UNIVERSALISM & Do all of our prayers go to the same higher power – whether we are Muslim, Christian or Jewish? Experts Weigh In.

by Lauren Green, 6/20/19.

…Tim Keller, bestselling author and speaker, writes in his book, “Reason for God,” about an encounter with a student who proudly proclaimed the belief that all the major religions worship the same God. Keller says, “[The student) contended that doctrinal differences between Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism were superficial and insignificant, that they all believed in the same God. But when I asked him who that God was, he described Him as an all-loving Spirit in the universe.

The problem with the position” Keller said, “is its inconsistency. It insists that doctrine is unimportant, but at the same time assumes doctrinal beliefs about the nature of God that are at loggerheads with those of all the major faiths. Buddhism doesn’t believe in a personal God at all. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam believe in a God who holds people accountable for their beliefs and practices and whose attributes could not be all reduced to love.”

Keller sums it up saying: “Ironically, the insistence that doctrines do not matter is really a doctrine itself. It holds a specific view of God, which is touted as superior and more enlightened than the beliefs of most major religions. So the proponents of this view do the very thing they forbid in others.”

Nabeel Qureshi, a devout Muslim who converted to Christianity and authored the book, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus,” has one of the most insightful and experiential takes on whether Christians and Muslims worship the same deity. He explains, “Let’s start with the obvi/ous: Christians believe Jesus is God, but the Quran is so opposed to this belief that it condemns Jesus worshipers to Hell (5.72).”

The difference, says Qureshi, is Christianity’s core tenet, that Jesus Christ is God, part of the Trinitarian Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

“For Christians, Jesus is certainly God, and for Muslims Jesus is certainly not God. How can it be said that Christians and Muslims worship the same God? This fact alone is enough to settle the matter…”

Read more at … https://www.foxnews.com/faith-values/was-aoc-correct-when-she-suggested-all-religions-worship-the-same-god-experts-weigh-in

STMs & Spiritual Transformation Movements: Iranians are converting to evangelical Christianity in Turkey #NPR.

“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” by Fariba Nawa, National Public Radio, 12-/14/18.

…Sebnem Koser Akcapar, a sociology professor at Istanbul’s Koç University who has been studying refugees and their change of faith, says she has witnessed the rise in conversions.

“The numbers of Iranian refugees converting have grown tremendously over the years. A small church consisting of 20 to 30 families has become a much bigger congregation housing 80 to 100 people on a regular Sunday,” she says.

Akcapar believes only some of the refugees are genuine converts. Others are using religious persecution as a way to get to the West, which may be the only way for them to lead a normal life, she says.

With more U.S. sanctions on Iran, Iranians are facing economic hardships and political pressure.

The United Pentecostal Church in Denizli can’t keep up with the demand, says the church’s Turkey representative Rick Robinson, who has lived in the country for 13 years. It has churches in eight Turkish cities and refugees are calling on them to open more.

He says the church provides a spiritual outlet for refugees, not financial support, and that he welcomes anyone regardless of whether they are genuinely converting or not.

Robinson thinks many of the congregants may not be believers, at least not at first. “There might even be some who start with the help just for the refugee status and become sincere,” he says matter-of-factly.

Robinson, a tall pastor with silver hair, welcomes the Iranians into the church with hugs and laughter.

Farzana says one reason she converted was the way Iran’s interpretation of Islam treats women. When she divorced an abusive husband, she says, an Iranian court granted him custody of her older son and daughter. Under Iran’s Sharia Islamic law, fathers get custody of older children.

“Mostly because of this I became disillusioned with Islam,” she says. “That judge sitting there and giving orders was completely siding with men. Everywhere in Iran men come before women.”

Farzana says she was shattered and felt lost after her children were taken away.

But a year later, Farzana married her current Iranian husband and they had Andya. She hired a high school friend to assist her in her thriving beauty salon, and soon her friend, a Christian convert, began to recruit her to Tehran’s secret churches.

“Once she began trusting me, she gave me photocopied writings and said, ‘I’m giving these to you as a gift. Go read them. These are the word of God,'” Farzana recalls.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/12/14/669662264/iranians-are-converting-to-evangelical-christianity-in-turkey

STMs & Spiritual Transformation Movements are Taking Place in Turkey Among Muslim Refugees

“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” by Fariba Nawa, National Public Radio, 12-/14/18.

…Sebnem Koser Akcapar, a sociology professor at Istanbul’s Koç University who has been studying refugees and their change of faith, says she has witnessed the rise in conversions.

“The numbers of Iranian refugees converting have grown tremendously over the years. A small church consisting of 20 to 30 families has become a much bigger congregation housing 80 to 100 people on a regular Sunday,” she says.

