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Dear Abdallah

Discussion in 'NonChristian Help Forum' started by Tyrel, Oct 3, 2007.

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  1. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Here is a small book. I will post letter after letter of the book. This is how Christians should approach Islam and apologetics. In hope, Tyrel.This is a fictitious correspondence to help promote better understanding between Muslims and Christians.The name "ABDALLAH" is Arabic, and means "SERVANT OF GOD".The name of the writer is from the Greek, and means "LOVED BY GOD" Dear Abdallah,I write this letter to tell you how glad I am to have met you. It does not seem to happen all that often that a Muslim and a Christian meet in a manner as we did. We discovered a lot of common ground while not pretending that there is no disparity. We are both aware of the differences between our faiths—and the need to think them through. Our pledge that our conversation should take place in a friendly spirit, appropriate for the topic, I consider something quite beautiful. May God be honored by that!It is good to realize that both of us have very similar hopes and expectations of life. What intrigued me in particular was our perception of an Almighty God. While our understanding of religious dogma may differ, our affinity, affection and intuitive consciousness of God are remarkably similar. To me that means that basically mankind must have an innate knowledge of God, which He planted into our ‘hearts’.Probably linked to that and highly significant to me is the fact that both of us were acutely aware of our need for a pure heart in the sight of God. This is of special significance as Jesus once said that only those who have a pure heart shall see God (Matthew 5:8).This reminds me of the Word, which says: Be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had when you were still ignorant. Instead, be holy in all that you do, just as God who called you is holy! (1 Peter 1:14,15) Pursue holiness, because no one will see the Lord without it! (Hebrews 12:14)I am sure we are all too conscious of our lack of inward purity. Our thoughts and actions are all too often rather unholy. I suppose deep down in our hearts we are aware of the spiritual lack caused by our imperfection, even if we follow our expected religious rules. Every confrontation with death creates in us troublesome questions, which cause our fear of death—or perhaps rather fear of what comes after death. One might ‘enjoy’ life to a goodly extent in an atmosphere devoid of God, but ultimately the expectation of death spoils it all, for we are all aware thatit is appointed to man once to die,and after that is the judgment (Hebrews 9:27),as the Bible puts it. Ultimately all mankind sits in the same boat. All fall short of God’s standard, be it in thought, word and even deed. Is it not interesting to note in this context that every religion follows ritual practices, which signify cleansing? They are essentially no more than symbolic tokens and obviously do not really effect anything by themselves. While we may clean our body by such rituals on the outside, we are well aware that water can never wash away sin and by that create a clean heart! Jesus once made a very remarkable statement when confronted about the ritual washing of hands before meals:Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouthgoes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man ‘unclean’. (Matthew 15:16-20)Rituals are really no more than a reminder of our need for purification—because we know that we are impure. After having committed a particularly ugly sin, David expressed his longing beautifully in one of his psalms: Wash away all my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.Against you, you only have I sinned...Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.Create in me a pure heart, O God! (Psalm 51:1-4, 9-10)I’m sure we are both in agreement and are touched by this. Yet on many other topics we are not likely to agree. In conversations with spiritual content it is natural to argue according to our respective convictions. Someone rightly said that all too often convictions are worse enemies to the truth than lies. Convictions are really little more than opinions. Discussions on this basis are predictable: Everybody talks and nobody listens. We should not follow such pattern. I suggest the answer is to honestly face contentious issues squarely and with the determination to find out together what is trustworthy and why. After all, it is a matter affecting eternity! Therefore, we should not dare to be superficial in our search. We do not want to risk that one of us will go astray! Unless our faith is based on evident revelation from God, we should be critical. After all, if we do believe and follow God’s truth, what are we afraid of losing? Divine truth must be and is detectable and backed up by evidence.Knowing each other a little by now, I am sure that together we will, with kindness, understanding and sober judgment, find what concerns us more than anything else in this world!Yours sincerely,TheophilusTHEOPHILUS
     
  2. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Dear Abdallah,I knew I would be right in expecting your reply straight from the heart. Thank you!I acknowledge your sentiments and do not doubt your sincerity for one minute. Sincerity must be the foundation of any conversation regarding God and our relationship with Him. However, it must be linked to established facts. We have to ask the question: Is what I sincerely believe really and factually true? A mother may sincerely believe in the innocence of her son that has just been convicted of a crime. But is he by that token innocent? Not our degree of sincerity will determine that, but an investigation. Sincerity cannot change error into truth. The important thing, therefore, is not our sincerity as such, but the object of our sincerity. Please accept, therefore, that while I appreciate your sincerity, I query part of what you accept as fact. Let me explain.You state that you have deeply rooted reservations about the trustworthiness of today’s version of the Bible. While I somehow expected this, it still surprises me! Let me try to respond to your suspicion. First of all, we will have to differentiate between established facts and our interpretation of these. What Islam never permitted, happened to Christianity. For the last couple of centuries Bible critics, many of them theologians, took the liberty to table and propagate their critique, which was often based on very extravagant interpretations. These all too often reflect their expedient, personal convictions and opinions by which they interpret the Bible. However, there are and have been other critics, and one would need to listen to what they have to say. We have to differentiate between what is called ‘Text critique’ and the so-called ‘historic-critical method’ of interpretation. Text critique is the science, which is established to determine the exact text of an original document, and to sift out any possible corruption of a given text or any copy mistakes that might have slipped in over the many centuries in which these manuscripts have been copied by hand. It also attempts to correct falsely understood words, phrases and figures of speech. Many teams of scholars, Christian and other, have critically and thoroughly studied each of the old manuscripts. This helped to identify any error, and to trace it back to where it had originally slipped in. This gives us the assurance that today we have in hand a close to perfect replica of the original revelation.The ‘historic-critical method’ is of quite a different nature. It attempts to ‘correct’ a text by assessing its feasibility, if I may put it this way. The Bible teaches, for instance, that the Jews went through the Red Sea on dry foot, or that Jesus was born by a virgin, that he walked on a lake and raised dead people to life. Since that is impossible, reason the critics, one has to classify such a text as myth. By various means and ways their pens have censored the Bible for anything supernatural. As had to be anticipated, their critique largely contributed to the spiritual decay in the Western world. Through this God was erased from the minds of many people. Intentionally or not, these critics made their own finite minds the judge over the infinite God, assessing and stipulating what He can do and what not. This resulted in a very human interpretation of the divine Book and its author. We call that ‘secular humanism’. As lamentable as it is, that has advanced to the dominant thinking as reflected by the Western media.To support their theses, these critics revised the dating of the books of the Bible, claiming, for instance, that the Law of Moses was actually written by Ezra, who lived some 900 years after Moses. This was based on the assumption that writing was unknown at the time of Moses. Now we know that long before Abraham (500 years before Moses), writing was common practice. Some critics also postulate that after the death of Jesus—his ascension to heaven they would discard as an impossibility and by that token a myth—Paul came and hijacked Christianity. It is claimed that he censored the Gospel to match his theology. But contemporary records show very clearly that there was never a doctrinal controversy between Paul and the other Apostles of Jesus, he did, in fact, consult with them.While we are ready to acknowledge the occasional copy error, we are more than sure that these in no way influence or distort the message and content of God’s Word. Actually, we consider it outright miraculous that the biblical manuscripts, which have been copied by hand over periods of up to 3000 years, show so little flaw.It is astonishing to us that many Muslims use these liberal arguments to propagate the thesis of the falsification of the Gospel, while they refuse to apply a much needed text critique to their own scriptures. They completely ignore the fact that although the Qur’an is of a considerably younger date, it has similar, if not more complex problems. I am aware of the explosiveness of this statement, but it cannot be more offensive to you than many Islamic statements concerning the Bible are to us. In short, I suggest we will have to play by the same rules. Muslim doctors who propagate that the Bible was corrupted also overlook that most eminent Muslim theologians like at-Tabari (died AD 855), al-Bukhari (died AD 870), as well as al-Ghazzali (died AD 1111) believed in the authenticity of the (Greek) Gospel text. And that is the very message the Qur’an promotes: "Say ye: We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses, and Jesus, and that given to all prophets from their Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them." (Surah al-Baqara 2:136) "It was We who revealed the Law (to Moses); therein was guidance and light ... If any do fail to judge by the light of what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) unbelievers. ... We sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: Therein was guidance and light ... a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by the light of what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. Judge what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires." (Surah Ma-ida 5:47,49,50,52)"Say: we believe in the revelation which has come down to us and that which came down to you." (Surah al-Ankabut 29:46)It is quite clear that at the time the Qur’an was written, there was no hint given anywhere about a possible corruption or unreliability of the Bible. Anyone contradicting it now will not only go against the Qur’an, but will also have to provide an answer to questions like: WHO changed or corrupted the Bible? WHEN was the Bible corrupted? WHERE is the original, or evidence that shows there was such an original? So far I have not heard an answer to these. If the Bible was corrupted before or at the time of Muhammad, the Qur’an would hardly have spoken of the Bible in such a positive manner. Had the Bible been changed or corrupted thereafter, the many existing old manuscripts that predate Muhammad by hundreds of years, would have given proof of that fact. Besides, we have just read from the Qur’an that the Bible is God’s Word. We should add, also from the Qur’an, that "no man can change the words of God" (Surah 6:34 and 10:64). So, what are Muslim critics of the Bible trying to do?Some Muslims reason that the Qur’an does state that the Bible was distorted. They quote: "Ye People of the Book! Why do ye clothe truth with falsehood, and conceal the truth, while ye have knowledge?" (Surah Al-Imran 3:71)"There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (as they read) you would think it is part of the Book, but it is not part of the Book." (Surah Al-Imran 3:78)These passages say nothing more than that the Bible, rendered by the Jews in public, as the context suggests, was distorted with their tongues, not with their pens. Else the Qur’an would not suggest that Muslims should ask the People of the Book about the content of the Bible: "...Ask of those who possess the Message" (Surah al-Anbiyaa, 21:7) We may well ask, why so many Muslims believe that the Bible was corrupted, when history, archaeology and the Qur’an deny this? The answer seems to be rather intriguing.Ibn Khazem (died AD 1064) ruled the South of Spain for some time as the vizier of the caliph. When reading the Qur’an he came across a verse that referred to Jesus speaking of Good News of an Apostle who was to come after him and whose name should be Ahmad (Surah 61:6). The meaning of this Arabic word is similar to the meaning of the name ‘Muhammad’. He also must have read about “the unlettered prophet (i.e. Muhammad) whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures), in the law and the Gospel” (Surah 7:157). So he began to search the Bible for these clues about Muhammad. Probably to his surprise he did not find them. What he did find, however, were a number of contradiction between the two Books, which were assumed to have come from the same divine source. We can see the problem ibn Khazem was facing. Both, the Bible and the Qur’an, are stated to be Word of God—and they contradict each other.Ibn Khazem made the decision not to question the integrity of the Qur’an. He rather assumed that since the Gospel should agree with the Qur’an, and because Muhammad had spoken so highly of it, the existing Gospel text must have been falsified by the Jews and Christians. This assumption may display his zeal for the Qur’an, but it is not based on historical facts. Since that time Muslims have questioned the integrity of the Bible. Their argument is not only contradicted by the Qur’an, but also by the ever-increasing strong archaeological and historical arguments, which support the genuineness of the Bible. Besides, why should anyone, for any reason, attempt to change the Word of God? Perhaps this letter has helped you to take a glimpse at what most Muslims seem not to know. Practicing Christians have a very special place for the Bible in their hearts and lives. It is God’s love letter to them. Because it may hurt your feelings it is a rather painful effort for me to write a letter, which questions the source of your deepest convictions. But I am sure that our concern for the foundation of our faith in God will enable us to overcome some sentimental hitches.I hope and trust that this letter finds you well and in good health. Please answer soon!Warmest greetings!TheophilusTHEOPHILUS
     
  3. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Dear Abdallah,Thank you for your frank letter. Thank you also for sharing with me your understanding of Nabi Isa, as you name Jesus in your devotional language. It is not only the somewhat different name but also the different rôle he is ascribed to in the Qur’an and the Bible that makes your perception and subsequent understanding of Jesus different from ours. You made me aware of your sometimes rather strong feelings about the biblical narrative regarding him. Naturally, our perception is largely determined by the information we have. We will do well to diligently check on the reliability of our respective sources of information to enable us to differentiate between what is fact — and what is myth. I suggest we first of all look for a token that can assure us of the divine origin of our ‘holy Books’. We are both not likely to question that our respective Scriptures are inspired by God and revelation from Him. But since your Book and my Book differ on crucial matters, they cannot really both be from the same source, you will admit. Take for example the crucifixion and death of Jesus. This event is explicitly and abundantly testified in the Bible, but, for whatever reason, denied by Islam. Both cannot possibly be true. What I really want to say here is that I would like you to approach this topic with an open, though not uncritical, mind. It is likely that I will introduce to you something you are not familiar with.How on earth can anyone be sure whether a Book comes from God, or is the perhaps well-meaning composition of a concerned man who wants to reform a decadent society? Christians believe in what God revealed in the Bible, because it carries an undeniable imprint of His authorship. I am speaking here about absolutely unpredictable events, which were foretold by the biblical prophets, and which were fulfilled hundreds of years later. We are in fact told over and over again and in no uncertain terms that a prophet whose prophecies do not come true is not to be believed or trusted:You may say to yourselves, ‘how can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’ If, what the prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken, that prophet has spoken presumptuously. (Deuteronomy 18:21,22) Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7) And God spoke through Isaiah: I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, ‘My idols did them’. (Isaiah 48:5) I am the Lord, who has made all things... who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers. (Isaiah 44:24,26)We can detect three main themes of prophecy in the Bible. One foretold the very unique history of the Jews, right to the present time. The second pictures in dramatic detail the time of the end of this world, and the third predicts, again in much detail, the life of Jesus the Messiah. In graphic description the prophets also foretold his suffering and death on the cross, as well as his resurrection from the dead. Had these not been fulfilled, we might have a reason to question the message and the divine source of our Book. But, excepting those describing the end of the world, these prophecies were all fulfilled. This gives us the confidence to rely on the message of the Bible, for no man could have predicted these historic happenings. Only God could have known and revealed them.Little wonder then that throughout the Gospel we read phrases like ‘as it was written’, or ‘as the prophet has said’. In the New Testament, we read: I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve [Apostles of Jesus]. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep [have died]. (1 Corinthians 15:1-6) The words "according to the Scriptures" refer to what had been written down by the prophets who had lived hundreds of years before. It was these Scriptures that had been fulfilled in Jesus.They reported the time and place of His coming (Micah 5:2, Daniel 9:24 [this passage needs introductory help to be understood]); that He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), and what his name would be (Isaiah 63:8 [Saviour in Hebrew is Yeshua, this is the name Jesus actually had, while on earth]). Also his divinity was foretold (Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6 [Immanuel means ‘God with us’]) and it all culminated in the prophecies predicting his crucifixion and death. May just two or three of these prophecies be mentioned. David wrote about Jesus around 1000 BC, saying: Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. (Psalm 22:16)Isaiah the prophet spoke 700 BC, saying: He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Surely, he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. ... He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. ... by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. ... He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53) Can any honest person ignore, side-step or ‘explain’ away such evidence?To amplify this even further, the Bible contains a number of eyewitness reports, which would certainly have been rejected by the contemporaries had they not been true. Just imagine, for example, what the Jews of Jerusalem would have done to Peter, one of Jesus' disciples, had he lied when addressing a vast crowd of them just seven weeks after the crucifixion, when stating: Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (Acts 2:22-24)What would the Jews have done, had Jesus not been crucified or killed? They would have strongly denied it. But nobody ever queried this, because they all knew what had happened. While the Jews always objected that Jesus is the Messiah, they never denied His death on the cross. And they knew that it happened, for they were present at the scene. May just one more noteworthy evidence be added in support of the trustworthiness of the crucifixion report in the Gospel. We are aware that the life of Jesus in a remote place like Judea was of no significance to the Roman historians of his time, who wrote the annals of wars and mighty conquerors. Yet Rome’s most prominent historian, Cornelius Tacitus, being an aggressive opponent of early Christianity, wrote i.a.: The name ‘Christian’ is derived from Christ, who was executed under the government of the procurator Pilate. (Annals 15.44)Flavius Josephus was a Jewish general, fighting the last battle for Jerusalem against the Romans (AD 70). Taken prisoner he became the Roman historian for Israel. He lived shortly after Jesus, and wrote:Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. (Antiquitates Judearum)Evidence of such magnitude must have been given for a reason. And that is, no doubt, God’s concern to verify his message for generations to come, to those who would depend on some kind of tangible proof or evidence to believe what He had revealed. Why do I write all this? Why do I risk disturbing peace and harmony between us? I hope you could detect that by now: Because I care for you! Up to now you were probably not aware of the need to verify the basis of our faith. Most of the world’s people follow their respective religion in the sincere belief that all is well and that they follow the right path. Even you would not have come up with these objections to the Bible, had you not questioned its integrity and trustworthiness, and had you not been influenced in this direction.Therefore I have to challenge you to test the foundations on which your eternal future rests! You must understand that I do not write this letter to destroy your faith in God, but rather to amend and enhance it. That demands scrutiny. The other day my wife and I wanted to visit someone in hospital. A relative explained the way to get there. It was accurate, for the most part. Only at one turn we were told ‘turn left’, when we should turn right. Fortunately, I wanted to make sure we would get there and checked the route on the map, where we discovered the mistake. Otherwise our conviction, that we will get to the place we were looking for, would have failed. Sometimes this does not matter so much, but when it is direction to eternity, it does.I am really curious to hear your reflections and expect your response soon. My warmest greetings to you!Yours sincerely,TheophilusTHEOPHILUS
     
