The reader of this timely work by Dr. Jim Garlow will be impressed by the intensive research that has gone into its preparation. If there was ever a time that a fuller understanding of Islam-its beginnings, its objective, and its inevitable confrontations with Christianity was essential-that time was punctuated by the events of September 11, 2001. All Americans can benefit from a careful reading of this comprehensive analysis of Islam’s role in world affairs, and of how Christians must react.
D. James Kennedy, Ph.D.
Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church
Introduction to A Christian’s Response To Islam
The Email Letter That Became A Book
This was never intended to be a book. It began simply as a personal letter to a pastor friend of mine who had emailed me, telling me that his congregation had invited Muslims to their church following the September 11 terrorist attack on America. According to my friend’s message, his congregation stood and applauded for the Muslims. I emailed him my response. After I sent it, I realized that it was a type of “position paper,” so I emailed it to several more friends. I could never have anticipated what occurred next.
After Sept. 11th, 2001, I decided to spend study time exclusively dedicated to understanding Islam better – reading, studying, interviewing – spending nearly 1,000 hours in the four months following the New York City / Washington, D.C. attacks.
Within an hour I began hearing from people all over the country, and from as far away as Paris, France. Almost everyone indicated they were forwarding it to their entire email address lists. People asked if they could copy it, print it, post it on web sites, read it over radio stations. Some pastors read the entire 12 page, double column letter to their congregations. Simply stated, the “letter” quickly went “far and wide.”
During the next few days, over 700 personally written emails came to me (I read everyone – carefully), 97 percent thanking me for what I had written. I began to see a pattern in the responses. Almost all were positive (“I never knew this. Thank you for this.”). A few were negative or, at least, challenging. (“How dare you suggest that the Koran has violent passages? How dare you criticize Muslims? They worship the same God we do.” “Islam is a religion of peace!”) Most intriguing were the many comments from those who have worked in Muslim nations or who were formerly Muslim. By far the most encouraging were the statements that indicated my email had encouraged a greater passion for Christ. (“Your letter helped me be more bold for Jesus.”) Along with the emails came vigorous “chat room” discussions on the topic and hundreds of private conversations.
Because of the widespread distribution of the letter, I also had the privilege of hearing from persons who were once Muslim (MBB’s as they are called: Muslim Background Believers) and have come to embrace Jesus as the resurrected Son of God. I was able to spend time with these new friends, asking them about Islam, what it was like being Muslim, how they came to leave Islam, and then hearing accounts of-in some cases-the attempts on their lives due to their Christian conversions.
In past years, I had received several graduate degrees on the history of Christianity. Islam would enter the “story line,” but only tangentially. After Sept. 11th, 2001, I decided to spend study time exclusively dedicated to understanding Islam better – reading, studying, interviewing – spending nearly 1,000 hours in the four months following the New York City / Washington, D.C. attacks. I chose to read not only Christian and Jewish writings, but Islamic sources as well. In order to understand what is happening in contemporary, present day Islam country by country, I took a course on the current trends of various national Muslim communities – globally.
As a result of the whirlwind created by one simple email letter, this book came to be. And it has one agenda: To increase love and boldness for Christ, with the result that we more effectively share Him with all (including Muslims), rather than simply “blending in” with our multi-religious culture.
TABLE OF CONTENTS from A Christian’s Response To Islam
Islamic Growth, taken from Chapter 1 of A Christian’s Response To Islam
Many individuals were not aware of the prevalence of Muslims in America and around the globe until after September 11. Here are some shocking statistics:
The Loss of “Jesus-centeredness” in American Churches, taken from Chapter 5 of A Christian’s Response To Islam
Approximately 3,000 persons lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. But there was one death that was underreported. That death was truth. Truth died on that fateful day. (This is the key to this entire book; this thought is the reason for this book.) Media commentaries that followed that horrific day frequently referred to every deceased person as “being in heaven.” Universalism reigned. Most bizaare was Oprah Winfrey’s notion that everyone killed in the World Trade Center in New York had become an angel!
It is cruel to lie to people – especially when their eternity is at stake. The days following Sept. 11, 2001 were splendid opportunities to examine how to be prepared for the afterlife – making it to heaven, avoiding hell. But the “loudest” voices in the post 9-11 verbalized the universalistic “everyone-went-to-heaven” mantra.
It is cruel to lie to people – especially when their eternity is at stake. The days following Sept. 11, 2001 were splendid opportunities to examine how to be prepared for the afterlife – making it to heaven, avoiding hell. But the “loudest” voices in the post 9-11 verbalized the universalistic “everyone-went-to-heaven” mantra. But what is more tragic is that surveys indicate that most Americans believe some vague version of universalism (the results of “my good works” outweighing “my bad deeds”). And the consequences of believing such an untruth are horrific and lasting.
