UI – Part 200 – Mono-Theistic Religions
When we think of monotheistic religions three come to mind: Christianity, Islam and Judaism. If you are now thinking Mormonism, we can catalog that with Christianity, even though there are significant differences. The question is what makes them similar and what makes them different.
The three share a connection with Abraham and Biblical Prophets. They look to Moses who descended from Mt. Sinai with the tablet that aided in establishing the moral code of laws for everyone. Such laws made obvious, especially for the immoral or ungodly, the restraints needed on their way of living to enable a peaceful and compatible social order.
In a speech given at Harvard by John Lennox, a professor at Cambridge, his example was the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That would apply as well to atheists or followers of polygamistic faith.
The difference: Jews towards Jesus Christ – no Jew suggests Jesus did not live. They regard Jesus as an important, moral example to mankind. A Prophet. They are at odds about his death.
The Jew claims Jesus died. He is dead. No resurrection.
The Muslims dispute Jesus’ death on the cross, claiming it was faked, even though this claim was written 600 years after the event took place. Somehow the death was to occur, the Jews instrumental in having the Romans execute Christ by means of crucifixion, Muhammad stating there was a substitute in his place, or he survived the ordeal and lived.
Christians are aware of Jesus’ life, death on the cross and resurrection. He was made alive anew and lives. The significance of the Christian position is supposedly the evidence. Hundreds witnessed Christ risen. Believers change; their lives are different. No contemporaries ever denied the event. As a living being Christians speak of having a relationship with Him. That is made possible by His existence and reality. As the old hymn relates, “he walked with us and He talked with us….”
So in simple terms, Jesus for the Jew died like any other mortal. For the Muslim, Jesus died as a mortal but after the crucifixion story which was contrived, thus denying Christ’s divinity. For the Christian, Christ lives.
Being saved, the pathway to salvation is different too. For the Jew and Muslim, how their lives are led and measured, good actions and evil actions become essential.
The Jew is aware of his sinful nature, must repent, sacrifice, atone and ask forgiveness.
The Muslim is without original sin. But is weak and subject to temptation. Repentance, atonement and asking Allah for his forgiveness follows. The Muslims make judgments on their own as a determination of good action exceeding evil actions, even weighing the magnitude of “good” as heavy or light, prayful Allah will judge according to the good far exceeding the evil in a given individual.
In either case, Jews or Muslim, God’s or Allah’s judgment is an unknown. It is God’s decision alone.
The Christian has a unique situation. Having a living God and Jesus Christ the sacrifice for all who believe, all sins, past, present and future have been forgiven. Christians recognize they are sinners, repent and atone, but know they are forgiven. God’s judgment is in their heart, its truth in loving and leading a life committed to Him and growing in a developing relationship with Him.
Three Days in Hell
You might ask what happened to Jesus, after he died and was placed in the tomb, for the 3 days before he rose again. This may not be a scholarly theologian response, but one to consider.
Jesus died with the burden of the sins of mankind upon Him. After he died and was entombed, he descended into Hell, into the dwelling place of Satan. He laid at Satan’s feet all those sins making note he achieved his stated goal of overcoming “Sin”. After three days he accomplished another goal, overcoming “death” by rising to live for 40 days with his apostles and hundreds of others and then upon his ascension into heaven, leaving behind the Counselor promised would follow, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would dwell in the heart, mind and soul of those who believed in the Risen Lord.
Christians are forgiven because they believe; they have committed their lives to God, to the living water of Christ that flows in their bodies. The moral code is inherent in their nature, the Spirit of the Lord as their guarantee of salvation and reminder of the walk they are on and a guide to remaining on the pathway to His eternal kingdom.
If everyone were all on the same path there would be peace on earth.
