A project of this nature cannot be done in isolation. Many people have shared in this venture, and I would like to acknowledge their contributions. I want to thank Robert Calvert for recommending me to Bakke Graduate University and suggesting that I start the D.Min. program. This program has changed my life and has helped me to become a more thoughtful practitioner. I want to thank Dr. Ida Glaser for being my dissertation supervisor and for her rigorous critique that has helped to make this document as good as possible, as well as the members of my Personal Learning Community: Christiaan Kwantes, Siebren Woudstra, Wim Reinders, Ben Wentsel, Niekie Waaning, Andreas Maurer, Elsie Maxwell, and David Greenlee for their prayers, encouragement, and feedback. In addition, I want to thank Dr. John and Mrs. Pansy Culpepper for editing this document and Bakke Graduate University for giving me a scholarship, which enabled me to take part in the D.Min. program. Special thanks are extended to my organization Operation Mobilization for allowing me to take time off to devote to this study program.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to thank my wife Jenny, my son Jefta, my daughter-in-law Jessica, and my daughter Tamar for putting up with the many hours that I was not available for them because of my studies.
Last, but not least, I want to thank my heavenly Father, for granting me the privilege to serve him among Muslims and for enabling me to learn more from him and grow closer to him in understanding his passion for Muslims in Europe.
This dissertation argues that the single greatest hindrance to Christian witness amongst Muslims in Europe is fear. A short course was developed in order to help Christians overcome their fear of Islam and Muslims and to encourage Christians to share their lives with Muslims and the truth of the Gospel with the purpose of attracting them to Christ.
Many European Christians share a widespread fear of Islam, termed Islamophobia. They fear that Europe will gradually turn into Eurabia, or Islamic domination of Europe, and they ignore the efforts of Muslims to adapt to the European context, while not necessarily giving up their faith developments, a situation pointing to a future scenario of Euro-Islam, or Islam being Europeanized.
When one looks at fear theologically, that fear is rooted in the fallen condition of man and involves a tendency to exclude anybody that threatens one’s identity. On the other side, the more thoughts, attitude, and behavior are guided by God’s self-giving love manifested at the cross of Golgotha, the more one will be able to respond in grace towards Muslims. While this change of attitude from fear to grace is a key requirement for Christians to share their lives with Muslims, many books and courses that have been developed to help Christians relate to Muslims do not explicitly deal with this but concentrate on providing information about Islam and skills to help share the Gospel with Muslims.
Consequently, a new course entitled Sharing Lives has been developed. The testing of this course has shown it results in a changed attitude towards Islam and Muslims and a commitment to establishing contact with Muslims. With some further changes to diminish the course’s weaknesses and make better use of its strengths, this course could become an instrument in God’s hand to encourage Christians in Europe to share their lives with Muslims
For the past thirteen years, my ministry focused on encouraging Christians and churches throughout Europe to reach out to their Muslim neighbors with the truth and love of God. I was responsible for overseeing Christian ministries among Muslims in several European countries (France, UK, the Netherlands, Belgium and Spain). I also helped establish new ministries (Italy, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland). In addition, I encouraged Christian workers among Muslims in the Balkans and taught at conferences and in churches across Europe.
It is encouraging to see that during these years more churches and Christians have developed a heart for their Muslim neighbors. It is also encouraging to learn of Muslims in Europe who have come to accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and have become active members of European churches or have been instrumental to establish migrant churches.
Despite this, I have seen that Muslims are more willing to hear about the Gospel than Christians are willing to share the Gospel with Muslims. I have spoken in churches in cities across Europe that meet in predominantly Muslim neighborhoods while the members of these same churches do not establish any meaningful relationships with the Muslims living around them.
Throughout Europe I found Christian communities and Muslim communities living in close proximity to each other, individuals passing each other in the streets, standing next to each other waiting for the bus, or sharing apartment buildings, classrooms and business canteens, but essentially strangers to each other.
I asked myself: what is it that hinders Christians from sharing their lives with Muslims? People don’t have to fly across the world to meet Muslims, but just have to cross the street, but what keeps them from doing so? Is it lack of information? It does not seem like it. There are plenty of good books on Islam, and I have taught in many schools, churches and living rooms across Europe and provided those present with as accurate information about Islam as I could. But it didn’t seem to result in more friendships between Christian and Muslims.
Meanwhile, Islam is “hot” in today’s media. Many Christians talk about the Muslims who burn churches in Indonesia, persecute Christians in Egypt, fly airplanes into buildings, and hijack people in Yemen. For a long time these events occurred far away. But then trains where bombed by Muslims in Madrid and in the London underground, and a Dutch television producer was killed by a Moroccan in Amsterdam. Also it is observed that many Muslims seem reluctant to adapt to “Christian” European rights, claiming their own rights instead.
The hypothesis underlying this dissertation is that the average European Christian is afraid of Muslims, and that fear is the single biggest factor preventing them from relating to Muslims. This fear often means that even Christians, who agree that it is necessary to share the Gospel with Muslims, see sharing the Gospel as separate from sharing one’s life. Preliminary investigations in reading about Islam in Europe, the study of Islamophobia and personal research among groups of Christians in the Netherlands appears to support this hypothesis.[i] Therefore the problem addressed in this dissertation is: How can Christians in Europe overcome their negative attitude of fear for Islam and Muslims and learn to respond with grace and share their lives with Muslims? This dissertation describes a tool that could make a useful contribution to solving this problem, namely a five session training course called Sharing Lives.
The expected outcome of the research represented by this dissertation is to describe a rationale and a process whereby Muslims in Europe will have Christian friends. One of the ways to accomplish this is to provide a tool that could help Christians in Europe to overcome their fear of Islam and Muslims and become friends of Muslims and present the truth of the Gospel to them, thereby giving them the opportunity to know Christ.
In light of my particular ministry, which is Europe-wide geographically, the scope of this dissertation project is the continent of Europe, with a particular emphasis on Western Europe. Having such a wide scope means one cannot apply everything that is said in this paper to each and every country and city in Europe. The question of attitudes towards Muslims by Christians in Europe is huge and complex. Differences in attitude, clear as well as subtle, will inevitably vary widely dependent upon different contexts but this document will argue that fear is the single greatest hindrance to Christian witness amongst Muslims in Europe, irrespective of country and denomination.
According to the Zentral-Institut Islam-Archiv-Deutschland, there are 53.7 million Muslims[ii] in Europe, with 15.9 million residing in the European Union. Out of a European population of approximately 680 million Europeans, according to the institute 7.9 percent are Muslim.[iii]
Data obtained from the World Christian Database indicates that in 2005 the number of Christians in Europe, including Russia, was 531 million. This number includes Christians of Protestant, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and other faiths, many of whom are counted as Christians only on the baptismal rolls of their churches. In their European Spiritual Estimate (2005), the European Missions Research Group (emRG) estimates that 72.7 percent of Europeans are culturally affiliated with Christianity.[iv] When it comes to defining Europeans who are not only culturally, but practically followers of Jesus Christ, the terms used and the numbers given become confusing.
The European Believers Report (2007) estimates that 1.1 percent or about eight million) of Europeans are believers.[v] Author Philip Jenkins estimates that the number of committed believing Christians in Western Europe is between sixty and seventy million.[vi]
Operation World counts 17.2 million Evangelicals, 13.8 million charismatics, 4.3 million Pentecostals in Europe.7 David Barrett in the World Christian Database, 2001 reckons there to be 17.9 million Evangelicals and 24.9 million charismatic and Pentecostal believers in Europe.8
The European Missions Research Group (emRG) estimates that about 4.12 percent of Europe’s population or about thirty million are what they call Gospel Oriented Christians, who follow Jesus Christ and are concerned about the spiritual condition of their fellow man.9 When the word ‘Christian’ is used in this dissertation, reference is being made to committed, Gospel oriented, evangelical, charismatic, and Pentecostal believers, whose numbers roughly resemble the number of Muslims in Europe.
