Theological and Apologetical Dimensions of Muslim Evangelization -- By: Samuel P. Schlorff

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 42:2 (Spring 1980)
Article: Theological and Apologetical Dimensions of Muslim Evangelization
Author: Samuel P. Schlorff

Theological and Apologetical Dimensions of Muslim Evangelization

Samuel P. Schlorff

One of the challenges facing those engaged in Muslim Evangelization is to initiate the development of what Harvie Conn has called “a new kind of apologetic for reaching Islam.”1 For far too long evangelical missions have been limping along without an effective apologetic to Islam. Since the demise of the nineteenth century polemical method, known as “The Mohammedan Controversy,” no significant Christian apologetical work for Muslims has been written.

The nineteenth century polemic, epitomized in, and inspired by, Karl Pfander’s Balance of Truth,2 still followed very closely the theological method of Thomas Aquinas, who argued that, in dealing with Muslims and pagans who do not accept the authority of Scripture, “we must…have recourse to the natural reason, to which all men are forced to give their assent.”3 From the supposedly neutral standpoint of the natural reason, they undertook a rigorous comparison of Islam and Christianity so as to prove the “inferiority” of the former to the latter as concerns doctrine, morals, etc. The object of this vast polemical literature was to bring Islam “crashing to the ground” and to build from the rubble a new Christian edifice using selectively the “Partial Truths” of Islam, salvaged and cleansed of Islamic untruth.

When that literature was quietly withdrawn from the market about fifty years ago, the old polemical method had quietly

undergone an inner transformation. In place of works for Muslims in their various languages, works were now published in English on how to reach Muslims and deal with their hang-ups.

In some circles, the theme was changed from “Bring Islam crashing to the ground” to “Fulfillment, not Destruction.” However, the arguments used to cause Truth buds of Islam to flower into the full Christian truth suspiciously resembled those of the older polemicists, except for the aggressive attack of the latter. After all, what essential difference is there between the method of the natural reason and the fulfillment method; both build on some extra-biblical “common ground” of Truth available to the autonomous man, to which both sides are thought to give assent, and in fact, both of these themes are found in the earlier polemicists.

In this new situation, evangelicals, for the most part have concentrated on the positive presentation of the Gospel and avoided “the stale polemics of the past” except w...

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