Archive for ‘Christian Outreach’

February 22nd, 2012

Wycliffe’s Richard (Rick) Brown Heresy?

For those of you who heard me on the radio, here is a link to the quote from Wycliffe/SIL expert Rick Brown on Salvation. No wonder ‘Son’ is gone from Matthew 28:19 in both Wycliffe’s Turkish and Arabic Muslim-Idiom Translations:

There is no statement that one must believe Jesus is the Lamb of God or Image or Word or Wisdom of God incarnate or even that he is God himself incarnate. There is no requirement for  belief in the virgin birth nor other such teachings. There is no statement saying that people must use one particular title for Jesus in order to be saved.

What Must One Believe about Jesus for Salvation? IJFM 17:4 (Winter, 2000)

Relevant links:

Biblical Missiology petition

http://www.change.org/petitions/lost-in-translation-keep-father-son-in-the-bible

Why the Petition was started

http://biblicalmissiology.org/translation-petition-faqs/

Biblical Missiology Fact Check for Wycliffe’s initial response

http://biblicalmissiology.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/LostInTranslation-FactCheck.pdf

More about me HERE and HERE.

January 11th, 2012

Great Omissions in New Bible Translations Have Epic Ramifications

A controversy has been brewing about omissions in new Bible translations geared toward Muslims, which, if not corrected and copies in print retracted, would hamstring Christian efforts to share the Gospel with Muslims. What is so sad about this controversy, US Christian organizations like Wycliffe Bible Translators, Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and Frontiers are doing it. Some new translations have the “Son,” “Son of God,” and “Father” removed. Concerned Christians—some of whom have resigned from these organizations due to this controversy—have started an online petition to have these organizations retain these terms.

I expected Muslim apologists to come up with these new Bible translations in order to bolster their claim that the Bible has been corrupted. They are desperate and already use the discredited Jehovah’s Witness version of the Bible, New World Translation, to make their case. Now reputable Christian organizations have given them an impetus to further complicate Christian outreach to Muslims. If these organizations do not make corrections and or retract copies in print, these omissions and substitutions would have epic ramifications.

The petition, Lost In Translation: Keep “Father” & “Son” in the Bible, in part reads:

Western missions agencies Wycliffe, Frontiers and SIL are producing Bibles that remove Father, Son andSon of God because these terms are offensive to Muslims.

 Some examples:

• Wycliffe/SIL produced Stories of the Prophets, an Arabic Bible that uses “Lord” instead of “Father” and “Messiah” instead of “Son.”

• Frontiers worked with an SIL consultant to produce True Meaning of the Gospel of Christ, an Arabic translation which removes “Father” in reference to God, and removes or redefines “Son,” e.g. the Great Commission in Mt 28:19 reads, “Cleanse them by water in the name of God, his Messiah and his Holy Spirit.”

• Frontiers produced a Turkish translation of Matthew, distributed by SIL, that uses “guardian” for “Father” and “representative” or “proxy” for “Son.”

• SIL consulted on the Bengali Injil Sharif, advising that “Son” be translated as “God’s Uniquely Intimate Beloved Chosen One.”

 By removing Father and Son, these translations fail to portray God as who he is: the familial, eternal, loving God the Father, Son and Spirit. The deity of Jesus is obscured, and thus the self-sacrifice of God on our behalf. In June 2011, the Presbyterian Church in America explicitly declared such translations as “unfaithful to God’s revealed Word” because they “compromise the doctrines of the Trinity, Scripture, and the person and work of Jesus.”

 Perhaps most importantly, national Christians say these translations are harming their work. Yet Western proponents condone removing Father or Son because they say Muslims can only see sexual connotations to these terms. Numerous missionaries and national believers, however, strongly assert this is not the case. Further, Christian churches in places like Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Middle East, Turkey, and Malaysia have asked these agencies to stop producing…

Please sign the petition HERE. Thank you.

October 11th, 2011

Are new Bible Translations Pandering to Muslims?

World Magazine has a new article, “Holding translators accountable,” in its October 8, 2011 issue, which covers Wycliffe Bible Translators and its agreement “to new standards in debate over contextualizing Scripture for Muslim settings.” World further reports, “The problem with translating “Son of God” and “God the Father” literally in Muslim contexts, translators say, is that it implies that God had sexual relations with Mary. Some translators have turned to non-literal renderings, like “beloved one of God.””

