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October 15, 2013

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For me this comes down to two opposing stories, one inspired by God, one inspired by Allah. God cannot lie nor does he change; 1 Samuel 15:29, Psalm 92:15, Malachi 3:6, Romans 3:4, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 6:18, James 1:17-18.

Allah on the other hand is called by the Koran the best makr there is. A makr is a deceiver, a deceitful person, a schemer or plotter, a trickster. In other words a liar.

The bible calls Satan the father of lies. (John 8:44)

I'm sure the theological discussion would fall apart from there, but my point would be "how could you believe the story told you by the self proclaimed greatest liar?"

It is as simple as a distinct between the capability between the theology of the cross and the theology of glory.

The theology of the cross is seeing Jesus' ministry as He explained it. John the Baptist hailed Him as the "Lamb of God," not because of His white curly locks of hair. (John 1: 36) More than once Jesus told His disciples of His trip to Jerusalem where He would be betrayed into the hands of men to be killed (but rise again). Jesus spoke of being a ransom for many (Matt. 20: 28; Mark 10: 45). Paul spoke of Christ crucified as the important message (1 Cor. 1: 23), which he admits is foolishness and a stumbling block to some. I like Amy's thought of asking the Muslim why it is essential that Jesus not be crucified; it is also important that we explain the reasons for the shameful death inflicted on Him. Atonement for sin means horrifying death.

The theology of glory is Jesus' return on the Last Day. We too often confuse this idea. Messianic hopes back in Jesus' day wanted the theology of glory then and there. That was not to be Jesus' ministry then and there. What is the use of a glorious king if you would be doomed to be on the losing side?

We all admit that Jesus deserved better than the cross. But it doesn't hang with the notion of how the world should have could have dealt with Jesus, but understanding that crucifixion was the mode of God's accomplishing great things through this horrid device. Maybe foolishness and offense for some who can't fathom God's Riches At Christ's Expense, "but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor. 1: 24)

Strike capability. The word I thought the spell check corrected was compatibility.

"For me this comes down to two opposing stories, one inspired by God, one inspired by Allah."

I was going to add that one place I might start is to ask why I should believe the Koran over the Bible (and corroborating history as well.) However, I think typically this approach won't resonate too well with Muslims...

Perhaps a better way is as Amy suggested; using the pattern we see in Luke 24 on the Emmaus road, we must examine the theology of the Bible and see that the only way was for Jesus to have been crucified; it's the only thing that could have happened ("Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?")

And how did Jesus back up his claim that it was necessary for him to be crucified? "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself."

So it is possible to show from Scripture how it not only is plausible, but also necessary for Jesus to have been crucified.

I think that's what Amy is getting at when she says to "address this object at its theological root."

So what does this look like? Well, if you examine some things about Islam, you find that they consider many figures in the Bible to be prophets of Allah (i.e., Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist, etc.)

So what I would do is show them how these prophets actually point to Christ (as in "types of Christ,") and I think in doing so that would draw out the necessity of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.

The Quran is not the word of God. Here's the proof:

1. The Bible and the Quran both claim to be the word of God.

2. The Bible and the Quran contradict each other on essential theological points. (I.e. the crucifixion of Christ)

3. Therefore they can not BOTH be the word of God.

4. The Bible we have today is the same Bible we had when the Quran was written.

5. The Quran teaches that the Bible is the word of God.

6. But since the Bible contradicts the Quran, then

7. Either the Bible is the word of God and therefore the Quran is not the word of God.

or

8. The Quran is wrong about the Bible being the word of God.

9. And therefore the Quran CAN NOT be the word of God.

10. Therefore the Quran is not the word of God.

It seems that most Muslim's believe that Jesus didn't die but was raised up, before dying, where he waits to come again. A substitute was put in his place that fooled everyone. Jesus is prophesied then to come back and slay the anti-Christ and rule until he dies a natural death. Much debate seems to be on who took his place. I believe that their concern is twofold as to the resurrection: First, they did not believe that Allah would allow the opponents of Jesus to win since they actually do respect Jesus as a prophet, and Two: an admission that he can beat death seems to validate the Christian view of Jesus' deity. I am not entire certain of the second concern because it seems they are ok with Jesus doing some other miracles. Lastly, they seem to want to tie Jesus to other prophets like Jonah who was in the belly of the fish and then came out but never died in there. As usual, the big difference is in who Jesus really was.

I used to hear this a lot, living in the Middle East. I used several responses, but the best one to turn the conversation was to say something like, "You might be right. I seem to remember somewhere in the Injiil where Isa said nobody could take his life but that He would lay it down. Let's check the Injill and see what it does say."
What have I done? I derailed an objection by spiking curiosity. I've appealed to the Injiil, not someone's interpretation as the authority and opened the Scriptures with my Muslim friend.
I DID NOT say anything negative about the Quran or Islam.
I DID NOT appeal to any logic or human wisdom. If my friend saw there was a logical problem, I would say, "Yes, there is a problem. You know which book I choose and you have seen that Allah answers my prayers. Would you like to pray and see how Allah helps you understand this?"

It seems to me that the best way to go about answering this objection is not to begin with a logical proof that the Muslim is wrong and therefore we are right. Anyone who holds to a view which is, on its face, counterintuitive is not going to be readily swayed by someone claiming "your view doesn't make sense," because the view does make sense to them in terms of the deeper question that it is answering.

In this case, even looking at the passage that Amy cites provides a clue about the deeper reasoning that goes on. The passage notes that they (the Jews, presumably) want to boast about killing Jesus, who is one of Allah's great prophets. Since Jesus is a representative of Allah, though, Allah is responsible for his well-being. It is an affront to Allah's dignity (since he's exalted in power and wisdom) that he should not be able to protect his prophets from the wiles of their enemies, and so Allah must have saved Jesus, claiming victory in this struggle for himself leaving his enemies with only a hollow illusion of victory, to be dispelled at the end of time.

In contrast, Christians understand Jesus' death itself to be a great victory over God's enemy Satan, since Jesus allows himself to be exchanged as a ransom for those enslaved by the power of sin. Jesus thus submits himself to death in order to bring God's enemies back under his rightful rule as willing subjects. God, in his wisdom and power, is not merely content to exchange one of his prophets (at this point it might be unhelpful to delve into Jesus being God's Son, since that could distract from the issue at hand) for the freedom of the masses, but rather, having secured the freedom of the masses to become his willing subjects, resurrects his slain prophet to finalize and proclaim his complete and utter victory over his enemy Satan. In this way, God attains his victory and preserves his dignity by not abandoning his prophet to death, but showing that even death is weak compared with God's power.

Having established these two competing metanarratives with regard to the crucifixion, and having couched them similar terms (victory, defeat, power, glory, dignity) that the Muslim will understand, we can then have a fruitful debate on two fronts. First, we can debate about which view better preserves God's (or Allah's) dignity and better showcases his power and wisdom. The second thing we can do is look at the historical evidence (only now, not before establishing the alternative views) and see which view seems to make the most sense in light of the historical record.

The Muslims that I have spoken to have asked me why would I say that Jesus would be used as a scapegoat? I think that this is the difficulty. There is a huge difference between a scapegoat and a willing sacrifice. Of course John 10:18 counters their claim that Jesus was a scapegoat, but there are multiple fronts that have to be dealt with and that includes the issue of scripture not being corrupted, which is the other objection that is likely to come up. This is the thing about dealing with objections there tends to be layering of objections going on that each have to be dealt with in turn as well as the emotional investment a Muslim has in his pet beliefs.

It depends on the particular Muslim. Muslims are not monolithic in their beliefs and many have not even read the Koran. Most simply follow what they've been taught. So a more knowledgeable Muslim might be open to talking about problems with abrogation in the Koran or some other rational approach. I've had some success with Muslim apologists using rational argumentation.

For less-educated Muslims, on the other hand, it is difficult to counter unquestioned teaching where pat responses to our answers have been given to them already. For example, appealing to evidence is easily dismissed by these folks with such notions as they actually crucified a look-alike or Judas, or that Jesus miraculously didn't really die.

For either type, Doug Horton's approach above is the best I've seen on this type of question.

My experience with Muslims has been that they are very different depending on where they come from. But one thing I notice is that they is always a sort of very emotional element to talking with Muslims that must not be dismissed. From what I have heard from North African Missionaries, they say it's better to never mention the Koran or Mohammed, and to use Bible verses sparingly in the beginning. Once I had a conversation with a Muslim, and she said this: "If Christianity is the truth, then God will reveal that to me." What can I say to that? I simply told her that she must remain open and listen, because if she is, then God will show that in some way to her. A North African missionary I know took a survey of some 150 Christians in N. Africa that had left behind Islam. He found that for 80%, a dream had been very pivotal in them becoming Christians. I don't deal with many Muslims, but it's good to be prepared, so more advice from people who are actually experienced would be good.

Stu. That is only an "apparent contradiction". Since the Qur'an is the word of God, there must be some way to reconcile it.

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