Archive for April, 2012

The Muslim Mission

Posted: April 30, 2012 by Alan Shlemon in Choosing My Religion
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Reading the Qur’an, going to mosques, listening to Islamic scholars – these all sound like the behaviors of a Muslim. But they also became the activities of 17 Christian high school students during a recent four-day trip. I called it the “Muslim Mission,” where believers were immersed in the world of Islam and engaged Muslims of all stripes.

Why do such a trip? Because training Christians to be prepared and confident enough to witness to both lay Muslims and scholars requires more than a clever article or intense lecture. It requires study, practice, and correction. In a word, it requires action. And that’s what the Muslim Mission provided.

Training began many months prior when I role-played a Muslim to a group of unsuspecting Christian students. That experience demonstrated their need to get educated. From there the students heard lectures and read books on Christian apologetics to Islam, including my book, The Ambassador’s Guide to Islam. But even after all that study, the students weren’t trained. They just knew a lot of stuff. Something else was needed. They needed to put into practice what they knew by engaging Muslims.

Fortunately, with several million Muslims living in the United States, it wasn’t necessary to fly to a distant country to do cross-cultural missions. All we had to do was drive to a major city. In our case, we took these Orange County students to Los Angeles. Once we found a few mosques, we knew communities of Muslims lived nearby.

We began the trip by meeting Persian converts from Islam to Christianity. They told us about their life as Muslims and how God intervened to bring them to the truth. This was an important first step, in my opinion, because there is a belief among some circles of people that Muslims don’t ever become Christians. Or at least it’s really, really difficult. So the students got to meet these converts, listen to their testimonies, and have dinner with them. This gave them the knowledge and confidence that Muslims do, in fact, come to Christ.

That helped prepare the students for the next day’s activity. We took them to a Muslim neighborhood to practice street evangelism. They had to find and meet Muslims and begin conversations about God, Jesus, and the Bible. This was their first chance to put their knowledge and conversational skills to the test. And the results were great. Students reported how easy it was to start talking to Muslims about religious issues. Since many of the Muslims were nominal, they didn’t offer sophisticated arguments for their views. But this built up the confidence of the students, something they needed for that evening.

That night we took them to a mosque at the Iranian American Muslim Association of North America. In addition to a tour of the facility, a Shi’ite Islamic scholar presented a lecture on the similarities and differences between Islam and Christianity, especially those pertaining to Jesus. This was a step up in difficulty as the students were no longer talking to the average Muslim on the street. The scholar was a UCLA Islamic law professor who previously was an attorney for the Iranian parliament in Tehran. Despite his imposing credentials the students jumped right in and challenged him with good questions. After his presentation, the mosque served us dinner and the students got to sit with the scholar and other Muslims chat informally. It was a perfect combination of intellectual and relational engagement.

The following day the training and challenge grew more intense. We drove to a large Sunni mosque where two American girls shared their testimony of how and why they converted from Christianity to Islam. The girls in our group got to meet with them in a private room after their presentation and delve into a more personal discussion. They were very excited about the exchange.

But the bigger challenge was the Sunni Muslim speaker at the mosque. He was extremely aggressive and rhetorically sly. He attacked the reliability of the Bible, the Trinity, and the atonement. The students, however, didn’t stay quiet. They used what they learned to go toe to toe with him and his claims. It was a vigorous exchange.

It was these and other experiences that gave the believers the chance to practice their skills with real Muslims who really disagree with them. It also helped them build their confidence to engage Muslims in the future, wherever they meet them.

But the trip wasn’t merely an academic exercise. Within the first couple of days, the students’ hearts grew heavy for the Muslims. These diligent followers of Islam tried so hard to be good – to win Allah’s approval – but ultimately had no confidence they would enter heaven. You could tell from the students’ prayers that they longed for their Muslim friends to trust Christ for their salvation.

Now their desire to see Muslims accept Jesus was matched with the proper training to share His message effectively. Islam was no longer foreign to them. Mosques were no longer a mystery. But most importantly, Muslims were no longer strangers. These Christian students were now properly trained ambassadors for Christ to Muslims.

