Tag Archives: Islam

Remembering September 11…. 1683

King John III Sobieski praying for Christian victory, for his Polish forces, against the Ottomans, outside of Vienna, on September 11, 1683.

When Osama Bin Laden selected the date of September 11, 2001, to attack the twin towers of the World Trade Center, in New York City, this was not just a clever play on the phrase “911,” the standard phone number for making emergency calls. It was a deliberate attempt by Bin Laden to symbolically reverse the devastating defeat of Islamic Turks, at the Battle of Vienna, on September 11, 1683.

The Ottoman Empire had held the city of Vienna in a brutal siege for several months, as the Ottomans sought to take advantage of the disarray experienced in Western Europe, after years of religious wars between Roman Catholics and Protestants, that divided Christian Europe from within. By attempting to take Vienna, the Ottomans were hoping that a weakened Hapsburg Empire would eventually capitulate to the relentless attempts of the Islamic Turks to take the city, as a gateway into the rest of Christian Europe.

But the Austrian Hapsburgs established an alliance with the Polish-Lithuanians, led by King John III Sobieski. Sobieski led what many historians consider to be the largest calvary charge in world history, as typically dated to September 11, 1683, that broke the Islamic Turkish siege of Vienna, thus ending the threat of Ottoman expansion into Western Europe. As demonstrated in the following 3-minute movie clip, from the 2012 film, The Day of the Siege, Sobieski describes the importance of the battle, in explicitly apocalyptic terms, as a heroic defense of Christendom, with a passionate speech to his troops before the battle.

Twenty years after Osama Bin Laden’s attack on America, a symbolic victory for the radical wing of Islam, a massive visual spectacle imprinted on the minds of nearly all Americans, we can look back at the challenges faced by Christians, in the wake of 911.

In many ways, 911 marked significant shifts in our culture: a decline of the Christian Right, the first major world event to be broadcast across the then infant world of social media, and the rise of the New Atheist movement, a.l.a. Richard Dawkins, that portrayed all religion, not just Islam or Christianity, as the greatest threat against humanity. A new generation of young people, growing up in the wake of 911, have grown increasingly sympathetic to the cries of such skepticism about organized religious faith. After the era of the Post-Reformation religious wars, after the Age of the Enlightenment, and now into the reality of a Post-Christian moment, how will the Christian movement respond?

That is something to think and pray about today.

 


“Chrislam,” Rick Warren, and the Internet Lie That Never Dies

Christians are called to be people of the truth (John 17:17). Sadly, some Christians have a persistent habit of misrepresenting the truth, by the way they (mis)use the Internet.

Take the example of pastor Rick Warren and the supposed “Chrislam” controversy. Rick Warren is the pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. For years, Rick Warren has taken an interest in building relationships with Muslims, so that they might hear the Gospel of Jesus. As Rick Warren says, “You cannot win your enemies to Christ. You can only win your friends.” Yet as a pastor of one of America’s largest churches, such a high profile personality comes under a lot of scrutiny.

Sadly, another Christian leader, a tele-evangelist (I will not name the man), became suspicious of Rick Warren and popularized the terminology of “Chrislam,” accusing Rick Warren of trying to combine Christianity and Islam together into a single new religion, and denying the faith. Rick Warren, in 2011, publicly denounced the accusations as false.

Now, just to be clear, I have no dog in this race. I have never met Rick Warren. I have never been to his church. I have never heard him preach, but others tell me that he is a great evangelist. I read a short pamphlet/book he wrote a few years ago, and I thought it was somewhere between pretty good and OK. Not the best thing I have ever read. But not bad either. I am sure God has and will continue to use his writings to change the lives of many people. It just was not necessarily the type of reading I personally go for.

In 2012, an article in a local, secular newspaper, the Orange County Register, printed a story that sought to confirm the reports of Warren’s “Chrislam” views and activities.  Unfortunately, the newspaper article contained many errors, according to Saddleback Church. Shortly after the article was published, Rick Warren made statements intended to correct the misinformation. Sadly, some Christians, including the above mentioned tele-evangelist, spread the Orange County Register story, like wildfire on TV and the Internet, without ever bothering to ask Rick Warren directly, if the story was accurate or not.

Fast forward to 2018, and if you do a Google search, for something like “Rick Warren chrislam,” you will get an amazing 200,000+ hits, most of them repeating the same type of accusations made six years earlier in 2012, that Rick Warren addressed within days of the Orange County Register article.

Six years. Over 200,000 hits.

Never mind the fact that Saddleback Church has baptized over 45,000 people, over the years, a number of whom come from a Muslim background. That is right: people from a Muslim background, risking ostracism and family rejection, to publicly identify with King Jesus.

It is like the Internet lie that never dies.

