Archives For Islam

When asked the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus responded, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 22:37-40).

When we hear the exhortation to love our neighbor, it reminds us of the parable of the Good Samaritan. In Luke’s account of this lawyer’s question, he includes more of the conversation between Jesus and the lawyer. After Jesus’ responded, the lawyer, seeking to justify himself, asked another question: “And who is my neighbor?” (Lk. 10:29).

This is the right biblical context to learn about our neighbors known as Muslims. In the past, one would generally spend time studying world religions, Islam being of them. In fact, when looking at the various religions of the world, in order of numbers here are the top five: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Folk Religion. However, today much of our study and discussion is around culture and cultural engagement, the Benedict Option, or some other alternative Option, how we engage in and seek to transform our culture, or whether or not it is even the church’s responsibility to engage in and seek to transform the culture. Specifically, this confronts us most sharply with the sexual revolution and everything associated with it.

These issues are important to ponder, to process, to pray about and to address. But a discussion about world religions is often a thing of the past. With our global life, with an intermixing of devotees of various religions, it is critical for us to understand various religions, and more specifically today, Islam.

History

Muhammad (570-632) is the founder of Islam, and he is considered the “seal of the prophets,” a title used in the Qur’an. The key confession, referred to as the shahada, “the testimony” or the Islamic creed, is “there is no god but God” and “Muhammad is the messenger of God.” After Muhammad’s death, there was debate over who would be the rightful heir. As a result, two groups arose, which exist to this day, the Sunnis, the majority, and the Shia, the minority.

Over time, advances were made into Christian lands. This led Pope Urban II to launch the first Crusade in 1095. In all, there were eight Crusades, the last one, occurring in 1270. This was an effort of western European Christians to go on military crusades to the Middle East to free the Holy Land from Muslims, specifically the focus was on Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher. Most do not recognize the Crusades as a historical highpoint of the Christian church. However, despite the flawed attempt of the Crusades, it was a response to what was happening in Islam, and they were not without fault either. One of the sad days for Christians was when Constantinople was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in 1453.

We are familiar with Islam in one of its more recent versions through al-Qaeda, which is a militant Sunni Islamist multi-national organization founded by Osama bin Laden in 1988. And in an unprecedented terrorist act committed against the US in 2001, forever etched as 9/11, and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, tensions have increased and understanding of and relationships between the two have suffered significantly. Added to this is the migration and immigration of Muslims into Western nations.

Another branch consisting of Sunni Islam, is ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, began in 1999. They were devotees of al-Qaeda, and became prominent in 2014 when they drove the Iraqi government out of key cities. We have heard and seen some of the atrocities committed by both al-Qaeda and its more aggressive sister, ISIS. This is what many know about Islam. But is this the only picture? Is it the complete picture?

Present Context

Since many Muslims are now living here and are our neighbors, it is important for us to take the Lord Jesus’ command seriously and learn about our neighbors, Islam, and discern ways we can love them.

The Pew Research Center notes a number of interesting and telling results of their survey (cf. “Most White Evangelicals Don’t Believe Muslims Belong in America,” with a brief summary addressing our theme of neighbors, “Pew updates its comprehensive survey of what US Muslims believe and do, and how their neighbors feel about them.”) It is estimated that there are approximately 3.3 million Muslims living in the United States, which makes up about 1% of the total population. Population projections indicate that number will likely double by 2050. As far as world religions, even though Islam is the second largest religion of the world, after Christianity, there is not a large population here. There are fewer Muslims than there are Jews, but more Muslims than Hindus.

More specifically, many do not believe Islam is part of our mainstream culture and society, and that it is a religion of violence. Both Evangelicals and Muslims conclude there is a conflict between Islam and democracy, though the percentage is higher among white Evangelicals.

Rather than having studied Islam and having met a Muslim, we draw our conclusions through social media, those tracking the persecution of Christians, and the perpetual news updates reporting another terrorist attack. As stated by our speakers, “These are the multiple voices feeding evangelicals and with little or no contact with only 1% of the population, there is little or no contact with Muslims to give a real-life impression.”

It is important for us as we love God and love our neighbors, to understand Islam, and discern ways we can love a Muslim.

