Who Is The Real Jesus: The Jesus Of The Bible Or The Jesus Of The Qur’An?

November 26, 2007

From Dr. William Lane Craig and reasonablefaith.org.

“Jesus of Nazareth is the most influential person who ever lived.  Twenty centuries after his death, he continues to exert his power of fascination over the minds of thinking men and women.  Peter Jennings’ television special “In Search of Jesus” attracted some 16 million viewers across the country.  Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” grossed   million dollars.  Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code has been a runaway best seller, exceeding the 100 million mark in some 40 languages.  People obviously continue to be fascinated by Jesus.

But who is Jesus really?  Is he, as the Bible says, the divine Son of God?  Or was he merely a human prophet, as Muslims have been taught to believe?  Who is the real Jesus?

I propose to answer that question as a historian.  I shall look at the New Testament and the Qur’an as the historian looks at any other sources for ancient history.  I shall not treat them as inspired or holy books.  Accordingly, I shall not require them to be inerrant or infallible in order to be valuable historical sources.  By taking this historical approach, we prevent the discussion from degenerating into arguments over Bible difficulties or Qur’anic inconsistencies.  The question is not whether the sources are inerrant but whether they allow us to discover who the historical Jesus really was.

Now in order to determine who the historical Jesus really was, we need to have some objective criteria for assessing our sources.  Prof. John Meier, an eminent New Testament historian, lists the following four criteria: 1

1. Multiple, independent sources.  Events which are reported by independent, and especially early, sources are likely to be historical.

2. Dissimilarity.  If a saying or event is different from prior Judaism and also from later Christianity, then it probably doesn’t derive from either one and so belongs to the historical Jesus.

3. Embarrassment.  Sayings or events that would have been embarrassing or difficult for the Christian church are unlikely to have been invented and so are likely historical.

4. Rejection and execution.  Jesus’ crucifixion is so indisputably established as an anchor point in history that words and deeds of Jesus must be assessed in terms of their likelihood of leading to his execution as “King of the Jews.”  A bland Jesus who just preached monotheism would never have provoked such opposition.”

To read more click here.

Advertisements

Why Muslims Follow Jesus

November 18, 2007

From Jennifer Riley and Christian Post.

“The number of new Christians in the world each year surpasses that of new Muslims, with the major growth for Protestants coming through conversion.

And the experience that most influenced Muslims was the lifestyle of Christians, according to a recently released survey that offers a glimpse into why Muslims are opening their hearts to the Gospel and Jesus Christ.

The survey, conducted by Fuller Theological Seminary’s School of Intercultural Studies between 1991 to 2007 among 750 Muslims that had decided to follow Christ, was able to track some influences that helped the converts make their decision. The respondents were from 30 countries and 50 ethnic groups – representing every major region of the Muslim world.

According to the survey, some participants said that they saw no discrepancy between what Christians preached and what they practiced in their lives.

An Egyptian said he recognized the contrast between the love of a Christian group at an American university and the unloving ways of Muslim students and faculty at a university in Medina, according to an article on the survey featured in Christianity Today magazine.

Others noted that Christians treat women as equals and Christians have loving marriages.

“Many Muslims who faced violence at the hands of other Muslims did not see it in the Christians they knew…,” wrote the survey’s authors – Dr. J. Dudley Woodberry, Russell G. Shubin, and G. Marks – in Christianity Today. “Muslim-on-Muslim violence has led to considerable disillusionment for many Muslims….”

To read more click here.


In the Words of Jesus and Mohammed

November 17, 2007

From Raymond S. Kraft and familysecuritymatters.org.

“Islam has a problem.  That is, what we like to think of as peaceful, moderate, liberal Islam has a problem; one that won’t go away.  And that problem is Mohammed, the character of Mohammed, and the words of Mohammed, which are believed by Muslims to be the words of Allah, given by God to Gabriel, spoken by Gabriel to Mohammed, then recited by Mohammed, written down by various of his listeners, and over time, after the death of Mohammed, collected and compiled into what we now know as the Koran, the recitation by Mohammed of the words of Allah, the words of God.

The Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and the Christian Bible, the New Testament, except for a few passages that specifically quote God, such as the Ten Commandments, or the sayings of Jesus, is believed by Jews and Christians to be inspired by God, but not the literal words of God.  The Koran, however, is believed by devout Muslims to be the literal, inerrant, eternal, perfect, unchangeable words of Allah himself.

