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Evaluating Islam

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15 August 2006, 12:29 PM
Evaluating Islam
Given some of the discussions in the Religion and Politics forum on terrorism and its connections with Islam, I thought it would be good for us to (finally!) discuss Islam itself. Specifically, what I'm inviting, here, is evaluation from the perspective of Christian theology and spirituality. For example, what aspects of Islam resonate well and seem worthy of affirmation, and which are problemmatic.

Off-limits: considering Islam "of the devil," or, conversely, "the truest of all religions." We're evaluating content and consequences only, and will leave the ultimate judgments to God.

I'll have a few references from the teaching of the Catholic Church soon, but anyone who wants to get things started may do so.
15 August 2006, 12:38 PM
That sounds like a good new direction to take.
15 August 2006, 01:52 PM
Here are a few relevant sections from the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.

* 839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."[325] The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,[326] "the first to hear the Word of God."[327] The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ",[328] "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."[329]

* 840 And when one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

* 841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."[330]

* 842 The Church's bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race: All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .[331]

* 843 "The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as 'a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.'

- - -

And here's a good summary recent Catholic - Muslim dialogues.

2. By way of introduction, let it be said that there have always been relations between Christians and Muslims. The Qur�an itself contains references to Christians and indications on the way dialogue should be conducted. At different periods and in different places the relationship has been one of co-operation or conflict. There has been much cultural interaction between Christians and Muslims. One could mention the Christian contributions to the Islamic assimilation of the Greek heritage in �Abbassid times and then the transmission of this heritage to Europe. One could mention the culturual developments in Ummayad Spain and in Sicily under the Normans. One could recall the collaboration of Christians and Muslims during the Nahda, the Arab renaissance. It is not really necessary to go into detail. Yet it is also true that certain factors have rendered relations more difficult. The Islamic world and the Western Christian world became two blocs, a division which the Crusades helped to perpetuate. Then the colonial era brought about what could be termed a "love-hate relationship" with the Christian West. Its technical advances were admired, and desired, but its domination was abhored. There was also the religious factor. Christians did not really have an adequate theological basis for an open relationship with Muslims. Islam tended to be looked upon as a sort of Christian heresy, and Muslims therefore worthy of condemnation. On the other hand, while Islamic society allowed a place for Christians in its system, as ahl al-dhimma, it had little sympathy for the specific beliefs of Christians.

3. For Catholics, the Second Vatican Council, the great gathering of bishops from all over the world which took place from 1962 to 1965, marked a new beginning in Christian-Muslim relations. It brought about a new attitude towards the followers of other religions in general, and towards Muslims in particular. The specific Declaration of the Vatican Council on the relationship of the Church towards other religions, Nostra Aetate, states that the Church has "a high regard" for Muslims (n. 3). This is indeed a change. The text goes on: "Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values" (ibid.).

4. The theological bases for this attitude of esteem are found dispersed throughout the various documents of the Council. God wills the salvation of all. The whole human race is united in its origin and its destiny. God is active in the hearts of human beings, drawing them to him, as he is active in the different religious rites which give corporate expression to the human response to God. Yet human beings have been created with free will. Therefore they must respond freely to God, according to the dictates of their conscience, while always searching for the truth. This, though put very succinctly, is the foundation for Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Freedom. It is also the basis for interreligious dialogue as encouraged by the Declaration Nostra Aetate.

5. More specifically, this last mentioned document points briefly to elements which are common to Christianity and Islam. Speaking of Muslims, it says: "They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God�s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as prophet, his Virgin Mother they also honour, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting" (Nostra Aetate, n. 3).
Msgr. goes on to recount the efforts of countless dialogue efforts since 1969. Not much is noted here about areas of agreement or disagreement, however. The summary concludes:
30. To my mind all these forms of dialogue can be contributions towards peace in the world. The dialogue of life will provide an understanding and a harmony between individuals and communities strong enough to resist being broken by outside influences. Dialogue of deeds, with a common response to the effects of war, will reinforce the will to ban armed conflict as a way of resolving disputes. The specialist dialogue will help to clarify issues, and also to plan strategies. The dialogue of religious experience will help to provide motivation and will also be a source of strength to persevere. All this may seem very idealistic. It is true that we have to take reality into account, that we have to take people as they are. Nevertheless we have to keep ideals before us, we have to maintain a vision, otherwise we shall just resign ourselves to constant conflict. As a new millennium approaches, should we not set our sights higher?
It does take two to tango.
15 August 2006, 02:54 PM
Catholic Answers is a fairly conservative, apologetic oriented web site and publication service. Their appraisal of Islam is a little more harsh than the official positions cited above. This article is especially strong in its view that the current jihad against the West is entirely congruent with Islamic philosophy and theology, echoing some of the points w.c. has made in other discussions.

