We – Muslims and Christians – need to learn to dialogue like this.
I think I’ve written on this subject before, but why not to keep on writing? This post was originally written here.
Suppose you own a Bible, but it’s translated in a style that’s difficult to understand. Or maybe your Bible has simply worn out from years of usage. If so, you can easily walk into any Christian bookstore and pick up a different version of the Bible.
The earliest Christians couldn’t do that.
There was no “Polycarp Standard Version” or “Saint James Study Bible with Limited Edition Camel-Knee Binding” on anyone’s bookshelf, and there were no printing presses or photocopy machines. Early Christians read the Scriptures from codexes and scrolls. These copies of the Scriptures were hand-written from whatever manuscripts the copyists happened to possess when a copy was needed. And so, it was crucial for copyists to reproduce these texts accurately.
But did they? What if the copies of the New Testament were corrupted over the centuries?
Certain skeptics give the impression that ancient copyists changed the biblical texts in ways that ought to worry Christians today (this is certainly the case with Muslims).
Here’s how Bart Erhman describes the status of the New Testament manuscripts:
Not only do we not have the originals [of the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament], we don’t have the first copies of the originals.… What we have are copies made later—much later. … These copies differ from one another in so many places that we don’t even know how many differences there are. … Christianity … is a textually oriented religion whose texts have been changed, surviving only in copies that vary from one another, sometimes in highly significant ways.
Such statements suggest that the process of copying the Scriptures worked something like the Telephone Game (much like skeptics have depicted the oral histories you learned about in a previous chapter). In the Telephone game, of course, you might start with “I like pepperoni pizza” but end up with “Don’t let the purple aliens build pyramids when the zombies attack.”
Could it be that the verses in the New Testament have been similarly corrupted by careless copyists? If so, even if the original New Testament texts told the truth, how can we be sure that what we read in the New Testament today is true, since it may have changed over the centuries? Has the message of Jesus been lost in transmission?
Truth be told, the skeptics’ claims are overblown. The New Testament has not changed significantly over the centuries, and nothing essential to the message of Jesus has been lost in transmission. In the first place, manuscripts weren’t copied a single time and then tossed aside, like the individual sentences whispered around the circle in a Telephone Game. Manuscripts were kept, repeatedly copied, and sometimes used to check later copies.
What’s more, textual critics today don’t start with the manuscripts left over at the end of the copying process, like the last sentence uttered in the Telephone Game. The Greek text that stands behind today’s New Testament is the result of careful reconstruction using the earliest surviving manuscripts, not a few leftovers at the end!
So, yes, copyists made mistakes, and some copyists even altered texts. And yet, such lapses were relatively rare. Copyists worked hard to keep their copies correct and, for the most part, they got it right. Even when they didn’t get it right, most of their mistakes were mere misspellings or slips of the pen—variants that are easy to spot and easily corrected. When it comes to more difficult variants, so many manuscripts and fragments of the New Testament have survived that scholars can almost always reconstruct the original reading of the text. In those few instances where uncertainty about the right reading remains, none of the possibilities changes anything that Christians believe about God or about his work in the world.
So did copyists make changes in the manuscripts? Of course they did!
The copyists were human beings, and being human means making mistakes. Since God chose not to override their humanity as they copied the New Testament, these human beings were every bit as prone to short attention spans, poor eyesight, and fatigue as you or me. They had no eyeglasses or contact lenses to sharpen their vision, and they relied on the flickering light of lamps to see.
Since God did not “re-inspire” the text each time it was reproduced, sometimes the copyists miscopied their sources. Once in a while, they even tried to fix things that weren’t broken by changing words that they thought a heretic might misconstrue. The result is hundreds of thousands of copying variants scattered among the New Testament manuscripts.
One popular skeptic’s much-repeated soundbite is that “there are more variations among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament”; this statement is technically true but—unless his listeners are aware of the vast number of New Testament manuscripts that survive today—it’s also a bit misleading.
There are around 138,000 words in the Greek New Testament, and hundreds of thousands of variants can be found scattered among the Greek manuscripts— but that number of variants comes from adding up every difference in every surviving manuscript from the Greek New Testament. Well over 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts have been preserved as a whole or in part—more than any other text from the ancient world! With so many surviving manuscripts, it doesn’t take long for the number of variants to exceed the number of words in the Greek New Testament.
If only one manuscript of the New Testament had survived, there would have been zero variants (and this single manuscript would probably have become an idol to which people would make pilgrimages today!). But early Christians believed that all of God’s Word should be accessible to all of God’s people. And so, every church seemed to have possessed its own codexes of apostolic texts—and that’s why more than 5,000 whole or partial manuscripts survive today.
Spread across millions and millions of words in more than 5,000 manuscripts, the variations represent a small percentage of the total text. According to one scholar, the New Testament text is 92.6% stable. In other words, all these differences affect less than 8% of the New Testament text! What’s more, the overwhelming majority of these differences have to do with words that are misspelled or rearranged—differences that have no impact on the translation or meaning of the text.
What this means practically is that the text of the New Testament has been sufficiently preserved for us to recover the words that God intended and inspired. What’s more, several portions of the New Testament survive from the second century—a century or less after the time when God first inspired eyewitnesses of the risen Lord to write!
The New Testament is, in fact, the best preserved text from the ancient world. Greek scholar D.A. Carson sums up the issue in this way: “The purity of text is of such a substantial nature that nothing we believe to be true, and nothing we are commanded to do, is in any way jeopardized by the variants.”
Portions of this blog post were contributed by Elijah Hixson.
We know (if you are familiar with what the Muslims claim) that every single book in antiquity has been corrupted. By corruption, I mean that people used to keep on copying the manuscripts, and therefore some errors happened. This is certainly the case with the New Testament. There was never an intention to control the text (check out the debate about the Quran with James White that I posted below). The text needed to get out of Jerusalem so that everybody knew what had happened.
Every single person had a different book (either the letter to the Romans, or to the Corinthians) and they made a copy for themselves or for their family. Nobody was trying to alter them on purpose. It is impossible to think that people would get so victorious at changing the doctrines in the New Testament so perfectly, at the same time – without even being organized. The New Testament Manuscript tradition has thousand and thousands of manuscripts.
The Muslim claim is that the Quran we have now has always been the same ever since Gabriel dictated it to Muhammad. But if we are to apply the same standard – not a double standard – on how we treat the Quran and the New Testament, then the Quran is also corrupt. And if it is corrupted – just like any book of antiquity is – then the doctrine of perfect preservation of the Quran is false. That would mean… many things, I guess. No eternal tablets in heaven, no assurance of what Muhammad and his companions wrote down were actually Allah’s words. No hope that Allah’s language is Arabic or that Islam is the religion that pleases Allah or actually true… The Quran is just another book.
If the perfect preservation of the Quran fails… how can Islam survive? Listen to the questions White raises. Where are the manuscripts of the Quran? There are variations in the text of the Quran? How do you know what the original said? Muslims say there are 450 thousand Quran manuscripts. Fine. Where are they? We want to see the list. We can give you all the list of the New Testament manuscripts, and you can go online and find the entire catalog right now. Where is that for the Quran?
You might also want to read Dr. James White’s What every Christian needs to know about the Quran. It’s very a well documented research on the history of how the Quran came to be from the main Islamic sources. But if you watch the top two debates, I’m sure you’ll get the idea.
 Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus (New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2005), 7, 10–11, 69, 132, 208.
 See also Daniel B. Wallace, “Lost in Transmission,” Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2011), 31–33; Darrell Bock, (Nashville: Nelson, 2010), 71.
 See Bart Ehrman’s scholarly work The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). In those relatively few instances where the text has been intentionally altered, it was not primarily heretics altering New Testament texts to fit their beliefs; it was often the orthodox altering texts for the perceived purpose of preventing misuse of the text by heretics. While one may take issue with some of Ehrman’s specific applications, his overall case is well-argued.
 Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus, 90.
 Ehrman (Misquoting Jesus, 89) places the high end of his estimate at 400,000. Careful statistical analysis by Peter Gurry has resulted in an estimate between 500,000 and 550,000, not including misspellings (“Demanding a Recount,” presentation, Evangelical Theological Society, 2014).
