Why Islam and the Christian Faith Clash
By Randy Blackaby
As the thunder of a Third World War rumbles from Israel to Iraq and from Afghanistan to New York and Bali, the extremely naïve of our country shake their heads and imagine its all rooted in minor religious differences. They also imagine that some new level of tolerance and acceptance can resolve it. They imply a new ecumenism is needed.
And while weak and sickly American denominationalism and its anemic ecumenical faithlessness lend their political correctness to these ideas, any real understanding of what the Bible says about being a Christian or what the Qur’an says about being a Muslim demonstrates these two faiths always will clash.
Recently, a PBS program advanced the idea that Christianity, Judaism and Islam represent “one God and three faiths.” The false premise and the idea promoted is that these three religions have a lot in common and only relatively minor differences. But again, such ideas belie a deep ignorance of each religion.
A Christian is, by any reasonable definition, a disciple or follower of Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin, his birth instigated by the Holy Spirit. Thus, he was both God and man at once, as the name Immanuel suggests (Matthew ). Further, the Bible teaches that Jesus lived a sinless life (Hebrews ) and died a torturous death on the cross for mankind’s sins (Romans 5:6-8). Scripture records that Jesus accepted worship from men while on earth (John ) and today serves as the sole mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5).
While Jesus and the first disciples were Jews, and while Jewish scriptures foretold the Christ’s coming, there is little but history that connects Judaism and Christianity today. Jews may accept that Jesus lived, but they deny his deity, his sacrificial death for sin and his present mediation from heaven.
However, many Jews and professed Christians don’t take their beliefs very seriously, reduce religion and worship to a social event and manage to politically find common ground and a relative peace.
Islam is a different story, in several respects. First, like the Jews, Muslims deny that Jesus is the Son of God. They deny Jesus died on a cross for our sins and that he was resurrected. They reject the Bible’s statement that Jesus is God’s final revelator of His will (Hebrews 1:1-3). Jesus is viewed as merely a good teacher, whose teachings were corrupted by the apostles who followed him.
More importantly, Muslims fundamentally reject the entire foundation of both Christian and Jewish faith. Since they claim both Jewish scriptures (Old Testament) and Christian scriptures (New Testament) are corrupted, neither is accepted.
Instead, they follow the teachings and example of Mohammed, reputedly recorded in a holy book called the Qur’an. Other writings and traditions, such as the Hadith, help guide them as well.
Understand Mohammed and understand the conflict
The faith of Islam centers on Mohammed. This man was born in
, in present-day Mecca , about 570 AD. Muslims say that in about 610 AD Mohammed was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that he was to be God’s apostle. They say Gabriel visited the founder of Islam many more times with messages that were verbally handed down for decades and then recorded in what became the Qur’an. Saudi Arabia
When Mohammed began teaching in
he was rejected and ridiculed. So, in 622 he is said to have traveled to Mecca in Medina , where his teachings found acceptance. Thus, the Islamic calendar is dated from 622. Saudi Arabia
, the movement headed by Mohammed began to change from simple teaching to a political and social crusade. Mohammed died just 10 years after his first success, in 632. But his followers say that while alive he performed miracles, such as multiplying food, causing stones to speak and splitting the moon. He is purported to have made a miraculous “Night Journey to Medina ” and the “seven spheres of heaven.” For this trip he rode a winged, human-headed beast, they say. Jerusalem
Mohammed is viewed as the successor to Jesus. And while they contend Jesus’ teaching has been corrupted, they are adamant that Islam’s scriptures remain undefiled through the centuries. Mohammed is to Islam what Jesus is to Christian faith. In fact, one Islamic writer has described the founder of Islam as “the most favored of mankind, the most honored of all apostles, the prophet of mercy, the head or Imam of the faithful, the bearer of the banner of praise, the intercessor, the holder of high position, the possessor of the River of Paradise, under whose banner the sons of Adam will be on the day of judgment. He is the best of prophets and his nation is the best of nations…and his creed is the noblest of all creeds.”
Compare Jesus and Mohammed
When you set Jesus and Mohammed side by side, the contrast is startling—and illuminating. Jesus was meek and gentle. He spread his message of repentance, faith in God and impending salvation by teaching. He ultimately gave up his life for his followers. He declared that his kingdom is not of this world (John ).
Mohammed, on the other hand, was a warrior. He conquered by the sword, starting with raids on merchant caravans. Those who opposed his teaching were physically conquered and often given the option of conversion or death. Mohammed’s kingdom is definitely “of this world” as the quote above illustrates, because “his nation is the best of nations” in Islamic thought.
Anywhere Islam becomes the predominant religious conviction, the government becomes an arm of Islam and is used to enforce religious law and punish any teaching or practice contrary to Muslim tenets. It is illegal for Christians to evangelize or even openly read a Bible in Islamic countries.
If Mohammed’s example were not sufficient, the Qur’an advocates “holy war” or “jihad.” The so-called “militant Muslims” of al Qaeda and Hamas are really just Muslims who take Mohammed and their Qur’an seriously and at face value. The Qur’an teaches, “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them…lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way…” (Sura 9:5).
The Encarta Encyclopedia says this of the history of Islam, “The remarkable speed of (Islam’s) religious expansion can be attributed to the fact that it was accomplished primarily through military conquest. Mohammed drew Arabs…to Islam by his forceful personality, the promise of salvation for those who died fighting for Islam, and the lure of fortune for those who succeeded in conquest. The caravan raids of the early years of Islam soon became full-scale wars, and empires and nations bowed to the power of this new religious, military, political, economic and social phenomenon.”
An Islamic website largely confirms this. “Islam was spread by proof and evidence, in the case of those who listened to the message and responded to it. And it was spread through strength and the sword in the case of those who stubbornly resisted, until they had no choice and had to submit to the new reality” (www.islam-qa.com Question #5441).
This is quite a contrast to Christian faith rooted in the teaching of the New Testament. The Apostle Paul averred, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5). The armaments of the Christian soldier are described in Ephesians 6:10-17. The only armor described as offensive is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
The religious foundations of the conflict
Some of the present conflict is rooted in economic and political issues. Like Hitler did in
in the late 1930s, Muslim leaders have made “the west” the scapegoats just as the Nazis did the Jews. But the conflict has a fundamental religious element also, as we’ve seen. Germany
Despite aberrations like the Catholic inquisition, teaching and preaching the gospel spread Christian faith. Belief always and necessarily is voluntary, the response of a heart touched by the message of God’s love, illustrated in the death of Jesus on the cross.
But Islam began its development with violence and once nearly took over the world by war. Today, some of its advocates again seek to bring Islamic rule to the world through terrorism and violence.
The two religions have two very different founders and two very different holy books. Their views of God, salvation and the future are very different—radically different.
If there are peace-loving Muslims in the world, they are peaceful in spite of Mohammed and the Qur’an—not because of them. Such Muslims are the “liberals” of their faith because they do not seek to imitate their founder or follow strictly the teachings of his book.