How Islam Threatens Christianity

Dr. Warren F. Larson

Warren Larson is Academic Program Director and Associate Professor of Muslim Studies at Columbia International University. He served as a missionary in Pakistan for 23 year and has written extensively on Islam, including: Islamic Ideology and Fundamentalism in Pakistan: Climate for Conversion to Christianity?  He lives with his wife in Columbia, South Carolina.

John Esposito, the most influential non-Muslim scholar on American Islam, at times sounds prophetic.  The Islamic Threat: Myth or Reality? (1992) suggests Islam is a threat to the West—particularly America.  A decade later, in Unholy War: Terror in the Name of Islam (2002), he says a war conducted militarily, rather than diplomatically, will lead to an increase in anti-Americanism, global instability and bloodshed.  American foreign policy, he says, is what is behind the anger and agenda of militant Muslims. 


Esposito is right on some things but he fails to admit Islam’s inability to promote peace.  This is not to say that most Muslims do not want peace, but an American convert to Islam, who later turned to Christ, speaks as an insider:  “Christianity teaches us to love our enemies.  With Islam it’s quite the opposite.  You should be just, but you should hate the enemies of Islam.  And if they openly struggle against Islam, they should be eliminated.” 


The Qur’an agrees, for though war is evil, Islam’s demise is a worse evil (Qur’an 2:217).  As one Muslim said, “The world as we know it today is how others have shaped it so we have two choices: either to accept it with submission, which means letting Islam die, or to destroy it, so that we can construct a world as Islam requires. “ 


This article therefore does not minimize the danger America faces because of a growing, albeit false, Muslim perception that America has targeted Islam.  That threat from militants is very real, but the material below focuses on why Islam threatens the church, and how the church can be an instrument of peace in the face of rising Muslim-Christian tensions.


Why Americans Convert

“Should Christians Convert Muslims?” in TIME, recently suggested evangelicals are wrongheaded when they try to convert Muslims, but it failed to mention Muslim attempts to convert Christians.   Below are some reasons why, for example, approximately 2 million American Blacks have converted to Islam.   


First, many seek self-respect, discipline, family values, moral standards and deliverance from drugs and alcohol.  According to Islam, they can change the stereotype of the young Black male on drugs, out of work and in jail.  It’s a new way of life, a path not only to God, but of self-respect and dignity.


African-American women also convert because they see in Islam an emphasis on modesty, chastity and clarity of economic rights.  Many had been abandoned to fend for themselves and their children because of irresponsible and faithless men.  An African-American imam (mosque leader), invited to speak in my class at Columbia International University, said: “Jesus paid it all is not what American Blacks must hear!”


Islam then becomes an alternative to intrinsic immorality and corruption—symptoms of a society in the last stages of decomposition.  It comes with a well-ordered prayer ritual, specific guidelines on relationships, clear male leadership roles and family values—even a new name!  Since Christianity is deemed powerless to effect social change, Islam can establish laws, control moral behavior and produce reform. 


Second, converts to Islam say Christian discrimination left them disconnected and disenfranchised, but now as vice-regents in Islam, they have distinction, purpose and empowerment that even the Civil Rights Movement failed to accomplish.    As Bruce Fields notes in Introducing Black Theology: Three Crucial Questions for the Evangelical Church, it is unfortunate, that “because the issue of racism still exists in our society, it still exists in the church” (53). He goes on to say that “if the world does not see true unity among those who claim allegiance to Jesus Christ, the church should not be surprised when the world is unimpressed with our proclamation that the Father has sent the Son (64). 


Something similar is happening to Latinos.  “Islam is Luring More Latinos “in The Washington Post quotes a young woman who had been a devout Catholic:  “I felt a strong sense of belonging.”  Another says she felt a “sense of sisterhood … with others who wore hijab (veil).” 

Third, there is widespread ignorance as to real nature of Islam.  Muslims equate Islam with peace but the word for peace in Arabic is “Salaam,” not “Islam.”  It means “surrender or to make peace by laying down one’s arms in submission.”   And, to claim that Jihad means striving in the cause of Allah by study and personal devotion--not “Holy War,” is only partially true.  Muhammad’s exhortation to Jihad is mostly to fight infidels (pagans), Jews and Christians.  The Qur’an, supported by commentaries and classical writings, claims Jihad is the only sure way to paradise (Qur’an, 3:169).


Furthermore, where Islam dominates, Muslims are never free to abandon Islam.   Maududi, the most influential Muslim scholar in the 20th century, insists that both the Qur’an and Traditions demand an apostate’s execution.  He quotes the Qur’an (9:11-12) and the Traditions: “Any person, i.e. Muslim, who has changed his religion, kill him” (Al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, p. 45). 