Messages

Roy Oksnevad and Mike Urton, our speakers, both serve in the EFCA in ministry to Muslims. Roy serves with Immigrant Mission of the EFCA, while Mike serves with ReachGlobal. They also serve as Director and Co-Director of COMMA (Coalition of Ministries to Muslims in North America). They have co-authored Journey to Jesus: Building Christ-centered Friendships with Muslims, some of which will be the basis of what we learn in these sessions.

In our three sessions, we will address the following topics, based on responding to a question:

Session 1: What do Muslims believe? In this session, the focus will be on the four basic sources of Islam, six articles of faith, five pillars of Islam along with #6 jihad.

Session 2: Who are the real Muslims? In this session, 9 types of Muslims will be identified.

Session 3: How a local church can reach out to Muslims? If the other two sessions emphasize “understanding Islam,” in this session the focus moves toward the practical matter of “loving our neighbor.” Part of the teaching will come through witnessing scenarios done through professional dramas in the format of a real-to-life relationship. This is a resource pastors can use in the church to help others learn about Muslim relational evangelism.

Please plan to join us for the 2018 Theology Conference held Jan. 30 – Feb. 2, 2018. Register here.

Islam has always attempted to overcome and conquer through conquest by using means of death and destruction. For them, they are citizens of one kingdom, the kingdom of Islam that equates religion and politics.

Christians proclaim the kingdom of God through death – the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, death to self and the kingdoms of this world, and a willingness to die in the propagation of the gospel since this is the means by which the gospel proclaimed may well be manifested. We are citizens of two kingdoms, or cities as Augustine wrote, that of God and that of man. And for Christians our heavenly citizenship marks and guides all we do while living in this earthly, transient kingdom.

John writes of Christians that we overcome “by the blood of the lamb,” i.e. the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, “by the word of their testimony,” i.e. by testifying that they believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and “they loved not their lives even unto death,” i.e. they were willing to die for the sake of this truth (Rev. 12:11). The reason for this, John writes, is because they knew that even though they die, yet shall they live (Jn. 11:25-26).

Because of these truths, Jesus teaches us that we are to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). Does this include the Muslim terrorists known as ISIS?

Please take four minutes to watch this powerful video created by Michael Chang: Who Would Dare to Love ISIS? (A Letter from the People of the Cross). Granted he has not lived this and has not been asked, at present, to give the ultimate testimony to his faith in Christ through death, which he acknowledges. But that does not change the truth of this message. As you watch this video as a believer, do so with these two questions: How do I process this? What is the appropriate, God-honoring response?

And if you have a few extra minutes, I encourage you to read the following in which Chang is interviewed about this video and his on-line video ministry, Mighty: An Invitation to ISIS: Love, Not Hate – An Interview with Michael Chang. I include only the first part of the interview:

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Most people’s first thought when they hear about an ISIS beheading is not to “love ISIS.” Why would you devote a video to the concept?

MICHAEL CHANG: Precisely for that reason. The only thing ISIS has heard are words of vengeance and hate. And they deserve it. Their actions demand heavy justice. But there’s another message out there. The message of the cross proclaimed by the people of the cross. This message of forgiveness and love in the midst of our darkest sins has always been the heart-cry of Christians. However, the world isn’t very fond of Christ and his people, so our voices get silenced or twisted.

LOPEZ: Can a man really be forgiven for beheading another?

CHANG: What’s worse? Beheading someone, or nailing the Son of God to a cross? And yet, Jesus, while He hung there, said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not what they do.” The forgiveness of sins is not determined by the degree of the sin but by the value and worth of Christ.

LOPEZ: Who are “the People of the Cross?”

CHANG: Christians. Christ-followers.

As a theologian committed to the Scriptures, I desire to understand what God has said. It is true and truth, and it is unchanging. I am also committed to communicating that truth to people who live in a cultural context. This does not mean the message changes, but it does mean I work hard at communicating those never-changing truths to an ever-changing culture.

Another thing that I do as a theologian is that I attempt to make sense of the disparate things that happen or occur in culture or the world. Though we live in a fallen world, God is the God of order, and living under the Lordship of Christ in all of life, and recognizing that God has a plan and purpose, a telos to which He is bringing history forward and to His determined end, I also attempt to get a sense of things and how they fit together, what they say about people, culture and trends from the perspective of the Bible. (This gets to the heart of a biblical worldview.) One can learn much in such an exercise.