 The listing in 2003 included a total of 5,735 manuscripts of the Greek New Testament represented in whole or in part (Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament 4th ed. [New York: Oxford University Press, 2005], 50).
 K. Martin Heide, “Assessing the Stability of the Transmitted Texts of the New Testament and The Shepherd of Hermas,” The Reliability of the New Testament, ed. Robert Stewart (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011), 138. This percentage coheres well with the seven percent figure for variants suggested by Paul Wegner, A Student’s Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2006), 231.
 Wallace, “Lost in Transmission,” 20–21.
As we have engaged in our evaluation of Jesus according to the historical method, the previous articles have demonstrated that the historical Jesus passes the historical method with flying colors. However, we must continue our quest in asking, “Do we have eyewitness testimony concerning Jesus of Nazareth?” That is, do we have the accounts of Jesus from those who personally knew Him? If someone is investigating a person or an event of history, the investigator will want testimony from those who actually knew the person, or witnessed the event.
Admittedly, this area of study pertaining to the historical Jesus is among the most controversial. Many prominent New Testament scholars hold that the accounts that we have of Jesus come from second-hand sources, which would eliminate any eyewitness account that one possesses of the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
Muslims, for example, will tell you that the New Testament Gospels have been “altered”, so you cannot really trust them. The Science of Textual Criticism is able to prove these allegations to be false. I recently read a book by James White called, “What every Christian needs to know about the Quran”. In his book, Dr. White makes a great case for demonstrating that the Bible has been accurately preserved. If we are considering the Bible as a book of antiquity and Muslims will call it “corrupted” using that term freely – without explaining what the term means – then we can also prove the Quran has been corrupted. And badly.
Back to the historical method, there are just as many scholars who hold that the testimonies in the New Testament come from eyewitnesses. This article will examine the reasons for holding that the Evangelists record eyewitness testimony. The second installment will look into the weight of this eyewitness testimony as it tells us who provides the witness. For this investigation, we will examine the Four Gospels. Since at least 7 letters of Paul are undisputed and since Pastor Brian have previously discussed the pre-NT traditions found in Paul’s letters, we will not focus on proving the eyewitness nature for his material.
Within the Gospels, one can find reasons to hold that the testimony comes from eyewitness testimony.
Internal Testimony of Matthew
Matthew has traditionally been ascribed to the disciple Matthew who was a former tax-collector. It is odd that the church would ascribe the Gospel to one who was a tax-collector if it was not true. Tax-collectors were hated in ancient times. Internally, one finds reasons for holding Matthean authorship. Blomberg writes,
“This author, at least of an original draft of this book (or one of its major sources), seems quite probably to have been the converted toll collector, also named Levi, who became one of Jesus’ twelve apostles (cf. 10:3; 9:9–13; Mark 2:14–17).” In addition, Cabal adds that “The Gospel also contains clear evidence that the author possessed a strong command of both Aramaic and Greek, something that would be a prerequisite for most tax collectors. Furthermore, the author of Matthew used the more precise term nomisma for the coin used in the dispute over tribute (Mt 22:19) than Mark’s and Luke’s denarion (Mk 12:15; Lk 20:24).”
This would have been something that a tax-collector would have known.
Internal Evidence of Mark
The church unanimously agreed that John Mark had recorded the eyewitness testimony of Simon Peter in the Second Gospel. The internal nature of Mark’s Gospel seems to indicate that John Mark was indeed the author. Grassmick notes that
“Several features also point to the author’s connection with Peter: (a) the vividness and unusual detail of the narratives, that suggest that they were derived from the reminiscences of an “inner-circle” apostolic eyewitness such as Peter (cf 1:16–20, 29–31, 35–38; 5:21–24, 35–43; 6:39, 53–54; 9:14–15; 10:32, 46; 14:32–42); (b) the author’s use of Peter’s words and deeds (cf. 8:29, 32–33; 9:5–6; 10:28–30; 14:29–31, 66–72); (c) the inclusion of the words “and Peter” in 16:7, which are unique to this Gospel; and (d) the striking similarity between the broad outline of this Gospel and Peter’s sermon in Caesarea (cf. Acts 10:34–43).”
The tradition that Mark records Simon Peter’s testimony is affirmed by the internal nature of the Gospel as well as the external witness which will be given later in the article.
Internal Evidence of Luke
The physician Luke is normally ascribed to have been the author of the Third Gospel. Internally, one finds evidence for this association. While Luke was not an eyewitness, Luke acknowledges his use of eyewitness material by saying, “just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us” (Luke 1:2). Thus, Luke never claims to be an eyewitness but uses eyewitness material.
Internal Evidence of John
The Fourth Gospel is normally ascribed to the apostle John. John is nearly universally agreed to have been the last Gospel written. While some may disagree, the episodes of the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) within the Gospel points to an inner circle disciple. Peter and James are mentioned in such episodes, but never John. The Gospel ends by saying, “This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know his testimony is true” (John 21:24). In addition, the “disciple whom Jesus loved” is assigned by Jesus to care for Jesus’ mother Mary (John 19:27). The letters of early church leader Ignatius confirms this report. Thus, the internal evidence is clear. John the apostle wrote the Fourth Gospel either by his own hand or dictating the information to a student.
Now that we have considered the eyewitness testimony of the Gospels by the internal evidence, let us consider the eyewitness testimony of the Gospels given by external testimony.
The early church was unanimous in their acceptance of the four canonical Gospels. Early on, church father Papias provides a glimpse at how the Gospels were written.
Testimony of Papias of Hierapolis (c. AD 95-130)
Papias may not have personally known John the apostle, although he may have heard John speak. Nevertheless, Papias knew Polycarp and others who knew John well. Papias recorded the following pertaining to the writings of the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew that he received from the presbyter (presumably John, but perhaps Polycarp):
“And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements…Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.”
It must be remembered that we do not possess the entirety of Papias’ writings. However, we are benefited by the documentation of those who knew Papias’ writings well.
Testimony of Irenaeus of Lyons (c. AD 175)
Irenaeus of Lyons probably knew the writings of Papias well. Irenaeus describes the writing of all four Gospels by documenting the following:
“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.”
These testimonies would find further corroboration by church historian Eusebius.
Testimony of Eusebius of Caesaria (c. AD 325)
Eusebius of Caesaria was a church historian writing around AD 325. He writes the following pertaining to the writing of the Gospels:
“But Luke, who was of Antiochian parentage and a physician by profession, and who was especially intimate with Paul and well acquainted with the rest of the apostles, has left us, in two inspired books, proofs of that spiritual healing art which he learned from them.”
“For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue, and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence.
And when Mark and Luke had already published their Gospels, they say that John, who had employed all his time in proclaiming the Gospel orally, finally proceeded to write for the following reason. The three Gospels already mentioned having come into the hands of all and into his own too, they say that he accepted them and bore witness to their truthfulness; but that there was lacking in them an account of the deeds done by Christ at the beginning of his ministry.”
We mentioned in a previous article that good reasons exist for holding that the three canonical Gospels were all written before AD 64. Primarily, it was argued that Luke does not record the death of Paul and Peter, quite odd if Acts was written after Peter and Paul’s execution. Some scholars hold that Peter and Paul died around AD 64. If this is true, then Acts must have been written before AD 64, forcing the Gospel of Luke and the borrowed material from the Gospels of Matthew and Mark prior to the 60s. An early dating bodes well for claiming that the Gospels hold eyewitness testimony because the time-frame puts the writings well within the time of the eyewitnesses.
While there are many who deny the authenticity of eyewitness testimony in the four canonical Gospels, I feel that the evidence strongly supports the assertion that the Gospels are based upon eyewitness testimony. If the findings of this article are true, then Matthew and John provide first hand eyewitness testimony, whereas Mark and Luke provide documentation of eyewitness testimonials. In the next section of this article which will be published next week, we will look at the number of eyewitnesses we have in the New Testament alone. The historical Jesus continues to pass the historical methodological test.
Blomberg, Craig. Matthew. The New American Commentary, Volume 22. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992.
Cabal, Ted, et al. The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith.Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007.
Eusebius of Caesaria. “The Church History of Eusebius.” In Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. Volume 1. Second Series. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890.
Grassmick, John D. “Mark.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985.
Irenaeus of Lyons. “Irenæus against Heresies.” In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.