These new translations geared toward Muslims create more problems in Christian outreach to Muslims than Muslims’ problem with “trinity.” Muslims need to know the Qur’an erroneously accuses Christians of worshiping three gods: father, mother and son. The Qur’an even questions how the father could have a son without a consort (6:101.) If we Christians can’t articulate Biblical teachings which even ancient Christian creeds addressed long before the advent of Islam, we have a ginormous problem.

Some Christians have suggested adopting “interpretations” or “meanings” to refer to Bible versions since they are translations of original languages. Muslims came up with these excuses in order to downplay problems with the Qur’an. They even argue “one cannot discuss the Qur’an without knowing classical Arabic.” Are we going to argue Bible translations are not true renderings of original Greek and Hebrew?

If Muslims are offended and would not get saved because of the true rendering of the Scripture as it was in the original languages, it is not our fault. Remember He said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me…”

July 15th, 2011

Ramadhan 2011: A Call to Prayer and Outreach

Muslim fast during the Islamic month of Ramadhan is projected to start at dawn on August 1 this year, after the sighting of the new crescent at dusk on July 31. It might end on August 29. Every able-bodied Muslim must fast from dawn to dusk during the entire month of Ramadhan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, for 29 or 30 days because the Qur’an commands it. Muslims who are sick or traveling and Muslim women who are menstruating or expecting are exempt but are required to make up for the days missed. Children before the onset of puberty are also exempt.

Muslims seek God. Christian should pray for them to meet the True God! We should pray for those in our neighborhoods, city, and country. Here is one way to prepare for this task. It is not too late to join Christians who have been praying for Muslim during Ramadhan using a very informative booklet that has been in use for 20 years. 30 Days of Prayer for Muslim World gives overviews of Muslim populations in various countries, profiles of some unreached people groups and contains testimonies of Christians of Muslim background. It also points out prayer needs for each day of Ramadhan. You can buy copies for yourself and or your church from World Christian website here or here.

Don’t just prayer. Venture out. Make an effort to meet your Muslim neighbors. Go to a local mosque and interact with them. Look for opportunities to engage in conversations. I’ll post some questions to ask Muslims in regards to Ramadhan next week.

While Muslims are in festive mood during Ramadhan, this month is a very difficult challenge for Muslims who have embraced Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and still live in their communities. I speak from experience. It is not easy. In fact this is one single occasion that can blow cover for secret believers. Don’t get me wrong. The ensuing persecution is all worth it. Secret believers’ challenge is not “the not eating part” but other activities (communal prayers and meals) associated with the fast. Please, pray for them.

Non-Muslims who travel in Muslim majority countries during Ramadhan also face problems because eating in public is illegal. The police arrested those who violated this law in Egypt in 2009 and Algeria in 2010. Even Dubai, one of the most moderate Muslim cities, has fines or jail sentence for non-Muslims who violate the law for the second time. Please, be careful if you are traveling to these countries in August. Have a blessed weekend!

June 10th, 2011

When Jesus Died, Did the Trinity Reduce to two?

One of my Muslim Facebook friends asks:

If the father and Jesus are one, then if Jesus died, the father [sic] died. If they are separate and only Jesus died, then the father and the holy spirit [sic] remained, and thus Jesus and the father are not the same. Can you address this issue without talking about Muslims.

When Jesus died, the Father didn’t die. When Jesus died, the Three (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) did not reduce to the two. Please, read a good explanation HERE. I would like to enlist the Belgic Confession of Faith to answer my friend’s question further. The Confession reads:

According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is the one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct, according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father is the cause, origin and beginning of all things visible and invisible; the Son is the word, wisdom, and image of the Father; the Holy Ghost is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, have each his personality, distinguished by their properties; but in such wise that these three persons are but one only God. Hence then, it is evident, that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Ghost is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless these persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed: for the Father hath not assumed the flesh, nor hath the Holy Ghost, but the Son only. The Father hath never been without his Son, or without his Holy Ghost. For they are all three co-eternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last: for they are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.

The Belgic Confession of Faith is available online on several websites. You can read this version HERE.

The Nicene Creed (circa 325 A.D.) and the Creed of Chalcedon (circa 451 A.D.) have some excellent explanations on the Three and the two natures of Jesus Christ respectively. How would you respond?

