Friday, January 28, 2011

Miniskirts, Mothers & Muslims

From David Mays’ book notes:

Miniskirts, Mothers & Muslims: A Christian Woman in a Muslim Land, by Christine A. Mallouhi | Monarch Books, 2004, 184 pp. ISBN 978-0-8254-6051-7 | Order this book here.

Christine Mallouhi, an Australian, is married to an Arab Christian. She has lived for nearly 30 years in many different Muslim cultures and authored Waging Peace on Islam. Christine’s experience can help Christians live honorably among Muslims. I hadn’t intended to take notes on this book, but when I was nearly half way through I had run across so many valuable insights, that I couldn’t resist it.

“Conservative Muslims’ sense of right and wrong is more acute than that of Western Christians. In spite of the fact that we consider ourselves to have a strict spiritual/moral worldview, we are surprised to discover that conservative Muslims do not view us as a spiritual people because of our behaviour and dress. Clothing is an important, and necessary, way to make a statement. If you live in a Muslim community you will notice the different clothes used for weddings, circumcisions, mourning, and to show religious affiliation.” “Local people often asked me why I dressed so conservatively for a Westerner, and many enquired if I was a Muslim. I usually told them that the Bible teaches that godly women should dress modestly, and since I have submitted my life to God through Christ, I want to be modest in their country as well as my own. So, if they recognize godliness and decency by a certain type of clothing then I will wear it while in their country.” (83-4)

“If we want to be respectable then we need to know what decent and indecent dress in other countries is. I have seen some Christian women in conservative countries, where most women wear a veil, appearing in the street in shorts. The Western equivalent would be to go out completely naked.” (86) “My advice is to be sensitive to the culture, because it is helpful for your relationships.” (92)

“Women and men worldwide use voice inflection to show interest in each other. … When speaking with the opposite sex you need a cooler manner. Westerners tend to be a bit naïve about this, but Muslims are aware of these boundaries. … avoid lengthy eye contact, adopt modest postures, watch the tone of voice, keep your general demeanour more reserved.” (99)

“By voluntarily submitting to the same restrictions that our Muslim friends live under, Christians can walk in their shoes. There are few ways in which Western Christian women can truly identify with Muslim friends, or can understand their struggles, because our life is different, but we can choose to try to take on their point of view and live in their world. Identify with Muslim women in as many ways as possible and share Christ’s life within those boundaries. This seems to me, to be what living the Gospel means and leaving a model of faith that can be copied.” (118)

“If secular and Muslim women can give up personal preferences and submit to Islamic customs that they do not agree with, surely Christian women can do the same for our testimony. Christ left all his glory to become one of us, in order to show us the way home to the Father. We have an opportunity to lay down self for the sake of Christ. We have an opportunity to follow in the steps of the One who laid aside everything to enable us to receive his word.” (119)

“Typically, Christians arrive in foreign cultures intending to ‘disciple’ others. It’s not too long before they realize they need to learn a lot from those they came to teach. We must be guests before we can be hosts.” (124)

“Being like Jesus does not mean confronting everything all at once, even if we do not agree with it. …Jesus always treated individuals with honour and dignity, whether poor or rich, but he did not forcibly turn the class-system institution upside down during the years of his ministry. He turned it upside down by leaving an example of redeemed relationships for his followers to implement at the opportune time. … As unknown outsiders, Christians need to adapt to the culture in order to gain a hearing.” (128)

“We keep our bearings in Christ by not taking on an attitude that discriminates or denigrates people on the basis of status, yet all the while understanding its importance in the culture and manoeuvring within it.” (130)

“Friends will never say they cannot help. They may not come as they promised, but they will not say ‘No.’ … Arabs do not belong to themselves; they belong to each other. …In the Arab world there is no individual; there is only community. The Western attitude of being an individual in control of your life, and not dependent on anyone, is totally foreign and seen as deviant and dangerous to the group. … Arabs define themselves in terms of the groups they belong to. … It is groups that are unique, not the individual person. Any group member represents the whole group.” (136-37)