Akcapar believes only some of the refugees are genuine converts. Others are using religious persecution as a way to get to the West, which may be the only way for them to lead a normal life, she says.

With more U.S. sanctions on Iran, Iranians are facing economic hardships and political pressure.

The United Pentecostal Church in Denizli can’t keep up with the demand, says the church’s Turkey representative Rick Robinson, who has lived in the country for 13 years. It has churches in eight Turkish cities and refugees are calling on them to open more.

He says the church provides a spiritual outlet for refugees, not financial support, and that he welcomes anyone regardless of whether they are genuinely converting or not.

Robinson thinks many of the congregants may not be believers, at least not at first. “There might even be some who start with the help just for the refugee status and become sincere,” he says matter-of-factly.

Robinson, a tall pastor with silver hair, welcomes the Iranians into the church with hugs and laughter.

Farzana says one reason she converted was the way Iran’s interpretation of Islam treats women. When she divorced an abusive husband, she says, an Iranian court granted him custody of her older son and daughter. Under Iran’s Sharia Islamic law, fathers get custody of older children.

“Mostly because of this I became disillusioned with Islam,” she says. “That judge sitting there and giving orders was completely siding with men. Everywhere in Iran men come before women.”

Farzana says she was shattered and felt lost after her children were taken away.

But a year later, Farzana married her current Iranian husband and they had Andya. She hired a high school friend to assist her in her thriving beauty salon, and soon her friend, a Christian convert, began to recruit her to Tehran’s secret churches.

“Once she began trusting me, she gave me photocopied writings and said, ‘I’m giving these to you as a gift. Go read them. These are the word of God,'” Farzana recalls.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/12/14/669662264/iranians-are-converting-to-evangelical-christianity-in-turkey

ISLAM & #PewResearch video offers a look inside the beliefs & attitudes of Muslims in No. America

Video: Being Muslim in the U.S.

This video offers a look inside the beliefs and attitudes of Muslims in America; it features data from Pew Research Center’s 2017 survey, as well as the personal stories of Muslims from across the United States.

For more information, read the survey report: “U.S. Muslims Concerned About Their Place in Society, but Continue to Believe in the American Dream.

RELIGION & Here’s What Evangelical Experts on Missions & Muslims Think of Wheaton’s ‘Same Go d’ Debate

by Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra, Christianity Today, 1/22/16.

Nearly two dozen evangelical experts on missions and Muslims have compiled their thoughts on how the answer affects Muslim missions, why it’s a bad question to begin with, and propose better questions to ask instead.

A 32-page, special edition of the Occasional Bulletin from the Evangelical Missiological Society (EMS) seeks to constructively contribute to the highly publicized dispute over whether Wheaton College should discipline professor Larycia Hawkins for stating in a Facebook post that Christians and Muslims “worship the same God.” [Arab evangelical scholars weighed in last week.]…

Robert Priest, a mission and anthropology professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) and current EMS president, has “watched with interest” the unfolding Wheaton-Hawkins debate because, for evangelicals worldwide, “what Wheaton does affects us all.”

“As I’ve observed the unfolding drama, I’ve had concerns over the way Wheaton has framed the issues, over the repercussions of this for Christian witness, and over the failure to include missiologists and missionaries as interlocutors,” wrote Priest. “That is, for most evangelicals in America, our encounter with people who are Muslim is relatively recent, relatively superficial, and all-too-often infected by American culture-war impulses.

“The one category of American evangelical that has long nurtured close relationships with people who are Muslim is missionaries and mission professors (missiologists)—many of them Wheaton graduates,” he continued. “However, these individuals, who represent the heart of evangelical gospel concern, and who represent a unique mix of professional expertise and accumulated wisdom acquired over decades of study and ministry experience, do not appear to have been adequately consulted.”

… For Priest, it was an opportunity to ask 21 missiologists and missionaries: “What are the missiological implications of affirming, or denying, that Muslims and Christians worship the same God?”

Their answers—which intentionally do not comment on the Wheaton-Hawkins situation directly—were published by EMS this month. (Most respondents are evangelicals, while one is Eastern Orthodox and one is Roman Catholic.)

In short: the answer is both simple and complicated.

“What other God is there?” asked Miriam Adeney, a world Christian studies professor at Seattle Pacific University. “In all the universe, there is only one God.”

Paul Martindale, a professor of Islamic studies and cross-cultural ministry at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, agreed. “There is only one, true, creator God. The Bible is clear there is no other God.”

However, the experts agree that there are fundamental differences in the way that Christians and Muslims understand God.