If you have been tempted to pass on such old rumors like this to your friends, there is this pesky little command, in the Ten Commandments, that you might want to be aware of:  “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

The video below should pretty much dispel such rumors, which is an interview that Rick Warren had with a leading Calvary Chapel pastor, a year or two ago. Much of the lingering controversy involves Rick Warren’s signature in 2007 on a Christian response to the Yale “A Common Word” document, written by Muslim leaders. The Christian response was open to misinterpretation on several points, but it was meant to commend Muslim attempts to call for peace and dialogue, and rejecting violence, and not to be a final statement on doctrine. For more about the related “A Common Word” Yale document, see this earlier Veracity post


Pray for Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Qureshi, a young Muslim turned Christian apologist, published his first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounter Christianity

Nabeel Qureshi is a Christian apologist, from a Muslim background. Please pray for him.  Nabeel is dying of stomach cancer, and the immediate prognosis is not good.

Nabeel grew up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, having parents grounded in Ahmadiyah Islam. He became a follower of Jesus, after becoming friends with David Wood, an atheist turned Christian, while both were students at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Virginia. He wrote the best-selling Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, after pursuing a medical degree and advanced theological studies in Christian apologetics. Nabeel is a speaker with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Fellow Veracity blogger, John Paine, met Nabeel at an apologetics conference a few years ago, and John wrote a great series on Islam, based a lot on what John learned from Nabeel.

Nabeel’s critics from Islam believe that his stomach cancer is a sign of God’s judgment against him, for turning his back on Islam, and becoming a Christian.

Please pray that God might work a miracle, or otherwise, finish strong.

Nabeel had to have his stomach removed, several weeks ago. As the flood waters were rising outside of his home, in Houston, during Hurricane Harvey, he was rescued from his home and taken to the hospital, for further treatment. Sadly today, Nabeel released a video on YouTube, telling his supporters that he has been put on palliative care. Nabbed is married with one child. Nabeel Qureshi is 34 years old.

 


A Conversation Starter: Muslims, Christians, and Jesus

muslims-christians-jesusMy wife and I just finished reading a book written by Carl Medearis, Muslims, Christians, and Jesus: Gaining Understanding and Building Relationships. Little did we know that when we first started to read the book that current events surrounding the world refugee crisis would make our reading of the book into quite a big conversation starter.

Some voices in our culture say that Islam and Christianity are basically equal pathways to God, just using different language. Therefore, Christians should not bother trying to share their faith in Jesus with Muslims. On the other side, some say that Muslims can not be trusted, because of their association with terrorism.

Carl Medearis avoids the pitfalls of those two extremes. He focuses on the person of Jesus. I reviewed my first Carl Medearis book, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Non-Evangelism, here on Veracity. Medearis and his family spent 12 years in Beirut, Lebanon, building relationships with Muslims in the Middle East, talking with them about Jesus. As in his other books, including Muslims, Christians, and Jesus, Medearis recounts some of his conversations with Muslim leaders that challenged me to rethink my own prejudices against Muslims as real people, who need Jesus just as much as I do. In addition to giving a helpful overview of what Islam is, Medearis provides some very useful tips in making friends for Jesus with Muslims. As a read geared towards a popular audience, it is a fairly short book, too.

For example, according to Medearis, did you know that Muslims often think that Christians do not properly honor the Bible as God’s Holy Word? Sure enough, this past Christmas, I invited a few Muslims friends to a concert at our church. In our church, we put our pew Bibles in metal trays attached underneath the seat in front of where we are sitting. My Muslim guests were appalled that we stored our Bible down low, underneath people’s rear-ends, instead of lifting God’s Word up high, as a sign of honor and respect.

I had never thought about that before.

In early 2017, a new American President implemented a temporary travel ban on citizens from several Islamic countries, including an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria coming into the United States. Several million people have been fleeing civil war in Syria, including not just Muslims, but Christians as well. Refugee resettlement programs can take a very long time to work through, so the recent moratorium complicates the situation. Veracity blogger John Paine and I have made our views known before here on Veracity, on which we both agree, regarding the Syrian refugee crisis, and how Christians should respond.

Christians all over the world, and especially here in the United States, are divided over this issue. Hundreds of prominent Christian leaders oppose the refugee ban, while others support it. World Relief, an evangelical relief agency working with churches to settle refugees, has drafted an open letter, as a full-page in the Washington Post in February, 2017, calling upon conservative evangelical Christian leaders to speak out. It is a delicate balance between being obedient to the Gospel’s call to love and care for the refugee, with the requirement for national security and protecting American borders. We need to have a conversation among Christians today, as to how believers are to pray and be faithful in God’s calling to best assist the refugee, in a dangerous world.

Might I suggest that you grab some copies of Carl Medearis’ Muslims, Christians and Jesus, read it together with Christian friends as a group, discuss it, and then, do something about it?

