Today's guest blogger is Linda Rice. Linda has an M.A. in Biblical Counseling and is Certified by Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. You can read more of her writing here.
When I wrote last autumn (2013) about the Strange Fire Conference, I mentioned that attendees were given an opportunity to ask questions and that mine was about the stories of Muslim dreams of Jesus that lead them to salvation in Christ. The topic piqued my interest because the phenomenon seems to be a recent wind blown in since 9-11. In the last few years I’ve heard people talk about it with a wide-eyed fascination and thrill. Listening, I find a huge question mark in my mind. The reports don’t make sense to me. How do you know? The reports tend to portray a warm, welcoming Jesus. Did the dream “Jesus” call these people to repent like the real Jesus did? Did He point out their sins like He did to the Jews and Samaritans and Gentiles–everyone–and were the dreamers anguished over their sins? And, are Christians mindlessly accepting the stories as true?
My concern for the church is this, regardless of the veracity or falseness of the reports, what does it say about the church when Christians are quick to believe reports of the mystical and miraculous without taking the time to think and practice discernment? Jesus is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). He commands Christians to walk in the light of truth and expose darkness, falsehoods (Eph. 5:8-11). How can we do that if we do not evaluate? How can we “hold fast to that which is good” (truth) if we do not slow down and study to distinguish what is good (true) (1 Thess. 5:21)?
Recently, someone directed me to where my question was answered. I’ll direct you there in a moment. First, here are some questions that the reports of Muslim dreams of Jesus initially raised in my mind:
- What does the Bible say? Since the Bible says that Jesus is God, I do not doubt that Jesus can appear where He wants when He wants. However, I do not see this pattern in the Bible and I haven’t heard any biblical foundation for it.
- Do the reports support or undermine the doctrine of sola Scriptura?
How does Muslims receiving direct revelation from Jesus support a closed canon? Revelation 22:18 warns of plagues upon anyone who adds to God’s Word. In light of such a grave warning against any messages from God outside of the Bible, how can it be that someone, especially an unbeliever, is getting revelation from a source not in the Bible?
- This phenomenon goes directly to the issue of the gospel and evangelization, the spread of God’s kingdom, in other words, an issue at the heart of Christianity and God’s plan. Wouldn’t God have something to say about how He has determined that His kingdom message will be spread?
Matthew 28:18-20 and Romans 10:14-17 are pertinent to the issue. The Matthew passage is Jesus’ commission to the messengers of the gospel. He places responsibility on them with not a word about mysteries like dream-aids. The Romans passage talks about the audience demographic. How will the audience gain access to the message?
In Romans 10, God very clearly says that His chosen method of spreading the good news about Jesus is people, people telling one another what the already revealed Word of God says. Here’s how Paul says it,
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!” However, they did not all heed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
How will Muslims hear about Christ? By hearing someone tell them. God’s chosen means of evangelism throughout history is beautiful feet, not beautiful dreams; it is by humans telling other humans. It doesn’t seem to me that the Muslim dreams of Jesus phenomenon fits the biblical model of hearing the gospel from another person.
- Has anyone researched the reports? Have reports been validated?
Muslims already know the name of Jesus; He is part of their belief system. They also place a lot of importance on dreams, on spiritual significance to dreams. So why would it be so exceptional for a Muslim to dream about Jesus? As to the claim of salvation as a result of a dream, is anyone applying discernment to see whether the claimants are turning from old beliefs and not just to the Jesus of their previous religion? Are the claimants proving out over time?
- If Jesus isn’t today appearing to His own specially loved children, why would He give such an extreme privilege to an unbeliever?
- Why leave out other people groups and also Muslims of the past?
One of the common challenges of unbelievers to Christians has been, “What about the people in Africa who have never had a chance to hear about Jesus?” The widespread use of that question testifies to the common knowledge that people groups in remote places all around the world have not heard of Jesus until someone takes the news to them. Therefore, those people groups have also not received special dreams of Him.
Not only do the reports focus on Muslims, excluding other groups, but Muslims in the historical era since America became so aware of them due to 9-11. What about Muslims in the twelve centuries until now? Why do today’s Muslims receive such an unprecedented privilege? Is this reality or American-centered perception?
These questions are not extensive. Maybe you have others. But these are the ones that at first notice make me hesitate to join the rah-rah over such a report. I am eager to rejoice about the salvation of another person, but I’m not ready to be imprudent or gullible. More importantly, I’m not ready to be quick to credit God with something He may not have done or that violates His Word no matter how authentic or miraculous it sounds in the telling.
Now for the conference answer. Follow this link to the answer given by Grace to You. Scroll down to the question: “How do we respond to reports that Muslims are having dreams and visions about Jesus which reveal Him as God’s Son and that they are coming to salvation because of these visions?”
As to the question of whether anyone has investigated reports and what have they found, here is an article that looks more at the evidentiary angle. Don’t You Believe It