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Archive for the ‘Contentious Issues’ Category

I am pro-life. I believe life begins at conception and that all life is valuable in the sight of God.

I am also pro-pro-choice. I believe people who are pro-choice are created in the image of God and worthy of respect as those whom God loves, even if we don’t agree.

I am also pro-Muslim. I believe that Muslims are created in the image of God and therefore are valuable in his sight, even if we don’t agree on many important things.

I found the following excerpt from Sam Crabtree’s book, Practicing Affirmation, very helpful in thinking about how we talk with those with whom we disagree. I repost it in order to help both Muslims and Christians grow in our ability to affirm others even when we disagree.

Sam Crabtree:

On a very cold Minnesota winter morning I was bundled thick against the icy Canadian wind as I marched with several thousand others to mark the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. The march route was adorned by occasional pro-choice protesters with large placards chiding our pro-life efforts as being antiwoman. The setting was cold not only meteorologically speaking, but the air was chilled with icy looks and cold shoulders. In one part of the march a shouting match had erupted and it was ugly. It seemed to me that the pro-life marcher did a particularly poor job of winning friends and influencing people, and a pretty good job of making all of us marching with him appear to be angry, rude ruffians.

Continuing the march and seeing one particularly large and provocative placard, I felt the impulse to ask its guardians about it, but thought it would only erupt into a charged argument, and so I walked on by. Ten minutes or so later, I thought, “No. I’m going to speak with them,” and so I returned to the placard’s double guards, one of whom would not look at me or acknowledge my presence in any way. He looked off in the distance, literally stiff-necked. It had to be pretty hard work for him to ignore me and avoid me. And hard work it is when affirmation runs thin in relationships.

“May I ask about your placard?” I queried with a genuinely respectful tone, for these were human beings made in the image of God. There is more than one good way to jump-start an awkward relationship, and “May I ask you a question?” is one good way. Like a British Royal Guard, the one continued not to make eye contact with me and didn’t even twitch; to him I did not exist except as a threat to his placard and mission. But the second fella said, “Well, what?” (meaning, what’s your question?).

I took it as an invitation to continue. In strained relationships it can be very important to not proceed without an invitation, like playing “Captain, May I?” or “Simon Says.” Show deference to the captain and heedful respect to Simon. “I’m noticing your placard, here. I don’t know who designed it, but its graphics are strikingly attractive and its message is powerful.” There were no words on it, just a huge rendering of a coat hanger encircled with a slash through it. It was a graphic not hastily thrown together by some amateur, but was colorful and simple, and though we were on opposite sides of a controversial issue, I could affirm the graphic skill. So I did.

And then I took another figurative step forward, “I take your poster to mean that you oppose self-inflicted coat hanger abortions, am I right?” In tense situations, it can be good to not jump to conclusions, even when you’re pretty sure you already understand what the other side means. Slowing down to confirm the other party’s meaning is another way of affirming them as human beings who might like the opportunity to correct me if I have misunderstood. I am not beyond the possibility of misunderstanding, a healthy and humble admission to make.

“Right,” he replied, meaning that his poster was explicitly against coat hanger abortions.

Proceeding I said, “Well, I think we have something that you and I can enthusiastically agree on.” He looked at me as though I had forgotten which side of the issue I was marching on. “We both are in favor of the safety of women. We are men, and the safety of women is important to us, even though we aren’t women ourselves. I appreciate your willingness to come out here on a very cold day, seeking to protect women from a procedure that will never threaten you personally. That seems altruistic to me.” I’m not sure that he understood the word altruistic, but I am sure he took it as a compliment, which it was.

“May I ask another question?” While his sidekick still stood stiff as a poker, this man was opening up to me. By asking permission to pose another question instead of just charging forward, the conversation was kept from shutting down, like the shouting match that had erupted elsewhere on the march route.

“Sure,” he replied. The first time I asked permission to ask a question, he gave me a tentative “well, what?” because he was uncertain about what I might do. In response to my second request to interview him further, he replied casually with a “sure.” The cold was thawing. The door was opening.

So I asked my next question: “Could you tell me how many women have been injured by coat hanger abortions? Do you have that information, or could you point me to somebody who does?”

His stammering response was something like, “Hmm . . . nooo . . . no, I don’t.” His pokerfaced partner offered nothing, not even a flinch. “I suppose you could check at the library or somewhere,” was the best he could do. He wanted to help me do my research and get the facts. He was warming up.

On to my next question, “Well, can you tell me now many women have been injured by legal abortions in medical facilities?”

Same answer: “Hmm . . . nooo . . . no, I don’t, uh, have that information. I would think you might be able to get it at a library, or you could try to go online.”

He’s conversant now, and I moved on to my last question: “What do you say to the person who does have that information—the person who knows approximately how many women have been injured by coat hanger abortions in the United States and how many young women have been injured by legal abortions—what do you say to the person who has that information and knows that the number of woman inured by coat hanger abortions is less than one percent of the women who have been injured by legal abortions?” Checkmate. He looked embarrassed, which is appropriate.

He hung his head and looked at the ground. But he wasn’t angry, not with me. That is, he didn’t see me as his opponent; he saw the data as his opponent. He was awakening. Do you see how affirmation—looking for something to commend—opened the door to talk about the issue that divided us? And he was backing away from his hard stance. His partner walked off, having never said a word; we won’t win them all, and the practice of affirmation is no ironclad guarantee. Our conversation ended when the public address system fired up and the rally program began.

