The Church’s Challenge in Turmoil

This article was written a couple of weeks after the tragic acts of terrorism in the United States. The world, particularly the U. S. was stunned but not shocked by the awful acts of evil on September 11, 2001. We were not shocked because reports such as the CIA 2015 Report were warning of such an attack, though the time and specific execution were not clearly known. Now without a doubt the new form of warfare (terrorism) has been thrust upon us and the rest of the world. Things will never be the same, and they should not be.

The triune God and the Christian consensus that were ingredients in building this great nation (though we were never officially a Christian nation), have been increasingly dismissed during the twentieth century and replaced with a post-modern paradigm where God, if there is a god, has no resemblance to the God of the Bible and the Christian faith. Consequently, morals and spiritual values have taken a nosedive. Who is to say what is right or wrong, moral or immoral? Those are, according to postmodernism, non-definable, hence nonsensical concepts. Individuals, groups, and nations do not ignore, abandon, or redefine God without suffering the consequences. How the events of September 11 will play into all of this will be determined as time moves forward. They may be a wake-up call to truth and reality or we may simply continue the present pattern.

Americans are very religious. Gallup polls indicate that 95 percent of American people believe in God or some supreme being. We know from Scripture that man is made in the image of God, and therefore inherently religious. The Bible teaches that we either worship the true God or we worship false gods, whether they be physical idols that have to be nailed down, or other lifeless images, or even man himself. Built into the warp and woof of American history has been the belief in the one true God; yet, the framers of our Constitution chose to allow the freedom of the expression of one’s religion by a “chartered pluralism.” Of course when the Constitution was adopted pluralism existed generally within a Christian framework. In today’s setting pluralism has a far broader connotation. There are more than 150 organized religions in America, more than any other nation in the civilized world according to anthropologists and missiologists.

America’s landscape has undergone drastic change, and we hardly recognize it even from fifty years ago. With pluralism and the acceleration of global immigration have brought our nation to the brink of uncertainty about who we are. The American motto, E pluribus unum (out of many, one), once so proudly hailed has, in practice, been reversed to “out of one, many.” Christianity is waning; other religions are growing. The fastest growing religion in America is Islam. Muslims now outnumber Presbyterians and Anglicans combined. There are Mosques in every major U. S. city. The growth has come not only from immigration but also by marriage, birth, and conversion.

One statistic shows that Islam is growing five hundred times faster than Christianity on the world scene. Though Arabia is still its heart and Mecca and Medina its capitals, globally there are over one billion Muslims. Eighteen percent of the world population professes to embrace the Islamic faith. Think about that for a moment! Everyday over one billion people perform their Shahadah, their confession that “there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

In the good providence of God, the tragic, wicked, and evil events of September 11 may have given us an opportunity to dialogue with our Muslim neighbors, especially in America, in a new way. There may be an opportunity of willingness to dialogue, to build bridges, to reach out towards those who embrace that faith. Many Muslims were grief stricken along with us over the loss of so many lives from so many different countries including their own countries of origin. Many Muslims have not embraced the radical fringes of Islam and are quick to want us to know that. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful blessing to see God working through us to turn that tragedy around as we seize the moment and take advantage of the possible open door to share Christ with those who we would normally shun or avoid?

Here are some suggestions to begin an action plan: Read a good book or use a video that explains the Islamic faith. Understand what Muslims believe. (We offer several books in the CE&P Bookstore, www.cepbookstore.com or 800.283.1357. In particular: Ten Steps in Witnessing to Muslims by Anees Zaka, Muslims and Christians at the Table, by Anees Zaka and Bruce McDowell, and Muslim and Christian Beliefs, also by Zaka and McDowell. Our Video Library also has some helpful videos, 678.825.1116.) Use these resources and look for an opportunity to reach out to those for whom Christ died. Seek to bridge into the lives of those whose religion differs from the Christian faith in order to care for them and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (The Heart of Evangelism, by Jerram Barrs, reviewed in this issue will be of great help.) The need for community has never been greater and the opportunity has never been more clearly set before us. We could be instrumental in changing the cry, “there is no god but Allah,” to “there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” Joseph, the patriarch, was on target when he said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery, “As far as I am concerned, God turned into good what you meant for evil” (NLT).

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Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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