A small sample:

That Islam sees itself as a theocracy has enormous ramifications for how it regards itself and for the behavior of Muslims.

First, it means that Islam is not only a religion. It is also a political ideology. If the government of the Muslim community simply is God�s government, then no other governments can be legitimate. They are all at war with God. As a result, Muslims have typically divided the world into two spheres, known as the Dar al-Islam�the "house of Islam" or "house of submission" to God�and the Dar al-Harb, or "house of war"�those who are at war with God.

Second, it means that Muslims have believed themselves to have a "manifest destiny." Since God must win in the end, the Dar al-Harb must be brought under the control of Muslim government and made part of the Dar al-Islam.

Third, since the Dar al-Harb by its nature is at war with God, it is unlikely that it will submit to God without a fight. Individual groups might be convinced to lay down their arms and join the Muslim community by various forms of pressure�economic or military�that fall short of war. In history some groups have become Muslim in this way, either fearing Muslim conquest, desiring Muslim military aid against their own enemies, or aspiring to good trade relations with the Muslim world. But many peoples would rather fight than switch. This has been particularly true of Christians, who have put up more resistance to the Muslim advance than have pagan and animistic tribes.
This difficulty in separating mosque and state is contrasted with Christianity:
The fact that in Christianity church and state are distinct means that as a religion Christianity has less potential for violence since it is not called upon to use force in the way a state is. This, coupled with Jesus� own example and his "love thy enemy" teachings (e.g., Matt. 5:44), gives Christianity less innate potential for violence.

In contrast, Islam�s founder was a warlord who rose from nowhere and who by his death was the undisputed master of Arabia Peninsula. The holy book he produced is filled with commands to use violence in the service of its religion and nation. This potential for violence is similar to that possessed by Judaism except it is immensely augmented by the fact that Islam views itself, like Christianity, as a universal religion meant for all peoples in all countries. It also makes no distinction between church and state and is thus a political as well as religious ideology.

As a result, Islam has been willing to employ violence on a massive scale, as illustrated by the first century of its existence, when the Islamic Empire exploded outward and conquered much of the known world.

The attitude of Islam toward using violence against non-Muslims is clear. Regarding pagans, the Quran says, "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and render the alms levy, allow them to go their way. God is forgiving and merciful" (Surah 9:5). This amounts to giving pagans a convert-or-die choice.

Regarding violence against Jews and Christians, the Quran says, "Fight against those to whom the Scriptures were given as believe in neither God nor the last day, who do not forbid what God and his messenger have forbidden, and who do not embrace the true faith, until they pay tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued" (Surah 9:29). In other words, violence is to be used against Jews and Christians unless they are willing to pay a special tax and live in subjection to Muslims as second-class citizens. For them the choice is convert, die, or live in subjection.

The Quran also has stern words for Muslims who would be slow and reluctant to attack unbelievers: "Believers, why is it that when you are told: �March in the cause of God,� you linger slothfully in the land? Are you content with this life in preference to the life to come? . . . If you do not go to war, he [God] will punish you sternly, and will replace you by other men" (Surah 9:38-39).
Although we have acted much like this at times in Christian history, it was always the Gospel itself that condemned our suppression of peoples and unethical use of violence. From the above and many other resources, it seems that the Koran itself endorses war to spread Islamic theocracy.

The prospect of modifying Islam�s doctrine regarding violence is problematic. Although some Muslims in history have tried to "spiritualize" the Quran�s declarations regarding violence, there is always a countervailing fundamentalist push to return to the sources of Islam and take them literally.