Equally disturbing are Islamic traditions that predict how Jews will ultimately be exterminated: “The Last Hour would not come till the Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims will kill them until the Jews hide themselves, and the stones and trees would speak up saying … ‘There is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him’” (Al-Muslim, Book 40, No. 6985). 


Where Do We Go From Here?

Christians Need Optimism

Stan Guthrie admits in Missions in the Third Millenia: 21 Key Trends for the 21st Century that ministry to Muslims is difficult, and that 9/10ths of the worst persecution takes place in Islamic states.  But he reminds us that many Muslims are embracing Christ.  In Indonesia, for example, the church may have grown to 20 million, far beyond official estimates. 


Similarly, in The Next Christendom: the Coming of Global Christianity Philip Jenkins wonders if Islam and Christianity can peacefully coexist.  But he provides solid evidence of explosive church growth in the developing world—precisely where most Muslims live.   And, he feels that in America, Muslim growth through immigration will be exceeded by a larger influx of Christians. 


Christians Need Training

“Call men to the path of your Lord” (Qur’an 16:125) is to Muslims what the “Great Commission” is to us (Matthew 28:19-20), so in the face of aggressive da’wah (Islamic mission), American Christians must prepare to handle misconceptions.  Using both the Bible and the Qur’an with skill and sensitivity, they can demonstrate that Christians do not worship three gods (Qur’an 4:171) and that Jesus did in fact die (Qur’an 3:55; 4:157; 19:15).


  But Christians also need to know the differences:  For example, God only loves the righteous in Islam (Qur’an 3:76; 4:107), in stark contrast to Christianity where he loves the weak and sinful—even his enemies (Romans 5:6-10).  Moreover, in the Bible he is willing and ready to save all who repent (II Peter 3:9), whereas a study of God’s 99 names in Islam indicates he has the power but may not “will” to save. 


Christians Need Understanding  

Judaism, Christianity and Islam all lay claim to Abraham as father and believe peace will come through Messiah (Qur’an 3:45) the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).   He will exercise awesome power to restrain evil and judge fairly: “They will beat their swords into plowshares” (Isaiah 2:4) and “he will rule them with an iron scepter” (Psalm 2:9).  His reign will be global and “he will be their peace” (Micah 5:2, 4-5). 


In this light, rather than defend Israeli policy, we need to pray for the “peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6).  God’s “Road Map for Peace” will culminate in the just reign of the Messiah who will judge all nations.    When he comes he will judge America as the world’s number one promoter of a life-style allowing adultery, homosexuality, pornography and abortion.  In regards to the Jews, he will be a “refiner’s fire” and put them on trial (Malachi 3) for sins, such as the legalized abortion, legalized homosexuality and unfair treatment of Palestinians that exist in Israel today.    Finally, he will be “very angry with those nations” who hate the Jews with an excessive and terrible hatred (Zechariah 1:15).  He will gather those nations and fight against them (Zechariah 14:1-3). 

Thankfully, repentance will be widespread as the day fast approaches when all human peace initiatives in the Middle East fail.  Many Jews will finally recognize their sin of crucifying the Messiah, and they will grieve bitterly (Zechariah 12:10) over the one who wept for them, when they failed to understand what brings lasting peace (Luke 19:41).  The good news is that Jesus’ promise to all nations (Matthew 24:30) is echoed in the Bible’s last book: “All the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him” (Revelation 1:7).  Surely this points to the future salvation of many Muslims. 


On that day many Muslims will see Jesus, not only as bridge between people of every race and religion, but they will be able to overcome what has been an insurmountable stumbling block: Jesus is the bridge to God (John 14:6).  For when Jesus forgave sin (Mark 2:10; Luke 7:48), as only God can do (Isaiah 43:45; Mark 2:7; Qur’an 3:135), he also said:   “Go in peace” (Luke 7:48-50). 


It is no coincidence that at birth the Messiah was called “Jesus” for “he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:18) and “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).  “He [Christ] is our peace … [who has] destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility … thus making peace … [he] came and preached peace” (Ephesians 2:14-18).  So we do not need to publicly defame Islam or demean Muhammad as some Christian leaders have done; rather, as a recent book title puts it, we should be Waging Peace on Islam through the “Gospel of Peace” (Ephesians 6:15).  Only the cross brings reconciliation. 

Copyright© 2003, Dr. Warren F. Larson. Used by permission.