Today's Broadcast

The Dark Side of Islam, Part 5

A Discussion with R.C. Sproul and Abdul Saleeb

In this series, "The Dark Side of Islam" has been discussed. But there is an even darker side to Islam—that is, Islam has no gospel. But the church does. How should the church respond? What should be our approach to evangelism for the Muslim community? In the conclusion of this series, Dr. Sproul and Abdul Saleeb look at what the Christian response should be to all of this.

From the series: The Dark Side of Islam

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    Heralding the Good News

  2. article

    Martyrdom Today

  3. article

    Reaching Muslims with the Gospel of God: An Interview with Abdul Saleeb

Heralding the Good News

R.C. Sproul Jr.

It is false to say that what we don’t know can’t hurt us, especially when it comes to the Bible. If ever there were anything we need to know, it is the very Word of God. That said, what is in all likelihood worse than what we don’t know about the Bible is what we do know that just isn’t so. Consider the Great Commission.

This, of course, is something we ought to be infinitely familiar with. These are not just the words of Jesus, as if that weren’t enough, but the “last” words of Jesus, His parting command just before He ascends to His heavenly throne. Not only that, but, as we might expect, what He commands is of eternal consequence. Jesus doesn’t tell the disciples to wash behind their ears or to remember to send thank-you cards after Christmas. No, Jesus tells His disciples to bring in the lost, to go to the four corners of the world that all the elect might be redeemed, forgiven, adopted.

And that’s where we stop. It is not only true, but a vital truth, that the Great Commission includes the call to preach the good news, to tell others about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, to call all men everywhere to repent. It is also vitally true that this is not at all the whole of the Great Commission.

Perhaps because we are selfish, or perhaps because we live in an era of cultural decline, too many in the church have adopted a narrow view of the gospel . Jesus, I am told, came to save my soul. Once that is accomplished, my sole calling is to be used by Him to seek the salvation of others. If God should so bless, these new believers in turn have as their sole calling the winning of still more souls. The good news, under this perspective, is that Jesus came to save sinners.

Yes, of course, Jesus came to save sinners. However, He did not come just to save souls. He came to save bodies. He came to save families. He came to save churches. He came to save communities. He came to save nations. He came to save, to redeem, to remake the whole groaning creation. He calls us, the church, His bride, to be the Eve to His Adam, a help suitable to Him in the great work of dominion.

We need not leave the Great Commission to see this. The command, along with the fullness of the gospel, is there already. We are called here to make disciples of the nations. Now some might argue that this still focuses on the winning of souls. “Nations,” in this view, isn’t the political or cultural institutions of a given land. Instead, it refers to the need to take the message to the outermost parts of the world. We are not to sit on our haunches, content that we and our kindred are redeemed, but we are to cross land and sea, seeking by the Spirit to make children of hell into the children of God.

Fair enough. Even if this part of the Great Commission is focused on soul winning, what do we do with the next part — “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded”? Jesus certainly commanded throughout His earthly ministry that we repent, that we believe on His name. But is that all that He commanded? Did He not also command us to be meek, to be peacemakers, to mourn? He commanded that we should hunger and thirst for righteousness. He, in turn, told us where to find that righteousness, reminding us that not one jot or tittle of the law would pass away. He taught us to pray that His kingdom would come on earth as it has in heaven. How would we know such was happening? Because His will would be done here, as it is there.

Our labors, then, in instructing the found, in calling them toward godliness, in pursuing obedience, are not distractions from the Great Commission but fulfillments of it. Of course, we must seek His righteousness, that righteousness that can become ours only by the faith He must first give us. But we are called also to seek His kingdom. That kingdom, as the Lord’s Prayer demonstrates, is not just an invisible realm within the hearts of believers. Rather, it is everywhere, especially where His own joyfully confess Him.

Discipling the nations, teaching them to observe all that He has commanded, then, isn’t polishing the brass on a sinking ship. It is instead cultivating the mustard seed. A failure to disciple the nations even as we evangelize them, on the other hand, isn’t to be about the most important work. It is instead to run the ship aground.

The social gospel was all social and no gospel. Mere pietism, on the other hand, is impious. We are to proclaim the lordship of Christ over our souls, over our bodies, over our families, over our churches, over our communities, over our nations, over the whole of the groaning creation. So, let us repent and preach the good news, that the kingdom of God has come, that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father, and that of the increase of His government there will be no end.

Martyrdom Today

George Robinson

Persecution. Jesus said that His followers should expect it (John 15:20; 2 Tim. 3:12) and that those who experience it are blessed (Matt. 5:10–12). In our First World society, persecution may mean mocking, slander, or alienation from friends and family. However, the church extends far beyond our circles to include dozens of countries around the world. In much of the Majority World, Christians are experiencing persecution in the form of harassment, beatings, and even martyrdom.

The Risk of Belief

Over the past fifteen years, my work has been primarily focused on evangelism, disciple-making, and church planting in places where those activities are either strongly discouraged or even outlawed. Specifically, I have worked alongside national believers in South and Southeast Asia reaching out with the gospel to Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and Sikh people groups. Many of my national partners were raised in those religions, but came to repentance and faith in Christ through the bold spread of the gospel.

