The Norway Killings: What’s the Truth about Islam, Christianity and Violence?

While it may come as a surprise to many,  the mass murderer  Anders Breivick claims to have been inspired by Islamophobic  fundamentalist Christians in America.   And indeed, his 1500 page rant of a manifesto does indeed show considerable influence from jingoistic Americans who have wrongly equated terrorism with the faithful practice of Islam in general.  This is like equating Christianity with the violent actions of  Anders Breivick himself.  What’s wrong with this picture?  Are both Islam and Christianity religions that inherently incite violence because of the violence referred to and depicted in their Holy Books?   What should we think about these sorts of things?  And is ‘Western multi-culturalism’ really the enemy of ‘true Christianity’ that people like Anders Breivick think it is?

Now that we have had a chance to catch our collective breaths, pray for the bereaved families in Norway, and process some of the ranting of Breivick and those who inspired him, it is also time to take a good hard look at the sort of questions this kind of mass murdering raises, especially when it is done in the name of God or religion, whatever religion that might be.   The truth of the matter is that fearful, hate-filled, unbalanced people have often used religion, and their particularly twisted interpretations of their own religion to justify genocides of all sorts— whether against Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists or secular humanists.   And the very same logic is used to justify killings supposedly undertaken on behalf of the cherished religion.   What all such actions really have in common is a failure to live by the core teachings of their own religion, and instead privileging certain questionable interpretations of peripheral teachings which allow individuals to justify their own racist and violent tendencies  which they had quite apart from their own religion’s teachings.

For example,  the most essential and reiterated theological and ethical teachings of all three monotheistic religions— Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have to do with love— loving God and loving one’s neighbor as self.   They do not have to do with cultural imperialism or opposition to cultural change, or opposition to multi-culturalism in general.   Indeed, if there ever was a religion that involved an inherent call to multi-culturalism in the sense of respect and love for all kinds of people of all different cultural backgrounds it is Christianity.

As Gal. 3.28 says in Christ there is no Jew or Greek.  That also means there is no American or Iraqi.   Christianity is a religion, which unlike some, does not baptize a particular ethnic group, or set of cultural practices and calls them Biblical.  On the contrary, Christianity can be and has been incarnated in all sorts of different kinds of cultures— both democratic and feudalistic,  in both monarchial and republican cultures.  Furthermore, particular forms of dress, habits of eating, artistic or musical expressions are not sine qua nons of true Christianity.   Christianity was born as an Middle Eastern Jewish form of religion something clearly manifested in the Bible both in its descriptive and prescriptive passages, and should not be equated  with Western or American cultural preferences whether political, economic, or more broadly cultural.

Yes, Christianity influenced Western culture in many ways, but it certainly should not be equated with that culture.  Take for instance the issue of democracy.  You will look in vain for an endorsement of democracy in the Bible.  If the Bible endorses any form of human government, it is hierarchial and monarchial in character.  On the other hand,  Christianity is no friend of absolute relativism, the notion that all religions are equally true, valid, and valuable, or universalism, the notion that all religions are one, or alternately all religions are equally valid means of salvation and all person will inevitably be saved, come what may, believe what they will.

One of the places where the notion that “devotion to Islam inherently involves violence against the West, or Christianity, or both” goes most wrong is a failure to actually understand the theology of Islam.  If one thing is clear about Islamic belief in the one God of the Bible, it is that God is great, God is sovereign, and the Koran would add, God is in absolute control of all that happens in the world.  Whether you call it fatalism, determinism, or simply God’s sovereignty, Muslims believe that God has determined all things in advance.  When they are consistent, they are more Calvinistic than the Calvinists.

And with such a system of belief,  there is no reason or rationale to engage in terrorism at all.  If you truly believe God is great and God is good, and all that happens is in God’s hands, then this includes taking care of one’s enemies, and the issues of injustice.   One has no need to take matters or weapons into one’s own hands, if all is Allah’s will and it cannot be otherwise.    Furthermore,  many scholars of Islam will tell you that the whole concept of jihad in the Koran has to do with the struggle or battle against sin in any and every life, and against Satan. It does not have to do with killing other human beings.

Thus while many Americans, who know little or nothing about Islam and have never read the Koran,  are often derisive when they hear Muslim teachers claiming their religion is a religion of peace and love,  this in part reflects sheer ignorance of the core teachings of that religion.  One might just as well claim that the call in Ephesians 6 to fight the good fight against Evil and the powers of darkness is an invitation to violence against other human beings.    Terrorism in the name of religion is the practice of myopic,  bigoted people who have been misled or bamboozled about the essential teachings of their own religion, or have privileged questionable interpretations of some of their sacred texts.

Think for a moment about the all too common remark made by militaristic Christians in the West that the ‘OT justifies violence and war under certain circumstances’.   What they fail to tell you is that the only circumstances and political systems in which one could reasonably argue that that is true is if we are dealing with a direct rule by God, called a theocracy (see the Book of Joshua),  or with a monarchy (see David and the Philistines).  In no case, could such passages be simply transferred and applied to the situation in modern democracies as a justification for violence against our fellow human beings.   Such logic is all the more questionable in an age where our military weapons are much more lethal than those of the Biblical era and more likely to make impossible the fulfillment of the commandment to love our enemies  and overcome evil with good.

Terrorism and mass murdering should be seen for what it is— not the practice of some religion, but rather the absolute violation of the core teachings of all the major world religions, including Christianity and Islam.   Terrorism doesn’t deserve to be called a religious act.  It is an act that involves the antithesis of all that is true and good and loving.  It involves the antithesis of the very character of God which is holy love and all that is highest and best, especially the highest and best aspects of the world’s monotheistic religions.

It is time for Jews, and Christians and Muslims to agree together to call terrorism and mass murdering  what is— an act of cowardice by hate filled bigots who sometimes wrongly think their religion justifies their actions, or even inspires it.   They are wrong— their religion is opposed to their actions.  Acts of terror are not one way tickets to Paradise or heaven no matter who says so, they are one way tickets to Hell.    On the door of my office is a picture of nuns with guns.  The subtext says,  “These are not the virgins Osama expected when he was entering the afterlife”.    The afterlife will prove a surprise to many zealous bigots.  Enough said.

  • codebeard

    I must say I am mostly ignorant of the content of Islamic teaching, and I hope it is true that violence does indeed go against the core doctrines. However, what concerns me is the proportion (small, but significant) of Muslims who are ambivalent or even sympathetic towards terrorism.

    For example, a survey of 500 Muslims in the UK after the 2005 bombings in London found that while 99% condemned the attacks (why not 100?), 20% were sympathetic towards the “feelings and motives” of the attackers. I think you would be hard pressed to even find more than a handful of Christians sympathetic towards Breivik.

    Do you think it is just because of that fatalism you mention (“it happened, so it must have been Allah’s will”)?

  • David

    BW3, I truly appreciate your blog and especially your commentaries! However, this blog seems truly misinformed from what I have studied and observed.

    First, I have read the Koran, entirely, and studied it to some degree. Second, I am hopefully a reasoned observer of the lands in which Islam and Sharia law hold dominance.

