What Every Christian Should Know About Islam by Rob Phillips

What Every Christian Should Know About Islam by Rob Phillips

What Every Christian Should Know About Islam by Rob Phillips

What Every Christian Should Know About Islam by Rob Philips touts itself with the subtitle: A Primer on the Muslim Faith from a Biblical Worldview. In Chapter 1, Phillips provides an excellent overview of the religion of Islam. In the overview he covers the history of the religion, as well as the different sects of Islam (Sunni and Shi’ite). He explains what their believe as well as their source of authority.

In Chapter 2, Phillips compares the beliefs of Christianity and Islam. He gives detailed chapter and verse from both the Bible and the Qur’an. He compares and contrasts the beliefs about God, Jesus, the Bible, salvation, sin, as well as heaven and hell. In Chapter 3, Phillips focuses on the question: “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” One might think from reading Chapter 2 that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Phillips makes it clear that this is not the case. By asking the following questions, Phillips shows the clear contrast between the Christian God Yahweh and the Muslim God Allah.

  1. Does God know me?
  2. Does God love me?
  3. Did God die for me?

Only the Christian God Yahweh can answer these questions in the affirmative.

In Chapter 4, Phillips describes the difference between the two sects of Islam, Sunni and Shi’ite. He gives a brief history of Islam after the death of Muhammad. Those who believe that the leadership of Islam should be based on the consensus of the faithful are Sunnis. Those who followed the fourth caliph Ali, who traces his bloodline back to Muhammad, were known as Shia. Phillips compares the differences between these two groups loosely with the Catholics and Protestants. He notes that both sects of Islam are in agreement that they should oppose Christians and Jews.

Phillips compares the lifestyles of Jesus Christ and Muhammad as role models for their followers in Chapter 5. He answers the question “Why are there Qur’ans?” in Chapter 6. He then addresses the notion of Chrislam in Chapter 7. In Chapter 8, Phillips investigates the Islamic doctrine of deception called Taqiyya and the doctrine of Abrogation. He challenges Christians not to use the same tactics of deceit and violence when they share the gospel.

In Chapter 9, Phillips describes how Islam makes peace. He states that Islam is a religion of peace, as long as peace is defined in Muslim terms. Then Phillips introduces the doctrine of dhimmitude.

“Dhimmitude is the path to peace for the non-Muslims may choose when their land and people are claimed for Islam.”

He shares a modern example of this practice that has recently happened to Christians in the city of Raqqa, Syria. The Christians were captured and signed a treaty. This submission treaty gave them three options: (1) convert to Islam, (2) pledge submission to Islam (dhimmitude), (3) “face the sword.” The Christians of Raqqa signed a dhimma treaty. In return for submission to Islam, they received protection. They were forced to pay a tax and could not practice their faith. After reading this, I personally wonder if this will be the conditions set in the agreement between the Antichrist and Israel in the final treaty which he will break. Will the world have peace if Christians and Jews in the Middle East submit to Islam by dhimmitude? Is this the kind of treaty which the Antichrist breaks? If so, this would explain why he decides to kill all of the Jews and Christians (Matthew 24:15-22, Revelation 13:5-10).

Phillips follows this chapter with another one on Jihad (Chapter 10). Phillips urges Christians to help Muslims to consider that the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the most violent death in history, will accomplish more for them than any jihad. In Chapter 11, Phillips shares an interview of a former Muslim, and then ends the book in Chapter 12 with a quiz on Islam for the reader.

Phillips is a talented writer as one can see in the flow of this book. He does a very good job to give the reader a summary of what any Christian needs to know about Islam. As Phillips points out, the book was designed for Christians to help reach Muslims for Christ. This book will help the reader get a good start.

You can order the book from Phillip’s website (oncedelivered.net).

Sacramental Politics by Brian Kaylor

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Sacramental Politics by Brian Kaylor

Sacramental Politics by Brian Kaylor

 

Sacramental Politics by Brian Kaylor is a unique look into the intersection between politics and religious practice. In this book, Kaylor thoroughly explores how religion impacts politics. He first explores how prayers are both a religious and political act (36). He compares and contrasts how both political parties use religious terms in political speeches (41). He shares how the presidential nomination convention take on a religious nature (44-46). Kaylor notes that the prayers served similar purposes (47):

“Like prayers at Republican conventions, those at Democratic ones highlighted key political issues for the Party.”

Prayers used in partisan politics depict political conventions as sacramental acts (47). Kaylor compares the vocabulary used by both parties in their speeches. Republicans used more references to the nation than to God. The country would be considered greater in prayers than God was (49). So public prayer were a way for a political party to promote their agenda.

Kaylor shifts from public prayers to public endorsements of candidates in church services and religious gatherings (58). He makes the proper assessment that endorsing a political candidate in a campaign is still political, even if it is done in a religious worship service (61-62). Pussy Riots’ prayer in the Russian Orthodox Cathredal was an example of political protest against the policies of Vladimir Putin (63).

Kaylor shows how religious talk can also be policy promotion. For example, prayer services were used after 9/11 to declare that the country was unified, while in the prayer service following Katrina service, the leaders prayed that the nation would become unified (91). Kaylor makes an important distinction about unity and public policy (94):

“While the Katrina service brought prayers for unity, the 9/11 service brought declarations that unity
would bring military victory.”

According to Kaylor, the 9/11 prayer service gave President Bush the justification to go to war against the Islamic terrorists (95). It is therefore ironic that President Clinton used the prayer breakfast on September 11, 1998 to confess his sin of adultery and ask for forgiveness (105).

While politicians use religion to promote a political agenda, pastors use politics to promote a religious agenda. Pastor Rick Warren conducted what he called the “Civil Forum on the Presidency” at his church Saddleback Valley Community Church. There, he moderated questions for Barack Obama and John McCain (113). President Obama, like President Bush before him, confessed his faith in Jesus Christ during this summit at Saddleback Church (114). During this forum, Warren shared an interesting evangelical response to the roles of the state and religion (115):

“We believe in the separation of church and state, but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics because faith is just a worldview and everybody has some kind of worldview.”

By using the phrase “worldview”, Warren is noting the influence of his religious worldview (his religious agenda) on politics. In this case, politics is a subset of religion. Kaylor notes that the issues which Warren addresses in the forum line up closely with the Republican Party. Yet, Warren’s tone was not so blatantly partisan (115). This forum, which was hosted by Pastor Warren illustrates how pastoral power as a leadership model has been used in democratic societies. Kaylor summarizes about the importance of pastoral power (119):

“Unlike the king-leader who merely wields sword, the shepherd-leader guards the path to salvation.”

While I think Kaylor is correct that pastoral power exists, I think it has lost its influence in the most recent elections. Unlike the 1980s, when Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell influenced the Republican Party, today’s pastors do not wield such power and influence over politics. The fact that both Obama and Romney declined to attend another forum at Warren’s church illustrates the decline of pastor power in politics. Even Catholics are not immune to this decline (121).

One exception perhaps has been Joshua Dubois who wrote The President’s Devotionals. He was the head of the Office of Faith Based Initiatives under President Obama and was considered “pastor-in-chief” (131). Kaylor describes how DuBois used his pastoral power through the use of daily devotions sent to Obama by email. Kaylor shows how these devotionals, which were crafted during important events of the presidency influenced the President’s decisions on a day-to-day basis. One can see how DuBois’s writings influenced the president, illustrating pastoral power. Unlike Warren and the Catholic Church, the place of pastoral power shifted from the church to the Oval Office.

Kaylor shifts prayer as public policy to prayer as a right of religious expression in public places. He notes that Russel Moore of the ERLC of the SBC defends the practice of public prayers (140). Moore recognizes that public prayer that start governmental meetings transforms the space into a religious service (141). Kaylor notes that moving a religious act to a public political space does not remove the religious meaning and function. Instead, it adds a new audience to the religious service (142).

Kaylor ends the book with an analysis of how powerful political power has become upon religious institutions. For example, he notes that the words “liturgy” and “ekklesia” are religious terms which came from political terms (157). Kaylor describes how churches communicate political values even in the way flags are placed in the worship center. According to the United States Flag Code, American flags are placed in “superior prominence” (to the right of the speaker), This communicates that the United States is the superior kingdom to Christ (178). It conveys a message that the United States requires a higher allegiance than Christ. In essence, churches communicate to their worshippers every Sunday that they are bowing down to Caesar. It is an interesting and yet subtle distinction of political loyalty conveyed by design.

Kaylor ends the book with a series of examples of what he calls “religious worship as inherit political action”. He cites three examples. The first example is Election Day Communion, an effort in the 2012 election to bring people together (188-196). The second example is Clarence Jordan. He was an example of a person who risked religious and political outrage for his beliefs (196-202). Jordan founded Koinonia Farms where white and blacks could live and work together in the 1950s. This project became the inspiration for Habitat for Humanity.

Kaylor explains that Jordan also wrote a translation of the Bible entitled “The Cotton Patch Gospel“. He changed the setting from the first century to the twentieth century American South. By changing the setting as well as the language, Jordan was able to make political statements using the sacred text. (I have personally read the Cotton Patch Gospel and I found refreshing in the way it is written. It is a uniquely American translation which speaks to many people in the Southern parts of the United States).

