A former Muslim who is now a pastor is telling Christians to stop fearing Muslims and to discern what they really should be fighting against.
Thabiti Anyabwile, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman on the Cayman Islands, says Christians need to think first rather than let their emotions dictate how they react to Muslims and Islam.
"We live in a world where failing to understand real and significant differences that matter to people not like us can result in things like hijacking, bombings, and bullets flying," said Anyabwile during the recent "Think: The Life of the Mind & the Love of God" conference organized by Desiring God ministry.
"So it is naive not to attend to those things, not to think about those things," he continued in his talk, titled "Thinking for the Sake of Global Faithfulness: Confronting Islam with the Mind of Christ."
"As one writer puts it, 'Even if religion makes no sense to you, you have to make sense of religions to make sense of the world.'"
For Anyabwile, part of making sense of Islam is understanding a key fact – Islam is not an institution but an identity.
For Christians, identity is almost always qualified, such as African-American Christian or Baptist Christian. But Islam reverses this, making Muslim the primary identity with everything, such as nationality, falling to the wayside. Therefore, when Islam the religion is perceived to be attacked, then Muslims everywhere feel this as a personal attack.
But Islam, according to Anyabwile, goes beyond just dictating the religious life of its adherents. It seeks to govern all parts of society, he said.
Therefore, it is a misunderstanding to reduce Islam to its five religious pillars when the religion's primary goal is to bring about the house of Islam or to bring every area of society under the precepts and practices of Islam, said Anyabwile.
To advance their religion, Muslims – unlike Christians – do not make attempts through theology and personal belief in a savior. Islam advances by spreading Sharia (Islamic) law. Sharia law, which was needed to govern such a diverse body of adherents, is based on the Quran (Muslim holy book) as well as the Sunna (behavior of the Muslim prophet Muhammad) and the Haddith (sayings of Muhammad).
But since there is a historic uneasiness and resistance to innovation and individual interpretation of Islamic teachings, Sharia law is stuck in the 9th and 10th century and its inflexibility makes it incompatible with a healthy kind of pluralism. Sharia is the constitution of Islam and says Allah (their god) rules everything and all society must be under Sharia, which conflicts with the natural law and individual liberties supported by the U.S. Constitution.
"Sharia at its best is theocratic and at its least is theonomic," commented Anyabwile.
The Muslim-turned-pastor further said by understanding the difference in Islam's and Christianity's goal, U.S. Christians should respond to Islam by being good citizens and promote the application of the non-establishment and free exercise clause of the Constitution.
"The main way to hold off the inappropriateness of Sharia law and customs, which tend to restrict what we would regard as basic liberty, is to consistently apply the non-establishment clause," advised Anyabwile.
Because the clause says the government cannot establish a religion, Sharia is off limits. But the clause also says the government cannot prohibit the free exercise of religion. Therefore, while Christians should counter any effort to establish Sharia law, they should also protect the rights of Muslims to worship as their religion dictates, according to Anyabwile.
Followers of Jesus Christ should not be afraid of Muslims, added the pastor, but be hospitable and work to promote freedom of religion in the United States.
"Just when Western culture is becoming most uncritical, unthinking and naive and accepting and open in its pluralism, in comes Islam," Anyabwile observed.
"So what happens when a culture becomes naively pluralistic and encounters a religious system that is not?" Anyabwile posed.
"Well, the culture welcomes the religious system with wide open arms and the religious system slowly works towards dominance," the Muslim convert stated.
Therefore, Anyabwile concluded that Christians should resist the establishment of religion as law and fight for the freedom of religion in practice.
The "Think" conference, hosted by the teaching ministry of Minneapolis preacher John Piper, took place Oct. 1-3, and included speakers such as Rick Warren, R.C. Sproul, Francis Chan, and Albert Mohler, Jr.
Anyabwile, who once served as assistant pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, delivered his talk on the second day of the conference.