Written by Kyuboem Lee Friday, 07 June 2013 00:00

Often, I find myself preaching to the choir with regard to urban mission--these folks don’t need convincing that urban mission is an important and urgent agenda item for the Church and we need to do all we can to learn about urban mission if the Church is to be faithful to God’s mission.

But others will need more convincing. “I won’t be moving into the city to live and minister there; my role is a pastor in a suburban church or a small town context. Why should I care about urban mission? My plate is overflowing as it is.” I will try to speak to them through this series of blog posts. If you are the choir, perhaps you will find these posts useful as points of apologetics for urban mission. (You can find the first post, “Reason #1: It’s an Urban World After All,” here.)

This second post focuses on the phenomenon of globalization. There has been a growing attention given to globalization recently, especially in the area of economics. The term refers to a growing interconnectedness of the various regions around the globe, as well as to a growing global consciousness that we do, indeed, live in one world, not many. The cities around the world have been the engines that have driven globalization as well as the primary contexts in which it has taken place. Indeed, world-class cities such as New York, London, and Tokyo have been dubbed “global cities” to highlight their importance to globalization. Follow the huge sums of money rapidly flowing to and from these cities around the clock and you will see how these cities function as the central nodes in the vast and intricate global economic network.

But globalization is not only a movement of money. It is also a movement of cultures, peoples, ideas, and religions, from everywhere to everywhere.

Philadelphia’s Italian Market neighborhood was so named because it was populated by Italian immigrants. You can see the locale in the movie “Rocky” as that iconic albeit fictional Philadelphian runs through the neighborhood as a part of his training for the big fight. If Sylvester Stallone ran through Italian Market today, however, he would notice that those giving him high-fives will far more prominently feature Asians, Hispanics, and other ethnicities than those of Italian heritage. The many languages he would hear on its streets would include Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese, in addition to Philadelphia’s distinct variation on the English language. The food items and other cultural goods being traded in the market stalls will reflect this multi-ethnic diversity. Buddhist temples have sprung up next to Catholic Churches who are finding they now minister mainly to South Americans.

What you are witnessing in this relatively small urban neighborhood is the astonishing pace of globalization taking place in the world’s cities. The globe, with all its multi-various languages, ethnicities, and religions, is being concentrated into a few square blocks of a city. Essentially the same process is occurring in thousands upon thousands of urban neighborhoods around the world.

Consequently, the city has become mission’s new frontier. Of course, this is really not all that new, since cities have been the Church’s missionary destinations from the days of Paul. It can similarly be argued that globalization has always been with us (see, for instance, Marco Polo). What is new is that the recent acceleration and rise of globalization has forced the Church to reassess its missionary strategy in terms of the city.

Much can be said in this regard, but let me just point out this: Jesus has commanded his disciples to go into all the world, but in his sovereignty he has brought all the world to the city. During the great modern missionary movement, the North American churches have sent missionaries to all corners of the world; now, they need to redirect their efforts and send missionaries to its cities in order to reach the world. Better, the churches need to re-imagine how they may once again become God’s missionary people among the nations—literally—who are coming to their cities.

These are amazing opportunities for the kingdom emerging in the cities today that the Church simply must not miss. Glimpses of the missional possibilities come from stories of work being done among immigrants who now call US cities their home. By reaching the immigrants, Christians have been able to not only gain openings Stateside but also successfully reach communities in the immigrants’ homelands halfway around the world with the gospel.

Again, we are reminded that cities are nodes in the global network that is ever growing in its depth and breadth. When the gospel finds meaningful connections in these nodes, there are global redemptive ripple effects. Think of the thrilling global missional possibilities when churches and individual Christians who form them re-envision their mission in light of the ever more urgent task of reaching the cities for Christ.

Dr. Kyuboem Lee serves as a lecturer of Urban Mission at Biblical Seminary. He is the founding pastor of Germantown Hope Community Church in Philadelphia, and the General Editor for the Journal of Urban Mission (http://jofum.com).


Written by Susan Disston Wednesday, 05 June 2013 00:00

Biblical Seminary’s doctor of ministry program is welcoming twenty-two students to campus in early June for Dr. Larry Anderson’s Leading Missional Communities course. Many of these students are halfway through their programs and are engaged in planning—and sometimes—implementing their applied research projects.

The planning process of the applied research project is key to its overall quality and its ability to provide insightful conclusions and recommendations to pastors and ministry leaders facing similar challenges. Sometimes these projects are so well planned and implemented that they are published. Recent DMin graduate, Paul Dunbar ’07, gave me his project in book form last week. Paul was the primary author of the book, along with co-author, Anthony Blair (PhD and DMin), president of Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown (Pennsylvania) who served as Paul’s project advisor.

Their book is Leading Missional Change: Move Your Congregation from Resistant to Re-Energized (Wipf and Stock, 2013). Through case studies from their ministries, other church leaders, and the New Testament, the authors engage the reasons why many congregations resist change and what forms the resistance takes. From there they discuss the role of trust/mistrust in any change process. They argue that an environment of trust must be nurtured within local congregations prior to and during the change process. When an environment of trust has been established, people may be more open to embrace missional change.

To explore the relationship between trust levels and readiness for change, Paul developed a Congregational Trust Survey. He used in the survey to discover if there were “any correlations between levels of trust and mistrust in a congregation and the growth patterns of those churches over the previous decade.” (p. 16) Thirty-one congregations across the United States participated in the study. The research confirmed a correlation: congregations with high levels of trust were less resistant to change.

The survey was designed so that church leaders could use it as one of several tools to assess trust levels in their congregations, and, by implication, their readiness for change. The authors discuss the behaviors that contribute to mistrust and provide guidance for church leaders who experience resistance from their congregations, even when people know that missional change is critical for the health of their church.

Church leaders are likely to find that this book challenges their leadership practices while giving them concrete ways to advance their leadership skills for missional change. The authors’ first-hand experience with pastoral leadership and change contribute to its authenticity and value for local church leaders. The photo above was taken at Paul’s church sometime after an important missional change was embraced by the congregation. I blogged about it here.

Susan Disston, DMin, is the assistant dean of curriculum and assessment at Biblical Seminary. http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/adjunct-faculty-theology


Written by Charles Zimmerman Monday, 03 June 2013 00:00

Where have they gone & where are they now? 

This month I continue with updates on some graduates of Biblical Seminary.  This month we visit with David Bossard, a 1982 MDiv graduate.  I don’t remember David as a student, I didn’t arrive until he was gone, but I have gotten to know him because we frequent the same fitness center.  David keeps the IBRI website updated and functional.  If you want to know how many hits and from what countries, he is your man. 

1.       What years did you attend at Biblical, and what degree did you receive? 

Attended Biblical 1975-1982. Graduated with M. Div. The first two years my wife and I went to the evening school, then I switched to daytime student. 

Previous degrees: B.Sc (Physics) Drexel 1962; A.M. (Physics) Dartmouth 1964; A.M. (Mathematics) Dartmouth 1966; Ph. D. Dartmouth (Mathematics) 1967. While at Drexel, I also attended evening school at Philadelphia. School of the Bible at 18th and Arch Streets. Nearly, but not quite, completed the studies there. 

2.       What have you been doing since then?   

1967-1982 Associate & Vice President, Daniel H. Wagner, Associates. 1982-1995 President, DCBossard, Inc.

Always active in our local church. Raised 7 children including 5 adopted. Now have something like 9 grandchildren. Each year we take our RV and visit some of them, as well as other close friends we have garnered over the years.  

My main work over the past 20 years has been on several websites: ibri.org (Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute), which has contributions of many, including Biblical Faculty; 19centuryscience.org, a largely secular repository of 19th century books in geology and related subjects; and 19thpsalm.org, which is my personal understanding of the Creation Narrative as given in Science and in the Bible. In particular, macraelib.ibri.org is a large repository of many personal papers of Dr. MacRae, including many syllabi and papers beginning with his graduate days and extending throughout his life. I would also point to almost 200 powerpoint lectures by Bob Newman on all sorts of subjects. The ibri.org website enjoys a remarkable amount of traffic worldwide. 

3.       Tell a favorite memory from your Biblical days.

Enjoyed all classes. I was especially impressed by the scholarship of the professors who defended the Bible in issues of Science and Faith: Allan MacRae, Bob Newman, and Bob Dunzweiler (not to diminish the lustre of the other faculty!). The systematic theology courses of Bob Dunzweiler are fondly remembered, and I wonder if anything of equal caliber has been available since his time. I recall a "debate" about baptism in Bob Dunzweiler's class. He sat there with a Cheshire Cat grin as the class overwhelmingly concluded in favor of baptism by immersion, which was not his position as a presbyterian (Some papers by him on the subject can be found on the IBRI.org website -- See Robert J. Dunzweiler, Understanding the Bible, Chapter 13 -- "Baptism: A Consideration of the Scriptural Mode"). 

4.       Contact information: email, Facebook, etc. - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Charles Zimmerman is the Thomas V. Taylor Professor of Practical Theology.  He also serves as Teaching Pastor at Calvary Church in Souderton.  He is married to Kim and they have two daughters, Ashley and Megan.





Written by Bryan Maier Wednesday, 29 May 2013 00:00

This may seem like a strange question. Obviously, the Woodworking and First Aid Merit badges would be easy for him.  Joining the “Order of the Arrow” would not present much of a struggle either. Jesus had plenty of service hours and his ordeal was 40 days! Finally, who could imagine a more magnificent Eagle project than rebuilding the temple in three days (pardon all the inside scouting lingo).  But of course, the requirements for advancement in scouting would never be the problem for Jesus. The potential problem would be the proposed change in membership requirements.

For those of you who are not up on the issue, The Boy Scouts of America have had a policy since their inception over a century ago that no openly gay boy can be a part of scouts. Nor can any openly gay man be a leader in scouts.  Recently, there has been an incredible amount of political and financial pressure on the Scouts to revise this requirement (a few private organizations and many local governments have withdrawn their support).  Over the last year, surveys were sent to every parent of current scouts seeking to solicit the view of those who had already committed to the scouting experience for their son. I received and completed one of these surveys. Some of you may get them too.

Not only does the survey solicit my opinion on the issue of allowing self-professed gays into scouting, but it also asks whether I would withdraw my son from the Boy Scouts if the decision does not go my way.  This is a tough question for me. Overall, my boys have had a wonderful experience with scouting. If being missional permeates my whole life (and it should), what impact, if any should my view of God as a missional God play into my answers to the survey? 

I will not share my answers with you but the issues are much more complex that one may first think. There is a lot I could say, but I will settle on 10 points that need to be considered.  Not all of my points lean the same way. 

  1. The Boy Scouts are not a church. True, when Boy Scouts was founded, Protestant Christianity enjoyed the home court advantage in both England and the United States. However, according to the handbook, no religion is given preference and each religion has its own merit badge. Since it is not a church, should the issue of gay scouts be that big of a deal?
  2. Again, when Boy Scouts were founded, the gay lobby was pretty much non-existent. Thus the pressure to lower the age at which someone declares their life-long sexual orientation was not present.   Probably many boys with various levels of same sex attraction have joined scouts; they just have not self-identified as homosexual until after reaching adulthood (if ever).
  3. The Boy Scouts are a private organization, free to construct their own membership requirements. I teach at a similar private organization where every year I have to sign a contract promising to abide by the behavioral standards outlined in the handbook. If I falsify my position, or renege on my word, it is grounds for dismissal.  
  4. It must be admitted, sadly, that the traditional membership requirements for the Boy Scouts has not guaranteed the sexual safety of scouts. Boy scouts have suffered sexual abuse and assault from each other and from their leaders as documented by recent reports. However, the awareness and reporting procedures for current scouting is much more rigid and many policies have been implemented to prevent sexual activity as much as possible. Currently, every parent has to read and sign a 20 page booklet about sexual safety. Leaders have even stricter standards. I have witnessed the strict adherence to these standards in my boy’s troops.
  5. The standard ages for Boy Scouts are 12-18. During this time, most boys (and girls) go through a time of experimentation with many things. Is it therefore even possible to say that a 13 year old boy could be irreversibly identified as gay?  What if he identifies as gay at 13 (and is refused membership in Scouts) but by 14 no longer self-indentifies as gay? Should he be allowed in Scouts then? Likewise what about the boy who develops feelings of same-sex attraction while in Scouting? Should he confess these feelings to his scout leader or just wait another year to see if his feelings change again?
  6. Likewise, there are different levels of same-sex attraction. For some it is merely experimentation. Others might refer to themselves as still trying to discover their sexual orientation. Still others may claim to be bi-sexual, while others may fully identify with the gay lifestyle.  And at each level there are those who are ambivalent about their feelings of same sex attraction. Who then counts as “gay” when considering membership into the Boy Scouts?
  7. Some boys have successfully completed their Eagle projects and then declared that they were gay all during their scouting experience. While this may demonstrate that being gay may or may not interfere with the scouting experience, it does seem to violate the scout law which clearly states that a scout is “honest”. Knowing the membership requirements and lying about them is hard to construe as honest.
  8. Because Boy Scouts are losing support, their main institutional support now comes from churches (many of whom may have a problem with allowing gay members or leaders). If these churches withdraw their support because of changes in membership requirements, it could mean the end of scouting.   Likewise, if enough parents take their boys out of scouting because of the change in membership requirements, it could be the end of scouting.  
  9. Do I want my 12 and 14 year old sons in a tent or changing clothes in front of an 18 year old girl? If not, why would I feel comfortable with them sharing a tent with an 18 year old boy who has already made it known that he considers himself to be gay? Likewise, would I want my son to go camping with a leader who has identified himself as gay?
  10. As a Christian, should I let my moral standards serve as a litmus test for any organization that I (or my sons) join? What about a sports team or a chess club or the city council? Is the Boy Scouts any different?

