Ask Abdu Murray (April 23-27, 2018)


(Carson Weitnauer) #1

Hi friends,

This week and next we have the opportunity to ask Abdu Murray the questions we are wrestling with in our own faith and evangelism. Abdu is RZIM’s North American Director. In this role, he speaks regularly to university audiences, business leaders, and cultural influencers, both across the continent and internationally. At the same time, he’s a humble, servant-hearted leader who seeks to care for and love the person he’s with. I’m grateful to count him as a friend and love working alongside him at RZIM.

Also exciting: in May, we are going to host another writing competition on a theme related to Abdu’s new book Saving Truth! We’ll share details about this contest at the start of May - be sure to set a reminder to come back on May 1st for this announcement - there are going to be some awesome prizes for the winners.

For now, please take advantage of this opportunity to personally engage with Abdu on your questions! Ask your question now and he will be answering them throughout the week of April 23-27.


Abdu Murray’s bio

Abdu Murray is North American Director with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and is the author of three books, including his latest, Saving Truth: Finding Meaning and Clarity in a Post-Truth World.

For most of his life, Abdu was a proud Muslim who studied the Qur’an and Islam. After a nine year investigation into the historical, philosophical, and scientific underpinnings of the major world religions and views, Abdu discovered that the historic Christian faith can answer the questions of the mind and the longings of the heart.

Abdu has spoken to diverse international audiences and has participated in debates and dialogues across the globe. He has appeared as a guest on numerous radio and television programs all over the world.

Abdu holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Michigan and earned his Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School. As an attorney, Abdu was named several times in Best Lawyers in America and Michigan Super Lawyer. Abdu is the Scholar in Residence of Christian Thought and Apologetics at the Josh McDowell Institute of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

(Abdu Murray) #2

Thanks Carson and Hi everyone! I’m looking forward to interacting with many of you next week as I moderate the Ask RZIM forum.

My publisher is offering a special Buy One, Get One Free offer for any RZIM Connect member who places a pre-order for my forthcoming book, Saving Truth. Anyone who places a pre-order will receive their free copy in the mail immediately - you will not have to wait until the official book release day which is May 8th. You will also receive the pre-order bonuses being offered for anyone who orders the book - an Executive Summary of the book, a Study Guide, and exclusive Videos to use with the book individually or in a small group.

Here are the instructions for how to claim the special RZIM Connect offer:

  1. Place a pre-order for Saving Truth at your preferred retailer (ie: Amazon, Barnes & Noble).

  2. Enter your receipt information and mailing address to this site: (this is a private page, so you must navigate to it through this link, it does not appear if you are just on my site).

  3. You will receive your FREE copy in the mail. You will also receive the preorder bonuses via email as well as your pre-ordered copy of the book on or around May 8th from wherever you pre-ordered it!

(Justin Angelos) #3

Hello Abdu, I have been reading your new book with the launch team, I am really enjoying your new book!

New Member: Jean-Luc
(Lori Sevedge) #4

What a great offer! I hope RZIM Connect members take advantage of it. The book Saving Truth really hits to the struggle of our culture today, both inside and outside of the church. The truth is what sets us free and we need that. What I love is that Abdu has a great way of making the clarity of truth actually clear. He reasons out of a passion for the truth and a real love for the people in which he is engaging in discussion! I encourage everyone to take him up on his offer. Get two books now because you will WANT to share this book with others! Thanks Abdu for your love for the truth and your love for those who need to hear it, which reveals your deep love for the Savior who is the Truth!

(Lena Chandra) #5

Hi Abdu. I’m from Indonesia. Do you have any practical suggestions on witnessing or challenging the spiritual assumptions of nominal Muslims in a way that doesn’t make them feel like they’re being challenged? Religion is of course a sensitive issue here. You could go to jail if found out you’re trying to ‘convert’ Muslims, but not to believers of other religions.