Kaylor cites a third example – religious literature. He explains how religious literature can have a political impact. Prayer books and songbooks all contain political messages (210). From the Book of Common Prayer to the Baptist Hymnal, each piece of literature is influenced by political views and can also influence a person’s political viewpoint. Kaylor notes an interesting change in the Baptist Hymnal from the section of songs under the heading “God and Country” in the 1991 version to “Patriotic” in the 2008 version. This change shows the influence of “American exceptionalism” in the religious-political worldview of the leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention (211).

Kaylor shares a historical example of how Christians can promote religious values and at the same time oppose the government in religious worship. He describes how a confession or creed can act as religious worship even in politics. He shares the story of the Confessing Church and its confession of faith called the “Barmen Declaration.” This creed opposed the Nazi regime and its influence on the Catholic and Lutheran church (222).

Overall, I thought this book was a comprehensive and objective look of the intersection of politics and religion. Kaylor does a good job of showing how intertwined religion and politics are in America. As a pastor, I noted with sadness the decline of pastoral power and influence. Although the Bible teaches us to allow the government to serve as God’s agents (Romans 13:4-6), this book shows that pastors still need to speak in the political arena.

#SpeakeasySacramentalPolitics

Disclosure: This is a personal book review. This review does not constitute the views of the Executive Board of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

1 Timothy 3:14-16 Spiritual Bridges

Spiritual Bridge

1 Timothy 3:14-16 – Spiritual Bridges

In many of the adventures of both westerns and science fiction, a hero has taken time to get help from his associates. He builds these friendships. The Lone Ranger has Tonto. Luke Skywalker has Han Solo. Gandalf has the Fellowship of the Ring. They spend time developing their skills and building their relationship before they set out on the adventure.

At some point, they pass a bridge from their time of friendship building to adventure making. For the Lone Ranger it was as he saddled up his horse and was joined by his partner to leave town to catch the bad guys. For Han Solo, it was as hermit Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Mos Eisley bar on the planet of Tatooine. For Gandalf and Frodo, it was as they met the others members of the Fellowship at the Elfin residence of Rivendell.

Paul is helping the reader pass a spiritual bridge here in this letter. He has taken time to teach about the God’s mission, God’s Word, God’s Leaders, and God’s Servants. Before Paul leads us in the adventure of the book of 1 Timothy, he makes a transition, a spiritual bridge which he builds between the heroes and their purpose, and the danger which lies ahead.

The bridge has two ends. The entry point of crossing the bridge is a “mystery of godliness.” The other side of the bridge where one exits is a hymn.

BRIDGE ENTRY: MYSTERY OF GODLINESS

2 Peter 1:3

This is the entry point to the spiritual bridge is the mystery of Godliness. What is this about? Godliness is the way of living. Paul will transition in this letter, like he does in many other letters, from belief to behavior. Godliness is the goal. It is a mystery because in the Old Testament, godliness was set by rules which could not be achieved. The Old Testament Mosaic Law had so many regulations that it was impossible to be Godly.

The mystery in the New Testament is something which was not revealed in the Old Testament that was revealed in the New Testament. In this case, the mystery is godliness. Godliness comes through the work of Jesus Christ. He gave us the example.

The “mystery of godliness” represents both the truth of salvation through Jesus and the expectation for Christian living for advancing the cause of the gospel in the present.

We don’t fulfill Godliness alone. We have the help of Christ. That comes through the good Gospel.

BRIDGE EXIT: THE GOOD GOSPEL

If we are going to build spiritual bridges with people, we have to help them understand that God called us to godliness. He called us to a standard of behavior. However, that comes from believing in Jesus Christ in what He did for us. Trusting Jesus and following Him will help us to live Godly lives.

The Good Gospel is revealed in these verses as a series of six statements of faith:

  1. Incarnation – manifested in flesh
  2. Resurrection – vindicated in the Spirit

The reason for this position is because Romans 1:4 and 1 Peter 3:18 point to a resurrection that happens with the power of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Ascension – seen by angels
  2. Gospel Proclaimed – preached among nations
  3. Gospel Accepted/Believed – believed by the world
  4. Glorification – taken up in glory

I personally think this is both a reverse chiastic structure (earth, spirit, spirit, earth earth, spirit). At the same time, I think this was based on an early hymn which emphasized the story of the Gospel. When we present the Gospel, we need to have all of these elements. I think Paul wrote this hear as a prayer. He also wrote it because he was getting ready to share with Timothy the flaws of the false teachers. So before he speaks about what is wrong, he shares what is right.

You can use this prayer as a teaching tool to share the Gospel. All the elements or parts of the Gospel are here for a Christian to share with people who need Jesus Christ.

The spiritual bridge begins with our Christian behavior and ends with our Christian belief. Why do we act the way we do? We act the way we do because we believe certain truths. These truths about Jesus Christ are essential to the Gospel. Take one of these truths out of this sequence, and you don’t have everything necessary for the Gospel.

We are in the business of building bridges with people. As we develop relationships, we need to see where we can build a bridge to share the Gospel with the lost around us.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier
Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
 

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), the fifth movie with the original cast, is about a prophet’s quest to find God. The crew of the USS Enterprise are sent to Nimbus III, the “Planet of Galactic Peace.” Sybok, a renegade Vulcan has taken the Klingon, Romulan, and human diplomats hostage. Once the crew arrives, Sybok manipulates the crew to take him to where he believes God exists. He takes then Sh Ka Ree, a planet at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Once there, Sybok and the crew learn that this “God” is false. Sybok sacrifices his life to save the crew.

The Search for God

Sybok and His Search for God

This film highlights the individual’s search for God. Sybok, acting as a messiah, leads others on a quest to find God. The place where God resides is described by various names: Klingons call it Qui Tu, Romulans call it Vorta Vor, the Vulcans call it Sha Ka Ree and humans call it Heaven or Eden. All of the races refer to God as a male and assume His existence. After finding out that his search ended in a person who claimed to be God and was instead a false alien, the USS Enterprise returns home. Captain Kirk gives the theological interpretation at the conclusion of the film:

Maybe God Is Not Out There, Maybe He Is in the Human Heart

“Maybe He (God) is not out there, Bones. Maybe He is right here, in the human heart.”

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) focuses on the theme of finding God. This is a universal desire in the hearts of everyone.This conclusion drawn from the film in the quote above sounds very similar to a spiritual truth in the New Testament.

Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9, Romans 10:13

The Bible teaches that people who seek God will find Him. It also teaches that many others will always seek Him outwardly and never find Him. Salvation comes by knowing Jesus Christ, and that begins in the human heart.

QUESTION: Describe your search for God. How does searching for God end in knowing Jesus Christ? Does knowing Jesus Christ ever end?

The International Pastor Experience by David Packer

The International Pastor Experience by David Packer
The International Pastor Experience by David Packer
The International Pastor Experience by David Packer (who edited the book) is a practical collection of perspectives that show the potential and reveal some of the challenges of leading a multicultural or military church overseas. The book contains articles from different pastors from international English-speaking churches, primarily from the International Baptist Convention.

Chapters in the book include the following titles:

“The Future of International Churches” by Dr. Jimmy Martin, General Secretary of the International Baptist Convention and past Senior Pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Kaiserslautern, Germany

“A Third Culture Kid Experience as Pastor of an International Church” by David Fresch, Senior Pastor of North Sea Baptist Church in Stavanger, Norway

“Transitioning from an American Military Church to an International Congregation by Dr. Larry Jones, Executive Secretary of the International Baptist Church Ministries and past Senior Pastor of the International Baptist Church in Stuttgart, Germany

“Responding to the Call to Serve an International Church Oversees” by Harry Lucenay, Pastor of Kowloon International Baptist Church in Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong

“Planting Churches in the Shadow of Cathedrals – International Church Planting in Europe” by Bob Marsh, Pastor/Church Planter of Converge International Fellowship in Darmstadt, Germany

“Transitioning from Missionary to International Pastor” by Dr. David Packer, Senior Pastor of International Baptist Church in Stuttgart, Germany

“Global Nomads: Expats on Mission in a New Urban World” by Jacob Bloemberg, Lead Pastor of Hanoi International Fellowship in Hanoi, Vietnam

“Multicultural Churches in Global Cities” by Dr. Michael Crane, Professor of Urban Missiology at Malaysian Baptist Seminary in Pulau Pinang, Malaysia

I enjoyed reviewing this book. I have had an interest in international mission work since college. I went on mission trips to Mexico, Germany, and France. I met my wife on a mission trip to Germany. I lived with her in Germany for five years, four of them as the pastor and wife team at the International Baptist Church in Bremen, Germany. Ar present, I serve on the Board of Directors of the International Baptist Church Ministries, where we help churches in the International Baptist Convention.

Many of the articles were written by Americans. Still, other authors from various countries contributed to this work. Two articles were written by non-Americans. The book contains a Works Cited section with resources for the international pastor. There is also a section entitled “Responses to International Church Pastors to Ten Survey Questions.” Various pastors of English-speaking international churches answered a set of questions. These questions and their answers give insight into the joys and struggles of pastoring an international church.

From personal experience I can say that this book is a must-read for people who are interested in leading English-speaking churches in international cities. This niche missionary work may not be for everyone. However, I do believe being a pastor of an international church has the most potential to reach the maximum amount of people who can reach others for Jesus Christ. The basis for this is Acts 2:5. For those who are interested, this book will shed light on how to pastor an international church.

For people who are interested in the work of English-speaking international churches, they can contact the International Baptist Convention. For people who want to support the work of this unique convention, they can contact the International Baptist Church Ministries. For others who sense a desire to plan an international English-speaking church outside of the United States, they can contact Catalyst, the church planting arm of the International Baptist Convention.