Saturday, November 09, 2013

Dreaming of Jesus

Lately I've been running across references to dreams and visions that Muslims allegedly have of Jesus. Since I haven't read these accounts, I don't have an informed opinion on the particulars. But I will make a general observation.

In the case of someone who's already a born-again Christian, he's prepared to pay the cost of discipleship. He knows the promises of eschatological reward are true, as well as threats of eschatological punishment for apostasy. He knows the tradeoffs between winning in this life and losing in the next, or losing in this life and winning in the next.

But a Muslim in a Muslim country faces a dilemma. Because the social sanctions for conversion are so terrifying, there's an overwhelming disincentive to putting himself in such a risky position before he knows if it's true. He's got too much to lose if it's not. So he cannot or will not count the cost in advance. 

As such, there's almost no natural prospect that a Muslim in a Muslim country will expose himself to the Gospel or give it a fair hearing. He avoids putting himself in a position where he'd have to make that momentous choice. If he knew in advance what he had to gain or lose, that would be worth it. But, in a sense, that's too late. That's foreseeing the outcome of something contingent on doing it. But you can't know the result unless you do it. If he knew it was true, that would steel his heart against the hardships which lie ahead. But that's the effect of conversion. 

It's so hard to get over that initial psychological hurdle. As long as they are Muslims, they are not prepared to find out where the truth lies, for the prospects of conversion are too forbidding from their Muslim viewpoint. If they could see over the hill, that would be different, but that's not something they can normally glimpse in advance. If you know what lies ahead, you can afford to burn your bridges, but you can't arrive at the destination before you start the journey. You can't know what you will discover until you leave something behind and take the the first few steps. For a Muslim in a Muslim country, the dire consequences of conversion are more real to him than Christian rewards. For at that preconversion stage, the Christian rewards are hypothetical. It's not something he knows in his heart. 

And isn't that a primary reason the Gospel never caught on in Judaism? Consider what it took to convert St. Paul. Paul was in a similar situation to many Muslims. 

So I can imagine God giving Muslims whom he intends to save a jump-start. Something extra to overcome their paralyzing fears and oppressive social conditioning. The way God prepared Cornelius for the Gospel. Pre-evangelism. 


  1. Nice analysis, Steve. Helpful.

    Social and family/friends ostracism is huge in so many cultures and countries.

    1. Not to mention death, torture, or death by torture–in a strict Muslim context.

  2. I've been reading "Dreams and Visions: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?" by Tom Doyle. I am about half way thru the book. He reports dreams and visions from a variety of areas throughout the Middle East. Doyle claims each story comes from people he personally knows or is known by his family's closest friends in the Middle East. Furthermore, if he could not verify the claims, he left the stories out. The book is not a critical evaluation of the stories and is written to appeal to a broad non-critical audience. The book reads like the popular novelistic type histories written today.

    Some of the stories border on a little fantastic. For example, a man is kidnapped by a man in black at gun point and forced into an abandoned building where a group of clerics secretly awaited his arrival. Each had studied at a university in Cairo where they all had visions of Christ that led them to this man who was a Christian. They wanted him to teach them the Bible.

    All the dreams and visions reported are of Jesus. In many cases he tells the recipients he loves them and generally points them to a person who can tell them more about the Christian faith or some other source where they can read the Bible. It does not appear that Jesus actually preaches the gospel in the encounters but points them to someone who will. However, it is not always clear in the stories that a gospel presentation is presented and believed. Rather often the stories say something like the Muslim dreamer became a Jesus follower after making follow-up contact with some Christian who could tell them more about who Jesus is. Some dreams are given to Christians to seek out others or pray for people (for example in Mecca). Many of the stories end abruptly and you are left wishing there were more details to the story. A lot of questions remain unanswered. Many of the Muslims have repeated dreams until they make some kind of commitment to follow Jesus, then the dreams stop. Most report that they were not afraid when Jesus appears but rather experienced great joy and peace. Most also seemed to immediately identify the figure in the dream as Jesus without him telling them so. The figure is also generally clothed in white robes with an aura of light illuminating him. Sometimes all they see is a face. These seem to be the uniform patterns no matter what country they are reported from.

