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Saints and Sceptics
We’re more than a little concerned by Christian critiques which attempt to “expose” Islam as a religion of violence*. This leaves the question: what exactly is your problem with Islam, then? Why are you not Muslims? Or why do you not worship with Muslims? And our answer is “Islam does not have the way, the truth and the life!” We’re not foolish enough to believe that an entire religion can be defeated in one brief article. However, we think that the standard Muslim objections to Christianity are very weak; and we believe that Islam has to answer some very serious challenges from Christianity.
1) Above all, Muslims must honestly confront the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and his claims to be God. They do not have a bias against miracles, so this evidence should be more than persuasive. (The notion that Jesus did not die on the cross, or that the Gospels are forgeries, is laughable at best!)
2) Islam underestimates God’s love when Muslims dismiss the atonement or the incarnation as too dishonouring for God.
3) Islam is based on commands and submission to the will of God. By way of contrast, the Bible is about covenants and fellowship with God. A covenant is more than a contract or a set of laws. A covenant is like a marriage – it creates a deep bond, a permanent relationship. Christians believe that God seeks to know us, to transform us, and to be known by us.
4) Islam says that we can know little more of God than what his will is. But why should we think that? If he can reveal his will, why can he not enter into a more personal relationship with us? We may not be able to know or experience everything about God; but that does not mean we that he could not reveal some important facts about who he is, that he could not act to demonstrate his love, and that we could not be thoroughly transformed by a relationship with him. If this is what God wants to do there is nothing to stop him from doing it.
5) Islam rejects the need for atonement. Therefore, Islam underestimates the gap between God and man and underestimates God’s Holiness. Muslims typically believe that we are weak-willed, but have it in our own power to choose God and the good. Christianity teaches that this underestimates our problems significantly: something has gone wrong with human nature. Our problem is not just that we fail in some of our moral obligations, but that we wrong God, not least by turning away from him and going our own way. We have cut ourselves off from the very source of goodness and so are no longer able to meet God’s standards.
6) How could we please a Holy God by our own efforts? God would know every thought, motive and emotion that we keep hidden from others: could we bear the shame of having our sins uncovered? And could a perfectly good God simply overlook wrongdoing without punishment? Wouldn’t that, in effect, condone wrongdoing? Wouldn’t it fail to do justice to the seriousness of the wrongdoing? In that case, wouldn’t forgiveness come at the expense of justice…
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