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Realism About Islam

As Christians emphasize compassionate help for refugees, we must also speak truth about Muslim history and theology.

Muhammad didn’t just use peaceful persuasion. He fought in 70 military clashes, according to Muslim tradition. By the time of his death in 632, Muhammad was in control of Mecca, and Arabia’s tribes were united and powerful. Within a century, Muslim power had spread across the Middle East, much of Asia, North Africa, and Spain. This did not happen through pure missionary persuasion but occurred mainly through military conquest. Muslim warriors who died in battle were promised that they would go to the top level of heaven. Those who survived and triumphed in battle could divide captured goods, including prisoners of war who became their property and slaves.

To this day, in orthodox Islam, the goal is the worldwide rule of Islamic law (sharia). Muslims have a duty to continue the struggle (jihad) until all resistance has been overcome. Not all Muslims feel this way. Some prefer peace, prosperity, and freedom, not holy war. They emphasize a text in the Koran that says there must be no compulsion in religion, and they prefer to interpret jihad as spiritual struggle to overcome one’s own faults, not to take over the world by military force. Such Muslims are less aggressive than more zealous literalists. Still, the teaching of the Koran, the example of Muhammad, the actions of Muslim armies in the century following Muhammad, and commentaries by early Islamic scholars show that the main meaning of jihad is armed struggle.

Muslim tradition divides the world in two: the House of Islam and the House of War. In the House of Islam, Muslim governments enforce Muslim law. The rest of the world, with non-Muslim governments and mainly non-Muslim populations, is the House of War. In the House of War, Muslims must continue the struggle to overcome resistance and set up Muslim governance. Temporary truces may be allowable if Muslims don’t yet have the numbers and strength to prevail; but where there is opportunity to gain ground, jihad must continue. The duty of jihad, holy war, will cease only when the whole world is in the House of Islam, and the House of War no longer exists. Some less strict Muslims, and some politicians, claim that Islam is a religion of peace. But ever since Muhammad, the peace offered by orthodox Islam is the peace of surrender and compliance with Muslim power.

Bernard Lewis, a leading expert on the Middle East, identified three different Muslim attitudes toward the West:
1. “Some of them still see the West in general and its present leader the United States in particular as the ancient and irreconcilable enemy of Islam…For these there is no way but war to the death.”
2. Others see merits in modern Western society. “These, while retaining their own beliefs and their own culture, seek to join us in reaching toward a freer and better world.”
3. “There are some again who, while seeing the West as their ultimate enemy and as the source of all evil, are nevertheless aware of its power, and seek some contemporary accommodation in order better to prepare for the final struggle. We would be wise not to confuse the second and the third.” (Lewis, What Went Wrong: The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East, p. 28).

A Pew poll confirms other polling which finds that “overwhelming percentages of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (sharia) to be the official law of the land.” As David Harsanyi points out, "The losers of civil war are victims, but that doesn’t mean they have liberal values. When the Arab world has been granted the right to vote, it almost always backs religious extremism. It votes for Hamas and for the Muslim Brotherhood."

This does not mean that every Muslim you meet is just waiting for an opportunity to make war and seize control. Many Muslims are kind people and excellent neighbors. All are fellow humans, made in God’s image. Some Muslims in North America feel hurt by racial prejudice and contempt from others. Those of us who are Christians are called to love our neighbors and to share with them the hope that God has given us in Christ.

At the same time, we should not be ignorant about the teaching and example of Muhammad, and we should not be naïve about the desire of a sizable number of zealous Muslims today. Those who are most eager to be guided by the words of the Koran and the actions of Muhammad will not rest content until Islamic law governs the world.

