By Darren Carlson
In 2007, Dudley Woodberry and others published a study that recounted interviews with 750 former Muslims who had converted to evangelical Christianity. Many of the reasons they gave for their conversion would be expected—the love of God, a changing view of the Bible, and an attraction to Christians who loved others. But one reason might come as a surprise: the experience of a dream they believed to be from God.
These study results aren’t isolated. Mission Frontiers magazine has reported that out of 600 Muslim converts, 25 percent experienced a dream that led to their conversion. The great missionary Lillias Trotter also reported dreams that drove Muslims to Christ.
But what should we say about the role of dreams and visions in hearing and believing the gospel?
Religion and Dreams
Some Christians are understandably hesitant to accept their legitimacy. Islam started with a vision. So did Mormonism, along with a long list of cults. Critics wonder how we could evaluate such dreams to know if they were true. Others believe that with the presence of Scripture, signs and wonders like dreams are no longer needed. Of course, many Christians are open to dreams and visions, considering them to be revelatory. All of us recognize that the Bible details dreams and visions in both testaments.
While Christians have a variety of approaches to dreams, Muslims—particularly Shia Muslims—are open to dreams being revelatory, due to both cultural (general acceptance) and religious (precedent in the Qur’an) factors. Dreams of Jesus, then, are taken seriously. In recent field work where I interviewed Christian migrants who’d converted from Islam, many reported a dream that led to their conversion. Their experiences of dreams and visions fit into the following categories:
- Jesus speaking Scripture to them, even Scripture they had never heard before.
- Jesus telling people to do something.
- A dream or vision that led to a feeling of being clean or at peace.
- A man in white physically appearing.
Let me share some examples.
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