Recently, I read Mark Mittelberg's "expert contribution" from Nabeel Qureshi's best selling book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. It reinforces Qureshi's assessment that generally speaking, Eastern Islamic cultures assess truth through lines of authority as opposed to individual reasoning. I think this is a very important point to consider when discussing one's faith with someone coming from this background.
Mark Mittelberg is bestselling
author and primary creator of the course Becoming a Contagious Christian, which
has trained 1.5 million people worldwide and has been translated into more than
twenty languages. He served as evangelism director with the Willow Creek
Association for more than a decade.
“It is important for you to know
that Allah is the one and only God, and that Muhammad, peace be upon him, was
his true prophet. God is not divided, and He does not have a son. And Jesus,
peace be upon him, was not the Son of God. He was a true prophet, like
Muhammad, and we are to honor him, but we must never worship him. We worship
Allah and Allah alone.” These bold words, spoken by the imam—a man dressed in
white who stood in front of our group and was clearly in charge of the mosque
that day—were communicated in a manner that delivered more than just
theological content. They were conveyed with an authority that made clear that
the message was something we were expected to accept, rather than test. It was
not that the imam wasn’t willing to entertain a few questions. Rather, he
apparently saw this as a chance to challenge the thinking of an entire group of
Christians at one time. So after a short period of teaching, he opened the
floor to whatever issues we wanted to raise. But even then, he responded with
an emphatic tone, one that relayed his belief that he had the truth and we were
there to learn it.
This assuredness was borne out when
I finally raised my own question. I asked the imam why he and other Muslims
denied that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died on the cross, and that He
rose from the dead three days later. As politely as I knew how, I explained
that I, and the others from my church who were visiting the mosque that day,
believed these things on the basis of the testimonies of Jesus’ own disciples.
They were the ones who walked and talked with Him for three years and who heard
Him make repeated claims to be the Son of God. They saw Him die on the cross
and met, talked with, and even ate with Him after His resurrection. And they
were the ones who made sure it was all written down in the New Testament
gospels. “What I’m curious about,” I said, concluding my question, “is whether
you have any historical or logical reasons why we should accept your Muslim
point of view over and against what we understand to be the actual historical
The imam looked at me intently and
then declared resolutely, “I choose to believe the prophet!” With that, our
time for questions was over. East meets West, indeed! I walked away that day
with a fresh awareness that we do not all approach questions about truth in the
same way. In fact, years later, I wrote about what I believe is a
characteristically Eastern versus a characteristically Western approach to
In the East, and for Islam in
particular, what is accepted as true is generally what the authorities tell
you—and you are expected to embrace what they teach. That is why I call this
approach the Authoritarian Faith Path. In fact, the original meaning of the
Arabic word Islam “submission.” It seems fair to say that the prevailing tenor
of the Muslim faith is one of submitting to—not questioning—what the religion
This squares with my friend Nabeel
Qureshi’s assessment in this part 2 of his book “People from Eastern Islamic
cultures generally assess truth through lines of authority, not individual
reasoning. Of course, individuals do engage in critical reasoning in the East,
but on average it is relatively less valued and far less prevalent than in the
West. Leaders have done the critical reasoning, and leaders know best.” As
Nabeel indicates, this contrasts sharply with the more typical approach in the
West, which I refer to as the Evidential Faith Path. This approach decides what
should be accepted as true based not on the word of authorities but rather on
logic and experience, including experiences recorded in trustworthy historical
records like the ones I cited in my interactions with the imam. Of course, both
sides can have their pitfalls. Westerners in the evidential mindset often need
to be reminded to be lovers of truth (2 Thess. 2:10) who are willing to
rigorously apply reason and the study of evidence, and then follow them
wherever they lead. Too often, people in Western culture fall into an approach
that limits possible causes to naturalistic ones, and they won’t even consider
supernatural causes. This prejudices the outcome and, in fact, makes scientific
and historical inquiry atheistic by definition. But if we can help people
reopen their minds to the full gamut of possible explanations, then I’m
confident that logic and evidence (along with the inner workings of the Holy
Spirit) will lead them back not only to a belief in God but also to the
Dayton Hartman is lead pastor at Redeemer Church in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He has a PhD in church and dogma history from North-West University (South Africa), and serves as an adjunct professor at both Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Columbia International University. He is the author of Church History for Modern Ministry: Why Our Past Matters for Everything We Do (Our review is here).
You can learn more about Pastor Hartman and his ministry here.
About the Book
All of us are tempted to believe lies about ourselves.
For many pastors, the lies we’re tempted to believe have to do with our identity: that God has called us to lead a movement, that we must sacrifice our home life for our ministry life, or that our image as holy is more important than our actual pursuit of holiness.
In Lies Pastors Believe, pastor and professor Dayton Hartman takes aim at these and other lies he has faced in his own ministry and seen other pastors struggle with. With a winsome and engaging style, Hartman shows current and future pastors why these lies are so tempting, the damage they can do, and how they can be resisted by believing and applying the truth of the gospel.
"I can’t think of anything more pleasing to Christ than the church celebrating His birthday every year. Keep in mind that the whole principle of annual festival and celebration is deeply rooted in ancient Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament, for example, there were times when God emphatically commanded the people to remember certain events with annual celebrations. While the New Testament doesn’t require that we celebrate Christmas every year, I certainly see nothing wrong with the church’s entering into this joyous time of celebrating the Incarnation, which is the dividing point of all human history. Originally, it was intended to honor, not Mithras or any of the other mystery religion cults, but the birth of our King."1
Around this time of year, it is very common to hear the oft-repeated claim that Christmas is a pagan holiday and that Christians ought not celebrate it. Below, I have assembled resources that address some of the common concerns both Christian and non-Christians have around this time of year.
As for me, in regard to Christians and Christmas, I believe what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 14:5- "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" (ESV).
In the subject post, Amy Hall of Stand to Reason writes that "the biggest divide between Christians and non-Christians is not whether or not they think Christianity is true but whether or not they think Christianity is beautiful—and specifically, whether or not they think Jesus is beautiful." She also quotes John Piper and writes how this impacts apologetics. You can read the full post here. Stand firm in Christ, Chase