Grace and Truth
Series 9 - Comparisons Between Islam and Christianity
III. The Consequences of the Test Report
Whoever puts his ageing car on the test block of a garage and receives a report on its condition must make a decision: sell it for its scrap value, pay the high costs of repairing and polishing it up again, or drive the car until it falls apart.
We propose, on the basis of our comparison between the Gospel and the Qur'an, leaving past concepts of religion behind and turning to a Biblical form of mission.
1. Is Islam the Only Valid Religion (Sura Al 'Imran 3:19)?
a) We must recognize that Islam was not inspired by the true God, for the Qur'an is a collection of distorted texts from the Old Testament, fragments from the New Testament and local laws and customs from Mecca and Medina. Muhammad was a searcher for God (hanif), but he was not a prophet! He could read neither Hebrew nor Greek. The Bible had not been translated into Arabic in his time. That is why he had no direct access to the Word of God. He heard only oral reports from the Talmud and the Mishnah, or Christian fables from apocryphal writings of the New Testament told by Christian slaves from Syria or Egypt. Several times Muhammad's sources of information are easy to trace.
b) We should separate ourselves from the syncretistic dream of some theologians and philosophers during the European Age of the Enlightenment, who defined Judaism, Christianity and Islam as the three monotheistic religions. Neither Jews nor Muslims are prepared to accept Christianity as a monotheistic religion as long as we believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. When we testify to them about the spiritual unity of the three persons of the Holy Trinity they smile condescendingly at this obvious effort to curry favor.
According to the first part of the Muslim confession (shihada), Islam is a monotheistic religion. But in practice, Muhammad is honored almost as much as Allah. His name is called out daily 40 times from hundreds of thousands of minarets, since it is in the second part of the Islamic creed. In some Islamic countries an insult against Allah is not punished immediately because Allah might take revenge himself. But an insult against Muhammad is punished immediately because Muhammad is dead. The exaggerated reverence for Muhammad puts Islamic monotheism into question.
We ought to bury the fairy tale about the three monotheistic religions once and for all.
c) Another error is the claim that Allah and the Father of Jesus Christ are the same. There are well-known theologians who teach that all religions honor the same supreme being, but have all given him different names. One group says “Yahweh”“, another group says “Allah“ and another group says “the Father of Jesus Christ“”. But behind these different names stands the same Creator, Lord and Judge. This claim is deceiving! There is no inter-religious God! What really exists is only the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. There is no God except the unity of the Holy Trinity.
Muslims of course believe that they are prostrating to the true and only God. But Allah in the Qur'an has nothing to do with the Father of Jesus Christ. Which Christian could accept that our Father in heaven is called “the most deceiving one“ and promises those who enter paradise “sex eternally“ after their death? Jesus states clearly: “No one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.“ (Matthew 11:27)
The apostle John testifies: “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.“ (John 1:18)
Whoever states that Allah in Islam is God the Father for the sake of general consensus divorces himself from the tenets of the Christian faith. Allah in Islam has no son. This “God“ fiercely denies the crucifixion of Christ. The spirit of Allah is considered to be only a creature, not eternal and not holy. Allah is not God, for apart from the holy Trinity there is no God.
However, the word that means “God“ for the 15 million Arabic Christians must be translated with the word Allah because there is no better word for God in Arabic. The writers of the New Testament letters previously had the same problem when they took the Greek word theos for the name of the biblical God. But they gave this name of an unknown god a new meaning and wrote: “Blessed be Theos, the Father of Jesus Christ.“ The name Allah can be used in the same way in the Arabic Bible: “Blessed be Allah, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ“ (2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3). In this expression the Christian Allah is no longer the Allah of the Qur'an. It would be a fatal error to confuse the God of the Arabic Christians with Allah of the Muslims.
But whoever insists on believing that Allah is a god ought to say along with the apostle Paul: “The god of this age [Allah] has blinded [the Muslims minds], who do not believe, lest the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.“ (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 16:8-12)
d) Muslims claim for themselves that Jibril (the angel Gabriel) engraved the verses of the Qur'an on Muhammad's heart. Muhammad himself confirmed that he heard voices. But we must clarify that the spirit which visited Muhammad was never the real angel Gabriel. The Father of Jesus Christ did not send His archangel Gabriel to Muhammad in Mecca to testify to him that He had no Son. He sent him first to Nazareth to tell the virgin Mary that the Son who would be born to her would be called the “Son of the Most High“ and would be the “Son of God“ (Luke 1:32,35). The spirit who inspired Muhammad was not Gabriel.