There are many Muslims who do see, and practice, Islam as a religion of peace, grace and mercy.  And there are clearly many others who do not.  Those who want Islam to be a religion of peace have a problem, a conflict, for they cannot follow the inerrant, eternal, unchangeable words of Allah, as recited by Mohammed, as written in the Koran, and also practice Islam as a religion of peace, justice, grace, and mercy, for the Koran demands eternal Jihad, never-ending war against the infidels, until Islam is victorious over all other religions, and all people submit to the supremacy of Islam.

To illustrate this, I will quote from the words of Jesus, and from the words of Mohammed.  And it does not matter whether you are a Zoroastrian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, a Jew, Christian, Muslim, or Atheist, the difference between the words of Jesus and the words of Mohammed is stark.

Nearing the end of his ministry, not long before his crucifixion, Jesus spoke of the judgment of the nations, The Gospel of Matthew 25:31-46, saying:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him.  And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place 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, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’

“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me

no clothing, ill and in prison and you did not care for me.

“Then they will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’

“He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’  And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

This is a very interesting quotation of Jesus’ words, as much for what he does not say, as for what he does.

Jesus does not say, “You followed the laws of Moses, you kept Shabat, you observed the festivals and holy days, and studied the prophets and the books of wisdom and the Talmud, and paid tithe, enter into the kingdom . . .”  Jesus does not say, “You believed in the Apostles Creed, or the Nicene Creed, you studied the Catechism, you went to mass faithfully and confession frequently, and performed all the acts of contrition required of you, enter into the kingdom . . .”  Jesus does not say, “You protested against the corrupted Papacy, and accepted Luther’s teaching of salvation by faith, and faith alone, you prayed every day for the forgiveness of your sins, and went to church every Sunday, enter into the kingdom . . .”

Jesus does not say, “You believed in the one true religion, the one true doctrine, the right creed, the right theology, you understood the mysteries of Daniel and the Revelation to John, you studied the great writings of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, and the lives of the many saints, enter into the kingdom . . .”  Jesus does not say, “You believed in the teachings of Joseph Smith, or Ellen G. White, or Mary Baker Eddy, or Billy Graham, enter into the kingdom . . .”

Jesus does not even say, “You believed in me, you accepted me, Jesus, as your personal Lord and Savior, enter into the kingdom . . .”

Jesus does not teach salvation by religion.  Jesus does not teach salvation by the observance of religious law, salvation by faith, salvation by belief, salvation by confession or penance or contrition, salvation by communion, or salvation by theology.  Jesus does not teach salvation by right thinking.  No, Jesus says, “You were kind.  You lived and acted with a spirit of charity.  You helped others who needed help, when you could, as you could.  You observed the Second Commandment, which is, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, and by following the Second Commandment, you also fulfilled the First Commandment, You shall love the Lord with all your heart (Matthew 22:37).  For what you have done to the least of these brothers of mine, you have done to me.  By loving them, you have loved me.”

This may have been in the mind of the Englishman of letters, commentary, and poems, Gilbert Keith Chesterton, who was an atheist as a young man, and later converted, became a Catholic and a prolific Christian apologist, when he wrote Gold Leaves, I quote in part:

“. . . In youth I sought the prince of men

Captain in cosmic wars

Our Titan, even the weeds would show

Defiant to the stars,

But now a great thing in the street

Seems any human nod

Where shift in strange democracy

The million masks of God . . .”

Then we turn to the words of Mohammed, near the end of his life, in Sura 9 of the Koran, Chapter 9, because Sura 9 is generally thought to be the last recitation of Mohammed, the last revelation of Allah to Mohammed recited and collected into the Koran.  And, under the doctrine of Abrogation, in which later revelations from Allah, through Mohammed, superseded, or replaced, supplanted, earlier revelations that were inconsistent with the latter, Sura 9 supersedes earlier recitations that called for greater tolerance.  Here, in what are often called the Sword Verses, Mohammed says:

“And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God, wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, beseige them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush; but if they shall convert, and observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then let them go

their way, for God is Gracious, Merciful.”

 Koran 9:5

“So make war on them: By your hands God will chastise them, and will put them to shame, and will give you victory over them, and will heal the bosoms of a people who believe.”

            Koran 9:14

“O Believers! – make not friends of your fathers or your brethren if they love unbelief above faith, and whoso of you shall make them his friends, will be wrong doers.”

            Koran 9:23

“Make war upon such of those to whom the Scriptures have been given as believe not in God, or in the last day, and who forbid not that which God and His Apostle have forbidden, and who profess not the profession of the Truth, until they pay tribute out of hand, and they be humbled.”

            Koran 9:28

“The Jews say, Ezra is a son of God; and the Christians say, The Messiah is a son of God.  Such the sayings in their mouths!  They resemble the sayings of the Infidels of old!  God do battle with them!  How are they misguided!”

