Called to Prayer

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Expert Contributions 

Growing Up Muslim in America 


Abdu Murray 

Contributing to Part 1: “Called to Prayer” 


Abdu Murray is a lawyer, apologist, and former Shia Muslim. Author of two published 

books on Islam and other major worldviewshe is currently president of Embrace the Truth 


In the salty-white landscape of the Detroit suburb of my youth, my family was a dash of 

pepper. We stood out because, at that time, we were exotic—one of the few Muslim families in 

the area. And I took Islam seriously so that I could stand out even more because that would cause 

my friends to ask questions about my faith. That, in turn, would lead to opportunities to share 

what I considered to be the beauty and truth of Islam with the low-hanging fruit of the many non-

Muslim, mostly Christian, individuals around me. 

I was like many Muslims I knew. Even as a youth, I loved talking about God and my 

Islamic faith. I was puzzled that the non-Muslims around me found it so uncomfortable to talk 

about matters of religion. Don’t these Christians really believe their traditions? If their message 

is true, why are they so afraid to talk about it? The answer, I told myself, is that Christians know 

deep down that their religion is silly. They only need to be shown the truth of Islam to see the 

true path. 


Muslims get that kind of confidence from religious training received during their 

childhood and teen years. Most are students at the informal academy of the American Muslim 

home. Our parents, uncles, and older relatives sit us down and teach us Muslim apologetics: the 

defense of the Muslim worldview. The Quran is the word of God, we are taught, because 

Muhammad was illiterate and could not have come up with such beautiful, profound language on 

his own. From this informal training, we come to believe that the Quran is proven to be 

miraculous because it contains scientific information and facts that have only recently been 

discovered. And we are told, time and time again, that the Quran we have today is exactly the 

same as was delivered to Muhammad, with no changes whatsoever in fourteen hundred years. 

Islam provides the best way to live a moral and just life. And on the teachings go. Those kinds of 

discussions are steady fare at a Muslim family’s dinner table. 

But we also have a steady diet of polemics. From a young age, I was told that although 

Christians may mean well and may even sincerely follow their faith, their faith is fatally flawed. 

Their sacred texts were once the unadulterated word of God, but they fell into hopeless 

corruption. And Christians had invented logically ridiculous doctrines, like the divinity of Jesus 

and the Trinity. The Quran was revealed to Muhammad in seventh-century Arabia to undo the 

harm caused by the biblical corruption and blasphemous teachings of Christianity. Muhammad’s 

mission was to restore true religion. And it was my goal as a good Muslim to continue that 


But equipping young people to spread what is believed to be the truth is not the sole 

motivation for this informal training. Muslims of earlier generations fear that the negative 

aspects of American culture could be a powerful, corrupting influence on successive generations. 

They fear their children will succumb to temptation and order their meals from the menu of illicit 


drug use, drunkenness, and wanton sexual promiscuity that they believe is characteristic of 

American life. But if young Muslims remain convicted of their Islamic beliefs, they will be 

better equipped to resist the temptations. As bad as these lifestyle pitfalls are, they pale in 

comparison to the ultimate dishonor of abandoning Islam, especially if it means becoming a 

Christian. Islam is not just a set of religious beliefs. It is an all-encompassing identity. It is 

inconceivable to change that identity, even for those who barely practice their Islamic faith. To 

do so is like suicide. It kills the identity of the convert and leaves the rest of the family in a state 

of shameful mourning. 

A healthy diet of apologetics and polemics, spiced with cultural pride, it is believed, can 

help prevent that disaster. And young Muslims are convinced by their families that being a 

Muslim means to affirm Muhammad’s prophethood and the Quran’s divine origin while at the 

same time resisting the very idea of becoming anything else, especially a Christian. 

Most Christians have a hard time imagining what it is like to live with the tension of 

blending in with American society while maintaining a Muslim identity. And so most don’t 

understand the difficulty Muslims have in even considering that the gospel might be true. I thank 

God that there are those precious (and all too few) Christians who exhibit Jesus’ love and caring 

in their actions and who thoughtfully proclaim the beauty and truth of the gospel in their words. 

God uses them to carefully navigate the waters of spiritual discussion without running aground 

(well, as little as possible). 

Like so many Muslims who eventually give their lives to Christ, it took me quite some 

time to embrace the truth, though that truth is worth embracing, despite the tremendous price I 

paid. I knew that fully embracing the person and work of Jesus Christ would cost me the very 

identity that had been forged for me at the dinner tables of the Muslim community. Until I was 


able to see that Christ is worth the cost, I was not willing to pay it. But eventually, I understood 

what the famed Jim Eliot, who lost his life in service of the gospel, meant when he wrote, “He is 

no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”


 Eliot rephrased Paul’s 

words that “for his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 

that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:8 ESV). Yet the price that Jesus paid for us dwarfs whatever 

price we might pay to follow Him. C. S. Lewis wrote that God’s love for us “is quite relentless in 

its determination that we shall be cured of [our] sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to 



 Following such a God is worth sacrificing our identities so that we can be given a new 

one that looks more and more like Jesus. 

Since giving my life to Jesus, the table set before me has quite different. Before, I 

gobbled up superficial answers that left my stomach gnawing and my throat parched. But in 

Christ, my hunger is fed by the Bread of Life and my thirst is slaked by the Living Water who 

satisfies eternally. 



 Edyth Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton, IL: 

Tyndale, 1992), 1533. 


 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2001), 133. 



East Meets West 


Mark Mittelberg 

Contributing to Part 2: “An Ambassador for Islam” 


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 languagesHe 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 record?” 

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 gaining 




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 is 



 Mark Mittelberg, Confident Faith: Building a Firm Foundation for Your Beliefs (Carol 

Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2013), esp. chaps. 5 and 8. 


“submission.” It seems fair to say that the prevailing tenor of the Muslim faith is one of 

submitting to—not questioning—what the religion teaches. 

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 Christian faith.





 Ibid., esp. chaps. 10–12, where I present twenty arguments for the truth of Christianity. 


Easterners who embrace an authoritarian mindset need to be reminded that religious 

authorities are not all created equal; some are worth following, and some are not. If the 

credentials of the leaders are not scrutinized and their messages not weighed, how can one know 

which should be followed? The Bible encourages us to “test everything; hold fast what is good” 

(1 Thess. 5:21 ESV) and warns, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether 

they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 ESV). 

The question is, Will Easterners have the courage and tenacity to apply the needed tests? 

This can be challenging because, as Nabeel reminds us, “When authority is derived from position 

rather than reason, the act of questioning leadership is dangerous because it has the potential to 

upset the system. Dissension is reprimanded and obedience is rewarded.” 

Thankfully, more and more Muslims are willing to face the inherent dangers and 

discomforts in order to seek not only the truth but ultimately the one who said He is the truth 

(John 14:6). Nabeel is an inspiring example, one I trust many others will emulate. 



The New Testament 


Daniel B. Wallace 

Contributing to Part 3: “Testing the New Testament” 


Dr. Daniel B. Wallace is a professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological 

Seminary. He is the senior New Testament editor of the NET Bible and a consultant on four other 

Bible translations. His book on biblical Greek grammar, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: 

Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, is the standard textbook in the English-speaking world 

and has been translated into multiple other languages. 

In my second year of college, I transferred to Biola University, a small Christian liberal 

arts school in Southern California. I went there to study the Bible. I had the good fortune of 

studying Greek from a bona fide textual scholar, Dr. Harry Sturz. Several weeks into the first 

semester, on a hot Friday afternoon, Dr. Sturz briefly informed us that not all the manuscripts of 

the New Testament said the same thing. “In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of textual 

differences among the manuscripts,” Dr. Sturz calmly stated at the end of the hour. Then, 

without further explanation, he dismissed the class. 

I went home that afternoon, bewildered and confused. How can I have any assurance that 

what we have today is the word of God? How do I know the Bible hasn’t been corrupted beyond 

all recognition? I had committed my life to Christ a few years earlier. Now I wanted to know if I 

had given my life to a myth. 



Thus began my lifelong investigation into the reliability of the text of the New 

Testament. Dr. Sturz wanted his students to own their convictions and to study the evidence for 

themselves. This is why he sometimes threw his charges into existential crises of faith. I’ve been 

studying the New Testament for more than forty years, largely inspired by his model. And I’ve 

come to realize that while the great number of variants is only part of the story, it is an important 

part that attests to the vitality of the gospel. 

In my spiritual and academic journeys, I have learned that it is imperative for Christians 

to pursue truth at all costs. And what I have learned about textual variants and their impact on the 

Christian faith over more than forty years of examining both published Greek New Testaments 

and hundreds of individual manuscripts has strengthened my faith in ways I never had thought 


In this brief essay, I will lay out three important facts about textual variants and their 

impact on the Christian faith. 

The Number of Variants 

The best estimate today is that among New Testament manuscripts there are about four 

hundred thousand textual differences. The reason for this astounding number, however, is the 

even more astounding number of manuscripts. There is absolutely nothing in the ancient Greco-

Roman world that compares to the New Testament in terms of the number of manuscript copies 

or their dates. The average Greco-Roman author has fewer than twenty copies of his writings still 

in existence. Usually, there are far fewer. The New Testament boasts more than fifty-eight 

hundred copies in Greek alone. But the New Testament was translated into various languages 

early on—languages such as Latin, Syriac, Coptic, Georgian, Gothic, Armenian, and Arabic. 

Altogether, there are more than twenty thousand manuscripts of the New Testament. To be sure, 



some of these are small scraps of papyrus, and most are not complete New Testaments. 

Nevertheless, the average-size manuscript is more than four hundred fifty pages long. 

If all the manuscripts were destroyed in the blink of an eye, we would still not be left 

without a witness. That’s because church fathers, from the late first century to the thirteenth 

century, quoted from the New Testament in homilies, commentaries, and theological treatises. 

And they did not have the gift of brevity. More than a million quotations of the New Testament 

by the church fathers have been collected so far. Virtually the entire New Testament could be 

reproduced many times over just from the quotations of these fathers. 

What about the dates of the manuscripts? It is often claimed that there are very few 

manuscripts of the New Testament written in the first millennium. That is true—relatively 

speaking. Only 15 percent of all New Testament manuscripts were produced before the year 

1000. But that is still more than eight hundred manuscripts—more than forty times the amount of 

manuscripts from the average classical author in more than two thousand years of copying! The 

average classical author has zero manuscripts extant today produced within half a millennium of 

the composition of his writings. The New Testament has at least two hundred fifty 

manuscripts—in Greek alone—produced within five hundred years after the composition of the 

New Testament. Within three hundred years, the first complete New Testament—codex 

Sinaiticus—was produced, along with more than one hundred other manuscripts that have 

survived till today. And some of the manuscripts, though fragmentary, were produced within 

mere decades of the completion of the New Testament. 

The very fact that Christians were more concerned with getting the message out than with 

crossing their t’s and dotting their i’s is testimony to the vibrancy of the Christian faith. But did 

this passion for the gospel end up changing the message? 



The Nature of Variants 

More than 70 percent of all textual variants are mere spelling differences that affect 

nothing. And several more involve inner-Greek syntax that can’t even be translated into English 

(or most other languages). Then there are variants that involve synonyms, such as between 

“Jesus” and “Christ.” The meaning is the same; no theological issues are at stake. And there are 

variants that, though meaningful, are not viable. That is, because of the poor pedigree of the 

manuscripts they are found in (usually few or very late manuscripts), no plausible case can be 

given for them reflecting the wording of the original. Remarkably, less than 1 percent of all 

textual variants are both meaningful and viable. 

An example of a meaningful and viable variant is “616” (instead of “666”) for the 

number of the beast in Revelation 13:18. But even though meaningful and viable, this variant is 

not significant enough to affect the essential teachings of the Christian faith. 

Far and away the two longest passages that are textually doubtful are Mark 16:9–20 and 

John 7:53–8:11. These involve a dozen verses each. The next largest textual variants are only 

two verses long. Only about two dozen variants are between one and two verses long. The 

consensus of New Testament scholars is that these verses were added to the New Testament 

later, since they are not found in the earliest and best manuscripts and they do not fit with the 

authors’ known syntax, vocabulary, or style. No doctrines are impacted by these variants. To be 

sure, they may involve favorite verses for many people, but they do not in the slightest 

jeopardize a cardinal tenet of the Christian faith. 

Christian Beliefs Affected by Textual Variants 

The fundamental question that these textual variants raise is whether the Christian faith 

has been fundamentally altered from what the authors of the New Testament originally wrote. 



Does the resurrection of Jesus depend on textually suspect passages? Is the divinity of Christ 

found only in verses that are dubious? Such questions obviously should be of profound concern 

for anyone seeking the truth about Christianity. I wish to conclude this essay by quoting the 

authority that many Muslims and atheists appeal to regarding textual corruption in the New 


In the appendix to Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus, there is a dialogue between the 

editors of the book and the author: 

“Why do you believe these core tenets of Christian orthodoxy to be in jeopardy based on 

the scribal errors you discovered in the biblical manuscripts?” 

Ehrman’s response is illuminating: “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual 

variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.” 

Even this skeptic, a bona fide New Testament scholar, had to concede that no cardinal 

doctrine of the Christian faith is jeopardized by textual variants. Many atheists and Muslims who 

have followed in Ehrman’s path have exaggerated his claims way out of proportion to what he 

actually stated. 

The textual history of the New Testament is robust and fascinating. When the dust has 

settled, we can be assured that what we have today, in all essentials, and even in the 

overwhelming majority of particulars, is what they wrote then. 

My friend Nabeel Qureshi has discovered this same truth for himself. Ever since I met 

him, shortly after his conversion, I have seen in him an earnestness for truth, an acuteness of 

intellect, and a heart for God that I have witnessed in only one or two others. I applaud him for 

his enthusiasm, his zeal to pursue truth at all costs and to know Christ deeply, and his courage in 



the face of growing opposition from family and friends. I pray that his book, his spiritual 

autobiography, will be used by the Spirit of God to reach many people for Christ. 




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