Papias. “Fragments of Papias.”In The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885.
 In addition, we are looking for material for those who knew Jesus during his earthly ministry.
 Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 44.
 Ted Cabal et al., The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith(Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), 1402.
 John D. Grassmick, “Mark,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 95–96.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).
 This is an area of dispute. It depends on one’s understanding of Papias’ testimony.
 Papias, “Fragments of Papias,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 154–155.
 Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 414.
 Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 136.
 Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert, vol. 1, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 152–153.
For one reason or another, I’ve been delaying writing a post about the nature of God, both in Christianity and Islam. It seems relevant now due to the recent news regarding Wheaton College. Everybody is talking about it on social media, and people have their own opinion on whether or not the teacher should have been suspended.
I personally think she incurred in deep theological contradictions. This issue, of course, goes deeper than wanting to hold hands with every Muslim around the world singing kumbaya. An assertion like this offensive to both authentic Muslims and authentic Christians.
This article is a combination of a lecture given by Keith Small and Andy Bannister, as well as my own insights on how we can use the role of Christian apologetics in further dialogue with Muslims. There are plenty of resources about Apologetics and Islam at www.bethinking.org. You should also check other links in which I refer you to other websites.
Talking about God with Muslims can be extremely confusing because in so many ways we can seem to be talking about the same BEING. Most of the time we find ourselves coming into direct conflict with them, even though we are using the same words. We find different assumptions underlying our different views of God – concerning His character, His nature, and His actions towards humanity. The discussion can derail really, really quickly.
Here’s the thing. Muslims DO think they worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They DO think they worship the God of the Jews and the Christians.They really do think because that’s what the Quran teaches.
We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. [speaking to Christians and Jews]. And our God and your God is one; and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.
– Surah 29:46
You see, there is this open claim in the Quran that Allah is the same God that the Jews and the Christians worship. Now, before we continue, it would be important to know that Christians in Muslim countries, for example, DO refer to God as Allah. They also DO make the distinction between the different persons in the Trinity.
Allah is just the arabic word for God – THE GOD. That is why I personally do not have a problem with those names. However, for the purposes of this article, I will refer to the god of the Quran as Allah, and I will refer to the God of Jews and Christians as YHWH.
Throughout the whole Quran, you can read that God is one. God is one. It is almost as if the author of the Quran wanted to make that point more than clear – that God is only one.
Surah Al-Fatiha (Chapter 1)
In the name of God, the infinitely Compassionate and Merciful.
Praise be to God, Lord of all the worlds.
The Compassionate, the Merciful. Ruler on the Day of Reckoning.
You alone do we worship, and You alone do we ask for help.
Guide us on the straight path,
the path of those who have received your grace;
not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray.
In context, those who have received grace are the Muslims – those who follow Muhammad. The ones who have the wrath are the Jews, and the ones who are misguided are the Christians. When you think about the five obligatory prayers a day (Salat) and the cycles within them, a devout Muslim ends up asking Allah not to let him become like a Jew or a Christian. He prays this at least twenty times a day.
Besides Chapter 1, Chapter 112 is also a good example of another prescribed prayer that Muslims might recite several times a day. This Surah is basically addressed at the Christians. Allah is one, and he has no son.
Sura Al-Ikhlas (Chapter 112)
In the Name of God, the Merciful, the
Say: ‘He is God, the One,
God the Eternal and Besought of all,
Neither begetting nor begot, Nor is there
anything comparable or equal to Him.
That is why for a Muslim, the sole idea of the Divinity of Christ is indeed a great blasphemy. This is key in understanding the issue behind whether or not Muslims and Christians worship the same god.
The unforgivable sin (shirk) for Muslims is associating partners with Allah. In the Muslim mind, a Christian – who sees God as a Trinity – is a polytheist. They understand the Trinity as being three gods. The Quran addresses the Trinity as Allah, Jesus and Mary. The fact that the author of the Quran had no real knowledge of Christian doctrine does not help either.
The Muslim thinks that our Christian beliefs about Jesus being God is a lie that we have invented. We have exceeded our limit in doing that. Allah calls for Christians to stop saying Three since Allah is but one God. There are not three Allahs. Again, the author of the Quran had no understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity.
O People of the Scripture [Christians], do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son.
I encourage you to watch these videos by James White. There are some many things out there about people wanting to give an opinion about these issues… and opinions are great. I am giving mine. But in the dialogue with Muslims, I believe, you really need to understand where they are coming from.
James White on Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God?
James White on Wael Ibrahim’s misunderstanding of the Trinity – Part 1
James White on Wael Ibrahim’s misunderstanding of the Trinity – Part 2
If people do not argue, they usually fight. We, as followers of Jesus, should not fight with Muslims. We have the responsibility of explaining them – when the opportunity arises – that many of the misconceptions they have about our faith are not grounded in reality, but in a lack of understanding of our doctrines mainly by the author of the Quran and Muhammad.
Colin Chapman in his book Cross and Crescent sites seven areas of general similarity. He would use these to talk to a Muslim about the God of the Bible. This can be very useful if you have a Muslim who is willing to listen. My Muslims listened a lot – they were great about that. They would always say, of course, that I was wrong because the Bible as it is today has been corrupted.
But is it corrupted?
You see, if the Bible (Hebrew Bible and New Testament) is NOT corrupted, then Islam is false. So these areas of similarity can be great to use if you would like to encourage a Muslim to read the Bible for himself. That can lead them on a path about the reliability of our Scriptures (Textual Criticism, Read Sea Scrolls, etc.)
So Muslims and Christians agree on these areas.
The issue here is that even though we agree on these similarities, we differ on the HOW God does these things. That’s where the real difference between Allah and YHWH comes. Let’s explore these points. I encourage you to read the Quran so you might be able to grasp these differences better.
According to the Quran, Allah creates with just his word. BE, and it is.
In the Bible, YHWH creates with His Word and His Spirit – The Trinity is involved right away.
Allah is a very numerical oneness. The Quran really never describes what that oneness (Doctrine of Tawheed) looks like. The Quran describes what Tawheed IS NOT – associating partners with Allah.
YHWH is One – yes – but He is a Trinity. One BEING, but three persons. The Trinity explains why we can be made out of complex molecules, and cells and yet we are still one essence. I encourage you to read The Forgotten Trinity by James White.
This might not make sense to many of you, but it resonated with me greatly. I majored in Chemistry, Biology and Pharmacy. When I read the testimony of Nabeel Qureshi in his book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, I was amazed at how God can really speak into anybody’s life. Do you want to know what made Nabeel start giving the Trinity a chance? Organic Chemistry.
Technically, a molecule with resonance is every one of its structures at every point in time, yet no single one of its structures at any point in time. It’s all the structures ALL the time, never just ONE of them.
A molecule of nitrate is all three resonance structures all the time and never just one of them. The tree are separate but all the same, and they are one. They are three in one. If there are things in this world that can be explained like this – though incomprehensibly so – then why cannot God?
– Nabeel Qureshi
Allah rules as a dictator in the Quran – absolute, unquestioning rule. He rules over everything and also through angels.
YHWH rules cooperatively. The Trinity rules in complete harmony.
Allah gives revelation through nature (a lot of Muslims are using intelligent design as an apologetic) and he reveals through prophets. What Allah reveals is just his will – but he never reveals himself.
YHWH reveals through nature, prophets, but specially through the incarnation of Christ. YHWH not only reveals His will, but He also reveals Himself. This is a concept that is embodied through Genesis 1 to Revelation. YHWH loves His people and wants to live with them, dwell with them. He wants a relationship with His people. YHWH has revealed Himself to the fullest in the person of Jesus Christ.
Allah bestows his favor and loves only those who love him. He loves only those who repent and turn to him. He DOES NOT love those who reject Muhammad.
YHWH loves sacrificially. Allah does not put Himself out to love, but YHWH does at huge cost to Himself. YHWH loves everyone, even the ones who reject Him. Over and over He would always forgive Israel. He punished them, but the Israelites are His people. YHWH is their Husband. He gave them promises that He has to keep. Through the Jewish nation all nations in the world will blessed. Through Messiah, all the Gentiles would come into a relationship with YHWH.
YHWH in the New Testament shows His infinite love for all people by dying in our behalf. Jesus is YHWH in the flesh. He loved us first. He came to this earth not to condemn the world, but to sabe the world through Jesus.
