Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Hall of Fame vs. The Hall of Shame

 After spotlighting the shameful and obsequious responses of several "Christian" world leaders in my previous post, I thought it would be refreshing to offer you the thoughts of men like Spurgeon, Owen and Calvin on the subject of Christ & Islam:

C.H. Spurgeon:  "We anticipate the happy day when the whole world shall be converted to Christ; when the gods of the heathen shall be cast to the moles and the bats; when Romanism shall be exploded, and the crescent of Mohammed shall wane, never again to cast its baleful rays upon the nations; when kings shall bow down before the Prince of Peace, and all nations shall call their Redeemer blessed. Some despair of this. They look upon the world as a vessel breaking up and going to pieces, never to float again. We know that the world and all that is therein is one day to be burnt up, and afterwards we look for new heavens and for a new earth; but we cannot read our Bibles without the conviction that—  'Jesus shall reign where’er the sun does his successive journeys run.'  We are not discouraged by the length of his delays; we are not disheartened by the long period which he allots to the church in which to struggle with little success and much defeat. We believe that God will never suffer this world, which has once seen Christ’s blood shed upon it, to be always the devil’s stronghold. Christ came hither to deliver this world from the detested sway of the powers of darkness. What a shout shall that be when men and angels shall unite to cry “Hallelujah, hallelujah, for the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!” What a satisfaction will it be in that day to have had a share in the fight, to have helped to break the arrows of the bow, and to have aided in winning the victory for our Lord! Happy are they who trust themselves with this conquering Lord, and who fight side by side with him, doing their little in his name and by his strength! How unhappy are those on the side of evil! It is a losing side, and it is a matter wherein to lose is to lose and to be lost for ever. On whose side are you?"  Spurgeon, C. H. (1995). Morning and evening : Daily readings (December 24 PM). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

John Owen [The Glory of Christ (28)]: There are some who regard not these things at all, but rather despise them. They never entertain any serious thoughts of obtaining a view of the glory of God in Christ, — which is to be unbelievers. They look on him as a teacher that came forth from God to reveal his will, and to teach us his worship; and so indeed he was. But this they say was the sole use of his person in religion, — which is Mohammedanism. The manifestation of all the holy properties of the divine nature, with the representation of them unto angels above and the church in this world, as he is the image of the invisible God, in the constitution of his person and the discharge of his office, are things they regard not; yea, they despise and scorn what is professed concerning them: for pride and contempt of others were always the safest covert of ignorance; otherwise it would seem strange that men should openly boast of their own blindness. But these conceptions of men’s minds are influenced by that unbelief of his divine person which maketh havoc of Christianity at this day in the world. 

John Owen [The Sermons of John Owen (32), A Vision of Free Mercy]:  "Earthly supports and contentments are but a thousand failing wiles, which will all vanish in the time of need; the gospel, and Christ in the gospel, is that” unum magnum ,” that “ unum necessarium ,” which alone will stand us in any stead. In this, this island is as the mountain of the Lord, — exalted above the mountains of the earth. It is true, many other nations partake with us in the same blessing. Not to advance our own enjoyments in some particulars, — wherein perhaps we might justly do it, — but take all these nations with us, and what a molehill are we to the whole earth, overspread with Paganism, Mohammedanism, Antichristianism, with innumerable foolish heresies!"

John Calvin [Calvin's Commentaries, Book of Daniel, referring to Wintle's notes on Daniel 7:9 & 13]:  "The ten horns, he thinks, follow the fourth beast, existing during his; own age and leading on directly to Antichrist. He approves of Apollinarius, who interprets the 8th verse of Antichrist, and then explains, very copiously, his sentiments as to where he is to be found. “Very possibly,” he remarks, 'the Gregories, the Alexanders, and the Julii, did not displease God so strikingly while occupying the Papal chair: God only is their judge. But during this reign such innumerable enormities are committed as are worthy of the true Antichrist, and thus rebound upon their heads.' He then runs the parallel between Mohamed and the Papacy, and with great accuracy and spirit treats the false prophet as the Antichrist of the east, and the Roman Pontiff as corresponding to him throughout the west. The 'eyes of a man'” of Daniel 7:8, are explained of the bland and benignant appearance of this insinuating personage, while the blasphemies of his mouth are interpreted of the impious boastings of Mohamed and the Pope. The manner in which both Mohamed and the Papacy have 'changed the times,' is amply discussed, and the language of both Daniel and St. John made applicable to the modern history of the religions of the Crescent and the Cross throughout both Asia and Europe."

