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Southern Baptists Compare and Contrast Islam and Christianity

( [email protected] ) Jun 05, 2004 06:27 AM EDT

Baptist theologians are examining deeper into Islam as only few Americans understand its history or theology despite Americans’ growing interest in Islam.

In the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Southern Seminary professors and scholars explored the fundamental beliefs of Islam, examining key aspects of the faith from its doctrine of "Jihad" to its teaching on Jesus.

Contributors include Southern Seminary professors Chad O. Brand, James Chancellor and George Martin, as well as guest scholars Norman Geisler, Emir and Ergun Caner, Amar Djaballah, and Richard Patterson.

"Even though Islam is the only major religion to emerge after Christianity, and is the second largest religion in the world (and growing rapidly), and has been in conflict with Christianity for centuries, it took the tragedy of that day to bring Islam to forefront of our minds," SBJT editor Stephen J. Wellum commented in his editorial.

"In spite of all the attention given to Islam since 9/11, however, it is clear from much of the conversation about Islam, both outside and sadly, inside the church, that we lack a basic understanding of Islam and the challenges it presents."

Brand, associate professor of Christian Theology, introduced the basic history and beliefs of Islam in his essay. After briefly building the historical foundation of Islam, Brand set forth the "Five Pillars of Doctrine" alongside the "Five Pillars of Practice," that compose the core of Muslim doctrine and ethics and drew out one of the major differences between the Christian God and the god of Islam, "Allah."

"Allah has no interest in entering into a personal relationship with humans, nor does he even have the ability to do so since his distance from the created world makes such an experience a metaphysical impossibility. There is a vast difference between the Muslim god and the God of the Bible, who is the God and Father of Jesus Christ."

Chancellor, W.O. Carver Professor of Christian Missions and World Religions, noted that Islam is not a religion of peace and that “Jihad” is a foundational component of the Islamic faith. Based on his 25 years of Islamic research and experience, visiting various Islamic countries in Africa, Malaysia, and the Philippines, he gave his reflections on Islam and violence.

"President George Bush was rightly motivated when he declared Islam to be a religion of peace and that the September 11 terrorists had 'hijacked' Islam," Chancellor wrote. "He hoped to prevent unjust retaliation against innocent Muslim people living in the United States and to attempt to dispel the notion that the coming response to the September 11 tragedy would be an attack against Islam.

"However, right motivation does not necessarily lead to right observation. Islam is not a religion of peace. There are a number of internal dynamics that create strong predilections toward the use of force and violence to make the Islamic vision a reality on the earth."

Reports of dreams and visions in which Jesus appears to people saying "I am the way," are streaming out of Islamic lands, said Martin, who is M. Theron Rankin Professor of Christian Missions and the Associate Dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.

A veteran missionary in Southeast Asia, Martin analyzes the reports of "Jesus dreams" among Muslims, concluding that Scripture must always be the standard against which all phenomena are measured.

"Those who are concerned to present a genuine Gospel witness must always be concerned about distinguishing between the genuine voice of God and that which is counterfeit … Dreams must never be understood as having parity with the Scriptures. Only the Bible provides an absolutely trustworthy and authoritative word from God."

The guest scholars also presented their distinct viewpoints on Islam in the essay. The Caner brothers, both of whom were raised within the Islamic faith, examine the doctrine of Jihad in the "Hadith" (the commandments of Islam's founder, Muhammed), Geisler compares and contrasts Jesus and Muhammed in the Qur'an, Djaballah investigates Jesus in Islam, and Patterson looks at the biblical theme of darkness.