Mr. Kalsbeek is a teacher in Covenant Christian High School and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan. Previous article in this series: October 1, 2006, p. 13.
“And the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.”
The One Power that Will Conquer Islam
Regardless of the outcome of the present conflict between Islam and the West, even the death of the West would not result in the death of Christianity. However, the West’s decadence and decline does pose a serious problem for those who would seek to bring the gospel to Muslims. Thanks to modern transportation and communication, believers in Islam know firsthand the decadence of the West, and they equate Christianity with Western culture. As Madany concludes:
The credibility of the Christian’s missionary endeavors, at home within a pluralistic society, and overseas, depends on their distancing themselves from the norms and the lifestyles of the secular societies that surround them. Unless Christians lead lives which are concretely different from the lifestyles of the secularized citizenry, no Muslim will consider seriously what Christianity has to offer. We have so much to learn from the history of the first three hundred years of the Christian era when to be a Christian meant both a marked separation from the corrupt heathen environment and, at the same time, engaging it with bold Christian word-and-life testimony: Jesus is Lord.¹ (Madany’s emphasis)
This matter of distancing oneself from the decadent society of which he is a part will also be necessary for those who come into contact with Muslims on a daily basis. Numerous authorities consulted confirm this, including the former Muslim interviewed in an earlier article for the Standard Bearer (September 1, 2006).
But how must we approach a Muslim with the gospel? Our former interviewee and others, including Bassam Madany, stress the importance of doing so uncompromisingly. They emphasize the necessity of going forward in the power of the Holy Spirit. Madany presents the following observations concerning how to present the gospel to a Muslim:
1. No Christian who goes to the Muslims with the aim of converting them to the Christian faith may entertain any doubts about the reliability or infallibility of the Bible. We have noticed more than once that Muslims charge us with having corrupted the Bible. They claim that what we have is not the authentic Scriptures. The conviction that the Bible is the Word of God with final authority in all areas of life comes from the Holy Spirit. It is a faith commitment (Belgic Confession, Article 5).
2. No Christian may go to the Muslims unprepared or half-prepared in his knowledge of the Scriptures. This implies the necessity of an adequate acquaintance with the Bible, its background and most importantly, its rightful interpretation.
3. By rightful interpretation I mean specifically the use of the Bible in order to preach Jesus the Messiah. In other words, I am referring to the necessity of a Christcentered Bible exposition. We must be on our guard, especially when dealing with the Old Testament books, lest we approach them as if they can be understood without taking the person and work of Christ into consideration. Christ is our Savior, Redeemer, Liberator and Emancipator from the awful power of sin and evil. This is our testimony. We must never be ashamed of this good news. But we must be equally aware that, according to the Biblical testimony, the proclaimed Word of God—the preaching of Christ as Savior and Lord, this word of faith—is God’s instrument of Salvation….
4. In our work of missions among Muslims, as in any other work, we are never on our own. The Holy Spirit blesses the faithful testimony based on His word and uses it to bring about the radical change in the heart of the Muslim. We must have faith in the Holy Spirit as the primary agent in missions. This gives us courage and patience, as well as a proper understanding of our own role in missions.
5. Finally, we must realize that God has been, is and shall always be, more concerned about Muslims and others than any one of us can ever be. Christian missions belong to God, not to us. It is our privilege to be involved in them. Our great concern should therefore be our faithfulness to the message … and our willingness to lovingly and patiently present it to the Muslims of today.²
The Reverend Samuel Zwemer, the great missionary to the Muslim world for more than fifty years, called mission work among Muslims “the glory of the impossible.” He called it that because Muhammad vetoed the heart of the Christian message in the Qur’an. Therefore “Muslims still veto the cross, even though the rest of mankind, regardless of their religious commitment, acknowledges the historicity of that event!”³
Yet all things are possible with God. And though the nominal church world of our day has swallowed the Devil’s multicultural lie that erases (or at least blurs) religious differences and in the process rejects the need for mission work among those of other religious faiths, we must repudiate these pluralistic theologies. The Lord’s parting command continues to echo throughout the ages: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are my witnesses of these things (Luke 24:46-48).”
Some specific recommendations concerning how, and how not to fulfill Christ’s commission in our approach to Muslims are presented by Dr. Madany in his book The Bible and Islam: Sharing God’s Word with a Muslim. An extensive quote from chapter six of that book follows:
How am I going to relate the Gospel to a people who have been formed by a thoroughly anti-Christian theology? There are several possibilities that are available to us. Since we are not pioneering the Christian mission to Islam, we can simply go back to the past, and especially to the last two hundred years, and seek to re-use and up-date the approaches and methods of the pioneers.
For example, we may begin with an attempt to prove the authenticity, veracity, and reliability of the Christian Scriptures. We believe, of course, that history is on our side and that a Muslim will have a very hard time proving that we no longer possess the authentic Bible. Nevertheless, this approach has serious shortcomings, for while the Christian holds to the above-mentioned qualities of the Bible, he cannot “prove” them to a Muslim. The latter has been conditioned to think differently about the subject. No amount of historical evidence will convince him. Furthermore, if he has received a Western education, he has most likely become aware of the devastating types of Biblical criticism that have emerged among liberal Western Christians. The educated Muslim does not hesitate to make full use of higher criticism in his own critique of the Bible….
How are we to proclaim the gospel to the Muslim of today? If we cannot successfully engage in apologetics and in polemics with respect to the Bible, should we shift the ground to the doctrine of God? Or, should we rather concentrate on the doctrine of the person and work of Jesus Christ? Here again, we go back to the Bible and read it according to the authentic Christian tradition: the tradition of the early ecumenical creeds and the Reformation confessions of faith and catechisms. We proclaim a Trinitarian God and we preach a Divine-human Messiah. The Muslims’ retort is immediate. They tell us that we have committed the worst sin: the sin of “shirk.” We have become polytheists. Unless we adopt Islam, we are on the way to hell.