The Biblical and Theological Basis
Fear of the Lord Casts out Fear of Men
Fear is a natural basic element and instinct of human nature. Some fear is positive, as the self-protective instinct that gives warning of danger. On the other hand, fear can also be negative and a hindrance for Christians to become all God wants them to be and do. All fear is based on perception. Several times in the Bible fear is the result of seeing God in the shadow of the circumstances, instead of seeing the circumstances in the shadow of God.[vii]
This document presupposes that one needs to fear God more than men. Throughout the Bible there is a close link between the fear of the Lord and the fear of men. “Fear of the Lord” is a term that summarizes the desired attitude of man towards God and is a paradoxical term, which includes trust in his love, respect for his holiness and fear for his anger. “Fear of the Lord” expresses a state of intimacy and distance at the same time as well as majesty and humanity, consuming fire, and trustful relationship. God wants mankind to fear him more than anything and anybody else (Ps. 76:7; Luke 12:5; Is. 8: 11, 12, 13) and the more one fears the Lord the less we are afraid of men (Ps. 112: 1, 7, 8; Proverbs 14:26; 19:23). It can also be the other way round: One can fear people more, because one doesn’t fear God enough (Is. 57:11)
Proverbs 29:25 states “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe.” In this verse the panic induced by human threat is compared to trust in the Lord. A snare represents being caught in a fatal situation. The panic-stricken person does not react reasonably and if he or she does, he or she may do the wrong thing.
Fear entered the world after humanity’s relationship with God was broken as a result of sin. Adam and Eve, the first humans, became afraid of God (Genesis 3:10). In the last book of the Bible, it is revealed that fear will not be part of God’s eternal Kingdom (Revelation 21: 3, 4). In this document I want to consider the fear of Islam and Muslims, in the light of the fear of the Lord.
The Living God is a Missionary God
From the beginning of human history when God called out to Adam: “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9) God has been searching for those that have broken fellowship with him. In the context of this document this calling means that God also calls Muslims in order to bring them under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
God’s Instrument to Reach the World is His Church
The most important means God uses to carry out his plan on earth is his church (Eph. 3:10), which is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:23). God has chosen the Church with Christ at the very center of his plan to reconcile the world to himself. (Eph. 1:20-23).
Muslims Can Only Be Saved Through Jesus Christ
There are three main positions that Christians hold with reference to how they view other religions, which are pluralism, inclusivism, and exclusivism. This dissertation presupposes the third view or exclusivism. According to this view only those who place their faith in the Christ of the Bible are saved.
Integration of Proclamation and Incarnation is Needed
The Gospel is holistic. The church is not just to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom (Matt 24:14), but also to display the life of the Kingdom (Matthew 5-7) and to perform the works of the Kingdom. The “Word became flesh” (John 1:14) referring to the incarnation of Jesus is the model par excellence for the ministry of Christians in this world.
This model was also one of the Apostle Paul’s ways of witnessing about Jesus Christ. He writes about this in his letter to the church in Thessalonica: “We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” (1 Thess. 2:8)
Paul’s Epistle to the Thessalonians was his earliest epistle written during his second missionary journey around AD 52. Paul and Silas had preached the gospel in Thessalonica less than a year previously. They had to leave Thessalonica before they completed their work due to the great opposition to the Gospel by the Jews. While in Athens Timothy brought Paul word from the church in Thessalonica (1 Thess.3:6), together with some questions that they had raised. Paul wrote his first epistle in response to their overture.
In chapter one Paul begins with a greeting followed by thanksgiving for the work of God and the response of the Thessalonians to the Gospel. In chapter two Paul gives a review of his ministry to the Thessalonians (2:1-12). In light of the slander Paul had received from the religious Judaizers who claimed he was only out for personal gain, Paul reviews his and his team’s ministry and emphasizes their motives and conduct. Paul refers to his own character and manner of living for proof of what he was saying to the Thessalonians.
He emphasizes his and his coworkers’ boldness in proclaiming the Gospel in the face of opposition (1-2), the purity of their motives and actions (3-6), their friendly and loving attitude (7-8), and their holy, righteous, and blameless behavior (10-12). For the purpose of this dissertation, two things from this passage are relevant: (1) proclamation needs to go together with demonstration; and (2) sharing the Gospel needs to go together with sharing one’s life.
