Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:27, NET
Islam and Violence
In our previous post on Basic Islam, we introduced the question, “Has true Islam been hijacked by radical elements, as many claim, or do the acts of terror that are so prevalent in the world today have epistemological roots in Islamic doctrine and theology?”
It’s been an interesting week. I met Nabeel Qureshi and asked him how he would answer that question. (I also attended several conference presentations on Islam, and heard some diverse opinions on how to respond to Islam and how to deal with Muslim refugees.)
It’s an extremely loaded question. On one hand, those of us who have been blessed with close friends who are Muslim have a hard time accepting that Islam equates necessarily to violence. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the proliferation of terror that is perpetrated in the name of Islam.
So which is it? What did Nabeel say?
He said, “My answer is summarized, violence is built into the DNA of Islam.”
But he also referred me to several of his online videos and his book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (which I bought from Audible and listened to in its entirety on the way home from the conference. If you want to read an incredible story about the power of friendship and the value of apologetics in winning people to Christ, read this book.) The next day, Nabeel posted the following three-minute video on his Facebook page.
Is the God of Islam the God of Christianity?
It would seem that because Christianity and Islam have their roots firmly in Genesis and Old Testament history that they worship the same god. But the biggest chasm between Muslims and Christians is the Trinity. While both faiths are monotheistic, Muslims abhor the idea that God exists in three distinct persons. In fact, the greatest sin in Islam (shirk) is to associate anyone—such as the Son or Holy Spirit—or anything with Allah.
But there is more to it than that. Theologians debate the moral sufficiency of the God of Islam, making strong arguments that Allah and the God of Christianity cannot be one and the same. While it may not be the first thing you would bring up with a Muslim friend, it’s important to understand. “The violence [that] is built into the DNA of Islam” is part of the moral sufficiency argument.
William Lane Craig’s recent presentation, entitled “The Concept of God in Islam and Christianity,” makes comparisons based on moral sufficiency. Dr. Craig takes on the unpleasant reality of the differences between Christianity and Islam. If we are going to reach Muslims for Christ, we better get used to the idea that we cannot ignore the differences. If this makes us uncomfortable, we are going to have to learn to deal with it.
No Shortage of Shortsighted Self-absorption
At both of the conferences I attended this week, there were sessions on Islam, including one entitled Responding to Islam. At that session, four presenters discussed ideas on how to handle the refugee crisis in the Middle East. One presenter, who has impressive credentials as a theologian, professor, and lawyer, gave a presentation on specific concessions he would require from Middle Eastern refugees wanting to enter the United States.
His presentation was full of the angry sentiment we hear on the news these days in the wake of the Paris attacks. It was also pompous, self-aggrandizing, and downright mean. He said several times that if his proposal kept good Muslims from entering the United States, “Worse things could happen.” Not exactly what one might expect from a follower of Jesus Christ.
One woman in the audience gave him favorable comments, and a man in the back asked for a copy of his paper. It may just be my impression, but there seemed to be more than a little appreciation for what he said.
Then a young man stood up and politely asked, “What is the New Testament basis for your proposal—in light of what the Bible has to say about orphans and widows?”
Wait a minute. We’re supposed to think and act according to the New Testament?! Orphans and widows…like in James 1:27? Are you kidding me? (I could get quite smarmy, so I’ll just stop there.)
Taking the High Ground
Nabeel was the first to speak at the panel discussion after that presentation. He was gracious and did not take on the mean presenter. He noted that his father was persecuted in Pakistan for his Islamic beliefs and that he came to the United States as a refugee. If we talk about responses to ISIS without realizing the unprecedented opportunity we have to share the Gospel with the Muslim world, we miss the point. We should consider what is happening to innocent Muslims. We are here [on this earth] to reach out to others. We must share the Gospel. For 1,400 years we have done virtually nothing to reach these people.
I really don’t have anything to add to that. “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”