Why Christian Scholar Dr. Derks Accepted Islam
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Hello, this is Dr. Gerald Dirks, formerly the Reverend Gerald Dirks. In just a few moments here on the deen show, we'll be talking about my conversion to Islam. Please don't go away. This will add hamdulillah salaam aleikum, which is a greeting of peace, peace be unto you. Welcome to another episode of the deen show where we're here trying to help you understand Islam and Muslims. And when we come back, we have a very special guest, who was a former Christian minister. He has graduated with honors, from the prestigious Harvard University
with a master's in divinity started studying the Bible at a very young age. He has so much to share with us today on the deen show, and I'm so excited to have him here with us. So you don't want to go nowhere. We're going to be talking to Dr. Gerald Dirks when we come back here on the dean show you don't want to go nowhere. We'll be right back.
There's only one
is His Messenger.
Jesus was his messenger.
No, I did that. Maybe. Maybe it's just to break the ice. A salaam aleikum. Wa Alaikum. Salaam. How are you, brother Alhamdulillah. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come and visit us here at the deen show. It's my pleasure, brother. We
got to mention a few things about you. You are actually a former minister, a deacon, ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church. And you have a master's degree in divinity from Harvard University from Harvard Divinity School. Correct. Wow, this is a and the list goes on. You were a preacher. at many starting at a young age you worked as a youth minister, ordained minister and the list goes on. You've we have some books also here that you have authored. Yes. We're gonna mention through the books here you have the Abraham the front of God, which is this book here, but it's actually the Abrahamic faiths, the Abrahamic faiths, you have easy to understand Islam. It's another book here we
have Muslims in America. The history. Yeah. And you have letters
to my elders in Islam. Yes. You have understanding Islam.
You wrote a written a lot of books on Islam, and the crescent and the cross the cross in the crescent, like the right Hmm.
So these are some of your books that you've authored. You're obviously very busy writing books, you are out there, trying to now mend the bridges, build the bridges, to help develop a better understanding between Islam, the Muslims and people of other faiths. But we want to hear about your story. We want to know, why would someone who was so high up in the ranks, who had so much knowledge of Christianity, you know, the Bible, well, what happened? Let's talk from your will get a little bit of a history from a young age. Talk to us. Tell us how you got involved in Christianity and your parents and etc. Sure. Actually, there's probably four parts to the story. Yes. And the first part
would be sort of my journey into the Christian ministry. Yeah. The second part would be my leaving the ministry. Third part would be my years is what I called in a typical Christian. Yeah. And then finally, the fourth part, my journey into Islam. But you asked about the first part, which is my sort of journey to the Christian ministry. Yeah. I grew up in a small rural community in Kansas, where the church was the center of community life. It was a small town of about 500 people. We had three churches. Every summer there were ice cream, socials at the churches, chicken pot pie dinners, cornrows, etc. And the churches really were the center of community life. And that was true for my
family as well. We attended the local Methodist Church. And throughout my childhood, I was very actively involved in collecting my perfect attendance pins from Sunday school, my awards for memorizing biblical verses, etc. And so by the time I reached junior high school, I was already considering the ministry as a personal calling. And about that time during the annual youth Sunday, I was always so
To deliver the sermon, and word of that got around and before long I was preaching at various other local churches upon occasion, at nursing homes at various church affiliated organizations, etc. called was a set. I was probably about 14, when I started very young age. And so I continued in that direction. And at age 17, I entered Harvard College as an undergraduate, with a philosophy major, which was gearing towards seminary and continued on in that direction. In 1970, actually 1969 I received my license to preach from the United Methodist Church, in 1971, graduated as an undergraduate, and entered Harvard Divinity School, which is a three year program leading to a
degree and Master of divinity. In 1972, I was ordained a deacon in the United Methodist Church. And in 1974, I graduated with a master of divinity from
Harvard Divinity School spent that summer as an interim minister into rural parishes in Kansas. But in the fall of 1974, I left the ministry, or at least left the parish ministry, I was still an ordained minister. But never again what I feel a pulpit after the fall of 1974, which probably brings us to the second part of the story, if you want to move in that direction. Yeah. Tell us. What will you go into that? Why did you end up I mean, you were filling the puppets? I mean, did you have like a big crowd, people would be excited to come listen to you preach. And did you guys have a band? How did that work to describe this, this atmosphere? Oh, well, at the risk of sounding
immodest, yeah. Typically, everywhere I preach, we said attendance records, you were like a Jimmy Swaggart at the top
of your community, maybe a Joel olsteen. No, of the small little town or I don't want to do comparisons. But yeah. Suffice it to say, attendance typically skyrocketed. Oh, when when I was behind the pulpit, so people knew who you were. Yeah, they wanted to, they wanted a ticket to get into this.
