encourage Muslims to speak out against violence as a doctrine of jihad, find peace building opportunities for dialogue (perhaps around the minority view that violent passages of the Quran are limited to the time of Muhammad). In general help Muslims find peace. I think the Saudi ruling class is just as alarmed by ISIS as a threat to their state as is the West, so perhaps this opens up new opportunities to rethink Wahabi teaching.

Greetings Greg:

   A couple of questions:

1. Are there two kinds of Islam?   Extremist and moderate? 

2. Imagine that a convicted criminal moves into your neighbourhood. Would it be more prudent to really check out what makes him tick, or to simply talk at length about depravity and the sins you or your neighbours might have committed? 

I ask these two questions because your rhetorical questions would seem to be designed to lead the reader down a certain path of thought. What is not said, however could lead them down the wrong path. For instance it would seem that you have conflated the spiritual solution and a political solution. It would appear to be wise to tease these apart..

a. It is clear that humans love power. ISIS and company have found the perfect recipe for seizing power. That is to say, it is a religious justification to seize such, and they have found it in the example of their founder, and they are just applying the adage WWMD.  Hand-wringing about Christian wrongs will not change this dynamic. Yet from a Christian standpoint it is only the power of love which will overcome this love of power, topped off by a good dose of Jesus always wins, and prayer changes things. That is the spiritual side of things.

b. On the political side of the equation, take the example of Churchill who was willing to look the evil of Naziism in the face, call it for what it was, and use equal and opposite military power to confront the tyranny of Hitler and company. By contrast Chamberlain was a fool who bought into the peace rhetoric and lives were lost needlessly.

 

In the face of the religiously justified brutality fully in line with WWMD,  directed against Christians brothers and sisters in Iraq I wonder if you would call yourself a Churchill or a Chamberlain?

Shalom

 

 

 

Thank you Greg for your exposition of Sharia law and the contrast with the law written on human hearts by the Holy Spirit and accomplished by His power.. Your points of explanation are helpful yet could be mis-interpreted quite easily.

For instance, it is important to stress that Muslims believe that they uniquely are "rightly guided." Yet the reality is that Biblically speaking, they are actually not. Biblically speaking they are in darkness.

The daily prayer called the al-Fatiah prayer prayed by Muslims asks that they stay on the right path--which is essentially what the Sharia is.  However, what you might easily have overlooked is that the assumption by Muslims is that theirs is the right path which insures blessings--and again Biblically speaking this is not so.

Rather the al-Fatiah prayer {Surah 1:6-7) reads اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ

Ihdinā ṣ-ṣirāṭa al-mustaqīm [English=Guide us to the Straight Path.
 صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّين Ṣirāṭa al-lathīna anʿamta ʿalayhim ġayri l-maġhḍūbi ʿalayhim walā ḍ-ḍāllīn [English =The path of those upon whom You have bestowed Your blessings, those whose (portion) is not wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.]

The classical Muslim exegete Ibn Kathir stated that those whose portion is wrath are the Jews, and those who have "gone astray" are the Christians. 

Thus the essential prayer which stands behind Sharia law, is a daily appeal not be be a Jew or a Christian.

Might it be an idea to look at the assumptions behind such Islamic ideas as the Sharia for the benefit of your readers?. Otherwise you might be saying far too little, and open yourself to the charge of being a witting or unwitting apologist for Islam.

Shalom

 

 

Thank you for all your comments. I am surprised that there aren't more but it is the summer.

First, let me reply to Joe. I read a lot of current affairs that use CE. I do not mean to make any theological statements by that.

Now to Harry. I am deeply distressed by events in Nigeria and the Middle East. We do need to be in prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted, forced to flee from their homes, traumatized. I realize that is is nearly impossible for Christians to live under IS. But I continue to believe that we should not judge all Muslims by these extremist groups, and in fact many Muslim leaders have denounced IS, Boko Haram and other groups using violent tactics that target minorities. We have to remember that much of the current violence is Muslim vs Muslim, not Muslim vs Christian. Before the current events in Syria, Muslims and Christians co-existed well - I know that from a Syrian Christian. My intent in this post was to compare Christianity to Islam, to help us understand why Sharia is important to Muslims and to show that in Christianity we have gone a completely different route - looking to the guidance of a living God and his Spirit rather than a codified law to guide us. In this the Anabaptist missionary and scholar Dr. David Shenk is my guide. His peace building focus is one that I hope we can all adopt.

