Tag Archives: Christianity

Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands


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Basic Islam – Part 6

 

Sharing Christianity with Muslims

For those of us who may be in a position to dialog with Muslim friends about our faith, here’s a series of thought-provoking videos that may be helpful.

Reasons To Believe scholar Fuz Rana, who had a Muslim father, interviews Abdu Murray, who converted from Islam to Christianity and now shares his faith with Muslims through several high-profile ministries.

Abdu has hard-won, firsthand insights about how to share the Christian faith with Muslims. Among his most powerful points are the value of respect for the individual and how bridges can be built in a positive way, without attacking the person or his worldview.

HT: Reasons To Believe, Fuz Rana, Abdu Murray, Embrace the Truth International

Additional Resources

 


Basic Islam – Part 5

Uncomfortable

Harry Bliss, The New Yorker, September 6, 2010

Suppose that you’re a Christian who wants to share your faith with a Muslim. How would you go about doing that? Further, suppose that you appreciate how difficult it is for anyone to overcome what they have been taught adamantly since birth. Muslims who convert to Christianity are considered apostate and subject oftentimes to ostracism and harsh treatment. They break their family’s hearts. The penalty for apostasy in many Islamic countries is death. Conversion is serious business. Sharing could get very uncomfortable.

There are many, many testimonies online about Muslims who have converted to Christianity. Their stories are fascinating, heartbreaking, shocking, tragic, joyful, unlikely, and often involve dreams. Many relate miraculous healing or delivery from dire circumstances. Some, like the five Christians noted below who were raised by Muslim parents, answer a calling to witness to the global Muslim and Christian communities after they become Christians.

So what causes a Muslim to become a Christian? If you listen to Nabeel Qureshi or Abdu Murray, or even Mona Walter, you might get the impression that the common catalyst is steadfast friends who genuinely love them and reflect the love of Christ. While that appears to be true in many cases, after reviewing scores and scores of testimonies, there seems to be an even more common basis for Muslim conversions, namely critical thinking.

Critical thinking is not easy. It requires us to put away our feelings, our dogma, our subjective instincts, and to apply disciplined thinking that is “clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.” Sometimes the important questions are self-induced, and sometimes they are offered by friends who risk feeling a little uncomfortable. Either way they can move mountains.

What about our critical thinking? When we think about Muslims, do we envision terrorists? Are we that prejudiced? Or do we think about millions upon millions of people who need to hear the truth of the Christian Gospel? Are we ready to give a “reason for the hope” that is within us, with gentleness and respect? Do we have compassion for our brothers and sisters in Islamic countries who are persecuted for their beliefs? It’s very easy to feel anger and to hate when we are attacked. Terrorists are the enemies of free people everywhere. But what did Jesus say about our enemies? His words make us unique among the world’s religions, as does His sacrificial atonement. That should mean something.

We try not to give advice on Veracity, but we’re not at all above taking advice. Take it from Abdu Murray; if you want to reach out to a Muslim, don’t begin by attacking Islam—begin with the positive case for Christianity. If you want to engage in critical thinking, study Nabeel Qureshi’s Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Nabeel and his friend David Wood engaged in that process for five years. (If you watched David’s sociopath-turns-Christian testimony, don’t stop there.) Both of these guys were brilliant and committed to opposite truth claims. It got very uncomfortable at times between them, but their friendship only grew stronger as they subjected their beliefs to critical thinking. It cost Nabeel greatly. But he was willing to pay the price because ultimately he accepted the truth. I really cannot recommend his book highly enough. It is an incredible account of the power of friendship and apologetics in transforming even an ardent Muslim.

Take a little time to explore the links and testimonies of the incredible people below. If they are willing to risk their lives to share the Christian Gospel, as many of them do, maybe we shouldn’t worry so much about being uncomfortable.

Walter Mona Walter

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Murray Abdu Murray

Videos

Gabriel Mark Gabriel

Videos

Qureshi Nabeel Qureshi

Videos

Rana Fazale Rana

Videos


Basic Islam – Part 4

Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27, NET

Islam and Violence

In our previous post on Basic Islam, we introduced the question, “Has true Islam been hijacked by radical elements, as many claim, or do the acts of terror that are so prevalent in the world today have epistemological roots in Islamic doctrine and theology?”

It’s been an interesting week. I met Nabeel Qureshi and asked him how he would answer that question. (I also attended several conference presentations on Islam, and heard some diverse opinions on how to respond to Islam and how to deal with Muslim refugees.)

It’s an extremely loaded question. On one hand, those of us who have been blessed with close friends who are Muslim have a hard time accepting that Islam equates necessarily to violence. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the proliferation of terror that is perpetrated in the name of Islam.

So which is it? What did Nabeel say?

He said, “My answer is summarized, violence is built into the DNA of Islam.”

But he also referred me to several of his online videos and his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (which I bought from Audible and listened to in its entirety on the way home from the conference. If you want to read an incredible story about the power of friendship and the value of apologetics in winning people to Christ, read this book.) The next day, Nabeel posted the following three-minute video on his Facebook page.