Church to see and to hear what you had to say. Because you had knowledge. You were a man of knowledge.
Amongst other things, yeah. Okay. So talk to us now from filling the pulpits. people lined up wanting to hear what you have to say from preaching the Bible. What now led you to leave the pulpit? Well, when people ask me,
I usually say there's a long story in a short story. Yes, the short story is a good seminary education. The long story takes a little longer. But basically, it's one of the ironies of life, that the churches often take the
most promising of their young ministers, and they send them to really good seminaries. And in those really good seminaries such as the one I was fortunate enough to attend, you are systematically exposed to the oldest existing texts of how the Bible actually once read, you're exposed to the changes that were made in those texts, when those changes took place. Why those changes took place? Where are those changes took place.
So once you receive that knowledge,
and those changes, by the way, raise serious, serious questions about such fundamental Christian doctrines is the Trinity, the sonship of Jesus Christ peace be upon him,
the crucifixion event, and the doctrine of atonement and the blood. All of these come into serious question, when you look at the oldest manuscripts that we have of what the Bible wants that so that was one consideration. The other consideration is that you are also given a very good grounding in the history of the early church. Now this is seminary school. Yes. Is this at when it when when does now seminary school come is that that's after Harvard now? Well, first you do the undergraduate I did four years undergraduate at Harvard, okay. received my BA Yes. And then entered Harvard Divinity School, which is a seminary. Yes. And that's a three year course of studies leading to a master of
divinity. Okay, gotcha. So the second thing you're exposed to, is the actual history of the early Christian church. And in terms of that, you're exposed to the decidedly geopolitical machinations
That really went into defining some of the fundamental doctrines and dogmas of Christianity. And notice I said geopolitical machinations, not theological considerations, not religious considerations, but political considerations that went in. You're also exposed to the tremendous breadth of knowledge, the tremendous breadth of opinion that existed within early Christianity, you know, it was not monolithic, does is is like kind of like the Christian thick. Well,
suffice it to say, there were many different branches to early Christianity. Now, the branch that survived basically into modern times, was Pauline Christianity.
This was the Christianity that developed out of the teachings of Paul or Saul of Tarsus, this is what's mainstream today? Yes, basically, yeah. But there were many other branches to early Christianity, some of which survived for centuries, before they eventually died out. And one of the fundamental distinctions that we can make is between Pauline Christianity, which was the Christianity that Paul took to the Gentiles and the non Jews, principally in Europe, but also to a certain extent in Asia Minor. And we can contrast that with what's called the Jerusalem church. Now, this was the actual disciples of Jesus, yes, and how they practiced, and what they believe. And
there were excited differences between these two groups. But over time, because of geopolitical considerations, the different branches of Christianity was sort of systematically eliminated one by one. And when that was done,
unfortunately, that was done often at the expense of destroying
books, that were once considered scripture, by some of these branches of Christianity. So a lot of knowledge was lost in the destruction of these books. But these are the two fundamental reasons why I left the Christian ministry, it really boiled down to an issue of personal integrity.
You know, how can I stand behind the pulpit on Sunday morning, and preach a sermon that I knew was at variance with the actual tap root of Christianity? Of course, if I stood behind the pulpit on Sunday morning, and preached what I had been taught in seminary, I'd be looking for a new job within a week. Yeah. So this conflict existed. And as a result, to preserve my personal integrity, I left the active ministry and pursued graduate school in clinical psychology. And by the way, approximately half of my graduating class from Harvard Divinity School, walked away from the parish ministry upon graduation, so I wasn't the only one. Is this kind of like, the Have you heard of
Bart? Aram? Yes, yes, kind of people. So who have gotten engrossed, and really started to go deeper into studying the original texts? And many of them they come to the conclusion that you have that? You know, a lot of this is not making sense. It doesn't. Sure, sure. And, you know, the biblical scholar you mentioned is a good example of that, but there are many others as well.