Indeed, this reaction is what characterizes the Wahhabite movement that dominates Saudia Arabia and inspired Osama bin Laden�s ideology. Philosopher Roger Scruton notes that in the Wahhabite view, "whoever can read the Quran can judge for himself in matters of doctrine."

This attitude, which is tantamount to an Islamic version of sola scriptura, is likely to prove as durable in Muslim circles as it has been in Protestant Fundamentalist circles. As long as that is the case, there will be fresh waves of Muslim "martyrs" willing to take the Quran�s statements on killing literally, apply them to today, and then hurl themselves into combat with whomever they perceive as "the Great Satan."

15 August 2006, 03:37 PM
Final entry of the day. Wink Let's see what comes of these openings.


There's a great chart comparing and contrasting Christian and Islamic beliefs.

Note that Islam is on track to become the world's most populous religion by 2023.

Also -- their denial of Christ's crucifixion, which has always seemed rather odd to me. (This flies in the face of what an overwhelming majority of historians believe -- that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate.)

Another major issue pertains to how each religions' holy scriptures and teachings came to be. In Christianity, this is rooted in the Christian community's understanding of the meaning of Jesus' life and teaching. In Islam, it comes directly from God via an angel and Mohammed. There's little room for contextual interpretation or the various criticisms (historical, literary, etc.) that we find re. biblical interpretation.

OK, enough for now . . .
16 August 2006, 12:04 PM

It is my belief that we, each of us, are drawn (or not) to a basic expression of spirituality, be it an inward or outward manifestation.

A very wise man once told me that religion is an outgrowth of faith...not the other way around.

I happen to be a practicing Roman Catholic. I try to observe the tenets of my church, and live by the teachings of Jesus. Does this make me any more or less righteous than a practioner of Islam... or Judaism, or B'hai? Of course not. I have simply allowed myself to be led by The Spirit, to go where God would have me go... nothing more, nothing less.

I am wary of any doctrine that teaches intolerance. That is the path to violence and death. Any religion that condones killing in the name of God is a perversion.

This is not to say we cannot heal ourselves and become more spiritually enlightened. The history of my own religion is written in blood. But until we are able to turn away from intolerance and bloodshed and turn towards the light of compassion and love, we are doomed to chase our own tails into the abyss.

We are all, in this instant, exactly where God wants us to be.
16 August 2006, 03:34 PM
Welcome, ZenBlue. I think you make a very good point about intolerance and violence. Any religion that cannot propagate itself through the power of its ideas and the good example of its adherents isn't worth a damn, imo. Christianity has had to learn this lesson again and again in its 2000 year history.
16 August 2006, 04:07 PM
It seems to me that the crux of the matter is whether one believes the angel Gabriel passed on God's message to Mohammed and he wrote it down. In this sense, Islam is more similar to Mormonism than to any other religion, in that its sacred message comes to us directly from on High, without mediation through the lived experience of a community. And, as with Joseph Smith's testimony, there is no way to prove or disprove the veracity of Mohammed's account. For Moslems, the splendor of the Koran bespeaks its divine origin -- as though no human could have possibly composed such a marvelous work. There's no doubting the fact of some very good values emphasized, especially those condensed into the five pillars of Islam (not that #5 seems all that ethically and spiritually significant, imo).

As with Mormonism, which has been taken to task concerning some of its assertions re. certain peoples in Central America, Islam can also be evaluated in the light of some of its more "testable" assertions. The one I have in mind here, especially, is one I mentioned above -- i.e., was Jesus of Nazareth really crucified. The Koran says no . . . someone else was, not him . . . the Apostles got it wrong, there . . . Jesus lived and then ascended.

Are we to believe that the Angel Gabriel, who announced the Incarnation to Mary, told Mohammed that Jesus didn't really die on the cross?

Apparently, that is what Islam is proposing. So how to make sense of this, then, when there is more evidence for his crucifixion than we have for life events of most historical figures. Was Gabriel uninformed of Jesus' crucifixion, so he just made something up? Did Mohammed hear wrongly on this point? Could something else be going on, here -- a spirit of deceit of some kind?