  4. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Dear Abdallah,It is hardly necessary for me to tell you how I appreciated your last letter! It is good that our personal relationship is so open, despite the fact that we stand on different foundations. I am glad that you seem to agree on the need for a sober approach to spiritual matters and acknowledge the forceful and, to an honest reader obvious and convincing argument that fulfilled prophecy represents. The same applies to the eyewitness reports and historic sources. Together they are a rock on which we can safely build our trust in the Bible. While it is decidedly good to have a rich emotional life, our spiritual conversation should never be governed by emotions only. We have to equally look at the facts. That can at times be hurtful. That is why we are taught in the Bible to ‘speak the truth in love’ (Ephesians 4:15). Someone rightly said that truth without love is brutal, while love without truth is sentimentality. As emotions should be built on facts, so truth must be accompanied by love. They mutually belong together.In your letter you also reflect the generally accepted view of practically all Muslims, that the Qur’an in its present form is identical to the original. Islamic traditions dating from the time of the first Khalifs do not support this assumption, as every scholar should know and acknowledge.In your letter you mention three reasons, which convince you that the Qur’an must be a revelation from God. I take it that you list these in response to the evidence for the inspiration of the Bible. If I understand you correctly, you mean to say that other evidence may also verify divine revelation. You point for one to the outstanding literary quality and content of the Qur’an. You further argue that the fact that many Muslims can recite the whole of the Qur’an from memory is miraculous and by that a sign of its divine origin. Thirdly you categorically state that the Qur’an has never been tampered with, but has been preserved in every detail as it came from the mouth of the Prophet. Anyone with some basic knowledge of Arabic will have no problem to appreciate the poetic beauty of at least the early Meccan Suras of the Qur’an. It must be said, however, that grammatically and in the choice of words the Arabic Qur’an is not considered to be perfect. But even if it were, we must realize that it is not unreasonable to assume that even the very best product of man’s ingenuity is still human. Proof of a divine token would be its superiority over what man can produce—like fulfilled prophecy. Regarding the content of the Qur’an, Christians obviously compare it with the Gospel. In all honesty, and trying to be as objective and fair as one can be, we will have to confess our preference for the Gospel. It would be beyond the scope of a letter like this to produce the reasons for this assumption right here, but I would like to encourage you to just read in the New Testament—as I also read in the Qur’an. Maybe you just read, for example, in the Gospel according to John from chapter 10 onwards, or in the first letter to the Corinthians chapter 13 etc. Considering the citation of the Qur’an from memory is a different matter altogether. I remember watching dozens of young men pacing the courtyard of al-Azr University in Cairo, busy memorizing the Qur’an. Sharpness of intellect, diligence and, perhaps a photographic memory come in here. Miraculous it would be if this knowledge would have been achieved instantly, without any learning, for example. But let me return to your main point, the statement that the Qur’an has been preserved in its totality. While it is not possible to substantiate all my statements in a short letter like this, I will gladly do so, should you request it. It is well supported by Islamic tradition that during the lifetime of Muhammad, seven different ‘forms’ of the Qur’an existed: "This Qur’an was revealed in seven forms, so recite what is easiest!", said Muhammad (al-Bukhari vol. VI, Page 482, Chapter LXI (5) no. 514; Mishkatul Masabih vol. 3, pp. 702-704; Tafsir of at-Tabari and Commentary of al-Baidawi). It has been suggested that this refers to different dialects. But that cannot be the case. It means different texts.We must also realize that the Uthmani version of the Qur’an is actually a revision of earlier texts. Besides the version of the Qur’an, which was collected and collated on the suggestion of Abu Bakr and Umar by Zaid b.Thabith, there existed a number of other texts, compiled by men even better equipped than Zaid, like Abdallah b. Mas'ud, Ubay b.Ka'b and Abu Moosa. The revision of the Qur’an was ordered by Uthman, because the various Qur’an collections competed with each other. After the Uthmani revision was completed, all previous versions were burned. It surely is significant that even the copy compiled by Zaid, which at that time was in the possession of Muhammad’s widow Hafsa, was destroyed (by Marwan ibn-al-Hakam, Governor of Medinah) (al-Bukhari vol. VI, pp. 477-479, Chapter LXI (3), no. 509; Mishkatul Masabih vol. 3, page 664; Masahif by Ibn Abi Dawood, pp. 24,25; and ibn Asakir, no. 445).Now, that is an enormous thing to do: it is the obliteration and destruction of evidence! We are glad to say, however, that since these early texts had been memorized by many, they have survived in recorded theological debates and can be compared with the Uthmani version. Besides many minor variations, some had more Suras or Ayas than others. We also find omitted, changed and added texts (Masahif by Ibn Abi Dawood, pp. 24,25, and ibn Asakir, no. 445). Ibn Abi Dawood’s collection of these differing portions of the Qur’an fills several hundred pages, by the way.Being aware of this, let us add to the believing heart a critical, yet open mind. Critical not toward God—for who are we to question Him?—but toward man and his claims!Again I must beg you not to consider what I write as an affront. I do not write this to offend or hurt you. On the contrary, I do want you ‘to come to a knowledge of the truth’ (1 Timothy 2:3), as the Bible says.Yours sincerely,TheophilusTHEOPHILUS
     
  5. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Dear Abdallah,Thank you for your prompt reply and the spirit in which you wrote. We seem to get very involved!In your letter you bring to the fore arguments from the book "The Bible, the Qur’an and Science" by Maurice Bucaille. In it, you write, the divine origin of the Qur’an is amply evidenced.To draw science into the picture is a new trend over the last few decades. Some Muslim scholars feel this to be an evidence for the divine origin of the Qur’an. The claim is that certain scientific knowledge, that must have been unknown at the time of Muhammad, is reflected in the Qur’an. In particular, current knowledge of embryology is said to clearly confirm what the Qur’an says about this topic. The geological formation of the universe, including the earth, is another topic. I have to admit, that being the case would be a strong evidence for the inspiration of the Qur‘an. But it is not the case. Dr. Bucaille finds in the Qur’an a description of the origin of the universe, which, according to him, at first consisted of gas that caused the ‘Big Bang’, which in turn facilitated the formation of Galaxies, solar systems including our sun with its planets (p. 139). This rests on his rather fanciful interpretation of two texts in the Qur’an, where we read:Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens were joined together, then We clove them asunder ... (Surah 21:30)and Then He turned to the sky and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth, come ye together ... (Surah 41:11)Parallel passages of the Qur’an suggest something else. They mention columns, which keep the heavens from falling onto the earth:He [Allah] withholds the sky from falling on the earth (Surah 22:65)He [Allah] created the heavens without any pillars that ye can see; He set on the earth mountains standing firm lest it should shake with you. (Surah 31:10) Allah is He Who raised the heavens without any pillars that ye can see. (Surah 13:2)These texts suggest convincingly that the Qur’an does not speak of the ‘Big Bang’, but rather tries to explain why the sky does not fall down to earth. In the same context it is alleged that the balance of the Laws of Gravitation and Centrifugal Force within a solar system is described by these passages (p. 152ff). The gravitational force of the sun continually pulls the earth towards the center of the sun. That would, of course, eliminate its existence. To make matters slightly worse, the earth also pulls the sun towards it, too. But, while that force is causing the earth to accelerate towards the sun, the earth has an initial velocity that moves it perpendicular to the direction of that force. And so the gravitational force changes direction by slightly less than a degree per day. This keeps going until six months later, the earth is still being pulled towards the center of the sun, but this time in the opposite direction, (180 degrees different). So the earth is kept from flying into the sun, while it is also kept from flying away from the sun. I think it was Isaac Newton, who discovered these Laws in the 17th Century. Do we actually find these Natural Laws, directly or by implication, mentioned in the Qur’an in general or in these mentioned verses in particular? Certainly not in the suggested texts. And could Isaac Newton have formulated these Laws of Nature as he did, based on the knowledge of the above verses? I am sure we agree that with all good will, it would need a lot of fantasy to let these verses explain the function of our universe. But Dr. Bucaille did it and he went even further. He discovered in the Qur’an a prediction of the astronauts:O ye assembly of Jinns and men! if it be ye can pass beyond the zones of the heavens and the earth pass ye! not without authority shall ye be able to pass! (Surah 55:33)It is further assumed that when the Qur’an speaks of seven heavens (e.g. Surah 78:12), the number seven merely means plurality. From that he concludes that the Qur’an clearly states that there would be many heavens and earths in the universe, a fact that could only be verified in our time (p. 141). One can surely question the logic of such an argument.In fairness, one will have to also acknowledge that the Qur’an held the then prevailing worldview, that the earth is a disc and not a sphere, as we know today:Zul-qarnain [according to tradition Alexander the Great] ... when he reached the setting of the sun He found it set in a spring of murky water. (Surah 18:83-86)Without trying to say more that the text wants to say, let us compare a verse from the Bible, which was written about 3500 years ago:He [God] spreads out the north over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing. (Job 26:7)The most prominent argument for the alleged existence of then unknowable scientific data in the Qur’an, however, is gynecology, or more specific, embryology, the science of the conception and development of the human embryo in the uterus of its mother. Many an eloquent article is trying to interpret the Qur’an to mean something it does not say. In flowery language we are informed how medical doctors are stunned at the accuracy of the description of the reproductive system and its function. So let us have a look at these:We [Allah] created you out of dust then out of sperm then out of a leech-like clot then out of a morsel of flesh partly formed and partly unformed in order that We may manifest (Our power) to you; and We cause whom We will to rest in the wombs for an appointed term then do We bring you out as babes then. (Surah 22:5)Man We [Allah] did create from a quintessence (of clay); Then We placed him as (a drop of) sperm in a place of rest firmly fixed; Then We made the sperm into a clot of congealed blood; then of that clot We made a (fetus) lump; then We made out of that lump bones and clothed the bones with flesh; then We developed out of it another creature: so blessed be Allah the Best to create! (Surah 23:12-14)It is He [Allah] Who has created you from dust then from a sperm-drop then from a leech-like clot; then does He get you out (into the light) as a child. (Surah 40:67)He [man] is created from a drop emitted Proceeding from between the backbone and the ribs: (Surah 86:6-7)He Who has made everything which He has created most Good... began the creation of man with (nothing more than) clay and made his progeny from a quintessence of the nature of a fluid despised. (Surah 32:7-8)He [Allah] makes you in the wombs of your mothers in stages one after another in three veils of darkness. (Surah 39:6)Allah doth know what every female (womb) doth bear by how much the wombs fall short (of their time or number) or do exceed. Every single thing is before His sight in (due) proportion. (Surah 13:8)It ought to be mentioned here that the above passages, excepting some duplications (Surah 16:5, 80:19-20, 75:38-40, 18:38), constitute all that the Qur’an says about this subject. We find no hint about the fertilization of the ovum by a sperm, but rather the assumption that the sperm is the seed that is planted into the womb to mature. To correct this omission Dr. Bucaille quotes from a Hadith: He (the Holy Prophet) said: The reproductive substance of a man is white and that of a woman is yellow. When they have sexual intercourse and the male's substance prevails upon the female's substance, it is the male child that is created by Allah's Decree. When the substance of the female prevails upon the substance contributed by the male, a female child is formed by the Decree of Allah. The Jew said: What you have said is true; verily you are an Apostle. He then turned round and went away. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: He asked me about such and such things of which I had no knowledge until Allah gave it to me. (Sahih Muslim Hadith 614)You, as I, may not find this all that enlightening either. Also the following Hadith would need a lot of interpretation to make sense to our 21st Century minds:Allah's Apostle the true and truly inspired, narrated to us, "The creation of everyone of you starts with the process of collecting the material for his body within forty days and forty nights in the womb of his mother. Then he becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period (40 days) and then he becomes like a piece of flesh for a similar period. Then an angel is sent to him (by Allah) and the angel is allowed (ordered) to write four things: his livelihood, his (date of) death, his deeds, and whether he will be a wretched one or a blessed one (in the Hereafter) and then the soul is breathed into him." (Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 9.546; see also 4.430)It would need a book to go into any more detail in this discussion, but the little I could accommodate throws some light on the prevailing argument. In essence all the other arguments boil down to the same substance. What conclusion can we draw from all this? It is normal and understandable for people to reason on the basis of their worldview. We all live by the assumption that our worldview is right and true. But we must learn to question the validity of what everybody in our respective context thinks and acts on. That may well be a sobering and sometimes heartbreaking process. If we want to live spiritually truthful and meaningful lives, we will have to say ‘good bye’ to popular opinion and seek the truth of God. Free of any glee or antagonism I have to confess that the search for a divine origin of a Book in the manner we observed right now, raises a lot more questions than it can hope to answer.I am deeply sorry to be so negative in so may ways. You really ought to know my heart to understand my guiding motive. You will know that it is neither a love for polemics, nor a hidden glee. All I desire is our commitment to God, based on true information about him. May this letter add a little to that.Yours sincerely,TheophilusTHEOPHILUS
     
