Since beginning my investigation of Islam I have become a man without a country. I have preached Jesus faithfully every Sunday for fourteen years and never has anything I have ever proclaimed in print or from the pulpit ever garnered this much attention. Almost daily I have received emails and calls from atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Christians, apologists, and patriots who have all come to the consensus opinion that I have been deceived. The Muslim community is concerned that I get the facts straight, fair enough. They do not want me to portray a “Hollywood” version of Islam. The patriots think that I have been deceived into thinking that Muslims can assimilate peacefully into the American citizenry. The apologists have assured me that they can decode what Muslims “really mean.” The atheists and agnostics do not think it is intellectually honest for me as a Christian to investigate Islam and share what I have found with my congregation. It is ironic that atheists and agnostics feel so free to critique those that are not them, but feel the need to censor the critiques of those who care to return the favor.
To say that I have been deceived is a bold statement. Each and every group that is concerned about my deception seems to insinuate that I cannot possibly get it right. Now, I should note that since the beginning of this project I have made it clear that I do not know all there is to know about Islam; nor do I understand all that I know. Yet, I would contend that I do have a literate mind, a soul that is hungry for truth, and the Holy Spirit of God living within me who is fully capable of leading me there. So however this is interpreted by the various communities, please allow me first to assure everyone of what I am not: 1) I am not coming to the conclusion that Islam is essentially Christian theology in Arabic. 2) I am not under the spell that every person who reads the Quran will eventually become a terrorist. 3) I am not going to vote for Barak Obama in 2012. 4) I am not going to stop reading, learning, seeking truth, and preaching Jesus.
However, I do believe that there is a large degree of deception, within the Christian community and its apologists, when it comes to Islam. For some, their deception is the result of their failure to investigate the truth. Most Christians could not form a Biblical answer in response to the questions most Muslims would offer. This is the heart and purpose of my current series, to alleviate ignorance, to challenge the followers of Christ to think, and in so doing to be able to offer answers with an attitude of gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). For many of our apologists the deception is in thinking that knowing the truth gives one the right to be belligerent in Jesus’ name. I appreciate the field of apologetics, but I have come to learn that many apologists do not love the truth as much as they love the argument. Apologists are quick to point us to 1 Peter 3:15 to validate their discipline. I would point out that while the verse may use the word “apologia” it does not use the word jerk.
What we do not need is another book on Islam that will sell well at Lifeway. What I mean by this is one that preys upon fear, uses a sketchy hermeneutic, and comes to the same tired conclusion – Islam is terrorism. These volumes are purposed to sell books and not much else. Sadly, books that offer sound scholarship do not sell well, and if they are offered at Lifeway they are tucked into the outer darkness and locked away on shelves in places where only pastors and other nerds know where they are. As an SBC pastor my critique of our modern Christian bookstore, even Lifeway, is that the first 20 shelves in the store are stocked with $24 of dribble that is weak, watered down, and ultimately misleading. If there is anything the Christian bookstore is a testimony of it is that within Christendom we are theologically schizophrenic, hypocritical, and suffering from a massive identity crisis. We no longer know who we are in Christ.
I digress. If there is a dire lack within our ranks, it is the voice of the missionaries when it comes to Islam. Our missionaries are 100 years ahead of the rest of us. They have been living with and reaching out to the Muslim community much longer than we have been investigating any of this. We do not need another book on what’s wrong with Islam, we need to know how to reach them. If there is any deception here, it is in thinking that calling Muslims terrorists will eventually will lead them to Christ.
We are deceived.
We are deceived in thinking that sharing the gospel across cultural and religious boundaries is something only missionaries do. We are deceived in thinking that every follower of Christ is not on a cross cultural mission. We are deceived into thinking that learning to live incarnationally within a cultural context, loving its people, and learning how to communicate effectively with them is not the business of all believers. This is what Jesus did. Are we deceived to think that He has suddenly exempted us from following Him? We are deceived to think that we will not be held accountable for telling everyone how Islam is deceptive but failing to tell anyone how to be born again. We are deceived to think that we can quote Islam, its leaders, and its writings – but never actually befriend anyone Islam and still be considered effective. We are deceived to think that Jesus is a white, middle class American patriot and forget that He was a Middle Eastern Jewish Rabbi.
We are deceived.