Muslims love Jesus too. At least, that’s what a new billboard campaign claims. The question, though, is which Jesus do they love?
There’s the Jesus described by the Gospel writers. These eyewitnesses walked with Jesus, ate with him, talked with him, and saw Him perform miracles. They knew Him.
Then, there’s the Jesus described 600 years later by the Qur’an. That author did not know Jesus, see Jesus, or live anywhere near where Jesus ministered.
As one would expect, the Jesus of the Qur’an looks a lot different than the biblical Jesus. That’s significant, since the billboard campaign gives the impression that Muslims love the same Jesus that Christians do.
But that’s not the case. The Jesus of the Bible is the son of God, the second person of the Trinity, was crucified, resurrected, and atoned for the sins of mankind. The Qur’an, on the other hand, denies every one of these points: the Trinity, His death on the cross, His resurrection, and the atonement. These differences aren’t merely incidental details. They are fundamental attributes of the identity and role of Christ. If you deny them, you deny the real Jesus.
Not only does the Qur’an paint a different picture of Jesus, it depicts an Islamicized version of Him. New Testament scholar Craig Evans points out, “All of the Qur'anic traditions are dependent on the New Testament and/or Christian teachings…Much of it reflects Islamic ideas. Some of it may reflect aspects of Jewish-Christian polemic. None derives from early, independent sources.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against Muslims loving Jesus. I hope they fully embrace Him, His teachings, and His atoning work. But they need to love the Jesus of history, not the Christ of the Qur’an. The former is real while the latter is fictionalized.
Muslims, in fact, have good reason to accept the biblical Jesus. Their highest authority, the Qur’an, affirms the Gospel (and also the Torah and Psalms) as a divine revelation from Allah. It places the Gospel on par with the Qur’an, saying that Muslims should believe in both revelations (Surah 29:46) and “Make no difference between one and another of them” (Surah 2:136).
I realize that present-day Muslims might balk at these Qur’anic commands and claim the Christian scriptures are corrupted. This, though, is a Muslim belief and not a Qur’anic teaching. For four hundred years after Mohammed, no Muslim scholar claimed the Bible was corrupt. Now, however, the claim of corruption is deeply embedded in Muslim culture, but it’s not backed by their highest authority. I explain more about how Muslims can accept the Gospel in The Ambassador’s Guide to Islam.
The bottom line, though, is that anyone can claim to love Jesus. But who is this Jesus you’re claiming to love? While Jehovah’s Witnesses might love Jesus, they claim he is the archangel Michael. While Mormons might claim to love Jesus, they believe he is a god, but not the God. In the same way, Muslims claim to love Jesus, but they believe he is merely a human and a prophet like Moses or Mohammed.
It’s one thing to fashion Jesus to your liking and claim to love him. That’s easy. It’s a different thing to love Jesus as He truly exists.
So, while I think the billboard campaign is misleading, I think Christians can still use a Muslim’s love or commitment to Christ as a common denominator leading to further discussion. We may have the opportunity to eventually point Muslims to His true identity found in the Gospels.
We Need to Get Rid of Faith by Brett Kunkle: “In today’s culture, the word ‘faith’ comes with too much baggage. For many, faith is a blind, arbitrary leap in the dark that has no relationship to reason, evidence, or knowledge. So let me make a suggestion. Let’s use the word ‘trust’ instead. ‘Trust’ accurately communicates the biblical idea of faith. In addition, it helps us reunite true faith with reason, evidence, and knowledge. Why? Because we know people only put their trust in what they have good reason to believe is true.” (Read more)
Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? by Alan Shlemon: “We need to recognize that ‘God’ is not God’s name. It’s more like the title of a position. The position is a what, but the person who fills that position is a who. It’s helpful to think of it as a public office. The president, for example, is the title of a position, but a unique person occupies that office and fulfills its duties. In the same way, God is the title of the position or office. Both Christians and Muslims believe in the same what – a God whose duties include things like creating, receiving worship, and judging. They differ on who they believe is the person who occupies that position. Muslims believe that person is Allah and Christians believe it is Yahweh.” (Read more)
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Most of the world seems to believe that same-sex attraction can’t be changed. I believe this is a myth.
