Why spend spend a series of blog posts writing about the Cross and the Crescent; Christianity and Islam? The first reason is obvious, and it is communicated in passages like Romans 15:8-13 and Psalm 117 and Revelation 5:9-10, to name only a few.
Another reason is this. As a teenager, all I knew about Islam is what I’d gleaned from stories out of the Arabian Nights: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, Aladdin’s Wonderful Lamp, and Sinbad the Sailor. In other words, I basically knew nothing about Islam. Of course, I understood the tensions that existed between Jews and Arabs, but I didn’t know much, if anything, about Islam as a religion or Muslims as people.
My ignorance never bothered me, however, because all of that was so distant. Muslims were people I saw on TV or read about in the paper. I certainly did not know a Muslim, and the only Muslim names I heard were the names of athletes and entertainers who had converted. Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali. Lew Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabaar. Cat Stevens became Yusuf Islam. While I was in high school Notre Dame had an electric WR/K-PR named Raghib Ismail. Everyone called him the Rocket. Growing up these were basically the only Islamic names I knew.
That changed my senior year in high school. When an Iraqi dictator named Saddam Hussein invaded the tiny Arabian emirate Kuwait. I joined the Army straight out of high school, while our nation was involved in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Suddenly, I was becoming exceedingly familiar with this Middle Eastern world.
Then in 1993 a group of Muslim men attempted to bring down the World Trade Center in New York. Eight years later another group devastatingly succeeded. In between those two attacks on our soil two of our embassies in Africa – Kenya and Tanzania – were bombed; as was the USS Cole in the port of Aden off the Yemeni coast. Following these attacks our nation began and is still fighting a global war on terror that is primarily located in Iraq and Afghanistan; two Islamic nations.
Now I have to pause right here, because I do not want to give the wrong impression. This series of posts will not be about the geopolitical conflict between the United States and Islamic extremists. I simply want to point out the obvious; that our two civilizations are no longer, and have not been for some time, oceans apart. I have no desire, and will spend no time over the course of this series discussing politics, military actions, or terrorism. The problem we have, I believe, is that too often we – talking about Christians – frame the discussion about Islam in geopolitical and military terms. That is easy to do, but I’m more interested in this question: How should the followers of Jesus Christ understand Islam in light of the Christian faith, and how may we reach them with the Gospel?
I have to state at the beginning of this series that I am no expert on Islam, but I do have an interest. That interest has driven me to study. I also have a new brother in Christ who was raised in the Islamic culture. I live in a neighborhood, for the first time in my life, where Muslims are ever present. I want to know more about these people and their religion, not just out of intellectual curiosity, but from a desire to be used by God to share the Gospel of grace with them. My source material for this series is a collection of books , articles, and teaching series that I highly recommend, and they are listed and linked at the bottom. My primary source has been personal conversations with “John Thomas.” My new brother in Christ who turned from following Allah to serve the living and true God! Our friendship has opened my eyes to the Islamic culture and religion, and to the fact that God is working there. I want to be a part of that!
The goal here is not to equip you for the winning of arguments, but to equip you for the winning of Muslims to Jesus Christ!
- The Facts on Islam, John Ankerberg, John Weldon & Dillon Burroughs; Harvest House Publishers
- The Gospel for Muslims, Thabiti Anyabwile; Moody
- Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad, Timothy George; Zondervan
- Breaking the Islam Code, J.D. Greear; Harvest House Publishers
- Answering Islam, Norman Geisler & Abdul Saleeb; Baker Books
- Light in the Shadow of Jihad, Ravi Zacharias; Multnomah
- Terrorism, Jihad, and the Bible, John MacArthur; Word Publishing Group So
- So What’s the Difference?, Fritz Ridenour; Regal
- Islam and Terrorism, Mark A. Gabriel; Charisma House
- Infidel, Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Free Press
- The Cross and the Crescent, RC Sproul & Abdul Saleeb CD teaching series
- The Jihadist Next Door; Andrea Elliott for the NY Times, January 27, 2010
- Is There a Jihadist in Your Church Nursery?; Dr. Russell Moore blog-post, February 1, 2010
- From Mecca to Calvary, Thabiti Anyabwile’s audio testimony recorded at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in D.C.
Tomorrow, we’ll answer the question “What is Islam?” Until then, please comment on what you’ve read.