“Muslims tend to live in collectivist societies. These societies believe few things need to be spelled out, as people are socialized to learn them from childhood. … But this fact is invisible writing between the lines and is not obvious to an outsider. European society is individualistic. Everything is spelled out, leaving little to the imagination, and life is described by the legalities…. When individualistic members come into a collectivistic societies they do not know what is assumed between the lines. This will take a lot longer to learn than the language…. We may not realize that we don’t actually know what’s going on.” (138)

“The bottom-line value for relationships in family and society, and in theology, for Muslims is honour. For Westerners and Christians it is love.” (140) “Moreover, a call to make an individual decision to follow Christ as a personal Saviour in response to his love for us is just not in their frame of reference. If it is perceived as changing camps and joining the Western Christian camp then it is naturally viewed as dangerous, and more commonly as traitorous! It breaks the cohesive bond to others in the community. This presentation of the Gospel threatens all the most sacred foundations of Muslim societies: honour, authority, and loyalty. Following Christ will challenge our loyalties. But that is after we have understood what the Gospel is all about. We first have to hear it as good news, before we work out the implications on our particular family and culture. We need to understand the web of society, and the deeply held beliefs of people, in order to work out how to tell the story of God’s news so that it sounds like just that: good news.” (141)

“When Christ glorified God on earth, he poured his life into his disciples. This is how we also glorify God on earth. We pour our lives into others, and receive from them, until we both manifest the character of God.” (147)

“Follow Christ’s example and live with your friends, joining with them in all the affairs of daily life under their conditions. People do not only need the Book in their hand with instructions how to live. They need your hand in theirs, sharing their lives along with the Book. This is the heart of the Christian message. God did not rely on a book of instructions. Christ came and lived with us.” (149)

“For Muslims to feel comfortable with our spirituality they need to feel comfortable with our hospitality. … Hospitality is not just serving food; it is a lifestyle, … a generous heart. …The community Jesus lived among did not divide life into secular and religious; neither do Muslims. … Scripture asks us to have the same humility to do things ‘their’ way that Christ had to do things ‘our’ way.” (153) “Hospitality and an open home are crucial for anyone who wants to demonstrate Christ’s love to Muslims.” (155) “If you want deep relationships with people you must invite them to eat with you.” (162)

“Christians need to beware that we do not come to the Muslim world tainted by the arrogance of the secular West: saying by attitude that we are leading the world in science and technology and are going to teach these people how to live. We cannot afford to be arrogant. … Muslims distrust the motives of the West.” (164) One way to embody grace is to listen to their point of view. If we enter a house where there is pain and anger, we should care enough to hear and learn their story and try seeing things from their point of view. (165)

“Muslims do not want to hear the theological beliefs of not-very-nice people. Neither would anyone. If by your non-verbal communication you told your Muslim friend that he or she is not important to you, and by your appearance and actions that you have few moral or spiritual aspirations, then there is no point in telling him or her about your faith that changed your life and made you into a new creation. This new creation may not be looking so good! We embody the message. When Muslims do not believe our creed, nor understand our message, the truest witness is our lives. We need to live in a way that looks godly to Muslims if we want them to listen to our message.” (178)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Islam and Mormonism

Recently in the country where I live in the Middle East, I have noticed some Mormons who are here as missionaries.   Most Muslims in this country have never heard of Mormonism or Joseph Smith.  Thus I have had several chances recently to discuss the fact that they believe in another "final" prophet from God.   My Muslim friends don't like that.  When I tell them more about Mormonism, I ask them if it is from God or from Satan.  They always say it is from Satan.  But when they hear about the similarities between their own religion and Mormonism, it often leaves them scratching their heads! 