    Having seen and read what I have, I think your article is a bit naive when it comes to present Islam as a peace-loving religion on a par equal to either Judaism or Christianity. The Koran is like living in and reading the OT theocracy narratives, but on steroids. Sharia is the implementation of a 5th century way of life and embodied in the Koran. It is brutal, sadist, and full of extremism across the board.

    As much as I enjoy your articles this seems the most misinformed I have read from your pen.

  • Damien


    If you look at what is being said in European countries, you do find quite a few “cultural Christians” (Breivik himself said he was a Christian Atheist/Cultural Christian!) who express sympathy with Breivik’s motives and now argue that immigrants and those who allowed them into the country are responsible for the bombings.

    As for the UK Muslims, it might simply mean that some of them feel frustration at their being marginalized, and increasingly so since 9/11.

    A more relevant comparison would be support for the IRA in the US. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, you wouldn’t have been that hard-pressed to find Irish Americans who were sympathetic towards the feelings and motives of IRA “freedom fighters”.

    Even closer to home, I think that you could easily get a majority of evangelical church goers to agree that firebombing civilian populations in WW2 was justified because it saved American lives (

  • LHA

    As a pastor, I have heard “Christians” express sympathy for pro life extremists who used violence against abortion providers. I have heard Christians use the Bible to justify racism, and violence in the defense of it. I have heard Christians justify slavery in the Southern US by saying that though it was wrong in some way it did give the slave the opportunity to hear the Gospel. One might say these are not true Christians. However, we hear Muslims say that the extremists they live with are not true Muslims. Good for the goose, good for the gander..

  • James Mace

    Ben, brother, I love you and those over whom you are to wield influence responsibly so tell you I am shocked and saddened by your utter ignorance of aboriginal Muhammadan Islam.

    One must distinguish between the cult Muhammad and earliest followers created and followed and its perversions by later religionists who have to varying degrees sometimes liberalized, westernized, watered down or otherwise made palatable to modern American tastes. History is revised in accord with a definite agenda to provide appealing portrayals (that are not, unfortunately, true, e.g., the myth of the Andalusian paradise).

    So, I would rather live next door to a bad Muslim who is peaceful than to a good Muslim on jihad. My own adopted brother is a Shi’ite Muslim, yet he is happily one of the more liberal adherents who does not follow what Muhammad prescribed and exemplified.

    In your own jingoistic opposition to violence, you have embraced skewed propaganda about the essential nature of Islam, even equating it with Christian emphasis on God’s love, which you cannot find in aboriginal Muhammadan Islam. And your naivete in failing to discern the difference in scope of benevolence toward all humans between Christianity and Islam is also a serious shortcoming. It is the Islamic Ummah toward which Muslim benevolence is directed, and non-Islamic humanity is Jahiliyyah (cf. Qur’an 3:154; 5:50; 33:33; 48:26 and later writers).

    I realize you but follow what many other uninformed and/or tendentious Christians are doing, but I pray you cease participating in the subversion of Christianity and the strengthening of an essentially antichristian cult once again revived and gone global. I am happy to discuss further with you via email or over lunch sometime.

  • Kelly Carter

    While I appreciate the spirit of BW3′s post, and decry Christian bigotry, having read the Koran and much of the history of Islam, it is my impression that the “core” teachings of Islam and the history even of Muhammad himself unfortunately leave considerably more room for radicals to take their faith in a violent direction than do the core teachings of Christianity. You will not find anything in the New Testament that compares to say . . . the ninth Sura, where it is suggested that unconverted infidels may permissibly be executed. Or perhaps someone will tell me that I am wrongly reading such texts? I am willing to try to see things differently. And, is it not a fact that Muhammad himself carried out militaristic campaigns against others, including Mecca itself, threatening them with violence if they did not submit to his new faith as his army approached from Medina? Again, perhaps I have the facts wrong, and I am willing to be taught, but this is what I understand to be the case. And, please, note that I am not at all a blinded, provincial, bigoted Christian, and I have many Muslim friends and acquaintances. But, if I am correct about the things I stated above, it does not surprise me that the number of current news reports we hear reporting violence somehow associated with Islamic influence are vastly more in proportion and number to those we hear about that are somehow associated with Christian influence, per se, likely more than 100-1. Doesn’t this hint at the fact that there is more than just Christian bigotry at work here? I have a gentle spirit about this and just want to understand what is really true about Islam.

  • Oscar

    It is not the Koran itself that determines Muslim practice but, rather, the voluminous body of commentary called the Hadith that explains how a practicing Muslim should express his/her faith.

    A reading of the Koran will not fully explain why some practices are accepted and others are not.

    And why do some Muslims remain silent in the face of acts of violence? Because they are enjoined from speaking against the Umma, the body of believers, lest they offend Allah, the merciful. It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of an angry god!

  • ben witherington

    Thank you Oscar. Sharia law is not the Koran. Nor is it in the Koran. It is in some ways based on the Koran, but mostly based on later commentary, in particular the Hadith. The issue here is not the life of Muhammed, for unlike Christianity’s relationship with Jesus, Muhammed is simply seen as a man, and a great prophet. Period. He is not seen as a divine example.

    As Oscar says, it is the Hadith where your focus should be if you want to complain about modern Islam. Complaining about modern Islam without knowing the Hadith, is like complaining about modern Judaism purely on the basis of the OT without knowing the Talmuds, the Mishnah, the Haf-Torahs, the long history of commentators (e.g. Mamonides) and so on.

    For the record, I have spent a lot of time with Muslims in the Middle East. Lots of different ones. And I am not talking about secular one’s either who simply have a Muslim heritage. Many of them are far more like Jesus in his compassion than lots of Christians I know, far more concerned for the poor, etc.

    I certainly agree there are problems with some things in the Koran. But I don’t for minute take back what I said about the core ethic of that religion or its strong emphasis on monotheism.

    Some of you need to spend some time actually getting to know, for example some Sufi Muslims. Muslims are not all Shiites you know, or Sunnis either. Only a tiny minority of them are interested in terrorism. It is not an inherent part of their religion, nor required by anything said in the Koran, so far as I can see.


  • James Mace

    There are strong refutations for every salient assertion you made, Ben (except for “its strong emphasis on monotheism,” and even that is centered on a denial of the Trinity as part of the essential recitation of the Shahada). But I won’t deal exhaustively.

    Ironically, it is from the vaunted sect/heresy of Sufism that some of the most violently imperialistic jihadista have arisen, e.g., the bin Laden of the 19th cent., the Mahdi of the Sudan, Muhammad Ahmed.

    The ultimate and final Surah capping the entire series of “spiritual revelations” in the Qur’an is Surah 9, the ultimate message of the physical sword; that might help you begin to “see,” as you put it. I’ll pray for an opening of the mind.

