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Josef is a former Muslim now a Christian. His new life in Christ in Afghanistan means death or a life on the run hiding in the shadows. At present, he remains on the run. When he was first converted and discarded his previous convictions, Josef states it was difficult for him to talk about it which he describes as “an imaginary prison.” Now on the run in hiding he describes his existence as “My body is in prison, but my soul is free.”

Read this brief story about Josef. It is one example of what happens to Christian brothers and sisters in Islamic countries, an example that is being multiplied many times over.

 

 

 

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.

Interview with D. A. Carson

Greg Strand – April 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Daniel Darling interviewed D. A. Carson as part of the “Friday Five Interview” at Leadership Journal’s Out of Ur.  Carson was asked a number of different questions, and I include two of those questions below.

Carson was asked about the importance of his recently published book, Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012), about which I have previously commented. He notes this emphasis is important for two reasons:  first, it is at the heart of the intersection between exegesis and theology; second, there are some translators who suggest we do away with divine familial language, i.e. “Son of God,” for Muslim ministry as this language is offensive to them. For other posts on this theme, see:

You recently released a book, Jesus, the Son of God. Why the emphasis on son-ship for pastors and theologians today?

The title “the Son of God” is one that is repeatedly applied to the Lord Jesus, so there is a perennial responsibility to understand it. There are two factors that make this responsibility more urgent at the present time.

First, sometimes the world of biblical interpretation and the world of systematic theology do not mesh very well. In this instance, how do we move from the various uses of “Son of God” in the Bible to the meaning of “Son of God” in Trinitarian theology? There are important ways of making the connections, but not many Christians these days have thought them through. To restore such knowledge is a stabilizing thing, and an incentive to worship.

Second, certain voices are suggesting that we can do away with “Son of God” and other familial terms in new translations for Muslim converts. In my view this is both bad linguistics and bad theology, and needs to be challenged.

In this question, Carson addresses the manner in which we give ourselves to the Scriptures to ensure, by God’s grace, that the gospel is not assumed in one generation and denied in the next. Though this question is addressed to pastors and church leaders, it is pertinent to all believers.

You’ve often said that the Church is three generations from losing the gospel entirely. What advice would you give to pastors and church leaders to ensure that this doesn’t happen?

This question is an important one, but very difficult to answer in a few lines. Read and meditate on the Scriptures constantly, and self-consciously place yourself under Scriptural authority.

Walk with epistemological humility—and that means carefully learning from Christian leaders in the past so we do not tumble into precisely the same mistakes.

Devote yourself to disciplined prayer. A prayerless person is a disaster waiting to happen.

Never stop evangelizing:  it is much easier to get sloppy about the gospel if you are not proclaiming it and seeing men and women come to Christ.

Develop close attachments with a handful of trusted people who are experienced and discerning, and make time for edifying fellowship.

If you are a pastor, read widely—commentaries, theology, historical theology, devotional literature, and so forth. A pastor must be a general practitioner. One is far more likely to make mistakes of proportion and judgment where one sees oneself as a kind of specialist.

Please consider these application questions from Carson’s advice on keeping the gospel at the center.

  • On what items would you agree? What would you disagree?
  • From this list, what do you find most challenging and why?
  • What additional advice would you give and why?
  • What do you do personally to ensure the gospel remains central and the first priority in your life and ministry?
  • As a pastor or leader, what is being done to ensure that the gospel of Jesus Christ is of first priority in doctrine and preaching and also in the various ministries of the church, i.e. the gospel has both a doctrinal centrality/priority and a functional centrality/priority?

Yesterday I mentioned an excellent book by D. A. Carson that addressed the translation of the divine familial language, specifically “God the Father” and the “Son of God”: Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012).

Crossway has made available the preface and chapter three of the book:

Carson describes the focus of this book in his preface, 11-12 (which I have reformatted from a single paragraph to three):

I chose the topic about three years ago. Some work I had done while teaching the epistle to the Hebrews, especially Hebrews 1 where Jesus is said to be superior to angels because he is the Son, prompted me to think about the topic more globally. Moreover, for some time I have been thinking through the hiatus between careful exegesis and doctrinal formulations. We need both, of course, but unless the latter are finally controlled by the former, and seen to be controlled by the former, both are weakened. The “Son of God” theme has become one of several test cases in my own mind.

Since choosing the topic, however, the debates concerning what a faithful translation of “Son of God” might be, especially in contexts where one’s envisioned readers are Muslims, have boiled out of the journals read by Bible translators and into the open. Entire denominations have gotten caught up in the controversy, which shows no sign of abating.

The last of these three chapters is devoted to addressing both of these points—how, in a Christian context, exegesis rightly leads to Christian confessionalism, and how, in a cross-cultural context concerned with preparing Bible translations for Muslim readers, one may wisely negotiate the current debate. But I beg you to read the first two chapters first. They provide the necessary textual detail on which discussion of the controversies must be based.

Please remember to heed Carson’s counsel in his final paragraph: read the first two chapters before reading the third.