Islam over Lunch
From MuslimMatters.org there was a recent posting of an article entitled, What Drew Me to Islam by Andrew Howie. It is required reading for anyone that wishes to consider Islam or contemplate the apologetics for a Christian. To read goto: http://muslimmatters.org/2011/07/05/what-exactly-it-was-that-drew-me-to-islam-2/
The approach here is to defend the Christian position.
Most noteworthy is the article begins with a quote wherein ‘evidence’ is emphasized in terms of the need for a sufficiency of evidence “to believe anything.”
“It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”
– William K. Gifford
The article suggests the reader as a “rational, scientific, intellectually honest person…” He wishes to be smart and to believe, acknowledging “‘you cannot’ be too smart to believe.”
The author’s mentor, or converter, is Shaykh Yasir Qadhi who is at Rhodes, a Southern Liberal Arts College (Memphis, TN), who succeeded in this conversion over lunch. Andrew’s concern in selecting the religion of his final choice (Islam) was “the false fear that true faith may come only at the expense of intellect.” He sought to maintain his “integrity as a thinking person.” He apparently does not watch Fox or CNN as their stories, as he claims, are “half-factual”, clearly suggesting they do not fully vet their reports (Fox or CNN must deal with that concern.) He also states that as to knowledge and preparation those of a ‘minority’ “must be more informed, poised, and persuasive on key issues…” The ‘majority’ can dismiss with such basic principles as having the facts. This may be a generic ‘minority’ viewpoint, with which I must state now I do not agree. He suggests such efforts by the ‘minority’ makes them less of a hypocrite.
As one that Mr. Howie may now label in the ‘majority’ camp, I have been prescreened as a ‘hypocrite – which I pray is not the case.
For Andrew Howie Islam is ‘normal.’ Defining ‘normal’ can be an interesting exercise in itself, but for the moment we can use the author’s points of emphasis seeing for him Islam as the ‘standard’ by which all should live their lives. Islam is a religion:
- Of Honesty
- Of Human dignity
- Having Good old common sense
- Whose Doctrines are easily intelligible
- Whose Doctrines correspond with the universal inclinations of human thought
Whose Doctrines can be expressed through clear, unequivocal use of human language. (I will return to his use of the term ‘unequivocal’ later. )
- Having no suppression of the intellect
- Having no blinding of the senses required to believe
- Having no conflict between reason and faith.
- That is not a foreign culture – same everywhere.
- That is adaptable to all times and places
- Is timeless.
- It stands on its own merits
- One god – Allah
- Submission to the Will of Allah
All of the above can be debated, or discussed, but I will leave that for a later dialog.
The Claim – Jesus is Not Divine
Convincing to Mr. Howie was the Quranic claim that Jesus was not divine, but a human being. He overlooked the virgin birth wherein the essence of the human was cleansed by God (Allah too in Sura 3:42, ‘purifying Mary’, and Sura 3:45, ‘Allah gives thee good news…the Messiah’) How could the son of Allah not be divine? (‘Allah creates what He pleases.’ Sura 3:47) The Quran does deny Jesus divine nature, but the facts do not support this denial/deception.
For the Islamists the Quran sees Jesus birth, Allah enabling Jesus to ‘Be’ as he would Adam or any other. What is denied is that all other humans were born in the normal way, a man (not Allah) and a woman having a child, their DNA combined to make a child. The difference is Allah may allow all humans to ‘Be’, but Allah was not the male component as he was in the case for Christ. The ‘Be’ in this instance is uniquely divine. There was no human male in the equation for the birth of Jesus; it was God.
The Oneness of God
Focusing on the Biblical ‘Shema’ from the Old Testament, Andrew indulges us with ‘Hear,O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord’, with emphasis on ‘one.’ The most important commandment from Jesus was to love God first and foremost and then love neighbor. Much common sense is inherent in the potential for a peaceful world by loving our neighbors, yet the Quran says little about this concept. So the debate then falls upon the ‘Oneness’ of God, the Trinity as the Christians call Him. Addressing the Quranic polytheistic view as to the Trinity, the question asked is ‘How can there be 3, when there is but One?’ Admittedly this is an intellectually troubling concept for Muslims. However, consider this, they have 99 attributes for Allah, not fully delineated and often debated as to what are the 99, but they are presented. Ever-Merciful, All-Powerful, Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Merciful, Forgiving, Compassionate, Maker, Fashioner, Sustainer, and so on, are but a few.
