In July 17-22, 2018, I taught my course on Islam and the Geopolitics of the Middle East at our home. It was my privilege that Doug Bastian was willing and eager to take the course. From the first day of class I have admired Doug for his humility, his passion for God and the clarity of his thinking.
It is my privilege to have Doug write this blog.
At the beginning of this year I had cataract surgery with lens implants. That ended a domestic dispute over whether the cozy down throw on our bed was brown, as I had contended, or purple, as my wife insisted. She is proven correct almost all the time, but it cost me nearly a thousand dollars to lose the argument.
My wife dragged me off to a spiritual ophthalmologist recently. She thought I had blind spots. I agreed to go just to prove her wrong. You have probably imagined how the evaluation played out. Sure enough, although I am unable to see them, the blind spots were confirmed. “How can it be,” I asked, “that I am not bothered by them?” My S.O. explained that my blind spots are the very thing that prevent me from seeing them, or even being aware that they are there.
My bet is that you have spiritual blind spots as well. No big deal? What if those spiritual blind spots are caused by the silent condition of historical and cultural and biblical ignorance? So, you’ve been to Bible school…even seminary. So, have I! These do not correct your lenses for life.
In July 2018, I submitted myself to a spiritual clinic that specializes in eye surgery, brain cell transplants, and heart resuscitation. The name of the clinic was “A Graduate Course in Islam and the Geo-politics of the Middle East,” taught by Dr. Nabeel Jabbour. He is an Arab, from Lebanon, and a veteran of ministry in Egypt along with having a doctorate in Islamic studies. I was essentially an inpatient for 46 hours of needed excisions and implants to correct a condition of which I was unaware, but the signs of which may have been noticed by others.
Yes, I am painfully aware of the decline in interest in doctrine, let alone theology. These are inevitable losses if one loses the ability of the Bereans expressed by Paul,“And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message.They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.”[Acts 17:11 NLT] Well, call me a Berean. But, please don’t call me an armchair or an ivory tower theologian. Call me a fan, if not an expert, of applied theology.
Until that week in July 2018 I had not really understood the “House of Islam” as it presents itself across the globe. I had not delved into the life and thought and actions of Muhammad, the highly esteemed prophet of Islam. In this course I was exposed both to Muslim sources of history, but also non-Muslim historians. We were exposed to the discussions going on among Muslim theologians with regard to the Qur’an. It could very well be that an implosion is coming as the Qur’an comes under increasing scrutiny by these scholars.
We also learned the social and political chemistry that breeds Islamic extremism, and what we might be able to do to swing the 70% of undecided Muslims toward the moderation camp.
We delved into a great deal of political history of the Middle East going back to the days before and after WWI. We were pushed to see the current climate against the backdrop of the maneuverings of the major powers which never included representatives of the pre-1948 inhabitants of Palestine. We examined the current back and forth interactions between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East and were painfully privileged to see a side of the reality that has been largely omitted in US press coverage and thus hidden from eyes that do no research on their own to side-step the major news outlets. We learned the victimization vocabulary of the Israeli government and saw how the Jewish atheists open the Bible to maintain the enthusiasm of evangelicals.
We took a close biographical look at the major figures in Islamic extremism and gained insights on how they thought and how they were helped in their goals by the major non-Muslim countries, including the US.
Most important of all, we took off our old eye-glasses of political preferences and reached into our own drawer for the old spectacles of Great Commission preferences. We learned to ask this question of world events, “What actions contribute to openness to the Gospel, and what actions set up unnecessary walls?”
This is a course for Bereans. This is a course for pastors, church leaders, and expositors. This is a class for theologians who respect the terrible power that resides in applying either straight truth theology or warped perspective theology. This is a course for you.
I took this course so that I could see the world through a Muslim’s eyes, and to then be able to love them freely and openly. My spiritual cataracts have been removed, the new lenses are in.
You want to love Muslims this same way…freely and openly. Yes…you do. Say it with me, “Yes, I DO!”
Born in the obscurity of Gary, Indiana, Doug Bastian was surprised by joy during his freshman year of college. Making a complete change of direction he enrolled at Moody Bible Institute and majored in Bible and theology. He followed this with a B.A. in history at Trinity College, Deerfield, IL. Then, after a few years in church ministry he nearly completed his M.Div. at Denver Seminary before answering a call to return to the pastorate. After senior pastor roles in California and Illinois, he served as associate pastor of adults and world missions for nine years at The Moody Church in Chicago. This was followed by 18 years in mission agency ministry. Currently, Doug and his wife Patty are reaching out to international students on the campus of University of Colorado, Colorado Springs. firstname.lastname@example.org