Hopefully, you can see the thorny issues involved. Is the kingdom of God at risk whether the Boy Scouts dissolve or thrive? Of course not. God will still be on a mission. We must remember this as the culture turns more and more against Christianity which no longer enjoys home court advantage.  By the way, it appears that the decision for now (starting next year) will be that boys who see themselves as gay will be allowed to join Scouts. However, potential leaders who identify as gay will still be excluded from leadership.  Is this an acceptable compromise? What do you think?


Written by Dan LaValla Monday, 27 May 2013 00:00

It is interesting to observe attitudes and listen to comments from pastors and church leaders with respect o how churches should approach and utilize strategic planning and numbers in a church context. Thomas S. Rainer’s March 4thblog post is very relevant to this topic, which he titled, “Ten Rules of Thumb for Healthy Churches” (http://thomrainer.com/2013/03/04/ten-rules-of-thumb-for-healthy-churches/). Here, he writes, “Using rules of thumb to guage church health is problematic because they are, well, rules of thumb. There will always be exceptions, extenuating circumstances, and even disagreements on the right metrics….Please let wisdom prevail.” Ironically, the same day he posted this piece, in response to a reader’s post outside of the states, he admittedly changed his title to “Ten Rules of Thumb for Healthy Churches in America.”

A personal friend who is a leader in his church recently said to me with respect to the declining numbers in his church, “Looking at the numbers (attendance and giving) is not a healthy way of managing or growing a church; it is important that we keep our eyes on the Lord to see what He is doing and discern if we are doing what He wants us to be doing.” Personally, being a numbers guy, I thought to myself in an unspiritual manner, “Yeah, a good way to keep your church on the decline it to keep your head in the sand and ignore the numbers until your church has to close its doors one day.” Instead, I replied with a much more compassionate tone, “While it can be unspiritual to look to numbers in a selfish manner or in a way that puffs up pride and provides a means of confidence independent of who we are in God (much like King David in 1 Chronicles 21 when he took the census of Israel), looking at numbers to help make a strategic decision and devise a plan of action can also be a wise thing to do (as Jesus commends the King who counts his troops before going to war against another king in Luke 14:31-32 as a metaphor for illustrating the importance to counting the cost of becoming a disciple of Jesus before one decides to go down such a path).

So here are four guiding principles from Proverbs that should be kept in mind with respect to strategic planning and tracking numbers in the context of managing a church or parachurch organization:

  1. In a missional context, the emphasis is on discerning God’s mission for your church or parachurch organization and what its role is in fulfilling God’s mission within its specific context. See the importance of discerning God’s Spirit in my earlier post “When God Interrupts Your Day” http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/faculty-blog/96-regular-content/600-when-god-interrupts-your-day. Proverbs 16:3 highlight this point, “Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and He will establish your plans.”
  2. While it is true that while people have the ability to make their plans, and the Lord has the final say to approve or thwart such plans (Proverbs 16:1). This does not mean that we should not plan! Proverbs 14:22 tells us that planning does facilitate results, “Those who plot evil will go astray, just as those who plan what is good find love and faithfulness (Proverbs 14:22).
  3. While it is important to establish strategic plans and work to achieve the goals laid out in these plans, people must be willing to be flexible and adjust such plans in response to what God is doing as Proverbs 16:9 states, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord directs their steps.”
  4. In the management of churches and parachurch organizations, leaders should not use numbers as a means of selfish gain or defining personal success, failure, or prestige; rather, as a means of discerning the health of one’s church or parachurch in relation to God’s calling. As Proverbs 16:2 states, “All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.”

Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association; he serves as vice chair of the Ministry Board and chair of the Missions Committee of First Baptist Church in Lansdale. He is very active in his community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla.


Written by David Lamb Friday, 24 May 2013 00:00

“Are you excited about Psalm 137?” 

I was asked this question during a job interview in England in the spring of 2005.  (I didn’t start teaching at Biblical until 2006.) 

People generally aren’t excited about Psalm 137 since it ends with a blessing being pronounced upon people who bash babies against rocks. 

“Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (Psalm 137:9).

Shocking, I know.  Why is this in the Bible?  We’ll come back to this question. 

Psalms 137 is called an imprecatory psalm because it includes a curse or imprecation against evil doers or enemies of the psalmist.  Previous blogs in this series have looked at Psalm 1, Psalm 23 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3), Psalm 13 (a lament) and Psalm 51 (a repentance psalm).  There is only one psalm that generally characterized by imprecation (Psalm 109), but many psalms have imprecatory sections in them (e.g., Psa. 35:4-8; 55:15; 58:6-10; 69:22-28; 109; 139:19; 143:12). 

Perhaps the most shocking example comes from a familiar psalm.  Psalm 139 begins with “you have searched and known me” (139:1), moves into the pro-life section in the middle, “you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (139:13) but then ends with, “Oh, that you would kill the wicked…I hate them with perfect hatred” (139:19, 22).  Apparently they weren’t fearfully and wonderfully made. 

Why is this type of language in the Scripture?  I didn’t have a good answer about Psalm 137 during my interview that day (and it may have cost me the job). 

If someone were to ask me today, “Why is baby-bashing blessed in the Bible?” I’d say, “I don’t know.”  But here are three things to think about. 

First, just because someone does or says something in Scripture doesn’t mean that God authorizes that act or speech.  Abraham deceives Pharaoh about his wife and sleeps with his wife’s servant Hagar but neither of those deeds is endorsed by God.  Job’s friends say a lot of unhelpful things to their friend, some which sound good, yet their speech is condemned by God at the end of the book (Job 42:7).  Before we decide to model our behavior on Psalm 137:9, we need to ask, “How does this message fit in to the rest of Scripture?”  Scripture does not endorse baby bashing.  The psalmist, not God, is speaking in Psalm 137:9

Second, even though Jesus reminds us that evil thoughts matter (Matt. 5:28), it is better to speak about doing something violent, than actually performing a violent deed.  Yes, focusing on violence by speaking about it can lead to violent behavior, but speech can also be a way to vent and express violent thoughts, which can reduce the likelihood of violent outcomes.  Also, the psalmist is expressing this infanticidal idea in the midst of a psalm of lament to God (“Remember, O LORD…” Psa. 137:7).  God isn’t turned off or shocked by this type of language.  God welcomes our deepest, darkest and most intense thoughts and emotions.

Third, we need to be cautious about condemning the speech of people who recently witnessed the violent deaths of their own children.  The previous verse makes it clear that the Israelites were just asking for an eye-for-an-eye type justice, “Blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us!” (Psa. 137:8).  I can’t imagine how these parents would have felt about the people who committed atrocities against their beloved sons and daughters.  By praying about their thoughts of retribution, giving them up to the righteous judge of the earth,these people are taking a first step which willhopefully lead them to a place called forgiveness.

We may feel uncomfortable with this type of cursing language, but it’s in the Bible, so we need to figure out what to do with it.  In the May 2013 edition of Christianity Today, Russell Moore compared hip-hop music (some Christians also feel uncomfortable with hip-hop) to imprecatory psalms (check out the link here): “If country and gospel music are in the company of psalms of lament, hip-hop is in the territory of psalms of imprecation.”

Jesus teaches that we should bless those who curse us (Luke 5:28), but he also curses, and not only fig trees (Mark 11:12-24), but also people who are religious hypocrites (Matt. 23).  Jesus seemed to save his most extreme language toward people who would have been considered religious. 

What are some worthy targets of a prayer of imprecation?  If you were to pray a prayer of cursing like the psalmist during your next church prayer meeting, might that wake up a few of your fellow prayers?

David Lamb is Associate Professor of Old Testament at Biblical. He’s the husband of Shannon, father of Nathan and Noah, and the author of God Behaving Badly: Is the God of the Old Testament Angry, Sexist and Racist?He blogs regularly at http://davidtlamb.com/. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/david-lamb.


