Editorial: Facing Up to the Challenge -- By: Stephen J. Wellum
SBJT 8:1 (Spring 2004) p. 2
Editorial: Facing Up to the Challenge
Stephen J. Wellum is Associate Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Wellum received his Ph.D. degree in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has also taught theology at the Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Canada. He has contributed to several publications and a collection of essays on theology and worldview issues.
Before September 11, 2001, Islam did not receive near the attention, thought, or discussion that it does today. Even though Islam is the only major religion to emerge after Christianity, and is the second largest religion in the world (and growing rapidly), and has been in conflict with Christianity for centuries, it took the tragedy of that day to bring Islam to the forefront of our minds. In spite of all the attention given to Islam since 9/11, however, it is clear from much of the conversation about Islam, both outside and, sadly, inside the church, that we lack a basic understanding of Islam and the challenges it presents. In addition to our poverty of knowing even the basic history, theology, and practices of Islam, it seems that much of our talk about Islam is polarized in two main directions. On the one hand, Islam is viewed solely through the lens of a politically active segment of the religion and, thus, rightly viewed as a threat to the West and its democratic way of life. On the other hand, we are repeatedly told by those who tout the ideology of religious pluralism that Islam is basically similar to Christianity in its overall outlook and message—with the conclusion that Christians should be more concerned about understanding and dialoguing with Muslims than evangelizing them.
How, then, should we, as Christians, view Islam? One of the main goals of this edition of the journal is to help the church to begin thinking about Islam biblically, theologically, and apologetically. Obviously there is much more to be said. Islam is a complex and diverse religion with a long history and tradition. Thus it is impossible, in the confines of this edition, to say all that needs to be said. However, we must begin somewhere. Islam, as a major world religion, is far too important to ignore. From the perspective of Scripture, Muslims require not only our understanding and dialogue but our fervent prayers and gospel witness. Although the religious pluralists of our day hold out the false hope that all religions are basically the same and on the same religious pilgrimage to the celestial city, Scripture is clear: outside of explicit faith in Jesus as Lord and Christ, there is no salvation in this life or in the age to come. It is for this reason alone that it is imperative for the church...
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