Monday, February 1, 2016

The Challenge of the God vs Allah Debate: Need to Go Deeper!

It seems that the 'God vs. Allah' debate is not losing any of steam, now more than 6 weeks old. That may be a good thing, if the results of this debate bears lasting Kingdom fruit. For that to happen however we will need to think deeper about why this question is important. 

What I have noticed is that many of those who are of the “No” (totally different Gods) camp support their argument on some favorite Bible verses. One of the favorites being used is John 14:6, as one commenter from my post last week kindly offered: 

 “Jesus said I AM THE WAY I AM THE TRUTH..NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THRU ME. ANYTHING other than that is false teaching (ISLAM) and you being a supporter of that faith makes you one as well.”

Of course Jesus is the way, the truth and life! Amen! And Halleluiah! 

Yes, no one comes to the Father except through the Son!  Amen!

But is that really all there is to this argument? A simple "No" suffices here. We’re dealing with a complex reality in the answer to this core question because we are dealing with real people’s lives not theological constructs. Therefore, the answer to this debate is not as simple as many would like it to be. We need to go deeper.

To rest this debate on one verse, or some others that speak of Jesus’ divinity and soteriological uniqueness is lacking in depth. No Christian leader or thinker dealing with the core question, at least that I have read, is arguing that Jesus is not the only way to the Father or is not God incarnate.None are suggesting that Muslims do not need to come to faith in Christ. No one in the “Yes and No” or “No and Yes” camp is suggesting a multi-faith path of salvation.

The “No” arguments tend to miss the deeper points of this debate, and its importance, as does my new 'fan' above. That is the problem. 

The argument being offered by the “No” camp is like thinking that all there is to math is arithmetic. Nothing changes the basic truth that 2+2 = 4, although proponents of Common Core may disagree. But that is a rudimentary lesson and we need to move on to deeper ideas like Trig and Calculus before completing our education. 

Nothing changes the biblical truth that Jesus is Lord and God. That’s a basic lesson of Christianity 101, even IF Muslims and Christians ‘worship’ the same God though understood differently. We, as Christians, understand this truth however only by the revelation of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3), repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10) and confession (Romans 10:9-10). 

Muslims are ignorant of the truth of Christ as God, crucified and resurrected, or deny it because they lack this revelation. The revelation that Jesus is the way, the truth and life is the Good News and a great gift. Muslims do not have a proper perception of God because they have not received the Holy Spirit to enlighten their understanding.

We must move on to deeper ideas (Hebrews 6:1) for the sake of Christ’s global glory. 

Simplistic argument also do not change the fact that God has and is revealing himself in general revelation (i.e. nature) to all mankind and requires a response to what is known (Romans 2:15). But no one can rightly respond to something we are ignorant of (Romans 10:14-15). The Gospel is the power unto salvation as it removes the blinders, by the power of the Spirit, to whom Christ is for all peoples. 

The "Nos" also do not address the real world experience of many Muslims, not all, who have come to faith in Christ who believe they did not change Gods but now understand God more fully. Our perception of God doesn’t make God who he is, otherwise God is simply a human idea. God is the great “I am” unchanged by our ideas about him. We only come to understand more fully who God is as he works in our lives and reveals himself more deeply.

Here are a few things that may help in going deeper in understanding this question beyond a few favorite Bible verses:

1)  Be a learner: Learn to live as a 'World Christian.' Doing so helps you to see the world as God sees it. The best way I know to become a 'World Christian' is to take the Perspectives Study Program. There is not a more robust study available today to inform your thinking about the Mission of God in the world and your place in it.  Being a Jesus follower is about being a learner.

2) Be a story-teller: Start with God as Creator. It does make a difference in how we understand our world and our story. Click here for a video that is widely used in Muslim evangelism, as it starts with a common bond.   The Gospel is not a formula for salvation but the greatest story ever told and it starts in the beginning. Learn this story so you can share it. 

3) Be an intercessor: Pray for the Unengaged and Unreached People Groups of the world, many of whom are Muslims and for the Gospel to penetrate the darkness where it has not yet reached. Jesus is not only the way of salvation but the truth and the life for all peoples.  Billions still live without this knowledge. Learn more and join the movement toward Finishing the Task 

4) Be a Friend: Talk with a Muslim. Don't assume that you know what a Muslim believes because you have some knowledge of Islam. Like Christianity there are some core tenets, five pillars of Islam, but like Christianity there is also great diversity in what is understood by Muslims. Muslims, even in the U.S. may have no relationship with a Christian, statistically few do, so they probably don't know what you believe either. Love compels to relationship and an effective witness. 

And, learn to appreciate that God, even as he has provided only one way of salvation, has also created rich cultural diversity. Muslims understand their story differently and have a much different worldview, which gives rise to different beliefs and cultural understanding. Muslims need a proper understanding of Jesus, not more barriers. 

The debate isn’t really about whether Islam is a 'false religion.' All religion is man-made and therefore erroneous. Islam has both elements of truth (some similar attributes of God including a shared creation account, plus some right ideas about Jesus) and much falsehood, as do all religions. Islam lacks the revelation, Light, of Jesus and therefore Muslims live in darkness and we should not expect the darkness to be anything but dark. But the Light shines in the darkness and God is already working there.

It is informative that those who actually have ministry to Muslims, like the Zwemer Institute and Global Gates, along with experienced missiologists, are on one side of this debate. What can their experience teach us? 

Finally, this debate should lead us to consider our own hearts for the least, last and lost. Are we willing to sacrifice our presuppositions, at least, so that more people, of very different cultures, are reached for Christ? The Apostle Paul did when he said: 
“I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:22-23)
Now that’s deep! 

We need many more Christians going deeper, filled with the love of Christ, properly trained to share the Good News in a culturally relevant way, praying for and reaching the millions of Muslims now calling the U.S. home and the nearly two billion globally. 

May that be the result of this debate, for Living Sent Today! 

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