Preaching Christ to Muslims
The one message for the Muslim world and for each individual Muslim is Jesus Christ. Their knowledge of Him is so inadequate, so distorted, so insufficient, and so utterly obscured by the glory of their own prophet, that we can only use this knowledge as a stepping-stone to higher things. The Muslim needs the knowledge of Christ, and can only be saved through Christ. He needs to be taught Christianity and brought into the light of Bible truth. He needs to recognise the dangerous errors of his religion and turn to Christianity as the true light from heaven. He needs to take a radically different and essentially new attitude towards Christ. He needs spiritual regeneration and moral reformation. In one word, he needs the Gospel.
While missionary work in some Muslim lands for political or other reasons is formidable, and while the access to the individual Muslim heart is also beset with baffling obstacles, this does not turn away our responsibility or our privilege. The great problems of the Incarnation, the deity of Christ, and the Trinity are great stumbling-blocks not only to the Muslim, but they are the very problems over which Christianity herself has pondered with amazement and awe, and with reference to which there have been divisions in the church herself; but these unfathomable mysteries are the very heart of our religion. Without them Christianity is not differentiated from other faiths or philosophies.
When we preach Christ to Muslims who know of Jesus we are presenting to them the one thing lacking in their faith and the one unfulfilled desire in their lives. If the cross of Christ is the missing link in their creed, then the preaching of the cross, although foolishness, will yet prove amongst Muslims the wisdom and the power of God. Just because Islam is the antithesis to the thesis of Christianity, a synthesis is possible, not by a compromise between Islam and Christianity, but by bringing to clear expression the many common features that still remain, and that by showing how these common features are found in a truer form in Christianity than in Islam.
Of all the common features on which we can seize as a point of vital contact with Muslims there is none superior to the fact of Christ. Islam accepts His coming, His supernatural birth, His high office as the bringer of a special revelation from God, His sinlessness, His compassion and His power to work miracles. By admitting the truths which we hold in common with Muslims, and by inviting them to look away from their broken lights and flickering shadows to the “true light which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world,” we can best of all help Muslims.
Just as the Muslim conception of God is base, unholy, and to the Christian utterly repugnant, yet Islam’s theism is a foundation on which we can build a fuller knowledge of the Godhead, of His holiness, justice and love; so Muslims who know Jesus as a mere prophet will for this very reason welcome a larger knowledge of His character, and be led from the Quran caricature to the Gospel portrait. Our preaching should be constructive, and in this way it will most surely be destructive. We can break down false ideas of God and of Christ in Muslim theology most surely and most speedily by full proclamation of those very truths which Islam lacks. Without denying the fact that Islam is in its spirit anti-Christian, that it contains much that is positively harmful in ethics, and that it is wholly deficient in those doctrines which are the very heart of Christianity, we nevertheless admit that the acceptance of the Old Testament prophets, the peculiar honours paid to our Lord, and the testimony of the sacred scriptures found in the Quran, are important preparatory elements in spite of many denials.
The Christian should first of all thoroughly know the religion of the people among whom he labours; ignorance of the Quran, the traditions, the life of Muhammad, the Muslim conception of Christ, social beliefs and prejudices of Muslims, which are the result of their religion – ignorance of these is the chief difficulty in work for Muslims. He should cultivate sympathy to the highest degree and an appreciation of all the great fundamental truths which we hold in common with Muslims. He should show the superiority of Christianity both in doctrine and life by admitting the excellencies of doctrine and life in Islam, but showing immediately how Christianity far surpasses them.
Many Muslims are at heart dissatisfied with Muhammad as an ideal of character. In spite of late tradition, the bold outline of his life and character as shown in the Quran stands out and perplexes them. The inconsistencies of his conduct are not taken away by the whitewash of tradition. His relations to women especially present a moral difficulty to many Muslims who are beginning to think in higher terms of ethics. Therefore, while the Christian should be careful not to offend needlessly, he should boldly challenge a comparison between the life of Muhammad and the life of Jesus Christ, even as known to Muslims from their own books. Compromise in this regard will not win the respect of Muslims. They glorify their prophet, why should we not glorify ours? A loving and yet bold presentation of the distinctive truths of our religion and of the surpassing grandeur and beauty of the character of Jesus Christ will never alienate a Muslim heart.
The heart of the Gospel and that which possess the greatest power of appeal to Muslims, as to every sinner, is the union between God’s mercy and God’s justice manifested in the cross of Christ. When properly presented, this doctrine is not absolutely novel but compelling to any Muslim who feels a sense of sin. In order to awaken a sense of sin, which is essential in all missionary activity, the ethical standards of the Sermon on the Mount and the spotless purity of the life of Christ must be presented. It is not always wise at first to compare Muhammad and Christ. If we present the Christ as He is in the Gospel, the contrast is so evident that the comparison is made by the Muslim himself.
We should ask every sincere Muslim inquirer to study the Gospel story and try for himself to reach a true estimate of Jesus Christ, of whom Muhammad spoke in such high terms of honour as a prophet and an Apostle of God; to take the historical foundations of the Christian religion and examine them as critically as he pleases, and to see for himself what Jesus claimed to be, and how His claims were understood by His disciples and by the early church.
We should ask Muslims to study the Gospel in any way they like, but with only one object in view, namely, that they may come face to face with Jesus Himself; that they may learn to know Him, and see how He claimed to hold a supreme position in the matter of the attitude of all men toward God, a position which none other has ever claimed. In other words, we should press home the question Jesus Himself put to His disciples and to the world, “What do ye think of Christ?”