Thank God for the fearlessness of such men - men who were much more concerned about the glory of Christ than they were about their own safety and reputation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hall of Shame @ The Armoury

 Having recently offered my own response to A Common Word's "Open Letter" (a letter which encourages ecumenism between Muslims and Christians) I decided that it would be interesting to follow the responses of the main addressees.  As these responses come in, I will update this post with their content.  Up to this point, there have been really no surprises.  To the 138 Muslim scholars who clearly deny the Trinity, Christ's deity and crucifixion - the responses from "Christian" leaders couldn't be more positive and upbeat:

Archbishop of Canterbury (Rowan Williams):  "The Archbishop said that the letter’s emphasis on the fundamental importance of belief in the unity of God and love of neighbour is welcome. He said ”the letter rightly makes it clear that these are scriptural foundations equally for Jews, Christians, and for Muslims, and are the basis for justice and peace in the world. There is much here to study and to build on. The letter’s understanding of the unity of God provides an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to explore together their distinctive understandings and the ways in which these mould and shape our lives. The call to respect, peace and goodwill should now be taken up by Christians and Muslims at all levels and in all countries and I shall endeavour in this country and internationally, to do my part in working for the righteousness which this letter proclaims as our common goal." [more]

President, the World Lutheran Federation (Mark S. Hanson):  "The letter attests to both the love of God and our shared heritage of true hospitality to one’s neighbor. These commandments convey prophetic witness for mutual and vital co-existence that Christians and Muslims must embrace in one another. The letter further references how the commands to love God and neighbor are linked “between the Qur’an, the Torah and the New Testament.” I encourage everyone everywhere to read the beauty of these passages found in the sacred texts of the Abrahamic faiths, which signify God’s vision for how and whom we love in a broken world. This common vision for Jews, Muslims, and Christians signifies fidelity and fellowship in a world where conflict offends our common heritage as children of God." [more]

President, Baptist World Alliance (David Coffey): I am not surprised by the tone of the letter calling for respect, peace and goodwill, as during my recent visit to the King Abdullah II of Jordan (September 23, 2007) we discussed The Amman Message (2004) and the King informed me that the letter from the Muslim scholars would be issued in early October.  The Amman Message is a significant document and emphasises [sic] that the true message of Islam is built on the principles of tolerance, moderation, coexistence, openness, dialogue. It renounces violence and terrorism and stands up to the extremists’ false allegations and precepts.  The letter from the Muslim scholars builds on The Amman Message and it is impossible not to respond positively to its key message that differences should not cause hatred and strife between Christians and Muslims.

World Alliance of Reformed Churches (Pres. Clifton Kirkpatrick & Gen. Sec. Setri Nyomi):  Response to “A Common Word between us and you”.  It is with a sense of appreciation that we received the invitation from you with this title. Your call is very timely and we agree that people of faith have the capacity, and indeed have a responsibility to draw from the resources of our different faith traditions to work together for peace – in a world in which religious sentiments have been wrongly used to foment conflict and war.  We appreciate the passages you referred to in both the Holy Bible and the Holy Qur’an. The World Alliance of Reformed Churches welcomes this initiative. We do have an interest in furthering a dialogue based on our common commitments to love God and neighbour. [more]

President, Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (Jean-Louis Tauran):   "It is a very interesting letter," said the cardinal, indicating that it is "a new document because it comes from both Sunni Muslims and Shia Muslims." It is also "a non-polemical document with numerous quotes from both the Old Testament and the New Testament," he added.  Cardinal Tauran then considered what religious leaders must do to prevent the fusion of violence and religion underlining the need "to invite the followers [of religions] to share the three convictions contained in the letter: that God is One; that God loves us and we must love Him; that God calls us to love our neighbor. I would say that this represents a very encouraging sign because it shows that good will and dialogue are capable of overcoming prejudices, This is a spiritual approach to inter-religious dialogue which I would call dialogue of spirituality. Muslims and Christians must respond to one question: in your life, is God truly One?"  [ref]

Now - compare the words of these men to the precious words of our Lord and Savior:

Matthew 10:32-33: 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 “But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

Selah...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Beholding His Love

Let the reader know that I am not against choruses.  Even though I have made my fair share of 7-11 jokes about songs that have just seven words and are repeated eleven times, I must confess that there are many modern choruses that I do enjoy and sing because I believe that they honor the Lord in their content and form.  However, I must also say that too many of these songs are simply too weak and somehow fail to uphold that root idea of worship in the English (from the Old English - word-scipe [ship] - i.e., delivering to God words that are worthy of His glory).  I do find that many of these songs will often say too little in order to fulfill the Lord's standard whereby He seeks worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).  It's this content-of-truth issue that is often sacrificed at the altar of simplicity and brevity.  As I preach through the Scriptures, I often recall to mind those little ditties that are popular within the Christian community, but that fail to unpack the full context of their Scriptural message.  Some I will use, others I avoid; but as I am now preaching through 1 John 3:1, that familiar chorus was brought to my attention - you all know it I'm sure:

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us!