There have been discussions about the Trinity by Muslims, in denial, with points, however, to which I do agree. The term ‘trinity’ is not mentioned in the Bible, neither the Old nor the New Testament. The title ‘trinity’ is a creation of man. The term derived from an attempt at clarity. The attributes of God are many, many (as for Allah), but the primary, principal, most important and characteristic are the three.
Christians have but 3, yes, all attributes of the One God, not as thirds, not distinct, but overlapping and in union. The essence is the same, the attributes are as Planner (the Father), Implementor (Jesus), and Sustainer (Holy Spirit). Quoting Tim Keller, his book, King’s Cross, “Trinitarian holds that there is one God in three persons who know and love one another. God is not more fundamentally one than he is three, and he is not more fundamentally three than he is one.” (Pg. 6)
So the Shahada says but Allah, one god – with many attributes. The Christian has but One God, with many attributes, however with emphasis given three functioning attributes as the utmost essence of God – embodied in the post-Biblical term – Trinity.
Joseph as Father
Mr. Howie returns to the divinity of Christ, a reading of Luke 2:33, wherein is made a reference to Joseph and Mary as Father and Mother. It is made clear in Luke that Mary conceived of Jesus while still a virgin. In Luke 2:26 reference is made to the baby as the ‘Lord’s Messiah.’ Gabriel foretold of the birth of Jesus in Luke 1:28-32 to be called the ‘Son of the Most High.’ Now if you then were married to Mary and pledged to keep her and protect her and her children, you would also become the father, adopting the child, of Jesus. Mary was pregnant before Joseph and she were wedded, a no-no at that time, indeed. Joseph knew how special the child Jesus was and surely would have been honored to be his male parent on earth.
I am not a fan of Bart Ehrman, he is scholarly; Mr. Howie uses Erhman’s writings to question the accuracy of the Bible (as do other Muslims) noting historical errors in transcription.
A source (Answering-Islam: http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/thompson/bart_ehrman_hero.html) notes, “Bart Ehrman rejects Islam’s position that Jesus wasn’t crucified and he has openly stated that he believes Jesus was crucified according to the available data.” They go on to state, “In conclusion, we learn that Ehrman grants many things that Islam emphatically denies which should make people wonder why they hold this man in such a high view. We learn that Ehrman accepts four important historical facts that Islam rejects about Jesus and early Christianity. Ehrman grants Jesus’ death on the cross, the reliability of Paul as an apostle and acquaintance of the disciples, Jesus’ burial, that Jesus’ followers had experiences in which they believe Jesus appeared to them, and that the Gospel of John teaches the deity of Christ.” Thus with respect to critical elements for the followers of Christ, according to Ehrman – he lived, he died on the cross (not a fake), and witnesses saw the Lord Risen. Ehrman is supportive of Christ.
The Writing of the Bible
On the subject of the Bible may I say that claiming it was written by God, even dictated by God or an angel has never occurred. What is said is the words written are ‘inspired’ by God. As witnesses to an accident of sorts, when interviewed, each story or description of events would not be word-for-word the same. There would be variations but with the same conclusion. The human element in the written Word is part of its allure, its credibility, its honesty and its attractiveness. To be entirely literal as to what is written would enable interpretive difference and can lead to use in countering statements the Bible makes. Example:
- In Matthew (28:19) Jesus tells his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you….” In Mark (16:15) many Muslims claim the Bible says (and Dr. Lawrence Brown is one of them…www.leveltruth.com) that Jesus tells he disciples to baptize in His name (Jesus, not Father, Son and Holy Spirit). I have read many versions of the Bible and the Mark paragraph informs the disciples that “all who have been baptized shall be saved.” That is it, it does not state nor claim that people are to be baptized in Jesus name only. Would it matter, though, knowing Jesus as God? In each case Christ had already Risen, thus the disciples knew he was divine, more than human; he was God. Refer to the NIV, NIV84, the NASB, the ASV, the KJV, the HCSB, the ESV, and even the Message Bible.
- One other example, John 14:6 reads, Jesus speaking to his disciples at the Passover dinner, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus makes clear his divine nature, even if the disciples at that time did not fully comprehend. Earlier in John (5:37), Jesus speaking to a crowd, Jews, about God, “His voice you may have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you….” Often Muslims claim these passages contradict each other; is Jesus God or not. In the 5:37, entry, a time prior to the Passover dinner, the gathering consists of non-believers and the point being made is they would not (even with God before them), because of their personal nature and selfish desires, and their denial, be able to seen God or have ever seen Him. It reflects the audiences lack of spiritual perception of who Jesus really is.