By asking these questions, I am not trying to say that we have to reduce the gospel to some bare minimum of bland theism in order to make it acceptable to the Muslims today. The gospel is not negotiable. There is only one gospel: the gospel of God, the gospel of Christ, the gospel of the Bible…. The whole Gospel must be proclaimed to the Muslims otherwise we have not brought it to them. We cannot keep anything back. Everything that is part and parcel of the Christian faith must be brought to the followers of Islam.
The reason behind these questions is that we must come to understand not so much the content of the preaching of the Christian message to Muslims, (for we have already concluded that the whole Gospel must be presented) but the method of proclamation. By method, I do not mean the actual technique, be it conventional missionary ways or in radio and literature missions. My questions do not relate to techniques but to the approach that must underlie any technique or method.
The right answer resides in the word “today.” I have been emphasizing “today” throughout this chapter because Muslims no longer live in an isolated or insulated world. Slowly but steadily, they are coming under the impact of Western secularism. As this anti-theistic worldview works within the Muslim world, individuals find themselves challenged to the very root of their existence. How do they react to the propagandists of neo-paganism?
The believing Muslim is very offended by any work that challenges the basis of his faith. He responds by re-stating the case for Islam along traditional lines. However, he fails to realize that the process of Westernization, through the educational systems that had been left by the colonial powers, has exposed a certain section of the population to the anti- Islamic teachings. Then, about a quarter of a century later, Salman Rushdie, a secularized Muslim from Bombay, India, wrote “The Satanic Verses.” His implied criticisms of the family of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, earned him a fatwa from Ayatollah Khomeini that shocked people all over the world. That legal decision of the father of the Islamic Republic of Iran authorized any Muslim to kill a renegade author who dared to write such a negative book about a subject considered as very sacred in Islam.
So, when we come to consider our present-day opportunities to bring the Gospel to Muslims, we must be fully aware of what is going on in their lands. How should we address them with a message that is utterly important for them in this life, and for the hereafter?
In presenting the claims of the Christian faith to the Muslims of our world, we should sympathetically and irenically point to one of the most glaring short-comings of Islam: the doctrine of man. In Islam, the doctrine of man lacks the realism of the Christian doctrine of man….
Islam has an optimistic view of man. This faulty anthropology precludes the necessity of redemption and fortifies the Muslim against the biblical teaching of redemption through the work of the Messiah on the cross of Golgotha….
In other words, the Muslim view of man and the Muslim understanding of the nature of the fall do not leave any room for a Divine Savior. Such a Savior is not needed, since man needs only to know in order to do the will of Allah.
Islam has never recognized realistically the consequences of man’s rebellion against God. While admitting the fall of Adam as an historical event, Islam lacks that Biblical realism that makes us acknowledge the seriousness of man’s sinfulness as well as the necessity of the redemption from without. Islam readily admits the sins and shortcomings of man, but does not admit the sinfulness, i.e., the indwelling nature of sin….
Today Islam is tremendously vulnerable in its doctrine of man. For the present mood in world literature, philosophy, and the arts, does not lend itself to that shallow optimism of the Islamic doctrine of man. The modern secular prophet tells us that man is dead. He sees no hope for mankind. How can he entertain any optimistic views of man after all that happened in our world during the past century? And if the Muslim’s answer is that these terrible things took place within Christendom, can he really maintain that human nature is any different in Africa and Asia? Such questions are not meant to embarrass any Muslim, nor are they intended to show that the West is less sinful than the East. The point is that modern history does not support any optimistic view of man or of his so-called native goodness. So much has taken place during the last fourteen hundred years within the Household of Islam that points to the fact that man is desperately wicked, and that man’s depravity is general or total. Nevertheless, throughout all of these years, Islam has not yet learned the lesson that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. There is none that does good, no not one.”
…(W)e must always remember this: The Muslim not only rejects the historicity of Good Friday’s main event—the crucifixion of Christ—but his theology denies the necessity of redemption. According to Islam’s teachings, man does not need to be redeemed by a Divine act. In Islam, perfection or salvation is achieved by doing what one learns from God’s revelation! So, it is only after a Muslim has acknowledged the necessity of Divine redemption due to the radical nature of sin, that he is ready to consider the claims of Jesus Christ, the Savior.4
Much more valuable stuff could be quoted from Madany’s writing concerning the work of bringing the Gospel to Muslims. Apparently he knows whereof he speaks. In the conclusion to the sixth chapter of his book he presents his credentials: “These lines are not the fruit of an abstract reflection of the Christian missions to Islam. Rather, they are the result of a pioneering ministry of radio and literature missions in the Arabic-speaking world. It was my privilege to be involved in this work from mid-1958 to mid-1994. I processed around 150,000 letters from Arabs in every part of their vast world, more than half of which were from Muslims. Based on these long years of work, and having kept in touch with a field that stretches from the Gulf to the Atlantic, I testify that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is tremendously needed.”
Not only is the Gospel needed by Muslims in Muslim countries, it is needed by Muslims in the West. Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States. Modern-day Issachar ought to consider the unfolding of God’s plan in the present clash between Islam and the West, and ask, “How is Christ’s dominion being exercised in these events and to what end?” Of this we can be sure, all serve to the gathering of His church! And this includes those gathered out of the darkness of Islam.
¹ Bassam Michael Madany, The Bible and Islam: Sharing God’s Word with a Muslim,http://www.levant.into /BAI-O.html (online book), chapter 8.
² Madany, chapter 4.
³ Madany, chapter 2.
4 Madany, chapter 6.