I was running errands in the large Arab city where I was studying Arabic, when I ran into a friend of mine. We had had several spiritual conversations by that time. So there on the sidewalk I asked him if he would like to pray with me. He said he didn’t have time to go to church with me, so I explained that we could pray right there, and he agreed.
Al Fadi, from CIRA International, interviews me more on my research on converts from Islam to Christianity. Here is a second installation for his excellent podcast “Let us Reason.”
The first question is about the main challenge faced by ex-Muslim Christians. Guess what? It’s not persecution. If you want to know what it is, listen along. Also, want to hear about what a baptism looks like at an Iranian church? Listen along. Finally, how do congregations of ex-Muslim Christians form new convert identities for their believers? Listen along.
The interview begins with Al Fadi asking me about my own conversion to Christianity, and then about what motivated me to learn about Islam and then research religious conversion from Islam to Christianity. Here the great story about a church of MBBs that was planted accidentally! (At 14 minutes or so.) Near the end he asks about the main factor that attracts some Muslims to the Christian faith.
The podcast was published on December 31st of 2016. You can find the original at iTunes, or just listen to it right here:
The hadith is strikingly clear: “Whosoever changes his religion, slay him.” Nor is the original Arabic difficult to interpret or understand, as with some hadith and Qur’anic passages. Nor is the doctrine that the will of Allah is that the apostate from Islam be executed extremist or radical. It is simply orthodox, historical Islam. It is about as radical or extremist as hearing a Christian say that baptism and communion are the central rituals of the Christian faith, or that christians should regularly attend church, or that the Christian’s life should be characterized by honesty, generosity, and kindness. Obviously Christians fail at times to live according to these basic truths, but that doesn’t make them any less true.
I recently received an e-mail for Edinburgh humanities alumni asking for authors for posts on this new series: How I Met my Viva. For American readers, the viva is the defense of the doctoral thesis (or dissertation, as it is called in the USA). It is the time where you make it or break it. I remember when one friend of mine, whom I regard as a superior scholar frankly, failed his viva.
Here is how the blog post starts, which is based on my own experience:
I had submitted my thesis to the university some months ago, but they were having a hard time finding someone who knew about converts from Islam to Christianity to be my external examiner. At the time I was living in Nazareth, which is the largest Arab city in Israel, teaching at a local seminary. After some delay my viva had been scheduled, and I decided to pick the brain of my colleague Phil Sumpter, who had recently received his PhD in Old Testament from a university in Wales. I had, of course, asked several of my friends at Edinburgh about vivas, but that was early on in my doctoral research when actually preparing for my own viva was a remote concern. I had heard horror stories—the guy who had failed and then failed again his PhD [defense], leaving the uni with student loans but no degree. I also had friends who passed with flying colors. But then there was the murky middle area, a friend who was given major corrections, which included reordering his chapters, and another one who was instructed to adopt a different theoretical framework.