We – Muslims and Christians – need to learn to dialogue like this.
I really value this girl’s passion. She reminds me of myself, and the many reasons I decided not to become Muslim. I analyzed the information I was given – methodically. I just didn’t believe whatever I was told by Muslims.
We did not come to the same conclusions. I didn’t leave Christianity, but she did. Maybe she could analyze the text of the New testament as passionately as she has the Quran. Still, that won’t win her back. It all ends up being a personal decision on what is most likely to be true given the data you are looking at.
There is NO certainty when it comes to faith. You can only just make a choice based on the evidence you are given.
Are you kidding me on the tectonic plates, Dr. Naik? (Min 7:25 of this video).
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.
For the past several weeks, we have been investigating how the historical Jesus of Nazareth fares by being tested by the traditional historical method. Before wrapping up our investigation, NT scholar Michael Licona provides two additional tests that need to be considered. This article will investigate those two additional tests or methods and will offer some concluding thoughts on our quest.
1. Arguments to the Best Explanation.
Licona notes that the Arguments-to-the-Best-Explanation method “makes inferences and weighs hypotheses according to specific criteria.” In other words, the data is compiled and examined according to a particular hypothesis made by the historian. The criteria include:
Explanatory scope: Examining the most relevant data according to the hypothesis.
Explanatory power: Looking at the “quality of the explanation of the facts.”
Plausibility: How much confidence can the historian possess that a certain event took place? For the skeptic, if they are to be honest historically, they must suspend their skepticism, and allow for the possibility of the miraculous if they are to become unbiased.
Less ad hoc: Covering only what the data suggests without going “beyond what is already known.”
Illumination: Where one piece of data strengthens other areas of inquiry.
Speaking of this method, Licona goes on to say that “Arguments to the best explanation are guided by inference and can sometimes be superior to an eyewitness to an event. Testimony to the court does not provide truth but data.”
Examining the data that we have presented already when using this method demonstrates that the best historical explanation is that Jesus of Nazareth existed and walked out of the grave the first Easter Sunday. Licona, in his work The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach , comes to the following conclusion in his over 600 page work:
“I am contending that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the best historical explanation of the relevant historical bedrock. Since it fulfills all five of the criteria for the best explanation and outdistances competing hypotheses by a significant margin in their ability to fulfill the same criteria, the historian is warranted in regarding Jesus’ resurrection as an event that occurred in the past.”
Thus, from using this method, Jesus’ historicity as well as Jesus’ resurrection are confirmed.
2. Arguments from Statistical Inference.
The Arguments from Statistical Inference method evaluates all data in question and evaluates the probability that an event could have happened. If one eliminates the possibility of God’s existence and God’s involvement in an event, then the odds that a “miraculous” event occurred goes down dramatically. However, if one holds that a greater power was involved, the odds go up drastically. Licona gives the illustration of one evaluating whether his son could lift 200 lbs. over his head. While such may be improbable, if one is willing to add that a bodybuilder assisted him, the added datum allows for such an event to become much more probable. If the historian is going to be unbiased, then one must allow for the possibility of God’s existence, and the possibility that God may have an invested interest for raising Jesus from the dead.
While this method will always be somewhat subjective, the historian can make an educated synopsis of how historically certain an event is. McCullagh uses the following grades:
“Extremely probable: in 100-95% of cases
Very probable: in 95-80% of cases
Quite or fairly probable: in 80-65% of cases
More probable than not: in 65-50% of cases
Hardly or scarely probable: in 50-35% of cases
Fairly improbable: in 35-20% of cases
Very improbable: in 20-5% of cases
Extremely improbable: in 5-0% of cases.”
While it must be admitted that in history one cannot hold 100% certainty that any event took place one could argue that one cannot be 100% certain of what a person had for breakfast. However, one could say that it was extremely probable that a person had Cheerios® for breakfast if one sees a used bowl and spoon with bits of Cheerios® cereal, accompanied by used milk at the bottom of the bowl, with an empty Cheerios® box sitting beside the bowl.
So, what can we draw from our investigation?
So, does Jesus pass the historical method? I would say so. In fact, so much so that I think one can logically hold the following premises.
It is extremely probable that Jesus existed. One can say with over 95% certainty that Jesus existed. To claim otherwise is to hold a level of skepticism that will disallow one to know about anyone or anything in history.
It is extremely probable that Jesus rose from the dead. The strength of Jesus’ existence is coupled with the strength of his resurrection. In my estimation, I would say that one holds a very strong case for the resurrection of Christ being an actual event of history.