Harry & Joe,

Greg works as the Project Manager for the Salaam Project, an initiative committed to learning how to better love Muslims in the name of Christ. This project takes God's call to love our neighbor very seriously--regardless of whether our neighbor shares our faith. Further, Jesus did not reserve his love only for the "good" people, in fact he often sought out the most wretched of sinners. We should absolutely be outraged and devastated about the violence in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria taken credit for by Muslims, but that does not mean we should refrain from loving our Muslim neighbors. This may make them all the more difficult to love, but I also believe this then makes the Salaam Project all the more important.   

As Christians we ultimately desire that our Muslim neighbors will find the peace, joy, and hope that we have in Jesus, but we also take Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13 to heart, "the greatest of these is love" and understand that as Christians we must "love as he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

Greg sheds light on parts of Islam that can help us to better understand our Muslim neighbors, especially when it is often difficult to comprehend their actions. However, he also points out in his closing that Christians have the Holy Spirit to guide us, which Islam lacks. How grateful we can be for a God who lives in our hearts and convicts us!   

Greg Sinclair seems so intent to get along with other faiths that he readily casts aside the traditional AD (Latin for Year of Our Lord) to refer to the destruction of the Jewish temple as 70 CE (common era). I wouldn't be surprised if Sinclair refers to the birth of Jesus simply as Xmas.     

I get the impression you are an apologist for the Muslim Faith. Until I see Muslim leaders as a group distance themselves publicly from the events of those 250 girls in Nigeria and from the establishment of a caliphate in Syria and Iraq which minces no words about their objectives, I fail to see the relevance of what you and the CRCNA are trying to do. 

I would refer you to the latest news letters from MERF as to the events in the Middle East.

Great article!

Greetings Greg:

 Here is a sampling of responses to similar questions from a global sampling of  x-Muslims in Christ. They touch on mosque attendance, being an insider, identity issues, and so forth. [This material will form part of the deliberations of the PCA on the insider movement this summer.]. I would hope that you would agree that it is incumbent that the minority Church [i.e. mostly Western and Northern]  begin listening to the majority [mostly Southern] Church, and not only that, to the Church invisible over the centuries, whose collective wisdom dwarfs some new-found methodologies of largely pragmatic Westerners. My question is: Are we really listening?.

Q. What do you think of the insider movement in your country?
A. "I am totally against such ideas: that someone who has never been a Moslem and
who does not fully understand the challenges faced by MBBs still wants lo perscribe
me how 1 should behave as a Christian. To give you as an example, why should I go
to the mosque or call myself a Moslem if I am a secret Christian in Somalia? How
can calling myself 'a follower of Christ' and going to the mosque open me doors to
witness." (A D)

Q. Should CMBs be encouraged to call themselves Muslims?
A. "Not only is this concept improper, it is like poison mixed into food. It is a great sin
and clear hypocrisy [two-facedness] for a Somali Christian to say "I am a Muslim."
(C)
A. "Somali Muslims look on us as carrion, and this will only reinforce their mistaken
idea of Christianity." (C)
A. "The Muslims are saying, 'If Christianity is right/true, then they would openly
witness/display their faith and even be willing to die for it.'" (C)

Q. Should believers and the gospel penetrate Islam like yeast in the dough?
A. "Is infiltration idea biblical? We are not to infiltrate any religion, but totally
transform and change. I agree with the Minority Report that IM is infiltrating into
Islam. This is going into one's culture and live therein by polluting it but not being
set apart from it. So practically IMers are being infiltrated rather them infiltrating.
The more they go backward the more they distant themselves from being salt and
light for Christ." (E A)
A. "Whether the MBB feels 'called to stay relationally connected to their relatives and
friends' is almost a moot point. The community, not the M whether the MBB will stay.
If it is predetermined that the MBB must stay in good status BB or missionary,
determinesin the community, then he or she will likely need to remain a secret believer or deny the
beliefs that warrant expulsion by the Islamic community-namely. the Incarnation,
Crucifixion, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ." (F F)

