In this hour long 9Marks discussion about the Gospel and Islam, Mark Dever talks with Thabhiti Anyabwile, a former Muslim turned pastor, about Islam and how to engage with Muslims. The conversation begins with Thabhiti’s story and then transitions into the Q&A summarized below (audio time in brackets):
How is Christianity and Islam similar? (17:10) Only in that it affirms the Torah, the Psalms, Prophets and the Gospels. Also, generically, they also have one God with had a revelation and called his followers to be missionaries, but that similarity is very superficial.
What are the differences (22:15)? The Quran is a revelation from God while the Bible is a revelation of God, which is a knowledge that a Muslim would deny that we can have (i.e., a personal relationship). In the Quran, we have the do’s…the legalistic relationship. In the Bible we have God revealing Himself in time and in history making Himself known and calling His people to know Him. A personal knowledge of God is offensive to Muslims because they can’t really know anything of God’s essence.
How is the Quran different from the Bible (24:10)? The Quran is a book of law. The Surahs of the Quran aren’t arranged chronologically, but from shortest to longest. The Bible is a redemptive narrative where God acted in the world to save His people.
Should Christians read the Quran (25:05)? Some, specifically passages that are helpful in pointing Muslims to Jesus via the Gospels – the Surah about Mary and the virgin birth; Surahs 2, 3 and 5, which affirm the revelation of the Bible. Muslims believe that the Bible has been corrupted, but the Quran doesn’t say that. It affirms that the Torah, Psalms and the Injil (Gospels) are revelation from God. Muhammad says, “Bring me your Book (the Bible). Are they not revelations from God?” Muslims should be asked whether God able to protect His Word,
Don’t Christians and Muslims believe in one God (27:25)? They both believe in one God, but have radically different ideas of who that one God is. Christians have a triune view with one God in three persons. Muslims believe in the radical unity of God and to say that there are three persons is the highest blaspheme in Islam. In Islam’s understanding, Jesus will return to condemn those who say that He’s God. Christians believe that Jesus is the clearest picture of God such that if you’ve seen Him you’ve seen the Father (John 14). Getting the Muslim to think about who Jesus is is the evangelistic task.
Don’t both religions believe that people are made in the image of G0d (30:10)? The Christian conception is far more clear. The Hadith (collection of books that comment on the Quran) says that all people are touched by Satan in the womb except Mary and Jesus. The Quran affirms that Jesus is without sin. Muslims define sin as a failure to do good things or mistakes / forgetfulness (33:30) while sin in Christianity separates us from God and causes us to incur His wrath. Islam understands the difference between wickedness and righteousness as purely moral (breaking the law), which Christianity sees it as spiritual. Muslims don’t believe that they need a Savior, but ratherneed a teacher to bring them the laws and instruct and that’s what Mohammad did.
The nature of Muslim conversion (35:55). It’s very superficial; there’s no radical heart transformation. All they need to do is confess the cardinal article of faith (there is but one God, Allah, and Mohammad is his messenger) and then conform to the externals (prayer, alms). In Christianity, something supernatural has to happen where we’re given a new heart and made alive (“you must be born again”). One can be a good Muslim by doing very little. However (37:35), Muslims have a lack of assurance because they have no way of satisfying God (judgment or his righteousness), so all they can hope is that their good outweighs their bad and that ‘it’s Allah’s will’ that they go to heaven.
What are the differences in how Jesus is viewed (38:00)? Muslims affirm that Jesus is a prophet and did many great miracles. In the Quran, His ministry and message is testified by his miraculous deeds. The Bible Mohammad had access to in ~700 A.D. was the was the same we have today, so the idea of corruption entering is false because he affirmed the Gospels.
What’s the attraction of Islam (40:40)? In many countries, you have no other option. Outside of those places, it’s usually its order, discipline and simplicity because it removes the Christian mysteries of the Trinity and Jesus as the Son of God who died and was resurrected. It gives people a way to satisfy the impulse to worship without wrestling with deeper spiritual truths. It doesn’t demand personal change either.
How does someone become a Muslim (43:20)? By confessing the article of faith and practicing the five pillar of Islam.
What is a mosque like (44:00)? It’s not a place you’d go on your own without an invitation. It has ritual prayer and teaching.
Why do we need to understand Islam (47:00)? There are many Muslims in America. We need to get over our fear of Islam and reaching out to our neighbors to talk with them about Jesus. They’re more open to talking about religion than the typical Americans.
How do we approach Muslims with the Gospel (50:50)? Focus on the Gospel rather than focusing on Islam. Learn the six passages that affirm the integrity of the Bible, the sinlessness of Jesus and the virgin birth and then help get to the Gospel and the cross quickly to show the need for a Savior and who the Savior is.
What are some things that Christians misunderstand about Islam (53:45)? We think they have a more sophisticated understanding of their religion than they really do and that they don’t convert. We also stereotype them because of the terrorists we see in the news.
How should we encourage ministry to Muslims in our local congregations (55:45)? Hospitality – love Muslims and open their homes to them to build relationships and share the Gospel. Read good books about the Gospel, so we understand it well. The Cross and the Crescent explains how to have a dialogue and provides background on the religion. Pray to become friends with Muslims and reach out to the immigrants that need help assimilating into the culture. Read The Prophet and the Messiah with Muslim friends.