  • Graham Veale

    Dr Witherington

    My reading of Koran, Hadith and Sharia is rather limited. However, it does seem clear to me that most conservative Muslims would not endorse terrorist attacks in the West, or on Western targets. (Attacks on Israel seem to be interpreted rather more generously).
    However, there are deeper problems with Islam that do flow directly from the Koran, and the Koran’s conception of God. Islam can be a political ideology as much as it is a religion – in fact many Muslim apologists cite this as a strength of Islam! Imperialist expansion seems to be central to the history of Islam, and this does not seem to be problematic to Muslims.
    The only person with “concrete reality” seems to be Allah. So recent Islamic statements on Human Rights are deficient by the most conservative of Western Standards. Furthermore the five main Islamic legal schools allow judges to execute converts from Islam. (And at least one School insists on the death penalty).
    The human right to convert from Islam should be the central point of contention between Islamic and Christian thinkers. Pope Benedict tried to start conversation on this issue – and the liberal Westernised media drowned him out.
    The persecution of “Apostates” should be made into a scandal for Islamic groups and nations.
    I agree with you that the War on Terror has become a massive distraction in Muslim/Christian debate and interaction. I agree that many Muslims put Christians to shame in terms of character and conduct. And if anyone tries to “disinvite” one of my Muslim students, they’ll have to “disinvite” me too.
    But I am not at all convinced, even given the limitations of my experience and reading, that there are not political and ethical problems “written into the DNA” of Islam. When it is true to itself it must renounce the world or conquer it. Bainton aside, this is not true of Christianity. Christians should seek the good of the city that they reside in; but there citizenship will always be in a different Kingdom. It is impossible for Christianity to conquer the world before the Millenium. And then Christ will do the conquering.

    Graham Veale

    Graham Veale

  • Matt

    I think that everyone in any religion (even an athiest) can agree that there are some truly evil people in this world. One thing for certain is that each person that does horrible deeds such as this shooting has had a turing point in their life where they went completely down the wrong path to complete evil. We are in a world where the law of opposites is in effect. I have not read in any religious book that any person is born to do evil. We choose to do it and cannot blame any person, religion or up-bringing. One way to fight the evil things of this world is to first eliminate ignorance of other cultures and religions in ourselves and then teach our children about all of God’s children on this planet. We are all equal in God’s eyes and he is no respecter of persons.

  • Graham Veale

    My understanding of Sufism is consistent with James – many Sufi tend to quietism, but some do seek to “conquer the world”. Reza Aslan sees Sufism as the solution to Islam’s problems. But some of his critics raised points similar to James’.
    Again, this is not to deny that there are quietist Sufi sects, or that many intelligent, informed Muslims are convinced quietists. It is not to deny that Muslims are good British citizens compared to the average white British citizen.

    But I think praising Sufism could lead us to conclude that the only good Muslim is a quietist Musli. But if a Muslim community accepts that an individual has the right to convert from Islam, and that the convert has the right not to face massive discrimination, then I really don’t care how Islamic their state is. It ceases to be any of my business.
    And if a Muslim citizen abides by the laws of our nation, and respects its institutions, I really don’t care what their theology is (unless I’m evangelising!). I don’t care what their first language is, and I don’t care how they dress. They have met the demand of good citizenship, and should not be asked to pass any further tests.

    Graham Veale

  • Graham Veale

    My goodness, I do waffle late at night!
    To clarify:
    1) Islam does need to provide a clear rational basis for a broader spectrum of human rights. It is a weakness of Islam that it finds it difficult to make room for many human rights.
    2) Islam’s attitude to “apostates” is a scandal that Muslims must address.
    3) These are intellectual and political critiques that should be debated. They do not justify discrimination against Muslim citizens in Western Nations.


  • Graham Veale

    Where I disagree with James is that I don’t believe that there is some essential, purified Islam that exists in some Platonic realm.

  • Bill

    Sooner or later it gets down to looking at how Islam developed and how it spread. I just don’t see how it is possible to avoid that fact that a conquering spirit was at the core of Islam from the beginning. The sword verses, the hadiths, and the actual history are all consistent with an Islam that sought to conquer and rule (politically, economically, socially, religiously, etc., etc.)

  • Graham Veale

    I think that I disagree with James and Bill on a subtle, but important, point.
    The Quran shows that Muhammad adapted to changing situations. The Caliphs changed the nature of the Islamic community so that community could expand and then consolidate. The fiqh and the hadith again show Islam changing its rules to adapt to a changing world. Above all, Sufism shows that Islam can be surprisingly malleable. The core seems to be the oneness of God.
    Recent teaching at Al Hazar Al-Sharif has suggested that apostates do, technically, lose the right to life and property in the Islamic community. However the apostate must be given the rest of their life to repent, before this penalty is imposed. Under this interpretation the death penalty becomes a legal fiction.
    This seems to be a good example of Islam’s capacity to re-invent itself by changing an interpretation of an existing ruling. Al Hazar Al-Sharif is a conservative group, yet it has shown that it is willing to make room for religious tolerance.
    There is no necessary connection between Islam and violent expansion, or between Islam and religious persecution. So I am hopeful that bridges can be built between the secular, Christian and Islamic communities. The scandal for Islam is that its foundational documents make room for violent expansion and persecution. This is not the case for the New Testament.
    So Muslim apologists have a difficult case to answer; but that does not preclude Muslim teachers from opposing religious persecution.

    Graham Veale

  • ben witherington

    Hi Friends:

    If you would really like to understand the history of Islam after Muhammed, I would suggest you read Lesley Hazelton’s After the Prophet. The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split. It’s an eye opener. My own additional observation would be that from the outset there was a fundamental misunderstanding of Christianity, especially a misunderstanding of the role of Mary in Catholicism (and not as a part of the godhead).


  • BW16

    This is a great post emphasizing the importance of liberal sentimentality.

  • ben witherington

    Hi BW16— are you really the 16th BW in a row? Impressive. There is nothing liberal about this post, just the facts.

    The problem with various of the responses is the failure to realize that ya’ll are reading the Koran and Islam through the lens of Christian orthodoxy? What’s wrong with that, you may ask? Islam is, like Judaism a religion that focuses on orthopraxy not orthodoxy. Yes, it presupposes monotheism and God’s active sovereignty, but the focus and heart of the religion day to day beyond that is on prayer, fasting almsgiving, and the special religious festivals and celebrations— very much like Judaism. Analyzing the Koran as if it were the Westminster Confession of faith is a huge mistake. The Koran is a book more like the book of Proverbs (suras are basically wisdom sayings— proverbs, aphorisms etc.) than like say Romans. It is about ethics and orthopraxy more than anything else, and that is what shapes the day to day living out of the religion even now.

    Are there things I would strongly disagree with about Islam? Of course, especially its evaluation of Jesus. But if you really want to fairly to evaluate a religion you need to evaluate it at its best, not merely at its worst.


  • ben witherington

    Last P.S. Suggesting that Islamic terrorism is a natural, normal or necessary outcome from Islam itself, is rather like arguing that the KKK is a necessary outcome and implication of Biblical Christianity. It isn’t in either case.


  • Wesley Wong

    Well said, Mr Veale.
    As for Mr Witherington, of all the posts from you which I read, this is the one I enjoy the least, and disagree the most.


  • Cunnudda

    You’re hopelessly naive. I’m glad you have nice Muslim friends, and I’m sure there were some great Nazis, too, but that doesn’t justify the ideology. In note #8 you are exactly wrong about the position of Mo in Islam. He is “the perfect man”, an “excellent example of conduct”. Indeed, blasphemy laws in Muslim states routinely cover “insulting” the prophet. Recall the Danish Motoons kerfuffle.
    Islam is, and has always been, a totalitarian political system with a religious dimension. Their notion of “orthopraxy” is similar to that of Stalin, complete with external coercion. Individual Muslims may choose to ignore that, but there is no organized school of Muslim thought that ignores it. I suggest you read “Reliance of the Traveler” to get a sort of systematic theology, which will reveal the expectations of orthopraxy.

