Lebanon (MNN) — Today, Arab Baptist Theological Seminary hosts the final session of the Middle East Conversation 2020. But if you don’t tune in for the stream this morning at 9 AM Eastern Time (ET), you can still watch it, or any of this year’s sessions, on the ABTS Lebanon YouTube channel.
Today’s stream shares a name with a new book called The Religious Other, edited by ABTS’s own Martin Accad, along with Jonathon Andrews. It explores how Christians know what they know about Islam, and how the Church can engage in love and knowledge. You can get a copy of The Religious Other here.
What do we know about Islam?
Accad says the Church has too often used widely accepted narratives about Islam to inform its thinking about the religion. “We are impacted by the national and global discourse about Islam, the media discourse, and the discourse of our politicians. Since 9/11, the discourse about Islam has definitely been on the negative side. There’s a demonization of Islam. In the past two decades, Islam has practically become the enemy.”
For Christians to engage well with Islam, Accad says, they have to listen to real experts for information, not simply Christian theologians. “Quite often, our missiologists and even most of our theologians in academia have not been experts in Islamic Studies.”
That’s why The Religious Other brings together leading academic experts in the study of Islam and Christian theologians.
This work has practical implications, especially for those of Muslim backgrounds who come to Christ. How do they relate to their families, culture, and former religion? Accad says, “The inclination has been that new disciples from Muslim contexts have to cut themselves off because Islam is bad, Islam is evil. Therefore, there’s nothing they should remain connected within that tradition.”
This idea, Accad says, has damaged many relationships and only deepened the rift between the Church and Islam.
The Middle East Consultation
ABTS holds the Middle East Consultations annually, but COVID-19 disrupted the process this year, forcing the move to online formats. The conferences typically focus on issues facing the Middle Eastern Church.
Topics the Middle East Conversation 2020 has discussed this year include missions, the work of the Church during COVID-19, and Lebanon’s crisis. Pray God would bless ABTS as it works during a difficult time in Lebanon. Read more about how the pandemic affected ABTS here.
Pray also that Christians around the world would learn more about Islam, and engage with the religion in love, and without fear.
Header image by Mario Vogelsteller from Pixabay.