Q. Can followers of Jesus have two identities: followers of Jesus and Muslims?
A. "An IMer proves his or her sectarian identity on Islam by death — by how the
Muslims view and accept him as Muslim and bury. This has become a huge issue of
focus since many IM leaders are dying. They are proving to Muslims that they were
real Muslims. So their funeral service and burial are conducted by the Muslim clerics
in Islamic way. Two questions may arise here: First why do Muslims at least
relatives try to bury in Islamic way? Conversion is to them a one-generation issue so
the relatives want to kill the influence of the converted after death. In the Muslim
majority countries, even the graveyards preach Christianity." (E A)
A. "My friend, the message of the Gospel offends Muslims. Don't worry! I have never
seen a Muslim convert to Christ who was not offended first before coming to the
saving knowledge of Christ. We need to offend them by being very clear about the
teachings of Christ!" (F B)

Q. Should followers of Christ enter the mosque?
A. "To enter the mosque is to 'reconcile/agree with Satan,' to agree to work together to
bury the cross, and God's entire plan for which He intended the cross."
(C)
A. "Church should be cautious in finding commonality between Christianity and Islam
— Islam applied this strategy to reach Christians, the followers of already existing
religion. Islam contextualised to win Christians. By learning and applying their
strategy would be suicidal for Christian church. There is no common ground between
Islam and our faith." (E A)

 

Thank you for the comments. The chapter in Tennant's book is very good. The point about Luke 8 is well raised. God uses all kinds of approaches and in this case a very open approach worked well in this context. Within Israel Jesus often asked people to keep quiet until the time came for him to be fully revealed. I think giving believers the freedom to follow the Spirit's leading as to how open they are about their new faith is what is important. One book I recommend in this regard is "A Wind in the House of Islam," by David Garrison.

In Luke 8 Jesus brings his disciple to "the other side of the lake" to meet a man controlled by demons.  No surprise, for this area was full of Gentile "gods" and demons would have felt "at home.  However, when "the man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you." And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him."  How does that event speak to the question you raised?  He was able to speak of what Jesus did and people began to follow Jesus as Savior. The area developed a strong Christian presence in the decades after Christ's death and resurrection.

Timothy Tennett in his book Theology in the Context of World Christianity has a marvelous chapter on this issue, entitled "Followers of Jesus in Islamic Mosques."

Thank you Salaam for your reply. I appreciate your responses and admit that we do need to hear both sides of this debate.The way in which Christians respond to Muslims will only become more and more imperative as globalization continues to bring us together. My goal is to break down some of the barriers that have been built up in the media and other places that separate our two faiths. We have been led to believe there has to be a clash of civilizations and that religion leads to conflict (aka Richard Dawkins). On the other hand, I am not so naive that I do not see challenges to other faiths in the Islamic worldview (particularly their desire to create an Islamic state). However we have to be careful that our efforts to label the other in certain ways does not blind us to our own militaristic efforts to spread western ideas (conflated with Christianity).

 

I do have Abdu Murray's book on my reading list so hopefully I will get to that in the next few months. In my efforts to build bridges with people of other faiths I continue to believe that Jesus is the only way, truth and life and that there is only one mediator between God and humankind. I just want to steer clear of religious arrogance that is based more in religious systems rather than actual faith in Jesus. Thank you for mentioning that fear mongering is not our best approach. I continue to be concerned about the level of anti-Muslim sentiment in our churches and hope that we can find a realistic and peace oriented approach to our Muslim neighbors.

Greetings Greg:

    I asked a couple of friends who are former Muslims what they thought of your post. Sorry to say, but comparisons to something that an ostrich does were made. This is painful, especially in light of the fact that you appear to want to diminish wrong ideas about Muslims, as people, and as neighbours.