Koran 9:29

The next quotation is, I believe, the key to understanding Jihadism, or traditional Islam, which believes that it has a mission, a manifest destiny, a divine right and duty, to wage war against the infidels until the world submits to the rule of Islam, for Allah through Mohammed prophecies:

“He it is who hath sent His Apostle with the Guidance and a religion of the Truth, that He may make it victorious over every other religion, albeit they who assign partners to God be averse from it.”

            Koran 9:33

“Believers! – wage war against such of the infidels as are your neighbors, and let them find you rigorous; and know that God is with those who fear him.”

            Koran 9:124

 

And there we see the distinction between the words of Jesus – treat even the least of these, my brothers, with kindness and charity – and the words of Mohammed – wage war against the infidels who do not believe in Islam, until Islam is victorious over every other religion.  Jesus, love your neighbor.  Mohammed, make never-ending war on your neighbor.  From Mohammed, salvation by religious belief and jihad.  From Jesus, salvation by love, kindness, and charity.

Recently, I wrote three Muslims, each with an advanced degree, each living in America, and each of whom had published articles extolling the virtues of liberal Islam.  I asked them how Islam could either ignore, or reinterpret, or explain away the Sword Verses of Sura 9.  One replied, again explaining the many virtues of Islam, but did not answer my question.  The other two did not reply.  I think they didn’t because those Muslims who want to be peaceful, moderate, liberal, and live in a diverse and multicultural world have not yet really grappled with this problem: the Sword Verses that require perpetual Jihad, until Islam is victorious over every other religion, in the eternal words of Allah as recited by Mohammed.

To the Muslim, Mohammed was the perfect man, just as to Christians, Jesus was the perfect man.

In The Psychology of Mohammed: Inside the Brain of a Prophet (2006) Dr. Masud Ansari writes of an event that may serve to illustrate the character of Mohammed.

“A group of eight Bedouin Arabs of the Uki tribe came to Medina and embraced Islam.  They stayed with the people of As-Suffa.  But the unpleasant climate of the city did not suit them; it ‘affected their spleen,’ so they went to Mohammed to seek help.  Mohammed recommended that they go into the desert in the neighborhood of al-Jammu and drink the milk and urine of his (Mohammed’s) milch-camels as medicine.  The Bedouins recovered their health despite following this repulsive advice.  Then, true to their Bedouin nature, they stole the herd and attempted to escape.  The herdsman, called Yasir, pursued the plunderers, but they killed him and took the camels away.

“When the news of this outrage reached Medina, Mohammed dispatched Kurz Ibn Jabir with twenty horsemen to capture Yasir’s killers.  They captured the robbers and recovered all the camels save one that he been slaughtered.  The captives, who justly deserved the death penalty

according to Arab tradition, were brought to Mohammed.  The brutal punishment that he inflicted upon them could only have been concocted by a dedicated sadist, not by a person who represented himself as a religious leader and the Messenger of God.  Mohammed ordered their arms and legs to be cut off, and their eyes gouged out.  Then, their mutilated, sightless trunks were impaled upon the plain of Al-Ghaba (where Mohammed chanced to camp), until they died.  Even more sinister and inhuman, according to Sahih al-Bukhari whose credibility is well regarded, when the mutilated and dying captives asked for water, they were not given any and they died thirsty.”

    ibid., pp. 193-194, with citations to Ibn Hisham, p. 998f; al-Tabari, 1:1559; Muhammed ibn Umar al-Waqidi, Kitab al-Maghaz,

    1966, p. 240f, quoted by William Muir, The Life of Mohammad, p. 350; Sahih al-Bukhari, 3:519-522.

So Mohammed, the perfect man, had eight Bedouins sadistically tortured to death by having them dismembered, their eyes gouged out, and impaled, and then refused their pleas for water as they died, thirsty, because they stole his camels.  And Jesus, the other perfect man, did not have any camels.  He was crucified, for challenging Jewish orthodoxy and the status and equanimity of the Pharisees whom he accused of hypocrisy.  He did not steal their camels.  And we are told that –

“When they came to the placed called the Skull, they crucified him and the criminals there, one on the right, the other on his left.  Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

            The Gospel of Luke 23:33

Islam cannot become a religion of peace until those Muslims who desire Islam to be a religion of peace are able to reinterpret, or ignore, or explain away, the Sword Verses that call for perpetual jihad against the infidels, never-ending war on all non-Muslims, until Islam is victorious over all other religions; and to reconcile the brutality of Mohammed with the idealization of Mohammed as “the perfect man,” and of Allah as Gracious, Merciful.”


