When we consider evangelizing Muslims, we should first consider our own faith and how fervently we hold it, and how we would consider any abandonment of the Christian faith to be an act of evil. When brought up in the Islamic faith, their religion is ingrained into every aspect of their life. Islam is a defining element of who they are, much like our faith in Christ defines who we are. This is something that we have to keep in mind when evangelizing, and therefore we need to remember to not expect a quick conversion experience. Before reading, I recommend keeping in mind the fundamentals of the first of this series, namely to evangelize within the context of a loving relationship, we should be a righteous witness, and we should ensure that we understand the gospel. That is the basic summary of the first of my How To Evangelize series, and now I move onto How To Evangelize Muslims.
Evangelizing a Muslim will differ from evangelizing a backslidden Christian or a non-religious person because they do not believe that the Bible is the word of God, indeed, they believe that it has been corrupted and makes false claims, and as such they raise a number of objections to the Christian faith that we need to be prepared to handle. However these are often not serious intellectual objections, for example, they might say, “If Jesus was God, and Jesus died, that would mean that God died,” or they might say “If Jesus was God, to whom was he praying?” Of course Christians recognize that these are elementary misunderstandings of Christology.
I would not worry too much about our ability to answer questions (although it is worth doing some research on counter-Islamic apologetics if you have a Muslim friend) because it is, in the end, the Holy Spirit who converts, only using us as a tool. There are a number of reports in the Middle East of Muslims have religious experiences wherein Jesus Christ came to them in a dream and revealed himself, to which the Muslim responded by converting. So, yes, knowledge can be very helpful, and I strongly recommend studying up on these topics, but ultimately, it is the Spirit that convicts and converts.
The Greatness Of God
The problem of sin is addressed in every religion, some maintaining that it is an illusion, but most teaching that it is a problem for which we need to atone to be right with God or the gods. However Christians know that it is impossible for us to atone for our sins, for good deeds cannot wash away bad deeds. God is too righteous of a judge to allow even a single sin to pass. He does not and cannot blink at sin.
But in Islamic theology, the Muslims whose good deeds outweighs their evil deeds, they will join God in paradise. The problem that I find with this view is that it limits the Holiness of God; he simply pardons the sin of wicked men, turning a blind eye to their evil deeds. But suppose a court judge were to turn a blind eye to the evil deeds of a guilty criminal. We would rightly condemn that judge, because no good judge can let a guilty sinner go unpunished, even if that sinners’ good deeds outweigh their bad deeds.
Therefore I would pose the question before our Muslims friends: Is God a righteous God, and if so, how can he let any sin pass without exacting some sort of justice?
God The Father
But it is not only the view of God’s righteousness in which Islamic theology departs from what is taught in the oldest manuscripts, but also how they see God’s relationship with men, for they do not believe that man was made in the image of God. Thus in Islamic theology, God’s relationship is not likened to that of a father and a son, nor as a husband and a wife, but more of a master and a slave.
While Christians, as well, strive to submit to God’s will, they do it with the assurance that God does everything in creation for the sake of those who love him (Romans 8:28). Indeed, those who seek God are granted a new birth by the regenerating work of his Holy Spirit (John 3:3) and made new creatures with a desire to serve him. The Spirit zealously works in the lives of those who have been reborn to discipline and guard their lives (Hebrew 12:8-10). In fact, in the book of Revelations, Jesus sent out letters complimenting, correcting and rebuking the work of the churches to prepare them to keep on the narrow way.
But this is also reflective of how Christians view their walk with God. God is not a hovering judge watching angrily with his arms crossed waiting to zap us when we do something wrong. But rather, for those who love God, he keeps us on the narrow way and pursues us with his love. His relationship with each of us is comparable to that of a father, for we are all children of God. The Holy Spirit is our mentor, our comforter, our guide and our shield against all that might cause us to drift away from Christ.
So when communicating our faith with Muslims, it can be helpful to explain our personal relationship with God, that Christ is willing even to eat with the lowliest of sinners.
Muslims teach that the Bible has been changed so drastically as to be a completely unreliable source, and while the original manuscripts did allegedly properly reflect Jesus’ relationship with Allah, they have been abrogated by the Qur’an. So Muslims believe that the gospels have been changed so that which reflects Islamic theology is no longer present.
The problem with this view is that the gospels have not changed. There is science known as lower textual criticism, which is the study of all of the manuscript copies to determine what the originals said. From the thousands of copies (Geisler, Norman L., Nix, William E., A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), 402) that we have, we can be virtually certain that the gospels as reflected in our King James Bible are almost identical to original manuscripts, aside from a few minor grammar differences (Geisler, 475).
So I think it is important to have at least a basic knowledge of textual criticism and pose the question of how they would react if they found out that the King James Bible was textually reflective of the original manuscripts as the evidence suggests.
For further reading on Bible textual criticism, I recommend the book, The King James Version Debate by DA Carson.
If you would like to get in on the discussion about this, join my Theology Discussion Group!