Written by Derek Cooper Wednesday, 22 May 2013 00:00

In my recently published book, Christianity and World Religions: An Introduction to the World’s Major Faiths, I discuss the six major non-Christian “stories” or religions of the world. As I teach these religions in classrooms and churches and discuss them with friends and neighbors, I have consistently uncovered several myths many Christians believe about each of these religions. 

In the first two blogs, I wrote about the false belief that Christianity is the only religion with a Savior as well as the common notion that Hinduism believes in many gods. As I showed, both of these assumptions are not true. 

In this blog, I will discuss the third myth: All, or at least most, Muslims are Arabs.

Of all the different religions today, Islam is the one that receives the most attention. No matter whether you are listening to the radio, reading a newspaper, or watching the local news, reports of Muslims, ostensibly violent ones, are rampant. Many of these reports focus on Arab Muslims, especially in light of the recent Arab Spring and the Syrian war. Because of such media attention in the Middle East, coupled with the basic knowledge most people have that Muhammad, the father of Islam, was Arab, many assume that Islam must be an Arab religion. 

Now, of course, it is true that Muhammad was Arab and that Islam is the dominant religion, by far, in the Middle East. However, nobody assumes that because Jesus was Jewish, Christianity is exclusively, or even predominantly, a Jewish religion. Nor do most people regard Buddhism as an Indian religion despite the fact that the Buddha was Indian and that Buddhism emerged out of India. Instead, most people assume that Christianity is a non-Jewish religion—mostly European—and that Buddhism is a southeastern or eastern Asian religion, originating perhaps in China or Tibet. 

In point of fact, I must first clarify that the Middle East does not equal Arab. Two of the largest countries in the Middle East—Turkey and Iran—are not Arab at all. The term Middle East is unfortunately amorphous; if we reasonably broadened it to include Central Asia, the percentage of Muslim Arabs would dwindle even further in relation to the non-Arab population in countries like Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. 

Here are the facts. Nearly 80% of Muslims are Asian or African. Stated differently, of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, less than 20% are Arab. In fact, the countries with the five largest numbers of Muslims worldwide are all non-Arab countries. 

Ranking by Size


Population by Millions
















As these statistics indicate, it is more accurate to conclude that Islam, if anything, is an Asian religion. In fact, according to the Pew Forum on Religion (pewforum.org), predictions for the next couple of decades indicate that Asian countries will continue to boast the largest populations of Muslims worldwide. Of the ten countries to have the largest Muslim populations, only two of them—Egypt and Iraq—contain sizeable Arab populations which speak Arabic. 

Throughout Islamic history, it is indisputable that Arabs—including their Arabic culture, thought, and language—have played a significant role in the development of Islam. And the very fact that the Qur’an was given (and later recorded) in Arabic and that the Kaaba, a holy shrine in Mecca, is located in Saudi Arabia ensures Arabic influence. Yet Arabs are today a small percentage of Muslims in the world today. 

Truth be told, much of the historical antagonism between Muslims and Christians during the medieval and modern periods did not necessarily pivot on an inherent antagonism between say, European Christians and Arab Muslims. In many ways, today as in the past, Islam has been an Asian religion. For it was Central Asians like the Turks who ultimately wrested Christian control out of the eastern Mediterranean, and it was the Mongols who were the architects of one of the largest and most powerful empires in world history, stretching from Japan to Russia, and wiping out the (Nestorian) Christian population in the process. 

In the future, Christianity and Islam will continue to be the two most influential religions on the planet. Because these religions both believe in their universality and that they alone convey the truth about God, humankind, and the world, competition between them will fiercely persist. The tension, in other words, has less to do with ethnic differences and more to do with their common and singular vision for universality. In the end, and unlike inclusive religions like Hinduism or Baha’i, either Christianity or Islam is true. 

In this three-part series, we have dispelled three common myths many people believe about world religions. If you would like to read more about other religions and learn how to respond to them as a Christian, I encourage you to read Christianity and World Religions. You won’t be disappointed!

Dr. Derek Cooper is assistant professor of World Christian History at Biblical, where he also serves as the associate director of the Doctor of Ministry program. Derek’s most recent book, which was written for classroom use, church groups, and for lay readers, is titled Christianity and World Religions: An Introduction to the World’s Major Faiths. His faculty page can be found here.


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