Monday, July 27, 2015

Religious Myths – Titus 1:12-14

One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, "Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons." This testimony is true. For this cause reprove them severely that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. (NASB)

True or False?

Paul expands on a very interesting paradox as he quotes Epimenides from the 6th century BC. Paul takes one line from a hymn to Zeus.

They fashioned a tomb for thee, O holy and high one
The Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies!
But thou art not dead: thou livest and abidest forever,
For in thee we live and move and have our being.
— Epimenides, Cretica

Apparently, the Cretans built a tomb for Zeus and declared that he was dead, which is what prompted Epimenides to call them all liars, as he believed that Zeus was immortal. However, since Epimenides was also a Cretan and if it is true that all Cretans were liars, then he too was a liar, which means that his statement was false. That is the paradox. Paul takes it one step farther and says that what Epimenides said about Cretans is true. Logically this can’t stand so there must be some other reason that Paul affirms the truth of Cretans being liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons. Perhaps, he was pointing out how ridiculous were the teachers who were disturbing people with Jewish myths and turning them away from the truth. Relating the worship of Zeus with a tomb for Zeus is in contrast to the fact that Jesus’ tomb is empty. He is alive forever and it is only through Jesus that we have eternal life, our being and not through Zeus.

Do not lie to one another, seeing that  you have put off  the old self with its practices and  have put on  the new self,  which is being renewed in knowledge  after the image of  its creator.  (Col 3:9-10 ESV)

Paul’s command to the Colossians to stop lying and be renewed in the knowledge of our Creator is a good backdrop for understanding why he would single out the Cretans who were obviously lying about the way of salvation. It is possible that these Cretans were dispersed Jews or Jewish converts who were in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost and became believers (Acts 2:11). However, without proper teaching they still relied on the Jewish customs for their salvation rather than Jesus. This isn’t uncommon even today. Some people hear about being saved by Jesus but never grow in their faith. Instead of studying the Bible and understanding it, they rely on human teachers and become prey for cults who talk about Jesus but insist that they have to belong to their church and perform according to their standards to be saved.

Jewish Myths

From the time when the last book of the Old Testament was written and the arrival of Jesus, many books were written. Some have seen these as of divine origin and believe them to be as authoritative as Scripture. Some of these are included in the Apocrypha. It is quite likely that Paul was referring to some of these writing when he denounced Jewish myths. The original meaning of apocrypha is “things hidden.” The writings and interpretation of them was theoretically understood only by an inner circle. Many of these writings had the character of being what we now call apocalyptic which relates to their predictive nature. They predicted the coming of the Messiah and the end of all things with the God’s kingdom reigning.[1] These stories fed the excitement that Jesus generated but they were not biblical. Many Jew continued to look for a Messiah because these mystical books led them astray and even continue to do so today through such things esoteric teaching as Kabbalah.

Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. (2 Cor 4:2-3 NIV)

Since many of these Jewish myths were esoteric, it required a person in the know to explain them to people. This made it easy for false prophets to deceive and proclaim another gospel. In contrast, when Paul preached the Gospel, he was careful not to distort the Word of God and add other sources. Today, the Gospel is the truth, it is printed, it is readily available for anyone to read, and has been translated into many languages. There are no codes in the Bible that only a select few are able to understand. However, we still must recognize that until God opens a person’s heart to understand and accept the Gospel, it is still veiled to them (2 Cor 4:3).

If you look up Jewish Mythology on the internet, you will most likely be led to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_mythology. There you will find that whoever wrote this article classified all of the Old Testament under the category of mythology. While there are some accurate references, it leads a reader to believe that God was more or less invented by the prophets in opposition to other Near Eastern religions. Creation and the flood are in particularly expressed as myths. Christianity and Islam are said to have inherited these myths. Why do you think that this is the case? Why do people who want to distort or deny God and Christianity always single out creation and often the flood?