I hasten here to say that beautiful graphics should not be used in the service of killing defenseless children. But if I started my conversation there, I suspect our discussion would have quickly gone in the direction of the shouting match. My goal isn’t just to protest, but to persuade.

—Sam Crabtree, Practicing Affirmation (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), pp. 76-79.

HT: Justin Taylor

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Who is Jesus Christ? This is one of the questions that undoubtedly divides Christians and Muslims. Muslims say that Jesus was a prophet of God and a messenger of God. Christians affirm this, but say much more. Jesus Christ is more than a prophet, for he is God incarnate. He is God. We believe this, not because it readily makes sense to us, but because this is what the Injil teaches. For example, John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.” Jesus Christ is the Word of God. He was with God (thus there is some kind of distinction) and he was God (there is some kind of unity). We do not, however, believe in multiple Gods. There is one God. I believe this as strongly as any of my Muslim friends. To think otherwise is blasphemy.

But often, my Muslim friends just don’t see any reason to believe that Jesus is God. They don’t see why Jesus Christ has to be both man and God (an admittedly difficult thing to explain). I read the following answer by Sinclair Ferguson in his book, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life and thought it might be helpful for my Muslim readers to better understand why we think it is so important that Jesus is both God and man, even if you still disagree.

What makes this two-nature [God and man] Christology essential to the gospel? John’s answer [from the Gospel of John] is twofold:

1. Only God – the One through whom “all things were made” (John 1:3, cf. v. 10), in whom “was life” and “light” (John 1:4) – can reverse creation’s death and dissipate the darkness caused by sin.

2. But since that death and darkness are within creation, within man, the Word must become flesh in order to restore it from within. The Creator must enter His own creation, groaning as it is under the burden of alienation from Him.*

*Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone: Living the Gospel Centered Life (Orlando: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 13.

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There are many similarities between Muslims and Christians. In fact, as a follower of Jesus the Messiah, when I am with Muslims I often feel more comfortable than when I am with Americans or other Westerners. My values are much closer to an average Muslim than to a secular Westerner. We especially noticed this several years ago while studying Arabic in Syria. There was a big difference between us and some of our European classmates (I only remember one other American, though, interestingly, we did meet a Somali who lived about a mile away from us in America).

As similar as many of our values are, there are differences in our theology, especially regarding our beliefs about Jesus Christ. Who is Jesus Christ? What did he do? It is the answers to these questions that separate us (the separation is theological – it doesn’t have to be relational).

This morning as I read my Bible I came across a passage that defines the differences between us. When I read this text my heart fills with praise to God and gratefulness for his mercy and compassion. I am really happy that I am reconciled to God, that I have peace with the Lord of the worlds. Here are the verses:

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. – Colossians 1:19-20

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Day of Discovery has a very interesting program with a discussion between Nizar Touma, a born again Christian Arab (this is how he described himself), and Avner Boskey, a Jewish Messianic follower of Jesus. Both of them are Israeli citizens.

While I don’t fully agree with all of what they say the Bible teaches regarding the nation of Israel, I really appreciated the grace and love they showed to each other.

Both of them saw that the main problem in the region starts within.

Conflict is something that starts in me. – Nizar

The question in peace treaties and peace movements is how much is really going on in the human heart? – Avner

You can watch it in four parts:

Part 1, Taking Sides
Part 2, Seeking Peace
Part 3, Chosen People
Part 4, Israel’s Future

 

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On March 2, 2009 GDS Knowledge Consultants hosted a Muslim Christian dialogue in Dubai. It featured Thabiti Anyabwile giving the Christian perspective and Bassam Zawadi giving the Muslim perspective. Both men did well in representing the two largest religions in the world. I especially appreciated the candor and grace that was evident throughout. Neither man was afraid to say what the other believed to be false, but both spoke with respect. You can watch the whole debate at GDS’s Youtube channel (it is in 22 parts).

Here is the trailor:

The highlight for me was Thabiti’s closing remarks. In Bassam’s closing remarks he passionately encourages those attending to read the Qur’an because it will change their life for the better. Thabiti acknowledged that he had read the Quran and that Bassam was right, it had helped him. He then said, “The Qur’an did good for me, but doing good for me isn’t how we enter heaven.” His statement showed great respect to Bassam and to the Qur’an in general, but it highlighted our common human problem – the need for salvation. Simply being better will never be enough, regardless of whether it is the Qur’an or the Bible that makes us better. Adding more good works doesn’t remove our sin (see my recent post, “Would You Drink It?”). We need a Savior.

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In this short video Hussein Rashid and Joseph Cumming share their thoughts on the Ground Zero mosque controversy. I found Joseph’s comments to be very helpful in thinking about how Christians should respond. How does loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39) impact our view on this? How does Jesus’ command to do unto others as would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12) impact our view on this?

HT: Become Like Children

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This is exactly the kind of perspective we all need.
From Justin Taylor:

A timely word from Russell Moore, who asks:

Is it a problem that some of us who are tranquil as still water about biblical doctrine and ecclesial mission are red-faced about Nancy Pelosi and the talking heads on MSNBC?

Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?

More:

If we were half as outraged by our own sin and self-deception as we are by the follies of our political opponents, what would be the result?

If we rejoiced as much that our names are written in heaven as we do about such trivialities as basketball brackets, what would be the result?

So if what you’re afraid of is a politician or a policy or a culture or the future of Western civilization, don’t give up the conviction but give up the fear.

Work for justice.

Oppose evil.

But do it so that your opponents will see not fear but trust, optimism, and affection.

Read the whole thing, and pass it along.

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