It is with this lens I read the various “top ten” lists that come out at the end of each year. The Religion Newswriters Association published their own “2013 Top 10 Religion Stories.”

  1. Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina is a surprise choice to succeed Benedict, becoming the first Latin American and first Jesuit pope, and the first to take the name of Francis. He immediately launches a series of stunning and generally popular forays—meeting with the poor in Brazil, embracing the ill, issuing conciliatory words toward gays and calling for a poorer and more pastoral church.
  2. Pope Benedict XVI, citing age and strength issues, becomes first pope to resign in almost 600 years.
  3. The U.S. Supreme Court, in 5-4 votes, clears the way for gay marriage in California and voids the ban on federal benefits to same-sex couples. Gay marriage continues to make inroads within the states, with Illinois and Hawaii becoming the 15th and 16th states to approve same-sex marriage.
  4. The Obama administration makes concessions to faith-based groups and businesses opposed to the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, but not enough to satisfy many of them. The disagreement continues as the U.S. Supreme Court accepts a case brought by Hobby Lobby challenging the mandate, although faith-based and private employers had mixed results in the lower-courts.
  5. Islam plays a central role in the post-Arab Spring Middle East as the Egyptian military ousts the elected, Muslim Brotherhood-led government and violently cracks down on its supporters; meanwhile, Sunni Islamist fighters increase their role in Syria’s opposition.
  6. Icon of reconciliation and nonviolence Nelson Mandela dies at age 95 and is remembered as a modern-day Moses who led his people out of racial captivity.
  7. Religious-inspired attacks claim scores of lives, with extremist Buddhist monks fomenting attacks on Muslims in Myanmar and Muslim extremists targeting Christians at churches in Egypt, an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and a church in Peshawar, Pakistan. Moderate religious leaders condemn the attacks, and a Somali Muslim emerges as a hero for rescuing a young American girl in the Nairobi mall.
  8. More than 1 in 5 Jews in America now report having no religion, according to a landmark survey from the Pew Research Center. The number of professing Jewish adults is now less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, although Jewish identity remains strong.
  9. The Boy Scouts of America, after much debate, votes to accept openly gay Scouts but not Scoutmasters. Several Catholic leaders endorse the move; some evangelical leaders oppose it.
  10. Muslims join those across the country who condemn a devastating bombing at the Boston Marathon by two young Muslim men who attended college in the area. People of many faiths were among the many who showed an outpouring of support for the bombing victims.

Religion Clause compiled the “Top 10 Church-State and Religious Liberty Developments in 2013.”

  1. The U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Windsor strikes down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act in an opinion by Justice Kennedy that triggers judicial and legislative expansion of marriage equality to a total of 18 states and the District of Columbia by the end of 2013.
  2. Judicial challenges by Catholic- and conservative Christian-owned small businesses to the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate generate an intense legal debate over whether corporations have religious exercise rights.  The U.S. Supreme Court grants certiorari in two cases raising the issue.
  3. A decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court in Elane Photography requires a commercial photography business to serve same-sex couples on the same basis as opposite-sex couple, despite the photographer’s religious objections to same-sex marriageA preliminary Colorado administrative decision takes the same approach on wedding cakes. In a related development, Britain’s Supreme Court holds that its anti-discrimination laws require Christian hotel owners to rent rooms to same-sex couples.
  4. U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Town of Greece case.  The Court will decide on the constitutionality of opening city council meetings with sectarian prayers.
  5. Numerous challenges by religiously-affiliated colleges and social service agencies to a compromise that was intended to accommodate their objections to the Affordable Care Act contraceptive coverage mandate raise the issue of how to define a “substantial burden” on religious exercise under RFRA. Courts have reached differing conclusions.
  6. European Court of Human Rights decides four cases from Britain on religious accommodation of Christian employee’ religious beliefs. Decisions call for a case-by-case balancing approach.
  7. Egypt continues to struggle with the future role of the Muslim Brotherhood (which the government now brands a “terrorist” group) and with what its constitution should say about the role of religion.
  8. Federal district court strikes down most of Utah’s anti-polygamy law.
  9. A variety of recent cases and legislative initiatives in the U.S. and elsewhere raise the question of what qualifies as a “religion”– Scientology, yoga, Humanism, Naturism.
  10. Federal district court holds Internal Revenue Code parsonage allowance provisions violate Establishment Clause.

