I asked commenter James and the Giant Peach a long question, based on Electric Angel’s posts here and here on Islam:
@ James: I remember you said previously (here, and also here and here) that you are yourself a convert from Islam, and since that is part of ElectricAngel’s subject here, I was wondering if you could share with us, a bit of how you came to know Christ, and if in sharing the Gospel with you, anyone pointed to any parts of the Koran that dealt with Christ, or Old Testament prophets like Moses, and Abraham, and used such in teaching you, and what you think of the notion of us Christians doing so, to try to reach Muslims living in our midst, or elsewhere for that matter? Do you think that can be part of an effective witnessing / evangelizing strategy? Does the fact of Islam having certain elements of teachings in common with Christianity help reach Muslims? Or does the distortion of them (e.g. the misunderstanding / misrepresentation of the Trinity, the Islamic teaching that Jesus was horrified at the notion of being considered divine, etc.) present a barrier? Or is irrelevant?
Just wondering what your thoughts might be on the subject.
James graciously replied:
@Will You can make it a guest post or not, I’m not sure if it is worth a self post but it is up to you.
But anyways, before I was a Christian, I noticed that the way Christian political leaders, pastors and newspapers in America work is that they appeal via moral superiority to the masses. As a specific case (divorce), Dalrock himself points this out constantly by referring to articles on the Christian Post, or Focus on the Family, where the author is very happy that the Christian divorce rate is lower than the general population rate. Despite the Christian divorce rate still being around a giant 30%. So then Christians are able to be happy and exclaim, that there must be something real about Christianity if it lowers divorce rates so much! And indeed there might be.
No Muslim will ever be convinced by that argument. Take for example, my Muslim family. My mother is 1 of 7 children. My father is 1 of 7 children. Out of my vast amount of relatives there was maybe 1 divorce. That’s it. The country my parents come from currently has a divorce rate of about 20% which is seen as super high, and as a result, the Islamist party gets elected into power to restore traditional values. The 20% general population divorce rate isn’t even half of the United States general population divorce rate and people are already trying to change society to counteract this. And this country, is one of the most liberal Muslim states in existence. So the whole “Christians are a positive moral influence on general society” argument doesn’t appeal to Muslims because from their point of view, even the Christian standard is lacking compared to the most liberal Muslim state. This isn’t only specific to the case of divorce though, but that’s beyond the scope of this post and divorce is just the example I am using to show you the Muslim mindset. Also, any argument you enter with a Muslim person, they can show that Christian/Western government influence has always made them worse (and more Islamic). You can take the entire MiddleEast and North Africa region as an example, Churchill causing a systematic famine in the Bengal areas of India killing 4 million people contributing to the almost entirely Muslim state of Bangladesh, etc. etc. If you want to play the moral superiority game with Muslims, they will beat you at your own game by pointing cultural trends, and in addition to that point out countless examples in the past centuries where Western countries (which they associate wholly with Christians) have utterly messed up Muslim countries/communities. So if you want to convert Muslims, you really have to avoid that route.
Now what you do have to your advantage is that most Muslims haven’t actually read the Bible. The Qur’an states that Jews and Christians originally had the right teachings, but it was corrupted. Therefore most Muslims haven’t even read the Old Testament or New Testament. That’s a fresh field to plant seeds! I myself was invited to a Bible study from a minister on the street. Curiosity is what made me go the first time. The first Bible study I was given was of Zaccheus the tax collector. He climbed a tree to see Jesus from a far, but had to come down to really see Jesus as he is. So while I didn’t believe the Christian version at that time yet, I could agree with the point of the story that I cannot let pop culture or my own distanced perceptions of Christians and Jesus define what Christians believe. So I gave it a shot and went to bible study around 2x, 3x a week. What convinced me a lot were the universal truths in the Bible, things that I could read and immediately see being true, even from my own experience. And the biggest point of all was that the minister lived as he preached. The minister just started the church in the city I was in, so it had no congregants. The minister lived frugally and self-sufficiently (not like the church pastors you hear on the news with Rolls Royces or Mercedes-Benz, eating fancy dinners at 5 star restaurants etc.), lived with patience and love (I had never ending questions), lived with a true purpose and dedication to God. Something drove him that I quite couldn’t place my finger on. And I don’t mean ambition for wordily things. I believe you can’t fake that. A person can tell when a pastor or minister has ulterior motives. Not always, but you can feel the desparateness of a pastor looking to fill his pews for tithe not for saving of souls and establishing a fellowship with them.
So this is continuing, maybe several months in, and I start comparing it to the things in the Qur’an. If God in the OT chose Israel as his chosen tribe, language, people and all, and in the NT Jesus opened it up to everyone, why does the Qur’an instate Arabic as the official language again? It would seem like a backwards move given God’s track record. Jesus was crucified because he refused to use violence, so why would the next prophet use violence? Wouldn’t have God made Jesus use violence the first time if it was OK anyways? And so on. Eventually the system I had in my head of what Islam was collapsed in the face of all these questions. I was convinced, in light of the minister’s way of life (the fruit) and the teachings of the Bible (the wisdom) that whatever the tree was (Jesus/God) must have been good.
If you want to try and convert Muslims, first you have to hook them with the curiosity of a Bible they’ve never read, make them stay for a while with your own actions and lifestyle, and then let the Bible speak for itself. Other than that the best witness to a Muslim community is if Christians fix up their own communities and lives. In my country there are some Christians (less than .5% probably) that are Eastern Orthodox. They say they converted because of the lifestyle they saw them living and eventually the truths in the Bible. They also say they would have never converted to American or Western European Christianity because what they preached never matched how they lived their lifestyle, and that it was evident in their community, culture, and morals. (Of course this is not true of all Western Christians, as I myself have been heavily influenced by one). Don’t underestimate your own lifestyle, actions and deeds in the eyes of a Muslim. That draws them in to stay around and read the Bible which ultimately converts them.
You aren’t going to convert Muslims wholesale by pointing at Christian society or morals. You are going to convert them on a 1 on 1 basis, using your own life as a living testimony, and proof of God. The reason why so many people followed Jesus is because he backed up his actions by words. Heck, half the time the Pharisees taught things approved by him (do what they say, not what they do), but because the Pharisees themselves did not do it they didn’t have the same sort of authority Jesus did. That and being the son of God thing also helps. It really shows the power of actually doing and not just saying. If you have an obese, diabetic man sitting on the couch all day giving you diet and workout advice, you in no way shape or form want to listen to any advice he has for you, despite the fact that the advice could be true. And when a Muslim, sees a sick, immoral, adulterous, divorcing Christian society, that constantly invades his homeland, trying to give advice on how to live a good life, be a good person, how to live for God, do you think he will want to hear it? So you either have to fix your own society, or go to him as an healthy Christian individual. In my conversion it was an individual that helped convince me so never underestimate the impact of one person.
Thanks again James, for giving such a comprehensive and detailed response, sharing your inspirational testimony, and giving us all much food for thought.