The lead essay, “Who is Muhammed’s Gabriel?” may be a difficult read for Muslim people, and it is to Muslim people across the globe that this book is written.
The essays in this book were written over a twenty-year period, and the reader will notice differences in my orientation or feelings toward Islam in some compared to others. Many years ago, I developed a love for Muslim people, and this especially after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and after coming to personally know several Muslims from a nearby community. 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.
For two years, 2018 to 2020, Imam Abu Qadir Al-Amin of the Muslim Community Center in San Francisco and I talked with each other—not debated, rather communicated together about what and why each believed—in a television program series. We remain friends and speak with each other on occasion. You can view these television programs by going to milleravenuechurch.org/watch-our-tv-shows.
One of the dividing lines in Islam is fervor, in that 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 more about Islam, makes it his business to study and be guided by ardent elders, and understands that to have 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. It cannot be argued into them or coerced.
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 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 none but Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
To repeat: the lead piece to this small book of essays may be upsetting to Muslims. I know this, as I have visited our local Sunni Mosque for many years now. It is possible that some there will read this and not be pleased with me or feel that I am against them, even despise them, none of which is the case. My overarching view is that people who embrace Islam are people whom the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ loves, and they are people for whom Jesus shed His blood on the Cross.
This grouping of short essays may also be of value to those who wish to understand the main tenants of Islam. It reflects what I learned during my years of researching this world religion. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com with questions or comments.