The weakness of pure democracy is seen when the majority is wrong or unwise. Why do lemmings run off cliffs to their deaths? I imagine if they could think and speak they would tell you they are convinced it is for the greater good, after all, everyone’s doing it. This is the mentality of most popular public opinions.
There is a saying, “The lunatics are running the asylum”. It paints a word picture of crazy people running things. Their craziness is being forced on everyone as policy, and the public is required to see the world their crazy way and conform to it. Mobs scream at you. There is no rational thought — no debate — just the press of the crowd.
The politically correct statement that Islam is the religion of peace is one such craziness. It flies in the face of reality — not just today’s reality, but the reality of the violent history of Islam, worldwide. If you doubt that, see the 45 minute video by Dr. Bill Warner at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_Qpy0mXg8Y&feature=player_embedded. In his introduction he points out the overwhelming majority response to learning the truth about Islam is fear, hatred and anger.
That should tell you something. People prefer to hold onto the safe fantasy that Islam is just another religion, rather than face the reality Islam poses as the most violent of all religions world-wide. Many people are content to equate Muslim violence with other religious violence. The Crusades are pointed to as being proof that it’s the Christians, not Muslims, who have been historically violent. The fact that the Crusades were Europe’s response to Muslim assaults is conveniently overlooked. And that is the difficulty: facts are simply overlooked. There is simply no comparable threat from any religion today to the violence of Islam.
The media continually stirs the pot of public conversation about Islam, using various misleading talking points. We are told that Muslims are good people who want the same things we all want, so we should be tolerant and respectful of their religion. We are reminded that the Constitution gives us freedom of religion in America. This contrasts with the reality that in nations run by Islamic theocracies, there is no such thing as religious freedom. That is because under Islamic rule (which is more a political system than a religious system) there is only one approved religion — Islam. All other religions are only allowed to be practiced under the most repressive regulations. Freedom of religion is anathema to Islam. But the crazies refuse to accept that reality.
The argument that terrorism at the hands of Islamic extremists is a product of hate, not religion, flies in the face of the essential teachings of Islam. Throughout the Koran we find the message of fighting. The goal of the Koran is that as a result of this fighting, everyone will become a Muslim. This fighting is called jihad. As a warrior, Muhammad is the model par excellence for how Muslims are to conduct jihad. Passages in the Koran and Hadith that openly promote violence against non-Muslims are documented here: http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx.
The concept of jihad contrasts with the Biblical teaching to “fight the good fight”, which is spreading the gospel and “speaking the truth in love”. When non-believers do not want to hear our message, we aren’t to fight them. We are to pray for them. Christians respect free will as well as free speech. Everyone has the right to accept or reject the truth according to the dictates of their own heart. In the end, the question of who accepts Christ and who rejects Christ isn’t up to us. It’s up to each individual. Neither is it our business to dispatch those who reject Christ. God says, “Revenge is mine, I will repay” (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30).
For Islam, the Shahada says it all: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger”. If this is true, then a true believer must accept what Muhammad wrote in the Koran and what he said in the Hadith as the truth about God. There can be no other reputable messengers. We must rely on Muhammad alone. That means teachings about God from the Bible are not authoritative, not dependable, not accurate. In short, if the Shahada is true, then the Bible is not. If Allah is God, then the God of the Bible is not.
This is the craziness. You will never discern the path to reality by asking crazy people for directions. The single most important question that needs to be settled is, “Who is God?” Only when that question is answered can we hope to address spiritual reality in a sane and sober way.
“We are all the same.”
Sometimes it seems impossible for me as a Christian to talk to Muslims about God. We have different God concepts and different world views, not to mention the barriers of hatred, ignorance and prejudice (or as Dr. Warner put it, fear, hatred and anger). When people say, “We all worship the same God,” I wonder how they can be so certain, considering they are hardly even able to communicate what they believe to one another.
I do not question that all people everywhere seek the same Creator God and desire to know the same Redeemer God. Blaise Pascal, 1623-1662, wrote,
What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself. – Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)
This “infinite abyss” that can only be filled by God himself has been called “a God-shaped hole” or vacuum. The universal human response is to want to fill that void, and so we all try to do that in our own ways. But that doesn’t mean we all worship the same God. Obviously not everyone fills the hole with the same God. Such a presumption only makes sense if you do not believe it is possible to really know God. It goes back to the premise that if truth cannot be known, then all possibilities are valid.
So, allow me to say some things about the infinite and immutable God who fills me, then compare him to what you have used to fill your own God-shaped void, and decide for yourself whether you can dismiss all differences and claim we all worship the same God.
Language and Understanding
I begin with what has been revealed about God by language. My language is English. I use English words when talking about the Creator of the universe. But most of the terms I use, such as Almighty God, Father, Savior and Redeemer, are translations from the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages of Scripture.
Jesus Christ (or Jesus, the Christ) is the English rendering of the Hebrew, Yeshua HaMashiach. Jesus (Yeshua) is his personal name. Christ (Mashiach) is his title. The word Christ is an English word, derived from the Greek. It has the same meaning as the English word Messiah, which is derived from the Hebrew. It literally means the anointed one. Christians believe the Messiah to be God.