  6. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Dear Abdallah,Thank you for your very interesting remarks in your last letter. What you write is all too true. One so easily gets side-tracked from the real issues—and you bring us right on track again.You say that both of us speak about God and have a certain perception of him. Yet when we speak about him, we discover that our perceptions differ, and with it our worldview and lifestyle. Why is that so, since we both acknowledge that there is only one God? You provided the answer already: Because we base our understanding of God on differing premises. I deem it necessary to try to define what—or better who—we mean when we say ‘God’. Observing the many often severely differing perceptions people have of God, one cannot help feeling that many follow a figment of their imagination. We will have to think about that.Who is God? Is Allah as portrayed by Islam, and Jahveh Elohim, as He is presented in the Bible, the same? If yes, why do we get conflicting information about him? Let me share my view of this with you.While around the world thousands, if not millions of deities are venerated or even worshiped, you and I believe there is one God, one God only. I also believe that any seeming differences about God in the one or other religion are not reflecting a division within God, but are the result of a false or incomplete information about Him. I believe wholeheartedly that all true knowledge about God must essentially come from God Himself. What can we know about Him?Firstly, I like to mention creation. I am speaking of the sum of everything that exists. Nature gives the information that something infinitely greater, more powerful and intelligent than what we can perceive, must be the designer of everything.Yet creation does not reveal anything more. It cannot tell us whether this powerful intelligence is just a force of some kind, or whether it has a personality. So while I can safely state that ‘God’ is almighty and super-intelligent, I could not conclude from observing nature that He is personal, holy, righteous, merciful or loving. Both, Christians and Muslims rightly claim that He has these attributes. Our Books say so, and so do our theologians. And yet we differ in our perception of the nature of God. Take the word righteousness. Does that mean that God is totally good and therefore will always act rightly? If God is good, can He create evil? If He is righteous, can he induce someone to commit sin and then punish that person for doing so? If God is love, can he be indifferent to our eternal well-being? Intuitively both of us will answer without hesitation that God could not have created evil, induce a person to sin and punish him for that, and that he cannot be indifferent to his creatures. Our innate perception of God causes us to think this way. Incidentally, what you and I intuitively believe, is in full agreement with the Bible. Yet this cannot be said of Islam. According to Imam al-Barqavi (died 1135), the famous theologian and Qur’an commentator,He (Allah) receives neither profit nor loss from whatever may happen. If all the infidels became believers... he would gain no advantage. On the other hand, if all believers became infidels, he would suffer no loss. He can do what he wills, and whatever he wills comes to pass. He is not obliged to act. Everything, good or evil, in this world exists by his will. He wills the faith of the believers and the piety of the religious. If he were to change his will there would be neither a true believer nor a pious man. He willeth also the unbelief of the unbeliever and the irreligion of the wicked and, without that will, there would neither be unbelief nor irreligion... He is perfectly free to will and to do what he pleases. In creating unbelievers, in willing that they should remain in that state; in making serpents, scorpions and pigs; in willing, in short, all that is evil. God has wise ends in view which it is not necessary that we should know.(‘Haft sifat’ as quoted in Hughes ‘Dictionary of Islam’ p. 141) Quite obviously, what al-Barqavi and most other Muslim theologians mean to express by formulations like this is the greatness of God. Of course, this is based on the Qur’an and the Traditions, else no one would have accepted such a statement: If Allah so willed He could make you all one people: but He leaves straying [should read: leads astray] whom He pleases and He guides whom He pleases: but ye shall certainly be called to account for all your actions. (Surah 16:93 — translated by Yusuf Ali; see also Surah 16:37, 6:149)The greatness of Allah, it looks, is overruling righteousness, mercy and love. These are attributes we certainly expect from God. Verses like the above, and they are many, are, in fact, contradicting many other passages in the Qur’an—including the Shahada. I indeed fail to see an execution of righteousness and justice, when a person is punished for something he was compelled by God to commit. This is not an isolated passage. It is verified by verses like: Whom Allah doth guide—he is on the right path; whom He rejects from His guidance—such are the persons who perish. Many are the Jinns and men We have made for Hell. (Surah 7:178)If We [i.e. Allah] had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance; but the word from Me will come true, 'I will fill hell with Jinns and men all together'. (Surah 32:13) Allah leads astray those whom He pleases, and guides whom He pleases. (Surah 14:4. See also Surah 9:51, 5:18, 16:93, 37:96, 76:29-30, 4:88, 16:36, 6:149 and 7:158.) He forgiveth whom He pleaseth and He punishes whom He pleaseth. (Surah 5:18. Read also Surah 37:96; 76:29-30; 4:88; 16:36; 6:149; 7:158.) Such statements are strongly supported by the Hadith. Let us just look at two passages:Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Allah fixed the very portion of adultery which a man will indulge in. There would be no escape from it. (Sahih Muslim IV, p. 1396-1398) Abu Darda's reported that the Holy Prophet said: Allah created Adam when He created him. Then He stroke his right shoulder and took out a white race as if they were seeds, and He stroke his left shoulder and took out a black race as if they were coals. Then He said to those who were in his right side: Towards Paradise and I don't care. He said to those who were on his left shoulder: Towards Hell and I don't care. (Mishkat vol. 3, p. 117) Any person with a darker complexion believing that would certainly be terrified at this prospect. Al-Baqawi explains the principle that led to such doctrine:Not only can he (Allah) do anything, he actually is the only one who does anything. When a man writes, it is Allah who has created in his mind the will to write. Allah at the same time gives the power to write, then brings about the motion of the hand and the pen and the appearance upon paper. All other things are passive, Allah alone is active.The overruling question that arises is where the love of God fits in here, and his mercy and grace, on which we all depend. I reflect again on our imperfection and lack of purity. If you take the trouble to analyze this in the Qur’an, you will find that Allah only loves the righteous and good. And what about us, who did wrong, who trespassed God’s commands? Frightening is what al-Ghazzali once wrote, and I don’t need to introduce him to you:Love is to sense a need of the beloved, and since Allah cannot be said to have a need or an experience of a need, it is therefore impossible that Allah should love.Such a view of God is absolutely contrary to the Bible. As a core statement about God in Islam is Allahu akbar, so the Bible states that God is Love. Yes, He is holy and righteous in his judgments. We do realize that this knowledge by itself is severely threatening to us, because we are unrighteous. But God’s righteousness is bonded with his mercy and love. Have a look what the Bible teaches:About his Majesty:This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified.’ (Leviticus 10:2) Exalt the Lord our God,and worship at His footstool—He is holy. (Psalm 99:5) I dwell in the high and holy place. (Isaiah 57:15) He is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:16)Holy, holy, holy, [is the] Lord God Almighty,Who was and is and is to come! (Revelation 4:8) About God’s expectation from us: What does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord and His statutes which I command you today for your good. (Deuteronomy 10:12-14)About God’s view of mankind:They have turned their back to Me, and not their face. But in the time of their trouble, they will say, ‘Arise and save us.’ (Jeremiah 2:27)About God’s efforts to draw us to himself:Oh, that you had heeded My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (Isaiah 48:17-18)‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you, for I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God, ... and you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:7)Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you. (Isaiah 55:1-3, 6-9)I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. ...Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)For thus says the Lord God: ‘Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out... I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down,’ says the Lord God. (Ezekiel 34:11)Jesus 600 years later said:What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. (Luke 15:3-7) I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep... I am the good shepherd and I know My sheep... Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again... My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:11-17, 27-30)You will have realized that my writing is not a theological paper on the doctrine of God. But you will have picked up some ‘vibes’ from the heart of God. But you will also have detected the intrinsic difference between our views of God, and probably also begin to understand or even appreciate my enthusiasm for Him. Of course, in a letter like this one can only touch on minute aspects of the nature of God, and even that all too briefly. Let me in closing try to sketch with a few words the essence of our differing perceptions of God:In an effort to honour God, you, as a Muslim, emphasize his power and might. Islam demands submission under the rule of God, and you try to oblige by submitting to its many rules. Yet due to your view of God, you cannot have any assurance whatsoever about your standing before God—until Judgment Day.While Islam predicates God as being tansih, that is aloof in his majestic glory, and detached from all else, the Bible depicts God as the condescending one, whose love and compassion toward man creates a way to rescue him. From the Bible, I know that God is holy, and I know that I am not. I also know that God is justified by demanding righteousness from us, but that He actually gives us his own. In His love He gives himself for us. In Jesus he is our ‘good shepherd’, who goes after the lost sheep until he finds it and then gives his life for his sheep. This indeed reflects God’s love for us, and such love expresses the value God attaches to each of us. We are not like rats or lice in His sight. If we accept His outstretched hand, we are His beloved children!There is one restriction, however. With obvious sorrow of heart Jesus, just before his death on the cross, uttered these heart-rendering words to those who opposed him: How often have I longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings,but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37)The obstacle for God is not our sin, for his love has overcome that already, but our unwillingness to receive his gift of love, forgiveness through Jesus. There is a proverb that says, out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks Isn’t this true? Well, that’s the way it is with me when writing about God. (By the way—that proverb also originated from the Bible in Matthew 12:34).But now I must apologize for the length of this letter! However, you will agree that this is not inappropriate for the topic we touched on.Fond greetings!TheophilusTHEOPHILUS
     
  7. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Dear Abdallah,I appreciate your appreciation for the central themes of our faith. After having spent some time on our investigation into the very central theme of who God is, I suggest we tackle a topic which contains a problem that affects us day by day, and which is, consequently, most relevant. It is the concept of sin. Some time ago a Muslim acquaintance of mine asked me why Christians are so ‘obsessed with sin’, as he put it. ‘Because it is the antithesis to God that effects us every day of our lives’, was my reply. Naturally, we all want to stay clear of sin, yet yield to it all the time. If we want to live with God this is an existential theme. It addresses probably one of the most crucial issues of life. Any honest person with a functioning conscience and some basic awareness of ethics, will be alarmed at our ever-present readiness, not to say urge, to think or do what we know to be wrong. Even our biblical fathers succumbed under this pressure. Adam disobeyed God, Cain killed his brother Abel, Noah got deliriously drunk, Lot’s daughters slept with their father, Abraham blatantly lied by declaring his wife to be his sister, Jacob was a deceiver, Moses was a killer and acted against God’s orders, David committed adultery and planned a murder, and so it goes on. Why do we all have this tendency to sin, even against our will? It is apparently the heritage of our nature from our parents and forefathers. Already at the time of Noah,the Lord was grieved ... and his heart was filled with pain. Why? Because "the Lord saw how great man’s wickedness had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was evil all the time." (Genesis 6:5) Already at the very beginning when Adam was created, God had given man the choice of acting in agreement with or against Him. Without such an option man would be little more than a programmed robot. He could not be responsible. He would not be able to love—God and his fellow man. The ability to choose is foundational.We read of Adam and Eve that they chose against God’s purpose. Every human being since that time made wrong choices. Adam, as all the people who lived since then, again and again questioned God’s good intentions, and endeavoured to be ‘god’ of their own lives. But it is Satan, the deceiver, who becomes that ‘god’. That is why we cannot stop sinning at will. The New Testament states a case which we all can unhesitatingly confirm:I do not understand what I do; for what I want to do, I do not, but what I hate, I do ... I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:15-18) Are we really like that? Why do we fail? To answer our question rightly, we will have to define the meaning of the word ‘sin’.The exact meaning of the words that are translated as ‘sin’ in the Hebrew and Greek original of the Bible, actually is missing the mark, the target or aim. A warrior takes bow and arrow, aims—and shoots. But the arrow misses! The purpose is not fulfilled. It does not really matter whether he misses by one millimeter or a kilometer. Even his good intention to hit is ultimately of no consequence. Other meanings of the word are departure from an appointed path, a revolt against rightful authority, transgression of the law of God, the breaking of a covenant, unfaithfulness, treason and vanity—all in relation to God. At the root lies the ‘fundamental and positive choice or preference of self instead of God’ (A.H. Strong).The underlying principle governing our proneness to do wrong is explained in the New Testament:The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. (Galatians 5:16-17)I am sure we agree that by virtue of the fact that God created us and is Lord, he can rightfully expect us to think and do according to his will and purpose. To instruct us about this, he has given us his Word, which tells us about the conflict between good and evil, right and wrong, and how to overcome evil. He also tells us about his will for us:It is the will of God that you should be holy. (1 Thessalonians 4:3)and Put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:24)Holiness is a biblical term and means to be separated for God’s purpose. Of course, this meaning clashes ever so often with our personal desires and interests, which seek self-gratification. While we may strive to honour and please God, the demands of our self are, in fact, ever stronger.We are inclined to compare ourselves with other humans, and that may well be satisfying to a certain degree. But God judges us by his own, divine standard. All too many people are irresponsibly instructed that if 51% of what they do complies with God’s laws, it will suffice to take them to paradise or heaven. What God wants is our whole heart, our whole heart: Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking the whole of it. (James 2:10)This verse reveals to us the desperate state we find ourselves in.We must understand a fundamental truth: We are not sinners because we have sinned. But we sin because we are sinners!Sin comes naturally. It is our element. We need no training to do it. Whether we like it or not, in each of us is, deeply rooted, the irresistible urge to sin. Sin is all that is contrary to God’s nature. It begins with unkindness and lovelesness, which turn into hatred, discord, jealousy gossip, envy, greed, fits of rage and covetousness, not to mention the graver sins. Yet deep in our hearts we want to be pure.It is touching to read a Psalm of a brokenhearted David, which he prayed after having committed adultery. He had just one wish: Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin ... Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight ... Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God! (Psalm 51:2,4,9-10) David realized, that he had not just sinned against people, but that he had actually sinned against the holy God! I suggest we stop at this point. There is more than enough to think about. I like to continue and conclude this subject in my next letter. If you found this letter to be too negative, you are perfectly in the right. It would be depressing to stop here without the hope for a solution. Fortunately, God offers one! So then, as-Salam‘allay-kum!Yours sincerelyTheophilusTHEOPHILUS
     
