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

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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


Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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?


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.

Read Full Post »

(If there are awards for longest time between posts in a blog series, I would be a serious contender.)

In one sense all people are children of God. Paul affirmed this in his sermon to the people of Athens, who were idol worshipers. He told them that God made us all so that we would seek him. He then corrected their understanding of God by pointing out that as offspring of God we should understand that God can’t be a stone that we ourselves make, “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’ Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:28-29).

All people are children of God in that they are created by God and made in the image of God.

However, the Injil also makes clear that those who believe in God through Jesus are adopted as children in a special sense. “But to all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

Making us sons and daughters is why God sent Jesus Christ. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:4-7). Through Jesus Christ God has adopted believers into his family so that it is right and fitting to not only call him “Lord” or “God Over All” but also, “Father” and even “Daddy” (“Abba” is Aramaic [the language of Christ] and was less formal).

As sons and daughters of God adopted into his family, we enjoy all the benefits that we would expect for children of the King. In adoption we see God’s great love. “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are” (1 John 3:1).

Children of God can be at peace because they know that God their Father will take care of all their needs (Matthew 6:25-33). They can be at peace because they know God their Father gives them good gifts (Matthew 7:7-11). And ultimately they can have peace because as sons and daughters they are also heirs of God. All that is his becomes theirs. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17).

Part 1: Adam Is the Son of God
Part 2: The People of God (Israel) Are the Son of God
Part 3: The Son of David Is the Son of God
Part 4: Jesus Christ Is the Son of God
Part 5: Jesus Christ Is God’s Unique Son
Part 6: Believers Are Sons and Daughters of God

Read Full Post »

One of the contentious issues Muslims deal with is the view that Islam is a religion of war and that it was spread mostly by the sword. This is a common perception among many. Whether non-Muslims agree with this perception or not, it is important that we listen to Muslims and hear what they say about it. Nauman Khan gave a lecture recently on “Common Misconceptions by Non-Muslims” and particularly addresses the issues of violence and war within Islam.

HT: Muslim Matters

Read Full Post »

Now we come to the most contentious part of this contentious issue. We have seen that the Bible teaches Adam was the son of God, the people of Israel were the son of God, the son of David was the son of God and that Jesus Christ fulfills each of these so that he is the true and everlasting son of God. But there is another sense in which Jesus Christ is the Son of God that is completely different.

Jesus Christ has a relationship with God that is utterly unique. No other person shares this closeness of relationship. We have already seen in his baptism that God spoke these words, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Certainly this was in fulfillment of Psalm 2:7, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you.” But God doesn’t merely say that Jesus is his son, he says that he is his “beloved son.” This is a special relationship.

It is this unique relationship of love between Jesus Christ and God that makes his coming so remarkable. The most famous verse of the Bible is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not  perish but have eternal life.” The verses following say, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17-18). We truly see the love of God because he sent his only son. If Jesus Christ was merely a man like any other man God’s love is not so clearly seen. But he loves the world so much that he sends his son.

We see the same depth of love in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare his own Son but  gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” The idea here is that God gave us the greatest thing (his son) and therefore will most certainly give us all lesser things. What this means is that in God’s eyes there is nothing greater that he could give to mankind than his son. Jesus Christ has an utterly unique closeness to God.

John put it this way, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God  but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). God is love and we know this because he sent his only Son to give us life.

As the son, Jesus Christ uniquely knows God. The Christ said in the Injil, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matthew 11:27). Knowledge of God comes through the revelation of the son.

The son knows the Father uniquely because he uniquely shares his glory. As mentioned in a previous post, both Muslims and Christians call Jesus Christ the Word of God. And we both acknowledge that God can do anything he wants (after all, he is God!). In the Injil he reveals that he sent his word to the world. His word took flesh. “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The Word of God made flesh is the Son. And this son has glory. He has always had this glory (of course the word of God would be full of glory!). Jesus Christ prayed in John 17:1, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you . . .”

The key for us is that if we want to honor God we must honor the Son. For Jesus Christ says in the Injil, “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:22-23).

It is the birth of the Son that we honor at Christmas. The angel Gabriel told Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32). This Christmas let us honor the one who is uniquely the Son of God, the one miraculously born from a virgin. For in honoring him we honor the Father.

Part 1: Adam Is the Son of God
Part 2: The People of God (Israel) Are the Son of God
Part 3: The Son of David Is the Son of God

Part 4: Jesus Christ Is the Son of God
Part 5: Jesus Christ Is God’s Unique Son
Part 6: Believers Are Sons and Daughters of God

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 59 other followers