The theme indicated by the cover of this issue, Christianity and Islam—or the cross and the crescent, or Jesus and Mohammed—is in actual fact a present-day reflection on the Reformation sola: "Christ alone." With this historic teaching, Christians profess salvation in Christ alone, the sole mediator of grace, our Prophet, Priest, and King. As Peter insisted about Jesus before the Jewish rulers and elders in Jerusalem, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
There has been much brooding in evangelical culture over the so-called "clash of civilizations" between Christianity and Islam. But there is no political scaremongering here. This issue isn't about Islam and the West, theocracy and democracy, terrorism and human rights. We are taking a more introductory approach, because it is our conviction that evangelicals need to go back to school on Islam in terms of its basic history and core beliefs, instead of being overwhelmed by the political narrative on America's news channels.
We value expertise regarding this enormous topic, and in this issue we rely on two of the best: Adam Francisco, an Oxford-educated scholar of Islamic history; and Bill Nikides, a veteran missionary and missions strategist. Dr. Francisco gives us the basics of Islam, and we provide a historical timeline and suggestions for further reading. In one article, our editor-in-chief Michael Horton discusses the nature of the battle between these world religions, and in another article he deals with a topic of more practical concern, namely, how to think about your Muslim neighbor next door. There are serious issues to consider in relation to missions and evangelism, and Bill Nikides helps us dig deeper into the subject of evangelization among Muslim people groups by introducing us to an alarming trend called the "Insider Movement" that is undermining the integrity of our confession of "Christ alone."
We also have our usual departments. In "Theology," regular Lutheran contributor Rick Ritchie follows up on our widely read "Exit Interviews" discussion with Christian Smith about the problem of biblicism in evangelicalism today. In "From the Hallway," Presbyterian pastor Andy Wilson takes up the controversial topic of worship; he offers wise counsel regardless of our denomination, which is precisely the goal of this soapbox department.
While Islam does seem to have certain political goals, our concern is not with the kingdoms of this world but with the spiritual battle in the heavenly places, over which Christ has already triumphed decisively on the cross and in the resurrection. The conflict is more spiritual than cultural, and it is crucial that confessing evangelicals return to the basics of faith and apologetics in order to be ready to regard Christ the Lord as holy, "always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you" (1 Pet. 3:15).
Ryan Glomsrud (D.Phil., University of Oxford) is Executive Editor for Modern Reformation and a Postdoctoral Fellow in the History Department at Harvard University. He earned his M.A. in Historical Theology from Westminster Seminary California and B.A. from Wheaton College, Illinois.
Issue: "The Cross and the Crescent" July/August 2012 Vol. 21 No. 4 Page number(s): 6
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