Nov 17, 2014

Book Review: 'Dreams and Visions, Is Jesus awakening the Muslim World?' by Tom Doyle

Gary GilleyDr. Gary Gilley
Southern View Chapel

Tom Doyle is a missionary in the Middle East and Central Asia and attended both the Bible Institute of Los Angeles and Dallas Theological Seminary (p. 133). Dreams and Visions is endorsed by the likes of Anne Graham Lotz, Charles Dyer and Janet Parshall. The argument of the book is that Jesus is presenting Himself, via dreams and visions, to Muslims throughout the globe (including America—pp. 238-239) in order to draw them to Himself. Doyle believes this is the most important movement of God in our time (p. 8).

Why dreams? The author suggests a number of possibilities:

  • The Muslim religion was started by a dream to Muhammad and dreams are part of the culture in Middle Eastern countries.
  • They were used supposedly by the gods in the region to reveal their wills; dreams are an accepted form of communication by the Muslims (p. 130).
  • Muslims have believed in the visits of jinns or "genies" for centuries, who are considered "foot soldiers of Satan" (pp. 52-53).
  • Dreams of Jesus express love and protection that lead to joy and peace, thus opening the hearts of the recipient to the gospel (p. 132).
  • It is like Jesus to reach out to the hated and despised of society as the Muslims are at this time (p. 132).

Doyle believes that Jesus dreams break down barriers but it is up to Christians to present the gospel. He is convinced that one-third of all Muslims come to Christ as a result of dreams (p. 127). Still, Doyle thinks that the number one reason Muslims come to salvation is because of Christians showing them love, not dreams (p. 181). He apparently sees dreams as necessary, however, using stories of dreams in his witnessing and asking his readers to pray that Muslims will have dreams (pp. 198-199).

Tom Doyle

Grounded in Scripture?

Whether or not this dream phenomenon is of God is an important issue at this time in the church's effort to fulfill the Great Commission. Sadly Doyle makes no real effort to support his view through Scripture. That dreams and visions happened occasionally in biblical times is without question, but nothing remotely resembling what is being reported by Muslims ever took place in the Bible. Doyle gives nod to this by claiming that biblical dreams gave revelation, while today's give insight (p. 255). How he came to this conclusion is a mystery. When the Lord appears or speaks at any time, it is always with divine authority and inspired (God-breathed) revelation. The distinction between God-breathed revelation and insight cannot be supported scripturally.

In addition, Doyle bases his views on experience rather than the Word of God. That his foundation is shaky, at best, is evident when one realizes that virtually every religion and cult comes with its own set of experiences, visions and dreams. What distinguishes evangelical Christianity from all other contenders is that it rests on propositional revelation, found exclusively in Scripture, not on the unreliable experiences claimed by people. The dreams and visions movement undermines this foundational objective pillar of truth and replaces it with subjectivism (see pp. 126-127). On what basis are we to accept Muslim dreams and visions but reject those of the Mormons, Christian Scientists or extreme Pentecostals? Who decides? And once it is accepted that what we believe as Christians is shaped more by experience than the biblical text where does that lead? Church history gives us a clue. Friedrich Schleiermacher the father of modern liberalism, purposely shifted the basis for truth from Scripture to experience. The end result was a mutilation of Christianity to the point that liberalism is another gospel altogether. This should be kept in mind when evaluating any movement based on experience rather than objective biblical truth.

Speaking of church history, the first Appendix documents other important points in time in which the Lord broke through and did something amazing and unusual. These include the Reformation, the Great Awakening and the Modern Missionary Movement. However, it should be noted that none of these was characterized by a visit from Jesus but by a return to taking the Scriptures and its commands seriously. These examples actually undermine Doyle's thesis.

In summary, Tom Doyle makes no attempt to support his views biblically. His source of authority is experience which is highly subjective and unreliable. It is also pragmatic. Muslims seem to be coming to Christ as a result of dreams and visions, therefore this phenomenon must be of God. The flaw in his reasoning is that nothing like this ever happened in either the Bible or church history. That thousands are supposedly having dreams of Jesus, and often multiple dreams, simply does not square with the scriptural accounts in which the vast majority of God's people never experience such things, and even the most important did so once or twice in a lifetime. Rather, in Scripture the burden of spreading the gospel was given to Jesus's disciples who were to "go and tell" (Matt 28:19, 20; Romans 10:14, 15). Also, the statement given by Paul that he was the last to see the risen Lord (1 Cor 15:8) needs to be seriously considered, but is not in this volume.

Doyle believes that the dreams and visions now being given to the Muslims will be short lived. Once evangelized sufficiently Jesus will move on to another religious group such as the Hindus or Buddhists or even atheists (p. 245). How Doyle knows this, or why Jesus can't appear to more than one religious group at a time, is not explained.

We should rejoice when people are saved. To be part of bringing the gospel to the lost is one of the greatest privileges of the Christian. But every method used in evangelism must be thoroughly grounded in Scripture and evaluated by the same. The dreams and visions movement, while initially seemingly effective, undercuts the authority of Scripture and rests on subjective experience. Accordingly, I do not believe it is a movement of God.