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us!

That we should be called the sons of God

That we should be called the sons of God

I like this song - who couldn't?  It's Scripture - 1 John 3:1.  Or I should say that it is 1 John 3:1a.  That "a" designation means that the song only covers the first part of 1 John 3:1 - and that is actually problematic because, biblically speaking, 1 John 3:1 is a kind of bridge which reveals to the reader the knowledge that leads to godliness.  His chain of thought actually begins in 1 John 2:29 (yes, you'll need to ignore the uninspired chapter divisions for a minute for this one).  His emphasis on knowledge should be quite clear within the overall progression:

1 John 2:29-3:10: 29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. 1 See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

The reason why a chorus that is based upon 1 John 3:1a is weak, is because it is derived from too small a portion of Scripture - one that is utterly dependent upon a much broader argument.  In other words, our ability to behold the full measure of God's love is really dependent upon the surrounding argument concerning the Christian's true knowledge of Jesus Christ the Righteous:

1.  That Christ is Righteous (1 John 2:29-3:2a).  He makes us righteous through his righteous advocacy and propitiation on our behalf (1 John 2:1 - imputed righteousness); by virtue of our position as justified children of God, we also know that the Lord is faithful to persevere us by conforming our lives to the pattern of Christ's righteousness.  Clearly, our sonship has both a positional as well as practical reality to it! 

2.  That Christ is Faithful (1 John 3:2b-3). He will return to take us home one day, and when He does, there will no longer by any pain, no more sorrow and no more sin - because we will be like Him.  We know that this will happen because our Savior is faithful to accomplish all that He promises to do.

3.  That Christ's Work is Effectual (1 John 3:4-10): Unlike this faithless and sinful world, Christ demonstrates His righteousness and Lordship by accomplishing His mission of "appearing in order to take away sins..."    

Nested within this threefold lesson concerning the Christian's knowledge - the knowledge that leads to godliness - is this call to behold/see all of this as the very manifestation of God's own love for us.  Thus, singing 1 John 3:1a without the basis for this praise would be like me trying to compliment my wife to others without mentioning any of her qualities or attributes.  It would be a rather shallow moment to be sure. 

All this to say - songs like this need not be tossed into the 7-11 canister.  Many of these songs can be completed by adding the Scriptural thought which they began in the first place.  Granted, my version does not incorporate the full context that I supplied above - I'm still working on it.  But it does include more of the immediate context to 1 John 3:1a.  Here is a suggested revision/addition to the aforementioned chorus, additional verses in red: 

Our Father’s Love

1 John 2:29-3:2

If you do kno-w that He is right-eous, then you will know this:

If you do kno-w that He is right-eous, then you will know this:

That all wh-o practice righteousness

Have been be-gotten o-f Him

 

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us!

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us!

That we should be called the children of God

That we should be called the children of God

 

And for this reas-on we can see that the world does not know us

And for this reas-on we can see that the world does not know us

…Be-cause, the world did not know Him

…Be-cause, the world did not know Him

 

Beloved children, we do kno-w that He shall someday appear..

Beloved children, we do kno-w that He shall someday appear..

Then we will become ju-st like Him

Be-cause we shall see Him just as He is!

 

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us!

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us!

That we should be called the children of God

That we should be called the children of God

I have had some rather surprising reactions from people who don't think that these songs should be modified.  However, I would rather that they be more disturbed by the abbreviated treatment of God's Word that is so prevalent in our culture today.  God is worthy of our praise - much more than we can even realize.  We will do well if we praise Him with the depth and substance of His Word.  As some say, "Brevity is the soul of wit."  Yes, but when it comes to worshipping the God of the Universe, I find that such brevity is very rarely the soul of substance.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Open Response to an Open Letter

 

 

In my previous post I made mention of a letter which calls Muslims and Christians to unite under one ecumenical banner.  The letter in question was entitled "An Open Letter and Call from Muslim Religious Leaders."   The originators of this document (A Common Word, www.acommonword.com) addressed this work to several leaders representing Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist and Reformed communities.  Here is a summary of their group's intent: 

In A Common Word Between Us and You, 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals have unanimously come together for the first time since the days of the Prophet r to declare the common ground between Christianity and Islam. Like the Open Letter, the signatories to this message come from every denomination and school of thought in Islam. Every major Islamic country or region in the world is represented in this message, which is addressed to the leaders of all the world’s churches, and indeed to all Christians everywhere. 

