From recent News reports:
- September 25, 2014, Moore, OK – a Sharia Law activist beheads a woman.
- October 23, 2014, New York City – Zaim Farouq Abdul-Malik attacked four policemen in the subway with a hatchet.
- May 3, 2015, Garland, TX – Two gunmen attacked the Curtis Culwell Center.
- July 16, 2015, Chattanooga, TN – A Muslim extremist stages a suicide attack on a recruiting center at a strip mall and a naval center, leaving five dead.
- November 13, 2015, Paris, France – A series of Islamic terrorist attacks kill 137 and wound 368.
- December 2, 2015 – San Bernardino, CA – Two Muslim terrorists shoot up a Christmas party, leaving fourteen dead.
Around the world, there have been over 100 terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists in 2015. Many American liberals are calling for strict gun control to curb the violence. Many American conservatives have called for bans on travel to the U.S. for all Muslims. Politicians and media seem to be completely caught in the echo chambers of their political ideologies, and the United States is more divided than ever.
There are two key issues that seem to be lost in the arguing over what to do about Islamic terrorism. The first is that the militant Islamists have declared war on the United States. The second is that Islam is not a single, unified ideology.
We Are At War, Whether We Like It or Not
The United States is already in a war. ISIS and al-Qaeda are two of the leading Islamic groups that have declared jihad, or a “Holy War,” on Americans and their allies. They are tied to numerous attacks on the United States, including the 9/11 attacks, the Boston Marathon bombing, and the recent San Bernardino shootings. Yet, the President has been unwilling to acknowledge that war has been declared on the United States. We’ve sent a few token bombs into ISIS territory, killing a few leaders, only to have new leaders spring up immediately. Until the American government comprehends that war has been declared, and starts to act like we’re at war, ISIS and their ilk will continue to gain strength and continue to attack the United States and their allies, creating more refugees in the process. There is no jihadist group in the Middle East that could stand a chance if the United States military went in with full force. ISIS would be gone within weeks. But, our Commander-in-Chief is determined that there will not be a war on his watch, so he continues to ignore the fact that we are already in a war, and does nothing of consequence. And ISIS continues to grow, continues to create more refugees, and continues to expand on American soil.
What Is Islam?
Some people say that Islam is a religion of peace; others say it is a radical political movement disguised as a religion seeking world domination.
Both are correct.
In fact, Islam is not a single worldview. Islam encompasses a tremendous range of beliefs. There are “cultural Muslims” who call themselves Muslim for cultural reasons, but don’t actually believe or practice any of it. There are Muslims who reject the parts of the Qur’an that call for jihad, or interpret those passages so that they don’t apply to today’s society. There are also Muslims who take those same jihadist passages very literally, and have declared war on all non-Muslims. Anyone who states that “Muslims believe X,” or “Islam teaches Y,” doesn’t know what they’re talking about. There are only a handful of beliefs that are universally held by all Muslims, or at least nearly so.
Some conservatives have called for a “war on Islam.” That’s just plain ignorant. We need to wage war against terrorism and war on jihadists, but not on an entire range of people who identify themselves as “Muslim.” Could some “moderate” Muslims become “radicalized?” Sure, they could; some “moderate” non-Muslims have also been “radicalized.” Yes, we need to understand that jihadists base their ideology on a particular interpretation of the Qur’an; they are absolutely Islamic. But, we need to differentiate between jihadist terrorists and other Muslims, and recognize that not all terrorists are religious at all.
How should the United States Respond to Jihadist Terrorism?
Her are my current thoughts on how to effectively combat jihadism in the United States.
- Acknowledge that we are already in a war, and begin to act like it.
- Correctly identify the enemy. Political correctness and bigotry are both counter-productive and immoral. The enemy is Islamic jihadists, not all Muslims.
- Quit the political posturing and political exploitation of the crisis. It’s not about guns or global warming. It’s about jihadist ideology.
- Build alliances with other countries to create a coalition to defeat jihadists.
- Use the full might of the United States military to wipe out ISIS and al-Qaeda strongholds in Syria, Iraq, and wherever else they rear their ugly heads.
- Set up refugee camps in the Middle East, and work to reintegrate refugees into their own homelands as soon as the region is stable.
- Maintain a permanent military and humanitarian presence in the Middle East, much like we did at the end of World War II in Germany and Japan. Use these initially to prevent jihadists from reestablishing power in the region, to stabilize the region, then to build long-term alliances.
- Secure our borders. Temporarily stop the influx of people into the United States from the Middle East. Countries that are at war generally keep people from the regions they are at war with out. Deliberately bringing in immigrants from ISIS strongholds is a serious security risk. Create effective ways to properly vet immigrants and those on visas before reopening the United States to them.
