In the midst of political conflict between Muslims and Christians, ordinary Christians wonder how best to share the gospel with Muslim friends and neighbors. What do we need to know? Where do we start? What are the minefields we should be aware of? We often feel ill-equipped to share the gospel in a way that makes sense to a Muslim.
J. D. Greear’s book, Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim (Harvest House, 2010), is a terrific contribution to the growing collection of resources designed to increase our confidence in the gospel. J.D. pastors The Summit Church in North Carolina. Before arriving in his current place of service, he lived in a predominantly Muslim country for two years. His cross-cultural experience and his pastoral ministry uniquely qualify him to help us understand our Muslim friends, hear their concerns, and answer the questions of their hearts with the only message that satisfies: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The idea of answering the questions Muslims are asking stands at the heart of J.D.’s book. He writes:
“Most Christians explain the gospel in a way that (to use a cliché) ‘answers questions they have not been asking.’ This book will help you see what questions Muslims are asking, and how the gospel provides a unique and satisfying answer to them.” (15)
Of course, it is imperative that we not only answer the questions that non-Christians are asking, but that we also direct them to the questions they should be asking. J.D.’s method takes this truth into account. He does not change the gospel for a Muslim audience. Instead, he encourages us to see the questions Muslims are asking as an open door to begin engaging them effectively.
This book is a mix of helpful information and practical application. J.D. gives readers a quick overview of the religious beliefs of Muslims. He points out misconceptions Christians have regarding Muslims as well as misconceptions many Muslims have of Christians.
One of the flash points that J.D. tackles head on is the question of whether missionaries should use the Arabic term for God: Allah. J.D. says “yes,” and I think he is right. After all, we face a similar problem in our secular society. The word “God” means different things to different people. Many wrongly associate the word “God” with the generic, nationalistic, deistic god of “God Bless America.” Yet Christians in the U.S. continue to use the term “God” to speak of the Father-Son-Holy Spirit. So, just as we take the generic term “God” and fill it with the Triune content we see in Scripture, missionaries should be free to use the Arabic word for God (Allah) and fill that conception with the Christian understanding.
On another note, I like how J.D. simplifies the differences between Islam and Christianity. It all comes down to the need for righteousness. J.D. describes Islam as promoting the view of all man-made religions: our works make us acceptable to God. In contrast, the gospel begins with God’s acceptance of us because of Jesus, a truth which then leads to good works. By simplifying the differences in this way, J.D. shows both how the gospel alone provides salvation.
The latter part of the book includes Christian responses to common Muslim objections. Readers already deep in discussions with Muslims are not going to find all the information they need in these talking points. But those of us who are just now initiating conversations with Muslims will benefit from knowing these objections ahead of time.
Overall, J.D.’s book is a terrific introduction to how to build relationships with Muslims, think through issues of Islamic-Christian relationships, and graciously share the gospel. The appendix helpfully lays out the boundary markers that should inform our understanding of contextualization.
Though Muslim-Christian tensions run high today, this book strikes a hopeful tone. J.D. expects a massive movement of Muslims toward Christianity, and he is doing his best to make that happen. As Christians, we can join him in prayer for God to do a mighty work in places where the gospel has not been embraced.