He said unto him, I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me by the word of the Lord, saying, Bring him back with thee into thine house, that he may eat bread and drink water. But he lied unto him (1 Kings 13:18)
This past June, the summer of 2018, while the Southern Baptists were flagellating themselves over race relations, misogyny, and having Vice President Pence speak at their convention, David Platt gave a missions report to the IMB. The highlight, when the audience erupted in thunderous applause, is when he told of how Muslims are having spiritual dreams that allegedly bring them to salvation.
Here’s the transcript: David Platt’s Report to the IMB
The story Platt recounts tells how a Muslim man had a dream over the course of three nights of a man wearing white who told him he knew the way to salvation for his family. The Muslim man then encountered some SBC missionaries the next day, and as Platt states,
“The man said, ‘You don’t understand. I’ve had several dreams over the last three nights. And in each dream a man wearing white has told me he had the way to salvation for my family and me… Last night, a man, that man, appeared to me again, and told me a man dressed in white would come to my home the next day telling me the way of salvation. When we saw you standing outside we knew we needed to invite you in and hear whatever you had to say to us.This formerly Muslim couple is now a follower of Isa the Messiah!”
Most of the stories originate among charismatic oriented ministries whose theology accommodates extra-biblical revelation via dreams and prophecy. However, they have in recent years spilled over into non-charismatic circles.There, the stories are excitedly retold by folks like David Platt to the SBC.
Those dream testimonies are offered as evidence that God is actively working among Muslims in Islamic nations where Christianity is strongly opposed or completely outlawed and where Christian missionaries are in grave danger with the threat of death. But are those dreams legit? What is a biblically-minded Christian to think of them? Is God really bringing revival to Islamic lands in this fantastic manner, outside the means He ordained to bring the Gospel?
Thoughts to Consider
As one who considers himself a robust supernaturalist and thorough going Calvinist, I acknowledge that God is sovereignly powerful enough that He can communicate the Gospel in any fashion He chooses. That stated, however, the New Testament consistently teaches the God-ordained means of proclaiming the Gospel is through human preaching. Consider the following well-known texts.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 1:21–24, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Similarly, to the saints in Rome Paul writes, “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’” (Romans 10:14–15).
Finally, our Lord Jesus Himself clearly stated the approved strategy for spreading the message of salvation just before He ascended to heaven after His resurrection: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).
Those texts indicate that God has ordained the proclaimation of the Gospel message by human preachers who declare biblical and theological truth from Scripture. Those who hear the message choose either to reject it or to believe it by God’s grace. If a man in white was directing appearing to Muslims in dreams and visions to direct them to the Gospel, would not God be contradicting what He has clearly ordained in Scripture regarding the legitimate means of Gospel proclamation in this age?
Now, the typical response is that God must be granting those visions because Islam is violently opposed to Christianity. Moreover, virtually no missionary efforts can happen in many of the majority Islamic countries. It is suggested that God’s only alternative is to offer dreams to individual Muslims who then seek salvation in Him from a Christian. But that raises the question if whether such a line of reasoning is even valid. If we trust that God is sovereign over all nations (cf. Acts 17:26) and is the author and finisher of salvation (cf. Hebrews 12:2), then is it biblical to believe He is able to accomplish His will in those Islamic nations according to the ordained means of human preaching?
Suggesting that God must now resort to sending mysterious dreams to Muslims implies God’s power to save certain sinners is curtailed by evil men and His chosen method of evangelism revealed in Scripture now needs adjusting because of the unforeseen problem of radical Islam. That also raises the question, does God only give dreams and visions to Muslims? What about Hindus and Buddhists or other members of world religions that live in countries hostile to Christianity? Or those in China, or North Korea who are are so utterly anti-religious the government kills them? Do people in those closed cultures have similar dreams that bring them to a missionary who gives them the Gospel? Maybe they do, but I am unaware of their stories.
What do Bible-believing Evangelicals like Platt do with Catholics reporting similar events happening with their missionaries? Many Catholics claim Muslims have dreams of a man in white, or in their case, the virign Mary, that supposedly brings the Muslims to encounter priests or missionaries. See HERE for example. That raises the serious question as to why God would reveal Jesus to these individuals only to bring them to a false Gospel.
Folks should also understand that Muslims don’t necessarily have a problem with Jesus. He is a large part of Islam and even has an important role to play in their eschatology according to Islamic theology. What matters is the right Jesus — the True and Living Jesus who rose from the dead and is the only way to God and who is God Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity. Is that the Jesus Muslims are directed toward when they see the man in white appear in their dreams? Why would God send dreams to Muslims that only converts them to a false form of Christianity?
If many Muslims are having dreams and vision that bring them to Jesus, why aren’t their immediate cultures changed by their conversion? In other words, I would think that with scores of Muslims having dreams that brings the Gospel to them, there would be an “awakening” of sorts taking place in these hostile places like Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan; but there isn’t really. Where is the visible proof of the revival that should be taking place if Christ is breaking into the hearts and minds Muslim people through their dreams?
Who is Putting God in a Box?
When I have challenged the narrative of Muslims learning of Christ through dreams, I am often accused of putting God in a box. Why can’t God send Muslims dreams that bring them to Jesus? There is nothing in Scripture forbidding God from working in that way, I am insistently told. But again, the ordained means by which God has established the spread of the Gospel is through preaching, and that was the historic pattern of evangelism throughout the book of Acts. If Christians personally went into hostile pagan cultures during the first century and brought the Gospel by the means of preaching, why can’t the same thing happen now in Islamic countries? Why the need to resort to subjective dreams and visions? How are modern day Islamic cultures (or any anti-Christian culture, for that matter) any more hostile than the pagan ones encountered by first century Christians and then later when missionaries took the Gospel to remote areas like Briton, Norway, and India?
Honestly, I believe this is another clear example of the troubling doctrine I see with charismatic theology. It denudes the authority of God’s written word in the matters of any subject, let alone evangelism. Anything Scripture would seek to address from a divine perspective becomes essentially pointless and non-applicable to a Christian’s life and practice. Because what ever the Word of God may speak to authoritatively is authoritative UNTIL a dream/vision/experience happens along that trumps what God has revealed, and thus canceling what little authority the Word had in the first place.