There are Messianic Jews but there is no such thing as a completed Muslim, said a pastor who is an expert in Christian and Islamic theology.
Contrary to what some mission leaders think, J.D. Greear does not accept the equal comparison between Jews who come to accept Jesus as their savior and Muslims who become Christian. Messianic Jews are sometimes called completed Jews, but it would be incorrect to apply the term to Muslims.
“I don’t think that is a comparison,” said Greear, author of the new book Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim, in an interview. “I don’t think you can say that because the covenant of grace was within the writing of Moses and early Judaism. The covenant of grace is not and has never been a part of Islam. So I don’t think you can go that far.”
Greear, who holds a Ph.D. in Christian and Islamic theology, brought up the point while discussing a Muslim outreach tool called the Camel. The Camel seeks to build a bridge for Christians to start a conversation about faith with Muslims. The method had come under criticism recently after a former-Muslim-turned-seminary-president accused it of employing deception.
But proponents of the Camel maintain that it is a simple, deception-free tool that helps open a conversation about faith and invites Muslims to read the Bible.
David Garrison, editor of The Camel: How Muslims are Coming to Faith in Christ, told The Christian Post in a recent interview that the word Camel is an acronym that helps Christians recall what the Quran says about Isa, or Jesus, so that they can start a discussion on Jesus based on common ground.
While Greear embraces finding common ground to begin a conversation with Muslims, he rejects the belief held by some missionaries who use the Camel that the Muslim prophet Muhammad is comparable to the Jewish and Christian prophet Moses.
Some missionaries say that like how Moses brought the Jews half way to Jesus, the Muslim prophet Muhammad brought the Arab people half way to Jesus. Muslims who come to believe in Jesus as their savior, therefore, are “completed Muslims,” they contend.
“Moses was a prophet that spoke the words of God,” Greear asserted. “It was God’s word. Muhammad denied Christ. He was a false prophet.”
For Greear, a former Southern Baptist missionary who served in a predominantly Muslim country, it is appropriate, however, to adopt Islamic terms and ideas to share the Gospel as long as they do not compromise the distinctiveness of Jesus Christ.
For instance, even though the Muslim understanding of God is different than that of Christians, the North Carolina pastor believes it is “fully appropriate” to use the term Allah to refer to God.
His position is based on the conversation recorded in the Bible between Jesus and the Samaritan woman. Jesus did not tell the Samaritan woman that she was worshipping the wrong God, but rather Jesus told her she was worshipping the wrong way.
“What you are doing is saying that the God that you worship, I’m actually going to show you the right way to worship Him,” Greear said.
But contextualization – the process of communicating ideas in terms understandable to the audience – of the Gospel has always been a difficult task for missionaries and missiologists, Greear quickly acknowledged. The question is always how far is too far.
“On one side you create too many barriers between Muslims and the Gospels,” the pastor said, “and the other side you so distort the Gospel that it loses its distinctiveness.”
The up-and-coming pastor in the Southern Baptist Convention believes the important thing to consider when wrestling with contextualization of the Gospel is the uniqueness of God.
“It is when God’s people give God a chance to show His distinctiveness from all the other false gods then that is when the power of God is most revealed,” the former missionary said. “I think the way it applies to this discussion is we want to make sure that while we are putting the Gospel into phrases and terms that Muslims can understand, we want to guard the exclusivity of Jesus and the distinctiveness of Jehovah’s way of salvation so that God can again pour down His power and show that He is the only savior.”
In his new book, Breaking the Islam Code, Greear explains the core beliefs of Islam, what Christianity and Islam have in common, and where the two faiths differ, among other practical knowledge that helps Christians to better understand Muslims.