But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him [Jesus]! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his [Jesus’] life!
Allah judges capriciously. He doesn’t judge according to a standard. The chief attributes of Allah are his power and his sovereignty, and even his love is submitted to those. Allah is under no obligation to forgive or purify anyone, he doesn’t commit himself to save any individual. You can visit the sources here.
Likewise, Allah also forgives capriciously. Allah just forgives. No need for atonement like YHWH or the Cross. Allah forgives just like that. But since there is no standard on how Allah judges or forgives, you just never know where you stand with him on the Day of Judgement.
Whoever Allah guides – he is the [rightly] guided; and whoever He sends astray – it is those who are the losers. And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind
– Surah 7:178-179
Whoever says, ‘Subhan Allah wa bihamdihi,’ one hundred times a day,will be forgiven all his sins even if they were as much as the foam of the sea.
Whoever says, ‘La ilaha illal-lah wahdahu la sharika lahu, lahu-l-mulk wa lahul- hamd wa huwa ‘ala kulli shai’in qadir,’ one hundred times will get the same reward as given for manumitting ten slaves; and one hundred good deeds will be written in his accounts, and one hundred sins will be deducted from his accounts
Whoever Allah sends astray – there is no guide for him. And He leaves them in their transgression, wandering blindly.
By Allah! I would not feel safe from the deception of Allah, even if I had one foot in paradise.
YHWH judges with perfect justice and He judges everyone. He forgives through they system of atonement (a Jewish concept) that provides legal basis for His judgement. Those who believe in Jesus’ atonement in the cross are the ones who receive the forgiveness. YHWH’s forgiveness is available to all, but you have the responsibility to receive it.
This is the confusion that Muslims have. They do not understand that Jesus’ death has the power for the forgiveness of their sins, because they believe Jesus was only a man. This is stressed out throughout the Quran and the Sunnah – that nobody should pay for your sins. This is fair, of course, no man should be responsible for your sins. All men sin.
If Jesus were solely man, atonement through Him would make no sense to a Christian either. Muslims assume this because they are Unitarian. They do not have a proper understanding of the Trinity so they cannot understand that Jesus is more than a man. Jesus is God. Jesus was also fully man, and as man, He never sinned. The Creator of the universe is sacrificing Himself for you to have a relationship with Him. He loves you that much. But for the Muslim mind, this is blasphemy. Allah cannot lower himself like that. Allah cannot make himself a man because it takes away from his majesty.
I don’t think any Muslim would deny that if God Himself wanted to become a man He is powerful enough to do it. If a Muslim denies this, they are actually denying God’s omnipotence. I guess Muslims put God into a box. They make assumptions about what God can and cannot do based on their own presuppositions about Allah’s oneness.
For example, Muslims ask, “If Jesus is God and He died on the cross, then who was in heaven ruling the universe when God died?” This presents a problem for them because they are thinking oneness in number. This is not a problem for the Trinitarian Christian.
I would ask a Muslim another question, though. If God is Unitarian, then how would you explain the accounts in the Quran when Musa (Moses) talks to God in the burning bush? According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir (exegesis – commentary of the Quran), God talks to Moses from within the bush. But if God is in the bush, and Allah is only one, then who is in heaven ruling the world? Even for the Muslims, Tawheed presents a problem.
Regarding atonement through blood and sacrifices is not a concept that the first Christians came up with. The very first generation of Christians were all Jewish! Atonement does not go against the Hebrew Bible or against the teachings of the Torah. Jesus actually came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Jesus was the perfect sacrificial atonement. And whoever sets up against Israel and God’s love for the Jewish people is standing on very thin ice.
If Jesus is not the Messiah of the Jewish people, then He is not the Savior of the Gentiles. Orthodox Christianity is very Jewish.
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [talking about Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy
One of the names of Allah is the JUST. The Quran never says this. Allah commands justice. Muslims think Allah is the best of judges. The problem is that when these concepts are applied, they seem to be arbitrary.
Allah doesn’t have to be fair. His mercy and his judgement are subjected to his sovereignty. One of the names of Allah is the Holy. In the Bible, though, HOLINESS has two components. First, YHWH is exalted above us – greater than us. Second, YHWH has absolute, moral purity.
This is why YHWH demands payment for every single sin. Allah just forgives as if he can sweep sins under the carpet without punishing sin. But YHWH’s holiness is so great that every single act that goes against His character demands to be punished.
YHWH is the fairest of judges and the most merciful of judges. The fairest of judges HAS to punish every single sin. Every act of rebellion against the Creator of the Universe has to be addressed. In the other hand, the most merciful of judges will always forgive. Only YHWH is able to meet these two criteria.
In the atonement of Jesus, YHWH is judging sin – He is still being JUST – and at the same time He forgives – He is MERCIFUL.
Allah cannot do these two things. Muslims think he can. They say Allah can forgive freely because he is so merciful. But what do you with the sin? If Allah forgives like that, then Allah is not the fairest of judges. Besides that, if Allah makes you pay and atone for your own sins (good deeds vs bad deeds) then Allah is not the most merciful.
A Muslim who tries to explain this concepts of JUSTICE and MERCY, thinking that Allah can indeed just forgive and pretend that nothing really happened, has no understanding of the gravity of sin, and how devastating sin is. Either that, or Allah is not that Holy. Not as holy as YHWH anyway.
A Muslim may understand the concept of outer purity or ceremonial cleanliness – as they do practice ceremonial washing before prayer – but they have no understanding whatsoever of moral inner cleanliness or purity. As long as they don’t act on it, they do not understand why anger can be equated with murder, or lust can be equated as adultery. This is something I discussed often with my friends, and they did realize that the standard that Jesus demanded for me as a Christians was impossible to meet.
“DUH! That’s why I need a Savior”, I would say. Then again, I do not know if they really understood that this was the standard God demanded of every single human being if they ever want to have direct access to their Creator.
1 John 2:29 tells us that God is righteous, and 1 John 4:8 tells us that God is love. With YHWH these two traits are exercised fully in balance.
Allah cannot do this. Love IS NOT one of the seven eternal attributes of Allah in Islamic theology. YHWH IS LOVE. Allah focuses on power and might. One of Allah’s 99 names is The Loving. It can also be translated as The Affectionate, but it is only one name – you have like fifteen or twenty that have to do with power. Allah is only loving and merciful to those who repent.
If you read the Quran, you’ll see very quickly that power to overwhelm, to destroy, to terrify, to condemn to hell is the main emphasis of the book. Allah loves those who love him, and he hates those who reject him and his prophet.
Even tough Allah is The Loving or The Merciful or The Forgiving, Allah has a philosophical problem. All these adjectives need both a subject and an object. If these atributes are eternal as Muslims claim them to be, then Allah becomes contingent upon his creation. Allah becomes subject to existing only if he creates. Allah in the Quran had to create, otherwise he cannot be loving, or forgiving or merciful. Allah’s eternal attributes become otherwise because he couldn’t be who he was without his own creation.
The Trinity has never faced this problem. YHWH is not only loving. YHWH himself IS love. From eternity past, YHWH has always existed in harmony between three persons so He didn’t need to create anything. He was perfect, complete and fulfilled. Creation is an act of grace. Love changed from the horizontal (Godhead) to the vertical (human beings). The expression of love changed, but YHWH never changed.
Allah is not personal. YHWH is personal. Now, look at reality. What model explains human reality? It is very difficult to see that which is personal come from what is impersonal. The Christian concept of God explains reality. If we are indeed created in YHWH’s image, it is hardly a surprise that we, humans, need and want to be in relationship with other human beings.
Theology precedes anthropology. The God you have will directly influence the society you build. Is it any wonder why Islam produces societies that are subjected only to the power of the state?
On the other hand, Muslims also affirm the eternality of the Quran. Orthodox Islam affirms that the Quran is the eternal word of Allah. The Quran is uncreated. It has existed – for all time.
Now, think about this… Doesn’t the presence of another eternal entity existing alongside Allah for all time begins to attack the doctrine of the oneness of Allah?
There is a real tension there. And there are schools of thought in Islam that would call heresy on those who think one way or another. If the Quran is uncreated, then you have two eternal beings from eternity past, and you end up contradicting the Quran on the Oneness of Allah.
