Scott Bridger to lead Southern Seminary center for Christian Understanding of Islam
J. Scott Bridger, an evangelical scholar of Islam, will serve as the director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam and the Bill and Connie Jenkins assistant professor of Islamic studies at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, school officials announced this spring.
“I think Scott Bridger is the singular individual God has prepared to take on the leadership of the Jenkins Center at this time,” seminary president R. Albert Mohler Jr. said. “His academic preparation, his knowledge of Arabic language and Arabic culture, his deep knowledge of Islam, not only as a structure of thought but as a way of life, his experience in the Middle East, all of these serve him singularly well as the one to take on this responsibility.”
The Jenkins Center was dedicated in February as part of the annual Great Commission Week activities at Southern Seminary.
Bridger and his family spent 12 years in the Middle East where he studied and three of his five children were born. He began to study Islam during his undergraduate studies at the University of Tennessee, and continued as he earned a master’s degree in Arabic and Islamic studies from the University of Haifa in Israel. He earned a doctor of philosophy degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, with a dissertation on a Christian exegesis of the Quran.
Bridger previously served as assistant professor of world Christianity and Islamic studies at The Criswell College in Dallas, Texas.
The Jenkins Center’s mission, according to Bridger, is in its name.
“As Christians, we are committed to truth and excellence in all we do, and this commitment extends to our investigations into and descriptions of what Muslims believe and practice,” he said. “For us, any truly Christian understanding of Islam must be accurate in its description of what Muslims themselves believe about Islam, though we recognize that Islam is interpreted and practiced in a variety of ways by its adherents.”
But, he said, a Christian understanding of Islam cannot stop with “accurate descriptions.” Instead, quoting a fellow from the Jenkins Center, he explained that it involves “evaluating the claims of Islam, in its various forms, in light of the truth of the Christian faith” and loving Muslims as their neighbors, as Christ commands.
A Christian understanding of Islam “necessarily involves Christian witness to the exclusive claims of Christ to Muslims,” he added.
Courses in Arabic language, Islam and the Quran and Muslim peoples and cultures will be offered through the seminary's Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry. Bridger said workshops and an annual colloquium about Islam and related topics will be available for faculty and students to “elevate their understanding of Islam and enhance their effectiveness in loving and engaging their Muslim neighbors.” He also plans for the center to send groups of students to the Arab world and other Muslim contexts in the future.
“I am most excited about the unprecedented opportunity the Jenkins family has provided to Southern Seminary, Southern Baptists and the broader evangelical world to develop and articulate theologically robust understandings of every facet of Islam for the advancement of God's kingdom purposes among Muslim peoples,” Bridger said. “The kingdom needs such a center and it is exciting to see it located at Southern Seminary.”
This summer, the Jenkins Center leadership will offer an online course about the history and theology of Islam. Topics covered include the life of Muhammad, Islamic history, philosophy and theology, including a discussion of the Quran and other Islamic sources. This fall, Arabic I and a course about contemporary issues in Islam will be offered.
More information about the Jenkins Center is available at jenkins.sbts.edu.