A Special Appeal to Muslim Readers
Some of what you will find in this book may well upset you. If I were Muslim, yes, I would be offended at some points in this book, and especially with the first essay, “Who is Muhammad’s Gabriel?”
My appeal to you is to have the courage to read the difficult passages. Finding truth and reality is far more important than protecting ourselves from sharp challenges.
Faith must be anchored in ultimate truth and not in traditions. Christians face this on a constant bases and indeed it makes us stronger. So then dear Muslim reader, my hope and prayer is that you will have the strength and courage to look at material that will in fact contradict what you believe.
Essays on Islam
Original Introduction to Islamic Studies: Equipping the Christian Witness to Muslims
Any, all, or parts of the following essays may be used by anyone for whatever purpose, freely, without any consideration or money changing hands. If desired, references may be made without mentioning the articles or author.
The reader will notice differences in my orientation or feelings toward Islam in the essays. The tenth essay was written in late 2016, while the seventh is from 2002. I did not include the earliest essay, because when I wrote it I was quite angry toward Muslims and Islam in general. The more I learned about Islam and especially the more I engaged with Muslim people directly, my views softened, in that I realized Muslims were caught in the vice grip of an exceedingly unhealthy religious system.
The Islam of the extremists is purer, more traditional, and more radical than that practiced and understood by moderates. Only a small percentage of Muslims know much about their religion; the zealous Muslim knows much more about Islam and understands that if he or she has a chance of going to paradise rather than hellfire, it is necessary to be a very fervent follower of Islam.
Most Muslims want to live and let live. But their entire identity, their worldview, is Muslim. They cannot imagine being anything but Muslim. Outreach to Muslims is then dependent on the miracle working of God; the new birth is from above.
To be clear, I see Islam as wrongly oriented and founded. I no more accept Islam as a revelation from God than I do Hinduism, Buddhism, Shamanism, and the belief systems of many neo-pagan groups.
All organized religions are flawed, including Christianity. I am a Baptist pastor who understands that Baptists are flawed as well. Any and every institution with humans involved will be corrupt to some measure, some more than others. I definitely believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself and that God sent His only Son to take our sin upon Himself—to die, be buried, and be resurrected. He will come again to judge the living and the dead. There is salvation in no one but Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
A challenge to the reader: Which essay would be appropriate to give to a Muslim and which would not? All the essays are written for Christians who have an interest in understanding Islam. Some are “softer” than others and may be used as a Gospel tract, so to speak, and given to Muslim people. Some are “harder” and would likely repel a Muslim reader. As Christians, we do not “pull punches.” At the same time, we hope to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Our goal is to present the message of Jesus Christ to all people of the world including Muslims.
A note to readers who are feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point. There is so much to learn about Islam and all that goes with it. There is indeed a steep learning curve, and the journey up the initial curve is painful and frustrating. I not only have been there, but in many ways, I am yet struggling up the incline. It is little by little for sure. And I must confess that when I speak with Muslims, I find I really don’t have to know all that much about Islam; this is necessary only when dealing with the imams and scholars. A good grasp of the essentials of Biblical Christianity is what counts the most. We simply present the message of the person and work of Jesus Christ. That is it, the basic evangel. And you will be surprised how many Muslims are eager to hear it.