But if the Quran is created, that means that at some point in time, Allah was without His eternal Word – and how can that be? In this case, you end up also contradicting the Quran itself. More info here.
Goodness… many things. I love these issues. Call me weird, my husband is sick of me talking about it – which is why I don’t talk to him about it anymore.
My experience is short, and I haven’t read all the sources there are to read regarding Islamic texts. But understanding the claims of the Quran, and having a deep understanding of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, I think that Muhammad might have wanted to compromise with both Jews and Christians. He might have actually thought he was a prophet in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You see, tough, the prophets only come through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You ask any Muslim, and they would tell you Muhammad came from Ishmael, not Isaac. The prophets were to be Israelites, not Ishmaelites. Still, there are many other reasons as to why the Jews would reject the prophethood of Muhammad, but we’ll leave those for another time.
Let’s say Allah revealed the Quran.
The Quran says that Jesus is the Messiah. But the Jews in Muhammad’s time rejected this. In Jewish thought, Jesus was a blasphemer. Jesus died by crucifixion. History agrees with this. In the Jewish mind, even today, the Messiah cannot die – let alone by crucifixion. So the Jews rejected Muhammad. Not all of them, but some. So what do I know? Maybe Muhammad tried to appeal to the Jews by saying that Jesus was the Messiah and Allah did not let Jesus die on the cross.
Now, the Christians… Muhammad said that Jesus was the Messiah, and the Christians liked that. But the Quran also said that Jesus never die on the cross, and that Jesus was only a man. This goes against Christian doctrine even before the New Testament was put together. The deity of Christ is not something that Paul invented – Christians already knew that even before Paul wrote the letters. It is very clear, now that we have the manuscripts and we can see them all, that nothing has ever been corrupted in the text. So of course some Christians converted to Islam, but other Christians had to reject Muhammad as a false prophet – just as the Jews.
This is how I picture it in my mind…
In today’s world (except from photos and videos), people can read about the Holocaust. Let’s say the Holocaust happened a year ago. People wrote about the Holocaust because they lived it, they saw it, they experienced it. People were eyewitnesses to it. Now imagine this. This is the era of technology so things don’t get lost that easily. But just imagine for one minute that there are no computers or anything to store information. We only have paper – low quality paper.
People need to copy the records that we have available about the Holocaust. All the world – for whatever reason – needs to know about the Holocaust, why it happened and what it accomplished. So people begin copying the eyewitnesses accounts. People begin transcribing them like crazy, not only in English, but in many different languages.
Are you following me?
So these records end up being in circulation for many, many years. Centuries, actually. Within a century from now, people will still have copies of those original eyewitness accounts. The originals might be lost – it was low quality paper – but we have plenty of copies. Two centuries from now, still going strong.
We can actually compare all the copies, and the basic description of the Holocaust still remains the same. Sure, there are differences in spellings and words that might be weird, but the account of the Holocaust – when it happened, how it happened, why it happened, who was involved, where it happened – is still intact.
Three centuries, the same. Four centuries, the same. Five centuries, same. Now, we may not have the originals in five centuries, nor the copies from a century from now. Maybe we will lose them, and we will always be looking for them. But the oldest one that we will have in our possession two thousand years from now will be two hundred years after the Holocaust. That’s pretty good if you consider that we have only seven copies from Plato written one thousand years after the original. Nobody questions Plato.
And thousands of years down the road, people will continue to copy our records of the Holocaust. One day, we will end up having more than 22,000 pieces of paper with which we can reconstruct the original eyewitness accounts. HOmer’s Iliad has 647 – and nobody questions Homer’s authorship.
We cared so much about preserving those records because the Holocaust changed History.
But then something will happen. About six hundred years from now, in the middle of a civilization that had never heard about the Holocaust, someone will come and will say that God gave him a message through an angel. And the message is basically this: You people are wrong. The Holocaust never happened like that. I will tell you exactly how it happened.
And a lot of people will believe that man, and his own version of the Holocaust. People who love this man will look back on the actual records that we preserved, and they will see that they contradict the man’s version of the Holocaust. But they will love that man so much, that in blind faith, they will begin allegations against our own records. The records we so carefully tried to preserve – the actual eyewitnesses accounts of the Holocaust – will be charged with corruption of the text.
And many people, unfortunately, will end up believing in the new version of the Holocaust that this man will give them. They will believe it only in faith, even tough the evidence says otherwise. In my own mind, that’s what Muhammad did.
You see, the Christian who recognizes ALL these issues is in a better position to explain to the Muslim about our faith, and about the text of the Bible. It is the responsibility of every Christian to show love to Muslims. Eventually, though, conversations will happen, and questions – deep theological questions – will arise.
The Christian has to be prepared to meet the challenge not only of understanding why Islam (the new version of the Holocaust) differs from Judaism and Christianity (the original version of the Holocaust). Not only that, but what it actually brings in the present life of a person. Muslims can have peace with God. They do not have it. They might think they do, but in reality, they do not know where they stand with God.
The Christian needs to learn how to make a strong case for Christianity.
It might be too much information, too difficult to grasp at the beginning, or intimidating, but God’s timings are prefect. If you only give God your heart, He will do amazing things through you. The first time I learned about Islam was seven years ago, and I cried because I was so confused about it. How come this Allah was the same God that I worshipped?
Little by little I began learning more and more about this. I am not an expert, but if I can learn, everybody can.
This post was so long… I’m sorry for that 😦
In short, do we – Muslims and Christians – worship the same God? No. I don’t think we do. But we have the opportunity of reaching out to our Muslim friends, and introduce them to who God really is 🙂
You might want to read Nabeel Qureshi’s opinion on the Wheaton’s College controversy.
There have been several things pressing on my heart lately, but I think one of the most painful ones is the fact that a lot of people nowadays are afraid of Muslims. I am a follower of Jesus. I am NOT afraid of Muslims. I cannot give into fear. Allow me to elaborate.
If you happen to be reading this blog for the first time, I began writing in an attempt to speak my own mind into my own confusion. I enjoy writing down my thoughts, and I have logs for many things. I also wanted to document my spiritual journey.
While I began writing, I was living in India, and I was best friends with a Muslim woman. I love that Muslim woman dearly, and I love her family. Not a single day passes without me thinking about them, and praying for them, but we are not in good terms with each other anymore.
I don’t believe Islam is true. There was a point last year, however, in which I could have probably become Muslim. For the first time in my life I was challenged to think outside my Westernized Christian bubble, and evaluate whether or not the Bible is reliable. Maybe it had been corrupted. I had to come face to face with questions, doubts and spiritual confusion. Did Jesus really died on the cross? Was He God incarnate or just a mere rasul (prophet)?
And all this confusion was easy to dismiss on a every day basis – at the beginning at least. I spent most of my time with my Muslim family. They became my family. Even tough there were Christians around, these Christians told me to stay away from the Muslims because they were gonna hurt my feelings. I was from the West. I did not know these people.
In the aftermath, they did hurt my feelings. But I hurt them, too. Unfortunately, we both hurt each other deeply.
So whenever I talk about Islam, Muslims, politics, and so on… I am very careful to remember that there are true stories and real people involved here. It is very easy to dismiss Muslims as our enemies, and to talk harshly about them when you don’t have a Muslim face that you can call your own – if that makes sense.
No. I am not an apologist for Islam. I believe Islam is a false religion. If Muhammad wanted to come up with a new religion of his own, then good for him. He would have not been the only one doing that. You also have Joseph Smith. But if he claimed to be a prophet in the line of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then Muhammad was a false prophet.
This freedom of speech cost me a friend.
I expressed my concerns about many practices allowed in Islam that I could not even begin to wrap my mind around it. I called ISIS Islamic. My friends, of course, took offense. According to them, ISIS was not Islamic and Islam is a beautiful religion. So something “broke” between us. And that’s that.
There is a point to be done here. And it goes beyond my feelings, or even my friends’ feelings. I personally believe that the problem the West is facing is this: Nobody wants to confront the real issue.
If you confront the real issue, you are called a bigot. Most Westerns are ignorant about Islam. We think that all people around the globe share our Judeo-Christian values (regardless of whether you are a Christian or not). And I also see ignorance in the Muslim world. I hope it is ignorance or denial because it would be so devastating if it is straight up lying.
