How should Christians think about Islamic terrorism?

SPROUL: It is a big subject, and it has to do with our understanding of the role that, under God, government has to play.

We as individuals do not have the right to seek vengeance, but God has not only ordained a church, but He also ordains government to protect from the evil-doer and from unrighteousness. And He has given the power of the sword to them, not to us. But He has given the power of the sword to them.

Even a non-Christian government has the responsibility to maintain and protect the sanctity of life, which our government certainly doesn't do. But it still doesn't excuse them from their responsibility under God.

As long as we sanction abortion on demand, we're not operating under God. We're operating in outward defiance of God and of the very purpose for which any government is established. We need to understand that.

MOHLER: Can I come back to the first part of that? Because I think it's really important that we come back and say that when you see someone who may be dressed or is otherwise presenting as a Muslim, our first thought shouldn't be "potential terrorist."

We should be thankful that the vast majority of Muslims in the world are not engaged in an active jihad against us or against the West. But, as I mentioned on "The Briefing" recently, this massive study came out saying we should be thankful that ninety to ninety-five percent of Muslims around the world, country by country, say they don't support ISIS. But that does leave ten to five percent, which means tens and tens of millions of people are given to this.

The other thing we have to recognize is that theology matters. We come back to that again and again. And there is no form of Quranic Islam—and, by the way, there's no other form of Islam—but in the Quran, holy war is built in as a central, animating purpose: geographical conquest and the bringing of conquest. The world is separated between the world of Islam and the world of war.

That's why we have to understand that we should be thankful. Most are not actively involved in terrorism. Though we can understand, given that theology and their eschatology, why many would be.

But we do have to recognize that the distinction between Muhammad, who was revealed in the Quran and bragged about in Muslim tradition as a warrior with a sword bloodied by many, is in direct contradiction to Jesus as the Prince of Peace who told Peter to put away his sword. And it is an opportunity for the preaching of the gospel in an age in which the thesis and the antithesis have perhaps never been more dramatically separated and made distinguished in the headlines of every day.

GODFREY: We have had at our seminary in the past a student from Turkey. And he told us the story of a missionary couple who had been working in Turkey, which has historically been regarded as one of the safer, slightly more secular, more tolerant Muslim societies.

The man was out witnessing for Christ, and someone jumped out of the crowd and cut his throat and killed him publicly. And the television carried this story and interviewed his widow shortly after this had happened. And they asked her what she would like to say to the nation. She said, "I would like to say, in the name of Christ, I forgive my husband's killer."

And the Turkish student said, "That one sentence did more to communicate the essential nature of Christianity to the Turkish world than any number of books and missionary activities might have done." Because Turkish culture is a revenge culture. And to have this testimony to forgiveness was arresting, perhaps baffling.

And that's why our Savior said to us that we're to turn the other cheek, that we're to love our enemies. However difficult that is personally, whatever cost that might lead to, that's what we're called to do and to be.

It's not what the American government is called to do and to be. They are to promote justice. They are to maintain order. They are to protect citizens. But we as Christians have to bear a different testimony.

So however fearful we are, however angry we are, we have to try to let the words of our Savior live in our hearts, that we're to love the enemy and turn the other cheek. And we have to labor for that because that will be the path to see conversions among Muslims.

It will be the Word of Christ's grace that converts them, not, probably, a Christian version of the sword. In fact, their sense that in the Crusades Christians were just as bloody as Muslims were is one of the great impediments to this day to conversion or even to hearing the gospel on the part of Muslims.

Lightly edited for readability, this is a transcript of W. Robert Godfrey's, Albert Mohler's, and  R.C. Sproul's answers given at our 2016 National Conference. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit or message us on Facebook or Twitter.