“In contrast to Buddhism and Confucianism, for example, the Abrahamic faiths affirm God’s mercy expressed through his gifts in nature, human community, and scriptural wisdom and ethics and general guidance,” wrote Adeney. “Yet such mercy is a pale shadow of the shocking mercy that propelled Jesus to earth and to the cross. That radical mercy we call grace. If indeed the incarnation and death of Jesus are essential expressions of God’s nature, then Muslim and Christian understandings of God are truly very different.”

Acknowledging those differences is key, wrote David Cashin, an intercultural and Islamic studies professor at Columbia International University. “If there are no differences, then there is nothing to be learned and nothing to convert to.”

Understanding the differences—having a solid theology—must come before missiology, wrote Fred Farrokh, an international trainer with Global Initiative: Reaching Muslim Peoples, who was raised as a Muslim. “If we conform our theology to a pre-determined missiology, then we get the paradigm backward. Error will ensue, and we actually become incapable of missionally assisting those whom we yearn to help—in this case Muslims.”

Equating the way Christianity and Islam view God opens up other questions, wrote Sarita Gallagher, a religion professor at George Fox University. “For example, if Allah is God, then is the Islamic religion from God? Did Yahweh speak to Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh through the angel Gabriel in the Cave of Hira in 610 C.E.? If so, does the Quran contain new revelations from God?”

Different understandings of God might be compared to different understandings of Jesus, wrote Mark Hausfeld, president of Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and professor of urban and Islamic studies.

“Is the Jesus of the Church of Latter Day Saints’ Book of Mormon and Doctrines and Covenants the same Jesus of the Bible? How about the Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation of the New Testament?” he wrote. “Both books spell the name of Jesus the same, but the person and work of Jesus, as He [is] known in the Bible, is heretical. The use of the word Jesus is not wrong, but the context of the word Jesus is corrupted by the error of the context and meaning that defines the Person and work of Jesus as revealed in the Bible.”

The same is true for God, he said. “The word God is not misleading in itself, but the context of the Qur‘an defines a different God in nature and character.”

Practically speaking, though, it can be easier to reach out to Muslims if there is some common ground.

“Conversion studies have shown that the greater the degree of congruence between Islam and Christianity that is perceived by the Muslim inquirer, the more likely it is that he or she will seriously consider Christianity as a viable alternative to Islam,” Martindale wrote. If differences between the two are emphasized, the barrier to conversion grows.

Read more at … http://www.christianitytoday.com/gleanings/2016/january/do-muslims-christians-worship-same-god-wheaton-hawkins-ems.html?paging=off

RELIGION & Forecast For 2050: Atheism Is Down, Islam Is Rising #PewResearch

by Nadia Whitehead, National Public Radio, 12/25/15.

Christianity is currently the world’s largest religion, making up a third of the world’s population with 2.2 billion adherents. Pew research report shows that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world. The religious group will make up 30 percent of the world’s population by 2050, compared to just 23 percent of the population in 2010. That means the number of Muslims in the world will nearly equal the number of Christians by 2050…

That’s not to say that the total number of Christians is decreasing; Christianity’s growth rate is just not as fast as Islam’s. While the number of Christians will increase from about 2.1 billion to 2.9 billion by 2050, Muslims will jump from 1.6 billion to 2.8 billion.

This growth has to do with the relatively young age of the Muslim population as well as high fertility rates. Other religious groups have aging populations. Among Buddhists, for example, half of adherents are older than 30 and the average birth rate is 1.6 children. By contrast, in 2010, a third of the Muslim population was under 15. What’s more, each Muslim woman has an average of 3.1 children, while the average for Christian women is 2.7.

The Pew research revealed two other interesting shifts in world religious perspectives, Cooperman says.

Atheists, agnostics and those who do not affiliate with religion will make up a smaller percentage of the world’s total population by 2050 — even though the group is growing in the U.S. and Europe. The decline is primarily because those who are unaffiliated religiously have low fertility rates, with women bearing an average of 1.7 children in their lifetime.

Between now and 2050, the hub of Christianity will also shift — from Europe to sub-Saharan Africa. As of 2010, the majority of the Christian population — 25.5 percent — lived in Europe, but sub-Saharan Africa will become home to nearly 40 percent of the world’s Christians by 2050. Fertility rates are also behind this change. Christians living in sub-Saharan African have the highest fertility rates among Christians worldwide: Each woman has, on average, 4.4 children…

Read more at … http://m.wamu.org/#/news/15/12/25/a_religious_forecast_for_2050_atheism_is_down_islam_is_rising

ISLAM & Engaging Your Muslim Neighbors

Commemtary by Dr. Whitesel:  I am a big fan of Seedbed.com ‘s “7-minute Seminary.”  These are short videa snippets of wisdom from my colleagues. Here is an especially poignant seven minute video with ideas about how to help meet the needs of your Muslim neighbors.

Engaging Your Muslim Neighbors by Matthew Friedman, 6/17/15

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