Monday, March 28, 2011

Mohammed as the Only Mediator

I like to present Jesus to my Muslim friends as the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5-6).  But the response I usually hear is, “Mohammed is our mediator.”  This idea is not found in the Qur’an but in the Hadith, which are seen by many Muslims to be just as authoritative as the Qur’an.

The Qur’an states that no one may mediate unless God permits him: “Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His Permission?”  (2:254-5).  This question is answered by the Bukhari collection of the Hadith 6:60:3:

Narrated Anas:

The Prophet said, "On the Day of Resurrection the Believers will assemble and say, 'Let us ask somebody to intercede for us with our Lord.'

So they will go to Adam and say, 'You are the father of all the people, and Allah created you with His Own Hands, and ordered the angels to prostrate to you, and taught you the names of all things; so please intercede for us with your Lord, so that He may relieve us from this place of ours.'

Adam will say, 'I am not fit for this (i.e. intercession for you).' Then Adam will remember his sin and feel ashamed thereof. He will say, 'Go to Noah, for he was the first Apostle, Allah sent to the inhabitants of the earth.'

They will go to him and Noah will say, 'I am not fit for this undertaking.' He will remember his appeal to his Lord to do what he had no knowledge of, then he will feel ashamed thereof and will say, 'Go to the Khalil--r-Rahman (i.e. Abraham).'

They will go to him [Abraham] and he will say, 'I am not fit for this undertaking. Go to Moses, the slave to whom Allah spoke (directly) and gave him the Torah .'

So they will go to him [Moses] and he will say, 'I am not fit for this undertaking.' and he will mention (his) killing a person who was not a killer, and so he will feel ashamed thereof before his Lord, and he will say, 'Go to Jesus, Allah's Slave, His Apostle and Allah's Word and a Spirit coming from Him.

Jesus will say, 'I am not fit for this undertaking, go to Muhammad the Slave of Allah whose past and future sins were forgiven by Allah.'

So they will come to me [Muhammad] and I will proceed till I will ask my Lord's Permission and I will be given permission. When I see my Lord, I will fall down in Prostration and He will let me remain in that state as long as He wishes and then I will be addressed.' (Muhammad!) Raise your head. Ask, and your request will be granted; say, and your saying will be listened to; intercede, and your intercession will be accepted.' I will raise my head and praise Allah with a saying (i.e. invocation) He will teach me, and then I will intercede. He will fix a limit for me (to intercede for) whom I will admit into Paradise. Then I will come back again to Allah, and when I see my Lord, the same thing will happen to me. And then I will intercede and Allah will fix a limit for me to intercede whom I will let into Paradise, then I will come back for the third time; and then I will come back for the fourth time, and will say, 'None remains in Hell but those whom the Quran has imprisoned (in Hell) and who have been destined to an eternal stay in Hell.' " (The compiler) Abu 'Abdullah said: 'But those whom the Qur'an has imprisoned in Hell,' refers to the Statement of Allah: "They will dwell therein forever." (16.29).

Bases on this hadith, I believe many of my Muslim friends actually place their faith and trust in Mohammed.  They hope Mohammed will find them to be a good Muslim on Judgment day.

HT: Abdul Musloob

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What are the Bible and the Qur’an Basically About?

Watch this 4 minute video (HT: SM) below to answer the question, What is the Bible basically about?

Compare this with the Qur’an.  In Major Themes in the Qur’an, Fazlur Rahman says:

“The aim of the Qur’an is man and his behavior, not God” (3).

This is a repeat of what was in the first line of the book, “The Qur’an is a document that is squarely aimed at man.”  The Qur’an is “guidance for mankind” (2:185).

The Bible is written by 40 different authors over a period of 1500 years detailing God’s redemptive purposes for humankind in Christ, yet is amazingly unified on this story.

The Qur’an, however, was recorded by one author over a period of 23 years and has very little grand story in it.

It seems to me much easier to simply write an instruction manual for living than it would be to write on the character, nature, and plan of God revealed in a Messiah who would transform hearts and usher in the rule of God.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Islam is Not a Civilization, Ramachandra- Faiths in Conflict?

image This post is a summary of chapter 1 “Islam and new religious wars?” in Faiths in Conflict?: Christian Integrity in a Multicultural World (IVP Academic, 2000).  Ramachandra, who works with the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), writes dry and intellectually, but he has a very interesting argument, especially since this was written pre-9/11.  Here I will only try to summarize his argument and let you post your comments below.

From the Preface of the book:

In chapter 1 [Islam and new religious wars?], I discuss the “Islamic resurgence” of recent decades and the alleged threat it poses to the West.  One of the most competent exponents of the view that “Islam” and the “West” are mutually hostile and irreconcilable is Samuel Huntington [The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order], a politics professor at Harvard University and adviser on the international relations to the US governments.  In the post-Cold War world, Huntington argues, religious or civilizational clashes have replaced wars fought for economic or strategic reasons.  This chapter combines a critique of Huntington with an examination of the West’s perception of Islam and the misleading rhetoric of Islamist movements.  It also explores how dangerous stereotypes are generated in both Western and Islamic societies.  It concludes with some challenging question for Muslims and Christians alike.   