Nine times in this letter Paul writes “You know” referring to the Thessalonians firsthand knowledge of Paul’s life. Paul’s emphasis on motives and conduct in the midst of proclaiming the gospel makes clear that the manner in which one proclaims the gospel and the character of the messengers needs to be in harmony with the content of the gospel. In his commentary on 1 Thessalonians, Theologian J. Vernon McGee believes that Paul’s exemplified in Thessalonica that the greatest sermon one will ever preach is by the life that one lives:
If you were asked to choose, what would you select as the greatest sermon of the apostle Paul...? I would choose his life in Thessalonica.
His greatest sermon was not in writing or speaking, but in walking. It was not in exposition, but in experience; not in his profession, but in his practice. He took his text from James 2:26, faith without works is dead and he made his points on the pavement of the streets of Thessalonica.[viii]
In verse eight the Apostle Paul points out that he and his team had a genuine love for the people they shared the Gospel with. They not only delivered a message, but also gave themselves. In his commentary on this verse, scholar F. F. Bruce writes that “to share their own lives involved utter self-denial, spending and being spent in the interest of others.” He also points out that the word used for life here is Psuche, which is the seat of affection and will and concludes that “the meaning is not simply we were willing to give (lay down) our lives for you but we were willing to give ourselves to you, to put ourselves at your disposal, without reservation.”[ix] In his commentary, Ernest Best applies Paul’s example to all missionaries when he writes that “the true missionary is not someone specialized in the delivery of the message but someone who’s whole being, completely committed to a message which demands all, is communicated to his hearers.”[x]
Applying the truth of this verse to evangelism among Muslims, three things stand out: (1) Evangelism is a lifestyle, not just an activity. Verbal sharing of the Gospel needs to be integrated in one’s life and linked with addressing social needs that are a result of a broken relationship with the Lord; (2) In order for Muslims to have an accurate understanding of Jesus Christ and the biblical faith, they need to see an expression of it in the lives of people they know and trust;[xi] (3) Christians who want to incarnate the truth of the Gospel to Muslims need to have an accurate understanding of Muslims in the context of a relationship of love and trust. Loving and understanding the people who need the Gospel is vital for sharing the Gospel with them. All three aspects mean that there needs to be close proximity between Christians and Muslims, or to put it differently, Christians need to share their lives with Muslims.
Background and Description of the Outline
The desired outcome of this dissertation is that Christians in Europe share their lives with Muslims. One’s willingness to do so is related to how one perceives the intentions of the Muslim community in Europe. It is important to understand that one’s attitude to Islam colors one’s perception of the future of Islam in Europe. Chapter 1 looks at two possible future scenarios, namely Eurabia, which expects that Europe will be Islamized and Euro-Islam, which expects that Islam will be Europeanized, and determine which one is the most likely to take place and why.
After having seen that the majority of Muslims in Europe seeks to live out their faith in harmony with European values, one wonders why it is not more obvious to the average European, including Christians. Could it be that the negative lenses of most Europeans prevent them from seeing positive developments?
Looking at this question in more detail in chapter 2, one discovers that many Christians, instead of being agents of social change, reflect the Islamophobia of the wider European society. I will analyze the underlying causes and suggest ways to overcome such an attitude and develop another way, namely one of grace.
If such an attitude change is so important in order for Christians to share their lives with Muslims, it is important to learn how books and courses that are designed to encourage Christians to relate to Muslims deal with this. Therefore, chapter 3 analyzes nine books and seven courses, and particularly looks at whether these materials deal with the issue of eliminating or decreasing fear or even heighten the level of fear for Islam and Muslims through their tone and style. It will be pointed out that most of the researched books and courses do not sufficiently address the importance of a change of attitude from fear to grace towards Muslims and conclude that a new course is needed.
Chapter 4 describes the background, objectives, and content of such a course entitled Sharing Lives that is developed as a tool to help Christians to overcome their fear of Islam and Muslims, be willing to become a friend of Muslims, and incarnate the truth of the Gospel to them, thereby attracting them to Christ.
