A megachurch pastor who understands Islamic theology said the majority of Christians would agree for the most part with the five core beliefs of Islam.
J.D. Greear, who holds a Ph.D. in Christian and Islamic theology, told Debbie Chavez of the eponymously named Christian internet talk show that the five core beliefs of Islam is a good conversation starter when talking with Muslims.
“That is a real key in learning to dialogue with Muslims is starting with the things that we share in common,” Greear, who is senior pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., said on the radio show last week to promote his new book, Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim.
The five core beliefs of Islam are: there is only one God; God revealed His will to mankind through a series of prophets; God ‘s revelations are recorded in holy books; angels exist; and there is an afterlife.
Greear, who had lived in a predominantly Muslim country in Southeast Asia for two years, said Muslims believe God revealed His will to mankind through a series of 25 major prophets, 24 of which Christians would recognize.
Muslims are taught, for example, that the first prophet is Adam, the 23rd is John the Baptist, and the 24th is Jesus. The major difference is they believe the 25th and last prophet is Muhammad, who brings together the messages of all 24 previous prophets.
Regarding the Islamic holy books, most Christians only know about the Quran. But Muslims also believe God’s revelation is recorded in other holy books, including the Suhuf Ibrahim, scrolls of Abraham; the Tawrat, the writings of Moses or Torah; the Zabur, writings of David or Psalms; and the Injil, or the Gospel.
“In fact, one of the verses in the Quran, in Surah (chapter) 10, says to Muslims that if you have questions about the previous prophets ask the Christians who have read these things before you,” Greear explained. “It actually points Muslims to Christians because all the Muslims get is little bits and pieces of the story of the previous 24 prophets.”
The pastor and church planter said he would cite the verse in the Quran that tells Muslims that they should ask him, a Christian, if they wanted to hear the full story of Moses. Then he would sit together with an interested Muslim and read together the story of Moses in the Bible.
Statistics show that over a third of all non-Christians in the world are Muslims, but only .05 percent of Christian evangelists in the world focus on Muslims. The area in the world with the most non-Christians is in the 10/40 Window – from 10 degrees to 40 degrees north of the equator, which includes the Middle East and extends from West Africa to East Asia.
But the Bible, Greear pointed out, says that before Jesus’ return “every nation, tribe, people and language” will come to God. Looking at the history of the Roman Empire and communism, which both opposed Christianity, Greear believes God will next move in Islamic countries.
“Islam is the one great stronghold that we've never really seen a massive breakthrough of the Gospel really ever take place,” he noted. And that is why Greear wrote Breaking the Islam Code, because he believes that the next movement of God will be among Muslims.
Though Greear readily acknowledges similarity between Islam and Christianity and that it is a good conversation starter, he is also quick to point out the differences between the two religions.
Muslims believe Jesus is only a prophet, not the son of God, and that he did not die on the cross. They also believe Muhammad is the prophet of God and that Muslims are saved by their good works that earn them favor with Allah.
Greear, while talking about the five practices of Muslims, highlighted their prayer and how it is connected to Islam’s merit system. Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day facing Mecca. They do not pray spontaneously from their hearts, but repeat verses from the Quran after going through a washing ritual.
Muslims earn credit towards entering heaven by keeping their prayer standard, so they have to do them or make it up if they miss the prayer because it reduces their chances of getting into heaven. If a Muslim prays in a mosque it is worth 25 times more than if they pray at home. If they pray in Mecca, it is worth 50,000 times more than if they prayed at home.
But despite Muslims’ hard work to enter heaven, there is no guarantee they will.
“This is probably the saddest things about Islam, because nobody knows for sure,” Greear said. “[I]n the Hadith (the collection of Muhammad’s sayings) you find out that Muhammad said, ‘I don’t know for sure if I’m going to heaven.’"
“It’s sort of classic religion, if you do more good works than bad works then it increases your chances of getting into heaven,” Greear noted. “But nobody knows for sure.”
Greear, who has led Muslims to Christ, said one of the best ways to share the Gospel with them is simply by being their friend and letting them see the Christian community. Muslims consistently say that one of the key factors that made them accept Christ is seeing the love that exists in a true Christian church.
“It is a love that they have never known,” Greear said. “Let them just see the community and brotherhood.”
The Durham pastor also recommends allowing Muslims to read the Bible.
“It is like what Martin Luther said, the Bible is like a caged lion,” he said. “If a caged lion is attacked, rather than defending it, just unleash it. Let the Bible do its own work. The main goal talking with a Muslim is not to convince them that Christianity is true, but to invite them to read the Bible because when they do that the Bible will do its own work.”
The Muslim expert said one of the biggest objections Muslims have about Christianity is the trinity. They believe Christians are polytheists because the Quran teaches them that Christians believe God the father had sex with God the mother and gave birth to Jesus and that constitutes the trinity. Greear said Christians should just plainly state that they only believe in one God despite what Muslims think.
The former church planter in Southeast Asia said, like many other missionaries, that many Muslims are coming to Christ through dreams and visions. In their dreams, some Muslims say they see a person dressed in white handing them a book. After repeatedly receiving these dreams, these Muslims would look for Christians to ask them to interpret their dreams.
“God can send these dreams, but there must be messengers on the ground who can share the Gospel,” Greear stated. “That is the way that God has limited Himself, if I can say it like that. The Gospel has to move forward by people preaching the Gospel.
“So yes, God will do His part, but we have to do our part by being there and witnessing,” he said.