Here is my attempt at a brief summary of Part II of The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative by Chris Wright. (Part I here.) Keep reading for why I think this is relevant for readers of Circumpolar.
God is a missionary God (in a class of his own compared with other ‘gods’) who longs to be glorified by making himself known among all the nations through Israel as creator, ruler, judge, and savior. Jesus shares the identity of God and personally fulfills this mission. Biblical monotheism is driven by God’s will to be known as God, and generates praise from those who come to see God through Christ. “All our missional efforts to make God known must be set within the prior framework of God’s own will to be known. We are seeking to accomplish what God himself wills to happen. This is both humbling and reassuring” (129).
But the problem is that fallen creation, demons, and human constructs seek praise at the expense of God’s glory. Thus, for God to be known as God in Christ, idolatry must be confronted in all its forms. All idols are “something” in the world, but also “nothing” compared with the living God. Other ‘gods’ can be either demons or human constructs or both, but the ‘gods’ are much more commonly connected with human sin in the Bible. “Not that we owe the devil any exoneration, but neither should we shift the blame on to him for what is our own responsibility (another trick we learned as early as the Garden of Eden)” (162).
Mission must expose and unmask the gods. Idols are destructive but also destructible. Idols are things that entice us, things we fear, things we trust, or things we need. Idols deprive God of his proper glory, distort the image of God in us, and are profoundly disappointing. God is waging war against those forces that try to mess up his plans for his creation. The battle belongs to the Lord.
“Combating idolatry can take may forms. The Bible itself prepares us to recognize that different approaches may be relevant in different contexts” (179). There is theological argument (Rom. 1:18-32), evangelistic argument (Acts 14, 17, and 19), pastoral guidance (1 Cor. 8-9), and prophetic warning (esp. to the people of God themselves). “Since God’s mission is to restore creation to its full original purpose of bringing all glory to God himself and thereby to enable all creation to enjoy the fullness of blessing that he desires for it, God battles against all forms of idolatry and calls us to join him in that conflict” (188).
So what does all this mean for ministry to Muslims? While I think the God of the Qur’an and the God of the Bible are the same referent (with notable differences), the idol in Islam would mostly be Islam itself, depending on the individual Muslim of course. Islam is all about Islam. For some Muslims the idol would be Mohammed, and I think many honest Muslims would actually admit that this is often the case.