Investigate the various aspects presented in the article, and identify the central and peripheral issues that are involved. In your thread, present your position on the issue, addressing all ideas resulting from your investigation and any that may not have been included in the article. Support your position. In your replies, critique your classmates’ threads, and express any new insight you may have gained.
The central issue surrounding the article, “Muslims in Evangelical Churches,” pertains to how Christians should interact with the Muslim community in America. James Hood identifies two extremes, which highlight the peripheral issues. He explains that Qur’an burning and protesting the construction of mosques is absurd (Hood 2011, 2). Alternatively, the author suggests that offering sanctuary space to Muslims facilitates false worship that may lead people to stumble, violate sacred space, and undermine the love command (Hood 2011, 2-3). Hood (2011, 2) appears to support several potential intermediate steps or compromises, such as sharing recreational space, evangelism, communicating Christ’s exclusivity, and supporting freedom of religion. Unfortunately, the author’s theological concerns rest primarily on a misreading of Scripture, and the implied solution of compromise misses the mark.
First, the theological conundrums begin to resolve when Scripture is understood within a first century, rather than twenty-first century, context. Of the 23 times the Greek lemma, σκανδαλίζω, is used within the context of causing to stumble, it always pertains to believers. Gordon Fee (1987, 392) explains that the real concern of 1 Corinthians 8:13 is the “love for those within the community of faith.” In other words, to suggest that sharing a building would cause a fallen non-believer to stumble from the Christian faith is incoherent. Regarding violating sacred space, the author appears to assume that the physical building has a violable sacred nature. Commenting on Ephesians 2:21, Harold Hoehner (2002, 411) explains that the New Covenant temple consists of those positionally “in Christ” who are the “growing body of believing Jews and Gentiles…the residence of God.” Accordingly, to oppose sharing physical space due to its sacred nature fails.
Regarding the Golden Rule, Hood (2011, 2) implies that the pastors who share their physical space with Muslims may be contorting the Golden Rule. Granted, to interpret the passage in a way that suggests that if a drug addict wants drugs, then the addict should give drugs to others, is unthinkable. The Golden Rule is proclaimed by the Law and the Prophets, which means the application of the Rule must be wrapped in loving God and loving others, not selfish desires (Matt 22:36-40). Alternatively, to give kindness to Muslims to get them to change their minds, also insults the Rule. Ulrich Luz (2007, 367) points out that within the context of the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule is “an empathy rule rather than a reciprocity rule.” Thus, a proper application of the Golden Rule must encompass both love and empathy. Although Hood (2011, 3) questions the possibility of biblical application to the situation, a proper understanding of stumbling, sacred space, and the Golden Rule allows for a biblical application to the sharing of physical space with Muslims.
Second, the application of the Golden Rule with empathy and love renders the concept of compromise impotent. A contextual rendering of the Golden Rule may be, “Regarding sharing physical space, care for Muslims the same way you would want to be cared for if you were a Muslim in the same situation.” Jesus’s life exemplifies the Golden Rule’s empathy and love. Jesus’s incarnation was the ultimate expression of empathy, which allowed Him to extend care, and serve people who did not believe in Him (John 1:14). Jesus’s extension of love caused Him to spend time, share meals, and deeply know others, by sharing His sacred space with the outcasts and unbelievers (Mark 2:14-17; John 4:28-29). Accordingly, the question is not whether a community of believers should share a physical building with Muslims, but whether a community of believers should share their sacred space, their “in Christ” self, with Muslims. If the Christian community listens, understands, extends care, gains trust, and facilitates discovery, then sharing physical space could be an extension of empathy wrapped in love. However, if the believing community shares physical space to be politically correct or try to change Muslims, then the act would not only be unloving, but also self-serving. In sum, love is always the vehicle, and God is always the change agent.
Third, the issue at hand raises several pastoral concerns. Dana Fearon and Gordon Mikoski (2013, 81-82) recognize that situations involving issues outside of the believing community are risky. Accordingly, the authors suggest developing a theological basis for decisions, seeking member support, utilizing sermons to communicate biblical application, inviting Muslims to briefly speak about their situation, and encouraging the congregation to get to know Muslims (Fearon and Mikoski 2013, 84-86). Inevitably, emotionally laden topics will face resistance. Accordingly, Fearon and Gordon (2013, 54-55) suggest that obtaining explanations, clarifying complaints, and working toward a resolution can assist in responding to conflict. Furthermore, avoiding triangulation, facilitating an understanding of different perspectives, and working toward consensus will also assist (Fearon and Mikoski 2013, 55-57). All these suggestions need considered by a pastor leading a community of believers through potential conflict.
Fearon, H. Dana, and Gordon S. Mikoski. 2013. Straining the Oars: Case Studies in Pastoral Leadership. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
Fee, Gordon D. 1987. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans.
Hoehner, Harold W. 2002. Ephesians: An Exegetical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
Hood, Jason B. 2011. “Muslims in Evangelical Churches: Does Loving Your Neighbor Mean Opening Your Doors to False Worship?” Christianity Today, January 3. Accessed February 20, 2018. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/januaryweb-only/muslimsevangelical.html.
Luz, Ulrich. 2007. Matthew 1-7: A Commentary on Matthew 1-7. Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible. Edited by Helmut Koester. Rev. ed. Minneapolis: Fortress.