By Roger Marshall*
New way of life was the title of an article that appeared in the September 3rd, 2006, edition of the Sunday Sun which briefly chronicled the conversion of Sheikh Yusuf Estes from Christianity to Islam. The article is a testimony to the tolerance and freedom that is afforded to people of other faiths in a Western nation such as Barbados which (despite its many imperfections) is still largely founded on the Judeo-Christian ethic that protects such freedoms. In Islamic states such freedoms are not afforded to ex-Muslims who convert to Christianity.
In the article Sheikh Estes said, “Many evangelical are dedicated to putting Islam down. I know, I used to be one of them. And of course that is why they hate me more than anybody because they consider me a traitor to have left the fold to go to Islam.” This is strong language, and while I can’t speak for what the Sheikh did when he was a professing Christian, hatred for people because they practice another religion is not the stuff true Christianity is made of. The whole basis of the gospel message is one of love for all mankind, Muslims included, as Jesus (the founder of Christianity) himself said: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3: 16-17).
It was amazing to read that Sheikh Estes as a former Christian minister was unaware that there was much evidence to support his then Christian faith. Contrary to his thinking Christianity is not a blind faith. Jesus was very interested in offering his disciples proof of his resurrection from the dead. As St. Luke wrote: “In my former book, Theophilus, [the original recipient of Luke’s work] I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1: 1-3, NIV).
The apostle Paul reiterated this fact that Christianity is not a blind faith when he wrote: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Cor. 15: 3-8, NIV). Any one who will take the time to do the research can still examine the evidence for the truth of Christianity.
Sheikh Estes, who lectured in Barbados on two topics one of which was entitled: The Qur’an: God’s Final Revelation To Mankind, was reported to have said the Qur’an was similar to the Bible in many ways and the beliefs were the same. However, the fact is the beliefs are not the same. For example the Bible, which teaches that the teachings of Jesus are God’s final revelation to mankind, refutes the title of his lecture mentioned above. As the Bible says: “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe” (Heb. 1: 1-2).
Sheikh Estes was quoted as saying: “Jesus was pulled up by God, but no cross. There is where the problem comes in. Without the cross, preachers don’t have anything to sell you on Sundays.” (emphasis added). When fully contemplated the absence of the cross in Muslim theology does indeed pose a problem, not only for Christians (if Jesus did not die on the cross for our sins) but also for all mankind, Muslims included. While Sheik Estes’ sweeping charge that preaches are selling the gospel on Sundays, is a derogatory statement (although false teachers have crept into the churches and are guilty of bringing this kind of disrepute on Christianity, as foretold in 2 Peter 2: 2 and Jude 4) the truth is that without the cross, which speaks of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ for our sins, then preachers wouldn’t have anything to tell the world about how mankind’s sins can be forgiven by a just and Holy God whose justice demands that sin be punished. Without the cross there is no good news, no hope of salvation for lost and guilty sinners anywhere on the face of the earth. As the Bible says: “ In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9: 22). But thanks be to God “Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Heb. 9: 28).
The apostle Paul puts it this way: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus] and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1: 19-20).
Thank God for the cross of Christ it is only by His sacrificial death that we can truly have new life.
*Roger Marshall is founder and executive director of Project PROBE Ministries, a Barbadian Christian apologetics organisation.