Modern Myths

For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:5-7 NKJV)

Peter remarked that scoffers would come in the last days denying Jesus’ return because everything is continuing as it has in the past (2 Peter 3:3-4). Note that he says they willfully forget. They know the truth but they don’t want to hear it. They don’t want to acknowledge that God created everything and that he judged the world with a flood. The reason they don’t want to accept this is that it means they can reject the conclusion that God will again judge the world and ungodly people. Turning aside from the biblical account of creation is not based on scientific evidence but on a desire to rationalize ungodly behavior and accountability to God. Consider the following quote from Richard Lewontin, Professor of Zoology at Harvard University:

Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.[2]

Materialism as used in this quote is not the desire to acquire more and more things, although that is one definition. The Encarta Dictionary defines materialism as “the philosophical theory that physical matter is the only reality and that psychological states such as emotions, reason, thought, and desire will eventually be explained as physical functions.” Based on this philosophy, God is eliminated from any explanation of existence and replaced by evolution. He is eliminated from any moral decisions that a person may make because even thinking is only a result of natural, chemical reactions inside a mass of protoplasm called a brain. Natural selection has randomly allowed the human race to acquire the structure of a brain that has determined that murder is wrong along with other moral constraints. As our brains continue to evolve, outmoded morality is eliminated and new morality that will enable those with the best (according to nature) morality to reproduce and flourish while those without that new moral code will slowly become extinct. Under this philosophy, the outmoded morality that has suppressed homosexuality is disappearing and homosexuality will be universally accepted. Tell me how that will help mankind to flourish.

The house of the wicked will be destroyed, But the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Prov 14:11-12 NASU)

However, when we add God to the equation, the outcome is significantly different. Man’s thinking process may lead him to believe something is right but if it doesn’t agree with God’s way, it only results in death. The scoffers that Peter talks about and those that Paul describes are wicked according to God’s Word. Just the opposite of the materialistic philosophy happens when God is considered. Those who flourish are not determined by the random chemical processes in nature. They flourish because they are in a right standing with God and His laws. This is the message that God has been delivering from the beginning of creation.
While we may see the wicked prosper for a short time and righteous people killed, we must remember that this life is not all there is. Our ultimate home is not of this world and the number of the righteous who will attain to heaven’s glory will be more than we can comprehend (Rev 7:9). The end of the wicked is death, but it is not oblivion as the materialistic myth proposes. It is eternal punishment (Rev 20:14-15). There is only one reason that we will be among those who will worship God forever and not punished.

For you [Jesus] were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth. (NLT Rev 5:9b-10)

The way to turn us from myths is to tell the truth about Jesus and the need to accept His life-giving death on the cross for our sins. We need to repent of our sins, including following myths, and obey Him. Live for eternity with God and not the materialistic now (it does not promise a future after death anyway).


[1] International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, electronic database, s.v. “Apocrypha,” ed. James Orr (Seattle: Biblesoft, 2006).
[2] Richard C. Lewontin, “Billions and Billions of Demons,” The New York Review of Books, January 9, 1977, accessed July 23, 2015, http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1997/jan/09/billions-and-billions-of-demons/.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Silencing Heresies – Titus 1:10-11

For there are many rebellious people, mere talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision group. They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach — and that for the sake of dishonest gain. (NIV)
Talkers and Deceivers
The previous blog in this series talked of rebellion but this now addresses rebels within the church (heretics), how to recognize them and deal with them.

Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18 RSV)

Some rebels do little more than talk. They aren’t the kind that will get their hands dirty. Instead, they have lofty words and ideas but don’t put them into practice by outright rebellion. With words, they are able to instigate others. They may claim to expound a loving way of life but their own deeds reveal that that they have different motives. Paul encountered the same kind of people often in his ministry. In Corinth, he called them, “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor 11:13 NASB). He warned the Ephesians that wolves would be among them speaking twisted things so that they would get their own disciples (Acts20:29-30).

Paul warned that they must be silenced because they were upsetting whole families and that their motive was monetary. It’s usually easy to find these if we’re willing to look at outward signs. The first thing to look for is empty talk. If they write books, preach in a church, or write blogs, then examine their teaching. One way of determining if their talk is empty is to see how often they quote the Bible. However, simply quoting the Bible isn’t enough because Satan quoted it out of context (Matt 4:1-11). Does it line up with the rest of the Scriptures? Empty talkers will pick a subject, determine what they believe is right, and then look for verses that back them up. It makes them sound good, but one who wants to correctly handle the Word of God (2 Tim 2:15) must go first to the Bible to find out what it says and then conform his thoughts to it. When they write or preach, do they affirm salvation through Jesus or do they neglect to mention the exclusive claim of Christianity that salvation comes only through Jesus (John 14:6)? Do they talk about Jesus but fail to mention His deity (Rev 22:3) and atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:1-2)? No wonder their talking upsets families when they distort the truth of Christ.

