Book Review: The Gospel for Muslims by Thabiti Anyabwile

Title: The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence
Author: Thabiti Anyabwile
Publisher: Moody Publishers

It’s easy to feel ill-equipped or uncertain when it comes to evangelism at the best of times. I’d imagine that for many of us sharing our faith comes about as naturally as speaking in public. Its hard work at the best of times, especially when there’s no natural segue or a cameo appearance by Jesus Himself.

But when it comes to a Muslim neighbor, coworker, classmate or friend—how do we do share the gospel with them?

“It’s a fine question, but it has a fatal flaw. It assumes that somehow Muslims require a different gospel or a different technique, that Muslims are somehow impervious to the gospel in a way that other sinners are not,” writes Thabiti Anyabwile in the opening pages of The Gospel for Muslims: An Encouragement to Share Christ with Confidence

Striking Differences

The book is broken into two parts. The first is primarily theological, addressing topics of God, man, Jesus, repentance and faith and highlighting the similarities and differences between the Muslim and Christian understandings of these teachings. This was particularly fascinating to read because it truly shows how fundamentally different the two belief systems are.

Three quick examples:

While Muslims and Christians largely agree on the basic attributes of God (holiness, justice, etc.), the Trinity is a stumbling block in part because it’s so essential to the Christian view of salvation from sin and judgment.

The view of sin is strikingly different. While Christians believe that all humanity is enslaved to sin because of Adam’s fall (Genesis 3, cf. Romans 6:6, 15-20; 7:25), Muslims deny original sin.

“Adam is not said to have sinned against God, but to have made an ethical mistake,” Anyabwile writes (p. 44). “Most define sin as simply disobeying Allah’s will. This disobedience comes from man’s weakness and ignorance, but not from a corruption of his nature.” Further, he explains that in Muslim theology, the object of sin is man—that when we sin, we do evil to ourselves, rather than offend a holy, perfect God.

As in all things, the greatest stumbling block is Jesus Himself. Given His claims about Himself, “[t]o accept Jesus as ‘a good moral teacher’ or as a prophet as Muslims do, only to then reject His prophecy and teaching is not an honest position to take” (p. 64). The truth that Christ is both fully man and fully God is an unavoidable reality and something with which we all—whatever our background—must contend. “Who is Jesus” is the most important we will ever answer, and we must do so.

These chapters are to be considered carefully. For the Christian reader, there is much encouragement and even some correction here. It’s easy to take for granted the truths of Christianity and forget how truly distinct our beliefs are. Looking at them side-by-side with an opposing view gave me the opportunity to see them again with fresh eyes and just marvel at how audacious the claims of the Bible truly are. How ridiculous they would be if they were not true, and how wondrous they are because they are. [Read more...]

His Name was Smeagol

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.
Colossians 3:5-6

Yesterday I started watching some of the videos Tony Kummer has kindly put online from this year’s Band of Bloggers. Trevin Wax’s address in particular hit me like a freight train. Give it a view:

Trevin spoke about covetousness and blogging and as he spoke, this point really jumped out to me:

The problem with covetousness in general is that it robs God of His glory because we’re seeking an identity apart from who we are in Christ. It also robs us of our joy in blogging. Instead of being this good gift that God has given us that we can use to serve others, it becomes a way for us to prop up ourselves.

He offered the following diagnostic questions that he uses to as a heart check for himself:

  1. Do my emotions ever fluctuate depending on how many hits my blog is receiving?
  2. Do I enjoy the attention I get, regardless of whether it’s praise or criticism?
  3. Do I get depressed if a post doesn’t get the attention I think it should?

Mulling over these questions, because I’ve noticed that on occassion my answers to these questions are “yes.” Not always, but sometimes.

And that’s a problem because, honestly, there are things that are more important. [Read more...]

The Stupidity of the Intelligent

Statue on top of an ancient building next to St. Nicholas' church in Ghent, Belgium. Photo by Ulrik De Wachter

Recently I was listening to a lecture by Dr. D.A. Carson on Romans 3:21-26, “The Center of the Whole Bible.” In his background to the text, he reminded his hearers that for the previous two and a half chapters, Paul had been building an argument that there is no excuse for a denial of God—culminating in a series of references to the Old Testament in Romans 3:10-18:

“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

“Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.”