 


Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

Robert Spencer's The Truth about Muhammad paints a very different portrait of the founder of Islam, as compared to the work of popular author Karen Armstrong, who describes Islam as a religion of peace. How do you figure out who is telling the right story?

Robert Spencer’s The Truth about Muhammad paints a very different portrait of the founder of Islam, as compared to the work of popular author Karen Armstrong, who describes Islam as a religion of peace. How do you figure out who is telling the right story?

Within a few weeks of the 911 attack on the World Trade Center, Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun, who now specializes as a scholar of comparative religion, and very popular author, wrote an essay for TIME magazine. In the essay, Armstrong makes the case that the terrorists who destroyed the twin towers did not represent the true face of Islam. The prophet Muhammad, she argues, sought to heal the rifts between different, warring tribal factions in 7th century (A.D.) Arabia.  In portraying true Islam as a religion of peace, she concludes:

The vast majority of Muslims, who are horrified by the atrocity of Sept. 11, must reclaim their faith from those who have so violently hijacked it.

I have been listening to an audiobook by a Catholic popularizer of contemporary scholarship, who specializes in Islamic history, Robert Spencer. Listening to The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion has been a challenging experience. Spencer notes that while some Koranic texts do suggest that in Muhammad’s early career, the prophet did seek to promote peace, the story of his later life suggests a more complicated, and much darker story. According to Spencer, the theology of jihad, or “struggle,” was used to justify violence against Jews, Christians, and others who resisted Muhammad’s message towards the end of his prophetic career. This tradition is still appealed to today by the followers of extreme Islamic groups, such as ISIS, who are demonstrating their commitment to erase Christian believers from much of Syria and Iraq.

Karen Armstrong, who champions efforts to bring peace between different religious traditions, and who wrote her own book about the life of Muhammad, begins her review of Spencer’s book this way, “Like any book written in hatred, his new work is a depressing read. Spencer makes no attempt to explain the historical, political, economic and spiritual circumstances of 7th-century Arabia, without which it is impossible to understand the complexities of Muhammad’s life.”  Spencer, the intellectual force behind JihadWatch.org, and no stranger to visceral public debate, responds with:

“Reading this, I doubt Armstrong actually read the book. Or maybe she just wants to make sure no one else reads it.” (retrieved from jihadwatch.org).

So, which narrative is correct? Is Islam a religion of peace, or a religion of violence?

Strangely, I know many Christians who never give much thought to the study of religious history, considering the matter to be of little consequence to their daily lives. Yet I would contend that such ignorance provides little consolation to the families of those who lost loved ones during the 911 attacks, or to the millions of Syrian refugees fleeing ISIS, looking for sanctuary in Western countries in our current time.

Lurking behind this debate over Islam is the debate among Christians as to the history of violence even in the Bible. I have been studying the Book of Joshua for the past few weeks, and I am struck by the message that God gave to Joshua to drive the Canaanites out of the land, and to claim the ancient land promise given to Abraham and his descendants (see these Veracity posts on Christian Zionism). Here are some vital questions for believers today:

  • Is the Book of Joshua a justification of ethnic genocide, or was it a directive by God to execute judgment against the wickedness of the Canaanites? Would God ever command Christians to do the same today?
  • What does it mean to “trust God” in the face of evil and wickedness, and to what extent are believers to engage in combating such evil and wickedness?
  • What should be our priority, sharing our faith with non-believers, or doing what we can to prevent or restrain acts of violence?

Such questions require thoughtful consideration by Christians. The questions are complicated because people are complicated. For example, while it is surely true that Islamic extremists threaten with acts of violence, the vast majority of Muslims regard their faith as essentially peaceful. Islam is not a monolithic movement. But should our view of Islamic extremism cause us to love our Muslim friends and neighbors any less? I hope not. I hope that we as believers would make the sharing of our faith, the Good News of the Gospel, our highest priority.

Where do we go to sort out these things? For me, I have been strongly encouraged by the testimony of Nabeel Qureshi. Qureshi grew up in high school in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in a family of Muslims who belong to an Islamic sect that strongly believe Islam to be a religion of peace. Yet when Qureshi attended Old Dominion University, he met a Christian friend who challenged his understanding of Islam. After several years of friendly, yet intense, back and forth dialogue, Nabeel Qureshi became a follower of Jesus. Over the years, Qureshi has had a powerful ministry with Ravi Zacharias, encouraging other Muslims to reconsider their understanding of Islam and consider afresh the claims of Christianity. Below is a five minute clip where Qureshi addresses the tough questions (PLEASE NOTE: Nabeel Qureshi recently announced that he has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and his survival chances over the next few years is quite low. Please pray for him and his family).


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