(Stewart Andres) #6

Mr Murray thank you for giving your time to do some Q&A.
I found myself talking to a friend who believes in Christ but thinks that Islam & Buddhism are peaceful religions and Christianity is not. I’ve been doing some research about Islam and Buddhism but wanted to know your opinion so my questions are.
1). Is Islam a religion of peace.
2). Is buddhism a religion of peace.

(Omar Rushlive Lozada Arellano) #7

Hi @Abdu_Murray. Just curious what basic skills and knowledge do Christians need to have in order to be a good witness to Muslims?

(Jimmy Osler) #8

Hi Abdu, I live in the UAE. A while back in our Lifegroup I was asked by a Christian Sister to give a response to the problem of the appearance of social and cultural determinism.
Her question was motivated by her deep concern for her Emirati colleagues at work that she cared deeply about. I have been wrestling with a response to this question ever since. Can you point me in the right direction? God bless!

(Aracelis Diaz) #9

Hi Abdu,
Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. My question for you is how can I effectively minister to my Jewish friend who is not a believer, does not believe in the existence of Satan, and suffers from anxiety/depression? She’s been to church but feels like Christians put too much emphasis on the devil and not acknowledge the disease of anxiety, which isn’t true because we do, but she doesn’t believe in spiritual warfare and its impact, even for non-believers, or is spiritual warfare only revelant to believers?

(Abdu Murray) #10

Thanks so much, Lori. It was a pleasure and a challenge to write it. I’m so grateful that you’ve found it to be a blessing and are spreading the word!

(Abdu Murray) #11

Thanks so much for your very important and understandably sensitive question. I think there are two ways to do this that will minimize risk while maximizing impact.

First: Challenge their assumptions about the gospel. Even nominal Muslims are told by their parents and peers mischaracterizations of what Christians believe. Which means they they end up rejecting a false gospel you don’t believe in the first place. Many Muslims reject a misunderstanding of the trinity, salvation by faith, and the reliability of the Bible. So, a powerful yet inoffensive way forward is to ask them questions about what they’ve come to believe about the gospel. Something like “When you think of Christianity, what comes to mind?” or “What have you heard about the gospel?” An important question gets to the heart of how they got whatever knowledge they think they have: “Where did you learn about Christianity? Have you ever talked with a serious Christian about it before? Have you read any books about Christianity that were actually written by Christians?” Often, I’ve found the most Muslims learn about Christianity only from other Muslims. If this is the case with someone you’re talking with, I would follow up: “Do you think it would be fair or even in the spirit of true learning if I only asked Christians or atheists what they think of Islam? Wouldn’t I get a fuller view if I actually spent time talking with Muslims or reading their books? Would you be open to talking about what Christianity is really all about with a Christian, like me?”

Asking questions is usually a non-threatening or aggressive way to get someone to see their hidden motivations or even their ignorance. But we have to be prepared to give the substance and credibility of the gospel because at some point, Muslims will ask you a few questions back!

Second: Find a common platform upon which to talk with a Muslim friend. In my second book, Grand Central Question, I point out that Muslims and Christians share a few common beliefs: (1) That there is an all-powerful, eternal, uncreated God who deserves our worship; and (2) Whoever that being is, He must be the greatest possible being. From here, we can show Muslims that the gospel message, of a triune being who incarnated himself in Christ and sacrificed himself for our salvation is the greatest possible being there could be. By finding the common platform from which to observe what Islam and the gospel have to offer, we can better determine which swimming pool actually has water in it! The gospel, fortunately, is deep as an ocean.

In these ways, you’re not trying to convert anyone. You’re only having conversations. They may end up being long discussions, with seemingly little ground gained. But rest assured, God can be working in those conversations in ways that you may not see for quite some time, but will surprise you in time to come. And that leads to the final point: Pray, pray, pray for wisdom and insight before every conversation.

I hope this helps. Blessings to you!

(Abdu Murray) #12

Thanks so much for being on the launch team. I’m truly grateful!