April 22nd, 2011

Good Friday: Did Jesus Die? Islam Dilemma

Today is Good Friday. This is the day those of us who are followers of Jesus Christ commemorate his suffering and death. Our salvation would be in vain had Jesus not died and resurrected. Do you know most Muslims believe Jesus was never crucified or died? Only a small minority most Muslims consider heretics believes Jesus died a natural death in Kashmir many years after he supposedly escaped the crucifixion. The majority believes a Jesus look-alike was crucified while the real Jesus ascended to heaven. They believe he will return at the end of the world. All these Muslims draw their conclusions about Jesus’ supposed fate from the Qur’an. The travel to Kashmir is not in the Qur’an or the Hadith. Majority of Muslims who denies the death of Jesus claims since Jesus was a prophet of Allah, Allah wouldn’t have left him to die such a horrible death.

One thing Muslims would not say or are just ignorant of; Allah was silent about Jesus’ death the first 12 years of Islam. It was only after Prophet Muhammad’s arrival in Medina when Allah supposedly started objecting to the death of Jesus Christ. It was not like Christians in Arabia did not celebrate Easter. The issue surrounding the death of Jesus Christ was not an issue in Islam. In fact Allah—the all-knowing—was silent in Mecca over the fate of Jesus.

Verses from the Qur’an revealed in Mecca show ALL prophets who had preceded Muhammad died. Muslims consider Jesus as one of these prophets. Sura Al-Anbiya, chapter 21 of the Qur’an, verses 7 and 8, “And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men, whom We inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder if ye know not? We gave them not bodies that would not eat food, nor were they immortals.” And then verse 34 of the same chapter, “We appointed immortality for no mortal before thee. What! if thou diest, can they be immortal!”

Since majority of Muslims believes that Jesus has not died yet, does that mean Jesus as Muslims understand him is immortal? These verses certainly show all prophets before Prophet Muhammad died because all of them were mortal. Muslims who argue a prophet of Allah shouldn’t be subjected to suffer need to read about circumstances that led Prophet Muhammad’s death. I hope they have answers to the three years he suffered as a result of the poisoned lamb he ate. The Hadith has the whole story. The two facts—Muhammad’s suffering and death and all prophets’ mortality—simply confound Muslims contention about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Have fun engaging your Muslim friends this Easter.

March 28th, 2011

Allah, Prophet Muhammad, Muslims and Hell

There has been a lot of discussion about “Hell” lately, courtesy of Rob Bell and his new book Love Wins. I have heard cases the news coverage of this book has made some conversations with non-believers possible.

What does Islam teach about Hell and who goes in it? Prophet Muhammad—the closest Muslim to Allah—said in the Hadith that he did not know if Allah would let him into paradise or send him to Hell. This happened when he was asked whether a pious Muslim man who had died would go to paradise. He didn’t just answer the question but dropped a bombshell. He responded, “As to him, by Allah, death has overtaken him, and I hope the best for him. By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 266.).”[1] Do ordinary Muslims stand any chance of escaping Hell?

Allah said in the Qur’an, in Suratul Al-Maryam, 19:71, “There is not one of you but shall come to it, that is, [but] shall enter Hell. That is an inevitability [already] decreed by your Lord, [something which] He made inevitable and [which] He decreed; He will not waive it.”

This verse is pretty clear Allah said all Muslims will go to Hell, regardless of their pious lives. Some Muslim scholars disagree. However, they are in disagreement with Prophet Muhammad who said, “The believers, after being saved from the (Hell) Fire, will be stopped at a bridge between Paradise and Hell.”[2] Who are the believers who are “saved from Hell”?

What is this Bridge? A widely used Qur’an commentary written by Abdullah Yusuf Ali states “the Bridge over Hell, the Bridge Sirat, over which all must pass to their final Destiny. This Bridge is not mentioned in the Qur’an.” Yusuf Ali was forthright in bringing to his readers’ attention the bridge Muslims widely believe would stretch over Hell is not mentioned in the Qur’an. Since Allah didn’t reveal it to Prophet Muhammad, where did Muhammad get it? That is another Crack in the Crescent for another time.[3]

 

 

 


[1] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 266.

[2] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 542.

[3] Chapter 12 of Cracks in the Crescent.

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 542.
March 10th, 2011

Islam’s Prohibition of Alcohol Consumption Started as Sanctions Against Non-Muslims

Today’s Reuters news article on “Alcoholic drinks market booming in Muslim Gulf” might be a surprise to many because it is widely known Islam prohibits the use of alcohol. Do you know that Muslims used to drink alcohol during Prophet Muhammad’s time and it was only outlawed later in his life? Do you also know Muslims are promised alcohol in paradise?

