In his excellent book, “Ideals and Realities of Islam,” Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a prominent Islamic philosopher, outlines the basic “catechism” of Islam and some of the worldview components in it while comparing it with Christian beliefs.
He states his purpose in this way. “I have attempted to present what is most universal in Islam and underlies the beliefs of all the orthodox branches of the tradition” (p.9). This leads into a particular disagreement about the nature of God.
As Nasr says, “Islam is based from beginning to end on the idea of Unity (tawhid), for God is One” (p.29). This concept of unity forms the basis for multiple worldview concerns. God is remote and unknowable but there is revelation through the Quran. “What Islam does not accept in Christianity is first of all the idea of filial relationship and secondly the Trinity as usually understood, both of which are alien to the Islamic perspective….” (p. 34).
Nasr’s description of the alien nature of “filial relationship” causes us to question the decision by Wycliffe Bible Translators, Frontiers, and other mission agencies to remove, change, substitute, or diminish the terms for Father, Son of God, and Lord in some of their translations for Arab and other Muslim populations.
From what Nasr has said, we know that Muslims do not want to hear about the filial relationship of God the Father to God the Son. However, diminishing the impact of that biblical teaching in any way shields the Muslim reader from the very concept that needs to be heard and considered.
Any clouding or obfuscation of biblical theology and worldview concepts blinds the enquirer to the irreconcilable differences between Islam and Christianity. Embedded in many of the Old Testament stories and revealed dramatically in the coming of the Savior is the worldview that God is a Father. The revelation of the Fatherhood of God and the belief in his personal relationship with humans is a primary tenet of biblical worldview.
Nasr also points out that there is no original sin belief in Islam and this worldview shades all meaning as to the nature of mankind. “It is only through participation in a tradition, that is, a divinely revealed way of living, thinking and being, that man really becomes man and is able to find meaning in life” (p.24).
Contrary to biblical teaching, Islam teaches that man’s identity is not what the Bible states, that is: “our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Instead, Islam teaches that man’s identity is in a religious construct called Islam.
The first time I attended a Muslim wedding was quite an eye-opener. The general layout for the wedding was more like a reception. People arrived and gathered around, talking and enjoying snacks. As my wife and I milled around with the guests, I begin to wonder when the wedding was going to take place.
After a while, a friend asked me if I wanted to observe the wedding. I was a bit puzzled by the question but said yes. My wife was not invited. He then took me to the place where a group of men were gathered with the groom. He was talking with an official and the men signed a book. That was the wedding.
After everyone had gathered again, the bride showed up with her retinue. The legal wedding had been conducted without her or any other female member of the family.
The worldview aspects of the Islamic wedding ceremony are symptomatic of the status of women in the religion and illustrate the contrast with the biblical worldview where the woman is highly regarded. In the late 19th and early 20th century, one of the famous evangelists among the Javanese was Kiai Sadrach.
In “Sri and Christ,” Philip Van Akkeren records that Sadrach created a Christian marriage ceremony to replace the Islamic one (p.145). In effect, this helped change the believers’ worldview concerning marriage. In ways like this, these early leaders embedded an entirely new set of ideas and truth into the culture.
In the beginning, Sadrach and others retained some of the Islamic “clothing” that was so familiar but they were continually moving away from Islamic practices that were based on non-biblical worldview. The interaction of both worldviews was constant throughout the formative years. Eventually, biblical theology and worldview became dominant in the church.
The clear differentiation of the gospel from their other belief systems has allowed Javanese to make a choice between worldviews. The gospel is not considered the completion or the apex of other systems. It stands alone as the revelation of God. It is a choice, not an echo.
At certain periods of the church’s development, it depicted Jesus as the “Ratu Adil” (the Just King) who was to appear for the Javanese. At other times, Jesus was presented as the “Imam Mahdi” who completes the Muslim faith and delivers the people from spiritual bondage.
Eventually, however, the dominant view of Jesus Christ became that of the Savior God who delivers from sin and demands total obedience from all people. The uncompromising message of moving away from Islamic theology and into biblical theology and worldview has produced good fruit in Java’s soil.
Today, there are cross-cultural church planters who are making catastrophic mistakes in accommodating Islamic theology and practices in their fledgling congregations. They are intentionally incorporating Islamic practices that they do not understand.
Instead of allowing the converts to move away from Islam, they are encouraging them to stay within the socio-religious community and continue to participate in the practices, which are formational for Islamic theology and worldview.
While it is hoped that these converts will continue to grow in Christian nurture and practice, it is difficult to conceive how this will happen as long as they are being directed back into Islam rather than out of it.