The following are notes taken during the session.
The fullest expression of Christian living has to be a combination of God’s truth entering the head, igniting the heart, and outworking through the hands. If we’re going to enjoy the fullness of his grace more perfectly, there has to be an entrance of the truth into the head that affects the heart and comes out through the hands.
There is an increasing anti-intellectualism and a stereotype against Muslims. There is a misconception of the unreachability of Muslims. I think a lot of us are afraid of Islam and Muslims. Where fear takes control, thinking doesn’t. This fear can manifest itself in apathy or hatred.
Thinking is not the same as reactionism. We need to engage Islam. Thinking is not the same as stereotyping. Stereotyping simplifies complexity. Thinking is not the same as feeling. Thinking and feeling should be rightly joined. But we may feel deeply and quickly before we’ve ever thought through a thing. When we feel without thinking, we endanger our heads and our hearts.
1) What Is Pluralism?
People with different cultural and religious identities can live together simultaneously. People with different backgrounds are able to joyfully, mutually exist in the same setting.
There are good forms and bad forms of pluralism. One of the good aspects is that it recognizes a basic reality that our world is diverse and that these differences are right outside our door. Another is that it honors basic human rights such as freedom of religion. It helps us to see people as they are and to respect them. It values dignity and uniqueness of human life. It also attempts to recognize value in the diversity.
Some people act as though the existence of diversity or difference is wrong. Some have a phobia of people who are different from them. Pluralism in it’s good form pushes back against bigotry and xenophobia.
There is also a naïve form of pluralism. This is the kind of diversity-seeking that fails to recognize the difference between valuing people and valuing every idea as though each idea is equal in it’s worth. It is an unthinking approach to pluralism.
Not all ideas are created equal and ideas have consequences. “All paths and religions lead to God” is an example of naïve pluralism. This type of pluralism is ethically irresponsible. It is unhealthy because it fails to account for the far-reaching affects of religious pluralism. It makes us like ostriches with our head in the sand.
Why does naïve pluralism find support in our culture?
- We have become uncomfortable with argument.
- There is a willingness to blur the significant differences in religions and cultures.
- There’s a tendency to avoid the big questions in life. “We’re amusing ourselves to death.”
- Religion is regarded in pragmatic and consumerist terms: “What works for me.”
- We live in a culture that does not prize absolutes or certainties. The question of which religion is true or best is off limits.
2) What Is Islam? Is Islam Consistently Compatible with Pluralism?
Islam is not compatible with this type of pluralism. Islam is a religion, not primarily a theology. It is mainly the shahadah, the confession that God is one and Muhammad is his messenger. The basic view of God in Islam is that he is radically transcendent.
Islam is not an institution but primarily an identity. What is primary is to be Muslim. It creates great solidarity among Muslims because of first importance is to be Muslim. Over a billion people identify themselves as Muslims.
Islam has five religious pillars, but it is a system for governing all of life. It can’t be reduced to the five pillars. The goal is to conform society to the teaching, precepts, and commands of the faith.
There are four things that go into the forming of Sharia law, and it is under these things that Muslims seek to live.
- The Quran
- The Sunna and the Haddith, which build on the Quran with sayings of the prophet
- The principle of analogy for religious beliefs and practices which the Quran and Haddith don’t speak directly to
- Traditions, which are the consensus of the communities
The west, secularism, and internal weaknesses in Islam have lead to the development of groups of fundamentalists who seek to enforce a more extreme form of Sharia. Most Muslims on the streets are going to be either modernists or traditionalists.
Why is Sharia not compatible with pluralism? Four reasons:
- Sharia at it’s best is theocratic and theonomic. Sharia is the constitution of Islam and incompatible with democratic jurisprudence.
- Sharia leaves no room for the kind of pluralism that is healthy.
- Because Sharia incorporates cultural consensus into it’s law, certain cultural practices enter into the legal framework of countries. In Islam culture is religion and religion is culture.
- Advocacy for Sharia sometimes reaches a point where it can not tolerate differences.
3) What Is the Christian’s Responsibility for Encountering Muslims and Islam in This Context?
The Christian lives in two cities. We are citizens of a nation and citizens of heaven. Our response must be dictated by how we belong to both of these, our country and the kingdom of God.
As a citizen of the United States in particular, work for the faithful continuance of the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses. We want to defend our Muslim neighbors’ right to worship according to the dictates of their own consciences. Maintaining freedom of religion allows us to come to them with the gospel. We fight for the freedom of religion.
How do I talk to my neighbor, coworker, or friend who is a Muslim? Mathew 10 shows us how.
1. Remember the gospel (Matthew 10:7). Our main responsibility is the heralding of the news of our Savior and the message that the kingdom of heaven has come. Speak of his glory, his cross, his love, his resurrection, his grace. We often lack confidence in the gospel, but we should be confident in it! It is the power of God unto salvation for your Muslim neighbor or friend. Remember the gospel and speak of Christ.
2. Return to the world (Matthew 10:16). Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent and pure as doves. This world is a dangerous place, but God sends us into it and he won’t waste the lives of those he has purchased with the blood of his Son. Go into the world with the gospel. To live is Christ, to die is gain. There’s a people out there who needs us to be wise, engaged, and faithful.
3. Repent of fear (Matthew 10:28) We have been fearful, and in our fear we have been unbelieving and unfaithful. This fear is destroying our love for our neighbors. It is destroying our missionary zeal. Think of God’s providence and provision.
4. Retrieve the reward (Matthew 10:39-42). Throw away convenience, safety and comfort. It makes us fat and lazy. Go give your life for something greater: the joy of God. Christ is our reward and inheritance! Remember the gospel and preach it as sheep among wolves. Great will be your reward! We shall see him and be filled with satisfaction and joy unspeakable and full of glory.