Muslims in my home area in Kenya used to mock drunkard non-Muslims who staggered home after drinking sprees. There was one thing most of them did not acknowledge publicly: although Islamic teachings prohibit alcohol consumption here on earth, they also teach that it will be in ample supply in paradise. Alcohol will be flowing like a river, and Muslims will be enjoying it. The Qur’an promises wine that tastes delightful.[1]

Why would Islam ban the use of alcohol here on earth but sanction its use in paradise? There are a few reasons. The Hadith states, “Some people drank alcoholic beverages in the morning [of the day] of the Uhud battle and on the same day they were killed as martyrs, and that was before wine was prohibited.”[2] Wine was popular among Muslims even in 625 AD—fifteen years after the advent of Islam. Even on a momentous day of a major battle it was consumed in large quantities. Many drank Muslim warriors were killed.

Another reason the Hadith gives for the banning of alcohol was the scarcity of dates in Medina. Instead of “importing” dates from neighboring territories out of Muslim control to keep up with the demand, alcohol was banned outright by Muhammad.[3] What an indirect economic sanction against those who were not receptive toward Islam!

Some Muslims still believe alcohol is permissible. Prominent Egyptian Sunni Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa showing that “there was no religious ban on consuming drinks with a minute amount of alcohol in them if it was formed naturally through the process of fermentation. He quoted the rule derived from the sayings of the Prophet that if drinking a lot of alcohol makes you intoxicated then drinking a little is also forbidden.”

Islam is an invention of Prophet Muhammad. Had the revelations he received come from God, there is no way there would have been a double standard. Why would alcohol be permissible in paradise but forbidden on earth? Why would the ban only become necessary because Muhammad and his fellow Muslims faced the scarcity of dates? These are questions we should ask our Muslim friends. They need to realize Islam was an invention of Prophet Muhammad. If the Almighty God had had a hand in it, there would have been consensus in his teachings.

 

Hussein Wario is a former Kenyan Sunni Muslim. He is the author of Cracks in the Crescent. He blogs here. You can listen to his testimony here or read it here.


[1] Suratul Al-Muhammad, 47:15.

[2] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 142. Bracket mine.

[3] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 69, Number 486.

 

February 15th, 2011

Convert Drought Fatigue and New Bible Translations

Published also on Lausanne Blog HERE on February 15, 2011

The cover story of the February 2011 issue of Christianity Today, “The Son and the Crescent,” is about new Bible translations geared toward Muslims that avoid the phrase “Son of God” which according to Wycliffe/SIL linguist and missiologist Dr. Richard Brown are effective because many Muslims become “quite open and interested in knowing more about Jesus” when they read these Bible translations, some have even embraced Jesus, who to them is not the Son of God.

I really appreciate Christianity Today and Collin Hansen for bringing this discussion to the fore, making it mainstream. Christian outreach to Muslims already grapples with issues ranging from new Muslim background believers facing severe persecutions to difficulties adjusting to their new identity. Now this. Here are a few pitfalls this article reveals.

First, the article mentions how “representatives from several prominent mission agencies, both national and expatriate, met to compare notes about the progress of their respective ministries in one Muslim-majority country.” [Emphasis mine.] These representatives were concerned about the numbers. They cared about how their organizations fared in the field, comparing notes, using each other as yardsticks. When has a mission organization’s progress deemed successful based on number of new “converts?” Christian Missions have become business enterprises. The success of a Christian ministry is now judged based on how many souls are “saved.”

This notion puts missionaries serving among Muslims under immense pressure to deliver. A pastor once asked a missionary why the fruits (converts) had not been realized even after 20 plus years of his denomination’s ministry among Muslims in Kenya. This pastor was asking for the returns of his church’s investment. Missionaries among Muslims face immense pressure. There is no doubt some of them end up feeling the effects of convert drought fatigue thus employing these unbiblical tactics to gain converts.

Second, there is confusion when it comes to Islam and Muslim in one of these countries this cover story addresses. I have wondered how can a “closed” Muslim country allow a movie about Jesus and even allow it to be “aired on national television” when Islamic teachings ban depiction of any prophet—Jesus is considered a prophet—in a movie? A friend of mine is a missionary in one of these countries. He told me local Muslims he encountered were not knowledgeable of Islam. Islam he knew before he came to this country was foreign to the locals. He had to relearn their type of Islam. For example, local Muslims did not take seriously the fast during the Islamic month of Ramadhan. Discussions about basic tenets of Islam failed. Why should Christian missionaries risk the integrity of Bible translations trying to overcome these so-called Muslims misconceptions?