Sunni Muslim, Raheel Raza published a video recently about the rise of Radical Islam. She is very boldly asking for an open, honest, fact-based conversation regarding these issues. She recognizes the fact that most acts of terrorism today involve Muslims in one way or another. So she calls for a discussion not about Islam, but about Radical Islam, and how it affects us all.
If you are following the news then I’m sure you’ve heard about the fact that the terrorist attack in San Bernardino could have been stopped. But the people who noticed suspicious activity never called the police because they didn’t want to be seen as racially profiling.
I hope you really watch the video first, because I’m writing about things that are said, and statistics that Mrs. Raza provides.
Mrs. Raza comments on the fact that she doesn’t need Ben Affleck – or any other celebrity – to defend her religion. I applaud that. It’s interesting to watch Ben Affleck saying that people who criticize Islam are racist. Islam is not a race. Not only that, tough, I seriously wonder if Ben has ever read a Quran in the first place.
In the other hand, Mrs. Raza does acknowledge an issue that not even the President of the United States can acknowledge: That ISIS is Islamic. She calls it Radical Islam. And she needs protection from the radicals in her own religion.
Now, she has a different perspective than that of my friends, of course. But the main issue here – in my own mind, anyway – is this: Why do Radical Muslims want to kill her? Is it just because she is calling them radicals? Or is there anything that inherently goes against what these radicals are doing?
These are the circles presented in the video.
Who are these fundamentalists?, Mrs. Raza asks. I personally think she opened a can of worms with that question.
In 2013, a poll of Muslims in 39 countries revealed that 27% agree with the execution of apostates. That amounts to 237 million people. Do you think that is a radical belief? I personally know three people who have a story like this. In the same poll, 39% of Muslims believe in honor killings – if your wife is an adulterer – which amounts to 345 million Muslims. That is A LOT of Muslims.
I want you to pay close attention to this, and I quote Mrs. Raza,
These numbers paint a picture about the Islamic world that is increasingly out of step with the modern world.
If this is true, if the Islamic world is out of step with the modern world, I am without words. Mrs. Raza talks about an Islam that will crumble at its foundation would the radicals Muslims think like she thinks.
Mrs. Raza basically is speaking against Allah and Muhammad. It may sound complicated – it was very confusing to me at the beginning. It was all the more confusing, of course, because I was studying Islam to see if I would join Islam. I was studying Islam very carefully. I learned about its claims, the application of those claims, its pillars, and so on.
The more I studied, the more I understood that the Quran is supposed to be the final, clearest revelation from God. Islam is a religion that has been perfected. Allah in the Quran is done with the Jews, and the Christians. Allah wants everybody to be Muslim. Muslims are the best of peoples. Of course, I believe with all my guts this is false, but these are the teachings of Islam. These are things that if you read the Quran, you can easily see for yourself.
Being a Muslim is not as simple as the Western Muslims claim to be. Yes, it is very easy, but it is not that simple. It is not only a “Do good and hope for the best”- religion. Islam means submission.
Being a Muslim means that you submit to Allah. The more you dig, tough, the way in which you submit to Allah is by obeying his commands and Muhammad. Allah revealed the Quran (according to Muslims). The Quran then, it is NOT a revelation like Jews and Christians talk about the inspiration of the Bible.
For a Muslim, the Quran is the actual word from Allah. Allah dictated verbatim his words to Muhammad through an angel. So the Quran is NOT one more revelation, it is the final revelation. According to Islam, Jews and Christians corrupted everything and messed up everything, and so that’s why Allah had to send the Quran and Muhammad – to correct everything and everybody.
Now, before I continue, these allegations can be “easily” dealt with and proved false. I am passionate about the field of Muslim-Christian apologetics. But to understand ISIS, terrorism, and all the events happening around the world today, you need to understand that this is a war that began some four thousands years ago. It is mostly religious. Politics are thrown into it, of course, but at the core, religion is key.
Nobody seems to be addressing that – religion.
Our politicians do not want to talk about religion, and some presidential candidates are talking nonsense as if dropping bombs will stop this. More violence won’t solve the problem. I seriously wonder if sweet Ben Affleck understands this.
Mrs. Raza’s numbers reveal that 281 million Muslims in THE WESTERN WORLD approve of amputations, whippings, stonings, and corporal punishment. These Muslims believe Sharia Law should be the law of the land. Does that sound crazy to you? Does that sound radical?
Of course not all Muslims approve of this, and she makes that clear distinction. But I ask, of those who approve, why do they approve?
By silencing the debate on radical Islamist beliefs, we abandon our own core beliefs on truth, free speech and tolerance. And we abandon human rights in favor of political correcteness.
– Raheel Raza
Hats off to Mrs. Raza. I think she has started a much needed discussion.
I am a very curious person by nature. Maybe that’s why I got into college wanting to be a scientist. I was always fascinated by Chemistry, and atoms, and Biology and what not. I ask too many questions.
When I was in India and began asking my friends about Islam, they told me to read the Quran – they even bought me one big Yusuf Ali commentary. And when I began questioning about the Sunnah of Muhammad (the things he said and did), they were quick to say that I should not bother with that for now. They encouraged me to only read the Quran to see how beautiful Islam was.
I did read the Quran, and I didn’t think it was beautiful. I saw a god who claims to be the God of Abraham, but that god did not love like the God of Abraham. And I freaked out, of course, because now I was confused. Who was the God that I had submitted my life to? The God whom I had surrendered my life to was NOT the god of the Quran.
There are many technicalities about calling Him YHWH or Allah, but if you are a follower of Jesus, and have studied the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament as I have, you can immediately recognize their personalities are very different. I saw similarities in both faiths, of course, but I got very curious at the differences. I had to learn about it. If I had been mislead into Christianity because of my upbringing -like my friends said- I needed to know.
I honestly wanted to follow after God. I was honestly confused. And after my friends told me the Bible was corrupted – which was very early into our relationship – I got sucked into hundred of hours of studying and learning, both about Islam and Christianity. I had seen the light of Jesus, but I never actually asked for evidence. So I was seriously seeking for the truth. But the more I asked my friends, the more resistance I encountered. They never flipped, but at the same time, we never openly discussed things that troubled me deeply about Allah and Muhammad.
When we did talk about it, it was always superficial. She was so passionate about Islam that even when the evidence led me to Christianity, she got upset. She said I was never really looking for the truth. According to her, if I had, I would have become a Muslim. So our friendship ended on the basis of me attacking Islam in my blogs, and misleading people to Christianity.
If I didn’t respect Islam, I didn’t respect her.
This is why it is of utmost importance to know – as followers of Jesus – that Muslims are passionate people. They love their religion and they love Muhammad. They are very religious people. And even if they are not, it doesn’t matter. They love Muhammad. Deeply.
I am also very religious. Of course, Jesus is not a religion, but you know what I mean. In this life, my goal is to become Christ-like. I will never achieve it to perfection, but day by day, that’s my aim. In a similar fashion, a good devout Muslim wants to imitate Muhammad in all aspects – that’s their goal.
That is why, besides the Quran, Muslims are also guided in their religion by the Sunnah of Muhammad. Islam, as a religious system, is based in these historical sources. Yes, the Quran is very important, but for a devout Muslim, Muhammad is as important. That is why the first pillar of Islam is the Shahada, the confession that There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet. You are not a Muslim if you don’t believe this.
Interestingly, tough, my friends sometimes teased me about becoming a Muslim. And even when I told them I could not say it from the heart, they said it didn’t really matter. I could become a Muslim. The conviction would come later. Who knows? This happens all the time. Muslims in the Middle East are very attractive. Women are beautiful and men are handsome. Then you hear them speaking Arabic. You wanna marry these people! Who cares if you believe it from the heart? You just become a Muslim!
Devout Muslims, tough, do pray what Muhammad prayed before eating. They end up the fasting in Ramadan as he did it. The enter the bathroom as he did it. When Muslims want to grow in their faith, they are encouraged to actually study these traditions. They are encouraged to read the Sunnah and Sirah of the Prophet (his life), and all this literature that for the most part is available online.
I highly recommend you read the book Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi. It will give you a glimpse into the deep love and reverence that Muslims have for their prophet. Lots of feelings and emotions. Lots of passion. Zeal.