“The venom of asps is under their lips.”

“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”

“Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.”

“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

The beginning of this argument, though, is found in Romans 1:18-23 which reads:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

“Claiming to be wise, they became fools…” That’s a powerful statement, isn’t it?

My old pastor would often lament the reality that people today are educated beyond their intelligence. We have access to more information than any culture in the history of man, but little wisdom.

Dr. J. Budziszewski is the author of several books including Written on the Heart, The Resurrection of Nature, The Nearest Coast of Darkness, True Tolerance and What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and a professor of Philosophy and Government at the University of Texas at Austin.

He knows this reality all too well.

In fact, he wrote his dissertation on it—opposing the idea that we had any inherent sense of morality at all. [Read more...]

Sin is Defeated, Yet Sin Remains to be Fought

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 1:15-23

Preaching from Ephesians 1:15-23, John Piper shared a powerful message called The Immeasurable Greatness of His Power Toward Us. Verse 18 above tells us that Paul prays for believers to have “the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you;” that they may know “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (v. 19).

But as Piper points out, sometimes it seems like we’re not walking in this reality. Rather than experiencing this power in our lives now and rejoicing it it, we are hindered by a spiritual dullness.

The transcript of the video follows:

Because of this spiritual dullness, we are not fully aware of the blinding, deadening power of sin that is now being conquered in our lives by God’s superior power. If you are feeling healthy, you will be thrilled with the power of your medicine, only if you know the deadly power of the disease it is holding back. If you are forgiven and have any measure of victory over sin in your life, you will be amazed at the power of God, only if you know the indescribable depth and power of sin. [Read more...]

B.B. Warfield – The Exultant Joy of being a Miserable Sinner

Though blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, we are still in ourselves just “miserable sinners”: “miserable sinners” saved by grace to be sure, but “miserable sinners” still, deserving in ourselves nothing but everlasting wrath. That is the attitude which the Reformers took, and that is the attitude which the Protestant world has learned from the Reformers to take, toward the relation of believers to Christ.

There is emphasized in this attitude the believer’s continued sinfulness in fact and in act; and his continued sense of his sinfulness. And this carries with it recognition of the necessity of unbroken penitence throughout life. The Christian is conceived fundamentally in other words as a penitent sinner.

But that is not all that is to be said: it is not even the main thing that must be said.

It is therefore gravely inadequate to describe the spirit of “miserable sinner Christianity” as “the spirit of continuous but not unhopeful penitence.” It is not merely that it is too negative a description, and that we must at least say, “the spirit of continuous though hopeful penitence.” It is wholly uncomprehending description, and misplaces the emphasis altogether.

The spirit of this Christianity is a spirit of penitent indeed, but overmastering exultation.

The attitude of the “miserable sinner” is not only not one of despair; it is not even one of depression; and not even one of hesitation or doubt; hope is too weak a word to apply to it.

It is an attitude of exultant joy.

Only this joy has its ground not in ourselves but in our Savior.

We are sinners and we know ourselves to be sinners, lost and helpless in ourselves.

But we are saved sinners; and it is our salvation which gives the tone to our life, a tone of joy which swells in exact proportion to the sense we have of our ill-desert; for it is he to whom much is forgiven who loves much, and who, loving, rejoices much.

B.B. Warfield (1851–1921), from his essay, “’Miserable-Sinner Christianity’ in the Hands of the Rationalists,” in The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, vol. 7, pp. 113-114

HT Ryan Kelly (via Justin Taylor)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon: The Wretchedness of Pride

…Pride is a protean thing; it changes its shape; it is all forms in the world; you may find it in any fashion you may choose, you may see it in the beggar’s rags as well as in the rich man’s garment. It dwells with the rich, and with the poor. The man without a shoe to his foot may be as proud as if he were riding in a chariot.