Quereshi Response to Paris Attacks

Is the God of Islam the God of Christianity?

It would seem that because Christianity and Islam have their roots firmly in Genesis and Old Testament history that they worship the same god. But the biggest chasm between Muslims and Christians is the Trinity. While both faiths are monotheistic, Muslims abhor the idea that God exists in three distinct persons. In fact, the greatest sin in Islam (shirk) is to associate anyone—such as the Son or Holy Spirit—or anything with Allah.

But there is more to it than that. Theologians debate the moral sufficiency of the God of Islam, making strong arguments that Allah and the God of Christianity cannot be one and the same. While it may not be the first thing you would bring up with a Muslim friend, it’s important to understand. “The violence [that] is built into the DNA of Islam” is part of the moral sufficiency argument.

William Lane Craig’s recent presentation, entitled “The Concept of God in Islam and Christianity,” makes comparisons based on moral sufficiency. Dr. Craig takes on the unpleasant reality of the differences between Christianity and Islam. If we are going to reach Muslims for Christ, we better get used to the idea that we cannot ignore the differences. If this makes us uncomfortable, we are going to have to learn to deal with it.

No Shortage of Shortsighted Self-absorption

At both of the conferences I attended this week, there were sessions on Islam, including one entitled Responding to Islam. At that session, four presenters discussed ideas on how to handle the refugee crisis in the Middle East. One presenter, who has impressive credentials as a theologian, professor, and lawyer, gave a presentation on specific concessions he would require from Middle Eastern refugees wanting to enter the United States.

His presentation was full of the angry sentiment we hear on the news these days in the wake of the Paris attacks. It was also pompous, self-aggrandizing, and downright mean. He said several times that if his proposal kept good Muslims from entering the United States, “Worse things could happen.” Not exactly what one might expect from a follower of Jesus Christ.

One woman in the audience gave him favorable comments, and a man in the back asked for a copy of his paper. It may just be my impression, but there seemed to be more than a little appreciation for what he said.

Then a young man stood up and politely asked, “What is the New Testament basis for your proposal—in light of what the Bible has to say about orphans and widows?”

Wait a minute. We’re supposed to think and act according to the New Testament?! Orphans and widows…like in James 1:27? Are you kidding me? (I could get quite smarmy, so I’ll just stop there.)

Taking the High Ground

Nabeel was the first to speak at the panel discussion after that presentation. He was gracious and did not take on the mean presenter. He noted that his father was persecuted in Pakistan for his Islamic beliefs and that he came to the United States as a refugee. If we talk about responses to ISIS without realizing the unprecedented opportunity we have to share the Gospel with the Muslim world, we miss the point. We should consider what is happening to innocent Muslims. We are here [on this earth] to reach out to others. We must share the Gospel. For 1,400 years we have done virtually nothing to reach these people.

I really don’t have anything to add to that. “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”


Politics and the Christian Faith

Political Family

“My opponent is a #^&@)*g.  You know he’s a #^&@)*g because here’s a picture of him frowning with his finger near his nose.  (Cue the pleasant music)  Here’s a picture of me smiling with my family and our dogs.  I will be good for you, and I will be good for your wallet.  You can tell I am a true patriot.  I am your non-#^&@)*g candidate, and I approved this message. (Smile)”

Welcome to the predominant success formula on the American political landscape. To get elected candidates discredit their opponent—by striking fear in voters that there is something really wrong with the other guy. Political handlers believe that American voters have short attention spans. There isn’t enough time in a 30-second spot to address substantive issues or ideas—but we can absorb short, memorable sound bites that leave horribly unfavorable impressions of the opponent.

After being bombarded with political rhetoric and campaign commercials in the month leading up to the midterm elections, I was hoping the election results would bring an end, at least for now, to this ugly parade of mudslinging.

But I received a troubling email this week. Not from a political candidate who caved in to his handlers, but from a seminary that, at the very least, has an increasing appetite to engage in political issues and debates.

So?! What’s wrong with that? Shouldn’t seminaries be engaged in the democratic process? After all, the right to free speech is protected in our constitution. The church is under increasing attacks from political figures and the culture in general. Shouldn’t seminaries prepare their graduates to engage and challenge the culture? Shouldn’t Christians be thermostats instead of thermometers? Why would anyone object to Christians being actively engaged in political processes? Some of these candidates are sincere Christians who truly want to serve their Lord and their country.

At the risk of disappointing family, friends and Veracity readers, there is something wrong with mixing politics and political agendas with the Christian faith.

Please hear me out. There are times when it is right—even necessary—to mix Christian values with politics. Consider the political activities of William Wilberforce (fighting slavery), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (fighting Nazism), or Martin Luther King, Jr. (fighting racism). These are three strong examples of when Christian activism was necessary and made an impact on our world.

But let’s be honest—it’s a long way from Wilberforce, Bonhoeffer and King, Jr. to the political candidates of the 21st century. So, how willing should we be to lock arms as Christians with political candidates or political agendas? Is that necessarily a problem?