(Abdu Murray) #13

This is a fascinating question that I’ve received a lot (except to ask whether Buddhism is a religion of peace), so I’m eager to answer it at least in part. This is a topic the answers to which have been book length but I promise not to do that here!

Let me say this first. It’s important to figure out why we’re even asking the question. Often, I’ve had people ask me this question so that they can justify their fear (or even hatred) of “the other.” I’m certainly not saying you’re doing that Stewart! But you may run into some folks who are. But there are times (and I assume this is one of them) when we ask this question because we understand that religious violence is a fact of life and we need to find hope for an antidote somewhere. That’s where I think that an understanding of the gospel really helps, even though there is violence in the scriptures.

Some procedural points: When we ask the question about whether a particular religion is a “religion of peace” we have to define our terms. What do we mean by “religion” and what do we mean by “peace”? Take religion first. One might define “religion” as a set of core doctrines and beliefs as put forth in the foundational writings, teachings, and actions of the founder of that religion. Let’s call that Religion Definition 1. Another way to think of religion is more social: A set of beliefs and practices adhered to for the most part by a certain people group based strictly or loosely on the writings, teachings, and actions of the founder, but also heavily influenced by personal preferences. Let’s call that Religion Definition 2. You can easily see how these might be very different. Take Islam for example. By far, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful people in the sense that they have no desire to “take over the world for Islam” or hurt anyone in the name of their religion. In fact, most Muslims are only nominally Muslims. They believe because of their heritage, not because they have any real knowledge about Islam itself. If we applied Definition 2 to the global scene, we could say that for the most part, Islam is a peacefully expressed religion. That would hold true of Buddhism as well and especially Christianity (or nearly every other religion).

But if we use Definition 1, our answer will be different. Islam specifically teaches, through its founders words and actions and the Qur’an itself, that violence is incumbent upon a Muslim against non-Muslims because of what they believe (See Sarah 9:5 and Surah 9:29 for just a few examples). Muhammad’s life, as told to us through Muslim sources in the hadith, is full of both peaceful actions and brutalities. So if we take Definition 1, then we see that it isn’t an inherently peaceful religion in terms of lack of conflict or violence.

The next term we have to define is “peaceful”. What do we mean? If we mean - not usually in the headlines for committing some atrocity, then we have some answers. Christianity is rarely in the headlines for atrocities, although Christendom is certainly not innocent of abuses. Buddhism isn’t usually in the headlines for violence and the like, but there are instances of it occassionally and even pervasively. Take for example the Buddhist killing of Muslims in Myanmar and other terrorism committed by Buddhists for political reasons (see the links HERE for but one story from the BBC on this). In fact, Time Magazine did an article on Buddhist extremism where the cover was a picture of a Buddhist monk with the headline, “The Face of Terror.” See it HERE

My point is that there is scarcely any religion that doesn’t have serious dark times in its past. As a Christian, I shouldn’t be surprised by this because the human condition is one marked by sin. Religion can often be a powerful tool for abusers. The question comes down to this: Is the violence done in the name of the religion consistent with the tenets of that religion? Does the violence we see have something to do with Religion Definition 1 of that particular belief system?

With Islam, the answer is yes. With Buddhism, the answer is a little less clear. While there has been violence committed in the name of Christianity, and we do see violence throughout the Scripture, I think that what we find is that some of the violence, especially the violence commanded by God, is warranted as a response to human evil.

I would recommend a couple of resources for your perusal. First is a serious of debates between David Wood and Shabir Ally on whether Islam or Christianity are violent religions (HERE and HERE). Second, I would take a look at the late Nabeel Qureshi’s book, Answering Jihad, where he points out some of the detail about Islam and violence.

Let me go to the gospel now. Yes, the scriptures contain violence and even commands for violence. Paul Copan and others have done masterful jobs at explaining the contexts and limited circumstances of such things. But I want to point this out by way of illustration about how the gospel can lead to hope in a violence-weary world.

