Christianity and Islam

Book Review: “The Dark Side of Islam,” R. C. Sproul and Abdul Saleeb, Crossway Books, 2003 and “The Crescent through the Eyes of the Cross,” Nabeel Jabbour, Navigators, 2008.

There are two ways to approach the relationship between Christianity and Islam. One – followed by this book – is to focus attention on all the doctrinal differences between the two. This may bring some intellectual clarity about Christianity and Islam but of course it does little to help Christians relate to Muslims. People who burn bridges before they cross them can reach no one.

The second approach is to identify bridges, points at which there is overlap. When we see what we have in common, we can easily find ways to connect with one another. Of course, if we forget that there are real differences, then little is gained by this approach because we will have little to offer. But if we neglect points of contact, we will simply remain isolated from one another and no one will be interested in what we might have to give.

Sproul and Saleeb have written a simple but clear book about the ways in which Christianity and Islam hold doctrinal positions which are at odds with one another. Centrally, of course, we differ on our understanding of who Jesus is. The Qur’an reveres Jesus as a great prophet (second only to Muhammad in importance) and accepts the teaching that Jesus was born of a virgin. It is emphatic, though, that there is no way Allah (the normal Arabic word for God) can have a son because that would mean there are two gods and because it would mean Allah had intimate relations with a human woman. So they reject the idea that God is a Father and Jesus his Son. It is important that we recognize what we have in common even here: We both are absolutely committed to monotheism and the to absolute purity and righteousness of God.

A second major area of difference between Christianity and Islam is in our view of the Bible. Islam recognizes that the Bible is a true revelation of God but believe it to have been corrupted over the years to give it a pro-Jewish and anti-Arabic slant. Islam points out, for example, that Ishmael was the first born son of Abraham and was therefore the rightful heir to the blessings of Abraham. They Bible, Islam complains, leaves the full story of God’s people at that point and follows instead only the story of the Jews.

Missions to Muslims, when based primarily on the distinctions between Christianity and Islam, have been nearly fruitless over the years. And the cost has been enormous for those few who have converted from Islam to Christianity. Missions which seek simply to share the living Lord Jesus, without seeking to confront Islam at every point of difference, have discovered almost inadvertently that a great many people can become followers of Jesus without violating all of Islam and its familial and social structures.

An excellent book to help us appreciate the second path is “The Cross and the Crescent” by Nabeel Jabbour, available at Amazon in print or as an e-book for Kindle. Jabbour, a Lebanese Christian raised in a respectful Muslim context, is very helpful for those who want to understand what it means to be Muslim. He is able to write with great sensitivity and integrity, never losing track of the Gospel of Jesus Christ but never letting himself feel superior to others. He writes with humility, love, and respect. He is a bridge builder.

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About mthayes42

I am a retired pastor, interested in the Bible, cross-cultural ministries, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the current and past history of western civilization.
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3 Responses to Christianity and Islam

  1. Ben says:

    I worked with a Muslim guy for a couple years, and we had many discussions about our faiths. We debated everything from Abraham to the Goldstone Report. By the time I was preparing to move away from the area, we realized that we had become actual friends. I learned a lot about Islam, and that many Muslims are indeed peaceful (I was literally worried that he might feel called to kill me). Over time, I learned how to take a more Christ-like approach to communication.

    However, he had NO intention of converting to Christianity, and I had NO intention of converting to Islam. Also, one would never be able to prove something controversial to the other because of the differing sources of information that were considered legitimate. The best way that we eventually made our peace was by accepting that basic fact, and moving on away from “religion and politics” as people often suggest to do. I continue to pray for him, and I really hope I see him in heaven some day.

    I believe God blessed me with the opportunity to becomes friends with a Muslim. It made me so much more understanding, and caused me to see the human side of the debate. I will say, however, that I still believe that Islam is a tool of Satan and is very dangerous, globally-speaking. I feel very bad for people who have been duped into putting their faith in it, and the world is in for serious trouble as jihad continues to spread.

    The Muslims claim that Muhammed got his message from the angel “Gabriel”, and that Gabriel made a point of clarifying that Jesus is not God (the Bible specifically warns to not listen to that line). My theory is that Satan appeared at a certain time and a certain people to do as much as possible to counteract the spreading truth of Christianity. Satan would probably have the ability to make the Koran seem very legitimate. It is also interesting to note how hostile Muslims tend to be toward Israel. Lastly, it is really creepy how Christians and Muslims are both expecting the end times, but their scriptures put them on opposite sides of the coming events!

    -Ben

    • mthayes42 says:

      Thanks for the good note, Ben. One of the key differences between Islam and Christianity is that of grace and forgiveness. When we befriend a Muslim, we simply have to be living demonstrations of grace and forgiveness — and therefore humbled by the fact that we ourselves live only by God’s immeasurable grace — and then pray that the time will come when our friend needs to feel forgiven and remembers what we have shown him.

      I know a fellow who in SE Asia who paused briefly to listen to a street evangelist, then moved on when he realized the fellow was a Christian. Several years later he was drowning, called out “Jesus,” and was then rescued. Now he and his whole family are followers of Jesus. They had never heard of the Christian Church and so it never occurred to them that they were not Muslim.

      Mike

      • Ben says:

        Absolutely. A relationship with Allah cannot happen for Muslims in the same way that we have a relationship with Christ. The forgiveness that we have and the love that we show is our best witness. There are many amazing stories of how Muslims came to be Christians and that is encouraging.

        -Ben

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