FamilySecurityMatters.org contributing editor Raymond S. Kraft is an attorney and writer in Northern California. He can be contacted at rskraft@vfr.net.
read full author bio here


Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?

October 13, 2007

From Douglas Groothuis and Trueu.org.

“Muslims and Christians both worship one God, and many would argue that they are the same God. Are they?

Muslims and Christians: How to Get Along?

They both believe in one personal and transcendent God who has sent his prophets into the world. They both believe in sacred writings that record the prophetic revelations. They both believe that Jesus was a prophet who was sinless and born of a virgin. And they both worship with these beliefs firmly in place. We are speaking of Muslims and Christians, whose members comprise the two largest monotheistic religions in the world.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Americans have become fascinated with the beliefs and practices of Islam, which is the fastest growing religion in the world, with approximately 1.3 billion adherents. Increasingly, Muslims are immigrating to the West. In various American cities, it is not uncommon to find mosques — many of them newly built — and to see women in the traditional Muslim dress mingling with American women dressed quite differently.

Muslims and Christians comprise the two largest monotheistic religions in the world.

In light of this, many Westerners wonder what do Muslims believe and why. They also question the relationship between Islam and Christianity. Do Muslims and Christians worship the same God, but merely in different ways? Should Christians seek to present their beliefs to Muslims in the hope that the Muslim might forsake Islam and embrace Christianity? Or is this simply a waste of time at best or rude at worst?

Many instruct us to be “tolerant” and to refrain from “proselytizing” anyone. In the name of tolerance, some people say that Christians and Muslims should coexist without trying to convert (or otherwise challenge) each other because “Christians and Muslims worship the same God.” This, many believe, should be good enough for Muslims and Christians. Many also believe this arrangement is good enough for the God they both worship as well. If both religions worship the same God, why should they worry about each other’s spiritual state?

Religion, God and Truth

If indeed Muslims and Christians worship the same God, there would be little need for disagreement, dialogue, and debate between them. If I am satisfied to shop at one grocery store and you are satisfied to shop at another store, why should I try to convince you to shop at my store or vice versa? Do not both stores provide the food we need, even if each sells different brands? The analogy is tidy, but does it really fit?

Deeper questions need to be raised if we are to settle the question of whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God. First, what are the essential teachings of Christianity and Islam? Second, what does each religion teach about worshipping its God? Third, what does each religion teach about the other religion? That is, do the core teachings of Islam and Christianity assure their adherents that members of the other religion are fine as they are because both religions “worship the same God”?

In When Religion Becomes Evil (Harper. San Francisco, 2002), Charles Kimball argues that Christians and Muslims do indeed worship the same God. Kimball rightly observes that truth claims are foundational for religion. But he claims that believers err when they hold their religious beliefs in a “rigid” or “absolute” manner. So, he argues, when some Christians criticize the Islamic view of God (Allah) as deficient, they reveal their ignorance and bigotry. Kimball asserts that “there is simply no ambiguity here. Jews, Christians, and Muslims are talking about the same deity” (p. 50). This is because the Qur’an affirms that Allah inspired the Hebrew prophets and Jesus. Moreover, the Arabic word “Allah” means “God.” Are Professor Kimball and so many others who echo similar themes correct? In search of a reasonable answer, we will briefly consider the three questions from the last paragraph.

Christianity and Islam: The Claims, the Logic, and the Differences

First, what are the teachings that each religion takes to be absolutely true? Although Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, their views of God differ considerably. Islam denies that God is a Trinity — that one God eternally exists as three co-eternal and equal persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).1 Islam also rejects that God became a man in Jesus Christ (John 1:1-18).2 These doctrines are cornerstones of Christianity. But God cannot be both a Trinity (Christian) and not a Trinity (Islam). This is matter of simple logic; it has nothing to do with religious intolerance or being “rigid.”

Although Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, their views of God differ considerably.

For Christianity, humans are corrupted by an inherited sinful nature that cannot be overcome by any human means (Ephesians 2:1-10). But Islam denies that human have a deeply sinful human nature, claiming that we sin because we are merely weak and ignorant.3 Christianity teaches that salvation is secured only through faith in the achievements of Jesus Christ — his life, death, and resurrection (John 3:16-18). Islam, however, implores its followers to obey the laws of the Qur’an in the hopes that they will be found worthy of paradise.4 Since these two views contradict each other, both views cannot be true.