  8. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Dear Abdallah,Thank you for your last letter! It was a pleasant surprise to me! Thank you very much for your effort to reply in such comprehensive and understanding manner! Often Muslims are inclined to minimize sins by classifying them into big and small ones, those that can be compensated for by ‘good deeds’, those that need repentance and those that are unforgivable. The Bible makes a different assessment. Maybe it is best understood when looking at what Jesus called the ‘Great Commandment’. It really is the sum total of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind...and... love your neighbour as yourself! (Matthew 22:17-18) This is God’s desire for us. Anything short of that is actually ‘missing the aim’ that He has for us. You will recall this allegory from my last letter.To practice self-will or self-gratification instead of God’s will is not only missing the aim, but has consequences as well. The Bible simply states:Your iniquities have separated you from your God. (Isaiah 59:2) Sin is a kind of ‘red card’, like in a soccer game. I means: I am out! Religion demands from its followers a rigid effort to act aright and, once a sin is committed, to try to compensate for it somehow with ‘good deeds’. That very much pleases our pride. ‘I can! I am able!’ It is part of our nature to try to pacify God by compensating for our sin. Ultimately that amounts to the assumption that as long as I do not commit shirk or kufr, I do not really need God. This is equal to the expectation of a convicted criminal to be released on the promise to do a ‘good deed’ to compensation his crime, and in addition not to repeat that crime again. God’s righteousness does not work like that; neither does this reflect his mercy and grace. Unless God removes it, sin separates an offender from God for all eternity!The last book in the Bible records a vision of the devastating consequence of that: I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened... The dead were judged according to what they had done according to the books. (Revelation 20:12) Judgment Day is harvest day. Everybody receives what he or she deserves. It is the execution of God’s judgment. The Judge will be Jesus, as he himself stated:When the Son of man (i.e. Jesus) comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left ... Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world' ... Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels' ... Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. (Matthew 25:31-34,41,46)Who then are the ‘blessed by my Father’ that inherit the Kingdom of God? Are these people who are sinless? When we look at the text carefully, we notice, that it is not those who deserve to be in God’s presence, but those who inherit it. How can we understand that? The heirs of someone are (as a rule) his children. They do not inherit their fortune because they deserve it, but because they are the children of the testator. Inheritance is obtained after the testator has died. In His New Testament God uses that metaphor. Every person that receives God’s pardon through Jesus belongs to the family of God, for the barrier, which separated us from God is removed. Being a child of God then, we can joyfully call God our Father! But to belong to the family of God, one must be born into it. It says of Jesus:He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:10-13) Explaining this, Jesus said:I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. ...I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again!’ (John 3:5-7) It needs some contemplation to understand the deeper meaning of this metaphor. We are all alive, because we were born into this world. That was our physical birth. Jesus said that to be truly human the way God intended it, we must in addition also be born spiritually. Without a spiritual birth one is spiritually dead. Spiritual birth into the ‘family’ of God is affected through faith in Jesus. This faith not only constitutes trust in what he did for us, but also the recognition of our desperate need for His forgiveness. He was the one Who was executed in our stead. By this rebirth we become children of God and by that his heirs (Romans 8:17, Galatians 3:29).Having understood this, we will agree with an important statement in the New Testament:Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved! — ... through faith, not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4-5,8) Because we all have sinned, we all depend totally on God’s mercy.That raises the question, whether in that case our attempt to live righteously is really necessary. Not as a means to relinquish former sins or to gain merit! God wants His children to ‘grow up’ spiritually by being changed more and more to reflect His nature! Jesus once said:Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect! (Matthew 5:48) But as much as we may try, our old nature just does not always comply. As long as we live in this life, we cannot be righteous in the sight of God by our own effort. Neither can God’s Law justify or forgive us. A law merely determines what is right and what is wrong: Know that a man is not justified by observing the law (Galatians 2:15) says the Bible.That is why God, in his mercy, offers us his own righteousness. Speaking about the Jews who rigidly tried to keep the Law, the New Testament says:I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. (Romans 10:2,3) This was never different, for we already read of Abraham thathe believed God and He credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6) I just wonder now, how you, as a Muslim, will react to this for you possibly very foreign ‘language’. It tells you—as it does to the Jews—that by trying to establish merit or righteousness before God, you actually do not submit to God! The tenet of our faith in God is that we can do nothing to earn eternal life, but depend on His rescue. We already noted that salvation is offered by the saviour. He is Jesus. Salvation means to be pardoned. Actually, it is more than a pardon that is offered to us. God actually says:I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (Jeremiah 31:34) You will cast all our sins into the depth of the sea. (Micah 7:19) As far as the East is from the West, so far does He remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12) God not only condescends to forgive and to pardon us, but he actually promises to forget our sins. He makes us as pure as though we had never sinned. Our heavenly records are clean. We are recorded in the ‘Book of Life’ (see also Daniel 12:l; Philippians 4:3; Revelation 20:12,15; 21:27), which is the deciding factor determining our entrance into God’s eternal glory. In short, we have been reconciled to God and are at peace with him: All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:18) You will now understand why we Christians rely so much on Jesus. He is our only chance. Jesus himself said: I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) Last not least I like to mention a question I have been asked repeatedly: why should anyone endeavour to perform good deeds, when their sins will be forgiven anyway. Well, we want to please our Father! It is out of gratitude for having saved us! Our love for God makes us hate sin, because he hates it and it hurts him. The Bible presents God as deeply affected and grieved by our sin, and because we are devoted to him and love him, we strive to be the way he wants us to be. Let just a couple of verses from the Bible demonstrate this:Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovable, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. (Philippians 4:8) Become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars. (Philippians 2:15) And why do we try to live in an uprightly fashion? Becausethe love of Christ compels us! (2 Corinthians 5:14) Now you want to ask me, where those Christian are that live with such resolve. You find them in every country and every society, in some more—in others less. Their numbers are not big, and more often than not they are not in the limelight. But if you search for them, you will find them. But please take note again: they are not perfect. Perfection cannot be found this side of the grave. But they will have a resolve that is already reflected in the Bible:Not that I already obtained all this... But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal... for which God has called me. (Philippians 3:12-14) With sincere greetings, I amYours faithfullyTheophilusTHEOPHILUS
     
  9. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Dear Abdallah,I knew you would raise objections to my last letter—and so you did. “Jesus was no more than a prophet” (Surah 4:171), you quoted from the Qur’an. It is understandable that you want to stay on familiar ground, for it seems secure. May I take you up on that by asking you to read the context of your quote and perhaps a few other passages from the Qur’an—and then reconsider what you wrote? We read about Jesus that:He was the Messiah (Surah 4:171). (BIBLE: John 1:41, 4:25.26).This term is not defined in the Qur’an. According to Jewish and Christian understanding the expected Messiah would be sent by God to liberate people from the bondage of sin. He was a Spirit from God (Surah 4:171). He was the Word of God (Surah 4:171) (BIBLE: John 1:1-14). We note that the Word of God is the Thought of God and with that part of God! He was born of a virgin (Surah 19:16-35). (BIBLE: Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-20).He created life and healed the sick (Surah 3:49) (BIBLE: Matthew 11:1-6).He is a sign to mankind (Surah 19:21) (BIBLE: Luke 2:25-32).He is illustrious in the world and the hereafter (Surah 3:45) (BIBLE: Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:16, 2:9).He was taken to heaven by God (Surah 4:158) (BIBLE: Acts 1:9-11).He will come back to earth for judgment (Surah 43:61, Mishkat IV. pp. 78-80;) (BIBLE: John 14:1-6; John 5:22,25-27). He was holy (Pickthall) or faultless (Y. Ali) (Surah 19:19) (BIBLE: Hebrews 7:26).We already noted in this connection that against popular belief both the Bible and the Qur’an do not agree that all prophets were sinless.Does all this not raise the intrinsic question on just how ‘human’ a person can be who unites all the above attributes in himself or herself? Do we know of any person who could boast of calling just two of these attributes his or her own? In the case of Jesus, one can only conclude that he is super-human. And that is divine!Now let me very briefly touch on another point you mentioned and that is causing confusion even among some Christians, the so-called ‘trinity’ of God. You could not have touched on a topic more difficult to comprehend. To understand this divine concept is equal to the attempt to understand who God is. Let me say categorically that Christians are decidedly monotheists! We believe in one God, as our Bible teaches:The Lord our God is one Lord. (Deuteronomy 6:4)I am the Lord your God ... Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:2,3)There is ... one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)Both the Old and the New Testament agree on that.Allow me to simplify a complex concept: I am one person, and yet I am made up of body, soul and spirit. So I am actually a unity of three components, i.e. a trinity, although visible is only my body. Without my body I am not complete, neither without my soul or spirit. Let me reverently try to use this metaphor on the person of God. The Bible speaks of God as the Creator, the Father. That needs little explanation.But then it also speaks of God becoming incarnated in human form (John 1:1-5,9-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Isaiah 63:8; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9). This was to reveal himself to mankind and to take up the role of the promised saviour. Perhaps for lack of a more illustrative word, Jesus was introduced by God as his Son. I like to come to that a little later again.The third aspect or facet or ‘component’ is God’s Holy Spirit. Ru Allah you would call him. By His Spirit God speaks to the hearts and consciences of people. By his Spirit he also leads them (John 16:7-15). Evading complicated theological formulations, let us simply assume that the one God chose to reveal himself in the three mentioned ‘forms’, ‘functions’ or ‘personalities’. Knowing our incapacity to comprehend this, He chose to explain himself in this way, and for that reason we ought to accept that. Although my formulation may not be sufficient or comprehensive, it expresses in essence what the concept of the trinity of God is all about.The name by which God revealed himself in the Bible is Jahveh Elohim. Jahveh translated means simply ‘Lord’. The ending ‘...im’ in Elohim, always indicates the masculine plural form of a word. Therefore it should actually read ‘Gods’. In Deuteronomy 6:4 (given to Moses), we read: Jahveh (the Lord) Eluhenu (our Gods) Jahveh echad (the Lord is one, or a unity).As time went on (8th Century BC), God explained his ‘personality’ somehow more tangibly through the prophet Isaiah:I will tell of the kindness of the LORD ... he became their JESHUA (the Hebrew form of the English name ‘Jesus’, meaning ‘Saviour’) ... yet they rebelled and grieved his HOLY SPIRIT ... (Isaiah 63:7-10) In the Gospel, Jesus is called both, ‘Son of God’ and ‘Son of Man’. Although these names seem to be in opposition to each other, in essence they are the same. That becomes quite clear when we consider a vision the prophet Daniel had:In my vision at night I looked, and before me was one like a Son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. ... He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all people, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away... (Daniel 7:13,14)We realize that this does not refer to a human being.The term ‘Son of God’ does not want to indicate a sexual relationship between God and Mary, which resulted in a ‘begotten’ son to be born. We must be mindful that God is Spirit! It rather demonstrates the unique relationship between Jahveh and Jeshua, i.e. God the Father and Jesus his Son. Not with a single word does the Bible even remotely suggest what most Muslims seem to assume is taught in the Bible, that Christians believe Jesus to be a physical son of God. The Bible rather suggests that in every sense no one is closer to the father than his son. They are of the same kind. And so is God the Father and his son Jesus. Jesus, while on earth, displayed all the human characteristics. He was a baby and grew up with his parents. He needed food, drink and sleep. He is reported to have cried. These display the heritage from his mother, if I may say so. But he walked on the water, stilled the storm and fed a crowd of 5000 with a few scraps of food. He healed countless sick people, forgave sins, had absolute power over the demonic world and even raised the dead. He himself rose from the dead and was raised to heaven. All these are the credentials for his divine nature. He did what only God can do. This demonstrates the heritage from his heavenly Father.The use of the title ‘Son of God’ may, for a lack of an even more descriptive word, well be a figure of speech like the term ‘son-of-the-road’, which is, I am told, the translation of the Arabic word for a traveler. The purpose is to show a relationship. The words ‘only begotten Son’, as an old Bible translation writes for the Greek word ‘mono-genis’, should actually be rendered ‘only-born’. The other is an unfortunate wording and can be misleading. All this may appear at first rather strange to you. Will you believe me that I actually feel with you? But you already acknowledged the Bible to be evidenced revelation from almighty God. Shall we resist or even oppose it just because we fail to fully comprehend it? I do not want to preach here, but dealing with the Gospel Truth I would like to urge you to solemnly ponder on these thoughts. Since much of what I wrote here is in contradiction of what you have grown up to believe, it will indeed be necessary to apply your mind and your reasoning instead of your feelings. I will hear from you again!Fond greetings!Theophilus THEOPHILUS
     