    If I can level with you, this series of questions comes with very mixed messages. You pose questions, but actually they are only the springboard for making assertions--whether directly or not---that would make Islam seem closer to Christianity, more benign, and more acceptable as a so called "peaceful religion."  

   Might I suggest talking with Nabil Quereshi and David Wood in Dearborn? They have a much different view than you. Might I refer you to a Toronto Sun article of this last February which detailed the incursions of Sharia-thinking in Canadian universities? Might I refer to a recent news event where in Mombassa Muslims were instructed to "kill the kuffar."? Might I suggest that what is happening with Boko Haram in Nigeria is consistent with Islamic theology, and not a lunatic fringe as you seem to assert?

  Greg, I think you misunderstand Islam's structure. At the un-negotiable core are the Qur'an, the Sunnah or hadiths, and the Sira or life of Muhammad. All Muslims circle around this center of gravity, like it or not. The distance at which they circle is different in each case, which you have observed above. But that does not take away from the core. Careful distinctions here are vital, or you will send mixed messages that are confusing at best, and misleading at worst.

The demographic argument means nothing. Lenin asked for 12 dedicated men. Jesus had about the same. Both turned the world around them upside down with just a few people. If you take the example of CAIR in the USA, they are using the political system to their full advantage to make the US Sharia compliant. . You cannot say, "peace, peace when there is no peace"---witness the worldwide news, and the enormous challenge that the likes of Geert Wilders and others must exercise in order to speak truth. That said, neither must we be fear-mongerers, as I believe you would rightfully assert.

As to the program for Islam, it pictures itself as the solution to humanity's problems, as the superior religion, as the final religion, and that all others are living in ignorance. No wonder the USA Muslim Brotherhood documents reveal that its stated plan is to destroy Western civilization [say Judeo-Christian ethics and all] from within. For one to say, "peace, peace" with these facts in mind, might be a case of willful or unwitting ignorance or as stated above, an ostrich posture. 

I close with a challenge for you to engage with more former Muslims who are now in Christ. I think of the vital question raised by .   Abdu Murray in his new  book, "The Grand Central Question" (IVP, 2014) where he asks "Can the gospel satisfy the Muslim mind’s desire to apprehend God’s greatness while satisfying the Muslim heart’s longing to submit to it in awe?" (p. 170). Now that is a question!

Shalom.

Greg, I am curious what your answer is to the question posed in the title of your post.  Is the Qu'ran the divine word of God?

My answer is no.  The Bible is clear that nothing shall be added to or taken away from it.  Yes, I understand there is debate about which original manuscripts should be part of the official canon.  But that aside, other writings are not the Word of God, no matter what truth they contain.  We face the same issue with the Book of Mormon and papal edicts (which Catholics are supposed to honor as holy truth).

Being able to have a fruitful dialogue with Muslims and other non-Christians is essential, and learning what is in their writings and teachings is an important part of that.  Ultimately, though, everyone will need to come to face the Truth: Jesus is the Son of God, and only through faith in him will anyone be saved.  The Qu'ran will not lead anyone to that Truth (as you stated); the divine Word of God will.

Thank you Salaam for your comments. As I replied also to Mike, I do not wish to discount our "unregenerate hearts." Romans 1 would back you up for sure. Your last paragraph is true, in Islam Muhammad has eclipsed Jesus and the Umma has replaced the Church. Muslims do not think of "salvation' in the same way that Christians, because they lack a true picture of the fall and the depths of our depravity. These are all points well taken and I hope that we do not minimize these serious differences in our approach.

I think my attempts to build a bridge relate more to seeing the Quran and the Bible as sacred texts for two different populations, the former being influenced by the latter (my view, it would not be held by Islamic theologians). So in respecting their text and their beliefs I seek to find points of connection. This in no way legitimizes the Quran theologically or attempts to put them on the same level. I simply want to learn from my Muslim friend how he understands the Quran and compare it to the Bible, hopefully shedding light on God's path of salvation through out history. I would hope that my Muslim friend would be interested in reading the Bible as instructed in the Quran.  In the process I am aware of the dangers of comparing terms and beliefs and infusing them with my understandings. Hopefully dialogue will help with truly understanding the other - a mixture of appreciating the other's beliefs but also challenging them where they are different.

Ignoring the "slough of despond" would indeed be wrong but I do not think it is the best place to start with our Muslim friends (it may have more traction with agnostics/atheists).

Thank you for your comments Mike. I agree that the world is fallen and that culture and religion are affected by the fall. So I don't discount this and I don't want to give the impression that I think that followers of other faiths can avoid the punishment that comes from sin. I would rather seize the "grains of truth" and point people to the Gospel. So my desire to respect Muslims, learn from them, and dialogue with them comes with a firm belief that salvation is found in Jesus Christ and only through Jesus, the one Mediator between God and human kind. So in my desire to find "truth" in other faith systems, I ultimately want to help people find Jesus. This can lead to some tensions as we dialogue with other faiths (how can we dialogue when we are trying to convert?). I think that we have to allow the Holy Spirit to lead and as we follow the Missio Dei and then reach out honestly and with humility to people of other faiths.

Greetings Greg: As much as your passion to reach Muslims for Christ is evident, I wonder if you are proposing something with a more shaky foundation than meets the eye? Sure, to learn the semantic similarities of a religion is incumbent on anyone who wants to talk intelligently to their neighbours . Learning background meanings in the context of the whole of a religion is also vital. 

     Thus it would appear that you have proposed to construct a bridge from the Qur'an to the Bible and by extension to Jesus. This of course assumes that they are somehow of the same genus and species. Your note would also seem to suggest that  the Holy Spirit was somehow guiding the author of the Qur'an. Is everything what it seems?

First, it would seem that we need to examine the Holy Spirit inspired Bible, regarding the state of the unregenerate heart.

     We see God's radical "no" to the past which he describes as being 'futile' (Acts 14:15; I Peter 1:18) [mátaios]= fruitless, aimless, chasing after the wind, running after one's shadow. In the unregenerate state humans are described as 'dead', 'following the course of the world and the prince of the power of the air' (Eph 2:1;2). Picture a group of lemmings all being herded by an evil tyrant, brain-dead in their mindless their race to destruction. It gets worse: they are described as having 'disobedience' as their father and as such, wrath as their destination (Eph 2:2;3). They live in the overly strong desires [=passions]  of both their flesh and their 'former ignorance.' (Eph 2:3; 4:18; I Pet 1:14). This ignorance is a dark hole, a light sucking entity.

Before we get to God's  radical "yes" in Christ, which thunders through this slough of despond with blazing light, the critical question remains:

     Can a text which self identifies as having eclipsed the revelation of God in Christ in the Scriptures, as one which identifies Muhammad as having eclipsed Jesus Christ and which reduces Christ to some kind of John the Baptist figure for Muhammad, as well as declaring the Muslim ummah as the "best of all people" thus eclipsing the Church of Christ, and which categorically denies the need for a Saviour due to the denial of all of the above picture of humanity, somehow have a source as you say in the Holy Spirit?  

    

 

Greg, you said that "If we believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world around us, and that He is revealing truth, then we will find traces of his presence everywhere, including in other religions. This is a natural bridge for us to work with."

Greg, I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in the world around us but I also believe, as Scripture tells us, that Satan too is at work in the world around us and one of his greatest weapons is mixing in a little truth with a lie that, if believed, brings death; unfortunately this is something that is too frequently forgoten today. Remember that sin came into the human race through one man who believed a lie mixed with just enough truth to make it sound palitable. Yes, there are grains of truth in every religion but these false religious systems bring only death to those who believe their lies about who God is and what he desires from us. There is only a bridge if we are willing to let the truth of God's word truly illuminate these lies but sadly this is far too often what is left out of missions efforts today. We should never decieve people into beleieving that there is enough "truth" in any false religious system to avoid God's wrath. Apart from truly giving your whole heart to God and accepting his free gift of grace paid for by his one and only Son there is no escape from God's wrath.