These are not just my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are yours as well. And most, if not all, daily risk paying for their faith dearly, not only with social repercussions, but some with physical abuse, imprisonment, or even death.

In one South Asian country where I have worked, there was a mass shooting at a Christian school, multiple church bombings, and countless stories of brothers and sisters who have been threatened and abused because of their faith in Jesus. I served alongside a dear friend and encouraged him in his work, only to see him forced out of the country by those who felt threatened by his gospel ministry. In another country I worked alongside a brother who was tied up, beaten and left for dead—by his own family members—because of his decision to leave Islam and follow Jesus. Last year, as I led a small group of students and a few national friends in sharing the gospel, we were met by threats of arrest and assault by a radical Hindu group that had tracked our location via hacking a social media website.

The difference between me and my national brothers and sisters is that I can get on a plane and fly back to the United States, where, at least for now, the likelihood of persecution is very limited. Our suffering brothers and sisters around the world have an even greater hope than an American passport—they have been promised the very presence of Jesus in the midst of their suffering (2 Cor. 4:9).

The Call for Christians

Today, an estimated two hundred million Christians worldwide face harsh persecution each year in dozens of countries on nearly every continent. Bill Bright once said that more Christians have suffered persecution and martyrdom since the beginning of the twentieth century than in all of the rest of church history to that point.

What should our response be? Always, our response should be informed prayer; and whenever possible, we should promote and participate in gospel-centered action.

It is impossible to pray for situations about which we are unaware. The gospel is offensive to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18); therefore, one of the primary motives behind persecution is to eliminate the voice of a person who is heralding the gospel or to discourage the spread of the gospel. This means that thousands of persecution stories go untold because voices are hushed by the roar of oppression.

There are several organizations that exist to give a global voice to those who are enduring persecution (see www.persecution.org and www.persecution.com). Those resources intend to mobilize both informed prayer and gospel-centered action. There are also several books that tell the stories of persecuted Christ followers, both in church history (Foxe's Book of Martyrs) and in modern times (The Privilege of Persecution by Carl Moeller and David Hegg; The Insanity of God by Nik Ripken). I recommend that you become familiar with these and other gospel-centered resources so that your prayers for the persecuted can be specific and substantive.

The Scriptures beckon all Christians not only to pray informed prayers for the persecuted but also to engage in gospel-centered action on behalf of the persecuted. This action begins with standing alongside the persecuted so as to encourage them. The author of Hebrews was writing to a group of Christians who had grown weary and discouraged by the opposition they were facing. He reminded them of a time when they had personally been persecuted or had, even at great cost, stood with others who were enduring persecution (10:32–39). Their key to enduring earthly persecution was none other than the hope of the gospel and the return of King Jesus to establish His kingdom. Then in Hebrews 11, the writer unfolds a long list of those whose faith in God led to relative peace and sometimes prosperity followed by references to many who, with faith in the same God, endured harsh persecution and martyrdom. Standing with the persecuted may in fact be costly like it was for the audience of the letter to the Hebrews. But for those who have experienced the wonderful rescue of Christ, there will be no limit to our own gospel-motivated sacrificial service of others. You and I have need of endurance—and we can both encourage it and grow in it through informed prayers and gospel-centered action for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.

Reaching Muslims with the Gospel of God: An Interview with Abdul Saleeb

Abdul Saleeb

Tabletalk: Tell us how the Lord led you out of Islam to Christianity.

Abdul Saleeb: My first encounter with the gospel and the Christian faith was through the ministry of a group of American missionaries in Europe. When I discovered that Christians did not believe that Jesus was simply a prophet but God incarnate who had died on the cross for our sins, my first reactions were: 1. Christians are insane. 2. How can anyone believe such blasphemies? Through many months of attending church, reading the Bible and comparing it with the Qur'an, and debating with my Christian friends, the Spirit of God finally opened my eyes to see the truth and beauty of Christ. The two truths that touched me the most to convince me of the truth of the gospel were the Old Testament prophecies about Christ and especially His deity (for example, Isa 9:6), and the emphasis on grace and love in the New Testament. (See: www.answering-islam.org/Testimonies/abdul.html for a fuller version of my testimony.)

TT: Many Muslims claim to have seen Jesus in their dreams, and, as a result, some have professed faith in Christ. What are your thoughts on these widespread reports of Muslims seeing Jesus in their dreams?

AS: It is simply a fact that dreams are an important element in the testimonies of many Muslims who have come to faith in Christ. I believe dreams are an important part of many of the cultures around the world, and God is using dreams as a bridge to draw people to Christ. However, the impact of most dreams is to encourage the individual Muslim to become more open to hear about Jesus from Christians, visit a church, or read the Bible for the first time. Usually dreams in themselves do not have a full-fledged gospel presentation, and they do not replace the need for a human witness or the Scriptures.

TT: When witnessing to a Muslim, what are the major points that Christians should seek to engage?