The one institution that could and should have been in a position to correct such harmful thinking was evangelical Christianity. But is seemed alarmingly impotent. We expect “liberals” to act like liberals. And liberal churches did just that (affirming universalism; telling Muslims we all worship the same “God”). But Sept. 11th was profoundly alarming in that evangelical churches started acting like liberals. We (as evangelicals) had a mirror held up to us in the days following that fateful September day, and what we saw defied our rich Jesus-centered heritage. Evangelicals, for the first time, seemingly denied their former christo-centricity (Christ centeredness). John 14:6 – “no one comes to the Father except through me (Jesus)” – had apparently disappeared from many Bibles. If my analysis is right (and I pray I am wrong), something worse than the World Trade Center loss occurred on Sept. 11, 2001. It was the day truth died. And if the evangelical church does not “step up to the plate,” many of America’s church buildings, within a half century, will have crescent moons on their steeples rather than crosses. (Lest you scoff, there are several formerly predominantly Christian countries who said, “it will never happen to us.” But it did.)
“Praying In Jesus’ Name”, taken from Chapter 6 of A Christian’s Response To Islam
When we are with non-Christians, should we pray “in God’s Name” rather than “in Jesus’ Name?” What do we do in a “pluralistic” culture? When we are with Muslims (or any other religious group), should we try to “blend in” so as not to offend – and for the purpose of establishing some “common ground.”
I believe that Christians should stop referring simply to “God” so as not to offend, but should boldly and unabashedly proclaim the name of Jesus, including praying “in Jesus’ Name” – even in places where non-Christians may be gathered. We don’t speak Jesus name for the purpose of being offensive. We speak His name because He is Lord. But in the speaking of His name, some are offended. So be it! Tragically however, due to living in a pluralistic culture, some Christians are hesitant to use Jesus’ name – the Name of the One who was willing to die for them!
The facts are, 77 percent of the people in American at least say they are Christian. Two percent say they are Jewish. Approximately two percent say they are Muslim.
We act as if we are a “Muslim/Hindu/Jewish/Christian/ Sikh/Buddhist/etc. nation” with “equal representation” required at any “public” prayer service. (Some, admittedly, would say, “Yes, we should.”) Some Muslims have been quite outspoken that they desire Americans to not speak merely of “a Christian heritage” or “a Judeo-Christian heritage,” but rather of “a Judeo-Christian-Islamic heritage!” The most bizarre example of such thinking was recently demonstrated by a decision made by Clarence Wood, Chicago’s human-relations commissioner, regarding a Christmas display in Daley Plaza. He required that a reproduction of a minaret (the tower used to sound calls to prayer to follower’s of Islam) be included next to a (Jewish) menorah and a (Christian) nativity scene. Wood said the aftermath of the 9-11 attack “raises the importance” of the city government’s duty to educate its citizens about Islam! (World Magazine, Dec. 1, 2001) Since when is it the duty of the city government of Chicago to educate regarding Islam?
The facts are, 77 percent of the people in American at least say they are Christian. Two percent say they are Jewish. Approximately two percent say they are Muslim. One third of one percent are Hindu. Less are Sikhs. With 8 out of 10 Americans saying they are Christian, we give equal billing to every other imaginable religion – and, on top of that – rarely mention the name of Jesus – the person that 77% of Americans, at least, say they follow.
In January of 2001, Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, prayed at President George Bush’s Inaguration. Pastor Caldwell “drew criticism from non-Christians for praying his benediction ‘in the name that’s above all other names, Jesus the Christ. Let all who agree say amen.’ He later told a Religion News Service reporter, ‘There does come a time when you need to stake your claim. I always prayed in Jesus’ name. No need to change it now.’” I wholeheartedly agree. No need to change it now!
(Jenny Staff Johnson, “The Minister of ‘Good Success’” Christianity Today, Oct. 1, 2001, Vol. 45., No. 12, p. 63.)
Really Loving Muslims, taken from Chapter 8 of A Christian’s Response To Islam
Here is the key point of this chapter: to not lovingly share the Gospel with our Muslims friends is to demonstrate that we are really not willing to treat them as friends. What kind of a person would not share life-saving information with his/her friend. What kind of a friend are we (to Muslims and other non-Christians) if we just “try to be nice” (such as “platforming” them) but do not articulate in creative and meaningful ways the pathway to Life Eternal? The title of this chapter could have been “How to Really Love a Muslim.” To not show someone the way to abundant life is to not love them. Clapping for Muslims on the platforms of our churches sounds so good – so vanguard! But it is lethal. It has two results: (1) it “lulls” us into complacency; and (2) and it affirms them in their Christ-less, works-centered attempt to reach heaven. God wants something quite different from us. Compassionately sharing Christ with them (in actions and in words) will make a difference one million years from now – in the destiny of every responsive Muslim.
What kind of a friend are we (to Muslims and other non-Christians) if we just “try to be nice” (such as “platforming” them) but do not articulate in creative and meaningful ways the pathway to Life Eternal?
I hope that the next few pages will stir your heart. I hope your heart will be broken for the 1.4 billion Muslims who have the potential of entering a Christ-less eternity. I once read a haunting magazine article entitled: “Who Weeps for Hagar’s Children?” Hagar, of course is the servant girl/”wife” of Abraham who became Ishmael’s mother. “Hagar’s Children” refers to Muslims. Borrowing that magazine article title (based on Gen. 21:16), I ask you: will you weep for Hagar’s children?
(Elwood McQuaid, “Who Weeps for Hagar’s Children?” Israel My Glory Magazine, Nov/Dec. 2001, Vol. 59, No. 6, p. 6) Will you weep for Muslims?