The problem is that one institution (politics) is fueled by popular opinion, and the other (Christianity) is beyond popular opinion. Democratic politics is practiced successfully by appealing to the widest swath of voters, while negotiating compromises to build plurality positions. The objective in politics is to make a better world for ‘us’. The means are often ugly and combative. Christianity, on the other hand, is successfully practiced by appealing to God, who isn’t favorably impressed or swayed by popular opinion. The objective in Christianity is to develop a right relationship with God, by representing Him well and serving others.

An Argument from Silence

When we bring Jesus to the political arena, we risk equating our faith with our politics. The Christian faith compels us to maintain a certain integrity—by sharing God where it matters most, not necessarily in politics for political gain.

Jesus never attacked a government (although He certainly did attack religious leadership), and nowhere did He model that His followers should engage in any political debate, issue or cause. Jesus launched the ultimate revolution. He did call upon His followers to fight—not against individuals or governments—but against separation from God, darkness, evil and man’s own inhumanity to man. And what weapons did He prefer? Kindness, compassion, self-sacrifice, empathy and love. In fact, when confronted by Pontius Pilate at His trial, Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36, ESV). When the apostle Peter drew his sword to defend Jesus in Gethsemane, Jesus said, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53, ESV). Jesus was fighting a different kind of war, for something far more important than political gain. And He never promised that anything would be better in this world—”In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV84).

In the 1st century somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of the entire population of the Roman empire was enslaved. The Romans occupied Palestine and Jerusalem. Talk about political causes you could sink your teeth into! In fact, Jews expected their Messiah to be a king who would overthrow the Roman occupiers. So if Jesus wanted to gain the respect of the chosen people, all He would have had to do was take on the Roman government. But when Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s” (Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:7, Luke 20:25, NIV84), we see the ultimate example of a big thinker. If they were looking for a leader to free the slaves, Jesus was way ahead of them—You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mathew 20:25b-28, NIV84). In John 8:34-36 Jesus answered them, Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

The apostle Paul got it. Paul had a lot to say about slavery, particularly as he addressed the idea that we are all one in Christ. His letter asking a slave owner to restore a runaway slave as a brother in Christ is as poignant as his instructions to slaves and masters in Ephesians 6:9. Paul ends these instructions by noting that God is everyone’s master in Heaven. There’s that big-picture idea again.

In logic, this type of argument is termed an “argument from silence.” Can we infer from Jesus’ own words and deeds, and apostolic writings, that the Christian faith is dealing with more important matters than politics and political ideas? Is there a principle to be applied in our own lives about our approach to politics?

Ravi Zacharias on Christianity and Politics

Ravi Zacharias recently wrote an eloquent post about Christianity and politics.

“Only Christianity is strong enough to preserve our freedom and our dignity. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us the enormous privilege of sacred freedom without imposing faith on anyone. Those who mock this faith will find themselves before long under the oppression of an ideological domination that uses religion to gain political and cultural dominance and will not tolerate the mocking of their beliefs without cruel responses.

“History is replete with examples that politics never has had and never will have the answers to ensuring the perpetuity of a nation and the freedom and dignity of our souls. From the feudal warlords of ancient Mesopotamia to the divine status of kings in Babylon and Persia, from the democratic and republican ideas of Greece to the empire building of Rome, from the theocracies of Islam and the state church of Europe to flirtation with the idea of freedom without responsibility in postmodern America and the materialism of Communism—what has remained? A world in turmoil.

“Political theories come and go. Nations and empires rise and fall. Civilizations wax and wane. For this very reason, Jesus resisted any efforts to make himself an earthly king. The allegiance he wants is that of the heart, for the ultimate universal battle is that of the will against God. In Him alone are we truly made free.”
Ravi Zacharias, Think Again–Freedom and Dignity

 So What?

Back to Lon Solomon‘s litmus test. Back to Jesus and the apostle Paul, and bring it through Ravi Zacharias. What would I say to the seminary president who introduces a politician at a national Christian apologetics conference, and who has specific ideas about which political parties have made certain mistakes, and which legislative bills should be passed and which should be defeated?

Simply this. Your faith is of far more consequence than your political views, and (with all due respect) your Savior deserves better treatment than your Congressman.

You have a right to your political opinions, and you have a right to speak out. In matters of highest import I sincerely hope you will. But when you take up one politician or political cause and promote them with your faith, you put Jesus in a position of lower integrity than He deserves, and you invite questions about your judgment and priorities. Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

So, promote the Gospel and promote Jesus Christ with all your heart, mind, soul and strength. Let your efforts affect the political system most importantly through the votes of the citizens that you counsel and teach. Prepare them to engage this world and our culture, but more importantly prepare them for the next. Prepare them to recognize the shortcomings in a political system that succeeds by following formulas built on disdain for people who think differently than we do.

As Ravi Zacharias wrote, “History is replete with examples that politics never has had and never will have the answers to ensuring the perpetuity of a nation and the freedom and dignity of our souls.” Christianity should remain above politics.

 Additional Resources

Relevant Magazine (yes, Relevant Magazine has fresh, insightful material) published a piece by contributing author Brian Roberts entitled 7 Things Christians Need to Remember About Politics that we would all do well to heed.


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