For those of you who aren't familiar with Abu Daoud's blog, Islam and Christianity, I heartily recommend it as a wealth of knowledge.  I found this article there.  And I re-post it below for your perusal...
Islam and Mormonism
by C. Fletcher
In studying world religions, I have noticed several similarities between Mormonism and Islam. Sure, there are significant differences as well (Monotheistic Islam vs. Polytheistic Mormonism for example), and I would not suggest that they are theologically compatible, but the foundings of both religions are surprisingly similar and worth noting.

Here are 12 of the parallels that have been noted (this list is by no means exhaustive):

1. Both claimed that the original meaning of the teachings of Jesus and those who preceded him had either been forgotten or corrupted.
2. Both prophets are reported to have come from humble beginnings with no formal education and were barely literate.
3. Holy Books: Both prophets wrote a new holy book that was apparently inspired by God, and both claimed that their holy book was the most correct and perfect book on earth. Also, they both claimed that their holy books were based upon a record stored in heaven. Both religions claim that their Holy Books have been preserved and are accurate to what was originally recorded by their prophets.
4. Both prophets claimed to have had visions and to have been visited by angels. For Muhammad it was the angel Gabriel, and for Smith it was the angel Moroni. Both visions revealed many new teachings that contradict the Bible.
5. Both believed that no true religion existed on Earth and they were there to restore God’s truth. Islam claims that Adam and Abraham were truly Muslim and that it is restoring 'the true faith of Abraham'. Mormons claim to have restored 'the true faith/church' that was on the earth during and after the time of Jesus, before the supposed "Great Apostasy".
6. Both prophets were practicing polygamists and advocated polygamy (and condemn polyandry) by supposed revelation from God. Additionally, both men married very young girls.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Aaron Goerner: An Example to Follow

It's not everyday that a local church pastor from North America makes meaningful dialogue with Muslims a part  of his regular ministry.  That's why when I learned of Aaron Goerner's ministry and his new book, I was so thankful for his example to the Western Church.  Aaron Goerner is a pastor of a local church in Upstate New York, where face to face encounters with Muslims are not an everyday occurrence.  However, he takes his role as a messenger of the Gospel and a leader of the Church seriously, and has undertaken an extensive and ongoing dialogue with Muslims online as a part of his regular ministry.

I recommend you purchase an e-copy of his book, Is the Qur'an the Word of God? for your own resources.  It contains candid and respectful dialogue with Muslims from all over the world on all of the "typical" Muslim misunderstandings of Christianity.  I am so grateful for Aaron's example of taking personally his responsibility for the Great Commission among Muslims as a local church pastor.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Neglecting the Offense of Sin

I just read a post on the crucifixion by Timothy Winter (Abdal Hakim), a Cambridge professor who converted to Islam and is often called "Britain's most famous Muslim."  Here is an excerpt below:
If my neighbour owes me 1000 pounds, I have three options:
1. I can insist that he pay it back
2. I can get someone else to pay it back on his behalf
3. I can simply forgive the debt
Rather crudely it might be said that in the human penitential relationship to God’s rights, rabbinical Judaism favours the first, Christianity favours the second, and Islam favours the third. It is clear which is the ethically superior position.
It never ceases to amaze me that in denying penal substitution and saying that Allah can simply choose to forgive sin, Muslims consistently deny the offense of sin to a Holy God!  Essentially their position diminishes God's holiness, as it can be reduced to something akin to saying, "Oh, sin is no big offense to God, he can just forgive it and forget about it."  This minimizes the seriousness of our rebellion against God, and it destroys the very thing that Islam supposedly holds dear - the greatness of God!  Contrast this with the Christian position, which takes seriously our sin as an offense and a direct affront against a Holy God which requires some form of payment - either by us personally or by Christ.  I don't like my chances of paying back my own sin debt, so I am surely glad that Christ paid it for me!  To deny this is the ultimate form of pride and self-sufficiency.  It's like saying, "No thanks Lord, I can take care of my own sin." Wow!  That's dangerous.

p.s. I don't mean to demean Tim Winter as a scholar, I think he's one of the best.  I highly recommend his book, The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Questions to Answer Everything

How we answer these 5 questions will shape almost everything we do (and form a general framework for missiology):

  1. How do we know what we know?
  2. What is the gospel?
  3. What is mission?
  4. What is the church?
  5. What is the kingdom of God?