Can you can you name a few that Pete some people who are out there that academics who they recognize these people these names? Oh, well, Bart Ehrman is certainly one. But it's really almost any good biblical scholar knows. I mean, all you have to do is pick up a good Bible Commentary. Yeah, such as the interpreter's Bible Commentary. And begin reading it. Yeah. And you'll be exposed in the process to wait a minute, this text originally read this way. And this was inserted into the text around the year 380. In Spain, this sort of informations there. It's available to the public, but they have to really go out and study in order to find it. That's the thing how many actually want to take the
time to investigate instead of just blindly going along with what everyone else is going along? Yeah, and it does take a great deal of time. Yeah, to try and do it on here. Uh huh. Tell us Did you feel now before we move forward with the story? Did you feel before you were engrossed with all this new knowledge that you were impervious to someone else coming in with other beliefs, views opinions? Were you really staunch in your belief that it was unshakable before you got all this new knowledge? Sure. I mean, I believed what I had been taught in church and Sunday school, probably just like everyone else believes, what they're taught in church and Sunday school.
And so it is it's a real shock. When all of a sudden you're confronted with a text that says
You know, in these verses of the Bible, if you look at the original text, it raises real questions as to whether or not Jesus was actually crucified. Yeah. So that's a shock. Tell us also who you emulate. Who did you feel you we all are emulating somebody? We have role models? Who were you before emulating? Who are you trying to? Were you trying to be like Jesus? Were you trying to be like a certain pastor, a preacher? Well, there are certainly ministers who had an influence on me.
And ministers to whom I looked up and admired.
Certainly the role model of Jesus peace be upon him, as is presented in the four gospels of the Bible is a very powerful and very positive role model. Yeah. So that was always there as well. Yeah. Tell us now, this is very interesting. It's intriguing. I'm sure people's ears are glued to the screen. There's one thing I just wanted to, to have you comment on, because we want this, those sincere and honest people who are really wanting to know the truth, we want them to be able to understand this. But there are some people who sometimes they just can't get past certain things. And they're looking at your beard.
We want them to get past the beard. Tell us about the beard for a second? Well, the beard for me is simply following the example of Prophet Muhammad, who advised us in a Hadeeth are in us one of his sayings, that we shouldn't trim the beard that we should let the beard grow. So with any advice from the Prophet peace be upon him. I let my beard grow. did Jesus have a beard? Well, we assume so. did Moses have a beard? Well, we assume so beards, beards were fashion. Yeah, at that time at that part of the world. Yeah, fashion has changed for people, but for what God has ordained through his messengers, as the teachers, they were the ones that we should be emulating, isn't it? Yes. Yeah.
That is what remains stable. So this is just a pious example of somebody trying to emulate the best of human beings these profits? Yes. Would you say okay, so I hope that one person or two they got past the beer. Now tell us?
Did you believe earnestly with full conviction that the Bible was the word of God Almighty, before again, you got engrossed in all this new knowledge?
Well, I think we have to define what's meant by the word of God, because there's two main beliefs that run throughout Christianity. If you look at different Christians, there's one group of Christians primarily those who call themselves fundamentalists, or the fire wing of the Christian, right, who believe that the Bible is word for word, the literal words of God.
But there's a second group of Christians, typically you find them amongst mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics, etc. who say, well, the Bible was inspired by God, but it was funneled through human beings. And so their personal historical context, etc. We have to take that into account. But the basic message the inspiration is from God, even though we can't take things literally word for word. So you believe this? Yes. Okay. And now, did your obviously belief change? Once you finish seminary school? Absolutely. What did you think then? Well, again, when you're when you're confronted with the variances and what the original text said, and what the Bible says, Now, as you
as I said before, that that's a shocking experience. And it causes one to question. You know, what else is here? That has been changed, where I don't have the original text anymore? So I don't know that this change has taken place. Yeah, you know, it's, we know what we know. But how many other places there may have been changes? We don't know. Now that you lose a lot, now we're going to get into it. And again, people want to know the big question, why did you accept Islam? Why did you come to be a Muslim? We're gonna get to that. We just want to lead to that. Did you ever get people who came to you with a confused look on your face, about this Trinity? wanting to know a little more?
adamantly? How they could make this fit God being obviously Three in One is that correct? Father, Son, and the goals but not three. But one is somebody who just came to you as a pastor. Did they call you? What What was the time they call you pastor? or wherever pastor Dirks, can you please explain to me I can't figure this out. Who do I pray to God I pray to the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Did you have these experiences? Not that often. And the reason for that again, is, you know, people are taught in Sundays.
builder taught in church from a very early age. You know, God is three persons in one substance. That's the traditional Protestant and Roman Catholic formulation of the Trinity. Some of the Eastern churches say, three substances in one essence, yes. But this becomes a catchphrase three persons in one substance. You don't think about it, you don't question it is just sort of an automatic response. If you're asked about the Trinity, you say, oh, three persons in one substance, three persons being the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.
And so people tend to accept this because it was ingrained at a very early age, they tend not to question it, or say, Now, wait a minute, exactly. What does that mean?
And when people do those few who do, typically they find that they can't make any sense out of it.
In fact, Athanasius, who has in many ways, the father of the doctrine of the Trinity, is reported to have said, very late in life as he was dying, that the more he thought about the notion of the Trinity, the less sense it made to it.
So this is a very confusing issue, and I think most Christians typically avoided Yes, I've just fall back on that early learning of saying three persons in one substance. And if there's any questioning that goes beyond that, the response as well, that's one of the Divine mysteries. What about the age show the yoke, or the water? And it being three components? One part? Have you gotten this? Oh, the sort of thing about compare the Trinity to
h2o, which has the steam, water or ice? Yeah, I've gotten that. The interesting thing is that's actually officially a heresy and traditional Christian thought.
Because you're denying the three persons.
Yeah, most Christians who try to grapple their way to some understanding of the Trinity that goes beyond simply saying, three persons in one substance, without realizing it often drift off into what the church has already condemned as heresy in terms of their understanding of the Trinity. Yeah. Wow, that's amazing. We are almost out of time for this session, we're going to have to do a part two, let's get a few more questions in again, we're excited. And we want to know like what led up to finally accepting Islam, but we want to dig a little more to find out some of the things that unique experiences that you did you had did you use to sing? No, no. I see a lot of singing going on a
terrible sense of pitch. Okay. Now tell us.
What did you believe now? You found these things. You went from believing that this the Bible, which you were brought up, reading, studying learning was the word of God? Correct? And now you go through this now, what did you believe that you believe that there was still some of the Word of God in it? And it was? man's
adding deleting? Yeah, certainly, certainly, I believe there. There was divine inspiration in the Bible in places. Yeah. I also realized that there were corruptions of the Bible and ISIS, I believe very strongly, that there was God. Yes, and only one God.
But I had no belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, peace be upon him. I had no belief in the doctrine of the Trinity. I had serious questions about the crucifixion event. So I was basically from the time I left the act of ministry in 1974, until I became a Muslim many years later, what I call an A typical Christian. What's a typical question? Well, for me, a typical Christian is someone who doesn't believe in the divinity of Jesus, who rejects the notion of the Trinity, but still maintains a deep and abiding belief in God. And who still, you know, picks up the Bible reads it for the good moral instruction that is found in it in many places,
and continues to study.
The Bible continues, for example, for me, going down to the local seminary and haunting the bookstore and purchasing new books on recent archaeological finds having to do with various texts of the Bible, etc. Did you find yourself getting in some dialogue with other people who believe staunchly that No, no, Jesus is God, that He is the Son of God also, and that he died for your sins, since obviously, now You didn't? You had the synthesis of this, you would believe something opposite to it? Did you have some conflict here with other peers or members of your congregation or friends or? Well, no, no real conflict, and in fact, I didn't attend church very much at all. This is later
on now that you know, once I left the ministry, you know a few times a year that would be it, primarily because they thought it was an employee.