It is extremely probable that Jesus’ disciples saw him risen from the dead. Some may argue that this point deserves to hold the level “very probable.” However, I feel that given other data to consider that it is extremely probable that Jesus’ disciples encountered the risen Jesus.
It is very probable that we have good eyewitness testimony telling us about the life of Jesus. While we have fantastic eyewitness testimony for the life of Jesus, particular debates surrounding the Evangelists’ identity and the like take down the probability a notch. In my estimation the eyewitness testimony deserves to have the highest ranking, but to be fair to all the data involved, I give it a very probable ranking (95-80% certainty).
It is extremely improbable that the Jesus Mythicist campaign has any leg on which to stand. Even agnostic Bart Ehrman has confessed that the Jesus Mythicist campaign is erroneous. While the historical data does not prove Jesus to be the Messiah (that comes by faith), the data provides solid grounding for accepting such a belief. In stark contrast, one can claim that the idea that Jesus was a myth is extremely improbable (0-5%).
Therefore, one may deny Jesus’ identity as the Messiah, one may reject his claims as divine, and one may pass off his miracles as the work of a magician, however one cannot deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed and one will be hard-pressed to deny that this same Jesus walked out of the tomb the first Easter Sunday.
Jesus of Nazareth passes the historical test with a solid A+.
Note to self and others struggling with faith: In my darkest moments, I held for dear life to the fact that the most certain thing about Jesus historically is that He died by crucifixion. And if He died on that cross, then Islam was false. I still had to deal with the fact of Jesus being divine or Jesus resurrecting… But if He died then Islam was false. That did not make Christianity true but Islam was false. I felt joy. And the best argument that Islam gave me about the cross was that God wanted to test people. Allah went all the way deceiving everybody to think that Jesus had died, but it wasn’t really so. Of course, Islam said Allah loved Jesus PBUH so much that He had to rescue Him from the shame of the cross and whatever, that’s why He had to raise Jesus to Himself.
Okay, fine. But why? Why would Allah make other guy loo like Jesus? Why the secrecy? Why the lying? Why not be open about it and say, “Look, this is Jesus, I’m taking Him up to me”. No. Allah made other look like Jesus. That was deception in my eyes.
If that was God I would rather go to hell than to follow Him. Didn’t Allah know that by making other person look like Jesus many people would start a movement called The Way? Didn’t Allah know these people would follow Jesus as Lord and Savior? Didn’t He know I would be deceived as well in to worshipping this Jesus? And He still did it – just to test me? Why would Allah put so many obstacles between Him and me? I decided I would rather follow the Biblical Jesus and go to hell – even if that Jesus was a product of my own imagination – than to embrace the Islamic understanding of Allah and the non-historical life of Jesus in the Quran.
As it turns out, Jesus did die for my sins and did rise from the dead. My head went ahead my heart, and the Holy Spirit kicked in later as I came back from India. I am now on fire for my Lord Jesus and I will forever proclaim Him as my Savior 🙂
Licona, Michael R. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010.
McGullagh, C. B. Justifying Historical Descriptions. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.
 Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove; Nottingham, UK: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010), 108.
 Ibid., 109.
 Ibid., 110.
 Ibid., 114.
 Ibid., 610.
 See Licona, 114.
 C. B. McCullagh, Justifying Historical Descriptions (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 52.
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
Just in case you do not know James White, you can watch this video. It is a very objective discussion on Islam and the very events that are happening around the world. He addresses issues such as whether ISIS is Islamic or not.
When somebody asks IS ISIS ISLAMIC? You should not answer with a YES or NO – without making the necessary distinctions based on historical texts.
In my opinion, Dr. White is qualified to speak on this topic since he has debated many Muslims. And actually, he is very welcomed by Muslims because he has always been very respectful.
Also, you can listen to this other radio show by Frank Turek. It gives more perspective on the issue of political correctness when we speak of Islam is America. The show intends to give perspective into questions such as:
I hope this gives some good background for a more clear understanding of why a topic like this might seem confusing at times. Also, there is a lot of emotions attached to it so we need to be sensitive. I haven’t been sensitive at times, and it proved disastrous – but there is always hope 🙂
If you’re holding out, and you’re trying to continue to do the right thing… Love the Muslim people, pray for them, witness to them, put your life on the line for them. Respect them, find out where they’re coming from and what they believe. If you’re starting to feel like you’re in a small minority… Hopefully this encouraged you.