Certainly, writing books and being paid when millions of people buy them is not dishonest gain. Neither is being well paid for being the head of a large church, which is a huge spiritual and fiscal responsibility. However, another way of determining if a person is an empty talker is to look at their lifestyle. How do they use the money they get either from their books or from their preaching and teaching? Do they live in multimillion dollar mansions or do they give most of their money away? Of course, it is their money to do with what they want so I need to be careful not to judge them. After all, the Word doesn’t say Christians should give significant amounts of their income, but to give what they have decided and without compulsion (2 Cor 9:6-7). Who am I to say what they should do with their money? On the other hand, the love of money corrupts and helps us to forget the Lord (Prov 30:8-9, 1 Tim 6:6-10). A very convicting thought about money and love is the comparison between Jesus’ sacrifice for us and our use of our resources. “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him” (1 John 3:16-18 NASB)? Personally, I would be very wary of any religious leader that lives an extravagant lifestyle.

Circumcision Group
For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. (Phil 3:3 ESV)

In direct opposition to the Jerusalem Council’s determination (Acts 15:1-35), some people were still teaching that a person cannot be saved unless he is circumcised (Acts 15:1). At this time, Christianity was seen as a Jewish sect that was welcoming Gentiles. In the Jewish custom and command of the Old Testament, a male must be circumcised to be accepted as a Jewish convert. It started with the Abrahamic covenant (Gen 17:10), included converts (Ex 12:48), and was part of the Law of Moses (John 7:22-23). The Jerusalem Council decided that since the Holy Spirit had been given to Gentiles without any adherence to the Law of Moses, but only by hearing the gospel and believing (they were saved by grace), then no legalistic restrictions should be placed on them (Acts 15:6-11). Rather they were given instruction to live holy lives once saved (Acts 15:28-29).

Circumcision was not an isolated custom for Jews. Other ancient Near Eastern civilizations also had the practice. The implication of Jeremiah 9:25-26 is that Egypt, Judah, Edom, Ammon, and Moab all followed the custom. God included Judah in the list because he said that they were all circumcised in the flesh but uncircumcised in their hearts. God also made it clear in Jeremiah 4:4 that circumcision was truly meant to be a sign of a heart attitude toward him. Paul had this good biblical background when he declared that anyone who believes in Jesus and is saved by His blood is a true worshiper of God and is truly circumcised but not physically (Col 2:11-13).

What is so wrong with adding the need of circumcision to the requirement to believe in Jesus for salvation? Let’s first of all, make sure that we aren’t limiting this to the problem of Paul’s day. Circumcision isn’t the problem; it is adding this or any other human accomplishment to Christ’s death on the cross in order to be saved. The Galatians had the same problem. People were coming and telling them that they had to adhere to the Mosaic Law in order to be saved as well as believe in Jesus. Paul answered, “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing" (Gal 2:21 NIV )! The point is that simple. If by being baptized, whether as an infant or an adult, saves me, then why did Christ have to die? If I give all I have to the poor, pray every day, go to church every week, and do every good deed possible in order to gain my salvation, then why did Jesus have to die? No one on this earth can legitimately claim that he has never sinned (Rom 3:23). In James 2:10, James clearly conveys the concepts that if anyone tries to win salvation by being perfect (keeping the law), he will eventually fail in at least one point. In God’s eyes, that is just as guilty as if he had failed at all points. Therefore, keeping a set of regulations or doing all sorts of good deeds can never make up for even one sin. Adding anything to believing in Jesus also means that Jesus’ death on the cross was not sufficient to gain our salvation.

But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. (1 Cor 1:27-29 RSV)

What did God chose that shames wise, strong, influential people? All these have reasons to boast. They are the ones that sing songs like, “I did it my way.” They are the ones that are like the Pharisee who went to pray and thanked God that he wasn’t like other sinful people. He went on to list all the good things he did (Luke 18:10-12). He was boasting before God. Surely, he believed that he was justified by his moral goodness to stand in the presence of the perfect, holy, God. Jesus clearly condemned him (Luke 18:14). Getting back to Paul, he says that God chose what was foolish. Did that Pharisee realize that he was born at that time, place, and into the family that allowed him become a Pharisee or did he think all these circumstances of life were his choice or based on his merit? Anyone who depends on his own merits instead of Jesus Christ for his salvation is a member of the circumcision group.

Silenced
How do you silence those who have different opinions about these things? Christians have not always been noble in their attempts to silence heretics and false prophets. In the earlier years, after the Apostles, excommunication was often used. However, it was ineffective as demonstrated by the Council of Ephesus in 431. Bishops from Antioch and Constantinople disagreed so much about the nature of Christ that they would not meet together and then excommunicated each other.[1] Later in church history, it became even worse; during the Inquisition heretics were murdered, property sized, or banished.[2] Later, Protestants were not any better in silencing heretics; John Calvin cooperated with the execution of Michael Servetus in 1553.[3] Fortunately, within Protestant Christianity, these methods of silencing heretics are not practiced anymore.

But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. (Matt 22:34 NASU)

Jesus gave the best example of silencing those with heretical views. He silenced them with clear and precise explanations from the Word of God. The Sadducees didn’t believe in a resurrection among other things. Jesus used Exodus 3.6, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,” in a way that we would not easily recognize. By stating that God used the present tense in reference to three long dead people, Jesus argued that they were still alive validating the resurrection. Throughout history, even during the bad times mentioned above, Christians used verbal apologetics to silence those who speak heresy. John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin, just to name a few, were prolific writers and defenders of Christianity. Paul stated that our methods should not be the same as the world’s. “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:3-5 NIV).

How do you silence heresy, false teaching, or justification of immorality? Do you know the Bible well enough at least to recognize any of these if not refute them? Are you willing to stand up and be counted on the side of righteousness or does your silence empower those who are corrupting influences in society and even in our churches? Paul was clear that they must be silenced or they will ruin households, which leads to communities and then nations.

P.S.
Silencing critics can’t be done if you are not knowledgeable in the areas of controversy. People opposed to the Gospel are well versed and are able to eat most of us alive in a debate. If you want to gain a better understanding of why we should believe in a young earth (about 6,000 years) versus evolution from a scientific perspective, then I recommend you get the book, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. (Click on the link.) Written by nine scientists with PH.D.s, they give scientific evidence for a worldview based on the presumption of the Bible rather than a universe without God.



[1] Mark A. Noll, Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), 67.
[2] Alan Neely, “Conquest as Christian Evangelization,” Faith and Mission 10, no. 2 (Spring 1993): 62-75, accessed June 20, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/fm10-2-05.
[3] Noll, 182.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Christianity and Islam: Historical and Current Differences Make Cooperation Unlikely

LIBERTY UNIVERSITY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY 

Christianity and Islam: Historical and Current Differences Make Cooperation Unlikely 

Submitted to Dr. A. J. Smith, in partial fulfillment

of the requirements for the completion of the course

 CHHI 510 B01

Survey of the History of Christianity 

by
 Ray Ruppert
June 26, 2015

Table of Contents
Introduction
Historical Beginnings 
Historical Subjection 
Historical Religious Conflicts 
Modern Attempt at Cooperation 
Conclusion 
Bibliography

Introduction

Christianity and Islam have significantly different beginnings. The Christian era started as peaceful propagation of its beliefs and the ideals commensurate with those beliefs. Once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, forced conversions and corruption of ideas changed the way it spread. From the beginning of Islam, its spread was by the sword. Christians living under Islamic rule historically and currently face persecution and second-class citizenship with restrictions on their ability to share their faith and even worship. Muslims living in Western countries had various experiences, from peaceful relations to severe persecution. Currently, they have freedom of religion and no reduction in citizenship in most western nations although there is some cultural bias. Some blame the Crusades for Islam’s bias against Christianity. However, the ideological differences between Islam and Christianity are the same now as they were throughout history. Current appeals for peace and harmony by Muslim leaders do not reflect a significant minority of Muslims’ attitudes. This paper will examine the beginning and development of Christianity and Islam over the ages to demonstrate that it is not likely they will coexist peacefully as equals in the future.

Historical Beginnings

It is necessary to understand the historical beginnings of both Christianity and Islam in order to demonstrate why conflicts continue. Comparisons include the founders and their claims, ideals, character, goals in addition to how the movements expanded after the founder’s death.

Jesus is the founder of Christianity. Being Jewish, he was without a doubt monotheistic. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, and that he came not to establish an earthly kingdom but to serve and give his life as a ransom (Mark 10:45) to bring about his spiritual kingdom. He taught peace even in the presence of evil rather than retaliation (Matt 5:39). His theme was love of God and others (Matt 22:37-39). Jesus asked his opponents who could convict him of sin (John 8:46). Their only charge against him was that he made himself to be God (John 10:33) and the Messiah (Luke 22:67). After his crucifixion, he only had about 120 followers (Acts 1:15). After his resurrection, his disciples asked if he would restore the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:7). Rather than establishing a ruling kingdom on earth, he directed them to make disciples and teach them his commandments (Matt 28:19-20).

In obedience to that command, Christianity spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. Christians suffered persecution from both Jews (Acts 8:1) and the Romans. They were persecuted by Rome not because they were in violent opposition to Rome but because of their exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ instead of the Roman emperor.[1] Even though the Bible commands subjection to the government (Rom 13:1-7), Christians’ unwillingness to violate their conscience continued to generate persecution. It was not until Edict of Milan by Constantine in A.D. 313 that persecution ended.[2]

In the following three hundred years before Islam came on the scene, Christianity merged with the state. Even though the emperors and the heads of the church remained separate, their influence on each other blurred the distinction between the advance of the secular and the religious kingdom. For instance, Emperors called church councils in A.D. 449 and A.D. 451, the latter at Pope Leo I’s request.[3] Christianity and Christian nations were synonymous. This led to the advance of Christianity less by preaching the gospel but “with political influence, alliances of heathen princes with Christian wives, and in some cases … by military force.”[4]

In like manner as Christianity, the beginning of Islam is associated with the claims and teaching of one man, Muhammad. Muhammad’s claim is that of a prophet who was the person through whom God’s holy book, the Qur’an came. His goals were, “to replace idolatry with monotheism; to replace tribal differences with Arab unity; and to replace tribal rules with a central state.”[5] Unlike Jesus, he did not grow up under a unified monotheistic religion. The surrounding religions were Arab polytheism, Byzantine Christianity, and various Christian heresies.[6] Muhammad and his followers related to Christians, and wrongly equated the Byzantine Empire with Christianity, a poor representative with its propensity to violent propagation. The Persian defeat of the Byzantines apparently confused Muhammad, as he believed that God’s people would prevail in sacred violence.[7] This undoubtedly affected Muhammad and his later followers’ belief in holy wars. Muhammad did not start Islam with violence but later changed his view of religious tolerance to say that unbelievers must follow Islam, pay tribute, or die.[8] While in Medina, Muhammad was not only a religious prophet but served as political leader and judge, thus fusing religion and state from the outset of Islam.[9] This is when his violent advance started and He amassed an army of forty thousand over the next ten years.[10]

Muhammad’s character was not pure. He received revelations that excused actions even contrary to his own teaching. He obtained fourteen wives, ten more than allowed for the normal Muslim. One of his wives was nine years old when he married her. He also had his adopted son divorce his wife and then quickly married her.[11] On his better side, he mended his own clothes, and appeared to be a good husband.[12] His final commands to his followers before his death were “to protect the weak, the poor, and the women, and to abstain from usury.”[13] However, he also planned a large crusade against the Greeks.[14]

After the death of Muhammad, his followers continued to advance Islam by the sword. Within two hundred years, Islam dominated from India in the East to the Mediterranean. They conquered the southern Mediterranean from Egypt to Morocco and all of Spain. About fifty percent of the world’s Christians came under the rule of Islam.[15] Government and religion were one. Conquered Christians and Jews faced the choices of conversion to Islam, paying poll tax and accepting a second-class citizenship, or death.[16]

Historical Subjection

Within Islamic territories, Christians who did not convert fell under dhimmi status with restrictions placed on their religious activities and citizenship rights. They had the freedom to worship in their churches as long as they did not proselytize Muslims. They could also observe traditions and religious laws. While this appears to provide freedom of religion, the outcome is suppression of Christians as well as other religions. If a Muslim converted to Christianity, their penalty was anything from banishment to death, [17] a powerful deterrent to conversion. Suppression decimated Christianity in North Africa so that few Christians were there in the tenth century. In 2009, no churches could trace their past to pre-Islamic times. Islam either converted Christians or drove them from the area.[18] The population of Asia Minor changed from a majority of Christian in the tenth century to 92 percent Muslim in the sixteenth.[19]

