Shadi Hamid has a new book out that argues the fit between Islam and modern liberal societies will never be comfortable. The book has lessons for Christians who sometimes seem to employ Islamic forms of piety more than they should:
The founding moments of Islam and Christianity couldn’t have been more different. . . . Where Mohamed was the head of a state, Jesus was a dissident against a reigning political order, the Roman Empire. Because there was no real prospect of governing, there is little in his message that concerns itself with governance. There was also a natural limit to the “practicality” of Jesus’ message. Jesus, for Christians, was divine, and so emulating him in any precise way was difficult. It was also somewhat beside the point. The Spirit of the New Testament was one, if anything, of transcending the affairs of this world. Mohamed, on the other hand, was very much not divine. While deeply loved by Muslims, there is something prosaic — and therefore relatable — about his reign. Mohamed would rely on advice from his companions, and he occasionally made mistakes. Instead of transcending sin through grace, many Muslims believe that they can and should mimic the Prophetic model in exacting, sometimes even obsessive, detail. (45)
Imagine that. Trusting in Jesus instead of being like Jesus.
That reminds me of what J. Gresham Machen said about the gospel when he was combating liberalism in the church:
Certainly Jesus had a religion of His own; His prayer was real prayer, His faith was real religious faith. His relation to His heavenly Father was not merely that of a child to a father; it was that of a man to his God. Certainly Jesus had a religion; without it His humanity would indeed have been but incomplete. Without doubt Jesus had a religion; the fact is of the utmost importance. But it is equally important to observe that that religion which Jesus had was not Christianity. Christianity is a way of getting rid of sin, and Jesus was without sin. His religion was a religion of Paradise, not a religion of sinful humanity. It was a religion to which we may perhaps in some sort attain in heaven, when the process of our purification is complete (though even then the memory of redemption will never leave us); but certainly it is not a religion with which we can begin. The religion of Jesus was a religion of untroubled sonship; Christianity is a religion of the attainment of sonship by the redeeming work of Christ. (Christianity and Liberalism, 92)
If Christianity is primarily about trusting Jesus’ good works (and sacrifice) and not about doing good works like Jesus did, then doesn’t understanding Christianity as WWJD make Christians a lot like Muslims (not that there’s anything wrong with that)?