SIM missionary scholar in residence at École Biblique en Langue Baatonou, Benin (since 1990)
Academic Dean of The Lilias Trotter Center
Adjunct faculty at Wesley Biblical Seminary
Adjunct faculty at Houghton College
Adjunct faculty at Asbury Theological Seminary (as of 2017)
Not all fear is phobia. Getting off a narrow road when an 18-wheeler transport truck is roaring near you is not a phobia but a healthy fear. Dreaming every night of trucks chasing you is a phobia (see your doctor).
In my field of missions, there is a healthy fear of Ɛslɛm and an irrational phobia of Mɔslɛms. Both need a Scriptural response.
This, then is reasonable fear. 1st, you have heard that worldwide a militant minority in Ɛslɛm cannot be controlled by ‘moderate’ majority Mɔslɛms. Fearing militants is understandable. 2nd, you read of isolated cases of moderate men being radicalised overnight to a militant Ɛslɛmic view. To be distressed by this is to be of a sound mind. 3rd, you are informed of how some new converts to Ɛslɛm are turning fanatics. İt is realistic to be anxious. 4th, you listen to reports of how radical Mɔslɛms are successfully recruiting Western penitentiary prisoners into become jihɛdists. Your alarm is reasonable. 5th, you glance through articles explaining how brutally and violently jihɛdists attack other Mɔslɛms and Christians. Being shocked needs no apology. 6th, being informed and fearful of how Shari’a laws aggressively oppress and humiliate minorities, especially Christians and Mɔslɛms converting to Christ, is logical. Such fear confirms that you are normal and informed.
Now before I recommend Scriptural responses to ‘reasonable fear’ let me list the irrational phobias. 1st imaging that all Mɔslɛms are secret jihadists is plainly irrational. (Very few are.) 2nd, dreading that militant Islam is an unstoppable force taking over the world is profoundly illogical. (They couldn’t, even if they tried.) 3rd, being afraid that all mosques camouflage radical jihadists is blatantly unreasonable. (Most mosque leaders fear radicals.) 4th being petrified that all Oriental foreigners with turbans or veils are hiding terrorists at home is utterly unfounded. (Jihadist wouldn’t trust them to hide them.) 5th, being terrified that all Mɔslɛms are trying to convert everyone in the West is also absurd. (Sure, Mɔslɛms are overly proud of Ɛslɛm but very lousy at selling it.) 6th, being horrified that all liberal secular thinkers are blind to the dangers of Ɛslɛm is also ludicrous. (They know better but they have a phobia about begin called Ɛslɛmɔphobic.)
Any of the above phobias confirm that folks are relying on fear-mongers to supply their news. Radical Mɔslɛms are only too happy when their terrorising propaganda makes us phobic. They want to convert people to Ɛslɛmɔphobia.
Fear and phobia must be treated but in different ways. Healthy fears lead to fervent prayers for protection and wisdom, which everyone in the West now needs. Fear is not sinful if it leads us to trust God. Proverbs says; “Wisdom will deliver you from the way of evil, from men… Who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil.”
If the emergence of a healthy fear makes us grow in understanding and discernment of Ɛslɛm, how is that bad? If the rise of Ɛslɛm makes Christians pray more for Mɔslɛms and themselves, how is that wrong?
Phobias, however must be confessed as slander against a people who do not yet know God. Phobias are worse than fear because they include anger, sweeping generalisations, and unbelief. Nasty stuff. It must go. Any fear or phobia, left untreated, turns to hatred -and how can hatred be defended from Scripture?
But let’s beware of two reactions here: first to those who are obsessed with labelling others as Islamophobic. By reacting fearfully against Islamophobic people, how is that not an oxymoron? That is as self-righteous as hating those who hate others. Second, let’s beware of those who would shield the Qur’an from any probing interrogation about its intended (often legitimately disturbing) teachings. Since when does the alleged ‘Eternal Noble Qur’an’ need protection from secular pundits?
The best cure of phobia is confessing it and replacing it with prayer, understanding, and joining experienced missionaries and ministries in reaching out to refugees and needy Mɔslɛms. It’s hard to fear or hate a people for whom you are praying and serving in compassion.
Finally, do pray for the fear of God to seize the conscience of a jihadist minority. Pray they will fear being caught, fear being deported, fear being exposed, and fear being rejected by their families. There is a fear that is the beginning of wisdom. Pray for it.