Editor's Note: Christian. Muslim. Friend. received the 2016 Christianity Book Award in the category of Missions/The Global Church.
My wife, Grace, and I were in a restaurant in an Asian country when friends ushered to our table another American couple. Our friends introduced me as an expert on Islam. “Oh, how delightful to meet you!” the American couple exclaimed. “We want to learn all we can from you about Muslims. Of course, we both know it is difficult to describe Muslims, because the Muslim holy book teaches Muslims to be liars. So when a Muslim says he has become a Christian, we can all know he is still a Muslim because his lies actually communicate the opposite of what is true.”
On another occasion I was in a mosque on a Friday just on the eve of the Christmas holidays. In the sermon the imam confidently explained to the congregation that Christians get drunk on Christmas. So a proof of the truth of Islam is that Muslims do not get drunk, he said; they would never think of desecrating a Muslim festival by drinking.
Neither statement is true. Some Muslims do tell lies; some Christians do get drunk at Christmas. But this is not normal. Most Christians do not get drunk on Christmas, and most Muslims are not liars.
Muslims and Christians often participate in distortions of one another. Both would do well to be people of truth and avoid distortions or exaggerated overstatement. My goal is to communicate the essence of Islam in ways that, if Muslims were listening, they would agree. I am committed to accurately describing their faith and truthfully representing disagreements. I also plead with Muslims to exercise the same commitment. Muslims and Christians should be careful to portray each other in ways that are truthful, kind, and trust building.
In the spirit of building relations committed to truth, I will comment on four distortions that need to be addressed: two Muslim distortions and two Christian distortions.
Muslims often comment that Jesus prophesied the coming of Muhammad. This conviction arises from the Qur’an stating that Jesus anticipated a final prophet. Muslims believe Muhammad is that prophet. So Muslims search the New Testament to find where Jesus proclaimed that a final prophet would come. Muslim scholars say they have found the prophecy in John 14 and 16, where Jesus prophesied the coming of the Counselor. The original Greek word is paracleitos, meaning “counselor.” Muslim scholars sometimes state that they have discovered the original word is periplutos, meaning “the one worthy of praise.” Ahmed, or Muhammad, also means “the one worthy of praise.” These scholars explain that although the original word was periplutos, Christians removed periplutos and inserted a corruption of the text—namely, paracleitos, “the counselor.”
Christians often experience this “scholarly” denial of Jesus’ promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. I was in a mosque when the imam began to weep as he explained to us that Christians had changed the text and inserted “the Holy Spirit” instead of the original “Muhammad.” The imam demonstrated anguished grief that Christians would do such a thing! How should Christians respond? This is how we responded in the mosque that evening:
There are at least 5,000 ancient manuscripts of the New Testament. All of these manuscripts, with no exception, assert that Jesus promised the Counselor would come and that the Counselor is the Holy Spirit. So we choose to stand upon the testimony of the Scriptures God has entrusted to us. And we encourage our Muslim friends likewise to respect the trustworthiness of the biblical account concerning the Holy Spirit.