We live in interesting times!
CHRISTIANS in Sydney will have their core beliefs challenged by provocative advertisements due to appear on billboards and buses in the next month. The ads, paid for by an Islamic group called MyPeace, will carry slogans such as ”Jesus: a prophet of Islam”, ”Holy Quran: the final testament” and ”Muhammad: mercy to mankind”. A phone number urges people to call to receive a free Koran and other Islamic literature.
This reduction of the person and ministry of Jesus Christ lies at the heart of the Christian community’s frustration with the Muslim community. Islamic scholar, Bishop Kenneth Cragg, has long lamented the failure of the Muslim community to discuss this issue. In his 1999 Preface to his magnificent Jesus and the Muslim: An exploration, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, he writes
The decade and a half since Jesus and the Muslim was published … there has been no major change in the broad disinterest of Muslim scholarship in the classic self-understanding of Christianity around the person of Jesus. There is little (Muslim) will to study why Christian Christology ever since the New Testament perceives the ministry and the cross of Jesus as being the drama of the love of God at grips with the wrongness of the world. It remains a matter of sadness that only four words (in the English, three in Arabic) of the teaching of Jesus survive in the Qur’an, namely ‘Forgive us our sins’, although there are two long narratives of his nativity.
Could it be that in God’s economy this adverttisement finally gives good opportunities for Christians to engage with Muslims on the topic of Christology? Pray that the Muslim community in Sydney and Australia will sincerely and significantly engage in this issue that lies at the heart of who Jesus is and the response with which he confronts us.
Sam Green alerted me to this article and he has a conversation going on his Facebook, eg,
the name “son of God” is used throughout the Law of Moses, the Prophets, the Psalms and the Gospel. It is used for the nation Israel (Exodus 4:22-23) and the Messiah (2 Samuel 7:14, Psalm 2) and of course it is widely used in the Gospel. The Qur’an however rejects all the earlier prophets and says that no one can be called a son of God (5:18).
But the billboard was not offensive, he said. ”They’ve got a perfect right to say it, and I would defend their right to say it [but] … you couldn’t run a Christian billboard in Saudi Arabia.” The bishop said he would pay for billboards to counter those of MyPeace if he could afford it, and ”maybe the atheists should run their billboards as well”.
Of course we need more than a billboard, we need sustained conversation in courtesy and sincerity.
Update, 30 May, former CMS Muslim worker, John Bales develops this missional opportunity for conversation, Why Muslim billboards are good for Jesus.