According to the Qur'an this spirit never identified himself by name. When Muhammad was in Mecca he did not know which spirit was inspiring him, so he gave him 29 different names and titles. Only later on in Medina did he hear from the Jews that the angel of revelation in the Old Testament was called Jibril (Gabriel). So Muhammad adopted this name for the unknown spirit that appeared to him (Sura al-Najm 53:1-18).
Moreover, the Father of Jesus Christ did not inspire Muhammad to believe that His Son Jesus did not die on the cross when He, God Himself, was “in Christ“ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). It was not the true God who spoke to Muhammad, but an unclean spirit who gave himself out to be Allah. While Muslims hold on to the fact that Muhammad was a prophet of the true God, we must testify that he was the medium of an unclean spirit and the victim of deception. The citizens of Mecca voiced a similar suspicion before they were subjugated to Islam (Suras Yunis 10:2; al-Hijr 15:15; al-Isra' 17:49; al-Furqan 25:8; al-Saffat 37:36; Sad 38:4; al-Dukhan 44:15; al-Tur 52:29-30; al-Qalam 68:2; al-Haqqa 69:42-43; al-Takwir 81:22,25). The “Satanic Verses“ (which were not invented by Salman Rushdi) have been in the Qur'an since the beginning (Sura al-Najm 53:10-22). They appear, strangely enough, after a report on the appearing of the spirit of revelation that inspired Muhammad. According to Muhammad himself, these verses were inspired by Satan and he later rejected them (Sura al-Hajj 22:52-53). He claimed that all prophets were tempted by Satan. But Allah wiped out such demonic inspirations later through better revelations of his own. However, according to the laws of the Old Testament Muhammad should have been killed immediately after making these false prophecies (Leviticus 20:27; Deuteronomy 18:9-13,20; Jeremiah 14:13-15). He was not able to distinguish Satan's voice from God's voice. But if Muhammad was once unable to distinguish God's revelations from the whisperings of Satan, then it is possible that there are many more verses in the Qur'an of satanic origin. The Sura of the demons (jinn), 72:1-15, portrays this kind of revelation in a sermon of the spirits who had accepted Islam and become Muslims. According to the teachings of Islam, not only people but also spirits are Muslims. According to Sura al-Ahqaf 46:29-32, they influenced people in the areas they control, to keep them from resisting Islam.
Whoever wants to evangelize Muslims must recognize what the apostle Paul wrote 1,950 years ago to the congregation in Ephesus: “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might... For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.“ (Ephesians 6:10,12)
Whoever thinks that he need not take this exhortation of the apostle Paul to heart ought not to be surprised when he and his team suffer physically, emotionally and spiritually in their work.
Summary: We testify to the fact that it is an error to believe the humanistic fable of the past, that Islam is a real religion of God. Moreover Islam is a temptation for everyone and a Satanic power of the highest level that can neither be defeated rationally nor by means of good planning. All Christians should repent and put off the ideas of syncretism, and return to biblical realities and powers.
Someone might object that Islam is a world religion with great power and is followed by 1.3 billion people. To this we say, the more grains of truth there are in a lie, the stronger the lie becomes. But its basic principle is destructive. Islam contains a number of Biblical ideas from the Old and the New Testaments, which make up about two-thirds of the Qur'an. But the basic principle of Islam is the permanent rejection of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
With that, the spirit which revealed Islam falls under the verdict that Paul wrote to the Galatians: “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.“ (Galatians 1:8)
The spirit that inspired Muhammad 600 years after Christ's death did not confirm the Gospel and was not ready to submit to the lordship of the risen Jesus. Muhammad brought about the return to a religion under a law that is built on justification by works and thus falls under the judgement of God. But with this knowledge, we should state clearly that no individual Muslim, but only the Spirit that revealed Islam, was cursed by Paul.
2. How Can we Evangelize Muslims Today?
a) Whoever has recognized that Islam is an occult power should first put himself, his family and his co-workers under the cover of the blood of Jesus.
No one is worthy or capable of doing mission work among Muslims in his own strength. We are not better than they are as far as our own nature is concerned. We ought to put ourselves on the same level with the Muslims and not try to convert them in a patronizing way. We did not establish what has been given to us out of the grace of God. From our Lord Jesus Christ, we receive the right and the power to do missionary work only out of humility and repentance.