A few follow up questions:

  • How do you read these lists?
  • What do you learn from them?
  • How does the Word of God remain foundational as you make sense of these events?
  • How do you speak God’s inspired, inerrant and authoritative Word into this cultural context?

With the growth of Islam, it is important that we know and understand what Muslims believe and how those beliefs differ from Christianity.

Zane Pratt serves as an associate professor of Christian missions at Southern Seminary. He has helpfully listed “ten things I learned about Islam during my 20 years as a missionary in a Muslim-majority country that I think every Christian should know.”

  1. “Muslim” and “Arab” are not the same thing. Muslim is a religious term. A Muslim is someone who adheres to the religion of Islam. Arab is an ethnolinguistic term. An Arab is a member of the people group who speak the Arabic language.
  2. The word “Islam” means submission. A Muslim is someone who submits to God. . . based on the teaching of Muhammad. Thus, the Islamic creed is: “There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet.”
  3. There are two major denominations of Muslims. Sunni and Shi’a. Sunnis are the majority, at 85% of all Muslims.
  4. Islamic theology could be summarized as belief in one God, his prophets, his books, his angels, his decrees and the final judgment. . . The need of humanity, therefore, is not salvation but instruction, so Islam has prophets but no savior.
  5. Islam teaches that Jesus was a great prophet. . . However, it explicitly denies the deity of Christ. It repudiates the title “Son of God” as blasphemous. It also (according to the majority view) denies that he died on the cross, claiming that the visage of Jesus was imposed on someone else, who was then crucified, and that Jesus was taken up into heaven without tasting death.
  6. Islamic practice can be summarized by the Five Pillars of Islam. These comprised of the confession of faith (“There is no God but God, and Muhammad is his prophet”), prayer (the ritual prayers said in Arabic five times a day, while facing Mecca and going through the prescribed set of bowings, kneeling and prostrations), alms (taken as a tax in some locally Islamic countries), fasting (the lunar month of Ramadan, during which Muslim believers fast during daylight hours but can eat while it is dark) and pilgrimage (the Hajj, or pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim believer should make once in his or her lifetime).
  7. The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. . . . It is a small minority view that allows these things, and it is a small minority who engage in terrorist activities.
  8. Muslims can be some of the friendliest, most hospitable people on earth. . . . No Christian should be afraid to build a relationship with a Muslim.
  9. Muslims need salvation through Jesus Christ. They are lost exactly like any other non-Christian, neither more nor less than anyone else. Furthermore, Muslims do come to faith in Jesus Christ. . . . more Muslims are coming to faith today than at any point in history.
  10. God loves Muslims, and so should we — even those few who are our enemies. We should love them enough to befriend them, love them enough to make them welcome in our homes and love them enough to share the gospel with them.

Islam and the Qur’an

Greg Strand – June 3, 2013 2 Comments

One of the important matters of which Christians need to know and to be prepared to engage is Islam and their book, the Qur’an.

James White has written a helpful primer that fills that gap: What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an. Thabiti Anyabwile writes the following about this book:

James White has given the thoughtful Christian a game-changer for Muslim-Christian dialogues about the Qur’an, the Bible, and our claims to truth. For too long, Christians have remained largely ignorant and even reluctant toward one of the world’s largest faiths. We no longer have reason for either ignorance or reluctance thanks to White. I know of no other introduction to the Qur’an and Islam that is as technically competent and easy to read as James White’s What Every Christian Should Know About the Qur’an. This book is my new go-to source and recommendation for anyone wanting a thorough introduction to the thought world of the Qur’an and the Muslims who revere it. For irenic, honest, charitable and careful discussion of the Qur’an, this is the best resource I know.

To read some of White’s reflections about the Quran, read the interview that was conducted by Anyabwile.

As a “teaser” to read the interview, and the book, here is one of the questions, along with the answer: “What are the ‘three pillars of Islamic denial’ and how do they complicate our efforts to reach our Muslim neighbors and friends?”  The answer? The first pillar – the Bible has been corrupted and needs to be corrected by the Qur’an. The second pillar – a denial of the Trinity, understanding the relationship in physical and literal terms, and a concurrent denial of worship of Jesus. The third pillar – the denial of the historicity of the crucifixion (and resurrection) of Jesus.