Turning Pages: Erwin Lutzer’s “The Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent”

Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor at The Moody Church in Chicago, Ill., has written “a book that every evangelical should read,” says Albert Mohler.  This is not merely another book about Islam; it is informative, historical, and offers a biblical method to sharing Jesus Messiah with Muslims.  There is an excellent bibliography (233-35) and extensive endnotes, which includes helpful explanation when necessary and numerous sources (237-53).

erwinWhat stimulated Lutzer to write this book about Islam was a history book. 1 He was reminded that what we call the Islamic world today was once Christian. What happened? Why are hundreds of church buildings in Europe and the United Kingdom now mosques? Can it happen to America? He writes, “the main challenge for us as Christians is a lack of awareness” (24).

The organization of the book is in three major parts. Part I: A Different Kind of Invasion, in which there is only one chapter. Part II: Seven Lessons for Today’s Churches which consists of seven chapters, appropriately titled in succession, Lesson #1, Lesson #2, etc. This is the heart of the book: riveting as to the history, shocking in the parallels to contemporary events, stimulating in regards to the methods, and baffling because so few seemingly are aware, or care about what is happening. Part III: A Right Response. Here is where Lutzer suggests a biblical method for sharing the gospel with Muslims (three chapters). The purpose of the book “is to provide a wake-up call to the church regarding the agenda and strategies of militant Islam so that we might prepare ourselves for an uncertain future” (38).

Lutzer quickly orients the reader to the spiritual conflict showing itself in an increasingly secular culture and growing Islamic presence. It is a spiritual conflict and the tangible erosion is visible. Lutzer writes,

“The legal and social restrictions to prohibit us from exercising our faith are growing continuously, and the battle will only intensify in the years ahead. The day of casual Christianity is rapidly coming to a close” (16).

cross shadow coverThe book addresses one of the causes of erosion, the growing Islamic presence. However, Lutzer acknowledges that not all Muslims are extremist. On the other hand, he does not hide the fact that “if you take the Quran literally, you should be a militant Muslim. Anything else is to avoid its clear teachings” (16). The justification for such certainty comes from Abu Ala Maududi,

In reality Islam is a revolutionary ideology, a revolutionary program (agenda) to alter the social order of the whole world, and rebuild it in conformity with its own tenets and the ideals. . . . Islam is not merely a religious creed or compound name for a few forms of worship, but a comprehensive system which envisages to annihilate all tyrannical and evil systems in the world and enforce its own program of reform which it deems best for the well being of mankind (52). . . . Unlike other religions, Islam embodies a detailed system of laws that regulate all manner of behavior in the secular sphere—economic, social, military, legal and political (175). 2

The author includes methods employed by extremists to accomplish their goal. One method is “using the doctrine of the separation of church and state to marginalize Christianity and attack the Judeo-Christian legal and moral foundation of this country” (17). The American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State are being joined by radical Muslims to accomplish their goal. The ignorance and apathy of both Europeans and Americans simply aid the efforts.

Another method is political correctness. “The non-Muslims of Europe, paralyzed by political correctness and having self-consciously despised their Christian past, are powerless to withstand Islam’s growing presence. . . . political correctness is silencing both governments and individuals from saying anything critical of Islam, even if it’s legitimate” (53, 55, see also 185, 188). A “cousin” to political correctness is multiculturalism and cultural or religious sensitivity. Militant Muslims have shrewdly used the political hot buttons to their advantage. This was the sign carried by a Muslim demonstrator:

We will use the freedoms of the Constitution to destroy the Constitution!
Lutzer does well with the issues that confuse many and he is not bashful in addressing them. Shariah, for example, is a term that floats about usually with little or no definition. Why is shariah so significant? Two reasons. Shariah encompasses all of life, it is totalitarian in nature (32) and shariah is viewed as sacred, coming from Allah himself (34).

 

What is Shariah? Quoting from Shariah: The Threat to America—An Exercise in Competitive Analysis, Reports of Team BII,

Translated ‘the path,’ shariah is a comprehensive legal and political framework. Though it certainly has spiritual elements, it would be a mistake to think of shariah as a ‘religious’ code in the Western sense because it seeks to regulate all manner of behavior in the secular sphere–economic, social, military, legal, and political (32). 3

What makes up Shariah? Every law is based on the contents of the Quran as well as the Sunna; these form the basis of all Shariah. What is demanded by shariah is total compliance. Here lies the difficult position of Islamic moderates and reformers within Islam. They are viewed as hypocrites who have offended Allah. In addition, extremists “wield the positions of political and religious authority in much of the Muslim world and their front organizations here in America” (33).Mosque

What degree of authority does shariah hold? Since it is presumed to be from Allah himself, absolute authority (i.e., all other law is man-made).

Muslim writers who subscribe to the supreme authority of shariah over all other laws teach that since everything in the universe belongs to Allah, and as Muslims are the true followers of Allah and therefore his rightful representatives, the oversight of the earth—especially the exercise of political power or authority—is the responsibility of Muslims. All others are usurpers from whom Muslims must endeavor to take power (34). 4

Ideas have implications. What is one consequence from the above statement?

For these ideologues, shariah is not a private matter. Adherents see the West as an obstacle to be overcome, not a culture and civilization to be embraced, or at least tolerated. It is impossible, they maintain, for alternative legal systems and forms of government peacefully to coexist with the end-state they seek (35, 214).

To get a sense of what life might look like under shariah, consider that it permits the killing of Muslims who leave Islam (Sura 16:106), views women as inferior to men (Sura 2:282; 4:11; 2:223; 4:3; 2:221), gives husbands permission to beat their wives (Sura 4:34), allows parents to kill a child or grandchild for dishonoring Islam or Allah (popularly known as honor killings), permits the marriage of girls as young as eight or nine (Sura 65:4), and asserts Islam is superior to every other culture, faith, government, and society and is ordained by Allah to conquer and dominate them (Sura 3:85; 3:110; 98:6; 48:29) (183). 5

Lutzer also devotes attention to numerous topics and ideas, such as, mosques (49), jihad (195), Muslim brotherhood (179-82), why has Islam been more successful than communism (67), silencing free speech (71-75), condition of the church now (110, 119, 142), kinds of compromise to watch for (121-27), does Christianity have a future in America (is Christianity irrelevant, 129-31).  Particularly interesting is a section in chapter five, “Dark Chapters of Christian History” (101-12).

The most relevant block of information is chapter 10, “What the Church Should Be Doing Now” (203-22).  The chapter’s first sentence, “what is the role of the church in the world?” sets the theme as Lutzer critiques two approaches then begins to navigate “a better way” (208).

A very encouraging feature of this book is the conversion testimony at the end of each chapter.  The content of this book is arresting.  The personal testimonies remind the reader that the gospel is capable of transforming a soul from dark philosophies to the light of truth.  Only Jesus can forgive sins!

I agree with Al Mohler.  This is a book every believer in Jesus Christ should read.

<centerThe Cross in the Shadow of the Crescent
Harvest House Publishers, February 2013

Notes:

  1. Philip Jenkins, The Lost History of Christianity (New york: HarperOne, 2008), 336 pages.
  2. S. Solomon and E. Alamaqdisi, The Mosque Exposed (Charlottesville, VA:ANM Press, 2006), 2, 29.
  3. Washington DC: The Center for Security Policy, 2010, 10.
  4. Abdallah Bahri, “Aspects of Sharia Introduced into Non-Islamic States,” in Islam: Human Right and Public Policy, ed. David Claydon (Victoria, Australia: Acorn Press, 2009), 185-86.
  5. Shariah: The Threat to America, 3, 41-54.
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