Muslim scholars are aware of new Christian missionary efforts at gaining converts. When they find out about this particular case in these countries, they will establish dawa (Muslim missionary efforts) and these Christian missionaries’ tactics will backfire. In case these missionaries get kicked out, they would leave behind adulterated translations of the Bible, which Muslim scholars might use to further undermine the Bible. Fellow Muslims would also dismiss these converts as not to have been true Muslims before they became “Christians.” They might even ask them to convert to the Islam they never practiced. Why take this risk?

Third, there is no problem with a Christian missionary using the term “Allah” in reference to God provided the Muslims end up understanding the Judeo-Christian concept of God as radically different from Allah who Prophet Muhammad preached. [I am not opposed to Arab Christians using "Allah" for "God." Allah and Muhammad in some cases in the Qur’an were one and the same. You can read it here.

Fourth, these Christian missionaries who advocate for change in Bible translations to cater to Muslims seem ignorant of Islamic teachings. It is possible since they reach out to Muslims who are just traditional Muslims not knowledgeable of Islam, these missionaries don’t understand what Islam teaches. Using “the Beloved Son who comes (or originates) from God” is not the same as the “Son of God” even to a Muslim who practices Islam. The Qur’an already has references to Jesus and when it shows he is “from” Allah, it doesn’t mean he is any different from other human beings. His virgin birth in Islam is unique but he is not divine in any way.

Suratul An-Nisa verse 171 states:

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” …

The meaning of this verse, which even some Christians use when witnessing to Muslims, embodies what a practicing Muslim believes about Jesus and is summed up best in this Tafsir (commentary of the Qur’an):

O People of the Scripture, the Gospel, do not go to extremes, do not go beyond the bounds, in your religion and do not say about God except, the saying of, the truth, such as exalting Him above any associations with a partner or a child: the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word which He cast to, [which] He conveyed to, Mary, and a spirit, that is, one whose spirit is, from Him: he [Jesus] is here attached to God, exalted be He, as an honouring for him, and not as you claim, that he is the son of God, or a god alongside Him, or one of three, because one that possesses a spirit is compound, while God transcends being compound and the attribution of compounds to Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, that the gods are, ‘Three’, God, Jesus and his mother.

Muslims are confused about the Trinity because the Qur’an erroneously claims the Trinity is Mary, Jesus, and God. The Allah Muhammad preached got it wrong. Ancient Christian creeds (Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed) even addressed this issue a few hundred years before Prophet Muhammad’s revelations. This confusion about the Trinity is the heart of matter. Christian missionaries need to debunk this myth and not come up with new terms that further exacerbate this confusion.

Last, I don’t deny that missionaries who use this flawed and heretical method would lead some Muslims to Christ. Even when the push for this mode of outreach was spurred by impatience and ignorance, those who the Father draws will come to Him. The unashamed Son of God says:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Let us tread biblically.

Hussein Wario is a former Kenyan Sunni Muslim. He is the author of Cracks in the Crescent. He blogs regularly. You can listen to his testimony here.

The cover story of the February issue of Christianity Today, “The Son and the Crescent,” is about new Bible translations geared toward Muslims that avoid the phrase “Son of God” which according to Christian linguist and missiologist Dr. Richard Brown are effective because many Muslims become “quite open and interested in knowing more about Jesus” when they read these Bible translations, some have even embraced Jesus, who to them is not the Son of God.

I really appreciate Christianity Today and Collin Hansen for bringing this discussion to the fore, making it mainstream. Christian outreach to Muslims already grapples with issues ranging from new Muslim background believers facing severe persecutions to difficulties adjusting to their new identity. Now this. Here are a few pitfalls this article reveals.

First, the article mentions how “representatives from several prominent mission agencies, both national and expatriate, met to compare notes about the progress of their respective ministries in one Muslim-majority country.” [Emphasis mine.] These representatives were concerned about the numbers. They cared about how their organizations fared in the field, comparing notes, using each other as yardsticks. When has a mission organization’s progress deemed successful based on number of new “converts?” Christian Missions have become business enterprises. The success of a Christian ministry is now judged based on how many souls are “saved.”

This notion puts missionaries serving among Muslims under immense pressure to deliver. A pastor once asked a missionary why the fruits (converts) had not been realized even after 20 plus years of his denomination’s ministry among Muslims in Kenya. This pastor was asking for the returns of his church’s investment. Missionaries among Muslims face immense pressure. There is no doubt some of them end up feeling the effects of convert drought fatigue thus employing these unbiblical tactics to gain converts.