For me, a question was of main importance. And it seems that it is precisely the question that everyone seems to avoid. What kind of life did Muhammad live? I was considering becoming a Muslim so I needed to know what kind of beautiful pattern of conduct I needed to imitate. My friends always described me a Muhammad that was very similar to Jesus, and they told me about beautiful traditions. But I was never surprised by this. It was great that their prophet helped the poor, or the widows or the orphans. But I followed Jesus. I knew beautiful. I knew peaceful.
I hope you are following my train of thought.
Being curious as I am, I found another video by Mrs. Raheel Raza. She is interviewed about her opinion on what exactly drives radical Islam. She says that the short answer is an ideology that the radicals are using to hijack Islam. According to her, the radicals are turning Islam into a political ideology, and brainwashing people.
Hijacking means taking something that is not rightfully yours, and make it your own. Simple example, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven“.
Hijacking Christianity would be killing people in the name of Jesus, as this contradicts exactly what Jesus said and what Jesus did. A sad example of this are the Crusades, and events that lead to the Holocaust. I am aware of my unfortunate Church history.
But when Mrs. Raza talks about radical Muslims hijacking Islam – making it into an ideology -who am I supposed to believe? What Muslim is telling me the truth? The radical Muslims who follow Muhammad to the iota – living their lives as he lived his life – or the moderate Muslims who tell me the violence Muhammad exercised was only for a period of time?
According to Islam’s most trusted traditions – Bukhari and Muslim – Muhammad died cursing the Jews and the Christians. Only for a period of time? Muhammad hated their guts until the moment he died. I won’t link you to anything. You can Google it very easily. This is the era of information – thank God.
In the video, Mrs. Raza assures her interviewer that the Quran doesn’t say anything about killing people.
Are we reading the same Quran, Mrs. Raza?
I don’t see compassion towards the People of the Book. I only see how Muslims are the best of peoples. And how Jews and Christians are the worst of creatures because we don’t follow Islam. Google it, seriously. And read a Quran.
You see, this is what I don’t understand. Is Mrs. Raza purposely lying or she just doesn’t know?
Radical Muslims are living the Islam Muhammad lived. Mrs. Raza talks about abandoning core values of free speech. Free speech? There was no free speech in Muhammad’s time, Mrs. Raza! Muhammad had people murdered because they insulted him. Read about Asma.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Mrs. Raza doesn’t know. Many Muslims don’t know. She talks about a political ideology that is like a cancer. Yes, it is like a cancer. The Islam Muhammad lived was a spiritual, political and militant cancer.
So yes. Radical Muslims are killing people in the name of Mrs. Raza’s religion. Why? They do it because Muhammad said that he had been commanded by Allah to fight all the people until everybody testified that There was no God but Allah and that Muhammad was his prophet.
Does this sound like the Shahada? It is the Shahada!
Putting it altogether, Islam teaches that the Quran is the final revelation of God. Islam is the perfect religion. The Quran is a revelation from God himself to all people for all times. The radicals want everybody to be Muslim because that is what Muhammad was commanded to do. Allah only loves good Muslims.
And I am not defending the radicals. I am just trying to understand what drives their ideology. They are not really hijacking anything. They are just following the Islam that Muhammad left the world with. And that’s the problem right there – the sources are not consistent.
Use ONLY some reliable sources and you can make Muhammad into a saint. Islam is beautiful.
Use ONLY some reliable sources – as reliable as the first ones – and you get ISIS.
You see the reason why I think that closing the borders to Muslims is nonsensical? I think it is too late for that. I agree with increasing security, of course. But banning all Muslims – that’s too much. Everywhere I look there is a Muslim somewhere. And God forbid the moderate Muslims decide to take some authentic haddiths literally, because if they do, all of us are dead.
I am not being pessimistic. I think I am grounded in reality. And that is the problem. The elephant in the room that nobody seems to address is the religion itself.
Mrs. Raza. is also asked if there is a place in the Islamic religion where it says that Muslims should partake in these terrorist acts. She never replies with an absolute NO. She replies that not in her understanding of the Quran. But what about the sound traditions in which Muhammad says he had been made victorious with terror?
Unfortunately, the radical Muslims can always point theologically and historically to their own sources to kill civilians, to kill Jews, to kill children, to kill homosexuals, to kill apostates, to kill people who mock Muhammad.
So when a Muslim tells me that Islam is beautiful, I believe that. You can make Islam be that way. But then at what point are you – as a Muslim – thinking that you know better than Allah? If the Quran is the last, clearest revelation from Allah, and you are commanded to obey Muhammad, how can you pick and choose what you want to follow?
This is something that also applies to Christians, by the way. We pick and choose all the time. And when we do, we are in rebellion – we are hypocrites. Jesus speaks against that. The Quran also speaks against hypocrite Muslims, by the way.
So there have been articles about Islam needing a reform. I’ve been following them. You can read the article here. And you can read the actual Reformation Document here. I admire these people as a non-Muslim. But in my non-Muslim eyes, after the knowledge I have acquired – which is not extensive – I see this declaration, and I cannot see anything other than these Muslims contradicting very specific statements in the Quran and the Sunnah.
I am not saying these Muslims are not real Muslims. But when they demand rights and a reform that flies in the face of Allah’s specific commands in the Quran, and some of the things Muhammad did and say about women, criticism, human rights, inheritance, anti-Semitism, apostasy, among others… It all sounds beautiful to the Western world. But to the radicals it sounds like blasphemy. And that’s why they want to kill them – Mrs. Raza included. These Muslims have been Westernized. These Muslims want values that the Judeo-Christian West offers, but they are not the values of the Islam of Muhammad.
If people are serious about a religious reform, one thinks they would like to maintain some connection to their own religious traditions as a basis for that reform. That is actually what happened historically with the Protestant Movement and the Catholic Church. The Reformers went back to the original message that Christ preached. We went back to the Bible alone. We broke away from man-made-tradition, and the selling of indulgences, and what not. .
But the Muslim Reform Movement seems more interested in establishing a connection with the non-Muslim Western world as the basis for their reform. And this is the sad reason why there seems to be little, if any, support coming from the greater Muslim-American community for this small group of aspiring reformers. It is only attention from the non-Muslim world that will sustain the Muslim Reform Movement. Sadly.
Going back to Mrs. Raza, and her question about the fundamentalists – who are the most disturbing – I read an excellent article by Hussein Aboubakr.
Hussein was told in his childhood that every day that passes on the Islamic nation without a caliphate is a sin. That the failures and miseries of the Muslim world started the moment they gave up conquests and wars against the infidels. That their prosperity depends on conquering new lands, converting new believers, looting new resources and enslaving more women. He was taught that a Jew is essentially a demon in flesh and that it was their destiny as good Muslims to kill them all.
Where is this anti-Semitism coming from? Read the Quran, people!
Hussein talks about many parts of the Muslim world that are intolerant towards free speech, criticism and reform. Human rights are not observed in most of the Muslim world; women’s rights, homosexual rights, minority rights, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of belief… Execution of apostates, women who are not allowed to drive, sexual segregation, persecution of liberals and journalists, homosexual imprisonment, and persecution of non-Muslim minorities are all common themes almost in all Muslim countries. Many Muslim countries use public beheadings, hangings, lashings, stonings and chopping of limbs as an accepted form of punishment.
This is not news for us, sadly. Hussein makes a point, tough. He says that while the vast majority of Muslims may frown upon ISIS and Al Qaeda and may be horrified by their acts, they will still approve of many human rights abuses. He is talking against the same things Mrs. Raza is speaking against.
He says the Muslim world is dominated by bad ideas and bad beliefs. He says the majority of Muslims have no principle objections to application of extreme violence, subjection of women and minorities, prosecuting if not killing homosexuals and confiscating personal freedoms.
And I ask again, and again… Where do the bad ideas and the bad beliefs come from? Why are people in positions of authority like Mrs. Raza so eager to deny or even hide that both – the great things in the Muslim world and the bad things in the Muslim world – all come from the same place?
Mrs. Raza says she is not a leader, but she is. She HAS a voice. People listen to her. Hey, nobody is interviewing me…
Do you see now how this is almost impossible to talk about? Everybody attacks the radicals, everybody says there is a problem, and that we need an honest, open discussion. But the moment you start asking questions and confronting the real issue all hell breaks loose. And people get hurt.