Pride can be found in every rank of society—among all classes of men. Sometimes it is an Arminian, and talks about the power of the creature; then it turns Calvinist, and boasts of its fancied security—forgetful of the Maker, who alone can keep our faith alive. Pride can profess any form of religion; it may be a Quaker, and wear no collar to its coat; it may be a Churchman, and worship God in splendid cathedrals; it may be a Dissenter, and go to the common meeting-house; it is one of the most Catholic things in the world, it attends all kinds of chapels and churches; go where you will, you will see pride. It comes up with us to the house of God; it goes with us to our houses; it is found on the mart, and the exchange, in the streets, and everywhere. Let me hint at one or two of the forms which it assumes.

Sometimes pride takes the doctrinal shape; it teaches the doctrine of self-sufficiency; it tells us what man can do, and will not allow that we are lost, fallen, debased, and ruined creatures, as we are. It hates divine sovereignty, and rails at election. Then if it is driver from that, it takes another form; it allows that the doctrine of free grace is true but does not feel it.

It acknowledges that salvation is of the Lord alone, but still it prompts men to seek heaven by their own works, even by the deeds of the law. And when driven from that, it will persuade men to join something with Christ in the matter of salvation; and when that is all rent up, and the poor rag of our righteousness is all burned, pride will get into the Christian’s heart as well as the sinner’s—it will flourish under the name of self-sufficiency, teaching the Christian that he is “rich and increased in goods, having need of nothing.”

It will tell him that he does not need daily grace, that past experience will do for tomorrow—that he knows enough, toils enough, prays enough. It will make him forget that he has “not yet attained;” it will not allow him to press forward to the things that are before, forgetting the things that are behind. It enters into his heart, and tempts the believer to set up an independent business for himself, and until the Lord brings about a spiritual bankruptcy, pride will keep him from going to God.

Pride has ten thousand shapes; it is not always that stiff and starched gentleman that you picture it; it is a vile, creeping, insinuating thing, that will twist itself like a serpent into our hearts. It will talk of humility, and prate about being dust and ashes. I have known men talk about their corruption most marvellously, pretending to be all humility, while at the same time they were the proudest wretches that could be found this side the gulf of separation.

Oh! my friends, you cannot tell how many shapes pride will assume; look sharp about you, or you will be deceived by it, and when you think you are entertaining angels, you will find you have been receiving devils unawares.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, from the sermon Pride and Humility,
delivered on August 17, 1856, at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: The Promise of Christ

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

The Promise of Conflict

But to proceed: By the seed of the woman, we are here to understand the Lord Jesus Christ; who, though very God of very God, was, for us men and our salvation, to have a body prepared for him by the Holy Ghost, and to be born of a woman who never knew man, and by his obedience and death make an atonement for man’s transgression, and bring in an everlasting righteousness, work in them a new nature, and thereby bruise the serpent’s head, i.e. destroy his power and dominion over them.

By the serpent’s seed, we are to understand the devil and all his children, who are permitted by God to tempt and sift his children. But, blessed be God, he can reach no further than our heel.

It is not to be doubted that Adam and Eve understood this promise in this sense for it is plain, in the latter part of the chapter [that] sacrifices were instituted. From what source should those skins come but from beasts slain for sacrifice of which God made them coats?

We find Abel, as well as Cain, offering sacrifice in the next chapter: and the Apostle tells us, he did it by faith, no doubt in this promise. And Eve, when Cain was born, said, “I have gotten a man from the Lord,” or, (as Mr. Henry observes, it may be rendered) “I have gotten a man, — the Lord, — the promised Messiah.” Some further suppose, that Eve was the first believer; and therefore they translate it thus, “The seed, (not of the, but) of this woman,” which magnifies the grace of God so much the more, that she, who was first in the transgression, should be the first partaker of redemption. Adam believed also, and was saved. For unto Adam and his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them, which was a remarkable type of their being clothed with the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Promise of Christ

This promise was literally fulfilled in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Satan bruised his heel, when he tempted him for forty days together in the wilderness. [Read more...]

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Divine Love

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

“What is this that you have done?”

Verse 13: “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’”

What a wonderful concern does God express in this expostulation! “What a deluge of misery have you brought upon yourself, your husband, and your posterity? What is this that you have done? Disobeyed your God, obeyed the devil, and ruined your husband, for whom I made you to be a helpmate! What is this that you have done?”

