Dr. Erwin Lutzer, long-time pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, is an author I always enjoy reading. In all his books, I find him to be biblical, balanced, clear, and insightful. This well-researched book is no exception. Some might have written this book in a sensationalist or alarmist fashion – not Dr. Lutzer. As a balanced thinker, he’s careful to remind us that there are many more Muslims who are moderate than extremist. Nonetheless, he writes it as a wake-up call to the Church after having carefully researched the goals of Muslim extremists who are working behind the scenes in the West.
An interesting feature of The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent is the many true stories by Muslim converts who have converted to Christianity. There’s one at the end of every chapter. Some have been converted by means of dreams, but Lutzer believes that most of those converted by that means will eventually be deepened in their faith by getting into the Word of God.
“A Different Kind of Invasion”
Part I of the book deals with the goals of extremist Muslims. It’s entitled “A Different Kind of Invasion.” The author believes that “we in the West have become so focused on terrorism that we have turned a blind eye to the dramatic inner transformation that is taking place in our midst – a transformation we don’t read about in the headlines. In addition, it’s easy for us to assume that it is a more moderate form of Islam that is prevailing in America because the majority of Muslims we meet go about their lives in rather peaceful, ordinary ways.”
Lutzer reveals through his research the goals of Muslim extremists or Islamists who advocate sharia. Sharia, as you may know, encompasses all of life. It’s totalitarian in nature and totally incompatible with the values of a democracy like ours.
Lessons for today’s churches
Part II of the book gives seven lessons for today’s churches. These are historical lessons from Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), an area of the world that was full of Christian churches for centuries, but now has hardly any. The lessons can be summarized as follows:
- We cannot take the continued existence of a church for granted.
- Faithfulness to Christ requires an acceptance of persecution.
- Even when a church is in the devil’s hands, it is still in God’s hands.
- The Crescent cannot destroy the Cross.
- Compromise weakens the Church.
- Things are not what they appear to be. (In other words despite the apparent current dire situation, in the end Christ will return as Judge and King, and all will bow before Him.)
- The remnant will triumph. We need to be a repentant Church, a witnessing Church, a committed Church, and a sacrificial Church.
Part III looks carefully at what is happening in America right now and what our response should be. The author refutes two wrong approaches to Islam: (1) the “thou shalt not offend” approach, and (2) the “we must expose the worst about Islam” approach. He then gives a better approach, which he calls the “engagement” approach, which means we must:
- Build a community of mutual respect.
- Become an informed community.
- Recognize the spiritual nature of the conflict.
- Empower parents to refuse to have their children indoctrinated.
- Oppose the practice of sharia.
- Befriend and stand with Muslims who want reform.
- Form coalitions that help inform and influence public policymakers.
- Not fear Islam or Muslims.
A concluding word by Dr. Lutzer: “Finally, and most importantly, we will extend friendship to our Muslim neighbors, assuring them of our respect, personal availability, and love. We will uphold the gospel of Christ without coercion or rancor.”
Given my missionary background, one of the most interesting aspects of The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent was Lutzer’s critique of the so-called “Insider Movement.” A brief word of explanation for readers who are not aware of this movement: over the last two decades, there has been considerable debate among students of missiology as to whether new followers of Jesus Christ can remain within their former religious culture. In other words can Muslims who convert to Christianity continue to be, for the most, culturally Muslim?
As Dr. Lutzer writes, missionaries advocating this approach tell Muslim converts that “they can invest the Muslim feasts and teachings with Christian meanings. They advocate that the gospel presentation to Muslims should be based on the Quran not simply as a starting point, but as the primary source for teaching about Jesus. Some churches have gone so far as to place the Quran in the pews along with the Bible as a show of mutual friendship and tolerance.”
However, Lutzer points out, “What is most interesting is that Muslims themselves do not believe that Christianity and Islam are compatible. Rather, Christianity and Islam, properly understood, are entirely incompatible. Thus, while Westerners are generally eager to make concessions as found in the growing ‘Chrislam’ movement (the notion that Christianity and Islam share enough in common to unite the two), Muslims are well aware that such syncretism is to be accepted only if it is among the means of moving the West from Christianity towards Islam. Tragically, some Christians are overly eager to concede Christian doctrine and turn a blind eye to Islamic views in the interest of unity and religious survival.”
“I’ve written the above paragraphs fully aware that some Christian leaders will agree to certain accommodations to Islam, but not to others. But no matter where these leaders may attempt to draw the line, in general, the problem with “Thou Shalt Not Offend” Approach is that we as Westerners are misunderstanding Islam. Muslims see our many concessions as entering into a covenant of submission with them and an acknowledgment of our inferiority. When we concede to their demands, we are affirming the Quran’s statement about Muslims, ‘Ye are the best of peoples’ (Sura 3:110), and thereby we who are not Muslims are second-class citizens.”