Love Your Neighbor
Even if a non-Christian were to adhere to the practices for living outlined in the Bible, he/she would be a good neighbor, and reflect on the laws created for the ‘common good’ of all people. It reflects God’s unconditional love and desire for peace among all men. The Bible’s importance is more than just the reality of the Truth of God, as carefully noted by men whose hearts were fully engaged in a relationship with the Lord. None ever claimed to write God’s words. They were ‘inspired’ by God to record history, parables, miracles, lives of important believers and prophets, to provide examples of God’s will and wrath, and to proclaim and insure the world knew the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ. The theme, the practices, the answers to questions, and the words spell a world of peace for all, if all, believers.
Biblical Time Span
The Bible covers a significant span of time – it is historically significant and is supported with architectural evidence and much more. There were many authors, but the focus of the Word is consistent. There is controversy. There is also uniformity in the story told. The focus is reality, not fantasy. It leaves much for discussion and understanding. Each reading brings to life God, his intentions, expectations and the opportunities for all humans. From the events of the Old Testament to the changes in the New, the new covenant for mankind, all-inclusive, the New Testament brought to reality God’s promise through a personal visit making everyone his chosen, saved by his Grace. Good news is reported. It is not by works or deeds – by your good actions outweighing your bad actions; it is by Grace we are saved. And as thanks for this gift of eternal life we accept the Lord, we volunteer, having a heart for God, to do what is right, kind, gracious, forgiving, repentant and loving.
Muhammad’s Time Span
Muhammad and the Quran covers a period of less than 20 or 30 years, not even his lifetime, and is founded upon the recollection of dreams suggesting 1.) perfect recall of the dream/revelation, 2.) repeated word-for-word recitation of the same dream for many years, and by different human beings, and 3.) the dreams were finally recorded after Muhammad’s death, when he was not available to confirm the accuracy of what his Companions, those still living, decided to put to paper from their own abilities at recall.
I respect the Muslim for accepting Muhammad’s dreams, but for me there are doubts as I know personally, and having spoken with many, many others about their dreams, how difficult it is to recall any dream, let alone do so completely. It is even more difficult to retell the dream over and over without embellishment. Then add to that the expectation that best friends will write-down my dream after I die, even claiming my words were the words of the divine, adds to my skepticism.
The Quran is Perfect Claim
Mr. Howie claims “the Qur’an is perfect and without disagreement or variation.” He says it has never been changed. And that it “is only one text in one language.”
There was more than one copy of the Quran transcribed, in fact several, and they differed. But it was decided, as a council of remaining Companions (I would imagine, and not in full accord) as to one text. The others were destroyed. Thus the “only one text.” And as to only “one language”, it is my understanding as well the language of Arabic used is difficult for most Muslims to understand. Thus interpretation is needed. Then there is the issue of ‘Abrogation” where what was written earliest if stated at variance later in the Quran was Abrogated, or considered null and void, no longer the truth. That is change, variation, and today for some confusion as to what came first, as the Suras are not in chronological order. One last point – the Quran is Allah’s word, yet there are Suras in part which are distinctly human, more Muhammad than godlike in context.
Al-Ghazali is one scholar in Islam considered by many second in importance to Muhammad. He does not care for Philosophy or Science, relying, as he states all Muslims must do, on the Revelations, the Will of Allah. Reason is to be set-aside. The mind of man can only accept Allah without any doubts. Doubt and you are an apostate, or a Muslim in name only.
Mr. Howie, his intellect at work, suggests the Quran’s teachings are:
- Of a singular, divine authorship.
- Its language is unrivaled by any other work in Arabic.
I agree with Mr. Howie in his conclusion that “the truth must be clear and easily accessible.” But God having given me the intellect, the mind and the ability to consider all facts, I cannot in all good conscience rely on the Will of Allah without proactive participation.
I bathe in the light of God’s Revelation and take seriously his charge for man to ‘subdue’ the earth, to be responsible for mankind, the animals, the plants and the all of earth. His Will will be revealed in discoveries as he will allow that which is necessary to be revealed as needed. God likes scientists. With the effort to discover, and the understanding of cause and effect, his Will can be knowable, and thus God can be knowable. What God wants is a relationship with Him. God, described by his functionary attributes by man as ‘Trinity’ loves unconditionally, seeking our love in return, and wants us to volunteer, our free-will engaged, to love him also.
Allah demands obedience and your love. (Do you think Islam allows ‘free-will’?)