In light of the significance with which Christians regard Christ's crucifixion, it's just a little disingenuous to say that Moslems respect Christian teaching. Denying the significance of Christ's crucifixion is to Christians a discounting analagous to Christians' denial of Gabriel's revelation to Mohammed. Without Gabriel or some kind of messenger to convey God's truth to Mohammed, the Koran turns out to be little more than a product of his highly stimulated religious imagination.

I am deeply troubled by the Moslem teaching that Jesus was not really crucified, and do not see how anything else in the Koran can be trusted to be authentically of God if this incontrovertible fact is denied. It would seem that Moslems honestly studying world history would inevitably have to face this dilemma. How do they handle it? What do they say to try to explain their untenable position? A prophet who regards himself as greater than Christ, conveying God's final word on pretty much everything, yet who denies Christ's sacrificial death . . . something is very wrong, here.


See also: and
(note the ignorance re. how the New Testament came to be, the role of oral tradition, the errors concerning when the first books did, in fact, come to be written . . . lots of misinformation)
The Qur'an is thus taken to admit at least that the Jews plotted to crucify Jesus, that Jesus lived on earth up to the point of the crucifixion, that the Jews actually came to arrest Jesus, that someone was indeed crucified, and that that person was made so to resemble Jesus that the Jews thought it was indeed him. The Muslim world thus acknowledges that a man to all intents and purposes looking exactly like Jesus was in fact crucified that day. How much closer can you get? As I have said to so many Muslims, if you can accept all this, why can you not finally accept what is surely so much more probable and logical, that it was Jesus himself who was crucified?

16 August 2006, 04:55 PM
Hey Phil,

I think you are right on target when you say the crux of it is whether one believes that Gabriel spoke to Mohamed.

And as you suggest, most Christians (hopefully all) would say, no he didn't. So what did happen at the birth of Islam.

This is part of my problem with most non-Christian religions, and why, even though I am coming more and more to believe in implicit faith and religious tolerance, I can't shake the part of me that says if God didn't start it, then Satan had a hand in it.

My brain feels like a computer being fed opposing information and I'm about to crash!!!!!

My Greatest belief in this world is in God. My second greatest I would probably say is my belief in Satan. and in my opinion most people (especially those who support interfaith dialogue (and i'm not having a go at anybody here, cos I also support it) almost ignore the fact that Satan is purposfully working in this world. He isn't just "flying" around idly causing a little trouble here and there...I think I will ponder this a little while longer and start a thread Smiler
16 August 2006, 06:49 PM
This is a wonderful thread... thank you for hosting it.
16 August 2006, 11:50 PM
One wonders . . . . is the Moslem aversion to Christ's crucifixion related to the Prophet's warrior ideology? IOW, Christ would be greater than the Prophet not only in being an expression of the Godhead, but in that ultimate identity being rooted in His message through a behavior diametrically opposed to Quranic teaching.
17 August 2006, 12:49 AM
I don't understand either, w.c. And what's fascinating is that the Moslem apologists on web sites I've read about this point to Christ praying in Gethsemane that the cup of crucifixion be spared him. So they accept the Christian scriptures up to that point, but then basically consider the passion narratives, which are the heart of the Gospels, to be describing a fraud. This picking and choosing of which passages one recognizes is dishonest scholarship, at best.

- - -

Jacques inquires:
I think you are right on target when you say the crux of it is whether one believes that Gabriel spoke to Mohamed.

And as you suggest, most Christians (hopefully all) would say, no he didn't. So what did happen at the birth of Islam.
I think we have to say that Mohammed's followers believed in the teaching he brought. I'm sure, too, that Mohammed must have believed that Gabriel communicated God's message as well. There's no proving or disproving that. It does come down to a matter of faith on that point, along with all the messages about what God says about Himself, heaven, how humans should live, etc. There's no way to verify the validity of those teachings, which is why the point about the crucifixion is so important. That's not a matter of theological conjecture, but of historical fact, and on that point, the Koran is clearly wrong.

