Christian scholar champions Islamic studies
Understanding the Muslim faith is paramount to effectively communicating the gospel
LANGLEY, BC—At first glance Gordon Nickel seems to be a bit of a paradox. He is a strong Christian who served for years at Christian schools overseas and taught religious studies courses at prominent institutions like the University of Calgary. He also holds his PhD in Qur’anic Studies.
He believes there is a lack of educated perspectives of Islam in media and the public forum and is lending his expertise to a major evangelical graduate school in South Asia.
Nickel had his first experience with Islam and the Muslim people while teaching in a seminary in Pakistan under the Mennonite Brethren church almost 30 years ago. Since then his passion to serve the Muslim people has continued to grow. Understanding their faith is paramount to effectively communicating the gospel with them, he says.
“When you know Islam well you know what is needed for gospel witness, discipling, and church formation in new communities of people from Muslim background,” says Nickel.
Continuing outreach to the Muslim people is not without its obstacles. Persecution and violence are always a concern but visas and raising financial support also prove difficult. Because of this Nickel is establishing a Centre for Islamic Studies at the South Asian graduate school.
“My prayer is in the next few years we can bring local scholars through the PhD process and have them direct the centre and see them minister to the world around them,” says Nickel.
Currently the graduate school hosts about 150 students studying at both the masters and doctorate levels.
Nickel says just as the Old and New Testaments should be understood within the confines of cultural and historical context, so too does the Qur’an. “It’s rare that people know Islam well; that can inject some realism into the conversation.”
Nickel will teach an intensive week-long course on the Qur’an and the Bible at ACTS Seminaries (Trinity Western University) in Langley, B.C., June 8-12. Students will read through the Qur’an, take time to reflect on what it means for the Christian faith and examine connections between the two.
He says such courses are important. “There is need for Christians to tell informed perspectives about Islam in the public square. There is a big need for mission and evangelism and you need people who really understand Islam and where it comes from.”
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