Second, there is confusion when it comes to Islam and Muslim in one of these countries this cover story addresses. I have wondered how can a “closed” Muslim country allow a movie about Jesus and even allow it to be “aired on national television” when Islamic teachings ban depiction of any prophet—Jesus is considered a prophet—in a movie? A friend of mine is a missionary in one of these countries. He told me local Muslims he encountered were not knowledgeable of Islam. Islam he knew before he came to this country was foreign to the locals. He had to relearn their type of Islam. For example, local Muslims did not take seriously the fast during the Islamic month of Ramadhan. Discussions about basic tenets of Islam failed. Why should Christian missionaries risk the integrity of Bible translations trying to overcome these so-called Muslims misconceptions?

Muslim scholars are aware of new Christian missionary efforts at gaining converts. When they find out about this particular case in these countries, they will establish dawa (Muslim missionary efforts) and these Christian missionaries’ tactics will backfire. In case these missionaries get kicked out, they would leave behind adulterated translations of the Bible, which Muslim scholars might use to further undermine the Bible. Fellow Muslims would also dismiss these converts as not to have been true Muslims before they became “Christians.” They might even ask them to convert to the Islam they never practiced. Why take this risk?

Third, there is no problem with a Christian missionary using the term “Allah” in reference to God provided the Muslims end up understanding the Judeo-Christian concept of God as radically different from Allah who Prophet Muhammad preached. Allah and Muhammad in some cases in the Qur’an were one and the same. You can read it here.

Fourth, these Christian missionaries who advocate for change in Bible translations to cater to Muslims seem ignorant of Islamic teachings. It is possible since they reach out to Muslims who are just traditional Muslims not knowledgeable of Islam, these missionaries don’t understand what Islam teaches. Using “the Beloved Son who comes (or originates) from God” is not the same as the “Son of God” even to a Muslim who practices Islam. The Qur’an already has references to Jesus and when it shows he is “from” Allah, it doesn’t mean he is any different from other human beings. His virgin birth in Islam is unique but he is not divine in any way.

Suratul An-Nisa verse 171 states:

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” …

The meaning of this verse, which even some Christians use when witnessing to Muslims, embodies what a practicing Muslim believes about Jesus and is summed up best in this Tafsir (commentary of the Qur’an):

O People of the Scripture, the Gospel, do not go to extremes, do not go beyond the bounds, in your religion and do not say about God except, the saying of, the truth, such as exalting Him above any associations with a partner or a child: the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word which He cast to, [which] He conveyed to, Mary, and a spirit, that is, one whose spirit is, from Him: he [Jesus] is here attached to God, exalted be He, as an honouring for him, and not as you claim, that he is the son of God, or a god alongside Him, or one of three, because one that possesses a spirit is compound, while God transcends being compound and the attribution of compounds to Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, that the gods are, ‘Three’, God, Jesus and his mother.

Muslims are confused about the Trinity because the Qur’an erroneously claims the Trinity is Mary, Jesus, and God. The Allah Muhammad preached got it wrong. Ancient Christian creeds (Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed) even addressed this issue a few hundred years before Prophet Muhammad’s revelations. This confusion about the Trinity is the heart of matter. Christian missionaries need to debunk this myth and not come up with new terms that further exacerbate this confusion.

Last, I don’t deny that missionaries who use this flawed and heretical method would lead some Muslims to Christ. Even when the push for this mode of outreach was spurred by impatience and ignorance, those who the Father draws will come to Him. The unashamed Son of God says:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Let us tread biblically.The cover story of the February issue of Christianity Today, “The Son and the Crescent,” is about new Bible translations geared toward Muslims that avoid the phrase “Son of God” which according to Christian linguist and missiologist Dr. Richard Brown are effective because many Muslims become “quite open and interested in knowing more about Jesus” when they read these Bible translations, some have even embraced Jesus, who to them is not the Son of God.

I really appreciate Christianity Today and Collin Hansen for bringing this discussion to the fore, making it mainstream. Christian outreach to Muslims already grapples with issues ranging from new Muslim background believers facing severe persecutions to difficulties adjusting to their new identity. Now this. Here are a few pitfalls this article reveals.

First, the article mentions how “representatives from several prominent mission agencies, both national and expatriate, met to compare notes about the progress of their respective ministries in one Muslim-majority country.” [Emphasis mine.] These representatives were concerned about the numbers. They cared about how their organizations fared in the field, comparing notes, using each other as yardsticks. When has a mission organization’s progress deemed successful based on number of new “converts?” Christian Missions have become business enterprises. The success of a Christian ministry is now judged based on how many souls are “saved.”

