Thoughts About Muslims Seeing Jesus

muslimjesusLast fall I was tasked with helping answer the many questions GTY received during the Strange Fire conference. The questions are available online for those who are interested in checking them out.

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.

Comment #1

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.

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30 thoughts on “Thoughts About Muslims Seeing Jesus

  1. 1. Great point about how they are putting God in their own box. Isn’t God able to reach Muslim countries with missionaries? :)

    2. In Paul’s case, he most certainly had heard the gospel before his supernatural experience reported in Acts. As you pointed out Cornelius as well. These cases do not help the argument that God is saving Muslims through dreams.

    3. But, I cannot disagree with someone who says they had an experience and the experience was used to lead them in a direction. As long as someone has heard the gospel and has enough information to be saved by the Holy Spirit, then the Spirit may grant life if He chooses.

    So, can a Muslim have a dream or vision or a conversation about someone named Jesus, hear the gospel, then be saved and in his humanity attribute the dream/vision/conversation as somehow contributing to the path? I don’t see why not.

    Once we know the gospel is what saves and no one is saved w/o a preacher, we also acknowledge God’s ordinary means used to often “appear” to slowly change someone’s mind. For example, has anyone ever told you they trusted Christ after a Christian shared the gospel with them AND visited them when they were sick or helped them when they were in need or was just a good neighbor to them? So yeah, we know that it was the hearing of the Word that saved them…we don’t correct people and say – the Christian kindness you think led you to Christ really didn’t…that was just an experience. Instead, we rejoice that God used whatever means used if they were godly behaviors by the Xian. Or in some cases, it may even be an act of evil that caused a person to consider the gospel. God may use both according to His wisdom (although that would not justify the behavior).

    So, for full disclosure I will tell you that I had a unique vision prior to getting saved which was used by God to cause me to consider Christ as Lord. I am not saying definitively ‘he sent it to me’ other than to acknowledge that he is sovereign over every atom in the universe and even nonmaterial things like the thoughts of every man. It accompanied several months of Xian ministry toward me which included discussion of the gospel and my own personal reading of the book of Matthew. With 12 hours of this experience I was born again – so it certainly didn’t hinder things either.

  2. I would say that it is “not in a box” according to what we know from the Bible. The Scriptures declare that saving faith comes through the means of evangelistic effort on the part of Christian missionaries. Hence the reason why Jesus said in Matthew 28 to “Go into all the World.” He didn’t say, stay where you are and I’ll bring folks to you via dreams and visions.

    Are there special cases existing in the BIble? Well, yes, in the sense that certain individuals when God was moving in historic redemptive purposes, had revelatory dreams. But that was never meant to be the norm for all people without exception. Again, I would say why is it only Muslims, particularly the branch of Islam that is more prone to “signs and wonders,” and not say, military generals in North Korea?

  3. Well as far a N Korea goes I don’t think Dennis Rodman is of much help (LOL).

    We , as Calvinists, have the highest regard for sovereignty as well as the Scriptures so we wouldn’t want to do damage to either in doctrine nor application of said doctrine. My only point was that the drawing, and our experience of it, often precedes the hearing and thereby is a differentiation of some kind.. We have no explicit guidance (rules?) on how He choses to draw or who he does (we are 5 ptrs!!!) We pray earnestly ferverently that the Word WILL enter into N Korea that brave evangelist will get there with the Holy spirit in to so that they may hear and that our Lord will prepare their minds and hearts to receive the Gospel. I would add that the N Korean system is so closed that information about what is happening there is even more limited than other locals.

  4. I have read Doyle’s book and provided a review of it. I am a thorough-going cessationist yet I am not immediately dismissive of these curious encounters for reasons I detail in my review. I think some cases may be explained as fraudulent, or conditioned by the Islamic culture that places value upon dreams and visions, and in some cases may be the result of Satanic deception (i.e. demonic encounters masquerading as angels of light). But I do not think all or even most of the testimonies can be explained away in these categories. Nonetheless, Doyle is not very rigorous in asking important theological and methodological questions about the incidents he reports and that in my estimation makes the book a poor judge of the authenticity of these encounters for some of the reasons raised by Fred and others.

    Here is my review: http://mscottc.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/book-review-dreams-and-visions-is-jesus-awakening-the-muslim-world/

  5. Interesting that the vision featured in Acts, in an evangelistic connection, is to Paul (not to pagans), instructing him to go preach the Word somewhere (not as a substitute for the Word) — Acts 16:9.

