The Long and Winding Road

Posted: 16 May 2011 in Ramblings

How should Christians approach Islam?  This is an interesting question, perhaps the most poignant question of the 21st century.  With the new century beginning with possibly the single biggest event to be framed by the two religious groups, people have been looking for ways to  answer this question in such a way to curtail the violence which has been prevalent since the fourth century.  There are many facets to the issue and no true ‘easy’ answer.  Perhaps the best place to begin the topic is to ask what should the Christians do before approaching Islam?  That question can be answered with more succinct points such as:  First, Christians which choose to be involved in the ambassadorship must become very familiar with their own faith; second, they must take an academic approach to what Islam believes based on the Qur’an; third, they must take a painfully slow approach to open dialogue with those who call themselves Muslims.  Only after these starting points are fully developed and carried out should Christians attempt to approach those who follow Islam.  Relations with Muslims will only be harmed if Christianity makes a full-force, frontal attack to ‘convert’ those who have chosen to follow Muhammad.

The first step is absolutely necessary.  Christian laity typically has such a remedial understanding of the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God that they tend to be over simplistic or even rude to those who don’t understand.  The ‘kill them all and let God sort them out’ is inappropriate for approaching Muslims, but so is listening to some of today’s so called scholars when it comes to Christian-Muslim relations.  When people such as Jesuit Father Thomas Michel make comments such as “… what religion is about … is the way we relate to God… what does God want and how does God want us to act to others?”[i]  Here Father Michel is suggesting that the god of Islam and the God of Christianity have the same desires in human relations.  This could not be farther from the truth.  Our Christian God, teaching through His Son instructs Christians to “…love one another as I have loved you…” (John 13:14)[ii] Yet, Islam teaches that their god instructed them to “…kill the idolaters wherever you may find them; and take them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in every place…” (Qur’an 5:9)[iii]  These two primary tenets of faith, considering their opposing goals, do not appear to allow for the followers of Islam to calmly sit down and agree that their gods desire for them to live in harmony amongst Christians.  Thus, the teachers of the Christian faith must first leave all geopolitical goals behind and focus on teaching the Holy Will of God.  Until they do this, proper education of the Christian laity will not occur in their endeavor to have dialog with Muslims.

After those who follow Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, have come into a greatly improved understanding of the teachings of their faith, then and ONLY then will they be ready to learn of the doctrines of Islam as delivered through the Qur’an.  Yet, this can offer difficulty when considering that those teachings are muddled due to geopolitical forces which cause incorrect translations of their divine text.  A single example is offered here in reference to the previously quoted Qur’anic text.  Just compare that quote of Sura 5:9 with the following:  “…you may kill the idol worshipers when you encounter them, punish them, and resist every move they make.”[iv]  Just the simple relocation of the word “may” has changed the definitive action which Muslims should act upon when they encounter the “idol worshipers” or infidels.  This one point is enough to demonstrate that Christians must be selective in choosing scholars to teach them of Islam.  The selection is of utmost importance and only secondary to those who are to teach them of the proper Christian understanding.  Christians should select their educators of Muslim beliefs in such a way to assure a correct understanding rather than receive a ‘kinder – gentler’ view of Islam.

Only after Christians recognize the doctrine of their own faith and that of Islam are they prepared to begin dialog with Muslims.  In this last step, great endeavor must be made for them to be able to communicate the differences after there are relationships to be built on.  If a ‘door-to-door evangelism’ is the intent, the Christian is doomed from the outset, for these methods are confrontational to say the least and most recoil from them.  Building friendships with those who follow Islam is important so that communication avenues can be developed in a non-confrontational way.  That is, relying on the teachings of Matthew 28, “…go into all the world…” and remembering the previously quoted John 14 text will greatly assist the Christian when they seek to have dialog with their Muslim neighbors.  The best way to do this is with the intention to ultimately speak the Gospel to them in such a way to not be threatening or argumentative.

The best way for Christianity to approach Muslims is to view it as a long and winding road.  This writing has been to briefly illustrate the important steps that must be taken as Christianity extends itself into communication with and ministry to those who follow the Muslim tradition.  The only commonality which the two faiths truly have is that they both teach their followers to convert those who don’t believe properly.  Christians can not communicate what they believe unless they know what they believe.  They can not apologetically discuss with those of other faiths unless they know the teachings of those other faiths.  These understandings are of absolute importance, yet only useful if followed with an equally important, intentional, slow, methodical approach to those in the Muslim faith.  If these three points are expanded upon, then and only then can Christianity approach Islam with a hope to open communications which will allow the Holy Spirit to work upon the hearts of Muslims and bring them to understand that Jesus is the Son of the Living God and the One who has paid for all their sin.

 Sola Dei Gloria

[i] Josh Walsh, “What Next for Muslim-Christian Relations?”, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, (May-June 2008): 68.

[ii] The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001.

[iii] The Qur’an, translated by E.H. Palmer, Oxford University Press, London, 1900, 1942.

[iv] The Qur’an, translated by Dr. Rashad Khalifa, Sura 9:5,

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