What I wonder about is why more isn't made of this in Christian-Islamic dialogue? Maybe there is, and I'm just not aware of it, but it seems the Church hasn't emphasized this much in recent years. The emphasis has been, instead, on what we share in common, and that's important, to be sure. But from a Christian perspective, Islam's teaching about Christ not really being crucified is an abomination that needs to be denounced and held up to scorn. It also raises serious questions concerning the source of Mohammed's inspiration.
17 August 2006, 04:31 AM
Hey Phil,

Good to hear you express the need for dialogue to be both about commonality and opposition. I think many people are so eager to find what we all have in common that they miss what makes Christianity unique amongst the Religions.

Jesus is the Center of our faith and it is not intolerant or fundamentalist to make that statement.

But again (and please don't hear me making the statement "islam is of the devil". But this is a real concern for me and hopefully not in a fundementalist kind of way, but Phil you say:

I think we have to say that Mohammed's followers believed in the teaching he brought. I'm sure, too, that Mohammed must have believed that Gabriel communicated God's message as well. There's no proving or disproving that. It does come down to a matter of faith on that point, along with all the messages about what God says about Himself, heaven, how humans should live, etc. There's no way to verify the validity of those teachings, which is why the point about the crucifixion is so important. That's not a matter of theological conjecture, but of historical fact, and on that point, the Koran is clearly wrong.
Surely we as Christians, who have the Spirit of God who reveals all truth to us and gives us the gift of discernment, can listen to a message and hear whether it is of the gospel or of other seducing spirits.

I speak this from personal experience. I mean I too have had a spirit pretend to be God and tell me to worship "God" in a certain way...some of what he said to me could be brought into alignment with Christianity, but other stuff clearly wasn't...for example, he said that God is love and emphasised the need to love, but he also said I could continue to do drugs and that they would reveal God's will to me. I immediately began preaching this message, and was encouraged by the spirit to write it down, but every time I did, it felt wrong, and so I stopped and eventually found the true God in Christ. Surely my message and religion was false. What does that say about other messages that mix truth with error. I am sincerely asking these questions in openess and love and not to try to run other faiths down etc.

Much love in the Lord Jesus
17 August 2006, 07:23 AM
Hi Phil,

This is a great thread! And it is a particularly interesting one for me because I know a lot of very devoted Muslims who I respect a great deal and for whom I have a lot of affection. I was aware that Muslims believe that the Qu'ran was dictated to Mohammed by Gabriel, but was not aware that they don't believe that it was Jesus who was crucified on the cross. Given this 'glitch' in their scriptures I just can't imagine reading the Qu'ran and meditating on it as I would the bible.

On a broader note I have always believed that if the gospel is about love then life is about relationships. For me relationships are gold. So, in the context of my relationships with the Muslims I know, whether or not the Qu'ran is the literal word of God is simply not an issue. However, when I consider the faith experience of those same Muslims in the context of a person's earch for a deeper relationship with God in and through it, I can't help but wonder if the Qu'ran provides the same vehicle in their lives as the bible does in my own. I guess what I am saying is that it would be interesting to learn more about the place that the Qu'ran plays in the lives of devoted Muslims when it comes to the subject of deepening their relationship with God.

God bless.
17 August 2006, 10:24 AM
Interesting thread Phil. You said "I'm sure, too, that Mohammed must have believed that Gabriel communicated God's message as well. There's no proving or disproving that..". It is possible to discern the spirit of Islam or other religions through the Bible and the gift of spirit discernment. Since there are many interpretations of Scripture it can be difficult to discern. Nevertheless, spirit discernment definitely show the right way. The one mentioned by Jacques on the roll of Satan is good to consider. It sounds good to search after common features among religions. But in searching commonality among Islam and Christianity we indirectly or implicitly say we have the same source (God). That is the problem we have. I can tell you the Allah of Islam and The God of Christianity is not the same. They are two opposite sources. Satan can appear as light, angel and God but he never lead us to Christ. If he never lead us to the Christ of the Bible he is not from God because the only way to God is through Christ. In addition the one you mentioned about the historical fact of Christ makes Islam questionable even for non-religious people. I may sound very negative here but it is not a judgment in the human sense, it is the spirit within me that reveals the Truth thankfully independent of the thinking mind.
17 August 2006, 11:33 AM
I've studied Islam myself in some detail. Karen Armstrong's works on Islam and on Muhammed are very good guides I feel for accurately understanding Islam, without dismissing Islam without considering its merits, while at the same time not being an apologist for the religion.

