When American Christians today talk about evangelism to Muslims, much care is generally taken to tread carefully through the minefield of political and cultural baggage that comes along with any interaction between the two religions. But a colleague just sent me a link to an article about an Egyptian evangelist who is not only not steering clear of minefields, but is actively firing rhetorical broadsides at Islamic theology—and is having a surprising impact. The man is Zakaria Botros, and his confrontational style of evangelism is apparently causing quite a stir (and more than a few conversions).
Botros' platform is a TV show in which he challenges Muslim teachers and scholars to explain difficult and sometimes embarrassing parts of Islamic teaching; his questions often leave the scholars flustered or forced to agree with him. His approach is winning enough converts to attract notice from Muslim newspapers and clerics.
My first reaction on reading about Botros' ministry was disbelief that such an evangelistic strategy could work in today's global climate, and with Christian/Muslim tensions at their current elevated level. But the article cites several reasons why Botros' approach is winning respect and converts. First, his approach is quite media-savvy and reaches into countries that are hostile to the Gospel. Secondly, his broadcasts are in Arabic and he knows Muslim literature and culture much more intimately than do most Western evangelists. The article closes:
But the ultimate reason for Botros’s success is that — unlike his Western counterparts who criticize Islam from a political standpoint — his primary interest is the salvation of souls. He often begins and concludes his programs by stating that he loves all Muslims as fellow humans and wants to steer them away from falsehood to Truth. To that end, he doesn’t just expose troubling aspects of Islam. Before concluding every program, he quotes pertinent biblical verses and invites all his viewers to come to Christ.
Botros’s motive is not to incite the West against Islam, promote “Israeli interests,” or “demonize” Muslims, but to draw Muslims away from the dead legalism of sharia to the spirituality of Christianity. Many Western critics fail to appreciate that, to disempower radical Islam, something theocentric and spiritually satisfying — not secularism, democracy, capitalism, materialism, feminism, etc. — must be offered in its place. The truths of one religion can only be challenged and supplanted by the truths of another. And so Father Zakaria Botros has been fighting fire with fire.
The use of militant language ("fighting fire with fire") when it comes to evangelism usually makes me really nervous. But the case of Botros seems to show that when it's motivated by love and done with integrity, there's a place for more intellectually confrontational outreach today.
Reactions? Is Botros' approach dangerous and overly confrontational? Or is it something to praise and support?