This notion puts missionaries serving among Muslims under immense pressure to deliver. A pastor once asked a missionary why the fruits (converts) had not been realized even after 20 plus years of his denomination’s ministry among Muslims in Kenya. This pastor was asking for the returns of his church’s investment. Missionaries among Muslims face immense pressure. There is no doubt some of them end up feeling the effects of convert drought fatigue thus employing these unbiblical tactics to gain converts.

Second, there is confusion when it comes to Islam and Muslim in one of these countries this cover story addresses. I have wondered how can a “closed” Muslim country allow a movie about Jesus and even allow it to be “aired on national television” when Islamic teachings ban depiction of any prophet—Jesus is considered a prophet—in a movie? A friend of mine is a missionary in one of these countries. He told me local Muslims he encountered were not knowledgeable of Islam. Islam he knew before he came to this country was foreign to the locals. He had to relearn their type of Islam. For example, local Muslims did not take seriously the fast during the Islamic month of Ramadhan. Discussions about basic tenets of Islam failed. Why should Christian missionaries risk the integrity of Bible translations trying to overcome these so-called Muslims misconceptions?

Muslim scholars are aware of new Christian missionary efforts at gaining converts. When they find out about this particular case in these countries, they will establish dawa (Muslim missionary efforts) and these Christian missionaries’ tactics will backfire. In case these missionaries get kicked out, they would leave behind adulterated translations of the Bible, which Muslim scholars might use to further undermine the Bible. Fellow Muslims would also dismiss these converts as not to have been true Muslims before they became “Christians.” They might even ask them to convert to the Islam they never practiced. Why take this risk?

Third, there is no problem with a Christian missionary using the term “Allah” in reference to God provided the Muslims end up understanding the Judeo-Christian concept of God as radically different from Allah who Prophet Muhammad preached. Allah and Muhammad in some cases in the Qur’an were one and the same. You can read it here.

Fourth, these Christian missionaries who advocate for change in Bible translations to cater to Muslims seem ignorant of Islamic teachings. It is possible since they reach out to Muslims who are just traditional Muslims not knowledgeable of Islam, these missionaries don’t understand what Islam teaches. Using “the Beloved Son who comes (or originates) from God” is not the same as the “Son of God” even to a Muslim who practices Islam. The Qur’an already has references to Jesus and when it shows he is “from” Allah, it doesn’t mean he is any different from other human beings. His virgin birth in Islam is unique but he is not divine in any way.

Suratul An-Nisa verse 171 states:

O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” …

The meaning of this verse, which even some Christians use when witnessing to Muslims, embodies what a practicing Muslim believes about Jesus and is summed up best in this Tafsir (commentary of the Qur’an):

O People of the Scripture, the Gospel, do not go to extremes, do not go beyond the bounds, in your religion and do not say about God except, the saying of, the truth, such as exalting Him above any associations with a partner or a child: the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word which He cast to, [which] He conveyed to, Mary, and a spirit, that is, one whose spirit is, from Him: he [Jesus] is here attached to God, exalted be He, as an honouring for him, and not as you claim, that he is the son of God, or a god alongside Him, or one of three, because one that possesses a spirit is compound, while God transcends being compound and the attribution of compounds to Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, that the gods are, ‘Three’, God, Jesus and his mother.

Muslims are confused about the Trinity because the Qur’an erroneously claims the Trinity is Mary, Jesus, and God. The Allah Muhammad preached got it wrong. Ancient Christian creeds (Nicene Creed and Athanasian Creed) even addressed this issue a few hundred years before Prophet Muhammad’s revelations. This confusion about the Trinity is the heart of matter. Christian missionaries need to debunk this myth and not come up with new terms that further exacerbate this confusion.

Last, I don’t deny that missionaries who use this flawed and heretical method would lead some Muslims to Christ. Even when the push for this mode of outreach was spurred by impatience and ignorance, those who the Father draws will come to Him. The unashamed Son of God says:

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Let us tread biblically.

December 17th, 2010

Christian Outreach to Muslims this Christmas

It was the week before Christmas 1988. One of my former teachers, Mr. Buya, invited me to go to his home for Christmas. Even though I was a Muslim and did not celebrate Christmas, I traveled to his village. I still believe he had invited me with intent not to proselytize me.

