Friday, September 11, 2009

Our Many Levels Of Response To Islam

The Church's response to Islam takes place on many levels. As individual Christians who live in free societies, it is not wrong, it is not un-Christlike, to be vigilant concerning the efforts of militant Islam to transform our societies into an Islamic culture and eventually into Islamic states. Western societies must be especially combative concerning attempts to introduce Sharia Law into its legal systems. (See two articles from Daniel Pipes, here and here, on this subject.) Nor is it wrong for Christians to support current military campaigns against the Taliban and Alqaeda in Afghanistan. Christians can agree or disagree on the current war, but some believe that the war could threaten the Christian witness to Muslims world-wide. I don't believe that we should abandon our military response to those who are dedicated to our destruction for the sake of Missionary strategy. (I will soon post an article on this subject.) We are citizens of this nation and have an obligation to support the government when it is acting the upon the President's oath before God to protect us from all enemies foreign and domestic.

Yet fear of militant Islam should not be the governing motivation in the Church's response to Islam. We need to remember that most Muslims do not support the violent tactics of Islamic militants. In fact, according to Keith Small, an American who has spent about sixteen years reaching out to Muslims in Britain, since 9/11, more Muslims than ever before have become disciples of Jesus Christ. These new brothers and sisters do not want to become members of a violent religion which brooks no intellectual challenge concerning its religious tenets. Here is a link to a talk given by Keith Small on reaching Muslims for Christ. His presentation concerns evangelizing Muslims in a university setting, but he gives many insights that could help us witness to Muslims in any setting. Those who wish to minister to Muslims through their local church will find this talk (running time 88 minutes) very helpful. In fact, as Small points out, group events, such as debates between Christians and Muslims, offer for some Muslims the only chance they may ever have to hear the Gospel and a challenge to Islam. Individual Muslims may fear seeking out answers to questions concerning Islam and Christianity on their own. The notes to this talk, included in this link, will direct you to resources to aid in reaching out to Muslims.

Certainly public forums are a legitimate venue for dialogue with Muslims. Rick Warren recently addressed a Muslim audience. It is a pity that audio for this talk cannot be found. He has come under fire for his speech because he did not make a formal presentation of the Gospel. Warren stated on his blog that before we can reach Muslims for Christ, we must show that on some issues we share common ground and can work together. The Church has been practicing this to some extent with other groups before Warren came along. Protestants and Catholics have fought together in the trenches against abortion. Christians and Mormons share the same concerns concerning this nation's moral slide. Warren cites I Cor. 9:19-23 as his Biblical mandate in engaging Muslims this way. Paul did become all things to all men to win them to the Gospel. Yet citing one passage, in the Living Bible, does not do full justice to Paul's outreach to those who did not worship Jesus. In Athens, Paul had to witness in an entirely different way than he had when he spoke before a Jewish audience. (Acts 17:22-34) In Athens, Paul had to deal with a polytheistic society who knew nothing of the one true God or the need for a Messiah and Redeemer. Yet even in this context, Paul did not neglect the message of repentance or the Resurrection. (Acts 17: 30-32) While Paul sought to be a servant to all men, he did not neglect to debate with those he was trying to reach. He spent two years in the School of Tyrannus debating and reasoning with those who challenged the Gospel. (Acts 19: 9-10) As Keith Small points out in his talk, debates between Christians and Muslims may be the only time the Gospel is presented to individual Muslims. Debates may be the only time a Muslim may hear a challenge to the tenets of Islam. Yes, dealing with issues of common concern between Muslims and Christians may be a legitimate Christian witnessing endeavor, yet Rick Warren needs to think a little more deeply concerning his theology and strategy of outreach to Muslims. (He needs to be wary of picking and choosing one verse in whatever translation fits what he is trying to say. I don't think the Living Bible's translation of ICor 9:19-23 is entirely true to the original message of the author.) Some Christians actually fasted during Ramadan. I have not yet given this any serious consideration whether this is a helpful strategy of outreach or whether it is a legitimate Christian witness. What do you think?

Whatever opportunity we may have to witness to Muslims, whether as individuals or in debating before an audience, Keith Small says that the most effective witness is to follow IITim 2: 24-26: "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." (NKJV) If through the Holy Spirit we can maintain our Christlike response, even under the most heated opposition, Muslims will respect that. And that respect can be the first step for Muslims to come to repentance and become disciples of Jesus Christ.

No comments: