ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY

Many of the Muslim beliefs come from the Bible. Much of the historical foundation for the Qur'an comes from the Old Testament. Yet even though there has been influence and there are similarities, the differences in the beliefs of the two faiths are striking.

Islam teaches that God is a unit and this explicitly excludes the trinity. However, it is important to realize that what Islam is rejecting concerning the Trinity is not (may we emphasize, IS NOT) the biblical view of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, but rather they are rejecting the heretical concept of the trinity being God the Father, Mary the Mother and Jesus the Son, This is blasphemy to them and, may we say, to the Christian as well.

One reason for this distorted view of the trinity is that the Arabs had no Arabic New Testament and thus had been influenced by a false Christian view.

This emphasis on the unity of God comes across in other ways. Islam teaches that God is divorced from His creation. He is so unified to Himself that He cannot be associated with creation. His transcendence is so great that He acts impersonally, even to the point of choosing those He wants for heaven.

Because God is a unit many Muslims believe that the Sunnis' position that the Qur'an is the ''eternal word of God" commits the sin of associating something with God. It is for this reason the Shi'ites hold that the Qur'an is a created book.

Because of their doctrine of predestination and the fact that both evil and good came from Allah, it makes their God somewhat capricious in our view. Whatever Allah chooses becomes right, this makes any true standard of righteousness or ethics hard to discern if not impossible to establish.

This is unlike the God of the Bible who is righteous. The very word righteous means, "a standard."

The Muslim finds it difficult to divorce the concept of father from the physical realm. To them it is blasphemous to call Allah or God your Father.

In addition, while calling God "Father" is to evoke thoughts of love, compassion, tenderness and protectiveness to Christians, it is not always so to the Muslim mind. To him, a father must be strict, should not be emotional, need not express love, and is bound to his family by duty and for what his family can provide for him, not by devotion.

Allah appears to be deficient in such attributes as love, holiness and grace. One reason is that to a Muslim God is above description. For the most part Allah is defined by a series of negatives, i.e., He is not this, not that, etc. Many of the above characteristics are involved in the Muslims' 99 names for God. For the Christian, these attributes, such as grace, are rooted in the very character of God (Ephesians 2).

The Bible

As mentioned before, the Muslim holy books include the sayings of Moses, the prophets, David, Jesus and Muhammad. However, Muslims believe that all of the previous sayings have been lost or corrupted and that the Qur'an alone has been preserved free of error. It claims to supercede the previous revelations as well. Remember, the holy books mentioned in Islam are not exactly like our biblical Scriptures.

One would presuppose that since the teachings of Christianity and Islam are clearly different. it would follow that the practical and social consequences of the doctrine would also be vastly different. This is precisely the case. As Guillaume mentions, this is nowhere better illustrated than in the status of women:

The Qur'an has more to say on the position of women than on any other social question. The guiding note is sounded in the words, "Women are your tillage," and the word for marriage is that used for the sexual act. The primary object of marriage is the propagation of children, and partly for this a man is allowed four wives at a time and an unlimited number of concubines. However, it is laid down that wives are to be treated with kindness and strict impartiality, if a man cannot treat all alike he should keep to one.

The husband pays the woman a dowry at the time of marriage, and the money or property so alloted remains her own. The husband may divorce his wife at any time, but he cannot take her back until she has remarried and been divorced by a second husband. [Only after three divorces can a Muslim man not take back his wife. However, he can say, "I divorce thee" three times, which to some constitutes three divorces.] A woman cannot sue for divorce on any grounds, and her husband may beat her. In this matter of the status of women lies the greatest difference between the Muslims and the Christian world (Guillaume, Islam, pp. 71, 72),

One coming from a Western culture needs to realize that this stand concerning women was an improvement over the pre-Islamic conditions. Thus some Islamic communities use this as a basis for teaching that Islam is progressive and that women have equal rights.

Those from Western culture often fall in the misunderstanding that views Muslims as being debauched and sex-hungry. From the Muslim's point of view, women are protected, provided for and respected in their community.

In comparing this with the present-day decline of Western culture and its attack upon traditional morality, including women, abortion, etc., a Westerner must realize that Muslims see us in exactly the same way that many from a Western culture, including many Christians in the past, have viewed or portrayed them, A penetrating question would be, "Are women beaten, raped and mugged more in Muslim lands or in Western countries?"

The mistake the Muslim is often guilty of is identifying Western culture with Christianity (see page 30).

Jesus Christ

In Islam the person and work of Jesus Christ are not seen in the same way as in Christianity. For the Christian the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the incarnate Son of God is the vital cornerstone of faith, yet the Muslim does not hold to either of these truths - that Christ is the Son of God or that He rose from the dead. A Muslim will look at Jesus as the "Word of God" and as the "Spirit of God," but not as the Son of God. To them that is blasphemy. In fact, Muslims do not even believe Jesus was crucified: rather, many believe Judas was crucified in His place. Some, however, believe it was Christ on the cross but that He did not die.

Islam does believe Jesus was a sinless prophet although not as great as Muhammad. Many Muslims teach that Jesus was greater and more spiritual but too lofty, and that Muhammad was a practical "every man's" prophet. While Surah 3:45-47 in the Qur'an speaks of the virgin birth of Christ, it is not the same biblical virgin birth. According to Mus- lim belief, Jesus is certainly not the only begotten Son of God, and an angel - rather than the Holy Spirit - was the agency of God's power in the conception. However, the idea that Allah had a son is repugnant to them. Surah 4:171 states, "Jesus ... was only a messenger of Allah ... Far is it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son."

John states concerning Christ, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father full of grace and truth. And I have seen, and have borne witness that this is the Son of God" (John 1:14,34).

Christ's claim for His own deity and sonship are unequivocal. In John 10:30 He claims equality with the Father when He states, "I and the Father are one." For not only is the sonship of Christ important per se, but the deity of Christ is also an important point of difference between Christianity and Islam since Islam denies the doctrine of the Trinity.

Of the crucifixion, the Qur'an states in Surah 4:157, "They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them." Most Muslims believe Judas was put in the place of Christ, and Christ went to heaven. The Bible teaches that Christ went to the cross to pay the penalty for man's sins, died, and was raised from the dead, appeared to the disciples and then ascended to heaven (I Corinthians 15:3,4).

They also reject the Bible as the only authoritative book on which to base all matters of doctrine, faith and practice. When Islam rejects the truth of the written Word of God, they are left not only different from Christianity, but opposite from Christianity on almost all counts.


The above is the concluding chapter of the book:

Josh McDowell and John Gilchrist
THE ISLAM DEBATE
published by HERE'S LIFE PUBLISHERS, INC., 1983 (out of print)
pages 143-185 (including the transcript of the Debate)


Transcript of the Deedat - McDowell Debate
Index of John Gilchrist's writings
Answering Islam Home Page