  10. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Dear Abdallah,I thank God that your response to my last letter proved to me, against some inner fears, that you did indeed accept the validity of rational thinking in matters of faith, next to your devoted submission to God. I strongly believe it to be of necessity to stand firmly on both legs in this world of lies and deception. An illustration may help to show what I want to say.Let one leg symbolize sober and rational thinking. We need to be open-minded, but at the same time ready to test every thought and information input (even our own!), ever keen to scrutinize whatever introduces itself as Truth. This is done by checking on the available documentation, references and, above all, evidence to support its claim to originate from a divine source.Then let the other leg stand as a symbol of your wholehearted devotion to God with an undivided heart, which is our genuine form of worship, love and obedience towards him. That should not be done without the continual, sincere prayer to God to be guided aright, and for the enabling to distinguish truth from error.Standing on one of these ‘legs’ alone, makes us highly vulnerable to fall over, be one-sided or unbalanced. One could easily become unteachable, simplistic and even a fanatic. To protect us from such, God has given us an intellect and the ability to scrutinize, compare and to draw conclusions. So let us first honestly investigate the matter of truth and then let us yield ourselves in obedience and worship to the only true God.Up to now I have somehow expected you to stand on your objective ‘leg’. Can you still hold on a little? I would like you to consider with me the crucifixion and death of Jesus. Besides the for many Muslims controversial concept of the divinity of Jesus, which we looked at in the last letter, the cross is likely to be the most emotionally loaded topic in a conversation between Christians and Muslims. As I stated before, I like you to remember that everything I say is not done to hurt you or to win an argument! The importance of this topic and the possibility of a misunderstanding weighs heavy on me. Even so I suggest that we do not avoid ‘hot’ subjects, but that we tackle them in love.We are both aware of the contradicting statements in our respective ‘Books’. The Qur’an clearly states:... they (i.e. the Jews) killed him (i.e. Jesus) not, nor crucified him ... for a surety they killed him not. (Surah 4:157)The context explains that this event only appeared to the contemporaries to have happened, but God took Jesus to himself. In contrast to that the crucifixion and death of Jesus takes by far the most prominent place in the Gospel, and can hardly be overlooked, even in the Old Testament teaching, where it appears in the form of the prophecies, which have been fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus.It is obvious that both views cannot be true. Instead of entrenching ourselves and arguing against each other to defend our conviction, as it is often done, let us rather use our objective ‘leg’ again. So let us consider the supporting evidence to secure the right answer.In an earlier letter I have already mentioned the evidences of fulfilled prophecy, acknowledged eyewitness reports, contemporary historical reports and the archaeological evidence. All speaks so convincingly in support of Jesus’ crucifixion and death. So how can all this evidence be contradicted or invalidated by just one allegation, stated 6oo years after the recorded event, and which supplies no evidence for this claim at all.I am tempted to repeat our supporting evidence (as presented in my third letter), but will rely on your good memory. I am equally tempted to share with you the biblical teaching on the need for a sacrifice for the remission of sin, an essential part of and basis for obtaining forgiveness and with that reconciliation with God under the dispensation of the Old Testament. Every sacrifice pointed to the future when Jesus would come to replace the symbols with the sacrifice of Himself. The former offerings were just shadows of things to come, to use a biblical term.John the Baptist, recognizing Jesus, pointed to him and said:Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)While still alive, Jesus spoke to His disciples about Himself:The Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles (non-Jews) to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life. (Matthew 20:18-19)Then he said:The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20:28) And that was the way it happened. Let me use an historical event, which can serve as a parable.Shamuel was a Caucasian prince living a couple of hundred years ago. His people seemed to be involved in constant war with the Turks. Once he besieged a Turkish city with his army. As usual his mother accompanied him. One night he planned a surprise assault, but the enemy was lying in wait. His secret plans had been betrayed. The battle was lost. Distressed, Shamuel announced that the traitor, when caught, would be punished with 100 lashes of a whip. In great secrecy another attack was planned—but the result was the same. They had been betrayed again. But this time the traitor was caught. It was Shamuel’s mother.In anguish he withdrew to his tent for three days and nights. What should he do? What would be the right thing to do? If he were to spare his mother, all could rightly claim justice to be governed by expediency. Were he to punish her, however, all would say: ‘Look at that merciless and cruel man! He does not even show pity for his own mother!’ At last he appeared. His men gathered around him curiously. Then he addressed them: ‘We lost two battles because of treason. We lost many a man as a result of this. I find no excuse for the traitor. The crime was committed, and so punishment shall be executed according to my law with 100 lashes! Righteousness and justice must be upheld!’His mother was led into the circle. She was pale, trembling with fear. The executioner lifted his whip—but before the first lash came down on her, Shamuel cried: ‘Hang on! This is my mother; I am of her flesh and blood. I will take the punishment for her!’ He went into the circle, took off his garment and commanded: ‘Executioner, dare not strike more lightly than with the last prisoner. Do your duty!’ Lash after lash came down, until he broke down unconscious. Against expectation Shamuel did survive his ordeal. Will we ever know how his mother felt about what she had caused to her son? She must have been overcome by shame, wonder and love at her son’s behavior.This event, perhaps more than any other in history, illustrates the way Jesus stepped in for us to take our place:He himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree (cross) ... by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24) It was not only the physical pain, bad as it was, that caused the suffering of Jesus, the only ever sinless and pure person. It was that He took on Himself the ugly filth of our sin. One cannot help feeling as Shamuel’s mother must have felt.God’s righteousness and love met at the cross of Jesus.God was in Christreconciling the world unto Himself,not imputing their trespasses unto them. (2 Corinthians 5:19)This happened once and for all. This sacrifice for sin is sufficient for all men at all times and therefore never needs to be repeated. It is God’s grace in action. It is God’s gift to us. A gift, however, becomes mine only when I stretch out my hand to accept it. Allow me to use another illustration:A couple of hundred years ago a certain Austrian painter was commissioned to paint a picture of the crucifixion. He had composed the scene and had selected and painted all the models. Only one white space was still open on his canvas. It was kept for Mary Magdalene. She was a prostitute who had been forgiven by Jesus and had become one of his devoted followers. The painter just could not find the right model. Walking through Vienna one day, he was struck by the features of a Gipsy woman. That was his ‘missing person’! She agreed to sit for him as a model and he took her to the studio where the painting was waiting to be completed.The woman looked contemplatively at the painting, and then said: “That man on the cross must have been a horrible criminal to deserve such a punishment like this”. “No,” replied the painter, “On the contrary. He was a very good man indeed!” “But why then did the people kill him?” the Gipsy inquired. The painter explained: “He actually died for the sins that we have committed”. “For yours as well?” the girl asked after a thoughtful silence. “Yes”, replied the artist truthfully. “Then you must love him very much indeed”, concluded the ignorant Gipsy.These words struck the painter at the very heart, for up to that point he had been a Christian by name only. He knew the stories about Jesus, but never personally accepted or applied the deeper meaning of this message to himself. At that moment the veil fell from his eyes. He recognized what Jesus had done for him personally, and was overcome by love for him. So this incident became the turning point of his life. The Bible calls such a happening conversion, which just means change, a change of heart.You will need time to contemplate on this message with your mind—and to ponder over it in your heart. You know that your decision has eternal implications. The Bible urges us to make the right choice:This day I call heaven and earth as witness against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.Now choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19) The ultimate questions are: To whom do we entrust ourselves? To whose voice do we listen? Which is the witness to the Truth that God has provided for us? And is that witness really trustworthy?I pray that you may you be blessed with the full realization of God and His plan and will for you, and may you have the determination to choose what is true and right!Yours sincerely,TheophilusTHEOPHILUS
     
  11. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    That was far too much work. I really hope that it doesn't become ignored.Dear Kriss,Dear Amy,and Dear Superjag,This is for you.In hope still, Tyrel.~Shalom Elechem
     
  12. Amy

    Amy New Member

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    A very good example of dealing someone who was thirsty to know Christ and NOT thirsty for the blood of Christians & Jews.
     
  13. Jordan

    Jordan Active Member

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    Normally, I do not like to read very long story or letters...but this is really good, that this is a very good dealing for a person who was very thirsty for YHWH and Christ Yahshua, and not become bloodthirsty as the spirits of the antichrists does.Lovest ye in Christ Yahshua our Lord and Saviour.
     