  • ben witherington

    Wrong Cunnuda. Islam is a religion with political dimensions and implications. You have it exactly backwards. Most Muslims in the world do not live in countries which impose Sharia Law on everyone indiscriminantly, and most would be horrified if that happened.

    As for ‘Reliance of the Traveler’ it represents one particular minority Muslim school of thought, namely the Shafi’i school of thought. Hardly the school of thought of all or most Muslims. Here is the description of the book itself on Amazon—-
    “It represents the fiqh rulings according to the Shafi’I school of jurisprudence”. Calling this majority Islam, is like calling Shakers majority Christianity.

    I am aware of the dangers of Sharia law, and various other aspects of Islam. If totalitarianism and tyranny was inherent to Islam, you would have no explanation for Islam as the overwhelmingly majority religion Turkey at all, or for that matter no explanation for all the devout Muslims in Syria giving up their lives to oppose totalitarianism in that country. You need a rethink on this. It is not a good think to caricature the whole on the basis of one part of a religious group.


  • Bill

    My comments were not based solely the on reading the Koran, rather my comments were based on the Koran, the hadiths, and the history of Islamic expansion. My point was that I find it very difficult to argue against the idea that early Islam often expanded through the conquering territories (Jihad). Check out a map. Within one hundred years of the death of Mohammad, Islam had spread from the Middle East westward to France and eastward to India. How did this happen in one hundred years. Check the history of what actually happened as Islam expanded. I could go into detail about populations being given the opportunity to fight, flee, convert, or submit to Muslim authority and accept “dhimmi” status (read pay special taxes). Islam may go through a reformation (I hope it does), but I do not see how it is possible to argue against the the idea that conquest is consistent with the Islamic texts (Koran and Hadiths) and the early history of Islam.

  • Ken

    Dr. Ben W. –
    You communicate a good attitude of in trying to appeal to peaceful Muslims and Sufis, and those Muslims you have met, and the difference between their behavior and Muslim terrorists like Al Qaeda and others, etc.; and you rightly condemn the Norway terrorist; but overall, I think you are mistaken about the nature of Islam, and, in all due respect, naive in not seeing that Islam itself is political and military and sociological by nature, as evidenced by the Qur’an (8:39; 9:5; 9:29) and the Hadith and the Sira (biography of Muhammad) and the Tarikh (Al Tabari’s History of Islam), and the actions of Muhammad and all the Muslim leaders and history in conquering everything UNTIL they were stopped. (732 battle of Tours; 634-900s – conquering of Persia; 1453 – Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople; 1648 – battle of Vienna; 1917 – end of WW I and end of Ottoman Empire)

    Although “Jihad” as a word by itself means “striving” and “effort” and “struggle” – it is ALWAYS used in the Qur’an and the Sahih (genuine, correct) Hadith as fighting the unbelievers and hypocrites in warfare and giving of one’s possession and money and hospitality to help the fighters. (helping the Mujahadeen)

    The only time it is used to talk about “striving against the selfish internal desires” is in a Hadith tradition that is NOT part of the Sahih tradition. ( It is not in Al Bukhari or Al Muslim; the two most authoritative Sunni collections of Hadith accepted by all Sunnis).

    Here is a Muslim scholar who explains where this tradition came from (the history of Bagdad; “Tarikh Bagdad”) and that it is not genuine and does not have a strong evidence of documentation of chains of evidence going back to Muhammad. It is amazing that so many are using that lone one; yet it is not in the Qur’an nor in the Sahih Hadith.

    You seem to be interpreting doctrinal Islam and historical Islam through the lens of all the nice modern peaceful Muslims and Sufis that you know. Praise God that most Muslims are not like Ben Laden or Alawki or Anjem Choudary, however, that is not dealing with the doctrines and history of Islam.

    This is the great theological/political/apologetic/sociological/philosophical issue of today, it seems.

    If Muslims take over and area by immigration or war, then apostasy laws (Hadith Sahih Al Bukhari – “If anyone leaves his Islamic religion, kill him.” kick in (hence freedom of speech and freedom of religion will go); Zakat (alms) is mandatory (and Capitalism and free market society and western banking is considered sin and wrong.); new churches cannot be built and there will be no more evangelism.

    You are really naïve to not see real Islam (Surah 9:5; 9:29; 8:39) and Hadith on “I have been ordered to fight the people until religion is all for Allah” for what it is.

    The pact of Omar (2nd Khalif of Islam after Muhammad died) was clear – no new churches, no evangelism, no freedom of speech, no insulting the prophet.

    Pagans are killed and Christians and Jews can only practice their religion quietly among themselves. (since it forbids evangelism, it is not really allowing Christians to exercise their religion.)

    Here is one example from the Sahih (genuine, correct, right) Hadith that explains why so many Muslims react in anger when they think Allah or the prophet has been insulted:

    Hadith, book 59 – Military Expeditions Led by the Prophet Muhammad.

    Sahih Al Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 369: , Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah: Allah’s Apostle said;
    Narrated Jabir bin ‘Abdullah:
    Allah’s Apostle said, “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” The Prophet said, “Yes,” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab). “The Prophet said, “You may say it.” . . .

  • Ken

    Typo –

    Battle of Vienna, should have been 1683, not 1648

  • Graham Veale

    Dr Witherington

    I’m not at all sure that I am reading the Koran as if it is a Systematic Theology. I tried to emphasise the political nature of Islam, and Islam’s capacity to re-invent itself. I drew attention to the fiqh.
    However Islam cannot be reduced to orthopraxy. It has substantial theological content. There are many “Islams”, and not one monolithic movement. However, there are clear “family resemblances” between all these communities. And when I criticise some of the dominant voices in Islam I am drawing on Muslim organisations like the Quilliam foundation, or Muslim writers like Ziauddin Sardar.
    Again my reading is limited in this area. And I haven’t had the privilege of face to face conversations with Muslim intellectuals (I’m only a High School teacher in a very small Irish School). But there are moral issues, specifically in the area of human rights, that need to be addressed by Muslim leaders and thinkers.
    On the issue of terrorism against the West, however, I agree. The strong consensus is against terrorism. I wish that evangelicals who work in the Muslim world would engage more with American “anti-Jihadism”. I’d love to read Timothy Tennant’s thoughts, for example, on western misconceptions of Islam.
    I’m a bit concerned, though, that you are skating over Breivik’s definition of “multi-culturalism”; “multi-culturalism” has been criticised, quite lucidly and persuasively, by Britain’s Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks, and by Trevor Phillips of Equality and Human Rights Commission. I doubt that Breivik and Sacks/Phillips had the same target in mind.
    In fact, I’m not convinced that Breivik had a coherent set of ideas. PZ Myers (!) has pointed out that there is nothing “Christian” about Breivik’s ideology. That is, theology played no role in his thinking. Breivik seems more concerned with the secular alternative for immortality – fame – than he is with any philosophical or political agenda.

    I think that, broadly, I agree with your post. However, there are significant problems in Muslim thought that some Muslims are trying to correct. They seem to be pertinent to the conversation.

    Graham Veale

  • Graham Veale


    The point is that a Muslim jurist can re-interpret those statements, just as an American jurist can re-interpret the Constitution, to fit a changing political context.

    From what I can gather, it is only the radical anti-conservative Muslim movements who wish to interpret the Koran in a literalistic way.

    Some Sufi’s, by way of contrast, might argue that the sound of the syllables in the Koran is more important than the meaning of the words.

    Now which version is the real Islam? The one that most resembles Christianity? That’s question begging. The one that has been followed most consistently through the ages? The most popular today? The one that seizes the headlines? The one that scares us most?

    These issues are very complex. That doesn’t mean that the Koran is above criticism – far from it. But it does mean that we should stop assuming that Islam is the natural enemy of the Christian West. That would be to mix up a substantial Christian response to Islam with JRR Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings”.


  • Kelly Carter


    Several of us have now mentioned the ninth Sura and its explicitly violent instructions concerning infidels. In response, you have said, “Analyzing the Koran as if it were the Westminster Confession of faith is a huge mistake. The Koran is a book more like the book of Proverbs (suras are basically wisdom sayings— proverbs, aphorisms etc.) than like say Romans. It is about ethics and orthopraxy more than anything else, and that is what shapes the day to day living out of the religion even now.” So what is the proverbial intention and interpretation of the material in the ninth Sura? What is the wisdom, or ethics, or orthopraxy that is to be applied (in whatever way you are asserting it should be interpreted and applied) that negates the explicitly violent direction of the text’s content? And as others have queried, is the history of Islam, including that of Muhammad, himself (I mentioned his overtaking Mecca), not in at least minor conflict with the message that Islam is at its core, and in its origin, a religion of peace? I don’t doubt your experiences of Islam and Muslims because mine are similar, but are there not in Islamic origins at least the seeds of violence that not unexpectedly too often lead some Muslims to pursue violence in an attempt authentically to live out their faith system?

  • Suzanne

    People wonder why 100% of Muslims didn’t condemn the terrorist attacks in England but I wonder why there was such a deafening silence from Christians after this man shot people in Norway. I heard only the screech of tires as Christians tried desperately to distance themselves from him. I truly doubt you could round up 500 Christians and find 100% of them who thought what he did was completely unjustified. I have heard Christians declare to me that a good course of action would be to nuke the middle east, and that while Jesus said that when slapped we should turn the other cheek, but if you kill the sob first, turning the other cheek will be unnecessary. There is violence in the Bible and Christianity certainly cannot claim a bloodless past.

  • James Mace


    I’ve enjoyed reading your thoughtful and substantive posts. I will respond at this time only to the latest writing:

    “. . . we should stop assuming that Islam is the natural enemy of the Christian West.”

    Thoughtfully reasoned conclusions are not mere assumptions, and the people on this page are doing more than simply “assuming.”

    While there are many forms of Islam, the closer Muslims stick to the fullness of the Qur’an (as well as both other authoritative, equally “inspired” texts, e.g., ahadith al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, and the example of the model Muhammad, as in, e.g., ibn Hisham’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”), the closer they are to following the aboriginal essence of anti-Trinitarianism.

    So I must disagree with your (apparently) summary (and major) conclusion, that Islam is not the enemy of Christianity, or, as you put it more narrowly, “the Christian West,” which is included in an attack against broader Christianity.

    Since Islam is essentially antichristian, then it is also against the Christian West. I am quite charmed by your use of Tolkien to discount critics, yet I conclude it is fully legitimate within a Tolkienian hermeneutic of, as he writes, “application,” for us to benefit from the truths within LOTR when confronted by demonic imperialism such as practice by Muhammad and those who follow him in that aboriginal practice. For you to disallow the strengthening of Christian civilization by means of a potent artwork such as LOTR would make Tolkien feel abused, for he intended his work to produce such a strengthening (which is one reason it was wrong for Peter Jackson in his film to contradict Tolkien’s climactic buildup to the “Scouring of the Shire”).

    So I must contradict some of your latest statement by pointing out that, since Islam is basically anti-Trinitarian and denies essential aspects of the Messiah, then it is the enemy of Christianity, first theologically before it ever demands the use of the sword to slay Christian idolaters who allegedly polytheistically “add partners” (e.g., Jesus/Son of God/God the Son) to the monadic, unitarian Allah.

    Since aboriginal, Qur’anic, Muhammadan Islam is the enemy of Christianity, then it is also the enemy of the Christian West, and our proper use of Tolkien to strengthen ourselves in the face of demonically empowered Islamic imperialists who follow Muhammad in his attacks against “Rome,” etc., is justified.

  • david bentley

    When one contrasts the Prophet Muhammad with Jesus, the Messiah, the subject of violence should end quickly. The Arab Prophet established the rule of Islam as a sword bearing ruler who adopted a title as the commander of the faithful, amir al-mumaneen. Jesus’ self-disclosurers included names of life sustaining forces, Light, Water, Vine, and Shepherd. The Christian west after the Crusades have tried to keep their wars of short duration and the martyrs die not for God but for the often very violent nation-state. The Good Shepherd image does not sustain long wars nor fighting in the way of God as a rally cry from Surah 9. We have religious violence in our Western societies but our Founder is not a long term model for this. Christ’s followers must emulate their Prince of Peace even when confronted by those who would do harm to them. Muslims can be expected to follow their Leader who used his leadership skills and his military genius to establish what he saw as a righteous rule on earth.

  • Graham Veale


    I approach Islam from two perspectives – evangelism/apologetics and public policy.

    When evaluating another faith, I like to pay the same compliment that I expect others to pay my faith. That is, to give it the most generous interpretation possible. I do not wish to be judged by the antics on Benny Hinn or Mark Driscoll, for example. I want secularists to engage with Ben Witherington, CS Evans, Paul Helm and Jerry Walls.
    So if I am asked if I have studied other faiths, I say yes, as much as time has permitted, and insofar as my job demands it. And if I am asked why I believe that Christianity is more convncing than Islam, I have three answers.
    The first is that Muhammad can be explained as one of histories “great men”. Really, he seems to be on a par with Alexander the Great. Very few have changed the course of history in quite this way.
    Still, his ideas seem to have been inspired by Jewish groups, Christian schismatics, and hanifs. It is interesting that Muhammad did not feel the need to respond to Orthodox teaching on the Trinity and the Incarnation. He only seemed to respond to caricatures of Christian orthodoxy. Is it possible that Muhammad never heard the Orthododox Christian message? (I’d like some guidance on this question).
    Undoubtedly, Muhammad’s greatness was his ability to unite the various tribes, using far less force than his successors. Religion and politics were the same thing in that environment. So naturally a great political leader was a great religious leader. And Muhammad seemed to revise earlier teachings to meet new circumstances.
    However, I cannot explain the success of the first Christians without recourse to a miracle. The Resurrection was a necessary condition of the survival of Jesus message. And this message was that he was Wisdom incarnate, the Word of God. I am forced back to CS Lewis’ Trilemma. To follow Jesus I must say that he was not a great man. He was crushed by great men. So I follow Jesus because history testifies that he is the Son of God.
    Secondly, I would argue that Christianity can better accommodate Human Rights as it makes room for human freedom (Ockhamist Calvinism aside!) Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is absent from the 1990 Cairo Declaration of Human rights. This seems consistent with Islam’s emphasis of God’s sovereignty.
    Third, I would point to the Trinity and the Incarnation, and note that God seems more mysterious and transcendent in Christianity, yet also more immanent. Christianity has a better account of God’s love. If God is, by definition, the greatest being possible, then any puported revelation of God must meet the challenge of portraying God in the greatest terms.
    Christianity can claim to be more surprising and more wonderful than Islam. Therefore it has a better claim to be revealed by God.
    Now I can effectively respond to Islam without recourse to criticising “aboriginal” Islam. I can respond to more plausible versions of Islam effectively.
    Now turn to Public Policy. Politics is the art of the possible. It is about who I can do business with. Now if an Islamic community will respect the laws of my nation and respect its institutions, then I should not care less whether or not they are being consistent with their Holy Books. Maybe Reza Aslan has Muhammad all wrong. I don’t mind. As long as he is a law abiding citizen with some loyalty to his non-Muslim neighbours, he’s meets the requirements of being a good citizen. When it comes to public policy, we should judge Muslim communities as we judge every community – by their works.
    In terms if Foreign Policy, I do not see a direct threat to the West. A threat to Western interests, and a threat to Israel. Here tribal and nationalist visions get entangled with religious belief. But we seem to have inflicted so much damage on the Western economy through our own “free market” that we might be wise spend a bit more time examining Christianities appeasement of Western materialism, than we do examining the essence of Islam. If the West exists (and it seems to be too abstract a concept to take very seriously) the greatest danger to the West is the West.

    Graham Veale

  • Graham Veale

    I wish I could write clearer prose off the top off my head. That reads terribly, doesn’t it? Still, I think the point is clear enough. I don’t think that we should waste much time critquing the spirit of aboriginal Islam, unless we encounter it on our missionary endeavours.


  • Graham Veale

    (Oh, one more thing. I don’t see how the scouring of the Shire could work cinematically. On the other hand, it might have made a better conclusion than that 733 fade-to-blacks that Jackson decided to go with!)

  • Kilmrnock

    i am going to comment from outside the abrahiaic monothiestic religions . altho a smaller number at this time Christians are not w/o blood on thier hands . there has been more blood spilled by Christians in the name of thier god than any other religion in history . islam does have a rather large problem w/ radial / extremist terrorists to deal w/ at this time tho.the inquisition , the colonisation of the americas etc , christianity is far from innocent.from my understanding only 1 to 2 percent of the world islamic population are extremists , by shear numbers that is alot , considering the numbers of muslims . i am a pagan , i follow prechristian western european traditions . all i can say is you monothiests need to clean up your act , the middle east and the religions that origonated there are the most violent , part of the world , and violent ,abusive religions . christianity and islam having the worst track records .holy books , imperical teachings , can be misquoted or twisted quite easily to meet almost any agenda . just take a look at american manifest destiny , under that concept we nearly destroyed the native americans . something to this day as an american i am ashamed of .the monotheist Faiths need to police themselves from the inside out , this is the only way meaningful change can occur . KIlm

  • James Mace


    I wish you would have just posted what is #34, since the previous #33 is not clear nor really applicable to what I was saying (although it shows how your thinking relates to other group-think). So I will also sally forth on an adventure in rambling.

    I will rebut the shortsightedness of your dismissal of essential Islam as an important factor in our world.

    Also, we need to critique fools within the Church. These say, e.g., that the Qur’an teaches basically the same God as Christianity. They can say that those today who are faithful to aboriginal Islam are perverting a “GREAT RELIGION”; but it is those who are unfaithful liberals who are Islamic perverts.

    We cannot ignore the spiritual dimension as you completely do. Maybe you deny the existence of demons, but Scripture does not, and we should recognize the essence of Islam as demonic if we grant Muhammad had any spiritual influence. Thus we should also recognize that the current revival of aboriginal Islam can also have a demonic component.

    We should not underestimate our enemies as you do both on the significance of their valid claim to greater faithfulness to the original vision of the so-called prophet Muhammad and on their spiritual assistance from fallen preternatural beings, the real identity behind the pseudo-allah of Islam.

    We should also be loving our fellow Christians as ourselves as they are being increasingly persecuted by revived and potent aboriginal Muhammadans. You say the western Church should ignore this essential Islam, but that is part of the widespread breaking of the 2d Great Commandment, and the global Church will never revive and mature until we begin to obey it. Recognizing and opposing what is happening to our brethren is a vital part of this eschatological ecclesial perfection.

    These distinctions are important, for, in order for those enslaved within all forms of Islam to escape or form a more true form of belief system, Muslims must eventually recognize and repudiate the lies at the foundation of all systems of Qur’anic religion. Muhammad must be recognized as a false prophet, and the Qur’an and other inspired Islamic texts must be jettisoned (or at least expurgated of demonic lies).

    It is also important for such an exercise to help those acting foolishly within the Church to stop acting so.

    It would be nice if we could just pretend that historical realities that are largely forgotten or denied are inconsequential or that the spiritual realm does not matter since we want everything to have been determined by purely naturalistic means. But such is not so. That which has been a potent evil in the world can revive and return (as is happening now), and Satan can inspire humans to create and propagate false religions (as he has in Islam). And it would be nice (for masochists, at least) if the only response we need make is pathological cultural self-flagellation–”Oh, we’re so baaaad!”; but external enemies have a way of making their presence known even to corpulent Hobbits who (like ostriches) think the Shire will never be changed if they just keep their noses fixated on removing lint from their own navels.

    See, I can ramble too! :-) Well, anyway, I did pick up some Irish cheddar yesterday (Ivernia by Kerrygold) and thought of you. I think I’ll pop into my Hobbit kitchen for a nice 2d breakfast and use it for making some eggs and toast. Oh–and I can see 1) why they omitted the Scouring of the Shire and such other things as Tom Bombadil, and 2) how the Scouring of the Shire could be made to work by a better filmmaker than Jackson (who distorted so many other important things), and 3) that Jackson did not need to contradict the message of the Scouring of the Shire in order to omit it.

  • David Weinschrott

    There is plenty of violence to go round between Christianity and Islam. If one checks the sequence of events in the 4th- 6th century you will find that Byzantium “Christians” attacked the east where Islam was being birthed before Arabs moved west. It might be said that our forefathers taught jihad to Islam.

    I think there is a occupational hazard of any faith – while the God of Abraham, Isaiah and Jesus says vengeance is his, we are tempted to take over the role. We (and other faiths) find justification for our violence by claiming the insight and the right to judge others and to take violence in our own hands. Even the notion of “just war” is a contradiction to God’s claim of monopoly on vengeance.

    It is striking to me that simple communion that was meant to bind followers of Jesus together – in the 4th-6th centuries became a weapon. The political striving among Antioch, Alexander, Rome and Constantinople for imperial dominance led to excommunication being hurled back and forth among the church fathers from these different sees. See “The Jesus Wars” by Philip Jenkins.

    Those wars were political battles of in the name of obscure points of a supposed orthodoxy that overshadowed orthopraxy – the simple proclamation of the gospel.

  • David Weinschrott

    I meant Alexandria – not Alexander. Where is the edit button?

  • Ken

    Graham wrote:

    The point is that a Muslim jurist can re-interpret those statements, just as an American jurist can re-interpret the Constitution, to fit a changing political context.

    How did Muhammad understand Surah 8:39; 9:5; and 9:29 ? What did he do? He did aggressive all out war against pagans and against Christians and Jews and Persian Zoroastrians; and his followers (Khalifs) carried that practice on. He got a new revelation in Medina to start attacking the pagan caravans and do aggressive Jihad and Qatal (fight to the death, kill, slay) from 622 onward, this became justified against all idolatry and shirk and polytheism; hence 8:39 and 9:5 and 9:29 against the Christians and Jews until they submit and pay the Jaziye and become humiliated and be “Zhimmi” or “Dhimmi” peoples (protected from the Muslims to fight them.)

    How did Abu Bakr understand them right after Muhammad died? Wars of Apostasy when many of the Arabs were tempted to go back to paganism. 632-634 AD.
    How did Omar understand them right after Abu Bakr died? 634-644 AD (conquering Jerusalem, Egypt, Syria, Leb. Jordan, Persia, M. Africa, later Spain, etc.) Uthman 645-656 AD?

    You compared the interpretation of the Qur’an and Hadith to the modern interpretation of the US Constitution.

    Why didn’t you use the Bible? Are we allowed to interpret the Bible however we want, ignoring historical context and author’s original intention?

    Good hermeneutics means to “interpret it according to the author’s intention”. What was the writer’s original intention and how did they understand and want people to interpret them? No, a Muslim would disagree with you; you cannot interpret the Qur’an or Hadith wrongly or against the intentions of Muhammad and the early Muslims.

  • Ken

    There is plenty of violence to go round between Christianity and Islam.

    But the first 300-400 years of Christianity was Jesus, the apostles, the early church – under persecution and no violence. Tertullian (around 180-220 AD) and others even wrote that Christians should not be soldiers in the Roman army.

    the founder of Islam did aggressive violence from 622 onward. Great difference between the founder of Christianity, Jesus and coming in humbly on a donkey, and founder of Islam who rode in on a horse and sword. David Bentley’s post is right.

    see also this 26 page article on all the primary texts from Qur’an and Hadith on Jihad.

    If one checks the sequence of events in the 4th- 6th century you will find that Byzantium “Christians” attacked the east where Islam was being birthed before Arabs moved west.

    Not a very accurate portrayal; “attacked the east” has some hidden information. Persia was not Muslim at the time. Both Persia and Byzantine were in wars for long time, even before Byzantine/Rome became Christian. the wars between Persia and Byzantium exhausted the 2 superpowers and created a vacuum for Islam to fill.

    It might be said that our forefathers taught jihad to Islam.

    Absolutely ridiculous.

  • Graham Veale


    Yes I do believe in the demonic: that is literal personal demons as described by Scripture. But no I don’t see any evidence that Muhammad had anything more the physiologically induced experiences. I really wish Christians wouldn’t throw that accusation around.

    As for the first Muslims – Islam seems to have been conceived as an uniquely Arab endeavour. The first Arab conquerors were more interested in tribute than mass conversions. In fact they had a studied indifference to the conversion of non-Arabs. The first Muslim conquests were “first and foremost a quintessential expansionist feat by a rising imperial power, in which Islam provided a moral sanction and unifying battle cry, rather than a driving force.” Efraim Karsh Islamic Imperialism. So I do not believe that Islam is necessarily on a collision course with other cultures.
    Far from ruthlessly eliminating Christians, Umar used the Iraqi Banu Taghlib tribe in his army, and put them on a similar tax footing to Muslims, even though this tribe never renounced its Christian faith. The Banu Taghlib was Arab – and therefore privileged.
    I’m not well read in this field, but I can spot caricatures. The presentations of Islamic history here might suit a sermon, but I doubt that they would pass muster in academic essays on Islamic origins. My point is that I can critique Islam without resort to these crude versions of Islamic history or what we take to be the essence of Islam.
    For example, we might believe that the Koran should be read in a certain way. Reading it our way we discern dangerous doctrines. A fair enough point for apologists seeking to undermine belief in the divine nature of the Koran.
    But most Muslims just don’t read the Koran that way. So they might not believe those dangerous doctrines! So before we declare a billion people dangers to civilisation, perhaps we should study what they do believe and not what we think they should believe.


  • Graham Veale
  • Kelly Carter

    Aside from Ben’s description of Koranic literature as proverbial, aphoristic, sapiential (which it seems to me inadequately addresses the content of texts like the ninth Sura and their place in Islam), I still have not seen one comment that denies the significant difference between Islamic origins and Christian origins with respect to elements of violence being inherently part of the life of the founder and of the foundational literature. This seems to me important. There seems to be clear evidence that Koran and Hadith advocated violence against infidels and that Muhammad and some of his immediate successors carried out violent acts against infidels. Is this true and accurate or not? Juxtaposed, there seems to be nothing in the New Testament, and nothing in the life of Jesus, that advocates, examples, or even passively permits violence. Christian origins move entirely in the opposite direction of violence, despite whatever the followers of Christ have done in living out their faith. Is this true and accurate or not? This does not let Christianity off the hook for its history. This does not deny the gains made by contemporary Muslims or by Muslims throughout history. This does not allow for Christian smugness or self-righteousness or judgmentalism. This does not allow for the Americanization of Christianity, nor does it defend the legitimacy of manifest destiny, both of which are truly aberrations from Christianity. This doesn’t defend the horrors of the recent acts in Norway or serve as a means of separating modern Christian perspectives in some circles from violence. But, IMO, origins count for something and help to explain. Ken and others have argued effectively, I think, that this is the case, and it seems to me that these arguments (which don’t at all appear to be assumptions or misinterpretations of evidence available to all, nor are they jingoistic in character) require answers that are different than: accusations hurled at the mistakes of Christians, or mention of the truth that the vast majority of Muslims are non-violent and abhor terrorism, or assertions that the Koran may permissably be intepreted differently by Muslims today, or claims that argue that it is a mere caricature of Islam to assert that there was from the beginning violence within Islam. Such argumentation does not count for nothing, but original, paradigmatic texts and the lives of the founders of religions must be given their due, it seems to me, in considering what our opinions should be of those religions.

  • David Weinschrott

    It is certainly true that the foundational writings of Christianity do not advocate or support the use of violence. However when the faith became approved and took on the trappings of monarchism the desire to extend doctrinal purity by force began to appear. The doctrinal debates following the council at Nicaea on through Chalcedon were accompanied by power politics if not active violence. Even Augustine in a letter to a subordinate in North Africa wondered why there were still persons who had not converted in his district – the implication being that there were other means employed than simple proclamation to extend the Gospel’s reach. These means continued to be part of the “Church’s” toolkit including the deal whereby Charlemagne was crowned emperor in order to provide an army for pope Leo III.

    It is probably true that the use of political intrigue and state force was not present in the church in the early years – but when the opportunity presented itself with the rise of Byzantium and the Latin church in the west – those means began to be deployed.

    My main point is that there is a crossing of the Rubicon event when members of the body of Christ decide to effect the vengeance that God has claimed for himself. Once over that line – violence finds its own justification. We just need to be wary and be careful about pointing fingers.

  • James Mace

    First David,

    “Violence” (even when that term is erroneously abused to misdefine “just force”) is not the point. The point is the essential foundations of Islam. When one idolatrously places one’s preference for ethics above truth, then abomination rules in the falsely taken name of God.

    Once again we see the hubristic ignorance of sinfully “self-righteous” “liberal” propaganda-spreading fools amidst the should-be servants of Christ.

    Islam initiated aggression vs. Christ, not the deluded and pathological self-flagellative contrary ASSertion: “Byzantium ‘Christians’ attacked the east where Islam was being birthed before Arabs moved west” (David Weinschrott). Is it well-intentioned ignorance, or what sinful predisposition causes you to embrace such lies? Is it that you hate your own people and our history from some sick quirk? Reminds of the scene from Bergman’s “Seventh Seal” where we have a parade of Christians beating themselves thinking it will stave off destruction when it won’t.

    Ibn Ishaq (as expurgated by Hisham) provides the earliest and most complete material extant on the life and actions of Muhammad and his armies. The Raid on Mu’ta in A.H. 8 (ca. A.D. 630 if not in Islam’s antichrist dating system) records the Islamic invasion of Christian Syria under the tyrant Muhammad. This was only 8 yrs after Muhammad seized political power in Medina. Not content merely to conquer his own Arabian Peninsula, the imperialistic Muhammad turned his eyes far to the north and put a target upon Constantinople and the thousands of square miles of lands in the Middle East, which had for centuries been happily Christian (despite your arrogant, hateful placing of them within parenthetical denial, “Christian”).

    And your refusal to obey Christ’s clear stewardship commands to use just force to restrain evildoers (perhaps out of fear you may be imperfect?) is the kind of sinful lack of virtue that keeps so-called Christians out of heaven (cf. Rev 21:8). Remember the unjust steward who feared to obey and was cast into weeping and gnashing (Matt 25:25-30).

    The clear commands of the demonic Qur’an to slay Christians is of a different order of magnitude from debates over communion.

  • James Mace


    Precisely why I discussed aboriginal Muhammadan Islam is ignored when you accuse me of opposing all those calling themselves Muslims today. In your zeal to shut down opposition to this Qur’anic Islam, please try to stick to the words used instead of universalizing my statements out of context when it suits you. I made clear that my adopted brother is a relatively peaceful Shiite; you slanderously try to caricature me as someone who makes no such distinctions and say I make a caricature; that is tendentious hypocrisy on your part.

    In addition, your utter failure to appreciate the development of Islam from its powerless phase in Mecca to its imperialistic phase after the Hijra to Medina is intellectually facile or obscurantist.

    It is a surrogate for Islamic primal intent to quote Karsh and ignore what the earliest Muslim sources said their own intent was. Please refer to Islamic sources when discussing Islamic intent if you want arrive at other than some later politically-correct distortion. Refusing to do that, you may refer alternately to writers who do not agree with your caricature of Islamic imperialism, e.g., Paul Fregosi, “Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests from the 7th to the 21st Centuries”; Timothy R. Furnish, “Holiest Wars”; Andrew G. Bostom, ed., “The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims”; and even some of Richard Bonney, “Jihâd: From Qur’ân to bin Lâden” (although the latter contains rather a bit of bigoted pluralistic / syncretistic revisionism and may be useful to your position).

    So I will reiterate one of my previous posts and say I would rather live next door to a bad Muslim (or liberalized, westernized, watered-down, semi-Muslim) than next door to a good Muslim who obeys the Qur’an and Muhammad’s aboriginal example of jihad.

  • James Mace

    O Graham,

    Just a quick word re those who pay ostensible lip service to the existence of demons and then deny they could possibly have anything at all to do with arguably the most virulent antichristian force in the history of the planet, e.g, your denial of demonic involvement in the origin of Islam.

    This reminds me of the jury who refuses to convict because they must be absolutely forced into believing. But we should rather hold to the epistemological standard of reasonableness, not solely to one of absolutely incontrovertible necessity. Or else why do you believe in Christ (assuming).

    To deny Muslim faith that holds Muhammad told the truth when claiming angelic revelation is an argument with basic, fundamental, perhaps even universal concepts of Islam. I, on the other hand, will grant for the sake of argument that there is some grain of truth in this claim that is essential to Islam.

    So, assuming there is truth in the claim of Muhammad to have had a relationship with an angel, I’ll throw up a brief outline of my reasoning that the Qur’an is demonic in origin:
    1) The archangel Gabriel said some things in the OT.
    2) The archangel Gabriel said some things in the NT.
    3) Muhammad alleges a spirit came to him claiming to be “Jibril” (the archangel Gabriel).
    4) But what this “Jibril” said contradicted both what the archangel Gabriel said in the OT and what the archangel Gabriel said in the NT.
    5) The same sinless angel does not contradict his own messages to humanity.
    6) Either the biblical Gabriel of the Old and New Testaments was lying about his identity, or the Qur’anic “Jibril” was.
    7) If the Qur’anic spirit was lying, then it was a fallen angel (a demon).
    8) This is borne out repeatedly in the attacks against Christianity and biblical faith in the Qur’an and in the actions of Muhammad and his successors.

    The content of pseudo-”Jibril” is antichristian. So, even if a fallen preternatural spirit-being did not regularly appear openly to Muhammad as alleged, we could say that the doctrines Muhammad alleged were so revealed could have in fact been revealed through demonic influence (that is, demons need not “appear” in order to exercise mental influence). In either case, the Qur’an is demonic (even when capitulating somewhat to your naturalistic demands).

    Well, enough for now. If the verbal content and praxis of aboriginal Islam is not sufficient to allow demonic influence, then I pity you, brother. Maybe demons only pick on Christians, but I know otherwise–they have servants enslaved to their will (cf. 2 Tim 2:26), incl. Muhammad the Wicked Arch-heretic.

  • Graham Veale

    I’ll try to take the accusations seriously James. I’m not sure if this sort of debate is healthy, and I’m sure that its not a good withness.
    1) I take Scripture seriously. So I don’t make idle speculations about the specific activity of individual demons. Of course “powers and principalities” are operative in the world. Now perhaps you mean this sort of subtle, demonic influence on human affairs, which Ephesians warns us to combat, but which we tend to ignore. Whoever is not with Christ is against him. Jesus rabbinic opponents were of “their father, the devil”. So in this sense capitalist materialism, amoral liberalism, Godless scientism and naive jingoistic patriotism are all “demonic” too.
    But I suspect you mean the more dramatic, one-on-one encounters described in the Gospels and in Acts.
    2) I can find no parallel in the historical evidence for Muhammad to these power encounters. My reading is limited, but at least the naivety I really only expected to find in a “Chick” publication.

  • Graham Veale

    3) Lacking any religious reason to believe that Muhammad was inspired (see comment 33) I have to follow the historical evidence. I don’t believe that Muhammad had an encounter with a spiritual being. There’s a perfectly natural explanation for a vision when someone deprives themselves of sleep and food.
    4) As far as historians can tell, Muhammads early message, from Jibril, was there is one God, so give alms and repent. This does not seem “demonic”.
    5) Furthermore, and crucially, your description of Muhammad’s “inspiration” does not match with the concept of “wahy” – the ideas formed instinctively in Muhammad’s mind, as a bee knows how to make honey without instruction. This sounds like the inspiration of a poet or an artist.