In Romans 1:20-23, Paul assures us all that every man, inescapably, can do one of only two things concerning his ultimate commitments: he can either worship the Creator or the creature. Naturally, the Creator God that Paul had in mind was Yahweh, revealed to be one God in three persons in both the Old and New Testaments. Paul goes on further to claim that if you do not worship that particular Trinitarian God, you will become vain in your reasonings (Rom. 1:21).
Now, many Christians are familiar with how unbelieving thinking becomes futile when you are dealing with a materialist, naturalist, relativist, or subjectivist. None of these ultimate perspectives can truly account for the laws of logic, moral absolutes, human dignity, or any other form of truth. But when it comes to other religious worldviews, especially Mormonism and Islam, some Christians may be tempted to think that we must now switch our methodology in order to be able to give a defense for the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).
But Paul makes clear that this is not the case. As Christians, we are not defending “theism in general” when we defend the faith, because if we were we would at some level be defending the worship of false gods, such as Molech (Lev. 18:21). No, it is the particular God revealed in both the OT and NT whose name we defend. Muslims, like any other unbeliever, become “vain in their reasonings” if they consistently reason out the presuppositions of their Islamic worldview.
But just how does show this? Like with any other unbeliever, we “answer him according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” (Prov. 26:5) What does the unbelieving fool believe, if he is Muslim? The Koran, of course. So let’s take a look at what exactly the Koran claims.
First, we should note that the Koran clearly claims that Allah is the God of the Old Testament and New Testament. “God it is who hath created the heavens and the earth and all that is between them in six days; then ascended His throne.” (Koran 32:4) The Koran also strenuously claims to be consistent with prior revelation, the OT and NT. “For he it is who by God’s leave hath caused the Koran to descend on thy heart, the confirmation of previous revelations, and guidance, and good tidings to the faithful.” (2:97) And “Say: ‘We believe in God, and in what hath been sent down to us, and what hath been sent down to Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and in what was given to Moses, and Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord. We make no difference between them. And to Him are we resigned (Muslims).” (3:84) Other verses that teach the same are 5:48, 10:37, 38:27, 41:45, 46:12, and 98:1.
But the Koran then goes on to very clearly and explicitly deny that Jesus is the Son of God. “And they say, ‘God hath a son:’ No! Praise be to Him!” (2:116), “O ye people of the Book! overstep not bounds in your religion; and of God, speak only truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is only an apostle of God… say not ‘Three:’ (there is a Trinity)— Forbear — it will be better for you. God is only one God! Far be it from His glory that He should have a son!” (4:171) Several other passages reflect the same theology, such as 3:151, 5:17, 5:72-3, 10:68, 16:86, 18:4-5, 39:4, and 112.
But given the Koran’s own stated commitment to prior revelation, we must reckon with the standards given in Deuteronomy that deal with claims to revelation subsequent to Moses. “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams… You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.” (Deut. 13:1-4) In other words, any prophet must be able to perform a miracle, but even if he can you must not follow him if he teaches contrary to prior revelation.
The Bible clearly teaches Jesus is God. Just a handful of examples are 2 Pet. 1:2, Tit. 2:13, and 1 Cor. 8:6. Thus Muhammed on the one hand teaches that the Koran is consistent with the Bible and yet makes very explicit claims that are contrary to what the Bible actually teaches, such as denying the deity of Jesus. In other words, the Muslim believer becomes “vain in their reasonings” because the Koran ultimately teaches that the Koran itself must be rejected. So the Muslim is left adrift with no certain knowledge and no revelational foundation to account for human dignity, moral absolutes, and the laws of logic. Thus, if one is to be a good Muslim and believe all things the Koran teaches, then that Muslim must ultimately reject the Koran and accept the Bible as the only authoritative revelation from God.
You can get your own copy of the Koran at Amazon here.
Five questions I would like to ask Muslims
1. How exactly do you reconcile what the Bible says about Jesus and what the Koran says?
2. On what basis do you reject the book of Mormon?
3. Exactly what do you do with the most violent passages of the Koran, such as Suras 2, 5, and 9?
4. Ultimately, should the Muslim faith be spread with peace or violence?
5. If you could get away with it entirely, would you simply try to persuade someone who obstinately does not submit to Allah, or would you kill him?
1. Given the extensive ethnic, national, and religious diversity implied by the use of “Muslim,” which group or geographic region are you referring to? It’s akin to putting Branch Davidians, Moonies, FLDS, Mormons, and Christians (and all the diversity that implies) in the same room and calling them the same name.
2. Why the Anglican spelling of Qur’an?
3. The same question could be posed of the swaths of violence throughout the Bible. Going back and forth on which religious text has more violence seems like a Code of Hammurabi-esque labyrinth David Bowie couldn’t navigate.
4. While making the argument above that the faith should not be spread, is question 4 then rhetorical? What is violence? Is it a physical act? Is it an intellectual act of condemnation? Is it emotional hardening against other humans? Is it spiritual isolation or exile? The question of what group or geographic region you’re referring to applies here as well.
5. If given the opportunity to transform your writing above with kindness and non-evaluative language, how would it read? What insight can the Bible and the Qur’an give us to help stop the pervasive, global violence that has spanned millennia? What wisdom is there for us moving forward?
1. I’m using Muslim to mean anyone who believes what the Koran says about itself, i. e. that it is revelation from Allah.
2. Well, no matter what my answer is, someone will accuse me of being Eurocentric, so I’ll just go with that.
3. “Amount” of violence is immaterial. The Bible endorses violence in situations of self-defense (Ex. 22:2), just war (Deut. 20), and execution for a capital crime (Lev. 24:17) not as a means of evangelism (2 Cor. 10:4). The Koran endorses violence indiscriminately against unbelievers (Suras 2, 5, and 9).
4. My question was addressing the means of evangelism. As stated above, the Koran endorses violence to spread the faith, and Christianity does not. What does the Muslim think of this? By violence I mean killing another human being, not merely hatred.
5. Is using evaluative language a bad thing? Saying yes to that is a self contradiction. The Koran can give us no guidance on suppressing violence worldwide; it endorses violence explicitly. The Biblical answer is repentance and faith in Jesus.
1. I continue to feel a little stuck on this point because while the usage you describe honors what seems to be the overall premise of this post: that the Qur’an contradicts itself, subsequent conclusions drawn about how “Muslims” have interpreted the words in the Qur’an (re: violence, evangelism) then get tricky to understand because your usage holds in the first instance but not throughout because the form of evangelism depends upon the interpretation, which is unique to geographic/national/ethnic context. Islam comes from the word peace in Arabic, it is built on evangelism through peace, compassion, and humility–not violence (Surahs: 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) The Qur’an, when taken as a whole, promotes non-compulsory and non-violent evangelism. To say otherwise, like my previous example, is to exemplify only the very specific, and arguably extremely fringe, interpretations of the text and does not reflect the majority of Muslims or their evangelical praxis.
2. I confess, that question was a trap. Eurocentrism is our intellectual and cultural inheritance, but it appears to not be serving the majority of humans well at this point in our history. Perhaps the way forward, the investment we make in the future, can look differently. It must look differently because collectively we are drowning in suffering.
3. The application of the “just” use of violence is bound to cultural context. Those who end up on the “unjust” side is a matter of perspective. People that are currently being punished by death for capital crimes are being punished for crimes defined in a specific historical/social context. Who was left out or not included in the defining of these things? How can believers attend to this, because it seems like it is not what was ever intended. It is being used disproportionately against very specific humans (people of color, not-Christian, not-hetero, etc). Same with the other just uses of violence you mentioned. “Just war” is also tricky because who is the one doing the justification? My subjectivism is showing. In all sincerity, I’m wondering to myself what it would feel like to be graced with any of the certainty you write from.
4. How can violence and hatred be separated? That seems like trying to peel apart a rose bud from the seed it grew from.
5. The part of the Gospel where Jesus said to his disciplines, “Go forth and speak with condemnation to thy unbelieving brethren” fell out of my copy of the New Testament. I do, however, still see Matt. 5 (those beatitudes never get old) & Matt. 28, John 13, and also the whole of Corinthians we hear at every wedding, to name a few. Some deep, everlastingly optimistic part of me believes that the way forward is going to need a lot more spirit of the beatitudes and kindness. When I refer to evaluative vs. less or non-evaluative language I mean how do we have a discussion that airs on the side of respect for human dignity, even those we have been taught are less than in some way. If increased human dignity is the litmus test of “good” or morally superior evangelism, we are failing. I hope your intellectual journey at some point acquaints you with Rumi or Hafez, and if you would still say Islam cannot offer guidance on love or peace.
1. I guess I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I’m not saying every Muslim tries to evangelize with violence every time. I’m not saying Muslims are never peaceful, compassionate, or humble. But the usage of violence generally against unbelievers is justified by the text of the Koran. “”Taking the Koran as a whole…” instead of specifics, such as Surah 2, 5, and 9? Does the whole contradict the parts?
3. I agree that how one defines “justice” does frequently differ across cultures, simply as a matter of fact. My point is that if you look at all of Scripture, and only Scripture for our ethical norms, the situations I described above (self-defense, war, and capital punishment) are in fact justified in the sight of God as good uses of violence. Evangelism by violence is condemned by Scripture.
I fully agree that there have been instances of people disobeying Scripture and unjustly persecuting people for wrong reasons. That happens. But the only reason I can consider it unjust is because of what Scripture actually says, objectively.
Just war is justified when it conforms the norms in Deut. 20.
4. Violence is an outgrowth of hatred. Neither are curable ultimately unless we submit our lives and thoughts to Jesus.
5. Whatever Jesus says in Matt. 5, 28, and John 13 must be compatible with the Bible’s own ethical norms, e. g. I condemn homosexuality because the Bible does. This does not mean I think homosexuals are “lesser beings”. But what they do is evil.
1. Thank you for your clarification, I think I was trying to understand your original 5 questions in context and to whom you may be referring to. The questions are worded as though they are posed to all Muslims, but based on your clarification I see that you meant it for only those that have used the Qur’an to justify evangelism through violence and are not leveraging these statements against Islam as an entity (like I think we’re agreeing? Yes?). Thank you for explaining further and making a distinction between the majority of Muslims and those who use violence to evangelize.
I think the issue you highlight has complicated knots to untangle re: violence and evangelism. One cannot claim moral superiority of the Bible because it does not explicitly endorse evangelism through violence–because in practice it has been used robustly to justify violence for the purpose of compulsory, violent, and oppressive evangelism (note the history of Indigenous cultures in this geographic region). Arguably we can then say that is unjust, but it is as real in the world as any use of the Qur’an to justify violence. Telling people it is wrong, doesn’t necessarily undo the harm. Your statements target those that have used the Qur’an to justify violence at the cost of ignoring the vast majority that have not and would not. You then ask “Muslims” to answer for violence spoken of in the Qur’an, that the majority of Muslims do not in anyway perpetuate or participate in—which is effectively like me asking you to justify the use of violence by the Catholic Church to evangelize the indigenous peoples and calling you to task for that use of violence. You might say that is not fair, but I think the majority of Muslims would say it is not fair to task them with the violence they quite openly condemn and do not support.
3. Thank you for these statements, and the acknowledgement that not all have interpreted the Bible the same and there has been unjust use of the Bible to justify violence. So based on Deut. 20, none of our current “wars” are justified? I can’t say I will disagree with that statement one bit. I would be tickled with some sort of justification to condemn/war with the current political administration, so if you have passages ready for that I am all ears.
4. I agree with the conclusion but would come to it in a different way.
5. It’s my turn to be confused, I am not entirely sure what you are trying to say or how that relates to my 2nd #5 comment or to your original #5 where you seem to effectively assume that all “Muslims” are wrestling with such an internal struggle (which established above…appears to not be what you meant). But the language invites that kind of generalization.
1. The questions are directed to all Muslims, as in someone who believes what the Koran says about itself. I don’t think it makes sense for someone to be Muslim and not be believe the Koran.
Your question still misconstrues my point though. It’s not that the Koran does not teach violence, but some Muslims simply choose to interpret it that way. The Koran explicitly endorses evangelistic violence against unbelievers. It’s like this:
a. The Koran explicitly endorses violence against unbelievers. Thus a Muslim jihadist is being obedient with what the Koran teaches. A Muslim who does NOT endorse evangelistic violence is being disobedient to the Koran.
b. But the Bible explicitly prohibits evangelistic violence. Thus if someone claims to be a Christian and uses it to justify an act of terrorism they are being disobedient. A Christian engaging in peaceful evangelism is obeying the Bible.
3. No, I don’t think most of our currents wars are justified, for many reasons. I would consider 9/11 an invasion, so we might have been justified to attack al-Qaeda, depending upon other qualifications. A nation desirous to obey God’s law would only wage war with an invading power. So Korea and Vietnam were not justified wars.
5. I was simply pointing out that the Bible does allow us to condemn others’ behaviors, which you originally balked at. Then you cited Matthew 5 and 28.
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