As an agnostic who became a Christian in his early 20’s, then 10 years later left the faith for 8 years to explore other faith systems, I have a real appreciation for the wisdom and truth found in other faith systems – at least, Buddhism, A Course in Miracles, and Yoga. As a Christian, I never think to explore Judaism because I perceive that our faith is basically completed Judaism, and practicing Judaism would be a step backwards for the Christian.
But with regards to Islam, I have, like many, developed a strong negative opinion of the life and teachings of Mohammad, and doubt that there is any real benefit that can come from emphasizing our commonalities with Islam, or that can be gained from it. I suspect it would, on balance, do more to convince them of their own rightness instead of building bridges to the gospel. I suspect that my opinion is wrong, but have had much trouble disconfirming it.
I have a missionary friend who works removing young girls from human trafficking in Soviet and Muslim contexts, and his advice to me was that he believes there are two approaches to reaching Muslims. On the ministry side, we love and serve Muslims, and seek to, in general, not contradict them but invite them through our love to consider Jesus. On the ideological side, we debate, dialogue honestly, and criticize (with cartoons if necessary). His opinion is that we must choose where we are called to do battle, because mixing the two is a fool’s errand.
I would add a third realm which I would call the political side, in which we must sometimes defend and attack with political and military might – because Islam is not just a religion, but a system of government and civil laws, and is generally cruelly conquest-oriented – even if you stick to Just War theory, it seems that in nearly every generation since Islam’s inception, there have been unfortunate but just reasons to use lethal force against Islam, and that perhaps includes the Crusades. And I don’t see that changing.
However, I am hoping to at least understand Islam better, if not soften my stances in some ways. I am open, and that is a first step for someone who loathes what I see in a significant minority of Islam, and perhaps a majority of its teachings.
With that in mind, I have acquired the following books:
- Who Is My Enemy?: Questions American Christians Must Face about Islam–and Themselves
- A Muslim View Of Christianity: Essays on Dialogue (Faith Meets Faith Series)
- Islam: Its Prophet, Peoples, Politics & Power
Consider these superficial but important comparisons for a start.