A few years ago, I was doing a dialogue with an Imam at a major university. During the Q&A, someone asked us both this question: “Can you live consistently with the core teachings of your respective religions and be non-violent?” As a former Muslim, I responded by saying that “this is no longer a problem for me because I follow Christ, who shed no one’s blood but his own.”

I hope your discussions with your friend and others bear much fruit!

(Stewart Andres) #14

Thankyou Mr Murray for taking your time to answers a Important question to me. I will definitely take a look at all the links you have sent me.
God Bless you.

(Jessica Helena Sutedjo) #15

Hi @Abdu_Murray, thank you for inspiring us with your answer but I just curious about how to deal with the issue of the prophet? I originally came from Indonesia as well and there was a time when I try to discuss Gospel with one of my muslim friend. We start with the common thing about how we see the Ultimate Being,or God as we are agree about God in certain ways and the conversation start to flow into the event of Jesus cruxificion. Here is the tricky part:

Actually my friend (after we talk about them) agree that the cruxificion is most likely to happened but, the conversation just ended with. She can’t bear to say that Muhammad is on the false charge because he is the greatest prophet. I decided not to pursue this topic further as it was a sensitive issue but how do we deal with this kind of issues?

Another question that has been in mind is: how to start sharing the Gospel with nominal muslims? I probably quite fortunate to live in a region which I could confess my faith as Christian freely (even among Muslims). However, most of my friends actually don’t have any clue about what they believe. They simply said that as long as we are good to each others (my religion is my religion, your religion is your religion – there should be a part of Quran that mentioned about this) then we are fine. Even they start to believe that there are a lot path to the Rome (or heaven), we just need to practice according to our faith. How we start to share with the Gospel with people in that kind of thinking?

Thank you very much!

(Maureen Barnes) #16

Hi Abdu,
I have been a Christian for many years, and one of the scriptures that troubles me is that the Prophet Jonah is sent to Ninevah. It seems to me that God only sent his prophets to His own people. There are no other instances that I have found where God has sent his prophets outside Israel/Judah. Perhaps you, being super smart, can give me satisfaction concerning this.
Also, How did the people and the King know to fast, put on sack cloth, and sit in ashes…and to call for a true fast.

Thanks in advance Abdu

(Lena Chandra) #17

Thank you Abdu. Yes, I’m planning to buy Grand Central Question! I’ve also read Nabeel Qureshi’s Seeking Allah Finding Jesus and No God But One.

On a personal note, if you don’t mind sharing, that is, how did or how do you share your faith with your parents? I’m Chinese Indonesian, and most of the time, daughters aren’t as valued as sons. Plus there’s also the belief that ‘parents know best’, etc. I’d like to share my faith with my Dad (he’s 80 this year), but sometimes I feel he doesn’t take me seriously enough. He listens more to his sons-in-law who don’t even live with him, while I live with him and take care of his daily needs.


(Abdu Murray) #18

That’s a really interesting question for a couple of reasons. One that isn’t necessarily tied to the import of your question is that Muslims often try to legitimize Muhammad as the “universal” messenger for all mankind because God in Judaism and Christianity only sent prophets to Jews, but Muhammad was for the rest of the world. Obviously that’s not a point you’re making, but thought you might be interested to know that! But it does relate a bit to my answer:

So much could be said about this and a lot of thoughts are swirling around in my mind, but I’ll just stick a few of them to the flypaper here!