  14. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    Though my post was deleted in the other thread, and that thread subsequently locked, I have been told by Kriss that I may post it in this section. Therefore, since I find the article to properly reply to the suggestion of both Amy and Superjag, and since I know of no reason, after a while of thought, why I should not post this article here, as I had considered doing even before hand, I shall post it here for reading. I hope this isn't taken the wrong way.Please Enjoy;-----------------------------------------------OUR APPROACH TO ISLAM1. THE PROVOCATION: ISLAM'S INHERENT MILITANCY.The decade of the Nineteen-Eighties will be remembered for the resurgence of Islamic fundamentalism and its effects on both the Muslim world and the traditionally Christian West. The Islamic Revolution in Iran, spearheaded by the Ayatollah Khomeini, gave a renewed impetus to a basic Islamic concept which, with some exceptions, had been dormant for many centuries. In 1979 Khomeini succeeded in overthrowing the Shah and proclaimed Iran an Islamic state. Since then the world has become acutely aware of the revival of Islam's concept of Jihad known to most people today simply as "holy war". It derives from the Arabic word jahada which principally means "to struggle" but which has generally been interpreted by Muslim scholars in history to mean actual fighting and warfare for the faith of Islam. This did not mean the forced conversion of unbelievers at the point of the sword (as has sometimes been supposed) but the defence of Islam or its expansion as occasion required.The well-known scholar Muhammad ibn Rushd (known to European history as Averroes), an Islamic philosopher based at Sevilla and Cordoba in Muslim Spain in the twelfth century AD, in his major legal handbook known as Bidayat al- Mujtahid, dealt with Jihad purely as active warfare on behalf of Islam and set out the conditions under which it should be waged, the extent of the damage that could be inflicted on different enemies, and the circumstances in which a truce could be negotiated.He, like the majority of Muslim scholars of his time, considered Jihad to be a compulsory obligation in terms of the Qur'anic injunction "Fighting is prescribed for you, though it is distasteful to you" (Surah 2.216). Other Qur'anic texts quoted by him in support of the principle that Jihad meant actual warfare are: When you meet the disbelievers, smite their necks till you have fully subdued them. Surah 47.4 When the sacred months are past, slay the polytheists (al-mushrikiin - "the associaters") wherever you find them. Surah 9.5 Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress proper limits, verily Allah does not love such transgressors. Surah 2.190 During the colonial era up to eighty-five percent of the Muslim world came under European rule. For two centuries, despite occasional attempts at liberation, the yoke of foreign domination lay upon dar al-Islam (the established Muslim world). At this time many Muslim scholars began to reconsider the concept of Jihad. One of the most prominent of these was Mahmud Shaltut who rose to the top post of Shaykh al-Azhar, the head of Islam's oldest university at Cairo in Egypt. He wrote a famous book titled Al-Qur'an wa-al- Qitaal ("The Qur'an and Fighting") which was published in 1948. He taught that actual warfare was only permissible in defence of Islam where the opposition had first been guilty of oppression, rebellion or aggression. The mission of Islam, however, had to be prosecuted by peaceful means only. Thus warfare was allowed solely for defensive purposes and not to expand Islam as had previously been taught. Many Muslim scholars hold this view today. Other scholars went so far as to teach that Jihad was purely a spiritual struggle, in particular a Muslim's wrestling against the evil tendencies of his own human soul.Since 1980, however, Jihad has taken on a new dimension. This time it has been applied to specific acts of violence calculated to terrorise the perceived enemies of Islam into submission and retreat. Usually the aim has been to hit conspicuous targets for maximum effect. The suicide missions directed against the American Embassy in Beirut (September 1983) and the American and French military compounds in the city (23rd October 1983) cost over three hundred lives. Numerous hijackings of international aircraft by members of Islamic movements hit the headlines. American servicemen in these planes were, on occasion, shot and dumped on the tarmac below the aircraft. An Italian luxury liner, the Achille Lauro, was hijacked by Palestinian commandos in October 1985. Two months later other Palestinian groups led by Abu Nidal attacked queues at El Al check-in points at Vienna and Rome, killing eighteen and wounding more than a hundred. The hostage crisis in Iran, when American Embassy officials were detained for more than a year, remains perhaps the most obvious example of modern Islamic militancy.These have not been the activities of fundamentalist extremists only, they have been sanctioned by leaders such as Gaddafi and Khomeini. The latter once described the Pope as the "leader of a false religion" while the former said of him "This man does not recognise Muhammad as the final messenger of Allah; he is therefore an enemy of Islam" (quoted in Laffin, Holy War: Islam Fights, p.93). In May 1981 a Turkish Muslim, Mehmet Ali Agca, attempted to assassinate the Pope, shooting him and wounding him seriously in the process.The modern spirit of Jihad was anticipated in a book written by Brigadier S.K. Malik and published in Pakistan in 1979, titled The Quranic Concept of War. General Zia ul-Haqq in a foreword to this book said it brought out with "simplicity, clarity and precision" the Qur'anic philosophy of Jihad, adding that it prescribed "the ONLY pattern of war" that a Muslim country could wage (the emphasis is Zia's). Malik takes the following text as a licence for terrorism against the perceived enemies of Islam: I will instil terror into the hearts of the unbelievers: Smite ye above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them. (Surah 8.12 - Yusuf Ali's exact rendering). The author, commenting on this text, gives the following impression of Islamic Jihad - an impression boldly stated by the late President of Pakistan to be the "only" way jihad can be prosecuted: Terror struck into the hearts of the enemies is not only a means, it is the end in itself. Once a condition of terror into the opponent's heart is obtained, hardly anything is left to be achieved. It is the point where the means and the end meet and merge. Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him. (Malik, The Quranic Concept of War, p.59). Malik concludes that such terrorism is to aim not only at the enemy's retreat but to destroy him completely. "It can be instilled only if the opponent's faith is destroyed ... To instil terror into the hearts of the enemy, it is essential, in the ultimate analysis, to dislocate his Faith" (p.60).That many Muslims have traditionally believed that Islam has an inherent militancy based on Qur'anic injunctions cannot be denied. Islamic Jihad is as active today as it ever was, Just recently, right here in South Africa, a movement known as the Jihad Movement of South Africa was formed by Maulana Abdul Hadi al-Qaderi. In a report in the Sunday Tribune on the 5th August 1990 he stated "We don't condone senseless killings, but if any Muslim takes it upon himself to defend Islam then he has a personal right to do so". The movement warned that anyone insulting any prophet of Islam would be "confronted physically" and that it "could not guarantee the safety of anyone attacking the beliefs of the Muslims".In South Africa, over many years, Christians have been subjected to the distribution of many booklets insulting their own faith, such as Is the Bible God's Word?, Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction? and The God that Never Was, all published by the Islamic Propagation Centre International. In the booklet on the crucifixion written by Ahmed Deedat the author directly attacks the personality of Jesus Christ on numerous occasions, referring to what he calls "the hot and cold blowings of Jesus" adding "Now he must pay the price of failure", saying elsewhere that "Jesus had doubly miscalculated", and concluding: It can be claimed with justification that Jesus Christ (pbuh) was the "Most unfortunate of all God's messengers". (Deedat, Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction?, p.23). In May 1985, during a speech in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, Colonel Gaddafi of Libya also severely provoked the Christian Church, saying that it is "false, infidel and irreligious". He claimed that Christians "are intruders in Africa" and described Christianity as "the religion of the Jews". Calling for the assassination of President Mobutu of Zaire as an exercise of jihad, he said "He who kills this man will go to Paradise". This speech was broadcast in Arabic the same day from Tripoli over "The Voice of the Greater Arab Homeland" (Laffin, Holy War: Islam Fights, p.135).Islam can be a very militant faith and will resort to violence to defend itself or promote its objectives at times as the evidences we have given plainly show. While one Muslim leader in Durban threatens anyone who insults Islam with physical violence, another in the same city distributes hundreds of thousands of booklets reviling the founder of the Christian faith. What is to be the Christian response to such provocation? Shall we too form movements with the object of violently assaulting those who "insult" our faith? Is there room for a Christian form of jihad? Can Christianity be effectively served by acts of violence calculated to strike terror into the hearts of its opponents until their whole faith is shattered (this being Brigadier Malik's recipe for the objects of Islamic jihad)? Or is there not an alternative approach - and a much better way?Let us proceed to examine what the proper Christian approach and response to Islam should be in the light of basic Biblical principles.2. THE CHRISTIAN ALTERNATIVE: TOLERANCE AND RESPECT. "And I will show you a still more excellent way ... Love is patient and kind". 1 Corinthians 13.1,4.The Jihad option was perhaps the Church's first real response to Islam. After the initial expansion of Islam during the first hundred and fifty years after Muhammad's death, when Muslim armies marched across North Africa and into Spain, conquering most of the Middle East and parts of Europe and Asia, the traditional world of Christendom set about evicting the invaders. Early victories over Muslim units in parts of Europe were regarded purely as defensive measures to recover lost ground. Augustine had, many centuries earlier, formulated a doctrine of "just war" in Christian terms, restricting participation to conflict for justifiable causes and fought with noble intentions only. During the papacies of Leo IV and John VIII respectively in the latter part of the 9th century AD, however, a Christian equivalent to Jihad was launched - the Crusades. A variety of heavenly benefits for those who fought and died in battle against infidels (similar to the concept of shaheed in Islam by which all Muslim casualties in battle are regarded as "martyrs") was promised to all who took a sword for Christianity in one hand and a shield with the cross embossed on it in the other. The Church, quite simply, took over the whole concept of Jihad and returned eye for eye.One Crusade followed another. The first charges produced striking successes, the later ones ended in disaster. For centuries, however, Christians and Muslims generally only met on the battlefield. The decline of Islamic power after the great eras of the Ottoman, Mughal and Safavid Empires of the sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, however, gave the European powers their first real opportunity to conquer lands that had been controlled by the Muslims since the early days of Islam. The Industrial Revolution gave these powers the means to overrun most of the Muslim world and during the nineteenth century up to 85% of dar al-Islam came under Western (and therefore nominal Christian) control.The Church at this time adopted its second approach to Islam. With the threat of Muslim invasion now entirely removed, a spirit of apathy set in. There was no longer a need for active militancy and the Church felt it could now afford to generally ignore the Muslim world. Even though this period saw the development of a growing international mission of evangelism towards the Muslim world the general attitude was one of disinterest. For two hundred years Islam was generally overlooked - if it could not be fully evangelised, at least it had been subdued, and little further attention to it was needed. The revolution in Iran coupled with all that has taken place in the last ten years, however, has shaken the Christian world out of its complacency. Islamic militancy has revived strongly and is menacing the West.Not surprisingly there have been calls for a renewed spirit of the Crusades - a militant struggle to again protect the Christian world from aggressive Muslim ventures. Today, however, Church and State are not as intertwined as they were in medieval times and so the call within the Church has been for a verbal and spiritual struggle against the rising Islamic challenge. A minister of the Evangeliese Gereformeerde Kerk in the Cape, Ds. Soon Zevenster, has called boldly for a "teenaksie" (a counter-struggle) and other evangelical Christian leaders, both in South Africa and elsewhere in the traditional Christian world, have come out strongly in favour of a militant response. "We are at war with Islam", they cry, and a mighty spiritual warfare has been called for against the forces and powers of Islam.The militant approach goes hand in hand with traditional Christian fundamentalism. The evangelical fundamentalist sees himself as a soldier of the cross - it is his duty to fight battles for God, to resist and cast out demons for God, and to scatter the enemies of God. The spirit of militancy that once sparked the military Crusades of history today manifests itself in evangelical spiritual warfare. Is there not possibly a third approach as an alternative to the militant and apathetic approaches we have considered? The "still more excellent way" that Paul proposed?Christianity, as established by its founder and perfect example Jesus Christ, is first and foremost a religion of charity and compassion. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13.35). No one can avoid the implications of this principle - if Christians are graciously prepared to accept that Muslims are their neighbours, then the call from the Saviour is "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 23.39); if, however, they remain persuaded that Muslims are their enemies, even then the Saviour's call remains unchanged - "Love your enemies" (Luke 6.27). A leading Christian minister, when asked recently what the right approach to the Muslims should be, responded in just two words - "Love 'em!"In the last two centuries many efforts have been made to reach Muslims for Christ throughout the world and, beginning with Henry Martyn at the beginning of the last century, a growing evangelical ministry has reached out to the Muslim world. Too often, unfortunately, the Gospel witness has had a militant character, one which has been accentuated since the resurgence of Islamic jihad. If our call is to win Muslims for Christ rather than defeat the forces of Islam, surely the time has come for a purely charitable approach. An illustration will help here. The sun and the wind were said to have had argument one day. The wind mocked the sun for its inability to move around as and where it wished. The sun responded by pointing out a man who was dressed in a suit walking down a road and called on the wind, if it was so powerful, to get the jacket off the man. The more the wind blew on him, however the more tightly the man pulled the jacket around himself. When the sun poured its warm rays upon the man, however, the man began to sweat and removed the jacket himself. I have no doubt that Muslims likewise will respond more readily to the warm rays of Christian love and compassion than the cold blasts of militancy.The vast majority of Muslims worldwide instinctively know that militancy is wrong. Not even the ayatollahs and mullahs of Iran were able to inspire the Iranian people with the spirit of Jihad to the extent that they wanted to - at the end of the war, although the population of Iran is three times that of Iraq, Hussein was still able to put more men into the field of battle than Khomeini. Most human beings of whatever persuasion are moderate in their approach to life. Common sense tells most people that when we kill each other, we destroy ourselves as well. We all breathe the same air, we all live in one world, and one God continues to extend his providential grace to all nations alike. The vast majority of Muslim people are schooled in hospitality, tolerance and the ethics and morals of Islam. There is no need for a militant approach towards such a people when the majority of them will warmly respond to love, kindness and compassion.Paul spoke of a "still more excellent way". Let us see how he applied the principle of charity in his own approach to followers of other faiths. We have a fine example in the occasion when he was taken by Epicurean and Stoic philosophers to the summit of the Areopagus in Athens and was given an opportunity to address them. Athens was a major centre of pagan idolatry and when Paul arrived there "his spirit was provoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols" (Acts 17.16). Nevertheless when he began to speak he said: "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an object with this inscription, 'To an unknown god'. What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you". Acts 17.22-23. He could have allowed the provocation in his spirit to overcome him and so reviled their excesses, but he was careful to show as much respect as he could to the Athenians and foreigners who lived there. Instead of saying they were "very religious" he could have accused them of being grossly idolatrous and instead of speaking neutrally of their "objects of worship" he could have described them as detestable idols, but he was determined to accomodate them as far as possible without compromising his own position. He was more concerned about maintaining their dignity than he was about taking a stand for his own convictions.Four words in the text we have quoted also give us further insight into Paul's approach and they are italicised as follows: "I perceive that in every way you are very religious ... As I passed along and observed ... I found an altar". He did not turn his eyes away from what he saw in the streets of the city in pious disgust, rather he deliberately aquainted himself with the beliefs and background of the people he intended to reach with the Gospel. Not only did this exposure help him to preach more effectively to the Athenians, it was also a gesture of respect towards their heritage.On another occasion, when Demetrius and the craftsmen of Ephesus sought to prevent Paul and his companions from drawing any more people away from the worship of their goddess Artemis to the faith of Jesus Christ, the town clerk quieted the crowd, saying "You have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess" (Acts 19.37). Once again we see that the early Christian evangelists refrained from reviling the beliefs of others and, in a spirit of true charity, were careful to respect the heritage of the people they met even though they were not in sympathy with it. Paul summed up his approach as follows: When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate. 1 Corinthians 4.12-13. Their attitude was derived from nothing less than the example of their own Lord and Master Jesus Christ of whom it was likewise said "When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten" (1 Peter 2.23). Even when we are confronted with a spirit of total militancy we are not justified in responding in the same way.The Christian approach must always be charitable and compassionate. "To him who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also" (Luke 6.29). This does not mean that every assault on our faith must be taken lying down or that we should allow ourselves to be trampled upon but that our overall disposition must be one of selfless love and a desire to build up and not to tear down.3. ALLAH - THE SUPREME BEING OR A "FALSE GOD"?One of the key features of the modern spirit of Christian militancy against Islam is the proposal that Allah, the deity of Islam, is a "false god" and that he cannot in any way be identified with the true God of the Bible. This approach is vigorously pursued in many recent Christian writings on Islam notwithstanding the fact that the Qur'an unambiguously defines Allah as the same God in whom the Jews and Christians believe. At one point it plainly states that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Specifically addressing the "People of the Book" (Ahl al-Kitab) it says: "We believe in what has been sent down to us and in that which was sent down to you; our God and your God is One; and we are submitted to him". Surah 29.46 As we shall see the basic concept of God in the Qur'an, in particular the definition of his attributes, is very similar to the general description of the nature of God in the Bible. Why, then, do Christian writers deny that there is any point of contact between the Allah of the Qur' an and the God of the Bible? It would appear that it is the very proximity of the Qur'an's concept to the basic Biblical doctrine of God that causes some Christian writers to vehemently distinguish between them. Islam is not like the other major religions of the world which all preceded Christianity and therefore do not have an inherent challenge to its claims to be God's final revelation to mankind. Islam is the only major religion to follow the Christian faith and, unlike secular philosophies such as communism and humanism or the eastern mystical religions which are generally distinct from Christianity, it challenges the Christian faith at its roots by acknowledging its basic principles while claiming that these have been distorted and that it came to correct them. The onslaught comes from within - it is by admitting the basics of the Christian faith that it is able to challenge its finer details so forcefully. It is in acknowledging the God whom we worship that it is most equipped to call the nature of that worship into question.Many Christians, sensing the sharp edge of the challenge from within, believe that the only way to resist it is to divide Islam entirely from Christianity and to reject any suggestion of a common identity between them at any point. Thus Jesus is not the Isa of the Qur'an and our God is not the Allah set forth in that book. It appears to such Christians that the moment we accept the Qur'an's appeal to acknowledge that we both worship the same God, we simultaneously lose the uniqueness of what we believe has been ours alone by divine revelation and open the door for an Islamic charge on all we hold dear at a relative and comparative level.Therefore every effort is made to distinguish the God of the Bible from the Allah of Islam. In his pamphlet Halaal and the Christian (to which we shall refer more fully shortly) Ds. Zevenster, reacting to the suggestion that Christians and Muslims worship the same God, says: "This statement must be resisted at all costs ... they cannot be worshipping the same God and therefore must be serving a false god".The argument, found in many similar Christian writings on this subject, is based on the premise that because Muslims deny that God is Triune, that Jesus is the Son of God and that God sent his Son to die for us, they cannot claim to believe in the same God in whom we believe and Allah is therefore a "false god". Basilea Schlink has written a book titled Allah or the God of the Bible - What is the Truth? Once again the Allah of Islam is entirely distinguished from the God of the Bible and in this way the author too endeavours to divide Islam and Christianity and allow no point of agreement or common identity between them.Once Allah is declared to be another God or, worse still, a "false god", it becomes easy to revile him and assail his character. Schlink claims: On the one hand, Mohammed's Allah is identified with the black stone of the Kaaba. A stone is cold, soulless. This is often the nature of pagan gods: they are rigid and lifeless. (Schlink, Allah or the God of the Bible?, p.15) It is entirely wrong to identify Allah with the black stone in the Ka'aba as though this were an idolatrous representation of the Islamic deity. The black stone in Islam is believed to be an object which Allah sent down as the cornerstone of the Ka'aba which, Islamic tradition suggests, was originally crystal clear but became pitch-black through taking the sins of the Muslims who kiss it. In no way can the stone be directly identified with Allah as the unseen Supreme Being of the universe. The Muslim practice of kissing a stone in imitation of the pagan Arab practice of kissing their idols which usually took the form of stones can be severely challenged on other grounds, but it is grossly wrong, and a severe offence to Muslim sensitivities, to charge that the black stone, cold and lifeless, is identified with Allah.Schlink goes on to say "Allah is an imperious god ... Allah resembles a great despot, an arbitrary ruler ... Mohammed's Allah has no heart, love for mankind is foreign to him" (Allah or the God of the Bible?, pp.16-17). The section of her book in which these statements appear is titled "Allah - a Soulless God and Dictator". These claims are, in my view, imbalanced and erroneous, but what seems to occasion them is the feeling that Islam's deity must not only be distinguished from the God of the Bible but must also be shown to be entirely different to him and a poor caricature of his true nature. Thus the author seeks to force Islam away from Christianity, thereby preserving our divine heritage and maintaining its unique distinctiveness.So likewise Dr. J.L.Langerman, in another critique of the halaal symbol published by the Apostolic Faith Mission of South Africa, says "The god worshipped by Islam is not the God worshipped by the followers of the Christian faith, because it does not line up the New Testament teaching" while Marius Baar charges "Allah has nothing to do with the God of the Bible. He is a poor counterfeit of God" (The Unholy War, p.70).Perhaps the strongest denunciation of Allah in Islam appears in the suggestion that he is not only a "false god" and a "soulless dictator" but that he is an actual demonic spirit who revealed the Qur'an to Muhammad and thereby impersonated the one true God. This approach is clearly defined in the following summary: The spirit who calls himself Allah and claims to have inspired Muhammed cannot be the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Instead he is a spirit full of lies, who took upon himself the old Arabic name of God, "Allah", wearing it over his face like a mask and claiming to be God, although he is not God. Allah in Islam is an unclean spirit of Satan, who rules with great power in a religious disguise to this very day (John 8:30-48). (Abd-al-Masih, Who is Allah in Islam?, p.68) One cannot help asking the following question in response to this suggestion - if the Allah of the Qur' an is really the devil himself, then who is the devil in the Qur' an? That this approach would be highly offensive to Muslims hardly needs to be proved. Yet it is typical of contemporary Christian crusading mentality.So often the question is put to me "Is Allah the God of the Bible?" Too often people are looking for a simple "Yes" or "No" answer. Langerman, Zevenster, Schlink and Abd-al-Masih all give an emphatic "No" to this question. I do not for a minute propose with equal emphasis to say "Yes", but I am compelled to strongly reject the approach taken by these writers as I believe a more balanced and objective approach, based on a genuine concern for factual truth and not on a fear of compromise of vested Christian interests, must lead to a different conclusion. This matter is important because our ultimate approach at this point will determine whether we will respond to the Muslims charitably or not.The Christian writers who endeavour to distinguish between the Allah of Islam and the God of the Bible invariably concentrate on what Allah is not - he is not the Father of Jesus Christ, he is not Triune, he has no Son, etc. Rarely is there an evaluation of who Allah in Islam really is. It would seem to be logical, before we express ourselves in convenient denunciations, to enquire what the Qur'an actually teaches about Allah and how he is defined in the book.Firstly it is quite apparent from the Qur'an that the name Allah did not originate with Muhammad. The pagan Arabs openly acknowledged that, beyond their various deities and idols, there was one Supreme Being who was the ultimate source of all things. "If you should ask them who created the heavens and the earth and subjected the sun and moon, they will assuredly reply 'Allah'" (Surah 29.61). When faced with disasters "they cry unto Allah" (Surah 10.22) and they also "swear their strongest oaths by Allah" (Surah 16.38). Western scholars agree that the name has pre-Islamic origins and it is almost certainly derived from the Syriac Christian Alaha (Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur'an, p.66).Secondly the name Allah is to this day not exlusive to Islam. Although Christian Arabs use the name Yasu tor Jesus and not the Qur'anic Isa, they use no other name for God than Allah. It is not so much the name of the deity of Islam as it is simply the Arabic name for God, the one Supreme Being who created all things. What "God" is to the English language (and "theos" to Greek) is what "Allah" is to Arabic. Even the small Arabic-speaking Jewish communities of Morocco and other North-African Muslim countries use the name Allah for God and every translation of the Bible into Arabic employs this name alone. If anyone was to teach a group of Arab Christians that Allah was a "false god" they would think he was blaspheming, or if this same group was taught that "Allah does not actually exist" (another recent Christian approach), they would think he was an atheist.Thirdly, and this is perhaps the most important point, the Allah of the Qur' an is expressly said to be the same God as the one in whom the Jews and the Christians believe. He is not only said to be the Creator of the heavens and the earth, he is also clearly defined as the specific deity of the Biblical faiths. The pagan Arabs acknowledged the existence of a Supreme Being, Allah, but they would not admit that he was also ar-Rahman, "the Compassionate", the name specifically given to God by the Jews of that time. When it is said to them, 'Adore ye the Compassionate', they say, 'And what is the Compassionate? Why should we adore what you command?' Surah 25.60 And they blaspheme at the mention of the Compassionate. Surah 21.36 When Muhammad stated that the Allah of his faith was the same deity whom the Jews described as ar-Rahmaan, the pagan Arabs reviled him. The Qur'an specifically applies the two names to the same deity: "Call upon Allah, or call upon ar-Rahmaan, by whatever name you call upon him" (Surah 17.110). Allah in Islam was clearly intended to be the God of the Bible. In principle there can be no objection to the identification. The Qur'an plainly states that Allah created the heavens and the earth in six days, that he created Adam and Eve as our first parents, that they were cast out of the Garden of Eden (Jannatul-'Adn in Islam) when they ate the forbidden fruit, that he sent prophets such as Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus to guide the nations, that he showed special favours to the children of Israel, that there will be a great Judgment Day, and that the destiny of mankind is either to heaven (jannat) or hell (jahannam). In these basic descriptions of his actions in history there can be no doubt that we are dealing with the same God.Furthermore the Qur'an describes the attributes of Allah in various titles which it gives him, such as ar-Rahim (the Merciful), al-Quddus (the Holy), as-Salam (the Peaceful), as-Samad (the Eternal), etc. These titles are known as al-asma al-husna - "the beautiful names" (Surah 59.24) and are said to number ninety-nine in all. A Biblical equivalent for each one can be found without any difficulty.The difference between the Biblical and Qur'anic doctrines of God comes in our respective concepts of these attributes, it is not a question of actual identity. To Christians the statement that God is the Forgiver (al-Ghaffur) would mean that he reconciled us to himself in Christ and forgave us our sins on account of the redeeming work done on the cross. To the Muslim the title simply means that he can (and will) forgive simply as he chooses. Neither of us deny that God is forgiving, the issue is how that forgiveness is exercised and to whom it will be applied. The same can be said for all the other titles.The issue is not one of identity but purely one of a distinction of concepts. Sure we will deny that the fulness of God's character is revealed in Islam and will stand by our conviction that this revelation came through Jesus Christ alone. To this extent we must distance ourselves from the Allah of Islam and cannot give an unqualified "Yes" answer to the question of whether he and the God of the Bible are the same, but it is equally obvious that we also cannot give a simple "No" answer to the question. We can define our position by saying that in principle we believe in the same God but that we differ in our understanding of how he fully revealed himself.We need to return to Paul's sermon on the Areopagus for a final assessment of this question. (All Christians intending to evangelise Muslims should read through this sermon very carefully - it is a model of a correct Christian approach in a crosscultural context). Twice in his message Paul appealed to pagan writings to support his contention that the "unknown god" whom the Athenians worshipped was the same God he was now proclaiming to them. The relevant passage reads as follows: "Yet he is not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'; as even some of your poets have said, 'For we are indeed his offspring'. Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, a representation by the art and imagination of man". Acts 17.27-29. "In him we live" and we are "his offspring", the Greek poets said, and Paul unreservedly applied these references to the God whom he was proclaiming, the God who raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 17.31). Yet they were originally both applied to Zeus, the supreme god of the pagan Greeks and known to the Romans as Jupiter. The first quote comes from a poem by Epiminedes the Cretan where the words were addressed to Zeus by his son and the second derives from the Phainomena of Aratus the Cicilian which opens with the words "Let us begin with Zeus" (cf. Bruce, The Book of Acts, pp.359-360). It may seem remarkable that Paul should have no scruples about applying such statements to the only Supreme Being of the universe and therefore to the God whom he proclaimed, yet he did. He obviously considered that, to the extent that they correctly described something of God's own character, they could be considered as referring ultimately to him. If Paul could make such allowances, can we not accept that the Allah of Islam too is, in principle, the same as the God of the Bible, especially when we consider that the Qur'an's description of him is far closer to the character of the one true God than the attributes of Zeus and that there was a deliberate intention to refer to the same deity.4. YAHWEH OR ALLAH - AN APPROPRIATE COMPARISON?During a lecture given on the halaal symbol Ds. Soon Zevenster said of the Muslims "Hulle eer Allah, 'n valse god, hulle eer nie Yahweh nie" (They honour Allah, a false god, they do not honour Yahweh). It has become fashionable in some circles to again draw a distinction between the Allah of Islam and the God of the Bible by referring to his Biblical name Yahweh. So you have a choice - Yahweh or Allah? True God or false god? A brief analysis of this approach will show that here, too, the comparison is inappropriate and unacceptable.While the name Yahweh appears throughout the Old Testament in the original Hebrew text, it appears nowhere in the books of the New Testament, not even in the original Greek texts. In Old Testament times Yahweh was the name of the covenant God of Israel (Exodus 3.15), but the Lord has never used this name in a new covenant context. The coming of Jesus Christ brought about a major change in God's relationship with his people. Now he is projected solely as the Father of all true believers, Jew and Gentile alike, without any distinction being made between them (Romans 10.12). The name Yahweh was used solely in an old covenant context and the New Testament plainly states that the old covenant has become "obsolete" (Hebrews 8.13) and that it has been entirely "abolished" (Hebrews 10.9). For this reason one never finds the name Yahweh in the New Testament - it was relevant only to the people of Israel in old covenant times.Yet Ds. Zevenster went on to say "My Bybel sê: 'So lief het die Yahweh God die wêreld gehad'..." (My Bible says: Yahweh God so loved the world ... John 3.16). It would be interesting to see that Bible! There is no text of John 3.16 anywhere which says that "Yahweh God" so loved the world - the Greek contains only the word theos. On other occasions it has been suggested that the Arabic Bible should have used the word Yahweh for theos and not Allah. Again the suggestion must be challenged on textual grounds. The New Testament deliberately avoids the use of the name Yahweh and the only possible translation of theos into Arabic is Allah.Militant Christian writers say Allah cannot be a representation of the true God because, according to the Qur'an, he is not Triune, he has no Son, etc. Well then, the Yahweh of the Jews today cannot be the true God either because they maintain that he too is not Triune and also has no Son. At least Islam acknowledges Jesus as a man sent from God but the Jews say Yahweh did not send Jesus at all!Nonetheless those who deny that Muslims believe in the true God will never lay this charge at the feet of the Jews. They liberally accept that the God whom the Jews worship today is the true God, yet the Jews deny Jesus Christ entirely. Why, then, can we not at least concede that the Muslims offer their worship to God as well? Instead of attributing their worship to a false god, should we not rather hold that it is duly offered to the true God but is not acceptable outside of faith in Jesus Christ? (cf. Matthew 15.9 - "In vain do they worship me").It seems to me that much of the problem here, and indeed possibly the root cause of so much of the virulent anti-Islamic militancy found in Christian writings today, stems from the premillenial view of Biblical eschatology. Central to this view is the belief that God has restored Israel as a nation and that he will send his Messiah to deliver the city of Jerusalem and save the State of Israel at the end of the age from her enemies. As the immediate enemies of Israel are obviously the Muslim nations that surround it, it is hardly surprising that premillenialists are usually the source of anti-Islamic militancy (Marius Baar's book The Unholy War is a prize example) though this does not apply to all of them. This also explains why it is accepted that Jews believe in the one true God even though they deny Jesus Christ entirely, while the Allah of Islam is rejected simply because it is said he has no Son.In our view the evangelical Church would be able to develop a far more charitable and genuinely compassionate approach to the Muslim people of the world if it could see that there will never again be a distinction between Jew and Gentile, something Paul declared again and again (cf. Romans 3.29, 1 Corinthians 12.13, Galatians 3.28, Colossians 3.11).As we have seen the Book of Hebrews plainly states that the old covenant which God made with Israel was "obsolete ... ready to vanish away" (8.13) and that it was totally "abolished" (10.9) so that the new covenant could be introduced. The language used in these texts could not have been stronger - God will never again show favour or partiality towards Israel as a nation.All Old Testament prophecy about the restoration of God's people (Israel at the time) must be understood in New Testament terms, therefore, to refer to the Church, just as all Old Testament prophecies about the re-establishment of Jerusalem as the city where God will dwell forever (Zechariah 2.4-12) are expressly shown in the Book of Revelation to refer to the heavenly Jerusalem which will be the eternal city of God and will come down from above (Revelation 21.10). Just as God has introduced a new covenant to entirely replace the old, so the New Testament speaks only of "the city of the living God" as a "heavenly Jerusalem" which will be the eternal city of God and will come down from above (Revelation 21.10). Just as God has introduced a new covenant to entirely replace the old, so the New Testament speaks only of "the city of the living God" as a "heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12.22) and elsewhere records Jesus as describing it as "the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven" (Revelation 3.12). The New Testament knows nothing of the restoration of the earthly Jerusalem as the city of God. If the Church could divest itself of its premillenial interpretation of Scripture it would perhaps see that God loves all the Muslims of the world, and therefore the Muslim nations of the world, as much as he still loves the people of Israel. We would then be able to fulfil our duty towards the Muslims by evangelising them in a spirit of genuine love and unreserved compassion.Yahweh or Allah? True God or false god? Our Gospel is not about God's identity, it is about the revelation of his love and kindness towards us in the gift of his Son Jesus Christ. What is our message to the Muslims - "Our God is the true God while you worship a false god. You must denounce him and come and worship our God"? No, not at all. This is our message to the Muslims: God has redeemed us in Christ, in HIM you can be forgiven by God, you can become children of God, you can receive the Spirit of God, you can come to personally know God, and you can be assured of a place in the kingdom of God. This is the new covenant message (Jeremiah 31.31-34), this is the issue between Christianity and Islam and the essence of our Gospel.5. REVILING ISLAM AS A RELIGION OF IDOLATRY.It has also become fashionable in recent times in some sections of the Church to revile Islam as a religion of idolatry. This has much to do with the recent controversy surrounding the halaal symbol which we will deal with in the next section but here we shall confine ourselves to the subject itself. In a pamphlet issued by B.F. Hayes on Sanlamhof titled Die Christen en Halaal the author says that Ds. Zevenster "het die moed van sy oortuiging gehad om 'n paar sake duidelik oop te vlek" (has had the courage of his convictions to clearly expose a few matters) and the first of these is said to be "die afgodiese karakter van die Islam" (the idolatrous character of Islam). This approach has appeared in other publications as well and it has been suggested that not only Allah but even the Qur'an and Muhammad himself are idols on the premise that anything that is not consistent with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ must be idolatrous.It is very easy to stick labels on things. Allah is an idol, the Qur'an is an idol, Muhammad is an idol - such is the simple way we are now seeing the whole of Islam labelled and misrepresented. This of course makes it easy to write the whole religion off and cast it aside without any further study or reflection. Its whole heritage can thus be reviled and summarily dismissed without further ado.The proponents of this view fail to discern that there is a radical difference between Islam and the animistic religions of the world. The latter are generally idolatrous and have very little in common with Christianity. Our faith has a divine heritage through Judaism based on foundations of theology, prophethood and scripture. Islam, unlike the other religions, confronts us at this very level. Allah, Muhammad and the Qur'an have come up alongside the Gospel at these very points - theology, prophethood and scripture. The Qur'an is not an idol, it is a form of scripture competing with our scripture at a remarkably intense level. Allah is not an idol - he is a representation of the true God of the Bible with certain vital characteristics of his nature and purposes for mankind in our view distorted and misrepresented. Muhammad is not an idol, nor was he an idolater. He stands and put himself at the level of prophethood over and against the very prophetic heritage that led to the advent of our Lord Jesus.There is a further problem with simplistically labelling things as idols - we will soon be adding the sub-label "demons" as idolatry and demonism always go together (1 Corinthians 10.19-20). Thus it is not surprising to hear some folk today not only regarding Islam as idolatrous but also as inherently demonic and occultic. This is an extremely dangerous approach which will destroy our witness to the Muslim people of the world and will result in a backlash rather than a positive receptiveness.This brings us back to the whole question of love and compassion, the hallmarks of the Christian faith. Paul says "For the love of Christ constrains us" (2 Corinthians 5.14). Indeed it should. We need to exercise restraint in our attitude towards Islam and should never be misled into believing that the more we can downgrade and revile Islam, the more we can demonise it, the more we exalt the Christian faith above it. The laager was a good form of defence during the wars of the last century and an effective base from which to shoot at anything that opposed it from the outside. It is, on the contrary, a most inappropriate structure for reaching out beyond ourselves in selfless love and compassion towards the nations of the world, no matter to what extent they may oppose us. What are we ultimately aiming at - to win a case for Christianity or to win Muslims to Christ? As one Christian writer has said: What matters is not that men have thought ill of Christianity but that they have forfeited the Christ. (Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, p.248). We must not suppose that we are acting in love towards the Muslims just because we are willing to give up much time and endure opposition to reach them with the Gospel. We can do all this and yet be most uncharitable in our attitude towards them. As Paul says, you can give away all you have and deliver your body up to be burned and yet not have love (1 Corinthians 13.3). I am quite persuaded that genuine love for the Muslims and a thoroughly militant approach just don't go together. Muslims must sense our love is genuine and respectful. The moment a Muslim detects a spirit of militancy in our approach to Islam, that moment our acceptance falls to the ground and it will be fatal for our witness.Simon Peter said to Jesus "Lord, shall we strike with the sword?" (Luke 22.49). Shall we? Will Jesus be constrained to say of us "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of man came not to destroy men's lives but to save them"? (Luke 9.55).Instead of seeking causes to revile Islam we would do well to spend time studying its heritage and endeavour to relate more to Muslims where they are. Some have suggested that we should "love the Muslims and hate Islam". I think we are far more likely to succeed in genuinely loving the Muslims if we try rather to understand Islam. Christians who are willing to study the Qur'an, learn the history of Islam and respect Muslims for who they are (and evaluate their religion properly) are far more likely to attract them to the Gospel than those who revile Islam in ignorance. Muslims respect Christians who have a genuine knowledge of Islam but they are quickly alienated by those whom, they say, "just come to condemn us and our religion".Muhammad was involved in a mighty struggle to rid his people of idolatry and bring them to worship the supreme God - ar-Rahmaan of the Jews and the Christians - alone. It is Christian intellectual dishonesty to now make him both an idol and an idolater. Christianity can never be boosted by downgrading Islam to the level of common idolatry. Let us not be fearful of respecting Islam - we have nothing after all to lose. Islam cannot threaten the existence of the Church (Matthew 16.18) and we have nothing to fear from it.The charge of idolatry against Islam appears to be seriously unfounded when we remember that no Muslims have ever made images or idols of Muhammad as so many millions of Christians have done with Mary, Jesus, apostles and saints. Just walk around the cathedrals of Europe and see how infected Christian history is with images and icons, yet Muslims refrain from calling us idolaters. As Islam has kept itself free from the temptation to fashion similar images and idols of its own, it appears to be considerably presumptuous to accuse it of idolatry.Brethren, "bear with my word of exhortation" (Hebrews 13.22). I do not want to come across too harshly, but I am deeply concerned for the future of Muslim evangelism in this country and the spirit of our approach which must always be motivated by love.6. THE HALAAL SYMBOL - TOKEN OF A SACRIFICE?Nowhere has the spirit of anti-Islamic militancy manifested itself more strongly than in the recent campaign against the Halaal symbol on many of our food products. In principle this symbol simply informs the Muslim public that the food is fit for consumption in terms of Islamic law. The very word halaal in Arabic simply means "loosed", that is, that it is free from the restrictions that apply to haraam ("forbidden") food products. These are defined in the Qur'an as "carrion, blood, the flesh of swine and that over which any name other than Allah's has been invoked" (Surah 5.4). The passage goes on to say "Eat what is caught for you, but pronounce the name of Allah over it" (Surah 5.5). Thus any animal or poultry product with the traditional Halaal symbol on it is lawful for Muslims as it indicates that it was properly slaughtered, the blood has been drained out of it, and the tasmiyah-takbir (Bismillah Allahu-Akbar - "In the name of God, God is Most Great") has been pronounced over it. The symbol stands solely for the benefit of the Muslim public, it is never applied as a means of gaining an advantage over adherents of other faiths or to bind them to Islamic rites as some have suggested.The presence of the Halaal mark on other products (such as margarine and potato chips) is a sign to the Muslims that no forbidden substances, such as pig-fat, have been used in their composition. Indeed the Qur'an has a general exhortation to all mankind (an-naas) to eat of that which is in the earth that is "lawful and good" (halaalaan-tayyibaan ) - the word halaal here being used purely in a relative sense without any deliberate reference to the application of the name of Allah over the product, yet even where it is used in this latter sense it is really no different to the Jewish concept of kosher foods and substances.In Old Testament times there were similar restrictions on food products, some of them being the same as those the Qur'an mentions, namely the prohibition on the flesh of swine (Leviticus 11.7) and blood (Leviticus 7.26). Jesus declared all foods clean (Mark 7.19), a decree which was later impressed on Simon Peter in a vision (Acts 10.9-16), yet even then some of the leaders of the early Church at Jerusalem still exhorted the Gentile believers to "abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity" (Acts 15.29). In the context of the old covenant prohibitions on certain foods the Christian cannot object to the motive and principle behind the halaal laws of Islam. In a spirit of genuine Christian liberty we should not object to the Muslim's scruples at this point as they relate solely to the question of hygienic laws in Islam which are similar to those of Old Testament Judaism. There is no reason why we should be troubled at this point."Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat and no better off if we do" (1 Corinthians 8.8). The Christian should be concerned about far more important things in this new covenant age than scruples about food and drink. "I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself ... For the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14.14,17). Elsewhere Paul reproves certain Christians for their immaturity in having scruples ("do not handle, do not taste, do not touch") about foods "which all perish as they are used" (Colossians 2.22).The very existence of a Christian campaign against Muslim scruples about food products is in the circumstances highly questionable on the grounds of New Testament teaching about Christian liberty and maturity, yet the actual nature of the campaign against the Halaal symbol itself can be challenged on a number of other grounds. It is defined by Ds. Zevenster in his pamphlet Halaal and the Christian as follows: "The Halaal sign tells us that Halaal foods have been consecrated to a strange god. Therefore, as Christians, we should not eat these foods". He also speaks of Halaal foods as having been consecrated "to an idol". In a public lecture recorded on tape he went on to say "Halaal kos is gekoppel aan afgode - laat hom staan" (Halaal food is linked to idols - leave it alone) and constantly spoke of such foods as "afgodskos" (food sacrificed to idols) which had been offered to the "false god Allah".We have already shown that the charge of idolatry against Islam is based on false premises, yet here we must also disown the suggestion that Halaal foods have been offered in sacrifice. This claim has no foundation in Islamic law or history. There is only one prescribed sacrifice in Islam, the qurbani sacrifice at the end of the Eid al-Adha festival in remembrance of Abraham's willingness to give his son to God. On this occasion the food of the animals sacrificed is simply distributed to the poor and it is purely an act of commemoration without any sense of a prior consecration to Allah. The Halaal symbol on a food product is purely an indication that it is fit for Muslim consumption as its preparation has been in compliance with the hygienic laws of the Qur'an which we have already mentioned. In no way whatsoever is the Halaal mark on such a product a sign that it has been sacrificed, least of all to an idol or false god.Why, then, are such suggestions so vigorously pursued by certain Christians? One can only presume that the motive is one of pure anti-Islamic opportunism. Once it is conceded that Halaal in Islam is very much the same as the Kosher principle of Judaism, one can hardly raise any real objections to it. Once it is distorted, however, into the claim that it represents food sacrificed to an idol, then the antagonist creates a cause of offence. There are texts in the New Testament which speak out against the eating of foods so sacrificed to idols (Revelation 2.14, 2.20) and in his first letter to the Corinthians Paul gives circumstances under which such foods should not be eaten. These texts are then brought forth as proofs that Christians should not eat Halaal foods and should also campaign against the Muslim practice by which these are produced.Even here, however, the argument has been taken too far. The New Testament does not outlaw the consumption of foods sacrificed to idols altogether and in the references from Paul's letter we can see that it was only in two cases that the Apostle cautioned against the consumption of such foods, namely where a weaker brother might be offended by thinking that there really was something in the idol to whom it had been offered (1 Corinthians 8.7) and where a pagan worshipper himself might have his conscience disturbed if he saw a Christian eating such foods which had been ritually consecrated to an idol (1 Corinthians 10.28-29). On both occasions, however, Paul showed that it was only for the sake of the consciences of weaker brethren and pagans that the Christian should abstain, not because there was anything wrong in principle with the practice itself of eating such foods."Eat whatever is set before you", Paul said, "without raising any question on the grounds of conscience" (1 Corinthians 10.27) and he added that "a man of knowledge" (that is, a mature Christian with a correct perspective on Christian liberty in this matter - 1 Corinthians 8.10) could freely eat foods that pagans had sacrificed because their idols, in any event, had no real existence and the food could not therefore be affected in any way (1 Cor. 8.4).There is, therefore, nothing wrong in principle with eating food sacrificed to idols - the exceptions applying solely to consideration for the weak consciences of others - and all food created by God is good and to be received with thanksgiving, consecrated in our case by the word of God and prayer (1 Timothy 4.3-5).It is obvious that the anti-halaal campaign is based on extremely weak arguments. It not only requires a crude distortion of Islamic teaching on the subject but also a misrepresentation of Biblical principles to assert itself. Christianity does not need to degrade the beliefs of others to maintain itself. We really need to show consistency and sustain a truthful attitude towards Islam at this point - nothing can be gained from pure revulsion.7. MILITANCY OR LOVE? - THE SPIRIT OF OUR RESPONSE.During his public lecture on the Halaal symbol Ds. Zevenster complained that the Muslim influence in our society was a gevaar (danger), a bedreiging (threat) and an attempt to intimideer ons (intimidate us). These expressions are the language of fear, a natural reaction when someone feels his vested interests are being threatened. Should Christians react to Islam out of fear or should they not rather give themselves to the task of winning Muslims for Christ? As we have seen the latter course can only be achieved if it is motivated by love for the Muslims, what Paul called the "still more excellent way". As another apostle put it, "there is no room for fear in love" (1 John 4.18). We need to reach out to the Muslims, we must resist the temptation to lash out at them.Can Islam ultimately do anything to threaten the existence of the Church or prevent its ultimate triumph? When Jesus Christ died and rose again, did the battle end or was it just beginning? Is the outcome of his redeeming work dependent on our efforts and sweat or was it guaranteed by his resurrection?The New Testament plainly shows that the final victory over sin, death and all the powers of the devil was gained at the cross (Colossians 2.13-15). When Christians set about witnessing to the world and preach the Gospel they are not fighting a battle for God whose outcome will depend on the intensity of their efforts. They are merely seeking the spoils of victory. Every convert is yet another proof of Christ's invasion of the devil's realm and a sign of the ultimate fate of the powers of evil - they are destined to destruction when Jesus returns again, when the kingdoms of this world will "become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Revelation 11.15).It is so often said that the Church must engage in the work of mission, but here too it would seem more appropriate to consider it as the outworking of mission - the gathering in of the people of God whose destiny was assured at the cross. Jesus said "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6.44) which shows that the success of Christian mission depends not on our efforts but upon God's call. In full confidence, however, Jesus could say "All that the Father gives me will come to me ... and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me but raise it up at the last day" (John 6.37,39). He could also say, as he faced the cross, "Of those whom thou gavest me I have lost none" (John 18.9). When he hung on the cross he had no uncertainty about the outcome of his saving work - he knew the Father would certainly draw to him all that he had given him and that they would be raised to glory at the Last Day. When he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand; he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied. Isaiah 53.10-11. The conversion of Saul, later to be called the Apostle Paul, is a fine example of this fact. If ever the devil had a volunteer to destroy the whole Christian Church and wipe it out, it was Saul of Tarsus. One could say he was the General of Satan's army. He instigated such a great persecution against the early Church in Jerusalem that all the believers were scattered except the apostles. "Saul laid waste the Church" (Acts 8.3) and, determined to destroy it, he made his way to Damascus. Suddenly Jesus appeared to him in a glorious vision and appointed him to be his Apostle to the whole Gentile world.The question might well be asked - could Saul have resisted the call of Jesus to become the Apostle Paul, the General of the Lord's army? However one might reply, Paul himself said "He set me apart before I was born, he called me through his grace, and he was pleased to reveal his Son in me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles" (Galatians 1.15). The Apostle's response was simply "I found myself caught up in God's purposes for me".The key question, however, is - could the devil have resisted the call of Jesus? It is almost as if the two armies spoken of in Revelation 19.19 were standing opposite each other, and the king of the one, Jesus, went to the ruler of the other, Satan, and said "Who is the leading soldier in your ranks?" After Saul had been pointed out to him, Jesus, so it appears, simply said "Thank you, I will have him for myself"! What could the devil do to stop him? When Ananias complained to the Lord that Saul was known to be the archenemy of the Church, Jesus simply said to him "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine" (Acts 9.15). I have caIled him, he said, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.So today th
     
