“It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims.” (Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, general manager of Al-Arabiya news channel.)
With a six fold increase in adherents since 1900 (see diagrams end of this article), an annual growth rate of 3% (www.adherents.com), terrorists constantly in the news, religious persecution abounding and veiled women partnered by bearded men on our streets, the visibility of Islam is constantly growing.
What is the role of Islam in God’s global purposes and how does it relate to the revival of the Christianised nations of the West? A Christian interpretation of history views all events through the lens of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The post-Christian West
We live within a tremendous contradiction, our nations with the deepest Christian heritage e.g. U.K., Germany, U.S., Australia, are the most materialistic and sexually immoral in the world. Since World War II we have spread our Western consumerist values across the globe far more successfully than we have spread the gospel. God is not passive about this. He has one repeated method of renewing the covenant allegiance of his people – he sends enemies. The central theme of the so – called “Deuteronomic History”, Deuteronomy to 2 Kings (e.g. Judges 2:11- 22), is that when Israel falls into idolatry he hands them over to oppressors (Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians etc.) until they “cry out” (Judges 3:9; 4:3; 6:6, 7 etc.),then he sends a covenant renewing deliverer e.g. Gideon, Samuel. Today, we are witnessing the first part of this equation unveil before our eyes.
A Failing War
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Prov 16:7) This scripture is certainly not being fulfilled in the conflicts of our time. The just released National Intelligence Estimate report summarises the view of all 16 US intelligence agencies. It concludes that the war in Iraq has helped recruit “supporters for the global jihadist movement,” militants, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion and if this trend continues, threats to US interests globally will become more diverse leading to increased attacks worldwide. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/5382762.stm) Western Christians need to take a measure of specific responsibility for what is happening.
The Cost of Forgetting God’s Global Purpose
In North Africa, there is roughly one missionary for every two million Muslims. In northern India, it is roughly one missionary for every five million Muslims. Globally, it averages out to be one missionary for every one million Muslims. (http://www.christiananswers.net/islam.html) In the last 25 years, more than 100 times as many American Christians have gone to the Middle East as soldiers than have gone as messengers of the gospel of peace! (I assume that figures for Australia would be similar.) You might say, “But it’s tough to get into some of these countries.” But God says, “These countries were Western colonies for hundreds of years and how few missionaries did you send?” We did not send our best sons and daughters to them as thousands, doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers (etc.) and evangelists, but now they are sending their best to us in the form of immigration.
What is startlingly clear is that the (now secular) European colonising nations, like Britain and France, are experiencing divine retribution in the form of Islamic violence because they exploited Moslem territories e.g. Pakistan,Algeria in a way that contradicted their Christian profession. If current birth trends continue, the Muslim population of Europe will nearly double by 2015, while the non-Muslim population will shrink by 3.5 percent. Within 25 years France could have a Muslim majority. Continental Europe, the homeland of the Christian West (Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth) is being bred out of existence.
Whereas strict Islam applies the divine to all areas of life (sharia law), Western Christians have privatised their religion. All our churches are experiencing multiple levels of marriage breakdown, sexual sin, drug abuse, greed and so on. In many Moslem nations, everyone knows someone who knows someone who has been a “martyr” to the faith; do you know someone who has at least risked their life for Jesus?
Every Crisis is a Cross
“I love him and I want to die for him.” (Voice on radio of a young woman at a rally with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah 22.9.06). If all this seems alarmist, in a natural sense it is. But in a spiritual sense it is the opportunity of our lifetime, because it is in war (physical and spiritual) that we decide what is meaningful. What is not worth dying for is not worth living for. What is worth dying for is not the future of Western civilization as it is today, but those many Muslims who have no true understanding of the love of Jesus. God renews the history of nations in exactly the same way as he renews the life of individuals – by immersion in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Two incompatible trends are increasingly visible in the Australian church. Publicly the ascendancy is in the hands of charismatic mega – church leaders whose ministry emphasises comfort, prosperity and a better life style. In contrast, an underground, movement of thousands of sincere believers is desperately seeking spiritual reality whatever the cost.
God’s future lies with the latter, in time this movement will break out in costly evangelism here and abroad. The taking of the gospel to those Islamic nations where Christians are loathed as “cross worshippers” (Osama bin Laden) is the most conspicuous call to embrace the cross on the horizon of God’s plan to reach the globe, including the West, with a renewed form of Christianity.
Not only is the Spirit raising up conspicuous standard bearers and pioneers but he is moving to form a community ethos in the church which puts the glory of God above all things- especially personal safety. This will definitely cost lives, but in its wake we will see manifest resurrection power that will sustain the suffering church in the West and lead to real numerical and spiritual growth.
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Prov 16:7)
Our enemies become our friends in the same way we became friends of God, through conversion to Christ. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:13-14). Muslims will become our friends as soon as we lay our lives down by serving them in education, agriculture, IT, finance, medicine, development (etc.) and preaching, all of which is to obey Jesus’ final command, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:18 -19)
 I am mindful that our modern states are not theocracies like ancient Israel, nevertheless, I think it true that the church is the lens through which God deals with wider society.
 My anticipation is that the main experience of suffering will be empathy with the hardships of those we send beyond our shores.
 This means taking up the form of the cross as a way of life – the death of Jesus on a cross being the very thing that the Koran denies (Sura 4:156- 159).