The messianic passage in Isaiah 9:6-7 shows that several names and descriptions of “God” add up to give this God a significance that goes beyond a simple generic title that can mean whatever you want.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
Christians see this passage as pointing to the deity of Jesus Christ. A child who is born and “given” is called by different titles, ascribing to him the full complement of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Muslims misunderstand and mischaracterize the doctrine of the Trinity. They are not three gods. I don’t wish to argue this point here, but there are ample resources available for anyone open to learn about this basic Christian doctrine.
The passage from Isaiah is one of many where the three persons of the one true God are mentioned. Jesus often spoke of God as the Father and taught us to pray to “Our Father who is in heaven”. John 1:12 tells us that those who received Jesus (who believed in his name), to them he gave the right to become children of God. One name for the Holy Spirit is the Counsellor. In John 14:26 Jesus said of him, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” So, the triune nature of the God of Christianity is evident in this passage.
Similar to the mystery that God is in three persons is another mystery that while we are in Jesus, his Holy Spirit is in us. We are in God and God is in us. Jesus said, “Abide in me and I in you” (John 15:4). This reciprocal idea was taught by Jesus in John 14. And was important enough for him to pray about, in these excerpted verses from John 17:
And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (vs. 5) All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. (vs. 10) I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (vs. 14) that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (vs. 21) I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (vs. 23) I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (vs. 26)
Notable in this prayer is the preeminent importance of God’s love in the Christian faith, and the unity of believers in that love. Also, great emphasis is given here to the mysteries that God is in us while we are in God and that the Father, Son and Spirit together are the one true God. For the Christian, the key to understanding who God is, is knowing Jesus.
Central to Islam is the Shahada, their basic testimonial or creed. It says, “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” Written in Arabic, it literally says “There is no god but God”. At first glance you might assume that this simply is a declaration of monotheism, consistent with the Biblical narrative. But if the Shahada is true, one must adhere closely to the message that Muhammad left (the Koran and Hadith), and only to that message. All else (including the Bible) is subject to Muhammad’s message.
Contrast this to what God spoke to ancient Israel in Exodus 20:1-3: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” Essentially, God already had established a relationship with Israel. Because he had chosen to make them a nation for himself, he declared to them that they must not simply “believe” in him (“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” James 2:19) but they are to love him. The Shema from Deuteronomy 6, begins in verses 4 and 5, saying, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”.
This goes well beyond a declaration of monotheism, and is in fact a direct communication from God to Man, expressing God’s desire for us to have a personal relationship with him. The one thing standing in the way of that is sin. And if your read the Torah, you see that God gave Israel the religious means to deal with sin.
1 Corinthians 10:11 says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” That is why Hebrew Scripture was preserved, so that we could learn from them. Ancient Israel’s history demonstrates to all of us, Man’s inability to deal with sin apart from God’s supernatural intervention. That is why Christ came in human form to die for all sin, for all time.
The God of Christians is the God of Israel. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. Therefore when Christians read about “the house of David”, “the throne of David” or “the Son of David” we see Jesus Christ as the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. When we use the english word God, it is not a casual or generic thing to us. Exodus 6:3 explains, “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty (el shaddai) but by my name the LORD (Yahweh) I did not make myself known to them.” This is the God of the Bible who revealed himself to Moses and Israel. This is who Christians refer to when we use the English word God.
In the Arabic language, Allah is the word meaning God (technically ‘the god’). According to some sources (this is not unanimous) the words El and its plural, Elohim, in Aramaic and Hebrew are cognates of Allah. This presumes that the Arabic word Allah in the Koran, and the Hebrew word Elohim in the Bible both refer to the same Almighty God.
El could be any god, but the plural form, Elohim, was used to convey the idea of Almighty God (the God of gods). El and Elohim are terms of ancient usage, and like both the English word God and the Arabic word, Allah, they were generic terms for God in their respective religions and cultures. What differentiates the Christian God of the Bible from the Islamic Allah of the koran, are the qualities ascribed to them by their chroniclers. In the Bible, that consists of many different authors over a long period of time from a variety of places. But, as the Shahada says, Muhammad is Islam’s only messenger.
So, for Christians, when we use the word God, we specifically are referring to the God of the Bible. We are not referring to a generic title that can be mean different things to different people. Christians believe God can be known and that he has revealed himself to Man. Through the Old Testament, the term, Jehovah (Yahweh, YHWH) was used increasingly to clarify exactly who this God was. The God of the Bible is the God of Israel, who sent the Messiah, the Son of David to be Savior of all mankind, making his believers God’s children.
This YHWH identified himself, first to Abraham (Genesis 12:1). In Genesis 21:12 he told Abraham his offspring would be reckoned through Isaac, rather than Ishmael. In Genesis 22:2, 12 & 16 God refers to Isaac as Abraham’s only son. In Genesis 26:3 God passed the promise he made to Abraham on to Isaac. That same promise was then given to Isaac’s son Jacob in Genesis 28:13. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel. His sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. God used Jacob’s son Joseph to bring them to Egypt. Some 400 years later, God used Moses to lead Israel — now a nation, out of bondage — into the Promised Land.
Galatians 4:5 says, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. The God of the Bible is the God whose forgiveness in Christ offers us eternal fellowship, relationship and love. This is not the distant, ineffable god, Allah. This is the God of truth, grace, love and forgiveness.
It’s all about Jesus. If you want to know God, find out about Jesus. When you know Jesus, you will know that Allah is not God.