Ramachandra begins by agreeing that Huntington’s main thesis is simple, clear, and seemingly self-evident.  “In the post-Cold War world, the most important distinctions among peoples are not ideological, political, or economic.  They are cultural… The most pervasive, important and dangerous conflicts will not be between social classes, rich and poor, or other economically defined groups, but between peoples belonging to different cultural entities” (13).

Huntington defines six major contemporary civilizations: Western, Sinic [Chinese], Japanese, Hindu, Islamic, and Orthodox.  According to Huntington, the coming conflict between the West and Islam will be because Islam is obsessed with the inferiority of its power and and that the West believes in the universality of Western culture; Islamic intolerance will clash with Western arrogance.  For Huntington, the solution is that civilizations should not interfere in conflicts based in other civilizations and an international order based on civilizations is a safeguard against world war.  Ramachandra believes Huntington’s analysis is “seriously flawed” and an “unreliable guide for understanding the world in which we live” (15).  Ramachandra argues against viewing Islam in a civilizational category.

After the fall of Communism, the West is seeking new demons.  Islam now fits that bill and is seen as a threat against the West.  Correspondingly, predominantly Muslim countries portray any Western involvement in their affairs as an affront against Islam.  Both sides have utilized anti-imperialist slogans and demonization, and engaged in a process of “mutual satanization” (19).  However, the dangerous rhetoric of stereotyping the “other” in broad strokes is not a recent phenomena.

Both Islamists and and their critics refer to Islam as a specific, timeless, social and political programme.  But Islam is far from a monolithic, unchanging reality.  In the post-colonial world, nationalist or Islamist movements from Morocco to India to Indonesia have appealed to Islam to legitimate their polices and gain popular support.  “These groups are responding to specific, historical problems, often of a social and political nature, not engaging in some universal crusade against other peoples” (17). 

In order to understand the nature of these movements, it’s not necessary to examine the Qur’an, but instead to look at problems facing the populations of these peoples.  Islam is often times posed by Islamists as being under threat.  This language is “part of the rhetorical baggage of political struggle, employed by both those who wish to remain in power and those who aspire to attain power” (19).  Most Muslims are not supporters of Islamist movements!  The myth of the “Islam in danger” slogan is propagated by those who wish to maintain or gain control of the community.

Another misperception of Islam as a civilization is the myth of Islamic unity.  “Within twenty-five years of the death of Muhammad, Muslim believers were killing each other on the field of battle” (21).  A cursory look at Islamic history confirms that Islam has always been segregated, as does the animosity between Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran today.  In the Gulf war, one Islamic state attacked another Islamic state.  Even Muslim communities in the West which appear homogeneous to outsiders are fragmented around ethnic, linguistic, and political groupings.

Today, what passes for “Islamic legal code” is far from unified and always reflects the local context.  Numerous conflicting examples of shari’a law abound, all ambiguously based on the Qur’an and sunnah.  “If we want to know why most Muslims hold the views they do about sexuality, economics, democracy and the like, it is not ‘Islam’ alone that can explain it” (25).  The difficulty of establishing democracy in many parts of the Muslim world is due, not to the inherent nature of Islam, but to “low levels of development, entrenched traditions of state control, political cultures that inhibit diversity and tolerance, the absence of a tradition of private property, and the lack of separation of state and law” (26).

The way “Islam” is defined by those defending their power or by those in conflict with them is a mirror-image of the way the “West” is defined by Muslims.  “It is a prominent feature of Muslim writings, both serious and popular: the West is depicted as a monolithic entity, irredeemably materialist, immoral and decadent, and characterized by aggressiveness, expansionism and intolerance towards Islam and Muslims” (34).  It is this reductionist approach to complex cultures and peoples that creates the appearance of unbridgeable differences today.

Huntington’s overall flaw is that he claims that the reason for the increase in religious rhetoric as justification for political action on both sides is evidence that differences in culture or religion are what precipitate international conflicts. Thus, Huntington’s argument of the “clash of the incompatible civilizations” is a self-fulfilling prophecy; the more we believe it, the more it will come true (37).  In fact, numerous examples can be cited where the West has explicitly worked with Muslims when their goals were aligned (i.e. American CIA support of the Mujahidin in Afghanistan or Saudi and Israeli support of the Gulf war, to name just two).

