Early this year (2007) I attended a conference in New York on the topic of Islam that included speakers from Africa, Europe, and Australia. The task before us was ominous: what should we do about radical Islam and its intention to destroy the church? Speakers from Africa gave statistics and described the burning of churches, the killing of families, and seizing of property. Representatives from Europe reported on intimidation and threats, and yes, killings too. Europe clearly remembers the “cartoon crisis” when innocent people were killed in the violence. Because the percentage of Muslims in America is quite small in comparison to most other countries, we are, at least for now, more exempt from the Muslim threat. But our day is coming.
Muslims—those who take their faith seriously—cannot be integrated into Western society, with its emphasis on freedom of religion, respect for the rights of women, and democratic rule. Of course, many Muslims here in the US are Westernized, but at the expense of ignoring many of the teachings of the Koran. Jihad (struggle or holy war) lies at the root of the Islamic religion, as taught in the Koran and exemplified in history. Indeed, a new version of the Koran published in Saudi Arabia identifies Jihad as the sixth pillar of the Muslim faith. There is no example in history where Muslims have given Christians equal rights. All Muslims who take the Koran seriously believe that they should work toward having a Caliphate, that is, the Muslim rule of the world. Clearly, our conflict with Islam is here to stay.
In our country, Muslims are deeply involved in our universities, many of them have departments to propagate the Muslim religion. Muslims also support hate crimes legislation. The reason: hate crimes can also be defined as hate speech, thus they want to make it a crime to speak out against Islam. In Canada, where such legislation has been enacted, one pastor was given 300 hours of community service in a Muslim center and he had to take classes on Islam because he opposed the distribution of the Koran to school children. Make no mistake: if hate crimes legislation becomes law, some of us might be charged under similar laws.
It is not comforting to learn that Islam has never been stopped except by military might.
But we also have to know that the military can only deal with physical warfare. Because
Islam is also an ideology, only the church can confront the ideological/theological issues that are involved in this religion. Passivity is not an option.
Our biggest mistake is to “write off” the Muslims in our midst without realizing that God has brought them to our country for a reason. Here in America, they have freedom to think about their religion more objectively and are therefore more open to the Christian faith. It is my conviction that millions of Muslims would turn to Christ if only Islam would drop two of its basic tenets (1) that those who convert from Islam to Christianity are to be killed and (2) that the Bible must be outlawed in Muslim countries.
God has commanded us to love and respect all people and that includes the Muslims in our midst. If we approach them with kindness and a willingness to learn about their faith, they will also be more willing to listen to us. It is a privilege to represent Jesus Christ to those who are strangers to our Savior.
In the question and answer section, I give more details on what our response to Islam should be.
Islam in America: What do You Need to Know?
To be effective witnesses of Christ, we need to understand and face the challenges posed by other religions and cultures. Islam is a growing force in America today, so we asked Pastor Lutzer to outline a Christ-centered response and some steps we can all take to increase our awareness of Islam.
Q: Your article for the beginning of this newsletter was very pessimistic about the future of the church and the resurgence of Islam. Can you give us a little bit of hope?
A: I can. At the conference I learned that Muslims are turning to Christ in large numbers—in Afghanistan, and even in the Sudan and Iran. For example, in the Sudan it is estimated that one million Muslims have converted to Christianity since the year 2000! Pastors are being trained in caves, and Bible studies are held in homes throughout the country.
Incredibly, even though there were only about 500 known converts in Iran in 1979, the estimate today is many hundreds of thousands. I’m told that when Muslims saw the events of 9/11, many of them realized they were seeing the true Islam and now they are ready to want Jesus.
Q: What else can we do to help Muslims see Christ as the Savior of the world?
A: We need to develop strategic networks. Churches need to have conferences together to discuss Islam and dialogue with adherents of the Muslim faith. We must be willing to sponsor debates on Islam (not everyone can do this well, but it has proved successful on university campuses, etc).
Most important, our seminaries and Bible colleges must develop courses on Islam, teaching the students how to dialogue with Muslims in a way that will provoke their interest and lead them into a serious consideration of Christianity. We need able scholars who can give a reasoned response to the challenge of other religions and the radical ideas that are posted on websites throughout the world.
Q: As you pointed out, the situation in Europe is much more ominous than it is in America. Do you foresee a day when threats and intimidation from the Islamic community will affect us here in America?
A: Definitely. A few years ago we had a very knowledgeable missionary to the Islamic world present us with a seminar on Islam here at The Moody Church. He suggested that we not publicize it too widely lest Muslims show up and disrupt the meeting. The same was true when we had a convert from Islam give his testimony.
One convert from Islam whose expertise is Islamic law warned us as believers that the day will come when Christians in America will have to learn the art of martyrdom. Just as hundreds of thousands of Christians have been killed for being Christians in Islamic countries, the same might happen here in years to come.
Q: Can you end on a more optimistic note?
A: Yes! First, if we pray and seek God, He might graciously protect us from the Muslim threat. God often reverses the trends of history ... we don’t know what He has in mind for His Church. So, when we speak about the future, it might turn out much brighter than my pessimistic remarks.
Second, we in the West forget that it is a great honor to suffer and die for Christ. Thus, what we consider to be so terrible—and it is when looked at from the standpoint of human suffering—might actually be a blessing. Luther understood it well:
The body they may kill
God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever.