Islam: For the Sake of the Gospel, Let’s Tell the Truth

Islam: For the Sake of the Gospel, Let’s Tell the Truth November 19, 2015

2011-06-13 01_opt
Beauty in Istanbul

We cannot love our Islamic neighbor or expect them to come to Christianity through any ministry that misunderstands or lies about their beliefs.

The so-called Islamic State (Da’esh) is not much of state and is not mainstream Islam.

Don’t be confused. I am a Christian who belongs to a church with no illusions about Islam. If you are not a Christian, you should be. If you are Muslim, I wish you were a Christian.

God is real and humanity can know God, because God came and became a man, Jesus. We know God in the person of Jesus. People are broken, separated from God, and Jesus is the Way God provided Himself to heal us.

I wish everyone acknowledge these truths, including my Muslim neighbor.

Of course, I am called to love my neighbor even if he never becomes a Christian or even if he remains my enemy. Part of love will be telling the truth about my neighbor and his beliefs. When I think he is wrong, I must say so, but respectfully, and with a willingness to listen to his point of view. Most of all, we must be competent and understand what we are rejecting.

When I went to Bible college, cult research in Evangelical circles had hit a nadir. We learned things about groups like Mormons that were useless when talking to actual Mormons, because actual Mormons either had moved on, understood their beliefs in more subtle ways, or never believed what we are told from the start. Scholars like Biola University’s Craig Hazen has helped modernize our witness to Mormons by telling the truth about the “new Mormon challenge” of recent Mormon scholarship and Mormon beliefs.

If the situation with cults was grim, the Evangelical “stuff” one can find on Islam is worse. My social feeds are full of memes insulting Islam and making outrageous generalizations from the most extreme Muslims to the billion followers of the religion on the planet. These “facts” fail me when I talk to actual Muslim adults, students, or thinkers. They are not so much false as totally unrelated to Islamic reality to the point they are too incompetent to be false. They fail to account for the massive cultural contribution that Islamic civilizations have made to art, philosophy, mathematics, and science.

Think about Christianity: there are billions of Christians so it is very hard to say anything that fits every Christian. It takes years of scholarship to understand even Catholics or Orthodox or Baptists. Now think of the thousands of Christian sects that are not included in those three groups!

How do we like it when ignorant critics take one extreme group and say: “If Paul were alive today, he would be part of the extreme group.” We do not like it and following the command of Jesus, we better do to Islamic people what we wish would be done to us by our critics.

I am pro-life, but the United States has spawned a terrorist group called “The Army of God” that commits murder to end murder. No mainstream Christian organization supports them, but one can find sad “understanding” of their goals in students and lay people at times. Yet critics of Christianity are wrong to use this tiny sliver of support (which seems large in a nation where Christians are seventy percent of the population) as saying much of anything about Christianity.

There is a violent genocidal “state” of “Christians” in sub-Saharan Africa. In the Central African Republic, “Christian” terrorists displaced thousands of Muslims, sacked mosques, and killed many. Large terrorist organizations of Christians exist in India.

In this context, we should examine the so called “Islamic State” which is neither Islamic or much of a state. This Da’esh group would be horrifying to Mohammad, who united the tribes of Arabia and created a great culture. When we associate Da’esh, rejected by super majorities in the Islamic world, with the prophet of Islam or even most of Islam, Christians lose all credibility.

We might sell product in America, but we will not win the hearts and minds of the Islamic people who will know we are bearing false witness.

When we associate groups like Da’esh with the prophet of Islam or the builders of great beauty like the Blue Mosque, then we are foolish. I reject Islam, but I refuse to lie while doing so. If martyrdom for the Faith comes, and hundreds of thousands in my church have been killed by Muslims, then I would die with the truth on my lips and not a lie.

Jesus is God. That is enough. I need not lie about Islam.

Here is a good rule of thumb. I can tell you what Islam isn’t . . . to some degree . . . but my training is in analytic philosophy, particularly Plato. I don’t read Arabic. Nobody should depart from mainstream scholarship on Islam, as Evangelicals too often do in their apologetic literature, who do not read Arabic. If you cannot read the Koran in the original, you are an amateur and not a scholar of Islam. But it gets worse . . . Islam is so vast, with such an ancient history, that our simplistic generalizations of what we (as Christians) are against are almost useless.

Better to tell people that we are for God in three persons, revealed in Jesus Christ, and found in the pages of the inspired Word of God. Opposing a group with centuries of rich culture (Damascus! Cairo!) with throw away pictures of present barbarism is wrong when it is not merely stupid.

The religion that produced that splendid and highly sophisticated piece of literature, the Koran, has as much to do with these barbarians as American Evangelicals have with the Army of God or Indian terrorism. I think Mohammad is a false prophet, but I will not pretend I know what he would think if he were alive today in a grand self-serving counter-factual.

I have known Muslims with such a high view of Jesus that they amounted to Arian Christians. Jesus was almost God and certainly more important than the prophet Mohammed. There are feminist Muslims and Republican Muslims.

Islam has been twisted by generations of colonialism. This humiliation was followed by the rule by Western trained secularists who hated religion of all kinds and who set up corrupt post-colonial “republics.” Marxism crept into the Islamic blood stream. Reactions during the colonial period, including places like Arabia, were often distorted forms of Islam.

Da’esh, as far as mainstream scholars can tell,  is not a product of mainstream Islam. From mainstream scholars one can read, they are a product of the failure of the post-colonial states and a reaction to Islamic humiliation. I have no toleration for Da’esh. Like the Muslim King of Jordan, I support their total destruction, but so do a super majority of the Muslim world.

They are dangerous, they have sympathizers,  and this is not an excuse for them, but our case against them is weakened, as George W. Bush pointed out, when we associate Da’esh with mainstream Islam. The religion that produced the Kalaam Argument for the existence of God is not the religion of Da’esh, but it was the religion of some of my students.

Oppose Da’esh. But tell the truth: it is the bastard child of modernity, badly digested folk Islam, and technology. The Christian Media Complex cannot sell you much product telling you that, but it is the truth.

Let’s unite with Muslims of good will like the King of Jordan and most of the Muslims of Syria and break the Muslim heresy of Da’esh. Let’s love and serve the Muslim people and then let’s debate them with charity, clarity, and boldness.



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