That’s the power of the Muslim Mission. It’s training for war. But the war is not against Muslims – they are hostages of the enemy. Our battle is against Satan, his army, and his lies. As Paul writes, our weapons “are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). It is the enemy, Satan, who has erected the stronghold of Islam. He has taken captive 20% of the world’s population. That’s why we can never forget that we are at war. The enemy is real. But we must train ambassadors to do the work of diplomacy for His kingdom.

 

If you’re interested in the Muslim Mission, it can be arranged near any major U.S. city. Contact Dawnielle Hodgman at Dawnielle@str.org for more information about booking a training experience like this.

Friday Fun: More Christian Cartoons

Posted: April 27, 2012 by Brett Kunkle in Just for Fun

 

If the fetus doesn’t have a brain, then how we can count it as a person. Here’s my answer to this week’s challenge.

The challenge today comes from a post on Debate.org arguing that it’s okay to abort a fetus if it doesn’t have a functioning brain:

The proposition on offer is that abortion before a fetus’ brain is functioning is not wrong. There are at least two considerations that support this position.

First, it is commonly held that a person’s personality is contained in the brain. For example, nobody seriously thinks that one somehow would retain their personality if their brain were removed or somehow wiped clean. Furthermore, if one considered a situation with two people (Jeff and Clara) and a transplant surgery that moved Jeff’s brain to Clara’s body, nobody seriously believes that Clara’s body retains Clara’s personality. Indeed, it is obvious that the situation would be that Jeff’s personality has moved to Clara’s body. In fact, it would be more accurate to refer to the entity that inhabits Clara’s body as “Jeff” and to consider that person to BE Jeff, but simply in a different “container.” Similarly, if Jeff’s brain and conscious were somehow recorded into a computer where he retained communicative capabilities, we would consider the computer to be Jeff.

Thus, it becomes obvious that the contents of a person’s personhood are dependent on a functioning brain. The notion that a fetus may be “part of a person” is a silly idea. One cannot be “part of a person” any more than one can be “partially legally married.” One is either a person, or not a person. Since a brain is a necessary prerequisite for personhood, it must be the case that entities without functioning brains cannot be people.

You’ll notice he said he would cover two considerations that support his position. We’re going to save his second reason for the next time Alan does the video challenge. For now, let’s just cover this first one. Is the fetus without a brain a person? If so, why? If not, is it okay to kill it? How do you respond to this challenge? Alan will be here on Thursday to let you know how you did.

How Did the New Testament Canon Develop?

Posted: April 23, 2012 by Amy Hall in God Has Spoken

Michael Kruger, author of Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books, talks about how we know the core of the New Testament canon (with all of its theology) was established early on.

Friday Fun: Books of the Bible

Posted: April 20, 2012 by Alan Shlemon in Just for Fun
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Image credit: twentyonehundred productions

Challenge Response: God is a Psychopath

Posted: April 19, 2012 by Brett Kunkle in God is Real, Weekly Challenge

Is God comparable to a psychopath who builds an ant farm, obsesses over them, and then tortures them?  My answer to this week’s challenge:

Here’s a video that uses an analogy to show Christians their God is a psychopath. Whenever someone uses an analogy to challenge you, the first thing you need to do is see if the story being presented is dissimilar to Christianity in significant ways such that its conclusion, and the feelings it invokes, can’t rightly be applied to Christianity. So, does this video fail? And if so, how? How would you respond to a friend who sent this to you? Is God a psychopath? And if not, what can you explain to your friend about God and human beings that will present a more accurate picture of Him?

As always, Brett will be here on Thursday to give his response and let you know how you did.

Doubting Dawkins

Posted: April 16, 2012 by Brett Kunkle in God is Real

The absurdity of life in Richard Dawkins’ atheist worldview…

 

How to Think Bioethically

Posted: April 16, 2012 by Amy Hall in Do the Right Thing

Some advice for religious fanatics who think human beings have intrinsic value: