HOW TO BRIDGE THE CHASM.
Bishop Brent, writing on the work carried on among the Moros in the Philippine Islands, said: "This age-long problem of Mohammedanism has been as baffling to governments as to religion; it has a certain attractiveness just because it is so stubborn and so mysterious. Neither the Christian faith nor Christian civilization has more than dented the solid unity of Mohammedanism." Now there is a sense in which this statement is still true although it may at first glance seem an over-statement in view of the evident intellectual disintegration of Islam, the collapse of most of its political power and the increasing effect of the impact of Christian missions on its social life and institutions. The problem of Islam is perplexing and colossal. It stretches over thirteen centuries and includes many elements all of which offer scope for study and prayer to those who are engaged inthe task of interpreting Christ to Moslems.
It is a historical problem; and no one can have real sympathy with Moslems or qualify as a worker among them who has not studied the genesis of this great world movement, its wide spread, its deep
penetration into language, literature, art and architecture throughout Asia and Africa. Whether this religion has been a barrier and a stumbling-block or a stepping-stone and a helpful influence in the progress of the race cannot be answered off-hand or categorically. The elements of the problem are too many and varied; nevertheless Schlegel in his Philosophy of History summed up his conclusions by saying "A prophet without miracles, a religion without mysteries and a morality without love, which has always encouraged a thirst for blood and which began and ended in the most unbounded sensuality." Will this verdict stand in view of the events of the past ten years, or is it too severe ?
Islam is also a political problem. For the first time in history Moslem rulers and representatives have been at Council tables with representatives of Christian nations to plan for a league of nations and to make democracy safe for the world. The incongruity of all this with the old idea of Islam as a church-state and with the whole Moslem theory of political government is self-evident. In spite of what has been said to the contrary, missionaries have always realized the baffling character of the problem which colonial governments face in Moslem lands. Where, in their judgment, mistakes have sometimes been made in the readjustment of the rights of Christians under Moslem law as in Nigeria, in the question of the Christian Sabbath as in Egypt, or in the protection of converts everywhere, there
has been on their part no lack of sympathy and appreciation of the difficult process of bridging this chasm.
In its social aspects the Moslem problem involves the condition of childhood and womanhood, the sanctity of the home, the "compulsory ignorance" of the masses, incredible superstitions due to almost universal illiteracy, and the crying needs of so many defectives, delinquents and dependents in Moslem society. The dark places of the Moslem world are still the habitation of cruelty. The cry of Moslem childhood in its utter need and neglect is stillunheeded. The high percentage of infant mortality in all Moslem lands, for example, is incredible until we know the degradations and superstitions of motherhood in these lands. It is not by this way of early death that Christ intended the little children to come unto Him!
The religious problem of Islam is back of it all and is therefore fundamental. The yawning chasm between the devout Moslem and the devout Christian, between the orthodox Moslem and the orthodox Christian is a problem that faces every colporteur and Bible-woman, every teacher and preacher. It is real and deep. The chasm cannot be bridged by rickety planks of compromise. Syncretism would be equivalent to surrender; for Islam thrives only by its denial of the authority of theScriptures, the Deity of our Lord, the blessedness of the Holy Trinity, the cruciality and significance of the Cross (nay, its very historicity), and the pre-eminence
of Jesus Christ as King and Saviour. And this great denial is accompanied by the assertion of the authority of another book, the Koran, the eclipse of Christ's glory by another prophet, even Mohammed, and the substitution of another path to forgiveness and holiness for the Way of the Cross. These denials and assertions are imbedded in the Koran as fossils in marble and are the orthodox belief of all who know anything of their religion. On every one of these points the true Moslem stands arrayed in armour against the missionary and that Truth of which he is the custodian and the preacher. In this respect the New Islam of Aligarh or of Woking differs little from that of Mecca and the Azhar.In fact the Sheikhs of the Azhar in Cairo give a higher place to Jesus of Nazareth than does "The Moslem Review" or the anti-Christian propagandism of the Lahore Tract Society. The former have never denied the sinlessness of our Saviour, while the latter have shown the depth of their own mental degradation by frantic attempts to besmirch His spotless character.
Yet we must plan and pray not to bombard the enemies' position but to bridge the chasm and win captives. At all of these points the missionary problem is how to bridge the chasm with courage and tact, by the manifestation of the truth in love. The distribution of the Word of God always holds the first place. It has always proved its power. No less must we flood the world of Islam with a Christian literature that is apologetic without being dogmatic,
and captivating rather than polemic. We must show that the sinless human character of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel forbids His classification with men. His life was in God, His principles are super-human. He is more than an Apostle. It is the conviction of many workers in Moslem lands that the right approach to the Moslem's difficulty with the Deity of Christ is by way of His humanity. The ignorance of His life and character must be overcome not by dogma but by demonstration. When they see the print of the nails and the mark of the spear in the lives of Christ's followers as many have witnessed them these past years in the whole noble army of Armenian martyrs, the Moslem heart will overcome its doubts as Thomas did and cry out, "My Lord and my God."
A new political situation or a new economic era will not suffice us. Islam is a spiritual problem and can only be solved in spiritual terms. To the Moslem mind the unknown quantity is the exceeding greatness of the love of God in Jesus Christ, His Son, our Saviour. This is the heart of the problem. Prayer and pains will accomplish wonders in solving it. In every mission station and in every missionary's prayer life this should be our chief petition: That Moslem hearts may be enlightened so that the glory of the invisible God whom theyworship may be revealed to them in the face of Jesus Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Then we shall bridge the chasm, because He will bridge it for us.
Call to Prayer
Answering Islam Home Page