Ramachandra offers four suggestions for living with integrity in a multicultural world. First, we should try to avoid using religious categories such as ‘Muslim’, ‘Christian’, ‘Buddhist’ or ‘Hindu’ to describe an ethnic or cultural group. Second, whatever religious traditions we belong to and whatever religious convictions we hold, we should apply the same standards to political phenomena in other societies that we apply to our own. The KKK doesn’t speak for American Christians in the same way Muslims don’t want Osama Bin Laden speaking for them as a Muslim.  Thirdly, Muslims themselves need to champion religious freedoms.  It is hypocritical for Muslim citizens in the West to enjoy religious freedom when minority citizens in their home countries are denied those very same rights.  Finally, we must take seriously the challenge to explore faiths and cultures of other people, especially those who live in our own neighborhood- this goes for both Muslims and Christians.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Salvation sans Jesus?

Lots of stuff going on in the blogosphere about hell.  This is a really difficult issue on many levels, but important nevertheless for those who labor to see Muslims, most of whom have never heard the gospel, embrace the Messiah for all he is.

I think this quote from J.I. Packer quickly gets to the heart of the matter:

It has been urged that if non-Christian devotees come to know themselves as guilty, defiled, and unworthy, and to confess and renounce their sins, asking mercy from whatever gods there may be, they will receive the forgiveness they seek because of the Jesus they do not yet know, but will know hereafter. God forbid we should dispute this. But have we reason to think there are such people? The New Testament only speaks of penitents being saved through knowing about, and coming to trust, the crucified and risen Lord.

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Revolution in Church Multiplication in East Africa

Here is an excerpt [for the excerpt click on the link] of a DMin dissertation called, A Revolution in Church Multiplication in East Africa.  The entire paper can be downloaded from that link as well.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Gospel Planting vs. Church Planting

From the footnotes of Rick Love’s paper Following Jesus in a Glocalized World:

What about the term, “church planting?” I believe it miscommunicates at a number of levels, so I prefer the term “gospel planting” for three reasons:

(1) “Gospel planting” is more biblical and accurate. Nowhere does the New Testament imply that we plant the church. But it does teach that we plant the gospel. The parable of the sower makes this most clear.

(2) “Gospel planting” helps us envision our task more clearly. The term “church planting” implies that we bring the church from the outside. To use another metaphor, “church planting” implies that we plant the gospel seed along with a flower pot. The church is then foreign rather than indigenous. “Gospel planting” implies that we sow the gospel seed, and churches spring up from indigenous soil.

(3) “Gospel planting” is more Christ-centered than “church planting,” since Jesus is the gospel.

Paul the apostle linked his apostolic aims and ambitions with the gospel. His “apostolic self-description” indicates that his goal was the gospel. His work resulted in communities of Jesus’ followers. He loved and suffered for these communities of faith. But he linked his apostolic aims and ambitions with the gospel:

“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1 NASB).

“However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24 NIV).

“And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man’s foundation” (Romans 15:20 NASB).

“I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it” (1 Corinthians 9:23 NASB).

“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness … ” (Colossians 1:25).

“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace [of apostleship] was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear” (2 Timothy 4:17).

In my previous post, Decline of the Church Planting Movement Strategy?, “Mark” criticized church planting movements, but from a different angle.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Decline of the Church Planting Movement Strategy?

From “Mark” at Second Thoughts on The Future of Missions (

For the last twenty years the primary strategy in evangelical missions has been the Church Planting Movement (CPM) strategy. This strategy was developed by the International Mission Board (IMB) of the Southern Baptist Convention (but is now widely used by many other organizations). The leaders of the IMB were frustrated because most of their evangelistic fruit came from only five countries: Brazil, Nigeria, Kenya, the Philippines, and Korea. They longed to see similar results from their work in all the nations. So, they developed the CPM strategy in order to emphasize the planting of rapidly reproducing churches around the world. CPM was seen as the "golden key," a strategy that will work in any place at any time. Many missions agencies have embraced CPM as their strategy. For example, Youth with a Mission (YWAM) has held seminars on CPM all over the world.

What's the problem? Surely, it is a good thing to seek to plant churches that will rapidly reproduce. Yes, indeed. CPM has much to commend it. It stresses fervent prayer, widespread evangelism, and planting indigenous churches. The problems with CPM have been discussed by Dr. David Sills in his book, Reaching and Teaching. (highly recommended!) Dr. Sills cogently argues that CPM fails because it neglects training disciples and especially church leaders. Another weakness is that CPM has a weak ecclesiology. This has been pointed out by writers at 9Marks Ministries and Mid-America Seminary. Beyond that, many of the featured CPMs seem to have a short lifespan. That is, after a few years researchers cannot find the churches. In John 15:16 Jesus told his disciples "I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit--fruit that will last." It seems the rapidity emphasized by the CPM strategy does not produce fruit that lasts. I am not predicting that CPM will disappear overnight. Missions agencies change slowly; however, it does seem that CPM will slowly decline due to inherent weaknesses.

Interesting that this criticism comes out as Mission Frontiers publishes their March-April 2011 Issue on Church Planting Movements!

See this article: Church Planting Movements Among Muslim Peoples

What do you think?