Ambassadors Learn and Engage

Alan Shlemon

An estimated 1.5 billion people – 1 in 5 people on the planet – are Muslim. How are we as Christians supposed to respond to Islam? The Bible gives us a principle that can help us. In 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, Paul says that the Corinthian believers have now been reconciled to God. In this passage, Paul tells us two important things about our identity and our mission: 1. If we claim to be a Christian, we are an ambassador for Christ. However we come across to other people, whether we’re effective, or whether we’re harsh, crass, and rude, we are saying something about Jesus Christ whom we represent. Therefore, we want to be mindful of the way we approach other people. 2. As an ambassador for Christ, our mission is to proclaim the message of reconciliation. Remember, we’ve been made at peace with God, so now it’s our job to proclaim that message to others. When we wonder what we should do regarding Muslims and Islam, we should recognize our identity and our mission. We are ambassadors for Christ. Ambassadors represent God to other people. Therefore, we should present God and the message of reconciliation to Muslims. What does an ambassador do before he goes to another country? He learns, and then he engages. He learns about their country. Why? So he can draw upon that information when he goes to speak to those people. As Christian ambassadors going to speak to Muslims, we should do the same thing. We need to learn about Islam, Muslims, their culture, their beliefs, and their practices. Why? So we can draw upon that information to more carefully craft the message we want to communicate. What’s our message? It’s the message that God wants to reconcile the world to Himself. Muslims love talking about God and religion. This makes it easy to share our faith with Muslims, and we should take advantage of it. There are two ways you can do this: 1. Avoid conversations that distract from the Gospel and create a defensive posture. For example: - Jihad: Whether or not violent jihad is valid Islamic doctrine is certainly interesting to discuss, but even if it is a valid doctrine, it doesn’t prove Islam is false. It just raises defenses. - Making denigrating comments about Mohammed. It doesn’t ever seem to help move a Muslim towards the Gospel. 2. Use a tactic to determine what is truly Islamic and what is not (3 sources of authority), which will be discussed in the next segment. Focus your message on what really matters: The Gospel. Same as you would with anyone else.

Three Sources of Authority

Alan Shlemon

If you want know whether a teaching is truly Islamic or not, find out what authoritative sources say about it. There are three sources of authority in Islam: - The Qur’an: The written revelation of Allah and the highest authority in Islam containing the literal words of Allah. - The Hadith: Written traditions that record what Mohammed said, did, or approved of. Sharia law – or Islamic law – is based on Hadith literature. - The Sunnah: This is the life example set by Mohammed. He is considered to be the perfect embodiment of what it means to be a Muslim. If the teaching is found in the Qur’an, Hadith, and Sunnah, then it’s Islamic. If it’s not consistent with those three sources, then it’s probably not an authentic teaching.

Five Pillars of Islam

Alan Shlemon

Five Pillars of Islam are required behaviors of Muslims: - Reciting the creed: Confessional statement: “There is no god but Allah, Mohammed messenger.” - Daily prayer: Five times a day - Fast of Ramadan: A month-long fast to commemorate Mohammed receiving Qur’an - Giving alms: Give 2.5% of their money to serve the poor and needy - Pilgrimage to Mecca: At least once in a lifetime

