Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Answering Islam 6: What Are the Main Differences between Islam and Christianity?

Here's Episode 6 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "What are the main differences between Islam and Christianity?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.

Here's the full text of the video:

What Are the Main Differences between Islam and Christianity?

Christians and Muslims agree on a number of issues. We agree that there is one God—all-powerful, all-knowing, and merciful. We agree that God has sent messengers into the world, and that people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David were mighty prophets. Concerning Jesus, we agree that he was born of a virgin, that he performed miracles, and that he is the Messiah.

But there are some fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity, and we can break these differences down into three categories: theology, ethics, and evidence.

Let’s start with theology. According to the Bible, God is a Trinity. The Bible calls the Father “God”; it calls Jesus “God”; and it calls the Holy Spirit “God.” And yet the Bible consistently affirms that there’s only one God. This is the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity. The Qur’an declares that Allah is not a Trinity and that anyone who calls Allah a Trinity is a blasphemer.

In both the Old and New Testaments, believers (Jews and Christians) refer to God as their Father in heaven. The Qur’an repeatedly declares that Allah is a father to no one. This is why you don’t hear Muslims calling God “Father.” The highest relationship you can have with Allah, according to the Qur’an, is a slave to master relationship.

The Bible says that God loves everyone. The Qur’an says that Allah doesn’t love unbelievers; he doesn’t love the proud; he doesn’t love ungrateful sinners; he doesn’t love those who exceed his limits; he doesn’t love the extravagant; he doesn’t love mischief-makers. Allah doesn't love most people.

And this difference in God’s love leads to another important theological disagreement between Christians and Muslims. In Christianity, God loves us so much that he enters the world as Jesus of Nazareth to become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. When Muslims hear this, it makes no sense to them, because they have no concept of a God who loves people enough to do something like that.

Allah’s deficient love leads to the second category of disagreement between Christianity and Islam: the ethical disagreements.

Jesus commanded his followers: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Notice, as Christians, we have to love others. Why? Because God loves them. But as we’ve seen, Allah doesn’t love unbelievers. So the command in Islam is not, “Love your enemies”; it’s “Fight those who do not believe in Allah.”

The emphasis on love in Christianity affects all our relationships. In Ephesians 5:25, the Apostle Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Jesus was crucified for the church, and Paul tells husbands to love our wives the same way. In Christianity, husbands are supposed to love our wives so much that we should be ready to be crucified for them. In Islam, Allah says that you can beat your wife into submission. Very different attitude towards wives, and this ultimately goes back to differences in God’s love in Christianity and Islam.

The third category is evidence. In Christianity, we have good evidence for what we believe. I grew up as an atheist. I started studying Christianity because I wanted to refute a Christian I knew. I understood from reading and discussions that the Apostles based their faith on Jesus’ resurrection, so I started studying the resurrection, in order to prove that Christianity was false. What I found was that every shred of evidence we have tells us that Jesus died by crucifixion. We know this from ancient Christian writers, ancient Jewish writers, and ancient Roman writers. And every shred of evidence we have tells us that Jesus was alive again later. He appeared to more than 500 people at one time. The historical facts just can’t be explained without a miracle.

But Jesus’ resurrection takes us even further. If Jesus was raised from the dead, he must have God’s stamp of approval. God confirmed Jesus’ message by raising him from the dead. So now we have to believe what Jesus claimed about himself, and Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God who came into the world to die on the cross for the sins of others. I realized this as an atheist. I realized that if I wanted to go where the evidence pointed, I had to believe what Jesus said.

Islam just doesn’t have anything like this. The main argument offered by the Qur’an is that the Qur’an is so wonderfully written, it must come from God. And this is one of the strangest arguments ever offered by any religion. Even if the Qur’an were the most amazing book ever written, this wouldn’t make it the Word of God. It would just mean that the Qur’an had the best writer in history. But in fact, the Qur’an isn’t the most amazing book ever written. Far from it. Let me quote what the Iranian scholar Ali Dashti wrote in his book Twenty Three Years:
The Qur’an contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs inflected without observance of the concords of gender and number; illogically and ungrammatically applied pronouns which sometimes have no referent; and predicates which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Qur’an’s eloquence.
So the main argument of the Qur’an fails miserably, and other arguments for Islam are even worse. This means that there’s no good evidence for Islam, but we have very good evidence for Christianity. And since Christians have proof for what we believe, this confirms our theology and our ethics whenever our theology and ethics disagree with Islam.

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