I think Islam is deeply misunderstood in many areas, in partcular in relation to violence, war and 'jihad.' Many in the West associate Islam with Islamist terrorism or things like the war in Iraq, and suicide bombings. While the violence I see on the Middle East and elsewhere around the world is terrifying, I don't feel these reflect the true essence of Islam any more than the Crusades or the Witch hunts in the Medieval period reflect true Christianity. Islam needs to be understood as a whole, not just on the actions of those who use Islam as a political ideaology combined with violence to achieve political aims (as much of the terrorism we are seeing now in the Middle East is based on).

Islam has within itself, like Christianity, a deep spiritual and philosophical core combined with accepted traditions which are passed on through each generation. In Islam there is the mystical tradition of Sufism which has very great spiritual beauty and riches, along with a more rational philosphical element somewhat like Christian scholastic philosophy. In Islam there are also accepted traditions and sacred scripture, as with other faiths.

However Islam also differs from other world religions and civilisations in unique ways. There is no way Islam could ever be reduced to Christianity or vice versa, since Islam very strongly affirms some things as being true and others false. Islam strongly and clearly rejects the Christian ideas of God being a Trinity or of the incarnation for example, which are foundational to all Orthodox Christian theology.

I feel Vatican II outlined a sensible approach for Christians where it praised Muslims for honouring God and calling for dialogue on the part of both faiths, without denying church tradition and key teachings on the nature of God and on salvation from the Christian perspective. I feel Christians should do their best to understand Islam, while at the same time holding onto core Christian beliefs like the Trinity of the Godhead and salvation through Christ.

On terms of non-Christian religions not being able to offer salvation, I approach this issue with great caution. Much of the religiously inspired violence in history, especially with the world's Abrahamic religions, has occured because some people of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim faith believe that they and only they have the truth and everyone else is a party of the devil. While scripture does very clearly teach the devil exists, is opposed to God and God's plans, is the master deciever and liar and also behind heresies or attempts to pervert the Gospel, and also scripture also warns on the urgency of salvation through Christ because of the eternal repurcussions, the Bible also states in many places God's glory and truth are known to unbelievers through creation, through revelation, and also by other means. Paul's comments in his famous Acts speech in which he says God made humans and placed them through the world in the hope all would turn to him and honour him along with the statement where he says 'In God we all live, move and have our being' clearly indicate God's grace is abundant, as is his love.

Christian tradition has generally and clearly emphasized salvation is only available to Christians alone, and not to Jews, Pagans or Muslims. This statement has somewhat eased after Vatican II and other trends which have emphasized inter-religious dialogue. I think a healthy approach is not to dismiss all non-Christian religions as works of the devil (which becomes hard to maintain when one starts to see the depths of wisdom and insight in their respective traditions) but rather we stick to the Christian confessions of Christ being our saviour whose love is open to all, provided we repent and turn from our sin. Basically I don't think there can be any Christianity without Christ and his sacrifice on the cross, and that should be the message of Christianity sends out to a pluralistic world in the face of non-Christian religions.

I think when it comes to seeing what wisdom and truth exists outside of Christianity, we should test it against what sacred scripture and tradition within Christianity teaches, and see what 'spoils of the Egyptians' can be taken without compromising the Gospel. This has been done by great Christian theologians such as St Augustine, St Gregory of Nyssa, and St Thomas Aquinas, allowing a believable and intellectually respectable faith which safeguards the Christian concept of God's mystery and allows for true Christian spirituality to emerge.
17 August 2006, 02:14 PM
These are good exchanges, with several pertinent issues emerging.

Roger asks: I guess what I am saying is that it would be interesting to learn more about the place that the Qu'ran plays in the lives of devoted Muslims when it comes to the subject of deepening their relationship with God.

