Islam and Current Realities in the Middle East -- By: Dale F. Walker

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 39:0 (NA 2007)
Article: Islam and Current Realities in the Middle East
Author: Dale F. Walker

Islam and Current Realities in the Middle East

by Dale F. Walker*

First of all, I want to thank the planning committee of the Ministry Conference for choosing to focus on the challenge of Islam in today’s world—a vitally important theme. And thank you for the invitation to speak with you today. As usual, when an invitation comes to prepare a talk on a particular theme, the process helps me clarify in my own mind some of the issues I think are important. Whether I can be successful in passing on this clarity to you is something we’ll have to see during the course of this lecture. One of my friends asked me how I was going to present this topic. I answered that I might have to read the morning newspaper to make sure what the current realities are. This is just a warning to remind us that anything we say today may be changed by events tomorrow. I doubt it though. I imagine most of you have had the experience of picking up a newsmagazine in a doctor’s office, leafing through it, reading some interesting bits, then suddenly realizing that the magazine is two or three years old! News of the Middle East seems to stay basically the same, from week to week, from year to year, from decade to decade. But my hope is that tomorrow’s events may seem a little clearer to us because of the background we can discuss today.

We as Americans, and we as Christians, are finally learning to give some attention to the Middle East. We have tended to think that in the modernization and the Westernization of the world, the people of the Middle East would develop and become something like us. This comes through very clearly in the mission literature of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The Missions established schools in all the Middle Eastern countries, educating a new elite, which in another generation or two, they thought, would take control, bringing the people to Western Christianity and the countries into the modern world.1 Well, the new elites did take over, without much change in their Islam, and with some strange twists in their modernization, which was hardly recognizable.

I myself hadn’t paid much attention to the Middle East, except insofar that the lands of the Bible are located there, with also a general awareness of modern Israel and its national development. Like many of us, I suspect, I could more easily relate to the names and places of the Bible and the ancient Near Eastern world, than to the names and places of the modern Middle Eastern reality. My wife and I were missionaries in Indonesia for thirty years, where we dealt with Muslims, and Islam, everyday. But this was an Islam far removed from the theoretical Islam o...

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