The final form of the letter was presented at a conference in September 2007 held under the theme of “Love in the Quran,” by the Royal Academy of The Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Jordan, under the Patronage of H.M. King Abdullah II. Indeed, the most fundamental common ground between Islam and Christianity, and the best basis for future dialogue and understanding, is the love of God and the love of the neighbor.

Never before have Muslims delivered this kind of definitive consensus statement on Christianity. Rather than engage in polemic, the signatories have adopted the traditional and mainstream Islamic position of respecting the Christian scripture and calling Christians to be more, not less, faithful to it.

It is hoped that this document will provide a common constitution for the many worthy organizations and individuals who are carrying out interfaith dialogue all over the world. Often these groups are unaware of each other, and duplicate each other’s efforts. Not only can A Common Word Between Us give them a starting point for cooperation and worldwide co-ordination, but it does so on the most solid theological ground possible: the teachings of the Qu’ran and the Prophet r, and the commandments described by Jesus Christ u in the Bible. Thus despite their differences, Islam and Christianity not only share the same Divine Origin and the same Abrahamic heritage, but the same two greatest commandments.

At the end of the introductory address, their letter is extended to "Leaders of Christian Churches, everywhere..."  Based upon that final invitation, I will offer my own Open Response to their Open Letter.

***********************************************

Greetings in the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: I would like to address your recent work entitled, "An Open Letter and Call from Muslim Religious Leaders."   In this letter you did the following:

1. You offered an invitation for Christians and Muslims to unite in order to establish peace.  It would appear that you are convinced that without such an ecumenical endeavor, hostility will only continue to ensue, or as you say: “Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”

2. You also made an appeal to unity via the first and second greatest commandments – loving the Lord God and loving one’s neighbor by citing Mark 12:29-31 as well as the Qu’ran: Surah 73:8. "But keep in remembrance the name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him whole-heartedly."

3. You then offered citations of the Qu’ran in order to prove your solidarity with the Bible’s teaching concerning Christ.

I would like to respond to these points, in reverse order, in order to address the subject of true peace. I too desire that we enjoy peace with one another, understanding that the Bible is very specific about how such peace can be achieved. In offering this response, I desire to be more, not less, faithful to the teachings of the Bible – just as you have advised Christians to do on your own website.

I. Point 3 [Christ in the Qu’ran]: Your citation of the Qu’ran, concerning Christ, must be addressed first. Here is what you supplied in your letter:

"Muslims recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah, not in the same way Christians do (but Christians themselves anyway have never all agreed with each other on Jesus Christ’s  nature), but in the following way: '…. the Messiah Jesus son of Mary is a Messenger of God and His Word which he cast unto Mary and a Spirit from Him....' (Al-Nisa’, 4:171). We therefore invite Christians to consider Muslims not against and thus with them, in accordance with Jesus Christ’s words here."

I must respectfully ask you why it is that you omitted the rest of the Qu’ranic text.  The full text of this verse is very important:

Al-Nisa 4:171. O "People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not 'Trinity': desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs."

Your omission here is troubling and calls into question whether you are aware of the Qu’ran’s teachings, or worse, it calls into question the sincerity of your overall presentation.  You must certainly realize that in order to believe in the Jesus of the Qu'ran, one must deny His deity, and therefore the Trinity itself.  To do this would require apostasy from one of the most central truths in Christendom that has been upheld for over 2000 years.  Those who deny these truths are not Christians by definition.  Thus, your little caveat of "Christians themselves anyway have never all agreed with each other on Jesus Christ’s  nature" is either disingenuous, or it may be the result of your misunderstanding of Christian doctrine itself.  While it would be more generous to believe the latter, I must say that your scholastic credentials leave you with no viable excuse.  As men who profess a knowledge of the Bible and who profess the right to teach it - you are indeed left without excuse. 

Additionally, you also failed to mention the Qu’ran’s teaching concerning the crucifixion.  This is yet another shocking omission:

Surah 4:157. "That they said (the Jews), 'We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah'—but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not—"

In reality, your invitation to peace is actually a call to condemnation and judgment from God, for the Lord Jesus Christ is in fact God The Son (John 1:1-14) who became flesh (Phil. 2:1-8) and was crucified for the sins of many (Mark 10:45), being raised again on the third day as the exalted King of kings and Lord of Lords (1 Cor. 15:1-19). Alternatively, the Jesus of the Qu’ran is no more than a Gnostic myth. What you are asking Christians to do here is to deny the central tenants of true faith. While I am sure that there will be many apostates who will gladly toss their Bibles for your peace treaty, I can assure you, no real Christian will. 

II. Point 2 [The 1st & 2nd Greatest Commandments]: Your call to unity via the Bible is interesting, but it fails to unfold the important details of the very text that you cited in Mark 12:28-31. In that passage Christ was quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5: 4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord [Yahweh] is our God, the Lord [Yahweh] is one! 5 “You shall love the Lord [Yahweh] your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

In this text it must be noted that each reference of “Lord” is actually God’s own covenant name [Yahweh], as in:

Exodus 3:15: 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The Lord [Yahweh], the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations."

This memorial name is the very name that was manifested by the Lord Jesus Christ (John 17:6, 8:58) and it defines the object of true worship. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the very God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who fulfilled the promise given to Abraham through the incarnation and sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Gen. 22, Gal. 3:16-29). Thus, when Abraham was thwarted from sacrificing the son of promise, Isaac, a sacrificial substitute was given in his son’s place. It was then that Abraham called that mount: Yahweh yera’h [Jehovah-Jireh] – The Lord will Provide. Jesus Christ, the sacrificial Lamb of God, is the very fulfillment of that name - for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.  Loving God can only be a good thing when one worships the true God and Savior. Without Christ, there can be no fulfillment of these commands of love.

 

III. Point 1 [Unity Between Christians & Muslims]: I end here with your initial statement:

“Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.”

Certainly, you must know that this invitation to “peace” is distinctly one-sided. Christians are being called to believe in Islam’s falsified version of Christianity. The consequences for our failure to do so is even cited in your "Open Letter and Call from Muslim Religious Leaders":

"Say (O Muslims): We believe in God and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered. / And if they believe in the like of that which ye believe, then are they rightly guided. But if they turn away, then are they in schism, and God will suffice thee against them. He is the Hearer, the Knower." (Al-Baqarah, 2:136-137)

When Christians call Muslims to convert – they are to be rejected, according to Al-Baqarah, 2:135 (a text which you failed to cite). However, according to verse 137 (above), those Christians who do not believe what Muslims believe, then God will “suffice” Muslims “against” them. The chilling point here is this: Christians are being given two options:

1. Deny Christ by believing in Islam’s false version of the Bible and thereby experience “peace” with Muslims.

2. Otherwise, hostility will continue because “Allah will suffice thee [Muslims] against them [Jews and Christians].”

The shorter version of this is: submit to Islam, or suffer ongoing hostility.

To the creators of this letter, I appeal to you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ that you repent of your sin and believe in Him, the Word, who was in the beginning; who was with God and who was God (John 1:1-2). He is the One through whom all things came into being (John 1:3) and it is He who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), dying on the cross for the sins of many. I pray that you would trust that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has indeed provided the promised Lamb who was sacrificed as the sinner’s substitute and that He was raised again in glory forevermore (Revelation 5:9-14). He is the Prince of Peace, therefore no one can confer peace upon Him.  Ultimately, He is our only hope for true peace with the true God (Isaiah 9:6-7, Romans 5:1, Eph. 2:14). Should you deny Him, our resolve (unlike Islam) will not be to afflict or persecute you for your unbelief. As messengers of the Gospel of Peace (Eph. 6:15) true Christians, by grace alone, will love even their enemies:

Matthew 5:43-45: 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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.

Clearly you know that the examples of Muhammad and Christ reveal an infinite polarity.  The Qu'ran is filled with justifications for subjugating, afflicting, and slaying those who are deemed as munafiq, kafir and fasiq (Suras 2:191; 216-217; 4:74-76, 89; 8:39; 9:5, , 12-13, 73, 123; 48:25-29; 66:9). Perhaps it your assumption that most non-Muslims will ignore the text of the Qu'ran itself, while accepting your partial citations and allegorical interpretations.  Sadly, many will.  However it is indisputable that the teachings of Muhammad and Christ yield no legitimate comparison, because the Savior calls His disciples to love those who are the enemies of the Gospel.  Even when Peter was about to take vengeance upon those who were arresting Christ, in the garden of Gethsemane, the Savior declared:

Matthew 26:52: 52 ...“Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword."