  6. I can think of one strange experience in my life, during my Mormon teenage years. Prior to following my sister and brother-in-law as LDS converts, I had met with the youth minister of the largest SBC church in town and I thought I had accepted Christ. But we were all raised RC and I was stuck with the notion that there had to be the “one, true Church.” And so I was convinced by my sister to join the LDS Church. It would be five years before I found my way out to the truth but during that time I had a strange dream where I thought of a Scripture reference, which was Luke 22:31: (“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;) I didn’t know what it was until I woke up and opened my Bible and there was nothing in my life at the time that would have led me to have a dream like that one. As you can imagine that scared the heck out of me so I took comfort in the following verse. So looking back, all I can say is that it was weird but I think it may have had a part in finally leading me out of Mormonism for good and to the real Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  7. Was not that encounter (which was MORE than a vision– Paul states the Glorified Christ appeared to him–guess I always took that as in”real life”) salvific in nature? Rather than simply an “imperative”?

  8. What about Romans 10:17 and “hearing gospel” by deaf people? It is really honest question, so please, if you have some time, give thorough answer.

  9. I think the whole point is that these Muslims have never heard the gospel and that gospel proclamation is being circumvented and reduced to essentially just one way Christ saves. This amounts to a severe misunderstanding of Scripture and is a reflection of more serious theological problems than most people realize at first glance. Concerning your own supposed vision, I reject the claim that it was a vision in the same category of NT visions. The idea that the preaching of the gospel was not quite enough to bring you to faith, so God brought a vision to get you over the finish line has implications everywhere the power of the gospel is concerned. But at least you are honest that your argument in 3 does not proceed from Scripture, but from your own personal experience. And I think that is the very point of these concerns. Personal experience is placed on par with Scripture in the Muslim claims and in the strange fire controversy. Once we admit personal experience into the equation, it is impossible to recover the notion of sufficiency.

  10. An important point about Paul’s conversion is that the NT does not describe this event as a vision. The word “vision” is never used to describe the event by Luke and in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul places it alongside the post resurrection appearances of Christ to the apostles. Just a thought. Excellent post Fred!

  11. Agreed. And I would not claim that what I “saw” was on par with NT visions at all. And to add to the details, I did not “see” anything I hadn’t already seen. It was more of a flood of memories of real life experiences. My point was that is did, in fact, cause me to think of my need for Christ – and seemingly – was a direct answer to prayer I had regarding Jesus.

    I agree with all you wrote. My only point is that we can’t simply say “people aren’t having dreams and visions.” What we have to do is help people categorize what those dreams and visions actually are. We’ve read enough that these visions don’t save, IMO.

  12. Tomek – I asked the same question before. I will not be as thorough as you may wish, for time purposes, but we can develop further if you want.

    The idea of faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God is not so much meant to mean literally that a person must hear preaching audibly as it is meant to mean that no one can be saved apart from the Word of God. I was saved through the reading of scripture…I wasn’t reading aloud. But God’s Word is what is powerful and the Gospel is the power of salvation.

    So deaf people “hear” the gospel in the same way we do: through the communication of thoughts and ideas using language. In a deaf person’s case, that may be ASL or reading words on a page – it is conceptually the same.

  13. It certainly is an honest question. I believe the point of “hearing” the gospel is that it involves human beings communicating the gospel to other human beings, whether it be verbal or through sign language. God ordained people to be the vehicle in which the gospel is transmitted to the world. The only exception being the written word of God, which is also used by the Lord to communicate the gospel.

  14. DJP – Doug is referring to Acts 9 and you are referring to Acts 16. He didn’t understand your original comment.

  15. How do these Muslims,who claim to have seen Jesus in a vision,know its Jesus? Is it the long haired,blue-eyed person depicted in religious art, they are seeing? Do people really believe that is what Jesus looked like? If so, we have an even bigger problem than just muslims seeing Jesus. The Bible speaks about his appearance in Isaiah 53. When you imagine a god and what he looks like…you are creating your own god,breaking the second commandment.

  16. Hey Fred, thanks for this article. I started reading, “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” and I was having a lot of trouble with the fact that the author said he came to salvation through a dream. I also noticed that the rest of what I have read is terribly laden with Islamic overtones, meaning he has held on to lots of Islam baggage as a Christian, if he is a Christian. I also note that it seems publishers will take any conversion story for a book, not allowing that possible convert to mature in the faith and be able to judge rightly their conversion. Perhaps if some of these converts, real converts to Christianity, were more mature in the faith they would be able to judge rightly what their true point of conversion was and what those supposed “dreams” really came from.

  17. Hello I found your site thru a Triablogue post and have read it in part. I want to comment on this:

    > “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.”

    ~ What is rife in India in particular among Hindu cultures is that a very large number of people who come to Christ do so on account of a miraculous healing or some kind of exorcism. Numerous stories abound about someone, Hindu or a Buddhist who was desperately ill – on their deathbed and they went from doctor to doctor – pujari to pujari ( = temple priest) and nothing worked. Finally someone suggested going to a Christian pastor for prayer and they did and… healing resulted. The family then converts to Christianity. Similar stories abound with regard to demonic activity. Now there are stories about people being prepared for the Gospel via dreams and visions but there are less common than when compared to healings/exorcisms which are VERY common.

    So what I want to say is this: the apostle Paul talks about being all things to all people in 1 Corinthians 9. This passage is food for thought as regards how we contexualize when we do mission or when we evangelize.

    ~~> I think that what is going on is God contextualizing. In Indian Hindu cultures God uses miraculous healings and exorcisms. In Muslim cultures – where dreams occupy a central role in … whats the word??? … item of discussion, God works via dreams. God knows how to contextualize in ways that we do not. I think that God prepares people for a real-life encounter with the Gospel via a missionary or the Bible through dreams/visions. The stories simply abound.

    So I think something along 1 Corinthians 9 is what is taking place.

    Ok. Now I back to finishing up the article.

    P.S. I came from a Cessationist background and am not one now (I am open yet cautious) because of my work overseas in India and also my work in campus ministry in the US. Basically I started noticing numerous dream stories coming from converts to Xtnty from Islam. I had to see something was going on that was supernatural in origin. To my skeptical atheist friend who claimed that all this was bunk or perhaps a collusion, I had to say “Well. That’s one heck of a collusion for people from as far away as Indonesia to Saudi Arabia to Pakistan to get together and cook up such stories.”

    P.S.2 References: There is an article on this in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Also on dream-discussions and interpretation being a common feature of Muslim cultures see the International Bulletin of Missionary Research. There is an article somewhere in there about this. I cannot remember the reference. Sorry.

    ~ Raj Rao

  18. One more from above:
    > “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.”

    Here is what I have heard. Apparently there are very many in Muslim cultures who have dreams/visions where they are … say told to go read the Injil or to go talk to a pastor in town, and they disobey. They do not deny that they had a visitation from an angel or some powerful dream that they could not shake off for days, however they choose not to listen. They disobey God.

    Also one other thought comes to mind:
    > “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.”

    Like so with revivals and awakenings. No sooner than these happen, Satan gets up counterfeit ones going.

    Anyway… interesting post. Glad to see – if nothing else – put the brakes on our thinking and remind us to be more discerning.

    Cheers,
    ~ Raj

  19. The person who appears in the dream makes the claim that He is Jesus – Isa.

    Here is a story that comes out of CRU. Some missionaries went to a Middle Eastern village to show the Jesus movie and preach the Gospel. When they came to the village and showed the movie, the villagers were stunned at what they saw and a very large (if not all) of them converted. Why?

    They claimed that a person who looked just like the man in the movie that the missionaries saw had been to the village just recently.

  20. Pingback: Articles on Cessationism, Continuationism, and Spiritual Gifts | hipandthigh

  21. Pingback: Weekly Links – Strange Fire Conference | LBC Beacon

  22. Hi
    Could you please comment on the words of the Apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost that said, that the outpouring of the Spirit would mean that all could prophesy and have dreams and visions – just as the Old Covenant prophets did (Acts 2:17)? And that this promise was for all those present that day, their children and all who were far off—all for whom God called? (Acts 2:39) Thanks!

  23. Hi fivepointer,

    Thanks for sharing your article. Yes I can see how Acts 2:17 is all about the differentiation between the old covenant and the new. How once only God’s chosen mouthpieces – the prophets – had the Spirit resting on them enabling them to receive revelation though dreams and visions (as in Numbers 12:6), but now with the outpouring of the Spirit on all – young and old, male and female –
    all people could hear from God in the same way that the OT prophets did – through dreams and visions. Moses’ ancient wish from Numbers 11:29 has finally become reality!

    Then we see how this promise unfolds in people’s lives. From that moment on, we see all groups of people – young and old, male and female, as well as Jews and Gentiles experiencing dreams and visions. And now today we see the same. God’s promise is being fulfilled in the lives of those lives on the Day of Pentecost, in the lives of the generations and for those who are afar off – for all those who call on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:39) – even those who live in the Middle East, and those who live here down under!

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