Another Tim Keller statement (King’s Cross), “The essence of other religions is advice; Christianity is essentially news.” (Pg. 15). The news is noted in the Bible: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” – (2 Corinthians 5:21)
Islam is misunderstood by the masses, so Mr. Howie claims. Writing this Blog, with an emphasis on Understanding Islam, I have begun to understand, and what I understand does not make Islam humane, consistent, honest or containing ‘good old common sense.’ It is demeaning towards women, denies education, emphasizes authority over common courtesy, and does not protect the common good, only the good of Muslims.
As to ‘unequivocal’ when applied to human language, most simply do not understand the Quran as written in its original language. There is doubt – as why are so there many who interpret the Quran at variance – the Sunni, the Shia, the Ash’erites, the Mu’tazilites, etc. A response received from a Muslim commentor ‘N’ to explain, “yes we do understand the Arabic of the Qur’an. I speak Arabic and I don’t have a difficult time reading the Qur’an. But, just like all the revelations, it’s open to different interpretations because the Qur’an is perfect but we, the readers, aren’t.” So the fault of any misinterpretation of the Quran is on man, and since all we learn about the Quran is from ulema (scholars), they being men, all we learn may indeed be suspect. There is no divine interpreter.
Note, however, the Bible has a divine interpreter in Jesus.
And as to evidence, Mr. Howie opened with, “It is wrong…for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” There are libraries filled with evidence that supports the Bible. From archeological finds, to witnesses, to documentation, to historic places, to persons of the Bible (and the Quran, whose source was the Bible – although the Islamist claim Allah, via Muhammad), there is abundant evidence, to include evidence for the divinity of Jesus and his Resurrection. Christians have allowed the Bible to be questioned, attacked, have even allowed themselves to be persecuted in defense of their faith. There is no fear that a proper exploration of the Bible, its truths and its support evidence will uphold all the claims God has made therein, the words inspired by God. However there is fear that a similar performance of study on the Quran, allowing Muslims to explore and even convert if they otherwise believe, is detrimental to the authority and control now imposed on Muslims using Allah as a scare tactic.
Witnesses to the Resurrection
Often question is the resurrection. Can we deny witnesses. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 reads, a letter from Paul to the people of Corinth, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (meaning it was foretold), the he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve (disciples). After that, he appeared to more than five hundred (500) of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep (died). Then he appeared to James, then to all the Apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also….”
Over 500 hundred witnessed Jesus in his Risen state. None ever contested what was written by the authors of the Bible. What was written was completed and available while the witnesses were still alive. Someone would have said something if this were not the Truth. Even non Biblical authors, like Josephus, confirmed the reports and lack of any refutation. Same with the crucifixion. It was a practice for multitudes to gather and watch this act of extreme punishment by the Romans. Christ’s crucifixion was no different – it was not a private matter.
Best of Deceivers
The Quran counters the Bible in a direct fashion, focused on the heart of Christianity – the Resurrection. Christians need Jesus to be God, to then die and rise again to fulfill the multitude of prophesies on this subject. But it happened, was witnessed and was documented. The Quran, Muhammad also, must deny this event to gather a following to Islam. It is the religion, the ideology, of Muhammad. Are Muslims being deceived? That is not my stance, but I think they are being mis-informed, and often convinced about issues of the Bible that are not factual. There are many who only see the good of Allah and their faith is strong and supportive of a peaceful world, even a pluralistic world where freedom of religion is possible. All the justification and cause for jihad, engendering acts of terrorism against non-Islamic-believers, is not pleasant, even to Muslims – I pray it is most, but have doubts. Help me, dear Lord, with my doubts.
The Quran does refer to Allah as an extraordinary planner, in fact the best of Deceivers.
How could the Best of Deceivers (Sura 3:54) have not deceived many, including Muslims. If the Quran is Allah’s word, as the Deceiver that he is, who is being deceived?
We Can Only Pray
To all Muslims who are accepting of other faiths, deplore terrorist acts, seek neighbors who are loving and kind, and desire a government that provides for the good of all citizens, not just the Muslims, may they find the voice to speak openly. May they tell others that Allah does not want Muslims attacking Christians or Jews, that Allah does not believe in sex-slaves, that Allah considers men and women as equals, that Allah would allow a Church next door, that Allah would allow others to express their faiths and their opinions, even proselytize, that Allah would allow reason to be applied, and that Allah would allow religious differences to exist side-by-side, in peaceful coexistence, in turn making the world safe and secure, and a paradise for all. And if not Allah then who? – possibly a deeper review of God, the Biblical God will provide ample Revelation of the truth – to include the freedom to think for oneself.
For Mr. Howie, I would recommend further research and a critical study of the ‘evidence.’ You too are in my prayers.
Grace and Peace,