Greetings Greg:

   It was with interest that I read the words about how we "conceptualize God." This could give the reader the impression that this discussion begins and ends with humans. Although I don't think that is what you are saying, it could be inferred. What is missing here, is how each of the deities of Islam and of Christianity have revealed themselves. The law of non-contradiction says that two things cannot be essentially different and the same at the same time.

Allah of Islam says, "I am the best of deceivers"  An Arabic speaker suggested that the root word m-k-r can be the action of a sighted man leading a blind man to fall into a hole, by means of deception. Lexically it means 'an act of deception aiming at causing evil' or 'desiring to do another a foul, an abominable, or an evil action, clandestinely or without his knowing whence it proceeded.' (Lane's Lexicon). This descripton can be found in Qur'an 3:54—And they (the unbelievers) planned to deceive, and Allah planned to deceive (the unbelievers), and Allah is the best of deceivers.; 7:99—Are they then safe from Allah's deception? No one feels safe from Allah's deception except those that shall perish.; 8:30—And (remember) when the unbelievers plotted deception against you (O Muhammad), to imprison you, or kill you, or expel you. They plotted deception, but Allah also plotted deception; and Allah is the best of deceivers.

 Also recall that Abu Bakr the first of the so-called 'rightly guided caliphs was said to have reported this:

“Although he had such a faith, which was too great to suffice all the inhabitants of the earth, he was afraid that his heart might go astray. So, he used to utter, while weeping: ‘Would that I have been a bitten tree!’ Whenever he was reminded of his position in Allah’s sight, he would say: ‘By Allah! I would not rest assured and feel safe from the deception of Allah (la amanu limakr Allah), even if I had one foot in paradise.’” (Khalid Muhammad Khalid, Successors of the Messenger, translated by Muhammad Mahdi al-Sharif [Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut Lebanon, 2005], Book One: Abu Bakr Has Come, p. 99; 

 

Now, we compare this picture of a caprioucious, deceiving, deity with that of the faithfulness, truthfulness and holiness of the God of Bible, and the law of contradiction will say, nice try, but all the talk of sameness is simply the Islamic view which says, "our god and your god are the same." Both cannot be true.

"God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?" Numbers 23:19

"He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind." 1 Samuel 15:29

"Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth." Psalm 31:5

"Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’" John 14:6

"a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time," Titus 1:2

"Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged." Hebrews 6:17-18

 

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

Dear Greg:
I noticed a lengthy postlude to your question that included an aversion to debate, a stated desire to only focus on the positive, and a shift to the person of Jesus. All of these are laudable, but can avoid the question that you posed.
The Jews of Muhammad's time had to answer the question you posed. They had the Hebrew Testament in their hands. They looked at the Biblical qualifications for a prophet--i.e. one who did not only foretell but one who spoke on behalf of God--or forthtold. According to their criterion---not mine--as much as Muhammad had the persuasiveness of someone convinced that they had a divine commission, which most "prophets" including Joseph Smith of the Mormons had, they found that his claims were lacking according the following categories from Deuteronomy 18.
1. YHWH said if a prophet speaks "a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak" or speaks in the name of false gods, that person is a false prophet (v. 20).
[see http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Wood/deuteronomy_deductions.htm ]
2. YHWH said "if the word does not come to pass or come true" that person is a false prophet. (v. 22).
[see http://answering-islam.org/Nehls/Ask/proofs.html]
for a longer discussion

The prophet according to Deuteronomy 18 was to speak on behalf of YHWH, and thus for Muhammad to pass the true prophet test, everything that YHWH has revealed in the Bible would be the test of truthfulness of the Qur'an. If the Qur'an is anywhere out of sync, then the true prophet test would fail according to this test.

Secondly, Christians who have the New Testament have a further criterion
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (1 John 4:1-3 ESV).”

--Since it is clear that in the larger context of I John, a true prophet must and would confess that Jesus is Lord and the Son of God and is equal to God. Clearly this is not the case of the Qur'anic writings, the hadith, or the life of Muhammad.
For further reading see the material from the Arabic speaking Father Zacharia Botros
http://www.raymondibrahim.com/islam/was-muhammad-a-messenger-from-god-or...

Was Muhammad a prophet?
I will respond with a question as you recommended: "Was Joseph Smith a prophet?" Regarding Smith, all we can say is that he was a self-appointed, charismatic leader who used religion to further his appeal and thus you might call him a prophet. According to Biblical definitions, however, Smith is clearly a false prophet..

Point taken, Greg, and thank you for this response.  I still hold dearly the message of the Bible, especially Jesus' teachings.  Nevertheless, holding one view can leave less room for understanding or being open to another view.  And the connection with science is of great interest to me.  How do we read the Qur'an and the Bible?  How literally, how culturally, how humbly?  I console myself that where it doesn't make good scientific sense, then God will have the answers... something interesting to learn about in heaven.  Life will always hold some mystery and that is just fine!

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate this forum for discussion. Thanks also to Pat for suggesting a further question on revelation. Perhaps we will have ten hard questions in the future. To start that conversation, I googled Maurice Bucaille and discovered that he is a Catholic with a great respect for the Quran. I respect his "respect" but cannot agree with the indisputable authenticiy of the Quran. Bucaille applies higher criticism to the Bible which in his view makes the Bible less authentic. The Quran has never been subject to higher criticism. So it seems like an unfair playing field. The reality is that the Quran makes many statements that are contradictory to core Christian doctrines, so if it is authentic that is a problem for Christians. But maybe a better focus is on the manuscript tradtions of the Bible and the accuracy of transmission as evidenced by the Dead Sea Scrolls (OT). The core message of the Bible has been a consistent one for thousands of years and the focus remains on Jesus as God's Son and our Savior.

I'm grateful to have this opportunity to read and engage in some thoughtful discussion.  Growing up, I don't recall knowing anyone of the Muslim faith (of course, I may well have known Muslims and simply not been aware of that particular detail!)  That has certainly changed now - and so I feel compelled to learn more.  Thus far, I've read Karen Armstrong's books, The Case for God and Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet.  This first of your seven hard questions was a great start and I look forward to the next six!

I wonder if the coming months might include a hard question about our understandings of authenticity in our "books of Revelation" and how monotheists understand God revealed?  (As a discussion starter perhaps, I've just begun to read The Bible, The Qur'an and Science by Maurice Bucaille (1976), in which Bucaille writes, "Thanks to its undisputed authenticity, the text of the Qur'an holds a unique place among the books of Revelation, shared neither by the Old nor the New Testament".)  

Greg, I think most Muslims would say that Allah and God the Father may be the same. But no Muslim would affirm the Trinitarian God. I think you are right to say that Allah is a bridge to talk about grace and forgiveness and the nature of God the Father. But if the Nicene Creed is binding then we are ultimately talking about two different views of God.

Thanks for your question Kim. I had not thought about the implications of the Shahada. The question of Muhammad is a good one. He did not point people to the God of the Christians, although he was more sympathetic in his Meccan suras. In fact, I believe he saw himself as a prophet to the Jews and Christians as well as the Muslims at that stage. It was only later in Medina that this seems to have changed. What we can say is that Muhammad was a reformer who sought to convert his people from polytheism to monotheism. All monotheists, including Christians, should appreciate this. So I maintain that we worship the same God, however, we fundamentally understand him in different ways. Certainly Muhammad did. In terms of how we relate to Muslims, I would speak of Muhammad as a God seeker and a reformer in his culture. We don't encourage conversation by speaking ill of him. But pointing people to Jesus, the ultimate reformer is our goal.

Greg, you are correct that this is a hard question! Thanks for your thoughtful response to it.

In your webinars I’ve heard you share about the Shahada from the Quran which states “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet (or messenger).” Here’s my follow up question for you: 

Because Muhammad is not the messenger nor the prophet of the Judeo Christian God (e.g. Yahweh, Jehovah), if one takes the position that the Christian God and Allah are the same, don’t they also imply that they recognize Muhammad as a prophet? How do you address that issue if/when it comes up in conversation with a Muslim?