When servants of the Lord stood before an insurmountable task they said, “Brothers, let us first repent, confess all our known sins and errors before the Lord, and compensate as far as it is possible for the evil we have done.“ Then we ought to come together daily or as often as possible for prayer and ask for victory, power and fruit in the name of Jesus. His forgiveness for us as a team follows when we humble ourselves and forgive everyone everything when there are quarrels or hatred among co-workers of a mission or a congregation. We should do everything possible with the help of Jesus to keep peace in the team, the family and the church. If we do not pray continually that the Holy Spirit would break us, purify and sanctify us first, we ought not to begin working among Muslims. The statement of Martin Luther that the life of a Christian should be a continuous repentance is especially relevant when evangelizing Muslims. The Lord Jesus can only work through us when we are broken.
b) When we come together regularly for prayer we have the privilege of asking humbly for the leading of the Holy Spirit for all our thoughts, plans and work (Romans 8:14-15). Believing in the leading of the spirit in every detail is more important than all planning, donations or writing of books. Mission work can never be our effort, but the work of God. At best we are his helpers and apprentices.
c) We have found it helpful to ask the Lord for contact with Muslims whose hearts were open to the Gospel. About five percent of all Muslims are frustrated with Islam because they see the gap between words and actions in their culture. Many have studied the Qur'an with its contradictions and inhuman attitudes and have begun to question what they find. Countless Muslims have said, “If Islam looks like what Khomeini propagated, or what the fundamentalists are doing in Algeria and Egypt, then we don't want to be Muslims anymore!”“ Khomeini was, however, probably one of the most honest Muslims, for he lived what the Qur'an teaches. Thousands of Muslims in and outside of Iran have become Christians as a reaction to Khomeini's fundamentalism. So let us pray for open eyes to recognize those Muslims who are searching for a better religion.
d) Of course, we cannot talk non-stop to an enquirer. We should not try to convert him quickly. We must learn to listen and ask him where he comes from and what he thinks and feels. It is not difficult to discuss such subjects as heaven and hell, Abraham and Moses, God and Christ with enquirers as long as we do not try to prove the deity of Jesus and His crucifixion to them. We must first gauge their thoughts and the level of their spiritual awareness. We should learn to listen to the Muslim's heart.
e) When we have recognized their inner condition we should ask God for the right words for this individual, rather than presenting our prepared formulas to them. Listening to the Father of Jesus Christ in our hearts is decisive in evangelistic talks, and prayer for the right words gives authority, strength and wisdom.
Often a factual testimony of what Jesus has done for us is a basis for further talks. Sometimes Psalm 51 can lead to a deep recognition of sin in a Muslims life. Isaiah 53:4-12 helps to explain the substitutionary death of Christ without mentioning the Son of God and the cross too early in the conversation. John 1:29 can point to the Lamb of God, which is even foreshadowed as the great substitutionary sacrifice in Sura al-Saffat 37:103-107, when the son of Abraham was not accepted as a sacrifice.
John 17:3 makes it possible for a Muslim to approach the Trinity and the secret of eternal life, while the appearance of Jesus on Patmos testifies to the glory of the risen Son of man (Revelation 1:12-18). Since the Muslim generally thinks within the framework of the law, the story about Jesus and the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11) has already pushed many to repent. Loving one's enemies instead of avenging oneself overcomes the Muslim attitude about the law (Matthew 5:44) while the beatitudes create hope and comfort for them (Matthew 5:3-12).
It is essential to let them learn these passages by heart, for with many Muslims the thoughts flow from the heart to the head and not the other way around. We must adjust and change our way of thinking to theirs.
f) In his explanation to the third article of the Apostles' Creed Martin Luther also gave the key to mission among Muslims. We see the reality of divine inspiration in his words: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith...“
Putting pressure on an enquirer does not work! Just as the Holy Spirit brooded over the chaos at the beginning of creation until God said, “Let there be light“, so we must ask the Holy Spirit to hover over the individual Muslim at this early stage, until Jesus can say, “Let there be light! And there was light“ (Genesis 1:2,3; John 1:12; 8:34,36; 10:27-30).
g) Experience has taught that every worker among Muslims must learn to answer three objections in a wise way:
h) Anyone who talks to Muslims will quickly notice his own lack of understanding and knowledge about their culture and religion. It would be wrong to evangelize a Muslim like an atheist or a nominal Christian. He has other thought patterns, other values and other bridges to faith. It is often the case with him: “Taste and see that the LORD is good!“ (Psalm 34:9), which means hospitality, inviting them for meals and having fellowship with them.