First is this: The OT is primarily focused on chronicling the story of the Hebrews/Israelites as the progenitors of the Messiah, which is why it seems like God sends prophets only to them, not outsiders. But I think there are instances where God sent either prophets (in the technical sense) and/or messengers to those outside Israel/Judah. Think of Moses. He actually went back to Egypt primarily to liberate the Hebrews. But we know from the text that Egyptians who heard him and saw the signs and wonders of God actually joined the ranks of the Hebrews in the Exodus (see Ex. 12:38 and compare with Lev. 24:10). Exodus records that there were laws meant for the Hebrews “and the stranger who sojourns with you” (Ex. 12:49). Daniel also comes to mind. While he didn’t go into Babylon specifically to preach a message of biblical repentance, God did use him and his companions to effectuate change in the Bablyonians, even if only temporarily. Elisha was used as a messenger to show Naaman the Syrian that YHWH was the true God and Naaman seems to have had a genuine faith. So I think there are instances that give us a clue as to the heart of God for reaching people outside the nation of Israel or the Hebrew people.

In addition, we have to keep in mind the point of the story of Jonah. Unlike other books that bear the name of a prophet, the book of Jonah isn’t primarily about the message, it’s about the messenger. That gives us a clue as to why it looks unique. It looks unique in that Jonah is sent to give a message to people outside of Israel/Judah. But that factual uniqueness highlights the thematic uniqueness: It isn’t centered on the prophet’s message but on the prophet’s character. The central point of Jonah isn’t that the Ninevites repented, but that Jonah had such contempt for them while God had boundless compassion for them. And think of this: the book doesn’t tell us directly who the author is. But the only one who could have known all of the facts was Jonah, which strongly suggests that he is the one who wrote it. How humbling it must have been for Jonah to not only live through the experiences he had but to also write so honestly and transparently about it. Jonah is indeed a unique book in so many ways. Thank God! We learn about our own hearts and attitudes toward outsiders through Jonah. And we learn about the heart of God through it all as well.

As for how the Ninevites knew how to fast and put on sack cloth, etc.: The biblical passage are written such that it seems like everything that happens does so in immediate succession (Once they believed, they immediately fasted, etc.). But the text doesn’t necessarily indicate that. It could easily have been the case that they asked Jonah what it means to repent and he instructed them. It also is plausible that putting on sack cloth and ashes was a cultural custom common (try saying that three times fast!) to people of the region.

Great question! Hope that helps.

(Maureen Barnes) #19

Thank you Abdu, for taking my question seriously and giving me a respectable answer. You now have me filled with even more questions than before…haha.
Moses: A Hebrew sent by God to the Hebrews. The fact that Non-Hebrews decided to join the movement to the Promised Land is simply the result of some people listening to a message that was not actually meant for them…though possibly it was meant for them to overhear and join in. Point being that Moses was sent to take the Hebrews out of Egypt.
Daniel: Daniel was already a captive, thus he was not sent to Babylon.
Elisha: Naaman came from Syria to seek out Elisha. Elisha was not sent to Syria.

Now, the part where Jonah is disobedient and is thus forced to go to Nineveh, does indeed show the poor attitude of Jonah. I wonder if the fact that each prophet knew the “test of a true prophet” might have made Jonah hesitate. If he said that God said that he was going to destroy the city in forty days…and then didn’t destroy the city, then Jonah’s prophecy was false…this may have attributed to his ‘whining’.

Sackcloth and ashes: I, too, thought that is may just be the custom of everyone in those days to show grief in a similar fashion.

Again, my sincere appreciation for your time and consideration Abdu. May God continue to bless your ministry and keep you and your family safely sheltered in the shadow of his wings :slight_smile:

(Abdu Murray) #20

Hi Maureen,

I appreciate your reply. My point in referencing Moses, Daniel, and Elisha is was that the fact that God in His sovereignty used people sent to others to incidentally reach others indicates the missionary heart of God, which makes Jonah’s story a little less “odd”, and I wasn’t necessarily arguing that God had actually sent the prophets “to” those people specifically (as the primary target) versus sending them “to” outsiders tangentially. Anyway, I think that what we’re both noting is something unique about Jonah’s story, but not out of character for God, which means that Jonah’s story shouldn’t seem troublesome to us. Thanks again for the exchange!