  15. Christina

    Christina New Member

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    This is such a perversion of the word This is the one world religion trash of Antichrist
     
  16. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    This is such a perversion of the word This is the one world religion trash of Antichrist
    Dear Kriss, Please, understand that I feel quite attacked and targeted right now. This article I here have presented is not a promotion of any "one world religion". I am simply asserting that we must love.I have said what I have to say, and I do not wish to say anything I may regret. I won't speak in anger. I will leave it to the reader for now. I hope the Light of the Truth, and the Love of Christ will become obvious to everyone.
     
  17. Christina

    Christina New Member

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    Just a few quotes from this Satanic ArticleThere is, therefore, nothing wrong in principle with eating food sacrificed to idols - the exceptions applying solely to consideration for the weak consciences of others name Yahweh was used solely in an old covenant context and the New Testament plainly states that the old covenant has become "obsolete" (Hebrews 8.13) and that it has been entirely "abolished" (Hebrews 10.9). For this reason one never finds the name Yahweh in the New Testament - it was relevant only to the people of Israel in old covenant times.The difference between the Biblical and Qur'anic doctrines of God comes in our respective concepts of these attributes, it is not a question of actual identity. To Christians the statement that God is the Forgiver (al-Ghaffur) would mean that he reconciled us to himself in Christ and forgave us our sins on account of the redeeming work done on the cross. To the Muslim the title simply means that he can (and will) forgive simply as he chooses. Neither of us deny that God is forgiving, the issue is how that forgiveness is exercised and to whom it will be applied. The same can be said for all the other titles.The issue is not one of identity but purely one of a distinction of concepts. Sure we will deny that the fulness of God's character is in Islam
     
  18. Christina

    Christina New Member

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    (Biblical Tetragramaton;19440)
    Dear Kriss, Please, understand that I feel quite attacked and targeted right now. This article I here have presented is not a promotion of any "one world religion". I am simply asserting that we must love.I have said what I have to say, and I do not wish to say anything I may regret. I won't speak in anger. I will leave it to the reader for now. I hope the Light of the Truth, and the Love of Christ will become obvious to everyone.
    thats exactly what this article is if you were not so blind you would see that. I do not mean to attack you but I will never allow this thinking to part of Christain Bible study it is what we are warned about.
     
  19. Tyrel

    Tyrel New Member

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    (kriss;19441)
    Just a few quotes from this Satanic ArticleThere is, therefore, nothing wrong in principle with eating food sacrificed to idols - the exceptions applying solely to consideration for the weak consciences of others
    1 Corinthians 8(kriss;19441)
    name Yahweh was used solely in an old covenant context and the New Testament plainly states that the old covenant has become "obsolete" (Hebrews 8.13) and that it has been entirely "abolished" (Hebrews 10.9). For this reason one never finds the name Yahweh in the New Testament - it was relevant only to the people of Israel in old covenant times.
    Well, I disagree with that very much. It is a theory, but it doesn't work. YHWH means "I AM" and while it is not "his name" in a mystical sense, for he is far above having a name from any language, it does perfectly fit as his 'Name'. He Is. That is the meaning. That didn't go away in the new Testament. It's simply that the New Testament didn't have to divulge with a gentile audience, and couldn't, due to the restrictions of the Greek language. In any case, I fully agree with you on this one Kriss. I disagree with him on that point. I would debate it with him gladly. However, a Christian having a view which is not necessarily true, does not mean they aren't a true Christian.(kriss;19441)
    The difference between the Biblical and Qur'anic doctrines of God comes in our respective concepts of these attributes, it is not a question of actual identity. To Christians the statement that God is the Forgiver (al-Ghaffur) would mean that he reconciled us to himself in Christ and forgave us our sins on account of the redeeming work done on the cross. To the Muslim the title simply means that he can (and will) forgive simply as he chooses. Neither of us deny that God is forgiving, the issue is how that forgiveness is exercised and to whom it will be applied. The same can be said for all the other titles.The issue is not one of identity but purely one of a distinction of concepts. Sure we will deny that the fulness of God's character is in Islam
    I agree with that. Simply put, I am in accord. Just as the Pharisitic concept of God wasn't necessarily the same as that of the early Church, even though they were observing the same God, that of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The concepts are what distinguish us. However, you already knew this was my position.Nit pick away. That's not a taunt, it's an invitation. You already made me recognize that I disagreed with part of what he said, please feel free to enlighten me again.However, don't loose track of the point in all of this. The main point.In love, Tyrel.
     
  20. Christina

    Christina New Member

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    He, like the majority of Muslim scholars of his time, considered Jihad to be a compulsory obligation in terms of the Qur'anic injunction "Fighting is prescribed for you, though it is distasteful to you" (Surah 2.216). Other Qur'anic texts quoted by him in support of the principle that Jihad meant actual warfare are:When you meet the disbelievers, smite their necks till you have fully subdued them. Surah 47.4When the sacred months are past, slay the polytheists (al-mushrikiin - "the associaters") wherever you find them. Surah 9.5Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you, but do not transgress proper limits, verily Allah does not love such transgressors. Surah 2.190 Now this guy concludes that Muslims have changed their minds about what Jihad means that is an out an out lie Jihad has always had two meaning a spiritual one and a physical one he has no evidence to back him up in fact the evidence is the opisite he only has a opinion and its wrongOnce Allah is declared to be another God or, worse still, a "false god", it becomes easy to revile him and assail his character. Schlink claims:Even this person admits that if allah is not our God we should revile himOn the one hand, Mohammed's Allah is identified with the black stone of the Kaaba. A stone is cold, soulless. This is often the nature of pagan gods: they are rigid and lifeless. (Schlink, Allah or the God of the Bible?, p.15) It is entirely wrong to identify Allah with the black stone in the Ka'aba as though this were an idolatrous representation of the Islamic deity. The black stone in Islam is believed to be an object which Allah sent down as the cornerstone of the Ka'aba which, Islamic tradition suggests, was originally crystal clear but became pitch-black through taking the sins of the Muslims who kiss it. It goes on to say they dont do this thats a lie he just said they did and Ive seen news clips thats exactly what they do.
     
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