- Use the full force of the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies to root out domestic terrorists, bring charges, and through due process, lock up terrorists of all ideologies, both domestic and foreign, before they have a chance to strike. We already have laws in place – enforce them!
This was originally a paper I wrote for a class at Liberty Theological Seminary.
Islam is the second-largest religion in the world, behind Christianity, and is growing rapidly. There has been a long history of ignorance, intolerance, and resentment of Muslims by Christians in the United States, which has increased greatly since the events of 9/11. Yet, Christians are commanded to preach to all nations (Matthew 28:19), which includes Muslims. In order to reach Muslims with the Gospel, Christians must better understand Islamic thought, and use appropriate apologetic methods. This paper will examine basic Islamic beliefs, analyze the flaws within the Islamic worldview, and suggest apologetic arguments that capitalize on these flaws in order to present the Biblical worldview.
A Summary of Islamic Beliefs
Islam, founded by Muhammad in Saudi Arabia in AD 610, teaches that Judaism and Christianity have become corrupted, and that Islam corrects these religions.
Absolute monotheism is the core axiom of Islam. The doctrine of tawhid states that Allah is utterly transcendent. He is not just monotheistic, but wholly distinct, a completely separate Being.1 The Islamic view of transcendence is more strict than the Christian view; it “implies that to all intents and purposes God is unknowable; Christians believe that God can be known (John 1:18; 14:7; 17:3, 6).” 2
The term Islam means “surrender.” The Muslim surrenders to Allah by following the Five Pillars of Islam: the creed (shahada), prayer (salat), almsgiving (zakat), fasting (sawm), and pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj).
In the Qur’an, “the greatest Islamic sin is that of shirk—the illicit ‘association’ of a creature in the honor and worship that belongs to God alone.”3 To the Muslim, the concept of Jesus as the Son of God is shirk.
Flaws within Islam
There are many flaws inherent within Islam. As Christians, we accept the premise that the Bible is the perfect, infallible, inerrant Word of God. Therefore, any worldview or religion that contradicts the Bible must logically be false and irrational.
The core doctrine of tawhid, the absolute transcendence of Allah, is self-refuting. Tawhid teaches that Allah is unknowable, yet the statement that Allah is unknowable is itself a statement of knowledge of Allah – we know that Allah is unknowable. How can one know anything about something that is unknowable? Islam also teaches that Allah has ninety-nine names. These names describe various aspects of Allah’s nature. If Allah is unknowable, then how can we have ninety-nine names describing his attributes?
Tawhid also teaches that nothing – no person or entity – can be compared to or analogous to Allah. Therefore, he can neither be a person, nor any other entity. He cannot be something. If he cannot be something, then he must be nothing. Therefore, Allah cannot exist.
The Qur’an teaches that the Bible is the word of God (Suras 34:31; 35:31; 48:29; 66:6, 12). The Qur’an affirms the Bible’s teaching, but the Bible contradicts the teaching of the Qur’an. Therefore, the Qur’an is self-refuting and cannot be true, because it contradicts the book that it cites as the word of God.
Islamic theology teaches that Allah is both just and merciful. William Vandoodewaard suggests,
The problem is that in order for Allah to remain perfectly just and righteous, sin must be punished. If all men are sinful and have committed sin, and Allah is infinite and perfect in his attributes, there can be no mercy. For mercy then would function as a negation of his justice. This leads to the inevitable conclusion that in order for Allah to be both merciful (in the Quranic sense of ignoring the sins of some) and just, he must be an arbitrary and changing being.5
Unlike the cross of Christ in Christianity, Islam has no mechanism for satisfying both the justice and the mercy of Allah.
Allah is indeed described in the Islamic theology as arbitrary. He is “a fickle, capricious, untrustworthy being that is inconsistent, irregular, and has a mutable will. He can tell falsehoods and hoodwink men.”6 If Allah is arbitrary and changing, then Islam cannot account for the laws of logic, physics, and mathematics, which are absolute and unchanging. If Allah can lie and change his mind, then how can the Muslim know that Allah was telling the truth when he gave Muhammad the Qur’an?
The Qur’an teaches a distorted view of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Islamic theology states that the God of the Bible is three gods: God the Father, Jesus, and Mary. The Qur’an states, “GOD will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to the people, `Make me and my mother idols beside GOD?'”7 Islam also instructs that the Bible teaches that Jesus was the result of a physical relationship between God and Mary. Both of these claims are blatant misrepresentations of the Bible.