I attended the NARTH (National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality) annual convention in Phoenix a few weeks ago and learned a lot about the current state of research helping people with unwanted same-sex attraction (SSA). I’m not a therapist of any sort, but I go almost every year to keep abreast of the work being done in this field.
It turns out that not only is sexual orientation fluid, but many instances of change occur without any therapy or intervention. For example, a study from the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that 68% of 15 year-olds with same-sex attraction had opposite-sex attraction (OSA) by the age of 21.* Again, these changes occurred spontaneously.
It’s interesting to note that sexual identification appears to be most fluid during these teenage years, precisely when youth are most likely to be affirmed by the culture as “gay.” Yet what we find is that it’s more likely that they will naturally fall back to predominately OSA within a few years.
Another highlight of the conference was to learn how clinicians have improved the effectiveness of therapy. By complimenting their therapy with new modalities used to treat other psychological symptoms, they are now able to achieve results more quickly.
In fact, some of the clinicians I spoke to said that if a person with unwanted SSA enters therapy, they expect them to experience change in their attraction. If they don’t see results, then either the therapist is missing something or the client is not following through on their end. The point is that they are finding a high rate of success helping people reduce their unwanted SSA.
Just to be clear, the therapists I spoke with are not saying that it’s easy to achieve success or that everyone is able to change. It’s hard work. Nor are they suggesting to force therapy on anyone. In fact, they believe in client self-determination and pursuing the client’s goals. They often treat gay men and women for other kinds of psychological symptoms with no intent to alter their SSA.
Another point of clarification is that categorical change (from exclusive SSA to exclusive OSA) is relatively rare, but it does occur. NARTH clinicians (and their clients) see change occur along a continuum, where many of those with unwanted SSA achieve major and sustained shifts in their sexual attraction that they find satisfying. These people begin with exclusive or dominant SSA and end with dominant OSA. Most importantly, they experience significant degrees of satisfaction because they find that their OSA is more congruent with their values or life goals.
Those who deny that change is possible often have unrealistic expectations for what constitutes genuine change. Their standard seems to be a categorical 100%-gay-to-100%-straight change. Anything short of that is failure. The instant a former homosexual experiences even a hint of a homoerotic thought, they’re branded a backslider, a faker, or an ex-ex-gay. This is unrealistic, though, and isn’t consistent with the measures of success for other therapies. As I wrote in my book, “People being treated for depression still feel depressed at times. Others fail entirely. That doesn’t mean depression can’t be treated. The same is true with other psychological conditions like bipolar, obsessive compulsive disorder, etc.” In other words, genuine change occurs along a continuum.
I suspect that many people are skeptical of this report and that’s understandable. To be honest, I’ve been following this field for more than a decade and I was surprised. It’s rare to hear this kind of success, even in Christian circles. It’s possible, though, that one reason for this is that sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) constitute a broad range of therapies. From what I can tell, many clinicians at this conference specialize in a particular type of therapy that has proven more effective than others. An even smaller group are combining modalities to their therapy to be more efficient. That’s why you might hear of people attempting SOCE but finding that rate of success to be extremely low. It could be that they are pursuing religiously mediated change or other therapy methods that aren’t necessarily used by NARTH’s clinicians.
Either way, it seems the claim that change is impossible is a myth. Not only does therapy help men and women with unwanted SSA, it’s becoming more effective.
That’s a problem for the gay rights narrative. If homosexuals can change, then this casts doubt that homosexuality is an inborn, immutable trait. If homosexuals can change, it will be hard to draw a parallel between sexual orientation and ethnicity. If homosexuals can change, they can no longer claim that God made them that way. Many of the arguments of the gay rights narrative will seem specious.
*Savin-Williams et al., “Prevalence and Stability of Sexual Orientation Components during Adolescence and Young Adulthood,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2007.