Abdu Murray was Muslim – a very serious Muslim. His story really impacted me last year. It impressed me that people were willing to go years looking for Truth. Why wouldn’t I do the same? It took Abdu nine years – nine years – to investigate the historical, philosophical, and scientific underpinnings of the major world religions and views. Abdu became Christian.
I was a Christian! Yet, here I was doubting. I have heard testimonies of people becoming Christians because the evidence for Christianity compelled them. What was that about? I just had to know. I was about to jump ship on Jesus. Being honest, I never had the conviction in my heart of Mohammad being a prophet. And all due respect to Islam, I don’t think there is anything new or anything kinder or gentler or more compassionate in Islam’s teachings than what I had already learned from Jesus.
If I almost left Christianity, it wasn’t because I thought Islam was true. I almost left Christianity because I didn’t know how to handle my doubts. Not knowing what the TRUTH was consumed me day and night.
In all equality, I also heard many testimonies of Christians becoming Muslims. You know what, tough? It was never the evidence for Islam what made these people accept Islam. They always left Christianity – at least the people I watched – because no one was able to answer their questions. They never understood The Trinity, or they were sick of the hypocrisy in the Christian world.
There are thousands of people who leave Islam and join Christianity and vice versa. I know the videos I watched are not representative of the whole picture. But for me, DOUBT was definitely important to deal with. I think it should be addressed when talking about Christian Faith.
If you are not a believer in anything, you deal with doubt all the time. But even Christians, we have doubts, too. We doubt because of our circumstances, and I think that is a very human thing we do. God has answered my prayers many times. I have logs full of answered prayers. And last year in India, when I looked at them, I was almost cynical about it.
After eight years, I looked at those journals, and I doubted that those answers had actually come from God. Or maybe it had been God – but not Jesus. You have to understand where I am coming from. I was confronted with Islam on a regular basis, so almost all my doubts had to do with Jesus not answering my prayers. Or Jesus not being God. Or Jesus not claiming divinity. Or the New Testament being corrupted. Or Jesus not dying on the cross. I am talking Muslim-Christian apologetics.
So as I was listening to Rich Nathan’s series on Faith – Heroic Faith – I felt somehow able to breath. It was okay to have doubts. And I also heard Abdu’s podcast. Both were saying the same thing. They were talking about Richard Dawkins, and how blind faith is something Christians SHOULD NOT practice. They were also saying that Faith in something in the face of contradictory evidence, or even in the face of NO evidence at all, is absolutely UNBIBLICAL.
But the Faith encouraged in the Bible is the active action of TRUST based on evidence. We exercise this on a regular basis, we just don’t think about it anymore. We get on a car and we trust the brakes will work – because they have always worked. We trusted our lives on that car – because of previous evidence.
Cars don’t just explode on ignition and brakes don’t fail out of the blue. They might fail. Sure. Did I have CERTAINTY? No. I had Faith on that car because I have taken a ride for thousands of times, and it has never exploded. I trusted the evidence I had available.
Doubt is NOT a dirty word. According to Murray, there are a lot of solid followers of Jesus who have doubts. Doubt is not a bad thing if it drives you to sincere search. In the Bible, Jesus never says not to question Him. Actually, Hebrews 11:6 teaches that God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. Jesus helped those who sincerely confessed their unbelief to Him. He never drew them away.
Murray encourages asking questions, and he sees that this is a challenge that the Church is facing. Some people have doubts, but they never ask questions mainly because doubt is often seen as a bad thing. When a teenager asks a question, Murray says, sometimes he doesn’t ask his parents. And it is not because the question doesn’t have an answer, but because of the parents’ unwillingness to be questioned about it. Or sometimes, the parents themselves do not know the answer.
Inquisitive minds sometimes cannot settle for “The Bible says it. I believe it, and that settles it for me”. So it was refreshing for me to know that asking the tough questions was perfectly fine.
My heart was set on really finding God so I had peace about it. Sincerity is proven by our willingness to be proven wrong. I was well aware that The Gospel could be false, but it could also be true. Sincerity is determined by our willingness to go where the evidence points. I had to be willing to accept that to say that all religious traditions believe basically the same thing, or that to say that our differences don’t matter was insulting for those faiths and for me.
If I agreed to say that all paths lead ultimately to God, what I was really saying was that my choices don’t really matter. But real choice emerges only when the options have consequences. Faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is a choice.
I wish I had your faith. You seem to have a peace about you, a confidence regarding the future. You don’t worry the way I do about everything. I wish I had your faith. But I really struggle with faith. I have lots of doubts. I still have lots of questions about God or about Christianity…
I was so sure about many things, and then I wasn’t sure about anything. Rich Nathan, tough, continued in the series saying that most folks believe that Faith is something you either have or your don’t have.
But in Hebrews 11:23-28, we find that Faith is a choice. It is a decision regarding how we’re going to look at life based on the clues that God has given us. Again, Faith is based on the evidence. Moses chose to be mistreated. People saw things at a distance. Faith feels like a choice to see and not look away. Faith and Truth are more than a feeling.
So it is okay to doubt… I was happy about this. I seriously was. Doubting did not mean I did not have Faith. My Faith was based on the exercise of my will. My choice.
And I was in good company. Jesus’ followers where doubters all the way until the Resurrection. They didn’t even know who He really was. And that is something that skeptics seem to dislike about Jesus’ disciples. They render as shameful the fact that Jesus’ closest friends did not really understand Jesus’ purpose. For a historian, however, that is called Principle of Embarrassment. It is very likely that an event who might embarrass the author is true. So the eyewitnesses writing these gospels were very likely telling the truth.
John The Baptist was a doubter himself. When he was in jail, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah. John was thinking maybe he had the wrong guy. And this is John the Baptist. The one who was prophesied by Isaiah about making straight paths for the Lord. This is John, the one who leapt in his mother’s womb when Elizabeth found out that Mary was pregnant. This John is doubting whether or not Jesus is the Expected One.
And what did Jesus do? He NEVER calls John out on his doubts. Jesus actually heals more people right there in front of John’s disciples. He gives them more evidence so that they can go and tell John!
John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ In that hour He [Jesus] healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. And He [Jesus] answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.
That was Jesus’ gentle answer. He eased John’s doubts.
Every one of us has different doubts. When we ask God with a sincere heart, He will always guide us. So as followers of Jesus, we deal with doubt by asking sincere questions. But the attitude in our hearts when we ask those questions is also very important.
Why are we asking? Do we really want answers or are we asking just for kicks? Last year, there came a time when I was just so used to question Islam and Christianity that I kind of became a cynic. I began questioning just for the sake of questioning. I was praying, and my prayers were being answered during my season of doubting.
But as soon as my prayers were answered, I kept on questioning whether or not it had only been a coincidence. I was almost demanding God to perform for me. I knew I had to stop. I repented from my cynical approach, and I made a choice based on the evidence I had recollected for and against Christianity during my year in India.
My Faith is stronger. My Faith is very well placed. I am so thankful that my God never let go of me during those difficult times. I am thankful for my Savior who died for me. I am thankful that the information was available to me because it helped me recommit my life to Christ. I want to make the information available to people who might need it 🙂
Who is the King of the Jungle? Who is the King of the Sea? Who is the King of the Planets? J-E-S-U-S!
– My sweet daughter
So Faith is attacked when The New Atheists uniformly say, “We base our lives on reason. You Christians base your lives on blind faith”.
But if reason is the authority when it comes to belief, and you can rely on reason because your own reasoning tells you – then you’re busted. It’s a totally circular argument. Unless you have something outside of reason to calibrate reason, you don’t know if your reasoning is accurate.
I think of this often when I watch debates. We, Christians, say Jesus died for our sins by crucifixion. Three days later He rose from the dead. Why do we believe that? Well, because the Bible says so is definitely one answer, but that answer won’t satisfy everybody. It will definitely not be enough for a Muslim, for example. Quran 4:157 says nobody kill Jesus nor they crucify Him. But God raised Jesus up to Himself.
When I began reading the Quran, my Bible stopped being the only source for my ‘reasoning’ – if that makes sense. Last year I found out that apart from the Bible, there are a lot of ancient non-biblical sources that talk about the crucifixion of Jesus as an event in history. When I evaluated the evidence that Islam has for Jesus not dying by crucifixion, I was confronted with many theories about it.
I read about different interpretations of that particular Quran ayat (verse). One interpretation is that God made Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, look exactly like Jesus. So it was Judas who died. Another version is that the person who was crucified was not Jesus, but someone who bore His likeness, whom the Jews and the Romans had disgracefully put on the cross, while Jesus was standing nearby and laughing at their folly.
Yet another version is that the one who was nailed to the cross was Jesus, but He did not die on the cross, and was alive when He was taken down from it. They even argue Jesus might have died a natural death years later. But the theories (in Muslim Apologetics) go as far as they can go – as long as they have Jesus NOT dying on the cross.
But the more debates I watched, the more I knew that the position of the Muslim apologists was to say “We really do not have any further details, except that Quran tells us that Jesus was not the one who was crucified, but somebody that looked like Him”.
I respect that. Absolutely I do. But I made the personal decision to go with the ancient historical evidence and not the theories. So I was able to calibrate the Bible with something outside of the Bible – call them Tacitus, Josephus, The Jewish Talmud. These accounts were not bad, given this information was coming from ancient accounts hostile to the Biblical record.
I realized that the Christian Faith is not that blind. Actually, it is not blind AT ALL.
Faith is a very important word in the New Testament. It is used over 24 times. Faith is so important that it is a prerequisite for being saved by God. On one occasion, a jailer asked Paul and his traveling companion, Silas, “What must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”
Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without Faith it is impossible to please God.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
We can see several things in this passage.
FAITH IS RATIONAL. Biblical Faith is never set against reason. Biblical Faith – Christian Faith – involves thinking. It involves our brains. Christian Faith is never a leap in the dark. The Greek word for Conviction is Elenchos. It means proof. It’a a conviction that comes when something has been tested.
Faith is trusting what we have good reason to believe is true.
Faith is trusting the evidence of the One who promised.
Faith is the evidence of things not seen. Evidence that appeals to your mind. Take any fact of history. Sure, you can’t prove in a lab that the American Revolution took place, or that the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, or that George Washington was there when the Declaration of Independence was signed.
We believe this based on historical evidence – eyewitness testimony, records that were kept, historical investigations. There are lots of things that we reasonably believe that can’t be proven by the scientific method. But just because we cannot recreate them in a lab does not mean they never actually happened.
Was I there to see how Jesus died? No. Was I there to witness the Holocaust? No. But I believe the Holocaust happened because there are documents that were written about it. People preserved these records of history. I guess I can ALWAYS questioned whether the Holocaust took place because I wasn’t there to see it with my own eyes, but it is very likely that it happened. The same goes with the crucifixion of Jesus. And if you study the Resurrection – your mind will be blown away.
You can always find a counter-argument against Christianity. That’s for sure. You need to know, tough, that Christian Faith does not mean you have to be completely certain about something. Jesus tells us that even a little bit of Faith can go a long way. Faith IS NOT an all or nothing proposition.
I was so happy when I learned this.
FAITH GRABS HOLD OF THE FUTURE. Faith is the assurance – Hupostasis – of things hoped for. Faith gives substance to things. Faith reaches into the future Kingdom of God where life will be like when there are no wills contrary to God’s will – no human wills rowing in the opposite direction. Right now we rebel, and we want things contrary to what God wants for us. There are also demonic wills working in this present world.
But when the Kingdom of God is finally established on Earth, no child will ever die again. There will be no more cancer, no more heart disease, no more heartbreak, no more Alzheimer’s, no more diabetes, no more murders, or kids in jail, or funerals, or wars, or mental illness, or addiction. No more tears, no more crying, no more pain. God Himself will wipe your tears away. That is the hope given in Revelation 21:4 for all the children of God by adoption through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So Faith gives substance to that future Kingdom and makes it real now. By Faith we bring God’s Kingdom of justice into this world now – as we work for justice. By Faith we grab hold of God’s future Kingdom of healing into the world – as we pray for the sick. By Faith, we grab hold of God’s future Kingdom of forgiveness and we make it real now – as we forgive others and ask for forgiveness.
FAITH IS A WAY OF SEEING THE PRESENT. Faith is seeing life the way Jesus saw it. People say that Christian Faith is looking at life through rose-colored lenses. But Scripture says quite the opposite. Faith is taking off your rose-colored lenses. All the myths and lies that the marketing machine of this world keeps pumping out – “You can have it your way” or “Life is all about you and your desires – your wants”.
Jesus was the only clear-sighted person in all of human history. He is the only one who saw with perfect vision how to live a completely full life no matter what your circumstances are. Jesus taught that if you want to have a great life – what He called abundant life – you have to deny yourself. Do not try to affirm everything about yourself, instead, deny yourself.
Forgive everyone for everything they’ve done against you, and you will live a full life. Forgiving takes Faith that God will uphold you and defend you. Be patient when you have all the reasons to lose your patience. Respect your husband when he doesn’t deserve your respect – specially when he doesn’t deserve it. Love your wife when she is absolutely hard to love – specially when she is very difficult to love.
Christian Faith makes sense of this world.