Nowhere in the Qur’an is Allah described as a god of love. The absolute oneness of Allah implies that Allah could not have loved before he created the world, because love requires an object. Since Allah was alone in his existence, there was nothing for him to love. If love is not an attribute of Allah, then from where does love come? If Allah is not a god of love, then he could not have created love. Why does love exist, if it did not come from Allah?
Sharing Christ with the Muslim
One of the first considerations when sharing the Gospel with a Muslim is his belief in greatest Islamic sin, shirk – the offensive, blasphemous placement of anything on par with Allah. Edward Challen believes that Christians should refrain from using the term “Son of God” when describing Jesus, stating, “it is not wise to use the term, for it immediately offends.”8 He further suggests that we must first explain what the Bible actually teaches about the Trinity – one God, in three Persons – and then refer to the Trinity and to Jesus as the Son of God.
Caner suggests several cultural principles that would be offensive to the Muslim, which Christians should avoid when witnessing. These include shaking the left hand, calling a Muslim “Brother,” refusing hospitality, serving alcohol, pork, or shellfish, interrupting worship, or speaking to a member of the opposite gender.9
A two-fold apologetic is an effective way to share the Gospel with a Muslim. One side of the argument is a polemic against Islam, capitalizing on the inherent flaws within Islam. Demonstrate that the absolute transcendence and unknowability of Allah are self-refuting concepts; that the Qur’an affirms the Bible, but the Bible contradicts the Qur’an; and that the arbitrariness and inconsistency of Allah means that Islam cannot account for the absolute laws of logic, physics, and mathematics. By pointing out these and other logical inconsistencies within Islam, the Christian can help the Muslim understand that Islam cannot be the truth.
The second side of the approach to reach the Muslim is a clear apologetic of the truth of Jesus Christ as the only atonement for sin. Islam provides no method for both justice and mercy; only the death of Jesus Christ on the cross can accomplish both. Since Islam is a works-based religion, the Muslim is acutely aware of his own sin. In order for him to understand God’s grace, he must understand that he cannot satisfy God’s justice on his own.
The Christian must emphasize the differences between Allah and the God of the Bible. Allah is unknowable and unlovable, but our God not only can be known and loved, but knowing and loving Him is the very reason he created us.
Christians must emphasize the differences between the Qur’an and the Bible. Daniel Shayesteh explains that
Muslims need to discover and know whether the Bible or the Qur’an is the Word of God. They need to know which one introduces the real justice of God. They need to ask which one truly cares for the world and provides salvation for humankind? Muslims need to be assured that Jesus can answer their desperate need for salvation and can erase any uncertainty about salvation in their lives. We can prove to them how we now have assurance of salvation in Him.10
Since Islam teaches that the Bible is the Word of God, it is extremely appropriate to use the Bible to show the differences between Christian and Islamic beliefs, and how Jesus is able to provide the eternal salvation that Islam cannot provide.
Due to space limitations, this paper did not explore all of the flaws within Islam. Further study of these flaws, and the logical and Biblical responses to them, is suggested.
Sharing the Gospel with a Muslim can be a difficult task in light of the mistrust and hysteria in the aftermath of 9/11, but with reliance on the Holy Spirit, God can use the Christian to reach the Muslim with the love of Jesus Christ. Every person is created in God’s image, and needs Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. By understanding the basic tenets and practices of Islam and the inherent weaknesses within those beliefs, and by giving reasoned responses to those inconsistencies, the Christian can be more effectively used by God to reach the Muslim.
Caner, Ergun. “Islam.” In The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, edited by Ed Hinson and Ergun Caner, 277-281. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Caner, Ergun, and Emir Caner. Unveiling Islam. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2009.
Challen, Edward. Love Your Muslim Neighbour. Leominster, England: Day One Publications, 2006.
Robinson, Mike L. One Way to God. Denver, Colorado: Outskirts Press, 2008.
Schlorff, Samuel P. “Muslim Ideology and Christian Apologetics.” Missiology 21, no. 2 (April 1993): 173-185. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000863905&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
Shayesteh, Daniel. The Difference is the Son. Castle Hill, New South Wales: Daniel Shayesteh, 2004.
Swanson, Mark N. “The Trinity in Christian-Muslim Conversation.” Dialog 44, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 256-263. http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx? direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0001495658&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
Vandoodewaard, William. “The Necessity of Theology and Practice in Islamic Studies.” Christian Higher Education 4, no. 3 (July 2005): 211-230. http://search.ebscohost .com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eoah&AN=7402365&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
1. Caner, Ergun, “Islam,” in The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics, ed. Ed Hinson and Ergun Caner (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008), 280.
2. Schlorff, Samuel P., “Muslim Ideology and Christian Apologetics.” Missiology 21, no. 2 (April 1993): 175, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh& AN=ATLA0000863905&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
3. Swanson, Mark N., “The Trinity in Christian-Muslim Conversation.” Dialog 44, no. 3 (Fall 2005): 256, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh& AN=ATLA0001495658 &site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
4. Ergun Caner and Emir Caner, Unveiling Islam, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 2009), 110.
5. Vandoodewaard, William, “The Necessity of Theology and Practice in Islamic Studies.” Christian Higher Education 4, no. 3 (July 2005): 217, http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ login.aspx?direct=true&db=eoah&AN=7402365&site=ehost-live&scope=site (accessed September 13, 2009).
6 Robinson, Mike L., One Way to God, (Denver, Colorado: Outskirts Press, 2008), 89.
7. Surah 5:116 (translated by Dr. Rashad Khalifa).
8. Challen, Edward, Love Your Muslim Neighbour. (Leominster, England: Day One Publications, 2006), 200.
9. Caner and Caner, Unveiling Islam, 223-224.
10. Shayesteh, Daniel, The Difference is the Son (Castle Hill, New South Wales: Daniel Shayesteh, 2004), 294-295.
Youcef Nadarkhani is an evangelical Christian pastor, born to Iranian Muslim parents. He has been sentenced to death for converting to Christianity, despite the fact that he says he was never a practicing Muslim, and is awaiting execution in Iran. Nadarkhani was first arrested in Oct. 2009 for protesting the teaching of Islam at his children’s school. The charges were later changed to apostasy and evangelization of Muslims. He was sentenced to death for apostasy, but after considerable international pressure the Iranian courts delayed implementing the verdict, sending the case to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for review.
At the time this was posted, it is unknown whether Pastor Youcef will be executed, or not. It is unknown whether Nadarkhani will be permitted to appeal his execution order, since most of Iran’s executions are conducted in secret. There has been tremendous public outcry and international pressure on Iran to free Pastor Youcef, but given Iran’s antagonistic relationship with the rest of the world, it may not do any good.
How should Christians respond to this? The obvious answer would be to pray for him and his family.
A less obvious response is to consider the fact that the Bible warns us that persecution is to be expected for the Christian:
- Matthew 5:10 (NKJV) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Acts 14:21-22 And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
- 2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Timothy 3:12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
- Hebrews 11:36-38 Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
The persecution and martyrdom of Christians has been common since the time of the Apostles. In Acts 7, Stephen was stoned to death for blasphemy. In Acts 12:2, James the brother of John was martyred with a sword, and Peter was imprisoned immediately after. Of the twelve Apostles, only John was not martyred, although tradition says he survived being boiled in oil, and died in exile on the Island of Patmos. Peter was crucified upside-down. The list goes on:
- Ignatius of Antioch martyred in 107 AD.
- Justin Martyr of Palestine in 165 AD.
- Polycarp of Smyrna, probably around 160 AD.
- Origen of Alexandria, about 250 AD.
- King Edward the Martyr, 979
- Thomas Becket, 1170
- William Tyndale, 1535
This is but a tiny percentage of those who have given their lives for the Gospel in the past. Thousands more are in prison today in places like China, Pakistan; and Iran; untold thousands more die annually in places all around the world.
Here in the United States, we don’t see this kind of persecution. When someone calls us names or mocks God, we complain about how persecuted we are. We have no idea what real persecution is.
Nadarkhani has refused to renounce his Christian faith, even though he has repeatedly been pressured to recant. I wonder how many American Christians would do the same, under similar circumstances. Too many self-proclaimed Christians are walking away from their faith in the United States without even being persecuted. Many of us hide our faith, just because we are too embarrassed, afraid we won’t “fit in.” What would we do if we faced a death penalty for proclaiming Jesus Christ?
As a Christian, I must continue to pray for Youcef Nadarkhani and others like him around the world. However, I must also pray for Christians in America who are too ashamed of the Gospel to let their friends and co-workers know they go to church; too soft to stand up to a little mocking, let alone imprisonment or death; and so uncertain of their own relationship with Jesus Christ that they just walk away from God and the church. I must pray for my fellow Christians, that they may be bold witnesses for Jesus Christ, despite any persecution that they may encounter. Lastly, I must continue to pray for myself, that I may boldly proclaim the Gospel, whatever the cost, whatever the consequences, no compromises, no backing down.
CHRISTIAN: If you are not being persecuted for your faith – WHY NOT?