A more modern example of Christianity within a Muslim nation is the case of Pakistan. In 1947, the formation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan included the promise of freedom of religion.[20] However, the official policy of the government included an enforcement of blasphemy laws in 1982 to increase the cause of a pure Islamic state.[21] At its formation, the nation included twenty-five percent minorities. Today, minorities comprise only five percent.[22]

The interaction of Muslims within Christian nations after the rapid advance of Islam is quite different from that of Christians living under Islamic rule. Not until the First Crusade established Christian states in the Middle East were significant numbers of Muslims living under Christian rule. These states generally allowed Muslims to practice their religion and live in peace. However, they were subject to restrictions and taxation in the same way that the Muslims had restricted and taxed Christians. Until Muslims reclaimed these areas, the Christian states provided a better environment for Muslims than did those living in Islamic states.[23] Burrell tells of Jews and Muslims mingling freely within the Roman culture in Sicily.[24]

After the expulsion of the Moors in the late fifteenth Century, attitudes toward Muslims changed and European non-Christians had no legal rights. Both the state and the Roman Church sanctioned the Inquisitions. They identified Islam as one of the heretical elements, which allowed seizure of Muslim’s property, banishment, or burning.[25]

After the Reformation and as Christianity began to get back to its original beliefs, the bloody persecution of other faiths and sects slowly diminished. This fostered an environment where Muslims could freely migrate to Europe and the United States. While the governments of these areas are secular, they still appear to be Christian from an Islamic viewpoint. There is still some cultural bias against them, but there is no widespread persecution against Muslims as indicated by recent studies. The majority of European Muslims do not feel hostility toward them.[26] Seventy-eight percent of American Muslims express that they are happy with their lives.[27]

Historical Religious Conflicts

Recent history paints a different picture of the historical wars between Islam and Western Christianity. It is now customary to compare the crusades and jihad and make them equivalent characteristics of Christianity and Islam just as is monotheism and other similarities.[28] Some now believe that because of the Crusades, Muslims began to interpret the Qur’an in anti-Christian ways.[29] However, the Qur’an is quite consistent in calling for war against unbelievers before the Crusades.[30] Understanding that the root theological positions of Christianity and Islam are still the same helps predict future interaction.

John of Damascus lived under Islamic rule from the latter third of the seventh century. He was quite blunt, calling Mohammad a false prophet who invented his own heresy. His writing describes several claims of Islamic apologists and his Christian response. John reveals the Islamic claim that Jews did not crucify Jesus, but only his shadow, that he did not die but God took him to heaven where he denied being the Son of God. John refuted these claims while sarcastically attacking Mohammad’s character by marrying his adopted son’s wife.[31] This clearly shows that even in the earliest days before the Crusades, Islamic thought did not include a physical crucifixion of Jesus. The use of the cross as a military symbol of conquest did not change Muslim’s theology of the cross as some have claimed.[32]

Thomas Aquinas’ Reasons for the Faith against Muslim Objections did not engage much in the way of specifics of Islam. In Chapter 1, he outlined their claims against the Trinity, atonement of Christ, Jesus’ death, and Jesus being the Son of God in opposition to their charges based on the Qur’an (6:110, 72:3, and 4:157-8). The remaining chapters are his arguments simply putting forth the Christian doctrines without detailed counter points.[33] While there is little mention of Islamic theology, it is clear that Aquinas addressed the primary concerns and confirms most of the same errors of Islam as understood by John of Damascus.

Martin Luther also understood the precepts of Islam in conflict with Christianity. He listed Islamic denials including, “Christ is the son of God … that he died for our sins … he arose for our life … by faith in him our sins are forgiven and we are justified … that he will come as judge of the living and the dead … the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit.”[34] Current Christian apologetics confirm that there is little if any difference between historical Christendom’s understanding of Islam and that of today. James White addressed their rejection of the Trinity based on Surah 4:166-172.[35] Neal Robinson addresses the deity of Christ,[36] and the crucifixion of a substitute Jesus.[37]

There is not space in this study to go into detail of the Islamic arguments. However, the historical viewpoints of John of Damascus, Aquinas, Luther, and the current apologetics of White and Robinson indicate no substantial changes in Islam over the ages.

 Modern Attempt at Cooperation

In 2007, 138 Muslim leaders issued an open letter to Christians, “A Common Word between Us and You.” This is an attempt to explain why Muslims and Christians can cooperate for a better world with peace and harmony. The basis is that both religions have, “love of one God, and love of neighbor.”[38] While the letter quotes the Bible and Qur’an to show this, it reads more like Islamic propaganda with references to the oneness of Allah and Muhammad as his prophet, but no acknowledgment of the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus and even implies that not all Christians believe in his deity.[39] The letter ends with an appeal to let differences not cause problems and to live together doing good works.[40] Within a year of the open letter, seventy Christian leaders responded favorably to the letter. As of April 7, 2013, 405 Christian and Muslim leaders have signed on to the letter.[41]

This proposed cooperation between Christians completely ignores two basic aspects of Christianity and Islam. Both religions have as their goal, the complete evangelism of the world. The Christian view is to go and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:19). The Islamic view is to make known all that Muhammad received (Al-Ma’idah 5:67). If both Christianity and Islam follow the basic tenets of their faiths, then each must try to convert each other in accordance with the methods ascribed to them by their faith. For Christianity it will involve peaceful means according to its roots in the first four hundred years and restoration to that evangelical faith expressed in the Lausanne Covenant.[42] However, in accordance with Islam’s beginning and the current working of ISIS toward an Islamic state[43] and other militant organizations, it is highly speculative to believe that they would long work in harmony with Christians. The Qur’an discourages Muslims to seek support from others (Al-Imran 3:28). In addition there are multiple references in the Qur’an supporting violent aggression (Al-Anfal 8:12) or retaliation (Al-Baqarah 2:190-191).

Statistical studies by the PEW Research Center reveal that while there may be many leaders seeking peace, there are frightening attitudes among Muslims that may predict the future. The first is that an overwhelming percentage of Muslims in many countries want Islamic law (sharia) to govern their land.[44] The second is that while most Muslims do not support suicide terrorism, younger Muslims aged 19-29 in Western countries support it, as many as twenty-six percent in the U.S.[45] As these younger people replace the older generations, it is highly doubtful that there will be peaceful cooperation between Christians and Muslims.

Conclusion

The significant differences between the historical beginnings of Christianity and Islam are evident as described. Christianity developed as a peaceful religion while being severely persecuted. Islam developed as a violent religion spread by force. Both religions passed through years forcing conversion by warfare and persecuting opponents. In recent years, it is clear that Christianity returned to its peaceful roots and methods of proselytizing. Islam continues with violence against other religions in armed conflicts, as with ISIS, or suppression of minorities, such as in Pakistan. Studies of Muslim attitudes reveal that many favor living under Muslim law and younger Muslims are prone to use or condone violence. Christians will continue to proselytize Muslims and Muslims, Christians. One cannot be both Christian and Muslim. It is possible for Christians to work with Muslims. However, the question is whether Muslims will allow Christians to proselytize them in Islamic controlled countries while working for a better world. The precepts of Islam indicate that preventing proselytization and continued minority suppression is the norm. The attitudes of younger Muslims show that the likelihood of suppression is greater than meaningful long-term cooperation. Coexistence peacefully as equals while working to improve the world is highly unlikely.

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[1] John Rutherfurd, “Persecution,” in International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, James Orr, ed., (Chicago: Howard-Severance Company, 1915), Biblesoft Electronic Database.
[2] Ibid.
[3] J.A. Sheppard, Christendom at the Crossroads: the Medieval Era (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), Kindle 194-198.
[4] Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. IV, (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1888), 18, accessed June 12, 2015, http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951d00541797u;view=1up;seq=3.
[5] Kazem Almandari, “Religion and Development Revisited: Comparing Islam and Christianity with Reference to the Case of Iran,” Journal of Developing Societies 20, no. 1-2 (June 2004): 124-44, accessed June 16, 2015, http://jds.sagepub.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/content/20/1-2/125.full.pdf+html.
[6] Neal Robinson, Christ in Islam and Christianity (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 17.
[7] Thomas Szgorich, “Sanctified Violence: Monotheist Militancy as the Tie That Bound Christian Rome and Islam,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 70, no. 4 (December 2009): 901, accessed May 27, 2015, http://jaar.oxfordjournals.org.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/content/77/4/895.
[8] Schaff, 165.
[9] Chad Owen Brand, “As Far as the East Is from the West: Islam, Holy War, and the Possibility of Rapprochement,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 8, no. 1 (Spring 2004): 7, accessed May 20, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/sbjt08-1-02.
[10] Schaff, 166.
[11] Schaff, 170.
[12] Ibid., 162.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Robert Louis Wilken, “Christianity Face to Face with Islam,” First Things 189 (January 2009): 21, accessed May 27, 2015, http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/religion/docview/209942045/
DD46C90F68DB42E4PQ/1?accountid=12085.
[16] George W. Braswell Jr., “Four Faces of Islam: Before and After the Terrorist Attack Upon America,” Faith and Mission 19, no. 2 (Spring 2002): 5-6, accessed May 20, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/fm19-2-01.
[17] Braswell, 5-6.
[18] Wilken, 21.
[19] Ibid., 22.
[20] Farahnaz Ispahani, “Cleansing Pakistan of Minorities,” Current Trends in Islamist Ideology 15 (2013): 58.
[21] Ibid., 64-65.
[22] Ibid., 63.
[23] Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And the Crusades) (Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing, 2005), 131, 149.
[24] David B. Burrell “Thomas Aquinas and Islam,” Modern Theology 20, no. 1 (January 2004): 72, accessed May 18, 2015, http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?
vid=4&sid=964a2c4e-2830-4104-9099-aaa67c124603%40sessionmgr4004&hid=4204.
[25] Alan Neely, “Conquest as Christian Evangelization,” Faith and Mission 10, no. 2 (Spring 1993): 62-75, accessed June 20, 2015, http://www.galaxie.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu:2048/article/fm10-2-05.
[26] PEW Research Center, “Muslims in Europe: Economic Worries Top Concerns about Religious and Cultural Identity,” PEW Research Center, July 6, 2006, accessed June 21, 2015, http://www.pewglobal.org/2006/07/06/muslims-in-europe-economic-worries-top-concerns-about-religious-and-cultural-identity/.
[27] PEW Research Center, “Muslim Americans Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” PEW Research Center, May 22, 2007, accessed June 8, 2015, http://pewresearch.org/files/old-assets/pdf/muslim-americans.pdf.
[28] Alamadari, 131.
[29] Ralph D. Winter, “The Kingdom Strikes Back,” in Perspectives On the World Christian Movement: a Reader (Perspectives), eds. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, 4th ed. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2013), 222.
[30] Spencer, 19.
[31] John of Damascus, Heresies, 101.
[32] Winter, 222.
[33] Thomas Aquinas, Reasons for the Faith against Muslim Objections (and One Objection of the Greeks and Armenians) to the Cantor of Antioch.
[34] Sarah S. Henrich and James L. Boyce, “Martin Luther--translations of Two Prefaces On Islam: Preface to the Libellus de Ritu Et Moribus Turcorum (1530), and Preface to Bibliander's Edition of the Qur'ān (1543),” Word and World 16, no. 2 (Spring 1996): 250-66, accessed May 18, 2015, http://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/content/pdfs/16-2_Islam/16-2_Boyce-Henrich.pdf.
[35] James R. White, “’Say Not Three’: The Qur’an and the Trinity” in What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an, 4.1.2013 ed. (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2013), 946.
[36] Robinson, 47.
[37] Ibid., 114.
[38] MABDA, A Common Word between Us and You, 5-Year Anniversary ed. (Amman: MABDA, 2012), 53, accessed May 26, 2015,http://rissc.jo/docs/20-acw/20-ACW-5.pdf.
[39] Ibid., 71.
[40] Ibid., 73.
[41] “New Signatories | a Common Word between You and Us,” A Common Word, April 7, 2013, accessed June 25, 2015, http://www.acommonword.com/sigtype/newsig.
[42] “The Lausanne Covenant” in Perspectives On the World Christian Movement: a Reader (Perspectives), eds. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, 4th ed. (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2013), 764-768.
[43] Elliott Balch, “Myth Busting: Robert Pape on ISIS, Suicide Terrorism, and U.S. Foreign Policy,” Chicago Policy Review (Online). (May 5, 2015), accessed June 25, 2015, http://search.proquest.com/docview/1678619265?accountid=12085.
[44] “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society,” PEW Research Center, April 30, 2013, accessed June 8, 2015, http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-overview.
[45] PEW, Muslim Americans, 60.