    The book is certainly fascinating, but it is hard to evaluate since the author seems to accept all the reports uncritically. A believer in one of the stories warns one who had a dream that some dreams are false and others real, but no criteria for judging them is given. In one case, a Muslim had a dream and sought out a believer to explain more. They met again a few days later and the Muslim tried to kill his corespondent for trying to convert him. He appeared at first to be receptive to the dream and then a few days later he rejected it. He was arrested for attempted murder and his corespondent was meeting him in jail trying to share the gospel with him. This took place in Jordan.

    The book gives much to ponder but leaves many questions unanswered. In either case, it seems hard to reject out of hand what is taking place and it would appear that these encounters are leading to genuine conversions.

    1. Great comments MSC.

      Steve wrote:
      For a Muslim in a Muslim country, the dire consequences of conversion are more real to him than Christian rewards.

      Especially since from his perspective if Islam is true, he would also lose out on the rewards of Islamic paradise and end up in Islamic hell.

      MSC wrote...

      A believer in one of the stories warns one who had a dream that some dreams are false and others real, but no criteria for judging them is given.

      Yeah, some of them might be demonic. For example, when I first listened to the testimony of Afshin Javid, I was impressed, but not completely convinced. Doing some google research, apparently there are charges of sexual impropriety on his part in his Christian ministry. Assuming for the sake of the argument that the accusations and charges are true, could Christ really have visited him and he's just being unfaithful in his calling? Or could the visitation have been demonic from the start?

      Here's a link to my blog on this topic of Muslims having visions and dreams of Jesus:

  3. And isn't that a primary reason the Gospel never caught on in Judaism? Consider what it took to convert St. Paul.

    There are also claims of Jesus appearing to modern Jews or Jewish rabbis too. One of the most famous cases in recent times is that of Rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri a renowned and beloved rabbi. According to this WIKI ARTICLE (yeah, not a reliable source):

    Before his death, Kaduri had said that he expected the Jewish Messiah to arrive soon, and that he had met him a year earlier.[6][7] It has been alleged that he left a hand-written note to his followers and they were reportedly instructed to only open the note after Rabbi Kaduri had been dead for one year. After this time period had passed, the note was opened by these followers and was found to read, "ירים העם ויוכיח שדברו ותורתו עומדים" (translated as "he will raise the people and confirm that his word and law are standing"), which by acronym, suggested the name "Yehoshua."[8][9][10] Yehoshua being Hebrew for Joshua.

    In other words, the name of "Jesus", and so it might refer to the Christian Jesus rather than some other "Jesus."

    There are many YouTube videos posted on this topic. Obviously their information is not necessarily reliable either.

    Here's a random video on this topic:

    Here's another random video of an other Jew claiming Jesus visited him in a vision.

    1. Here's a video of a testimony of someone who claims to have been a student of rabbi Yitzhak Kaduri who accepted Yeshua/Jesus as the messiah on account of Kaduri's teaching before his death.

  4. Why isn't the Arminian God giving *every* unbeliever visions to help "jump start" their faith? It's almost as if he's picking and choosing, desiring some to be saved over others. He'd better watch out or Roger Olson will accuse him of being a moral monster.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. That question is applicable even if all the post-Biblical claims of visitations/dreams/visions of Jesus are not of the true Christ since Jesus selectively revealed himself to Saul on the road to Damascus but not to the high priest or Pilate or Herod or Gamaliel etc.

    3. And Kirsten Powers claims to have had a vision of Jesus prior to her subsequent conversion to Christianity:

  5. From encounters my church has had in distributing Injeels to Arab Muslims overseas over the past several years the accounts of miraculous conversions are astonishing.

    The irony, reported to us from our brothers and sisters in Syria, is that the current situation there has broken down the barriers for Muslims inquiring into the Christian claims of Christ. A new church near Damascus has been planted of nearly 200 MBBs that have come to faith since the fighting began. Muslims have been knocking on the doors of known Christians to ask about Christ.