Youssef implores Southern Seminary students to proclaim Christ to Muslims in first Jenkins Lecture
Christians must never compromise the exclusivity of Christ when engaging Islam, said Michael A. Youssef in The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’s inaugural Jenkins Lecture, Sept. 2.
“The challenge for us Bible-believing, orthodox Christians is to be able to articulate the Christian faith lovingly, thoughtfully, most certainly truthfully and fearlessly,” said Youssef, founding pastor of the Church of the Apostles in Atlanta, Georgia.
God is working powerfully in the Muslim world, Youssef said. He told the students about a Muslim leader in Yemen who became a Christian through Youssef’s Leading the Way radio program, broadcasted 3,800 times each week in 21 languages in 190 countries.
Southern Seminary President R. Albert Mohler Jr. praised Youssef for his ministry to Muslims, saying he is “uniquely equipped to speak to the issues of primary concern to the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam,” a new academic center that opened earlier this year. Youssef serves as one of the center’s fellows.
Youssef said Christians can only understand Islam by understanding the history of Christian heresies. He reviewed three heresies in the church, each dealing with the doctrine of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The heresies are Arianism, the belief that only God the Father is eternal, therefore Jesus is not fully God; Nestorianism, or the belief that only Jesus’ human nature was crucified, thus making his atonement void; and Ebionism, which denies Jesus’ divinity.
The importance of understanding Christian heresies, he said, is to know how they influenced the founder of Islam, Muhammad.
Youssef provided a brief history of Islam and Muhammad, saying that “Islam today, particularly in the form of Islamists, is one of the two most dangerous threats to the Christian church. The other, of course, is secular humanism.”
He summarized three important life stages of Muhammad, explaining each stage as a progression to where Islamic beliefs are today.
Muhammad’s first life stage, Youssef said, was when his wife’s cousin, who lived as a monk, discipled him to become a priest in an Ebionite church, and taught him about monotheism. But, when the monk died, “it left Muhammad bereft, bewildered and depressed.”
The second stage of Muhammad's life is when he believed he was equal to Jesus and Moses. He believed he was preaching the same message as Moses and Jesus, calling people to turn to the one true god, Allah, Youssef said.
The third stage Youssef reviewed was the stage that influenced what people see on television today about Islam. After a Jewish tribe realized they made a mistake in accepting Muhammad as a religious leader, they rejected him. Muhammad killed all the men of the tribe and sold the women and children into slavery. Following this, Youssef said, Muhammad no longer considered himself equal to Jesus and Moses, but superior to both.
Today, he said, there is a lie infiltrating the church about Islam: “If you speak the truth about Islamic ideology or about the rise of Islam, it means that you are unloving toward Muslims. This deception, from the pit of hell, is rampant in America. While in reality, the more you understand the darkness of that ideology, the more we truly love the individual Muslims, the more true we are to the very gospel of Jesus Christ.”
So Christians need to respond to this threat fearlessly and in a gracious way, he said, while remembering that Christ already won the battle.
He closed his message by encouraging the students to proclaim faithfully the gospel of Jesus Christ to Muslims.
“Remember this: that whatever we do, we must never, ever compromise the fact that there is no name under heaven given to men by which they must be saved other than the name of Jesus.”
Also on Sept. 2, Youssef participated in a panel discussion with Mohler and J. Scott Bridger, director of the Jenkins Center and Bill and Connie Jenkins Assistant Professor of World Religions and Islamic Studies.
Audio and video from Youssef’s message are available online at sbts.edu/resources.