The Challenge of Islam
To most Westerners, Islam is the most misunderstood of the so-called three great religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. But of these three, Islam is the fastest growing. If current estimates are correct, by the year 2020 approximately 25 percent of the world's population will be Muslim. Today, Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) covers roughly one billion people worldwide. The vast majority of which are neither oil rich nor of Arab descent. In the United States we have seen phenomenal growth in people professing to be followers of the Islamic faith. With between six and seven million Muslims living in the U.S. today, they constitute greater numbers than the Episcopalians (the major denomination of America's Founding Fathers). They outnumber the members of the Assembly of God three to one.
The power that Islam exercises over the minds of its followers is derived from "stolen truth." As demonic as Islam is, due to its rejection of God's revelation in His Son (John 3:36), its "roots" are found in Judaism and Christianity. In fact, it is the contention of Islam that it is the "fulfillment" of God's revelation, which began with Abraham and came to its completion in Mohammed.
When Mohammed's armies first confronted the early Byzantines, it was assumed that Islam was merely a variant form of Christianity, and in some ways they were not far from wrong; Islam, of course, accepts much of the Old and New Testaments. Islam adopts and adapts certain Christian doctrines (monotheism, the immortality of the soul, and final judgment), while rejecting others (original sin, the Incarnation and divinity of Christ, the sacraments). To the dismay of many Christians, Islam believes in the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles and that He was a prophet, and even the Messiah. On the other hand, the Qur'an teaches that Jesus was only a created being: "Praise be to Allah who has never begotten a son; who has no partner in His Sovereignty" (Sura:17, Ayat:111). Elsewhere the Qur'an states:
In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the son of Mary. Say: 'Who then has the least power against God, if His Will were to destroy Christ the Son of Mary, his mother, and all - everyone there is on earth? For to God belongs the dominion of the heavens and earth, and all that is between. He creates what He pleases. For God has power over all things' (Sura: 5, Ayat:17).
Interestingly, one of the great theologians of the early Church, St. John of Damascus (A.D. 749), was convinced that Islam was at its root not a new religion, but a variation on a Judeo-Christian form. St. John wrote the first Christian critique of Islam in his work entitled, The Fount of Knowledge. John closely related Islam to the heterodox Christian doctrine of Arianism. (After all, this doctrine, like Islam, took as its starting point a similar position stating that God could not become truly human without somehow compromising His divinity.) In other words, John viewed Islam in the same manner in which we view Mormonism or the Jehovah's Witnesses. I might add that Martin Luther had a similar evaluation of Islam.
Islam stole much of its building material from the "temple of God." Because of the strength of this building material, it has been able to survive almost 1,500 years, while lesser ideologies have pasted from the world stage. Remember, unlike Hinduism and Buddhism, Islam has its own "great commission" to bring the whole created order under submission to Allah.
In the 1930's, when most people in the Western world had relegated Islam to the backward regions of the Middle East, one man saw it quite differently. The Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc, an Englishman of French ancestry and member of Parliament, recalled Islam's history of conquest and predicted in his book The Great Heresies, that it would one day challenge the West again. Remember, as late as 1683 its armies had attempted to conquer Europe, penetrating all the way to Vienna. Belloc believed that a great Islamic revival, even in the twentieth century, was a possibility.
Belloc admitted that the idea of a new Muslim challenge to the West seemed rather fantastic to most, but only because we were "blinded by the immediate past." He saw Islam's great strength resting on its fervent religious faith, while the weakness of the West being it's loss of religious faith and growing moral decadence. He believed that if Islam were to catch up technologically, it could severely threaten the Western world. The only hope, which he doubted was likely, was a spiritual awakening in the West.
Could it be that we are beginning to see the fulfillment of Belloc's prophetic warning? Are we seeing the results of spiritual decline in the West, as Islam begins to exert its "muscle"?
Our hope for the future cannot rest upon our technology and military might. Our horses and chariots will not save us from the Islamic threat. We must arise from our "humanistic slumber" and find once again the "ancient path." It is only in returning to the God of the Bible that we will be able to meet the challenge of Islam. I believe it may very well be that our Sovereign Lord is using Islam to "press" the Western world into a spiritual reawakening.
Topics: Church History, Church, The, Theology, World History