And family function to do.
But typically I would go, I would listen to a sermon, I would grit my teeth as I heard things I knew were not true. Give us an example giving us an example. Well,
the Trinity Yes, for example, or the divinity of Jesus peace be upon him. Or some of the statements that were made about the crucifixion or the doctrine of the atonement in the blood. You're sitting there just like, how can they preach this? Yeah, exactly. Exactly. This is amazing. Well, what it is a lot of ministers Yeah, rationalize. Uh huh. And they say, I know what I mean, when I say the Son of God. Uh huh. And I understand it this way, and sort of the metaphorical way. Or I understand it, as I believe the actual disciples understood that term, or as it was understood in first century Palestine.
However, the congregation probably doesn't understand it that way. When that phrases? Did you feel like this also went against your very nature, this inherent nature that God put in all of us to recognize the truth? Did you feel that something inside you said no? Sure. Yeah. And do you feel like a lot of people that they that, you know, you said, a typical Christian I've come across, and these are our brothers in, in humanity, yes. And we are to be the kindness to them. And we are to share this way of life that we believe that all the messengers of God, they lived, which was surrender, and submission, obedience, sincerity, and in peace, which is sort of one word Islam, to
share with them. We don't have to proselytize and, you know, try to twist their arm to accept it. But if they want to a it's there for you sure. It's a way of life that God has a name for everybody take it. If not, you can least understand us. And we can be brothers working together for some kind of good. Now tell us before we got like two minutes, and we're going to have to do a part two, this is so exciting. Tell us now.
feel that you now because a lot of these people you said a typical outcome across people, like I was saying that they are Christian, but they don't believe Jesus is God. Other people believe that his son of God, not God, there's some confusion here. Did you at any time feel like you know what?
Confused now lost? What do I do? Where do I go from here? Well, I think there are a lot of a typical Christians out there actually.
Probably more among the ordained clergy than among the laity. Because the ordained clergy has been exposed typically, yeah, to at least some of this information. And in fact, there was a study done by Psychology Today magazine back in the early 1970s, was where they listed what they considered to be 10 fundamental beliefs of Christianity. And they went out and surveyed the Christian laity and found that on the average Christian lady believed in about seven I think it was of these 10. Yeah. When they surveyed the ordained ministry, they found they believed in about four of the 10. Yeah, so you can see the discrepancy. This is not odd, isn't it that I don't know, maybe in the 70s or 80s,
that the Anglican bishops, they had come to a unanimous decision that you didn't to be a Christian, you didn't have to believe that Jesus was God also. Well, I'm not going to speak for the Anglican bishops. Yeah, this is something that I came across. So it's not something odd that people they also go with what's in their nature and they reject this belief that a man can be God that Jesus was God, etc. Yeah, that's true of a lot of people who I would say are a typical Christian. Yeah, we are out of time. We will inshallah shall continue next week doing part two, because we didn't answer how you stumble how you accepted submission to surrender to the One God nothing in creation, but to the
Creator who made the sun the moon who created Jesus who Jesus prayed to he didn't Yes. Okay, we could do the part two, and yes, inshallah. I'm excited. And I'm sure you're excited. Also. Thank you to zocalo hi to my brother. And desert ohana. Thank you so much for being with us. I know you're excited. But you know what, we got to take a timeout. We've run out of time. But next week, we're going to continue on. And we're going to answer this question. Why is slob? You got to hear a little bit about the past. about Dr. Dirks
going through Harvard University, going to the seminary and being on the pulpit, filling the crowds with preaching the Bible, but now he's a Muslim and you want to know why. And we're going to bring you his story inshallah. God willing. Thank you. We'll see you next week. Here on the deen show. Until then, a Salaam Alaikum peace be unto you
deeds comb each name a bit everybody sleep in
and ask a lot of thinking me. Oh la You see? Oh la you know all these things I do. I turn to you to pick a mass in the mouth
runs away. Oh Allah guide me