by Dr. J. Ray Tallman
To whom do people go when life’s issues of the day seem overwhelming? First choice is to a teacher! Of course we would not suggest that “our teachers” know everything, nor that they are always right! BUT their experience and training are valuable for us to find the answers we seek. Consider the wisdom of Jesus offered in a parable in Luke 6:34-39;
“A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.”
That is a sobering fact for those of us who accept the privilege of teaching. In order to fulfill that vocational calling we make ourselves available and accountable to those who use our knowledge. The longer we teach and the broader the scope of our experience, the better the hope we that have more of the answers to the questions on the mind of the people.
In the past six months I have responded to invitations to speak to groups of people, Asians, Latin Americans, and Arabs, concerning the religion of Islam. We are all left with questions such as … Is Islam a religion of peace? Is “submission to God” a demonstration of force to bring “unbelievers” into conformity to God’s Law? Can Christians and Muslims coexist, when both of us see our faith as unique? These questions have come to me to attempt an answer from three different continents … Europe, South America and Southeast Asia.
First, in July I was invited to an Academic Conference sponsored by the Asia Society of Missiology and assigned to the topic of answering questions related the rise of conflict between followers of Christ and followers of Muhamad. An accompanying paper and article reports on my conviction, that we serve different Gods … our God being tolerant by nature … grace oriented, and their god being law oriented and focused solely on judgment.
Secondly, in September I was invited to a Pastors and Church Leaders Conference in Central America (Guatemala) to address the Role of the Latin Church in Missions to Muslim. Our Latin brothers and sisters have a strong historical link to Andalusia, Spain where Islam reached its “Golden Age” in the same era as Colonialism’s beginning. This period led to early Christian expansion to the new world, including Guatemala. Now, the church is taking seriously its call to return with the Gospel to both Europe and North Africa.
A third invitation was mine to assist in mediating a partnership of former Muslims who now are facing serious discipleship issues which bring more unanswered questions related to salvation, conversion, persecution and witness to their own people. In October I met in an attempt to mediate “differences” between the rising numbers of new believers concerning their journey of faith.
My classroom seems to be the world these days! In each of these occasions I bring the identity of Olivet University and Zinzendorf School of Doctoral Studies, as well as our Olive Branch Institute for Understanding Islam. What a privilege and responsibility to serve with Olivet and to serve you!
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