Six Articles of Faith

Alan Shlemon

There are also required beliefs, the Six Articles of Faith: 1. Belief in the unity of God - This is a foundational doctrine in Islam found in Surah 112, and it rejects the Trinitarian notion of God that the Bible teaches. - Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Muslims and Christians believe in the same “what” (a god who creates, judges, administers His kingdom, etc.), but believe a different “who” (person) occupies the office of God. Muslims believe that person is Allah and Christians believe it is Yahweh. 2. Belief in God’s angels - Angels don’t have free will and don’t sin. They administrate God’s kingdom. Each person is assigned two angels who track all your good and bad deeds. - There is also another group of angelic-like beings called jinn. They are similar to what Christians call demons, but they are not fallen angels. They were created by Allah, have free will, and do evil things. Satan is a jinn. 3. Belief in God’s prophets In fact, belief in Jesus – as a prophet – is a required belief. Many Christians don’t realize that the Qur’an speaks often and highly of Jesus when compared to Mohammed (higher than many Muslims even realize): - His birth was announced by angels. - He was born of a virgin. - He performed miracles - healed the sick and raised the dead. - He led a sinless and perfect life. - He’s called the “Messiah.” - He was taken up by Allah. - He will return in the end times. Contrast that with what the Qur’an says about Mohammed: - No announcement by angels - A normal birth - Performed no miracles - Not sinless - Not called the “Messiah” - Died a natural death - Is not the appointed one to return 4. Belief in God’s books The divine books of Islam: - Qur’an: Given to Mohammed - Torah: Given to Moses - Psalms: Given to David - Gospel: Given to Jesus We’ll talk more about these in the next segment. 5. Belief in the final judgment At the end of this age, all people will be resurrected and judged according to their deeds. This is a meritorious-based system of salvation. If your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds, you go to heaven. Otherwise it’s hell. Muslims don’t have the assurance of salvation that Christians have in Christ. One of the easiest ways to present the Gospel is to ask them about this. It’s important that you offer them that chance of assurance of salvation through Jesus. 6. Belief in divine destiny (predestination) Everything that occurs is by divine decree of Allah. Nothing happens without Allah’s knowledge and permission. Allah wrote down everything that will happen in the Preserved Tablet. Allah knows what his creatures will do, but they have free will. What happens and doesn’t happen is only according to his will. He does not force things to happen regarding human voluntary action. He just knows what they will choose and lets it happen.

Responding to Muslim Claims

Alan Shlemon

I mentioned before that Islam teaches there are four divine revelations given to humanity from Allah. Those are the Torah, Psalms, Gospel, and the Qur’an. If Muslims are supposed to believe in the Gospel, why don’t they believe that Jesus is God, died, and rose again? The answer is that although they claim those four books are true, divine revelations from Allah, only the Qur'an has remained free from corruption. The Torah, Psalms and Gospel have become corrupted. They are true insofar as they are properly understood in light of the Qur’an. This is the most common objection you’ll run across when talking to Muslims. Virtually every Muslim, whether they’re serious about their faith or nominal, believes the Torah, Psalms, and Gospels are corrupted and therefore untrustworthy. This is the most serious objection to Christianity because we get our source material from the Gospel. The Muslim is going to say, “I don’t trust that." To deal with this objection, I like to use a tactic that incorporates their commitment to the Qur'an to your advantage. I say that although Muslims believe the Torah, Psalms, and Gospel are corrupted, the Qur'an affirms they are trustworthy, reliable, and uncorrupted documents. How do I make this case? I point the Muslim to two teachings in the Qur’an: 1. The Qur'an teaches that no one can change the words of Allah. 2. The Qur’an teaches that the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel are examples of the word of God. If the Qur'an teaches that no one can change the words of God, and the Qur'an also teaches that the Torah, Psalms, and Gospel are the words of God, then by logical deduction, the Torah, Psalms, and Gospel are the unchanged words of God. Then, we can move that objection off the table and start talking about the Gospel, the true identity of Christ, and what the Gospel’s plan of salvation is. I use this tactic not as the ultimate way to prove the reliability of the Bible, but rather it’s simply a tool to remove an objection off the table.

Muslim Demographics

Alan Shlemon

Of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, estimates suggest: About 70% of them are “nominal” or “cultural” Muslims: - They don’t attend mosque or read the Qur’an. - They’re born in Muslim homes and follow the cultural elements of Islam. - They neither engage in violence nor support those that do. They don't treat women poorly. - They just want to go to work and take care of their families like anyone else. About 15% of Muslims are what we might call “reformed”: - They attend mosque & read the Qur’an. - They take their faith very seriously. - Many of them are scholars at universities. - They tend to interpret the violent passages and the passages dealing with women in the Qur’an as not being applicable for today. About 15% of Muslims are called “radical” or “extremist”: - They attend mosque & read the Qur’an. - They take their faith very seriously. - These Muslims do apply the violent passages for today and would either engage in violent jihad or support those that do. They treat women according to Qur’an. - Although these Muslims make up only 15%, that’s still around 225 million (more than 2/3 the population of the United States).