HT: Stetzer (And then answering these questions helps shape our Islamic missiology.)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Sana'a Manuscripts and the Syriac Connection to the Qur'an

If you haven't heard about the Sana'a Manuscripts, there's probably a reason - because their revelation is so potentially shocking to the foundations of Islamic theology that it's in the best interests of the scholars involved to keep it hushed.  The following video talks a bit about them, as well as a publication about the connection between ancient Syriac and some of the very hapaxic passages in the Qur'an.  I don't know how helpful this video is to use with Muslim friends, since their first response is usually anger and outright disbelief.  But the fact remains that this video brings up facts that modern Muslims need to face.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Was Mohammed a prophet?

What makes someone a prophet?  Well, it depends what you mean by the word “prophet.”  (I’m not going to get into the “apostleship” of Mohammed (رسول الله) in this post.)

I can recall 8 ways I have heard people, be they Muslims or Christians, affirm the “prophethood” of Mohammed.  Here they are below.

Could it be argued that Mohammed was a “prophet” in the sense that…?

  1. he was not a taxi-driver; his vocation was prophethood.  Although it could also be said that Mohammed was a false prophet (1 Jn. 4:1) in this sense. See also Titus 1:12.
  2. all people receive general revelation from God (Rom. 1:20), and some receive special prompting (revelation?) from God to follow Christ (Acts 10:30-33). In this sense one could say that Mohammed’s cave experience was actually a dream from God when he was half-asleep, but in the end the dream was (horribly) misinterpreted.
  3. Gandhi was a prophet. Gandhi was an unbeliever who nevertheless fought against tyranny and sparked a worldwide movement for biblical values such as peace, justice, and dignity.  Ghandi communicated some very true things.
  4. Martin Luther King Jr. was a prophet.  He was a Christian minister and follower of Jesus who, despite some moral failures, preached a biblical and much needed message of racial reconciliation that inspired millions. Martin Luther King Jr. communicated truth.
  5. Balaam was a prophet (2 Pet. 2:15-16; Num. 23ff). Balaam was called a prophet in 2 Peter (!), although he did not know the Lord and was ultimately judged (Num. 31:8, 16).
  6. King David was a prophetKeep in mind, morally speaking, David and Mohammed have much in common. David looked forward to the Lord, who was the Messiah (Ps. 110; Matt. 10:41-46). Some have argued that Mohammed “pointed” to Christ as well (e.g. Surah 43:61).
  7. some regenerate, new covenant believers are gifted by the Lord Jesus Christ as prophets (Eph. 4:11).  In the New Testament, prophesy is a gift that some believers are given by the Lord Jesus for the edification of the church that will be effective until Christ returns (1 Cor. 12-14).  Prophecy in this sense is not authoritative or equal to Scripture (Acts 21:4; 21:10-11; 1 Thess. 5:20-21; 1 Cor. 14:29).  “The essence of prophecy is to give a clear witness for Jesus” (Rev. 19:10 NLT).  In John’s thought, Jesus is the conquering, crucified lamb, King of kings, Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14), incarnate God-man in the flesh (John 1:1, 14) sent to save people from their sins (John 1:29), usher in the new rule of His kingdom(John 18:36; Rev. 1:6), and raise victoriously over death as the Messiah to commission His disciples to continue His mission of the forgiveness of sins (John 20).
  8. Islam believes he was the final authoritative prophet of the One True God whose message supersedes and replaces all previous revelations.

Some evangelicals have argued that affirming the “prophethood” of Mohammed greatly enhances witness and dialogue with Muslims.

Could or should Mohammed’s prophethood be affirmed in any of the senses above?  Why or why not?  If you think it is wise to affirm any of the above, what kind of qualifiers would you need to communicate in order to clarify what you believe about the nature of prophecy and the rule of King Jesus?