Muslim – Christian Encounters

Both Muslims and Christians feel that their religion is superior to the other one. Both are intensely missionary and have an ultimate goal of winning the world to their faith. When two dynamic forces meet head-on, sparks are certain to fly.¬†One missionary method that Islam has used effectively in Africa and Europe has been what is known as “power encounters”. A biblical example of such an encounter was Elijah’s challenge to the prophet of Baal on mount Zion:. “Let us see which God is the most powerful.” The encounter was both public and decisive. All left knowing that Jehovah had shown His power through Elijah.
In looking at power encounters in today’s world there are three different forms in the battle between two great world religions – Christianity and Islam. They are:
1. Encounters between religious structures
2. Encounters over theology
3. Spiritual and conversion encounters
Dialogue and debates, which are common, will generally address the first two while the third enters into a form of spiritual warfare that is somewhat foreign to many Christians living in the twenty-first century.
Contact through dialogue is a well-tried method that seldom yields any real results except for possibly creating a better understanding of each other’s religion. In the last two decades, Islam has begun to replace dialogue with another form, one that fits more with their expressed desire for immediate victory over the opposition. The new form of encounter that is being used successfully by Muslims is “debate”. There are two forms of debate. One is a high-profile debate, well publicized, and held in a large hall. The other occurs when a mosque challenges a church to a debate that is often held in a local venue such as a park.
The leading proponent of this approach was a Muslim cleric from South Africa – Ahmed Deedat. This capable man spent much of his time learning all he could about Christianity. He would carefully charm opponents into a debate. On one occasion, Deedat challenged the American Evangelical Rev. Jimmy Swaggart to a public debate. Swaggart was well versed in the Bible, but knew little or nothing about Islam or previous encounters between the two religions. At the end of the debate most would agree that Swaggart was soundly defeated. Today you can go into most Islamic bookstores in America and the West and find the fast-selling videotape titled “The Great Debate between Ahmed Deedat and the well known American Evangelical Jimmy Swaggart”. Muslims are encouraged to buy the tape and show it to their Christian friends as proof of Islam’s superiority over Christianity.
In both public and local debates the Muslims will be sure to have a large number of their own people present. During the actual meeting they will be prepared to interrupt the Christian speaker while loudly applauding the Muslim. In some cases this can even get out of hand and violence can occur. Islam’s attitude is that they are right and such encounters often help them since they are masters in intimidation.
In the third form – spiritual and conversion encounters – there is a much more personal encounter that affects the common person. Discussing with converted Muslims, It has been discovered that they are willing to talk about how they found their new Faith. Most were helped in their decision by either (1) a vision of Christ, (2) a dream where Jesus appeared to them, or (3) they heard the voice of God or an angel telling them what to do. It seems that spiritual encounters are taking place on a growing scale all over the world.
It is imperative that the church be spiritually prepared for such encounters.
Some theologians question if signs, miracles and wonders are valid today. When we come into power encounters with Islam we must believe that our God is ready to give us the power we need to meet a very difficult foe.
The struggle continues between the world’s two largest religions. Even if it is an unpleasant thought, it is a fact that power encounters exist between the two in the twenty-first century. The religion promoting such encounters is Islam, but the Church is strong and able to defend itself. The battle will continue and even intensify as a part of the present clash of civilizations.

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