AS: The deity of Christ and the cross of Christ are the two most fundamental truths of the Christian faith that the Qur'an denies. Although the Qur'an gives some lofty titles to Jesus (the "Spirit of God" and a "Word from God") and acknowledges His virgin birth and miraculous life, Jesus was merely a prophet and not the Son of God or in any sense divine. The Qur'an also denies that Jesus was ever killed or crucified. According to Muslim belief, He was taken up to heaven and someone else was mistakenly put on the cross in His place. Obviously, there is no good news if Jesus never died for our sins and is not Himself God in the flesh, with the authority to forgive our sins.

TT: Islam is seen as a violent religion by many. Is such a perception a misunderstanding?

AS: This is a very difficult and complex question. Islam has been interpreted and practiced in many different ways throughout its fourteen hundred years of history. Some interpretations of Islam (such as those of many Sufi Muslims) have been more peaceful than others. It is simply not true to think that all devout Muslims are, by definition, violent Muslims. At the same time, I believe that violent Muslims can legitimately justify their violence by appealing to the many violent passages in the Qur'an and the many violent sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad against his enemies recorded in the Islamic traditions. There is a contradiction rooted in the very text of the Qur'an, with its many conflicting commands toward non-Muslims, and the behavior of the prophet of Islam between his first thirteen years of ministry in Mecca (where he was a peaceful messenger to the idol-worshiping pagans) and his final ten years of life as the military leader and ruler of the Muslim community (when he picked up the sword for the defense and spread of Islam).

TT: How do Muslims view terrorism?

AS: Like the previous question, this one is also a complex issue. Only a small fraction of Muslims in the world are behind terrorism. Those Muslims are usually labeled today as Jihadists. There are vast numbers of conservative and traditional Muslims who look to Muhammad as their model of piety and religious life, and who oppose terrorism. They might interpret the violent examples in Muhammad's life (fighting with the pagan Arabs, killing one of the Jewish tribes in Medina, or murdering some of his opponents) as examples of self-defense or actions that were confined to particular situations in the prophet's life and thus not carrying significance for all times and places. Most Muslims actually focus only on the positive examples of Muhammad's kindness, generosity, and humility, and completely ignore the darker episodes of his life.

TT: Does Islam have a real desire to see the West converted to its religion, and if so, how?

AS: We have to understand that Muslims do not all believe and act the same way and do not all have the same agendas and goals. For example, many Muslims have come to America not because they want to establish Shari'a Law or see America become a Muslim nation, but because they want to escape from oppressive Islamic countries and experience the freedom and democracy that we enjoy here in America. Those Muslims who might desire to see the West convert to Islam believe, for the most part, that it should be done through da'wa, which literally means "invitation" (that is, propagating Islam through the peaceful means of preaching, writing, social transformation, and so on). Of course, it cannot be denied that there are also Islamic groups in the West that have more sinister approaches to spreading Islam in the West (for example, threats and intimidations on individuals who criticize Islam, asking for special Shari'a-compliant laws for Muslims, and so on).

TT: How should Western European and American Christians respond to Muslim immigration?

AS: Christians must never respond to Muslims out of fear, hatred, or anger. In fact, the church in the West should view the coming of Muslim immigrants as an opportunity for the spread of the gospel in communities that have never been exposed to the gospel before. God is bringing the mission field to our doorsteps. Instead of fearing, we should rejoice that we live in a free country and can present the gospel with love, humility, and respect to our Muslim neighbors without any fear of persecution by an Islamic regime. Inviting our Muslim neighbors, co-workers, or fellow university students to our homes and churches should be a high priority for every Christian family and church. Muslims are often very interested to talk about religion and spiritual issues. It is usually Westerners who view faith as a private affair and shy away from "talking about religion." I believe that talking to Muslims will also challenge Christians to become better equipped in their own faith. It will require Christians to dig deeper into the Scriptures, theology, apologetics, and church history in order to respond to the questions that Muslims often ask (for example, "How can you make sense of the doctrine of the Trinity?"; "How can a man be God?"; "How can Jesus' death two thousand years ago forgive my sins today?"; or "How do you know the Bible is not corrupted?").

TT: What is the single biggest misunderstanding about Islam among Christians?

AS: That Islam is a monolithic religion. Christians are often not aware that there are deep conflicts and tensions among various Muslim communities (not just between the Sunnis and the Shi'ites, but even within the Sunni and Shi'ite communities).

TT: What is the single biggest misunderstanding about Christianity among Muslims?

AS: That Christianity has been corrupted (starting from the Apostle Paul and continuing throughout church history) and no longer reflects the teachings of Jesus. Muslims charge that not only has the Bible been tampered with and corrupted but that Christian beliefs in the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, original sin, and the atonement are Christian distortions that were not taught by Jesus.

It is thus very important for Christians to gain an accurate understanding of Islam, to learn how to explain and articulate their faith in a way that makes sense to Muslim inquirers, and to witness to the gospel in a loving and respectful manner.


Abdul Saleeb is co-author of the book The Dark Side of Islam and the teaching series The Cross and the Crescent along with Dr. R.C. Sproul. He pastors a Muslim-convert fellowship in the United States and is intimately involved with churches in the Middle East. In order to protect his idenity, we are unable to show his picture.

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