The Twenty-First Century Church and the Islamic World -- By: George W. Braswell, Jr.

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 11:2 (Spring 1994)
Article: The Twenty-First Century Church and the Islamic World
Author: George W. Braswell, Jr.

The Twenty-First Century Church and the Islamic World

George W. Braswell, Jr.

Professor of Missions and World Religions
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina


Speculation about the 21st-century church and the Islamic world may be hazardous. Several events of the last quarter of the 20th century may not have been greatly anticipated. The utter collapse of the reign of the Shah of Iran and the installation of the Islamic Republic of Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 brought culture shock to the nations of the world. The Iranian revolution heralded the export of Islamic fundamentalism in global proportions.

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismemberment of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in the 1980s brought worldwide surprise at the swift changing of the loyalties, land boundaries, and political alignments of peoples and nations. The vicious war between two Muslim nations, Iran and Iraq, left festering wounds within the Islamic world. The overnight march of Iraq into Kuwait in 1991 and the ensuing Persian Gulf War, in which both western and Islamic military forces became allies against Iraq, could hardly have been forecast.

The 1990s have seen the state of Israel and the Palestianian Liberation Organization, bitter enemies, sign a peace accord. Also, longstanding conflicts and rivalries between the Bosnian Muslims and the Christian Serbs have resulted in open hostilities in the Balkans.

It is hazardous to speculate about the future, especially that of the relationship between Christianity and Islam. Certainly, the latter half of the 20th century has seen much change in the presence and power of Islam across continents. Also, Christianity has begun to awaken to this world religion, Islam, and to the people called Muslims. Perhaps it is best to look back at Christianity and Islam. Then one may view the future based on patterns of the past as well as the possibility of surprises and shocks in the ensuing new millennium.

The early years of Islam demonstrated its nature as missionary, mobile, migratory, and sometimes militant. From its birth in the hinterlands of the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century A.D., it raced westward across the heartland of Christendom in the Middle East, across North Africa, into Spain, and crossed the Pyrenees mountains toward the heart of Europe before it was halted by Christian armies. It pushed eastward from Arabia across Mesopotamia, Persia,

India, and toward China. All of this movement occurred in its first hundred years of existence.

The Christian churches of the time barely knew wha...

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