Thank you for the clarification, Greg:

   I am reading a very interesting thesis about how the Gospel of Mark was very much an anti-imperial [=Rome] document. The author shows, however that Mark did not only "tear down" Roman imperial constructs, he actually proposed others in their place. His bottom line is that Rome had hijacked terms like 'savior', 'son of god', 'lord', 'the good news' 'the way' and so forth, and now it was up to the Gospel writers to show where the hijacking had taken place, and rightfully assigning those to  the actual and real Saviour, Son of God, Lord, with the Good News who is The Way. This was nothing less than subversive to the empire.

  In a fashion, anyone reading the Qur'an must realize that many concepts have been hijacked from Christianity and not just to take them at face value. Terms like prayer, sacrifice, worship, the messiah, faith, revelation are all found in the Qur'an, but they have been emptied of their origin Christian meanings and infused with Islamic ones. Just because there are parallel words, has nothing to do with parallel meanings. For instance, to see the word Messiah in the Qur'an does not say anything about the Biblical concept of Messiah. The Biblical definition will and must rule the day, and will determine if the Qur'anic definition contains any truth at all.  Parallel to what the Gospel writers did, we must identify this hijacking process for what it is--and that takes dedicated study--e.g. to understand just what is meant by the Qur'anic messiah---and recapture these concepts back to their rightful possessor, namely Jesus who is Lord of all and who unlike the Qur'anic messiah is truly The Prophet, The Priest, and The King.  [oops, I think a sermon just started]

Glad to see that your theology is being sharpened, and pray it will continue to be.

Shalom.

Thanks for the comments - it is good to see this Muslim ministry forum in use. I hope it will foster more good discussions. I appreciate the cautions and understand clearly the anti-Christian polemical nature of the Quran. Salvation is not found there. However I do find that my own understanding of Christian theology has been enhanced through reading the Quran. So to respond to Salaam, I am not thinking of it as a entre but rather appreciating the beauty of our theology (specifically the Trinity). This could be used in an apologetic way as well. To illustrate in another way, if the eternal word of Allah is the Quran, and the Quran exists eternally, than is Allah truly one - or is he two? In Christianity the eternal word of God - Jesus - exists eternally and because we have a trinitarian understanding of God, we can accept this fact. So I have a better appreciation of my own faith in the end.

Thank you Greg and Joe for your respective comments.

      A few observations. It would seem that you are making some kind of emotional appeal for the loneliness of Allah of Islam for his state of mind as an entre for Christian Theology. Would it not have been better to have asserted that Allah of Islam, is largely a deity created in the mind of Muhammad, and in effect is simply his super-ego, who stands in sharp contrast to the Trinity of the Bible? This is well documented by those who have studied the parallels of the Islam original life [Sira] of Muhammad, and the nature of Allah in Islam.      I fear that inadvertently you are acting as an apologist for Islam, here.                  Secondly, you assert that the Qur'an is a post-Christian document. This can be interpreted variously. Joe observed that there is a polemical anti-Christian edge to the Qur'an. This is accurate. Truth be told, Mark Durie, Arabic specialist, scholar of Islam clearly asserted at a lecture at Calvin College, that the Qur'an is a compilation of sources from Rabbinic Judaism with all of its tortured treatment of the Old Testament, as well as largely apocryphal Christian accounts along with Nestorian and other aberrational Christian doctrines. Thus to say that it is post-Christian, begs the question of "what kind of post-Christian?" 

Shalom

                                                                                                                                                                                

 

                                                                                                                                                                  

 

Yes. To read the  Qur'an will leave no doubt that regardless of what may sound good on the surface, Christ's divinity is bluntly rejected as blasphemy and Christians are branded infidels. Anyone reading the Qur'an should do so with one's eyes wide open, in the same way we look over  Jehovah Witnesses' religious literature and as we should,  Roman Catholic publications that take the focus off Christ's finished work through Calvary's cross, including publications such as The Glories of Mary.  

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