As I feel the burden to comment increasingly on Islam I also feel an equal burden to differentiate between Islam the religion and Muslims who are born into an Islamic context. A majority of Muslims that I have personally interacted with are sweet, friendly, and opposed to violence in the name of Allah, and for this I rejoice. I genuinely love Muslim people. I live across the street from about 900 of them at a nearby college campus and I can’t go to Chipotle or to a coffee shop in our neighborhood without seeing them. I’ve been trying to learn more and more Arabic since 2011 so that I can start the most basic conversations with them to make them feel at home right where they are. I love seeing them smile and I love telling them about the way of salvation. Point being, I love Muslims even though I disagree entirely with Islam.
There are many philosophies that are terribly untrue whose owners and creators are very sweet people; their sweetness has literally nothing to do with the legitimacy of their philosophy. The nice guy is not the right guy, nor is the mean guy the wrong guy. Truth doesn’t always land in the hands of kind people nor falsehood in the hands of the cruel, but they remain true or false regardless. The truth of a matter must be weighed irrespective of the demeanor of the person speaking. Certainly a kind demeanor helps, however it is not the smile that convinces us of the truth of someone’s words, but the tested content of what is said.
When I write about Islam I am typically writing about Islam from its own texts, traditions, and Mohammed’s example. From these alone a very different picture is painted of Islam than that of the majority of my Muslim neighbors. I think it is just and fair to differentiate between the religion of Islam and many millions who identify as Muslims yet do not adhere to the teachings of the Quran or Mohammed’s example. Certainly one of the main differences is in how a person becomes a Muslim. There are many conversions to Islam and since 9/11 the number of American converts to Islam has increased dramatically, but this does not even come close to the amount of people who are born into Islam every day. The main way that Islam grows is through its radically higher birthrate, not through conversions. This is important to note because all Christians are converts. They are born sinners regardless of their parents, culture, or country and must be born again into the family of God. For a Muslim however there is only one birth, which is their birth into a Muslim family. In Islam an individual starts out a Muslim and deliberate action is required to leave the religion. This difference creates a disparity between Islam and Muslim individuals. To say it simply many who identify as Muslims have not chosen it for themselves. This causes many who profess to be Muslim not to give much more attention to the texts that their immediate surroundings demand from them.
Every religion has those who adhere to the texts and those who deviate from them, Islam is no exception. The real question is which group is deviating from the texts? Is it the peaceful Muslims or the Mujahideen who are fighting holy war? The same could be asked in Christianity, which group is deviating from the texts? Those who in humility and love trust in Christ and follow after him or the crusaders with Muslim and Jewish blood on their hands?
It is not up to Christians to answer this question about Islam nor is it up to Muslims to answer this question about Christianity, it is up to the texts themselves. It is up to the New Testament and Jesus’ example to examine which forms of Christianity are legitimate and orthodox and it is up to the Quran and the Hadith to examine which form of Islam is legitimate and orthodox.
I’ve been asked why I would bother with comparing the two religions, and here is the nature of my burden to talk about Islam--it has two parts:
1) I want Muslims to read the texts of their religion and to be bothered by their contents. The end goal is not that they be turned from Islam alone, but that they be turned from Islam to follow the true and living God. My sincere hope is that they would meet the Jesus of the New Testament, the one who was shamed, disgraced, and died in their place, so that they may live and be highly honored by God.
2) I want Christians to be awakened to the Islamic revival and to be aware of its implications. I want those who follow Jesus to be adequately prepared for the challenge that Islam presents to Christianity in the 21st century. Islam is not a distant contender, but one of the two fastest growing religions in the world. We must know our mission field, our neighbors, and how we are to reach them with the gospel of peace.
I want Muslims who may be cultural Muslims only to be made aware of the Islamic texts if they are not already. I feel no ability to love salvation and simultaneously have mercy on the ideologies that prevent it. I love the truth therefore I desire for those who are deceived to be freed from their deception.
In a similar way I want Christians to join that cause. Christians are often the first to defend the religion of Islam, mostly because they have friends who are Muslim that they truly love. I commend the love they have and appreciate it, but as I said above it is ill placed confidence. Our Muslim friends are not kind because their religion teaches kindness, they are kind because they are kind. A person’s kindness simply does not legitimize their faith system. This view that kindness legitimizes a faith system has led to some very damaging syncretism between Islam and Christianity in which the mixture is so extreme that both parties are ultimately lost. I write about Islam because I believe that Christians must know at least some of its doctrines in order be alert to the encroaching reality of syncretism and it’s open defiance to the call of Biblical repentance. Thinking that Islam is complementary to Christianity will lead to a weakened call for repentance to the Muslim community, it will weaken our invitation for them to reject Mohammed as a prophet and to turn to the God of Israel and His glorious gospel. If we think that Mohammed is congruent with Christianity then the Word has been blunted and our message practically worthless.
In closing, I will be commenting on Islam more in the future, I hope that what I’ve written above comes to your mind while I am doing so. I hope that you would know I love Muslims while at the same time believing Islam to be categorically false. How can I do this? Simply by believing that though people are sinful by nature they are sought after by God. May those who follow the Mohammedan way come to repentance in droves and turn to the Son of God, Jesus the Messiah.