It plays a vital role, Roger -- as much or more than the bible does for Christians seeking to deepen their relationship with God. Islam has nothing quite like the sacraments of the Church, which also enable deepening relationship, along with prayer and ethical living, which are, of course, emphasized in Islam.

From Grace: I can tell you the Allah of Islam and The God of Christianity is not the same. They are two opposite sources. Satan can appear as light, angel and God but he never lead us to Christ.

Grace, there is much overlap between Islam's conception of Allah and Judaism's of Yahweh (and even Christianity's of the Creator). "Allah" is simply the Arabic name for "God," "The Lord."
In short, Allah is believed to possess the same attributes usally attributed to God in the Judeo-Christian tradition: eternity, ominiscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, etc. Allah is also believed to be good, merciful, just, etc., although, in the light of Christ's revelation, Christians have a much more clear picture of what this actually looks like. There's much more agreement than not between Christian and Islamic conceptions of God, though the latter's denial of the Trinity and, especially, Christ's incarnation, is certainly problemmatic.

- - -

Good, balanced post, Gregory. Re. the issue of jihad, w.c. has posted numerous reflections on why Islam's tendency to promote theocracy inevitably has political and military implications re. this idea. Inner jihad seems to be inextricably linked with outer -- certainly for the militant groups causing so much trouble these days.
17 August 2006, 03:06 PM
Continuing . . .

The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910 version) provides a good, general review of Mohammed's life and Koranic teaching. Most significant for Christians is what has been noted above re. the denial of Christ's crucifixion and divinity.

I have discussed the concept of implicit faith/baptism of desire many times on this board, and so it might be helpful to consider it again with regard to Islam. From a Christian perspective, one way to evaluate the authenticity of another world religion is with regard to its producing in its followers implicit faith. Practically speaking, this would mean that, say, a good Buddhist who is open-minded would find in the Gospel a resonance and completion of what s/he finds in Buddhism. When you consider the major world religions, it seems that is indeed the case, with Islam being the notable exception.

Because Moslems do receive a teaching on Jesus in the Koran -- one that places him in a position inferior to Mohammed -- they have a sense of having accounted for the significance of Jesus and given him proper consideration. In truth, however, the teaching they have received actually innoculates them from the Gospel message, and so, on those grounds, Islam must be judged as a miserable failure in its bringing forth the kind of implicit faith that can flower into explicit Christian faith. This is a serious matter, as Grace has noted above.

What are the implications for the salvation of Moslems?

As far as Catholicism is concerned, all is not lost for them. So long as they are acting in accordance to their conscience in fidelity to the leadings of God as they understand God, they will be judged on that basis.
18 August 2006, 10:17 PM
Originally posted by Phil:
[qb] See also:

Phil, Thanks for that link. This statement in it caught my attention: "There were many groups among early followers of Jesus who also believed that Jesus was saved from the death on the cross. They did not believe that he was crucified."

With a little web surfing, I found some further details from a Christian apologist to support this claim. He writes: "The historical resources inform us that the myth of the resemblance as indicated in the Quran is not a novelty. During the first six centuries and before the inception of Islam, this false teaching was widespread among Christian heretics. Basilides, the Gnostic, claimed that Simon of Cyrene, who carried the cross for Christ when He became weary, consented to be crucified in His stead, thus God cast on him the likeness of Christ and he was crucified.
The Docetists said that Jesus was not crucified at all but that it seemed or appeared so to the Jews. Actually the word Docetic is derived from a Greek verb that means ``to seem'' or ``to appear''. It sums up their general doctrine on the crucifixion."

He says more but I think that is a too long quotation already. For more, see:

I would like to know more, from an historical critical perspective, what the Koran is saying about Jesus and why. This observation that "the myth of resemblace" is not a novelty is a helpful start.
18 August 2006, 10:39 PM
Who witnessed the crucifiction? Asks this Islamic apologist like a sharp lawyer.

I had not thought about this critically before. We are told that Jesus' followers fled. And according to Mark and Matthew, the women who witnessed it were from "afar":

�There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salo'me; who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him; and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem..� (Mark 15: 40, 41).
Again, Matthew says:
�And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him; among which was Mary Mag'dalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zeb'edee's children.� (Matthew 27: 55, 56)

The notion that the witnesses were close comes only from John: "But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Mag'dalene. 19.26 When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, "Woman, behold, your son!" 19.27 Then he said to the disciple, "Behold, your mother!" And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home."

