Can Muslims Follow the Biblical Christ and Still Be Muslim?
Lately, I've been hearing a lot about the "Insider Movement" which is what missionary experts refer to as Muslims who love and follow Jesus while remaining within the cultural fold of Islam. I can remember before moving to Senegal as a missionary, a thought flashed through my mind, "I wonder if God might use me to initiate a movement of Muslims coming to biblical faith in Christ as part of a Reformation movement within Islam?"
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It turned out to be a fleeting thought. Instead I opted for the traditional apologetics approach, pointing out to Muslims why the New Testament is superior to the Quran and why they're wrong about denying the divinity of Jesus and the atonement. I never seriously questioned this approach until I read Carl Medearis's excellent book Muslims, Christians, and Jesus. In his book, Carl shares stories of his interactions with Muslims who deeply love Jesus and strive to follow his teachings -- yet remain committed Muslims. I nearly wept thinking about how things could have been different if I had trusted my original instincts.
But now I have new questions, and they're a bit unnerving because they strike at the heart of what it means to be a "Muslim" and what it means to be a "Christian." I've heard that there are Muslim followers of Jesus who revere and strive to follow after the Jesus they see revealed in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but I'm wondering if these same Muslims can find a place in their theology to accept the rest of the New Testament as well? And if they can, I'm wondering if Christians can find a place in their theology to make room for Muhammad as a pre-messianic figure, pointing people to faith in Jesus the Messiah (a term the Quran affirms, by the way), maybe not as authoritative as an Old Testament prophet, but perhaps on par with the status of local prophets in the New Testament?
Let's break this down. Because most Muslims can't bring themselves to say, "Jesus is God," Christians write them off as heretics. The problem with this is that there's nowhere in the New Testament that says, "Jesus is God"; so what we're doing is insisting on non-biblical language as a litmus test for biblical faith. The doctrine may be true, and I believe it is, but should we really think of someone as outside the fold if they can't bring themselves to say something that isn't directly stated in the New Testament?
I wonder if a Muslim who respects the New Testament could find it in his or her theology to accept the statement, "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and the Word was God