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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Christians sharing the Gospel in Muslim-dominated countries take incredible risks. And converts from Islam to Christianity are routinely banished, imprisoned or murdered.
So, how do Christian missionaries teach Muslims about Jesus when Islam denies His deity and death on the cross? And how do new converts from Islam to Christianity worship Jesus without inviting severe persecution?
One attempt is "Chrislam," the bringing together of Christianity and Islam. Proponents of Chrislam say that because the Qur'an mentions Jesus and affirms certain biblical teachings about Him, Christianity and Islam share at least some common ground.
They further argue that if Christians avoid the offensive term "Son of God" when referring to Jesus and, instead, emphasize His role as prophet rather than divine Savior, Muslims are more open to the Gospel. Once they come to faith in Christ, Muslims may continue to worship at a mosque, pray Muslim prayers and even partake in a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The motives behind Chrislam seem sincere. Believers want to be, like the apostle Paul, "all things to all people, so that I may by every possible means save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22). But the problem with Chrislam is that it strips away, or at least masks, the essentials of the Gospel, according to Joshua Lingel, Jeff Morton and Bill Nikides, editors of "Chrislam: How Missionaries are Promoting an Islamized Gospel."
Their book is a well-researched challenge to so-called "Insider Movements" -- Christian missionary efforts that to some extent embrace Chrislam. The premise of their book is that Insider Movements are not a viable strategy for evangelical missions to Muslims.
The authors provide both clarity to the issue of Chrislam and correction to a well-intentioned movement. Christians genuinely want to see Muslims come to faith in Christ. However, the Gospel has always been an offense, and it can be no less of an offense to Muslims than to the Jews and pagans of the apostles' day.
And, to be sure, Christianity and Islam are incompatible. Consider the following:
First, Allah and Yahweh are different deities. Allah is unknowable and unapproachable; Yahweh is personal, knowable, and invites us to approach His throne of grace. Allah has never spoken directly to a human being; Yahweh has spoken to people throughout history and continues to do so today. Allah reveals his will but not himself; Yahweh reveals Himself in creation, conscience, the canon of Scripture, and Christ -- the Word who became flesh (John 1:14).
Second, Muhammad denied the Trinity, the Fatherhood of God, the Sonship of Jesus, the deity of the Holy Spirit, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and many other Christian doctrines.
Third, Christians must not call themselves Muslims for the sake of evangelism. Islam defines a Muslim as one who submits to Allah and Muhammad.
Fourth, Christians must not encourage new converts to Christianity to call themselves Muslims, stay in a mosque, pray toward Mecca or travel there on a pilgrimage. These are religious practices that demonstrate submission to Allah. Rather, new converts should be urged to follow Christ and become part of a fellowship of Christians.
Fifth, Bible translations that deliberately mistranslate the Greek and Hebrew terms for Son, Son of God, Son of Man, or Father should not be used to evangelize Muslims.
Sixth, Christians should not use the Qur'an as scripture. While the Qur'an speaks of Jesus in many places, it teaches another Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).
Finally, it is impossible for a person to be both a Christian and a Muslim. Despite an ever-growing trend toward syncretism -- the belief that all is one -- the Gospel stands apart as the only good news for sinful people, and Christ alone is sufficient for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
The differences between Islam and Christianity as to the person and nature of God and his prophets -- and what constitutes scripture -- are vast and the similarities are few.
Rob Phillips is director of communications for the Missouri Baptist Convention with responsibility for leading MBC apologetics ministry in the state. This article first appeared in The Pathway (www.mbcpathway.org), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Phillips also is on the Web at www.oncedelivered.net.