In order to find out whether Sharing Lives accomplishes its objectives, this course has been run as a pilot during the months of November and December 2008 in three groups in the Netherlands. Chapter 5 evaluates these pilots, analyzes the outcomes, and the responses of the participants. Chapter 6 summarizes the findings in the previous chapters and draws out some conclusions and recommendations for the future. [ii] One should not forget that among them are both fundamentalists and liberals, both cultural and conservative Muslims. [iii] The Zentral-Institut Islam-Archiv-Deutschland, founded in 1927 is the oldest Islamic institution in the German speaking world. They obtained the information on Muslims in Europe from European embassies and agencies for statistics in European countries. In these statistics Europe includes Russia and the western (European part) of Turkey. The information was received from Mr. Gerhard Isa Moldenhauer of this centre through an e-mail received on May 13, 2007. For more details (in German) see Appendix A. [iv] Scott Friderich, “The European Spiritual Estimate,” Emrg Home Page, 2005, http://www.emrg.dzubinski.com/ (accessed April 14, 2009). The European Spiritual Estimate (ESE) is a survey administered by the European Missions Research Group (emRG) from August 1 to December 12, 2005. The general purpose of the survey is to provide a reasonable estimate of the level of Christian commitment in Europe. [v] Ruth Robinson, “Ebr 2007 (revised),” Emrgnet, 2007, http://www.emrgnet.eu/ wordpress/data/europe-level/ebr-2007/ (accessed April 14, 2009). In this report ‘a believer’ is defined as one who has chosen a personal, obedient relationship with Jesus, the only way to God and to eternal life in heaven). According to the report these people part of the “harvest force” in God’s Kingdom work. [vi] Philip Jenkins, God's Continent: Christianity, Islam and Europe's Religious Crisis (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 56. He defines these as Christians who assert that religion plays a very important part in their lives and who attend church regularly. [vii] See Joshua 14:8; 1 Samuel 13:7; 14:6; 17:24, 26,32; 2 Kings 25:26; Jeremiah 42:11; Nehemiah 4:10,14; Matthew 14:28,29, 30 [viii] J. Vernon McGee, 1 & 2 Thessalonians (Through the Bible commentary series) (Nashville, Tenessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 1995), 35ff; quoted in http://www.precept austin.org/1thessalonians_21-htm (accessed: January 24, 2009). [ix] F. F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, ed. Bruce M. Metzger, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Incorporated, 1982), 23ff. [x] Ernest Best, Black's New Testament Commentaries, ed., A commentary of the First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1993), 102,103. [xi] J. Dudley Woodberry, G. Shubin, and G. Marks, “Why Muslims Follow Jesus,” Christianity Today, October 24, 2007. Dr. Woodberry, professor of Islamic Studies at Fuller, researched what attracts Muslims to follow Jesus. Between 1991 and 2007 about 750 Muslims who have decided to follow Christ filled out an extensive questionnaire. The number one reason respondents—from 30 countries and 50 ethnic groups—repre- senting every major region of the Muslim world, listed, for their decision to follow Christ was the lifestyle of the Christians among them.
The Future of Islam in Europe
One’s attitude to Islam colors one’s perception of the future of Islam in Europe and one’s perception of the future of Islam in Europe influences one’s attitude to Islam and Muslims. In this chapter I will look at two scenarios concerning the future of Islam in Europe, which are in opposition to each other. Eurabia is a term coined by the British-Swiss Jewish historian Bat Ye’or and describes the expectation that Europe will be Islamized.[i] In contrast Euro-Islam is a concept introduced by Bassam Tibi, a Syrian born Muslim and German citizen, which sees Islam becoming Europeanized.[ii]
An attitude of fear of Islam and Muslims is often caused by or gives support to the expectation of Europe becoming Eurabia. Not only among Europeans in general, but particularly among Christians in Europe, the Eurabia scenario seems to receive more support popular than the Euro-Islam scenario. For example, a questionnaire carried out by me among several groups of Christians in the Netherlands, shows that 60 percent of the respondents agree with Geert Wilders, a Dutch MP and head of an extreme right party, who warns against the growing Islamization of the Netherlands and Europe.[iii] In September 2008, I received an e-mail from a Dutch Christian citing examples of how Europe submits to the demands of Muslims.4
Those who expect the Eurabia scenario consider Islam to be a problem in Europe. They speak of a clash of civilizations pointing out that Islam threatens European values of secularization and freedom of speech. They refer to extreme Muslims who reject European values and who seek to establish a Khalifat in Europe in which the shari’a law becomes the constitution. People with an attitude of Islamophobia often agree with or only see indications that support a Eurabia scenario, but they seem unable or unwilling to see the developments that support a Euro-Islam scenario.
Those who expect the Euro-Islam scenario point to Islam’s adaptation to Europe as seen in the emergence of Islamic political and civic leaders and associations. They point, as well, to changes in religious authority, changes in describing Islam’s status as a minority culture, a desire for gender equality, and changes in interpreting the meaning of shari'a.
In this chapter it will be argued that the majority of Muslims are willing to find their place in Europe. Therefore a Euro-Islam scenario is more likely than a Eurabian scenario. Nevertheless there often is reluctance on the part of European governments and citizens, including Christians, to create space for Islam and Muslims resulting in an attitude of cold tolerance.
Background on Islam in Europe
Islam has increasingly become part of Europe’s social, cultural and political and religious landscape. In the course of a few decades, it has become Europe’s second religion after Christianity. The arrival of millions of Muslims in Europe from the 1960s has permanently changed the future of Europe and has been called “the greatest religio-demographic change on the European continent since the time of the Reformation”5
Since the 1950s Western Europe has seen the arrival of migrant workers and asylum-seekers, many of whom come from Muslim countries. For the first ten years the only arrivals were men of working age, whose main aim was to earn money to send back home and then to return home. This expectation never materialized largely due to changes in immigration laws. They decided to stay in Europe and their families came to join them. This radically altered the structure of the Muslim community in Western Europe leading to new social and religious priorities and demands on the host community.
In the Eastern part of Europe, the emergence of the Balkan Muslim population as an autonomous political actor is one of the major changes of the last decade. The Islamic religious institutions of the Balkans experienced a renewal of activity, creating their own political parties, newspapers, cultural associations and charitable societies or intellectual forums.6 European Muslims come primarily from countries formerly colonized or dominated by the most influential European countries.7
Robert J. Pauly identifies the following key characteristics of Islam in Europe:
Geographically, most Muslims are located in low-rent housing in the suburbs on the peripheries of major urban centers in Europe. Demographically, Muslim communities in Europe are younger and possess higher growth rates than is true of the European majority. Economically, Muslims face considerably worse economic circumstances than the majority of others living in Europe (e. g. high unemployment, resulting in perpetual struggle for subsistence, housing problems). Socially, the Muslim community in Europe is quite diverse when we look at their ethnic and cultural background and their religious denomination and practice.8
When speaking of the future of Islam in Europe, two opposing scenarios dominate the media presentation, namely that of Eurabia and Euro-Islam. In the remainder of this chapter I will look at several religious, social, and political aspects of Muslims in Europe in order to get some clarity on which of the two scenarios is most likely to take place, or whether both miss the mark.
This scenario expects that Europe will be Islamized. The term was originally coined by the British-Swiss Jewish historian Bat Ye’or in 2005 in her book Eurabia: the Euro-Arab axis to describe what she identified as a secret project between European politicians and the Arab world for the “Islamization” of Europe.[iv]
Those who see this scenario as true, such as the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, historian Bernard Lewis, author Robert Spencer, and Dutch MP Geert Wilders, generally believe that Islam is hostile to and incompatible with the values of the western world. In the view of these advocates the presence of a substantial numbers of Muslims in Europe is a deliberate strategy which will produce the result that Muslims will form a demographic majority within a few generations, that all or most Muslims seek to Islamize Europe, and that part of
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Tag der Veröffentlichung: 05.09.2013
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