Unlike Muhammad, and his true followers today, the disciples of Christ are called to advance the Gospel of Peace by peaceful means.  We do not seek religious dominion through threats of hostility and actual bloodshed because we know that:

"...though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ..."  2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

Perhaps one of the most pragmatic differences between genuine Christianity and Islam is that the Christian message is never to be advanced by means of vengeance and hostility:

Romans 12:17-21: 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

As Christians, our hope is that you will turn to Christ, in faith, and experience true peace.  Your failure to do so will not stir hostility from our end; as already stated, vengeance is the prerogative of God alone (Deut. 32:35) – and Christ will have His day of judgment indeed (Acts 17:31).  Yes, we too desire peace, but our desire is for true and lasting peace – the peace that can only be found in Christ alone.

***********************************************

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Peace! Peace!

Jeremiah 8:10-12:

10 “...from the least even to the greatest everyone is greedy for gain; From the prophet even to the priest everyone practices deceit. 11 “They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace. 12 “Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done? They certainly were not ashamed, And they did not know how to blush...” Says the Lord.

 

During the course of this week, two examples of false peace reared their ugly heads:  First, there was a declaration made by several Muslim leaders who pontificated that the Christian and Islamic worlds must unite because “the very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.”    I will say much more about this later - suffice it to say that this is, without much surprise, an invitation for Christians to embrace Islam's anti-Christ doctrines which deny the Savior's deity, His crucifixion, and His exclusivity as both Judge and Savior.  This, Muslim leaders confidently argue, will usher in a new era of peace.  While it is true that such a move would usher in a temporal, man-centered form of peace, in the end it would only excite mankind's present enmity with God.  Second, there was Al Gore's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on Global Warming®.  Mr. Gore is just another would-be savior who comes to us from the secular side of false offers of peace.

Both of these situations remind us that this world is like a burning, smoke-filled house.  Danger lurks around us with every hot ember, and we must be sure not to inhale the gaseous fumes of worldly wisdom - they lead only to death.  These worldly offers of peace have a common thread:  they are all dangerous distractions from the Gospel of Peace.  They are generated by men who are greedy for power and wealth - men who say 'peace, peace,' but there is no peace.  They exalt worldly dangers in order to blow the smoke of their specious solutions - and everyone who comes to them with the expectation of deliverance do so as bondslaves to a useless hope.  Throughout the centuries, men have always believed that peace can be achieved through human ingenuity and effort.  In every case these false pursuits have placed mankind in the role of savior - a position that the Prince of Peace shares with no-one.  As believers, we ought to remember that amidst this smoke filled world there is true safety found in the crisp, clean air of God's Word.  As Christians, we need to fill our lungs with Holy Writ daily, while calling others to flee the polluted air of this world in pursuit of the life-giving wind of the God-breathed Scriptures. 

Let us be reminded that the current events of our day afford us an important opportunity to share the Gospel of peace.   Thus, we need to remind the lost that there is no peace to be found in this world apart from the Savior, because the peace that we truly need is peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5).  Any other "peace" is a sham that is sold by false prophets, whether religious or secular, who are greedy for gain, power, and prestige. 

 

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Red Hot Stupidity

When I saw this, I was absolutely disgusted.  A "church" called The Gathering, in Sevierville Tennessee, is employing profane means in order to garner attention and attendees from their community.  Their "Red Hot Sex" ad campaign has rightfully infuriated many area residents - especially those who have little children who have already seen the "Red Hot Sex" fliers in their mail.  What was so disturbing was to hear the sincere plea of one man, a father of two, who said: 

"This is the first thing that we ever got in the mail where we were like...!!??wha??!!...Stuff in the mail I just don't want to have to worry about - especially coming from a church!  Why don't they take the thousands, literally thousands of dollars, that they spend on the mail-outs and put that directly in the community, as opposed to having some kind of shock value to their mail-outs?"

It is despicable when the world can offer a righteous rebuke against a professing "church."  It has a certain Corinthian flare to it:

1 Corinthians 5:1: 1 It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles...

Finally, the CNN commentator said: "They say that they do church here differently."  That's what I would call a gross understatement. 

1 Peter 2:12: 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

1 Peter 3:17: 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.

 Selah

Monday, October 01, 2007

"We Really Don't Appreciate What a Beautiful Planet We Have..."

...no kidding:

Acts 17:26
26 ...and He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation...