Several people had asked about the reported phenomena of Muslims having visions of Jesus and coming to the Christian faith apart from any missionary endeavors or preaching of the Gospel. I wrote up a basic response that I posted HERE.
I thought it covered the important reasons why I do not believe Jesus is coming to Muslims in dreams and visions which in turn bring the Muslims to salvation. The primary reason being that the the Bible is clear that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17), and the only way a person can hear is by the means of preaching.
I recently had a couple of commenters challenge that assertion. Let me lay out their comments and then return with my random thoughts in response.
I was a missionary for many years in Turkey, and I encountered Muslims who had dreams/visions of Christ, some of whom as a result became Christians later Of course, the visions/dreams are just the beginning typically of their spiritual journey, and not the end, and teaching/discipleship are needed of course. They also need to completely reject Muhammad and Islamic teaching and solely embrace Christ and the fact He is God, died & rise again, etc. God moves in response to the earnest intercession of His people for the unreached people groups of the earth, whether for western atheists, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims, and His sovereign moves include dreams/visions.
And then Comment #2
Apostle paul was converted without a missionary. Jesus personally appear to him. Then He led him to be instructed by christians. Don’t put God in a box of what He can or cannot do. He can reach Muslims personally in vision. Those skeptic christians are resorting to bibliotary and forgot that Jesus IS the word and not a book. The bible is good for instructing the soul for ALL christians. But gospel mission is not restricted to the tools God used. Jesus is a person who has a choice to do independent or hand in hand of. Missionaries
Both commenters, I believe, more than likely come from a charismatic background of some sort, or at least one that is sympathetic to charismatic thinking. I say that because both put a heavy emphasis on the idea of subjective dreams and visions playing an authoritative, missionary role in bringing Muslims to Christ. The second commenter also suggests that the apostle Paul’s Damascus road encounter with the Resurrected Christ can be something experienced by anybody in our world today. Meaning, he sees no uniqueness to Paul and his calling as an apostle.
Moreover, he considers skeptical Christians as “resorting to bibliolatry.” Those would be folks, like myself, who scrutinize and dismiss the claims of Muslims coming to Jesus by the medium of dreams and visions, rather than by the ordained means of preaching. In other words, he is saying I take the Bible so seriously that I place severe limitations upon God Himself, even supplanting Him from being “God.” We “can’t put God in a box,” or so he writes. In his theology, there are other forms of revelation (dreams/visions) that can have equal or greater weight of authority than what is just written in an old book.
But once again, however, there is no interaction with what God has specifically stated in His Word about the matter of evangelism. That according to Romans 10, faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God, and the only way the Word of God can be heard is if a preacher proclaims that Word.
Now what the commenters seem to suggest, at least the first one, is that the dreams and visions merely puts the Muslim on the path of a spiritual journey to know more about Jesus. They finally hear the Gospel from a missionary and are saved. When they do come to Jesus, that is when they can be discipled from the Word of God.
Thankfully, the commenter notes that the Muslims have to embrace ALL of who Jesus is, God incarnate, as well as renounce Mohammed and Islam. More often Christian “missionaries” promote the idea that Jesus can be added to the Muslim’s Islamic beliefs and all will be okay. Or proclaim some version of “chrislam” as it is called.
But I have few difficulties with that line of thinking.
First, does God only give dreams and visions to Muslims? Or do Hindus and Buddhists or other members of world religions have similar dreams that bring them to Jesus? Maybe they do, but I am unaware of their stories. I briefly noted this point in my original article, but it seems that the dream and vision phenomena is only taking place among Muslims, and many times among Iranian, Shiah Muslims.
As any rate, the reason for God to use dreams and visions, it is claimed, is that Islamic countries are completely shut to any Christian missionary activity. Any evangelistic efforts are so squashed that God has to resort to the means of dreams and visions in order to reach those people.
That of course really puts God in a box. The ordained means by which God has established the spread of the Gospel is through preaching, and that was the historic pattern of evangelism throughout the book of Acts. If Christians personally went into hostile pagan cultures during the first century and brought the Gospel by the means of preaching, why can’t the same thing happen now in Islamic countries? (Or North Korea!) Why the need to resort to subjective dreams and visions? How are modern day Islamic cultures (or any anti-Christian culture) any more hostile than the pagan ones encountered by first century Christians and then later when missionaries took the Gospel to remote areas like Briton, Norway, and India?
A number of people point to Cornelius in Acts 10 as an example as someone stirred to consider Jesus by the means of a vision or dream, but Cornelius was a special case that God used to affirm the salvation of gentiles to the Jewish leaders. And additionally, Cornelius was already very much aware of Judaism and the true and living God.
Secondly, Muslims don’t necessarily have a problem with Jesus. He is a large part of Islam and even has an important role to play in their eschatology according to Islamic theology. What matters is the right Jesus — the True and Living Jesus who rose from the dead and is the only way to God and who is God Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity. Is that the Jesus Muslims are having dreams about? Because if we do a internet search, there are stories about Muslims identifying their vision with Catholicism, Mormonism, and any number of “Jesus’s” from other pseudo-Christian religions. Would Jesus appear in the dreams of Muslims only to allow them to convert to a false form of Christianity?
Thirdly, if many Muslims are having dreams and vision about Jesus, why aren’t their immediate cultures being impacted by those dreams and visions? In other words, I would think that with scores of Muslims having dreams of Jesus, there would be an “awakening” of sorts taking place in these hostile places like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan; but there isn’t really. Where is the visible proof of the revival that should be taking place if Christ is breaking into the hearts and minds of Muslim people?
Honestly, I believe this is all another clear example of the troubling doctrine I see with charismatic theology. It denudes the authority of God’s written word in the matters of any subject, let alone evangelism. Anything Scripture would seek to address from a divine perspective becomes essentially pointless and non-applicable to a Christian’s life and practice. Because what ever the Word of God may speak to authoritatively is authoritative UNTIL a dream/vision/experience happens along that trumps what God has said thus canceling what little authority the Word allegedly had.