I never noticed that difference (contradiction?) before between the accounts of Mark and Matthew on one hand and John on the other. I like an interfaith dialogue that gets me noticing new things about my scriptures.
18 August 2006, 11:00 PM
(Responding to the link posted by Ryan above)

So what they're saying is that the disciples fled in the garden and the Romans captured someone else who looked just like Jesus and crucified him?

There were many besides the apostles who knew who Jesus was, what he looked like, etc. Of course, even these might have been fooled by the look-alike? And his mother was fooled as well? And John the Apostle? Furthermore, the look-alike spoke before Pilate of his kingdom not being of this world, he prayed to the Father throughout, and offered forgiveness to his tormentors from the cross? And the look-alike rose from the dead and showed his wounds? Somehow the apostles who deserted him had a turn-around . . . how does the Koran account for that?

All too far-fetched, imo, and I'm just not seeing the contradictions between the Christian scriptures on this point. Different accounts of the same event do not constitute a contradiction. Moslem scholars therefore have to indulge all sorts of logical fallacies while picking and choosing Gospel passages that suit their needs to make the Koran's denial of Jesus' crucifixion work out. In the end, of course, they are really not constrained to provide adequate explanation, as the Koran itself suffices, and whatever is at odds with Koranic revelation must be wrong, regardless of evidence to the contrary.
19 August 2006, 07:57 AM
I agree Phil,

From the very beginning of Christianity there have been those who have disagreed with the true gospel and facts surrounding it. This why we had groups like the gnostics etc. It is funny how when someone highlights documents that come from these alternate views (e.g. the recent controversies over the gospel of Judas), everybody sits up and listens, but they won't give the real gospel, with its longstanding tradition, a second thought.
19 August 2006, 09:22 AM
Jesus Christ came to this world knowing that he will be crucified. Why? because his crucification, death and resurrection is very crucial for our salvation. Moreover, his crucification has been prophesied many centuries before his arrival. Only one being is totally dissatisified by what Jesus have done. That being is Satan. This being has been active during the time of Jesus and still is active. Any idea who entertain the denial of the crucufication, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are created by this being.
19 August 2006, 02:12 PM
So where did the real Jesus go? I'd guess he would have shown back up eventually, have a meal, discuss the future with his disciples . . . . promulagating lies all toward the end of the early church martyring itself. IOW: "I couldn't stand the heat, probably wouldn't have been resurrected, and don't have the power to overthrow Rome, but you guys go out there and be a bit braver than I was . . . . " Now that's a characterization some Moslems probably are comfortable living with, a cowardly Jesus subjugated to their warrior Prophet.

And what of Jesus before the Sanhedrin as described in Mark and Matthew, which are almost identical accounts? These clerics knew him and his family quite well throughout his life, as he preached in the temple and confronted them over various issues, with numerous confrontations prior to being officially declared a blasphemer. Some in the Sanhedrin were Jesus' followers, or at least risked questioning the High Priest at earlier junctures of His ministry.


The Moslem cleric you cite in the link above states quite clearly that the New Testament texts are to be read only through the filter of the Quran. What kind of message can emerge from that? He goes on to say that Jesus' reference to the Holy Spirit is His prophesy of Mohammed 600 years later, which of course makes contorted sense if you're a Moslem, since the Holy Spirit engenders the conflict of a Triune God for them.

Phil's point about the Quran being infallible in the most literal sense is probably the real linch-pin here, which makes logical fallacies not only likely, but absolutely necessary, as the only alternative is a serious redaction of that text which would undermine not only radical Islamic agendas, but the faith of moderates as well. I don't see how Islam can endure a long-period of textual criticism while undergoing such extensive cultural illegitimacy within a globalizing context.
19 August 2006, 02:14 PM

I don't think everyone who denies the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ is directly under the hand of Satan. You may be slipping off the fundamentalist edge a bit . . . . as many Jews of good faith deny the same. So some distinctions are in order.