Clarifying Our Investigation of Islam
I had a subtle feeling that our current series “Investigating Islam” may receive a notable amount of curious attention. I was right. Thus I want to share a short post to clarify my intent, content, and direction for the series as well as answer a barrage of questions I have received in a few short hours this morning.
The series is designed to be an eight week general overview of Islamic doctrine with responses from the Biblical text. As the pastor of a Christian church, I am not interested in my congregation becoming experts on Islam as much as I am interested in helping them to answer questions that may be posed to them from the Islamic community. The people of our church go to work and school with members of the Islamic community. Peter tells us in I Peter 3:14 – 16 that the church should live a compelling life that invites questions. Those questions should be answered with a very measured demeanor, “gentleness and respect.” Being prepared and educated fosters confident conversations that are measured with “gentleness and respect” rather than fear. As such this series is not antagonistic or incessantly critical of the Muslim faith. In actuality, with the exception of the first night of the series on “The History of Islam”, I will concentrate most of my teaching on Christian doctrine rather than Muslim doctrine. The general points of Muslim doctrine I am sharing are readily available in a plethora of books and online articles. For instance, last night’s teaching was entitled, “Holy Texts” and focused on what Muslims believed about the Qu’ran and what Christians believe about the inspiration of the Bible. My motive last night, in concluding my comments, was so that the Christian church could be certain that it can stand on the truth of the Word of God as the one and only guide for living a life that is pleasing to God. Furthermore, I wanted the congregation to know that all of the revelation God has shared with us, as recorded in the Bible, is designed to do one thing, point people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
That said, I want to make a statement that should be surprising to no one, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, or otherwise. I believe every person needs to come to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith in order to be saved. Without Jesus we are condemned to eternal punishment in the lake of fire by the Holy God. I believe Jesus gives us life more abundantly and that when we come to Him, He gives us His Holy Spirit who gives us life now and forevermore with Him in eternity. I believe Jesus is the only way of salvation in accordance with the teachings of the Bible. I hope that as a byproduct of this series our congregation will have more of a heart for the Muslim people, for all people, and that we may become more effective evangelists, sharing with the world the good news of the gospel, that Jesus Christ has come to seek and save the lost.
Last night Ashfaq Taufique, President of the Birmingham Islamic Society, along with four or five other colleagues, attended our service. One of his colleagues called ahead of time, early in the afternoon, to alert me of their desire to come. These men were respectful and kind. At Ridgecrest Baptist Church, they were welcomed. I met a few moments after the service with Mr. Taufique and hope to meet with him again in the near future. Mr. Taufiqe did not teach any portion of last night’s session and is not scheduled to do so next week. At this time, he is not scheduled to share in any of our sessions. He, and his associates are welcome to attend any of our services. I want everyone to hear the gospel. I am not ashamed.
By meeting with Ashfaq Taufique I am not seeking an ecumenical dialogue on how we all, in essence, worship the same God. As per our conversation last night, Ashfaq agrees with me that doctrinally there are irreconcilable differences between Christianity and Islam. With only a cursory study of the Bible and the Qu’ran it is easy to see that our beliefs about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit and salvation are not even close. Being honest about these differences is not unhealthy and it is a dialogue I would welcome. I do believe that in opening up the conversation it will not only improve our sense of community here in Birmingham, but that it will develop relationships necessary to spreading the gospel. Without apology, that is my motive. I follow Jesus, I cannot think and do otherwise.