Second, how does each religion say worship should be offered to God? Muslims deem worship of the Trinity to be polytheistic and thus blasphemous. Worship of Jesus — whom they deem only human — is anathema. Yet these beliefs are essential for Christian worship. One must worship God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Worship requires assent to the truth of God (the Trinity), belief in the gospel, trust in Jesus Christ, and submission to God’s will. While Muslims emphasize submission to Allah (“Islam” means submission), they do not submit to the God revealed in the Bible. This exposes another irreconcilable difference between Islam and Christianity.

Third, what does each religion make of the other one? Muslims and Christians have historically tried to convert each other, since they both view adherents of other religions to be misguided. Islam seeks converts worldwide because it believes Allah is supreme over all and must be so recognized. Christians are commanded to take the gospel into all the nations and to baptize converts into the name of the triune God of the Bible (Matthew 28:18-20).

Neither Christianity nor Islam can logically endorse the other religion’s distinctive claims and practices without denying its own.

Much more needs to be discussed concerning Muslim and Christian relations in a religiously pluralistic world. However, we must conclude that despite their common monotheism, Islam and Christianity have very different views of God, worship, and mission. Therefore, it is unreasonable to claim that they worship the same God.


Notes

  1. See The Qur’an, Surah 112:1-4, which denies that God “begat” a son. Surah 4:171 commands Muslims to not say “three” with respect to God; see also Surah 5:73. However, the Qur’an claims that the Christian doctrine of Trinity affirms that it is comprised of the Father, the Son, and Mary (Surah 5:116). The Bible, however, never attributes deity to Mary. For more on how the Qur’an understands Jesus and the Trinity, see Chawkat Moucarry, The Prophet and the Messiah: An Arab Christian’s Perspective on Islam and Christianity (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 184-195. Back^
  2. See The Qur’an, Surah 5:115-18 where Jesus is reported to have denied his own deity; see also Surah 9:30-31. Back^
  3. See Harold Netland, Dissonant Voices: Religious Pluralism and the Question of Truth (Vancouver, BC: Regent University Press, 1997), 89-90. Back^
  4. See the Qur’an, Surah 36:54; see also Surah 82:19. Back^

About the author
Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D., is Professor of Philosophy at Denver Seminary where he directs the Philosophy of Religion Masters Degree program. He has authored ten books, including Unmasking the New Age, Truth Decay, On Jesus, and On Pascal, as well as many publications in academic journals and magazines. “


Attorney says Muslims’ demands part of a larger humanist plan

October 8, 2007

From Rusty Pugh and One News Now.

“An advocate for removing Christian children from the public schools says a situation in an Illinois school is the latest example of a long-running campaign by secular humanists aiming to remove any vestige of Christian belief from public schools.

Officials in some Oak Lawn, Illinois, schools are now considering eliminating holiday festivities — including Christmas — after a Muslim parent complained that the activities are offensive. This has ignited a firestorm of protests from other parents, outraged that long-held traditions were in danger of being axed in the name of political correctness. The tension was already high in Ridgeland School District 122, because certain items had been eliminated from the school cafeteria menu due to complaints from Muslims.

Bruce Shortt is an attorney and strong advocate for a public school exodus. He says the Oak Lawn developments are significant because they show the increased accommodation of Muslim demands in the country’s public schools. But he says there is much more to this story.

“I think it would be a mistake to look at it simply as a story about the impact of Islam on public schools. Our secular humanists in this country have been very effective in eliminating Christmas from schools across the nation,” he states.

Shortt says it is very naive to neglect the fact that Muslim and other anti-Christian demands are being accommodated, while every vestige of Christianity is being systematically removed from public schools and from the public square.”


The Sword will not Separate

September 28, 2007

From christianitytoday.com.

From the left side, Noviana Malewa may look like any other 15-year-old girl. In her eyes you see a sadness and a strength much too deep for any girl her age.

In October 2005, Noviana and three other teenagers were taking a small footpath on the way to their Christian high school near Poso, Indonesia. Suddenly, from out of the jungle, sprang six masked men in all black, wielding machetes. Noviana fought bravely, but was struck across the side of her face and neck with a machete. She fell to the ground and rolled down into a ravine. Above, she heard her friends screaming. Just when she was about to lose hope, a van of soldiers appeared and took her to a hospital.

Noviana was the only survivor that day. After the attack, she was hidden in a Christian village and guarded by police because her testimony was needed in court. The radical Muslims who had killed her friends were still looking for her. It was even too dangerous for her to attempt a hospital visit.

After months of negotiation to guarantee her safety, VOMedical was finally able to arrange transportation to a hospital in Surabaya, Indonesia. While in hiding VOMedical will continue follow-up treatment.


Picture of the Week

September 12, 2007

From ReligionofPeace.com

Islamist_parade2_005
Muslims in New York do a victory lap around Ground Zero.