Accurate Teaching Without God's Presence

Biblical orthodoxy is necessary but not sufficient.
Here are words from A. W. Tozer, written more than sixty years ago, that are worth pondering today:
   There is today no lack of Bible teachers to set forth correctly the principles of the doctrines of Christ, but too many of these seem satisfied to teach the fundamentals of the faith year after year, strangely unaware that there is in their ministry no manifest Presence, nor anything unusual in their personal lives. They minister constantly to believers who feel within their breasts a longing which their teaching simply does not satisfy....
   Sound Bible exposition is an imperative must in the Church of the Living God. Without it no church can be a New Testament church. But exposition may be carried on in such a way as to leave the hearers devoid of any true spiritual nourishment whatever. For it is not mere words that nourish the soul, but God Himself, and unless and until the hearers find God in personal experience they are not the better for having heard the truth. The Bible is not an end in itself, but a means to bring men to an intimate and satisfying knowledge of God, that they may enter into Him, that they may delight in His Presence, may taste and know the inner sweetness of the very God Himself in the core and center of their hearts…
   The scribe tells us what he has read, and the prophet tells us what he has seen… Between the scribe who has read and the prophet who has seen there is a difference as wide as the sea. We are overrun today with orthodox scribes, but the prophets, where are they? The hard voice of the scribe sounds over evangelicalism, but the church waits for the tender voice of the saint who has penetrated the veil and has gazed with inward eye on the wonder that is God. (A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 1948)

Alzheimer's and Pat Robertson

I knew a woman with Alzheimer's whose mind degenerated so far that sometimes all she could do was repeat over and over, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding." Her nurse heard those biblical words repeated so often that she took them as God's message to her and put her faith in Christ. That nurse was literally saved through the testimony of an Alzheimer's patient who could not recognize her own children.

Recently TV evangelist Pat Robertson said that it would be okay to divorce a spouse afflicted by Alzheimer's and marry someone else. Here's an excellent response to Robertson's ungodly advice.

Soul Winning and Sound Doctrine

Earlier I posted an excerpt from The Soul Winner, written in the late 1800s, in which Charles Spurgeon warned against the danger of prizing doctrinal precision without striving to win souls. Yet Spurgeon also emphasized that if we are to win souls, then we must hold sound doctrine and preach the true gospel. Here's a snippet: "If they will be faithful reporters of Christ's message, He will make them 'fishers of men.' But you know the boastful method, nowadays, is this: 'I am not going to preach this old, old gospel, this musty Puritan doctrine. I will sit down in my study, and burn the midnight oil, and invent a new theory; then I will come out with my brand-new thought, and blaze away with it.' Many are not following Christ, but following themselves, and of them the Lord may well say, 'Thou shalt see whose word shall stand, Mine or theirs.'  ... Certain things not taught in the Bible our enlightened age has discovered. Evolution may be clean contrary to the teaching of Genesis, but that does not matter. We are not going to be believers of Scripture, but original thinkers. This is the vain-glorious ambition of the period. Mark you, in proportion as the modern theology is preached, the vice of this generation increases. To a great degree, I attribute the looseness of the age to the laxity of the doctrine preached by its teachers. From the pulpit they have taught that sin is a trifle. From the pulpit these traitors to God and to His Christ have taught the people that there is no hell to be feared... They have given the people the name of the gospel, but the gospel itself has evaporated in their hands."

soul winning

I've been re-reading Charles Spurgeon's The Soul Winner, written in the late 1800s. Spurgeon urges those who are not winning souls not to criticize others who are winning souls, not “to go about the churches, doing nothing yourself, and railing at the Lord’s useful servants." He speaks of those who specialize in matching Bible prophecies with headlines but neglect soul winning: "Here is another who has spent all his time in interpreting the prophecies, so that everything he read of in the newspapers he could see in Daniel and Revelation. He is wise, so some say, but I had rather spend my time in winning souls. I would sooner bring one sinner to Jesus Christ than unpick all the mysteries of the divine Word.” Spurgeon warns not to be satisfied with holding orthodox beliefs and contending against errors: “It is comparatively a small matter for a minister to have been a staunch upholder of orthodoxy all his days, and to have spent himself in keeping up the hedges of his church; soul-winning is the main concern. It is a very good thing to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; but I do not think I should like to say in my last account, ‘Lord, I have lived to fight the Romanists and the State Church, and to put down the various erroneous sects, but I never led a sinner to the cross.’ No, we will fight the good fight of faith, but the winning of souls is the greater matter, and he who attends to it is wise.”

2012. Family of Faith
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