Whoever as an individual or a congregation wants to acquaint Muslims with the Gospel should invest in a selection of books, cassettes and video cassettes, if possible in various languages, so that Muslims can read the Gospel and helpful books in their mother tongue. There is a large and good selection available.
i) When a church association or church district has heard and accepted the call of Jesus to evangelize Muslims and want to obey it, they ought to engage an experienced convert as an evangelist, as pastor or counselor, either part-time or full-time. If he does not have the training yet, he should be sent to a Bible school to get it. Westerners will never understand Muslims completely, even if we live together with them for years, and love and respect them.
Church associations ought to have a budget for mission work among Muslims in their own area. This investment pays for itself through the spiritual vitality it brings to their praying members. Congregations that give 50-60% of their offerings for missions, not for missionary societies, but for individual missionaries who are sent out by these congregations are full of life and action. Maybe we ought to change our budgets under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
3. Do we Really Want to Evangelize Muslims?
Emotions cool quickly; enthusiasm does not hold for long. When Jesus Christ has called, the Holy Spirit begins to mobilize the heart and the will of the chosen one. Where there is a will, there is a way. So we ask again: Have you really been called to do mission work among Muslims? Put this decision in the hands of Jesus so that He will cause it to bear fruit, so that He can guide you from beginning to end. Then setbacks, disappointments, mistakes and opposition will take second place. Only the command of Jesus is valid: go to your Muslim neighbors, colleagues or school friends, pray for them, greet them, ask the Lord for contacts and for wisdom. Search for believers with the same mind and ask Jesus, above all, for a prayer group that will lift you up. The missionary at home or abroad whom the Lord has given loyal prayer partners lasts the longest. He will receive the most fruit and the necessary wisdom and imagination.
If we do not do mission work among the Muslims, they will do it among us! The responsible leaders of the Islamic centers in Christian countries have realized that many Muslim workers and students are a potential for proselytizing the liberal and evangelical Christians in their own country. Mixed marriages have proven to be one of the most effective Islamic missionary method. In some Christian countries, more than two-thirds of the converts to Islam are former Christian marriage partners, who converted to Islam out of love for their spouse. Is this not a call to repentance for those of us who lead congregations?
World Islam grows mainly through a birth surplus. After Muhammad lost about 70 Muslims in the Battle of Uhud he had to find a way of taking care of their widows and orphans. So he urged his warriors: “Marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four; but if you fear you will not be equitable, then only one“ (Sura al-Nisa' 4:3). His Muslims followed this “revelation“ enthusiastically and still hold tightly to this privilege.
Since modern concepts of hygiene and medicine entered Islamic countries in the middle of the twentieth century, the birth surplus has increased proportionally so that the Muslim population today doubles every 27 years. Christians, in spite of tremendous missionary revivals in China, Indonesia, East and West Africa, only double every 54 years, because on average they have only few children.
Today there are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. If Jesus does not come soon, this figure will double in 27 years. An additional 30 million Muslims are born every year. The problems with foreign students and workers in Europe and the USA are only the forerunners of a growing wave of immigrants that is rolling toward us. It is a matter of wisdom and self-protection for the congregations in Christian countries to prepare themselves for theological, social and missionary contacts with Islam. Time is running out. A famous pastor in Germany has written a book entitled Missions or Death! The title appears to be radical but contains deep wisdom and truth.
In the cathedral of Braunschweig, Germany, there is an outsized, seven-armed candelabra from the time of the first European emperors over 1,000 years ago. This candelabra has outlived many wars, times of blessing, godlessness and revivals. The Protestant Reformation and Pietism passed under its thick candles. This candelabra is a sign of the patience of Jesus Christ with the European Christians. He has not yet taken their lamp stand away (Revelations 2:4,5). But the Lord threatened the active church in Ephesus that He would take their lamp stand away soon if they did not repent and return to the works of first love!
The mission field has come to our Christian countries. Muslims are living at our front door. Are we listening to the call of Jesus Christ to search for the Muslims or are we continuing to revolve around ourselves in our congregational roundabouts and routines?
Prepare the way of the Lord