The Bible, the Scripture of the Christian, informs the reader with words spoken by Jesus Christ. There are two essential commandments. The first is to Love God. The second is to Love Neighbor. From Mark 12:29-31, “The most important one (commandment),” answered Jesus, “is this: Hear, O Israel, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
The Jew is guided in the Old Testament (as also the Christian), from Proverbs 3:29,30, “Do not plot against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. Do not accuse a man for no reason…”
The Muslim has no such compulsion, either to love neighbor or to avoid plotting against neighbor. They are asked to be a good neighbor, thus to protect their faith and avoid confrontation, yet they are not friends of non-believers, as that would not be in keeping with the Quran.
“Vengeance is mine,” is the Lord’s claim. It is not said that vengeance is in the hands of those who believe in God, or in the hands of those who have Allah as their god. Judgment and punishment for wrongs against the divine are not man’s, but God’s. Judgment Day is established for that purpose. That is not how the Muslim thinks. They do not separate the State from the religion or ideology of Islam. The social code is from the Quran. Civil Laws and Theocratic Laws are to be the same, even though administered by men and not Allah. Wrongs are not committed in the name of Allah. But certainly for many who observe stoning of adulterers, hands cut off for stealing bread, death penalties declared for desecrating a Quran or leaving the religion of Islam (apostasy), and restrictions on human rights, requirements for certain dress or facial hair, and even words spoken of Allah, Muhammad or the Quran expressing doubt are subject to ‘severe chastisement.’
The Christian separates civil law and God’s laws to be obeyed. Men/women form governments and establish a framework for the society they are to oversee on the basis of the entire population, which is not just one religion. It is all encompassing. Muslim, Jew, Wiccan, Mormon, Hindu, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, pagan and Christian are all to be under the laws of their region. The purpose is to insure human rights, protection of life, limb and property, and defense of liberties are accorded all equally.
Not so in a Muslim society. The constitution for the Muslim, a Muslim majority culture or region or country, is the Quran. Where societies have strayed towards a more free society, such as in Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, Mali, and parts of Indonesia, attempts are being made, not peacefully mind you, to alter this course. Where already established Islamic Law is imposed and controlled with military oversight, independent thinking is limited. Are these societies to be made up of automatons for Allah? The handcuffs of the Quran, the laws of Islam as man wrote, have leaders, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and affiliates that seek a return to the most restrictive codes.
People of the Bible, Old Testament and New, may wish the guidelines, the moral code of ethics, put forth in the Bible are a significant factor in establishing a Constitution, but not the Bible itself. They must first lead their lives according to their knowledge, understanding and relationship with God. It is by faith. They are to respect the laws of their homeland too, even if at variance to their beliefs. But they can request relief or fairness as to their beliefs if society, through established governments, the men and women of the legislatures, attempts to change dramatically issues that are morally repugnant, not fully clarified or agreed upon by the entirety of the population. Issues such as abortion and contraception come to mind. The action itself is objectionable, but not excluded. The bridge to nowhere is when governments impose a requirement to pay for the sins of others. The sinner can choose to sin and remain loved as a neighbor, but just let not those who feel differently be mandated to pay for the sin. That makes them complicit and in many ways, and for many, a sinner also.
Christians are not of the mind to require a theocracy – a government led by and fully influenced by the Bible.
Jews are as the Christian. Israel is not a theocratic government.
Where there is Islam there is but one desire, a government with an ideological mindset and voice that is all Islam. The Muslim cannot live in a free society by the standards of the Quran; that is the position of the ulema, the scholars, the fundamentalists of Islam.
Know the world may never find a common ground, a standard that fits the monotheistic religions. Clearly not in a Muslim controlled areas where Islamic Law is the order. Only in a free society where religions are accepting of others, loving of neighbor, is that possible. America was the model, at least when it began and as it has evolved. Never perfect, but at least trying and respecting others. All people in a society need not agree, but they should be able to voice their opinions, discuss their beliefs, encourage others, share history and facts, debate, and feel free to speak as they believe without fear of retribution. They should not feel threatened.
Grace and Peace.