God would here awaken her to a sense of her crime and danger, and therefore, as it were, thunders in her ears: for the law must be preached to self-righteous sinners. We must take care of healing before we see sinners wounded, lest we should say, Peace, peace, where there is no peace. Secure sinners must hear the thunderings of mount Sinai, before we bring them to mount Zion. They who never preach up the law, it is to be feared, are unskillful in delivering the glad tidings of the gospel. Every minister should be a Boanerges, a son of thunder, as well as a Barnabus, a son of consolation.

There was an earthquake and a whirlwind, before the small still voice came to Elijah: We must first show people they are condemned, and then show them how they must be saved. But how and when to preach the law, and when to apply the promises of the gospel, wisdom is profitable to direct.

And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?”

“The serpent deceived me…”

“The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” She does not make use of so many words to excuse herself, as her husband; but her heart is as unhumbled as his. “What is this,” says God, “that you have done?” [Read more...]

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Consequences

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

Naked of God…

And what are the consequences of their disobedience? Are their eyes opened? Yes, their eyes are opened; but, alas! It is only to see their own nakedness. For we are told (verse 7) that, “the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Naked of God, naked of every thing that was holy and good, and destitute of the divine image, which they before enjoyed. They might rightly now be termed Ichabod; for the glory of the Lord departed from them. O how low did these sons of the morning then fall! Out of God, into themselves; from being partakers of the divine nature, into the nature of the devil and the beast. Well, therefore, might they know that they were naked, not only in body, but in soul.

And how do they behave now they are naked? Do they flee to God for pardon? Do they seek to God for a robe to cove their nakedness? No, they were now dead to God, and became earthly, sensual, devilish. Therefore, instead of applying to God for mercy, “they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths,” or things to gird about them.

This is a lively representation of all natural man: We see that we are naked: we, in some measure, confess it; but, instead of looking up to God for succor, we patch up a righteousness of our own (as our first parents platted fig-leaves together) hoping to cover our nakedness by that. But our righteousness will not stand the severity of God’s judgment: it will do us no more service than the fig-leaves did Adam and Eve, that is, none at all.

For (verse 8), “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife,” notwithstanding their fig-leaves, “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

Hiding from God

They heard the [sound] of the Lord God, or the Word of the Lord God, even the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “the word that was with God, and the word that was God.” They heard him walking in the trees of the garden, in the cool of the day. A season, perhaps, when Adam and Eve used to go, in an especial manner, and offer up an evening sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. The cool of the day. Perhaps the sin was committed early in the morning, or at noon; but God would not come upon them immediately, he staid till the cool of the day. And if we would effectually reprove others, we should not do it when they are warmed with passion, but wait till the cool of the day. [Read more...]

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Succumbing

Whitefield-2

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

“You Will Not Surely Die”

The first thing he does is to persuade her, if possible to entertain hard thoughts of God; this is his general way of dealing with God’s children: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’? What! Has God planted a garden, and placed you in the midst of it, only to tease and perplex you? Has he planted a garden, and yet forbid you making use of any of the fruits of it at all?” It was impossible for him to ask a more ensnaring question, in order to gain his end: For Eve was here seemingly obliged to answer, and vindicate God’s goodness. And therefore, —

Verses 2 & 3: And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Sin Begins to Conceive

The former part of the answer was good, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, God has not forbid us eating of every tree of the garden. No; we may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden (and, it should seem, even of the tree of life, which was as a sacrament to man in the state of innocence) there is only one tree in the midst of the garden, of which God has said, you shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.”

Here she begins to warp, and sin begins to conceive in her heart. Already she has contracted some of the serpent’s poison, by talking with him, which she ought not to have done at all. For she might easily suppose, that it could be no good being that could put such a question unto her, and insinuate such dishonorable thoughts of God. She should therefore have fled from him, and not stood to have parleyed with him at all. Immediately the ill effects of it appear, she begins to soften the divine threatening. [Read more...]

The Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent: Temptation

whitefield-1

Genesis 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” [ESV]

On reading to you these words, I may address you in the language of the holy angels to the shepherds, that were watching their flocks by night: “Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy.” For this is the first promise that was made of a Savior to the apostate race of Adam. We generally look for Christ only in the New Testament; but Christianity, in one sense, is very near as old as the creation. It is wonderful to observe how gradually God revealed his Son to mankind. He began with the promise in the text, and this the elect lived upon, till the time of Abraham. To him, God made further discoveries of his eternal council concerning man’s redemption. Afterwards, at sundry times, and in divers manners, God spoke to the fathers by the prophets, till at length the Lord Jesus himself was manifested in flesh, and came and tabernacled amongst us.

This first promise must certainly be but dark to our first parents, in comparison of that great light which we enjoy: And yet, dark as it was, we may assure ourselves they built upon it their hopes of everlasting salvation, and by that faith were saved.

How they came to stand in need of this promise, and what is the extent and meaning of it, I intend, God willing, to make the subject-matter of your present meditation.

Concerning The Fall of Man

The fall of man is written in too legible characters not to be understood: Those that deny it, by their denying, prove it. [Read more...]

Religion Saves: Birth Control, Sexual Sin and Dating

Religion-Saves-Birth

893 questions posted. 343,203 votes cast. Nine controversial subjects. The resulting sermons were then reformatted and expanded in the book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, released in June, 2009, through Crossway and RE:Lit.

This post will be dealing with three subjects from the book: Birth control, sexual sin, and dating.

Birth Control

Method or use of birth control is a subject that is almost always sure to bring up a great deal of heated discussion. For Catholics, to use any form of birth control would be unthinkable. At the risk of oversimplifying, it strikes me that many Catholics would believe that to use any method of birth control would actually be an attempt to thwart the sovereign will of God (this is certainly the impression we got from reading some Catholic literature on the subject).

For Protestants, however, there’s a great deal of debate on appropriate methods. In this chapter, Driscoll addresses five types of birth control: None, natural, non-abortive (barrier methods), potentially abortive, and abortive murder.

When reading, I was struck by how, with few exceptions, gently this subject was handled. Because there is a great deal of contention surrounding the various birth control that exist, it is one that requires delicacy. This is not something that Driscoll has historically been known for, but he did very well. [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (09/06)

Dr. Albert Mohler on the TNIV Announcement

TNIV

Dr. Albert Mohler responds to the recently announced discontinuation of the TNIV translation of the Bible:

The controversy over the TNIV divided the evangelical community. Regrettably, in many cases the controversy produced more heat than light. Nevertheless, this was not always the case. This controversy brought strategic attention to crucial questions related, not only to the NIV family of translations, but to the entire project of translating the Bible into the English language. Furthermore, the controversy was directed to very real disagreements about the meaning of gender and language. These are issues of great theological, biblical, pastoral, and moral importance.

Read the full article here.

American Vice: Mapping the 7 Deadly Sins

Just when you thought you’d seen everything, the folks over at Wired actually mapped out the hot spots of the “7 deadly sins.”

It’s actually pretty neat, so check it out.

New Book from Desiring God: The Power of Words and the Wonder of God

From Desiring God:

John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, Mark Driscoll, and other leaders from Desiring God’s 2008 national conference examine the life-altering power of our words and their impact in sharing the gospel.

Words carry immeasurable significance: The universe was created with a word; Jesus healed and cast out demons with a word; rulers have risen and fallen by their words; Christians have worshiped through words of song, confession, and preaching. Even in our technological age, politics, education, business, and relationships center on words. Since the tongue is such a powerful force—for good or evil—we are wise to ask: What would homes, churches, schools, even the public square be like if we used words with Christian intentionality and eloquence?

The Power of Words and the Wonder of Godseeks to answer this difficult question. In these chapters, derived from Desiring God’s 2008 national conference, John Piper, Sinclair Ferguson, and Mark Driscoll team with worship pastor Bob Kauflin, counselor Paul Tripp, and literature professor Daniel Taylor to help readers harness their tongues and appropriately command their silences for the glory of God and the ministry of the gospel.

In case you missed it

Here  are a few of this week’s notable posts:

Defending Organized Religion: Reviewing Why We Love the ChurchA review of Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck’s latest collaboration, Why We Love the Church

Act Like Men A brief look at Paul’s admonishment to men in 1 Corinthians 16:13, and a stern warning to little boys who wear man-pants

Reading Different TeamsWhy blogger review programs are extremely helpful for developing a more “diverse” palette in reading.