By Allen Palmeri
KANSAS CITY—The president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) suggested that the leaky Christian worldview that so often characterizes believers in the United States is agitating the recent unrest in the news concerning Muslims.
R. Philip Roberts, who was elected to his post in 2001, also said that Muslims may consider freedom-loving American Christians clueless when it comes to sustaining their religion in their lives, culture, and governance.
“It’s very important to understand how seriously Muslims take their faith,” Roberts said. “They don’t take it in a categorized fashion like we do. They see Islam as indeed any Bible-based believer should—as a total worldview that controls every aspect of their life. And it should control every aspect of their nation.
“There’s no separation of church and state in the Muslim faith. They believe that the state should be totally aligned with the religion, and that every aspect of the believer’s life should be in conformity to the teachings of Islam. So part of their skepticism about Christianity is whether or not we really take our faith seriously.”
For example, Roberts said the Islam worldview in a country like Saudi Arabia has more of a consistent impact on its followers than Christianity in the United States.
“Most of Christianity throughout the 20th century in America has been cultural,” he said. “It hasn’t been true New Testament. Much of the problem that has impacted Europe with the liberal drift has also impacted the mainline denominations here in America. We don’t have as much of it at the moment as there is in Europe, but we have a great deal of it. It’s the evangelical church that has sort of stemmed the tide here.”
Roberts knows Europe, having been a pastor of several international churches in England, Germany and Belgium. His Ph.D. was earned in the Netherlands, and he has served as a dean and a trustee at seminaries and academies in Romania and Russia. He explained the “liberal drift” of the continent’s heritage.
“In Europe, with the dominance of liberal Christianity in the vast majority of churches and denominations, where church attendance is a tiny portion of the population, sometimes 1-2 percent, a spiritual vacuum has been created,” he said. “Muslims kind of come in there and take over, build large mosques, and go about their business, and no one makes any attempt to share the love of Jesus with them.
“In the United States, we still have enough Christian vibrancy in our nation and hopefully enough active witnessing believers that we can make an impact for the cause of the Gospel. It will take some effort, and it will take some deliberate strategy to do so, but if we will, we can see an altogether different kind of development here as opposed to Europe.”
He challenged Christians not to retreat into a shell or resort to political responses in a hostile and negative fashion. Where pockets of Islam exist in America, such as the area around Central Baptist Church in Kansas City that is populated by Muslims from the Sudan and Somalia, believers need to be shining the Gospel light. Midwestern Seminary students and faculty have been doing just that, Roberts said, resulting in redemption and conversions of individuals to saving faith in the One True God in a potentially adversarial environment.
The bottom line in witnessing to Muslims is that they are very insecure.
“No Muslim can know the assurance of salvation, and so they live in constant anxiety about what is going to happen to them when they die,” Roberts said. “A doctoral dissertation done a number of years ago actually demonstrated that the No. 1 reason for Muslims to come to faith in Jesus from a doctrinal perspective was the assurance of salvation.
“The fact that Christians can speak with certainty is a world of difference from the Muslim thinking.”
While it may appear that Muslims are gradually taking over the governmental systems of Western nations by their seemingly fanatical dedication to their worldview and their perceived unwillingness to assimilate as citizens of their new lands, Roberts sees things differently.
“We can be thankful for much of the Muslim immigration as believers because the world’s come to us,” he said. “It’s an amazing and wonderful opportunity for us to evangelize Muslim people.”
In the end, Roberts said, Jesus Christ the King wins.
“I think the Bible is very clear that the knowledge of the Lord’s salvation will extend to all the ends of the earth, and that every tribe and tongue and people will be there at the throne room of heaven,” he said. “That includes all the Muslim peoples.”