Mr. Buya is a Christian from the Pokomo tribe—a “Christian” tribe, which has had dueling feuds with my Orma tribe for a few hundred years. (The Ormas were considered 100 percent Muslim.) They always fought over land and River Tana access. Though the Kenyan government has never admitted it, these clashes were due to these tribes’ religious differences. Even today Ormas and Pokomos share mutual fear and mistrust. Their feuds have claimed scores of lives. Read BBC reports here and here.

Mr. Buya was not teaching in a Muslim village by choice. The Kenyan government’s Teachers’ Service Commission (TSC) posted him there. TSC posts and transfers teachers around the country without any input from them. You probably are wondering, considering the possible danger to Mr. Buya, why he was posted to teach at my village. The sad truth is there was no Orma who was qualified to be a primary school teacher at that time because early Muslim “missionaries” told my tribe it was wrong to get secular education. After all, they argued, secular education was for ilmu dunia, knowledge of the world. Instead, they insisted Orma children should attend madrassa where they gained ilmu akhirat, the knowledge of the hereafter.

Many other Kenyan Muslims also enrolled their children only in Islamic religious schools until the government mandated secular education. Even today most Kenyan Muslims in predominantly Muslim areas don’t take secular education seriously. The Kenya National Examination Council examination results don’t lie. I only was enrolled in a secular school because of the government mandate. I attended both madrassa and the secular school for five years until I graduated from the former.

Visiting Mr. Buya’s family for Christmas changed my perception of the Pokomos and Christians. They showed tremendous respect for my beliefs and even asked me to slaughter a goat they had bought for Christmas since as a Muslim I could not have eaten the meat had one of them slaughtered it. Their character was also different from Muslim leaders’ portrayal of Christians. All the negative stereotypes I had heard of the Pokomos and Christians were gone with one visit. I am grateful for that Christmas invite because it marked the beginning of a change in my life. If you would like to hear the rest of the story (my testimony), please listen to it here.

Hospitality: Christmas is almost here. There are many Muslims who wouldn’t decline our invitation to show hospitality. They might decline our invitation to attend a worship service but I doubt they would refuse to come for a meal. The Bible says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” Millions of Muslims live in Christian majority countries now and do not even know who Christians actually are. Muslims are here to stay. They are our neighbors, doctors, classmates or even taxi drivers. Most of what they know about Jesus, Christianity and Christians is from the Qur’an and the Hadith and what their Muslim leaders tell them. Most of them view Christians as very evil people who believe in three gods—father, mother and son. Do you know this is the most heinous sin in Islam? What is wrong with us opening our homes to Muslims? They can benefit from a little hospitality, which might end up positively changing their lives for eternity.

Most colleges and universities in the United States have Christmas break starting this week. Campus residencies will be closed except to international students. This is can be an opportunity to show hospitality.

Reach out: Opportunities to serve Muslims are endless. A lady recently shared with me about her experience. She was always curious about her Muslim neighbors. The Muslim wife and her daughters rarely ventured out of their home. One day, this Christian woman decided to deliver some baked goods to the Muslim family. Within hours, the Muslim family reciprocated with some baked goods of its own. These two families have now become friends. Some Muslim women are not allowed to leave their homes without the company of their husbands or male relatives or their permission. Women are the least reached among Muslims. Christian women can do outreach to them with ease.

Host family: Many Muslim international students come from countries which are “closed” to Christian outreach. Why don’t we offer to show these students around town or take them out to eat or shopping for school supplies, invite them over for meals or even offer to be their host parents? Do you know colleges look for potential host parents for their international students?

Literature: Give copies of the Bible in native languages if they are available. Most Muslims have not seen the Bible, let alone read one in their own language. You can find the Bible in various languages online. Please tell them where to start reading. I remember very well when I received my first copy and no one told me where to start and I started with Genesis.

Respect: Mr. Buya and his family respected my beliefs. We don’t get very far in our outreach to Muslims if we don’t respect their beliefs. If they ask questions, answer them gently from the Bible. We should always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks us to give the reason for the hope that we have and we should do it with “gentleness and respect.”

I am very grateful Mr. Buya invited me to his home for Christmas in 1988. Had the Ormas not fallen to the ruse of Muslim missionaries who secretly took their children to secular boarding schools, Mr. Buya probably would not have become a teacher in my village. God had a plan. He even used these missionaries’ egregious act for his good. Please, take a step this Christmas and show hospitality to a Muslim or any unbeliever. You never know! The Ormas were considered 100 percent Muslim, now they are only 99.98 percent Muslim. Praise God!

Hussein Wario is a former Kenyan Sunni Muslim. He is the author of Cracks in the Crescent. He blogs regularly. You can listen to his testimony here.