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Muslim-Dreams, Part 1, Pastor Dennis McBride:My Goal: The goal of this paper is to evaluate the reported phenomenon of Jesus (Isa) appearing to some Muslims in dreams and visions , and to discern if such reports fit the pattern of Scripture as determined through conservative grammatical/historical principles of interpretation (hermeneutics).
My Concerns: I first became aware of the Muslin dreams phenomenon through a Christian brother who spoke with great excitement about a special moving of the Lord within Muslim communities. I wanted to share his excitement because I knew something of the difficulties of Muslim evangelism, and the great joy missionaries experience over even one Muslim coming to faith in Christ. However, over the course of our conversations my questions and concerns started to mount.
In short, I questioned if it was really Jesus appearing to these people, and if so, why? What special circumstances at this point in redemptive history would necessitate Him personally intervening, when He said it would be the Holy Spirit’s role to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment through the preaching of the gospel by human preachers (John16:8; Rom. 10:14-15; 1 Cor. 1:21)?
I had no desire to resist or even question what God might be doing, but I feared these dreams of Isa might be little more than extra-biblical psychological or spiritual encounters that could supplant God’s Word and potentially lead their participants away from biblical authority rather than into it. And I was greatly concerned to hear the supposedly biblical rationale some of my fellow conservative Bible teachers were offering in defense of this movement. Some former defenders of the centrality and sufficiency of God’s Word in evangelism seemed suddenly to be sacrificing that doctrine on the altar of subjective mystical encounters. I needed to understand why, and to evaluate their rationale by God’s Word. I also needed to examine Isa’s communication to determine if it was consistent with Christ’s communication while He was on earth.
My Prayer: I rejoice that many Muslims are coming to faith in Christ, and I pray the Lord will send many more laborers into those fields. However, as Christians we have a mandate to guard God’s Word with all diligence and to test all claims of divine communication (1 Thess 5:20-21; Acts 17:11). This study is an attempt to do that.
Throughout this study I raise a number of questions about various aspects of this phenomenon, and I welcome the reader’s responses, whether they agree or disagree with my conclusions. I also welcome input on aspects I may have overlooked but need to consider.
My Conclusion: This study concludes that the biblical support offered for the Muslim dreams phenomenon, when evaluated within the context of Scripture, does not, in fact, support the phenomenon. Therefore, I conclude that these dreams and visions lack biblical authority and must therefore be viewed as extra-biblical experiences generated from sources other than the Holy Spirit.B
1. Should we question an experience that helps lead someone to faith in Christ?
2. Is this a secondary doctrinal issue?
3. Are we to test the message or the messenger?
4. Does this phenomenon constitute ongoing revelation?
A Doctrinal Contradiction:
A Divine Encounter:
New Messages from Jesus: Additionally, in Muslim dreams Isa is reportedly communicating not only Bible verses, but also messages of encouragement, instruction, exhortation, prophecies, and other information not included in Scripture.
5. Can God communicate the gospel supernaturally?
Could God Do It?
6. Is this phenomenon consistent with the Holy Spirit’s convicting role?
Why then is it necessary for Jesus to make personal appearances to prepare someone to receive the gospel when that’s the specific role of the Holy Spirit?
There is no unbelief that is beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit’s convicting and regenerating power, and which requires personal visitations from Jesus to convince it of the truth of the gospel.
7. Does the church’s failure to evangelize Muslims necessitate Jesus’ personal intervention?
8. What did Jesus say about His future appearances?
Immediately after Jesus ascended into heaven, two men (angels) said to the onlookers, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). And when He does come to earth again, it will be “in the glory of His Father with His angels” (Matt. 16:27). Jesus warned about any supposed appearances prior to that time (Matt. 24).
9. Does Scripture encourage expectations of personal visitations from Jesus?
Faith based on God’s Word (spoken or written), not personal divine visitations, has been the biblical requirement and standard since the birth of the church. In fact, with the exception of Paul on the road to Damascus, there is no biblical record of Jesus appearing to any unbeliever following His ascension. And Scripture nowhere encourages or even suggests praying for divine appearances as an evangelism strategy or a means of comforting persecuted Christians during the church age. That is utterly foreign to Scripture. Yet the challenges to propagate this phenomenon continue: “Missionaries have a choice to either ignore the reality [of Muslim dreams] or dare to believe and ask that God would invade their friends' dreams, too, and reveal the truth of Jesus Christ to them as he has done in the lives of countless individuals”
It’s important to note that Jesus Himself commended those who believed without seeing Him (John 20:24-29) , and He corrected the erroneous thinking that a personal appearance of one who has died is more persuasive than hearing God’s Word (Luke 16:19-31). Peter, too, commended believers who loved the Lord without having seen Him (1 Pet. 1:3-9).
10. Is Isa’s message consistent with Scripture?
If Jesus were appearing to unbelieving Muslims, it follows that His message would be consistent with His message to unbelievers while on earth. But that is not the case.
What Isa Doesn’t Say: I’m most struck by what Isa doesn’t say in the accounts I’ve read. Although the encounters are said to prepare the dreamers for the gospel, there is little or no mention of sin, repentance, confession, righteousness, or forgiveness; and no presentation of God’s holiness or justice. Simply put, the need for salvation isn’t clarified (or in some cases even mentioned), yet that was at the heart of Christ’s communication with unbelievers when He was on earth. But Isa’s “gospel” is minimalistic and void of any clear and concise call to repentance. Gospel clarity and precision would be especially important for those Muslims who don’t have a biblical background to draw from and who would therefore need to understand what God requires of them.
Does Isa Pass the Test? Jesus used a variety of approaches when speaking with unbelievers, depending on the individual or group (e.g., Nicodemus, Rich Young Ruler, Woman at the Well), but typically He identified who He was, confronted their sin, called them to repentance, called them to believe in Him, cautioned them to count the cost of discipleship, and then to take up their crosses daily and follow Him. He didn’t state all those elements in every case, but collectively they constituted the thrust of His message.
By way of contrast, Isa typically identifies who he is (or the dreamer instinctively knows who he is), and tells the dreamer he loves him and wants him (the dreamer) to follow him (Isa). Sometimes the dreamer is overwhelmed with a sense of love and peace just by being in Isa’s presence (which was never the case with unbelievers in the presence of Jesus). So the message that emerges is one of believing in Isa and following him apparently apart from the Holy Spirit convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).
Satan is devious. I believe, in these last days, we should be protected with the armor of God daily. We cannot fight these higher powers on our own. Satan loves egos! it is one of his best weapons.
The conclusion to this article will appear in the next issue (Part 2)
SOUTHERN VIEW CHAPEL
Gary E. Gilley