I lost a friend because she felt I should keep my mouth shut. I couldn’t. I loved her. My love for her demanded me to speak out. I cried asking her to stop feeling guilty over not being able to fast during Ramadan. I had feelings for these Muslims!
We label as moderate Muslims everyone who is not trying to kill us regardless of that person’s actual views. Moderate Muslims rush to warn about Islamophobia and unjust western prejudice against Muslims. Almost in every single occasion that Islamic terrorism is mentioned, Muslims’ first action is to defend their faith. They assert over and over how peaceful and beautiful Islam is. They are obsessed with their religion and care about it more than they care about stopping murder in its name. It should be clear that this kind of obsession is just another form of fundamentalism.
Remember that according to Mrs. Raza, the most disturbing circle was the fundamentalists. They won’t kill anybody, but they agree with the punishments, and in some ways, they justify them. I am afraid to say that I think the fundamentalists are for the most part the sweet, moderate Muslims.
They might agree out of fear, or out of conviction, but they do – for the most part – have radical ideas. They just don’t act on them. I was confronted face to face with hate for Jews and Christians because we are greedy for oil. I was told no Muslim would ever want to be my friend because I was gonna let them down. The conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the hate for the West and Israel are very real. And of course, Sharia Law is the answer for all the problems you see around the world – or at least in Pakistan.
And the funny thing is I never expected these things. I didn’t know any better. I had never been friends with any Muslim whatsoever. But Muslims are passionate people. I love her dearly. I don’t hate her. She is so zealous for Allah. Oh, my God, what I wouldn’t give for Christians to be as zealous for Jesus as she is for Muhammad… And I’m sure she loves me. I spent most of my time with them. I ran to their house whenever they needed me. I made life with them. My children miss her children, and they talk about them on a regular basis.
As a follower of Jesus, unless you don’t love these people for real, unless you don’t understand their feelings, their culture, and their way of thinking… unless you don’t put yourself out there to serve them and love them genuinely, there is little to talk about this world conflict that we see in the news. Muslims are in the news all the time, but they also just want to be left alone and live their lives. If you want to make a difference in their lives, you have to learn how to be able to relate to them.
Love them. Get to know them. And also understand this, the Christian love is not to be a silent, cushy-feeling. There is a minister who works with Muslims, and he says that Muslims on a regular basis are surprised at how confident he is. Muslims expect him to be weak, and silent, and not being able to defend his faith. These are ideas that Muslims honestly hold about Christians. Jesus was meek, but make no mistake. Meekness is not weakness. Jesus confronted people. Paul confronted people. Read the New Testament.
If you really care about a person, you eventually would like to share your faith, wouldn’t you? I would. And maybe this is just me, because this is my passion. You have to be prepared to defend your faith, tough. Always. But you also have to come to terms with the fact that opposition will come as a natural result of you preaching Jesus – specially to a Muslim. The Gospel offends Muslims. The Gospel is offensive by its own nature.
In a more practical way, what does it look like to love Muslims? I seriously believe that you do need to understand what they believe, and why they believe it. You need to be willing to approach them in the first place. No fear of Muslims whatsoever. I highly doubt each one of them is carrying a bomb under their shirts, you know? And get to interact with them based on where they are coming from. Ask questions. Not every Muslim is the same – at all.
I was buying some things the other day, and a sweet young girl was helping me. She looked Middle-Eastern, you know. This is not racist, okay? People begin speaking Spanish to me when they see me at the stores. I look Hispanic. I am Hispanic – so what? So she was wearing a necklace with some words on it, and I asked her about it. She said it was in another language.
Then I asked directly, “Are you Muslim?”. And she looked so relieved, like a weight lifted up, and she began telling me how she had no idea what the prayer said. Her mom makes her wear it for protection. I told her it might well be a short Surah (Chapter), and she looked at me like I was this crazy person. She said she had no idea about the Arabic language, or about what the book said. And then, she also told me how she doesn’t like covering her head. She is an American girl. Born and raised in America by Pakistani parents.
She was beautiful. She could have been my younger sister. She just wants to work and go to college perhaps… what do I know? I am telling you, if you are a follower of Christ, you have nothing to fear. Reach out to them.
And be prepared. People are often afraid of what they do not know. You do have to know about Islam, I believe. Be wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove. At the same time, recognize that Muslims are like sheep without a shepherd. Be compassionate. And learn to defend your faith historically.
Here is where Apologetics plays a role. Of course, you can always love them and serve them. It is not your job to convince them of anything – that’s the Spirit of God’s job. But if they are zealous, they are gonna try to convert you before you try to convert them.
The world of Muslim-Christian apologetics is amazing. I love it. I wish I had more people around me to talk about it. My husband is sick of it – pretty much. I love building a case for the historical Jesus, and his death and Resurrection, and studying the claims about Islam. It is fascinating – to me anyways – the fact that Textual Criticism is a science that assures us of the reliability of Scriptures. The arguments can go back and forth forever, but at the end, it all points to making a personal decision based on the evidence you have.
Muslims, tough, for the most part, are lovely people. No kidding. I feel more comfortable now approaching a Muslim at the store, and having a conversation with them, than I am with an agnostic or even and atheist. Muslims have offered to cook for me, and they are nice to my children. And you know what? I miss my friend, but her words resonate constantly in my mind…
If only these people knew who I am, they wold probably not want to be my friends, because I am going to let them down.
And I have to make a choice. Every day. I have to decide whom to listen to. Am I gonna listen to my friend, or am I gonna listen to the Ex-Muslims who tell me I should stop calling her my friend? They told me she was never my friend. She spotted me as a weak Christian and saw an opportunity to convert me. There are many blessings from Allah when you convert people, you know… or so they say.
But I choose not to listen to anybody but to Jesus. And He loves her. He died for her. He died for me, and for all the Muslims that I see around in my neighborhood. So I choose to have the mind of Christ, and I approach them anyway. Of course, I learned my lesson. I will keep it at chicken tandori, and masala chai for as long as I can 🙂
Also, there are great rewards to all these experiences. My children see me loving people. My four year-old is so funny. She asked me the other day at church if the pastor was an ex-Muslim (he had a long beard). And she has more theology in her little mind that what I had at age 30. She praises Jesus and calls Him YHWH, and on a regular basis, tells me I should stop praying for my Muslim friend.
Mommy, you hurt her. She hurt you. She will always be a Muslim. She cannot be a follower of Jesus because Momamad [Muhammad] told her. I just want to play with Muslims.
And I knew she was referring to my friend’s son. They were best friends at school. And my heart sank. But you know what? I actually ended up talking to my daughter about how God loves answering even the most impossible prayers. So, who knows? Maybe one day, she will leave Islam, Insha’Allah.
These interactions help me to teach my children about apologetics, ground them in the Christian faith, and my Savior Jesus. I am showing them what it looks like to follow Him will they choose to trust Him as their own Lord and Savior one day. These experiences are preparing them to go into the world ready to love people as Jesus loves people.
If you have Jesus as your Lord and Savior, nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. Seriously, the worst thing ISIS can do to you or to me is to kill your physical body, but your soul is secure. And I know not everybody feels as I do, but I only want to encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be with Muslims, you know?
Just love people, and thank God for His gift of Salvation in Christ. Specially during this season.
Merry CHRISTmas! 🙂
I was listening to a radio show the other day that had nothing to do with Muslim apologetics, but the issue of Deuteronomy 18 as an alleged prediction in the Bible about Muhammad’s coming came up.
The caller was wondering if indeed we could call Muhammad a true prophet based on an incident recorded in historical early Muslim sources. You might have heard about it, these are the so called Satanic verses.
These events were not made up by Jews or Christians. These incidents were recorded in an astounding display of honesty and integrity by early Muslim historians. I just thought it would be a good idea to refer you to a wonderful article written by David Wood, in which he, very reasonably and logically, deals with all the background for it.
It is not uncommon for Muslims to claim that Muhammad was prophesied in the Bible (see Quran 7:57). After reading the article, tough, you may realize that claim actually destroys their case.
If you have Muslims in your life who you are dialoguing with about these issues, I think this article could be very helpful 🙂
Click here for the article