By Kay Verrall
Joe Edd Morris’ comments in the April 4 Mississippi United Methodist Advocate (“Christianity, Islam: Faiths of compassion, forgiveness”) have percolated in my thoughts for several weeks. I find that though I am unable to speak knowledgeably about most of the content of his article, I am compelled to take issue with one sentence, which read: “And, yes, though by a different name, that is the same God we worship.”
I take issue, not out of fear or insecurity in my faith as he suggests in the article, but rather out of the very secure position that the God of the Bible, revealed to us in Jesus Christ, present in us as the Holy Spirit, is the one true God, like unto whom there is no other, not by any name.
I am well aware that Morris’ statement is considered correct by many in our society, and even in the church, and, if it were true, it would be a very comfortable and convenient belief, not to mention less offensive than the belief that Christians worship a one-of-a-kind God. If we could all just go along to get along our world would be much less complicated. I believe a statement Bishop (Thomas J.) Bickerton (of the Pittsburgh Area) made in one of his devotionals at our (2006) Annual Conference applies here: “When we sacrifice truth for unity, we end up with neither.”
In his book, Jesus Among Other Gods, the Absolute Claims of the Christian Message, Ravi Zacharias wrote: “All religions are not the same. All religions do not point to God. All religions do not say that all religions are the same. At the heart of every religion is an uncompromising commitment to a particular way of defining who God is or is not and accordingly, of defining life’s purpose... Every religion at its core is exclusive.”
(Morris) intimated that unless one reads Arabic it is impossible to understand adequately the teachings of the Koran. I do not read Arabic. Neither do I read Hebrew, Aramaic nor Greek, but there are many writers and teachers who do read and understand one or all of these languages, and, because of their efforts, I have for most of my life been taught, rebuked, corrected and trained in righteousness by reading various translations of the Bible as well as commentaries and other study aids written by these scholars. Are we not blessed in the Christian faith to have Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit, written by men of old, which can be read and understood in as many languages as it can be translated into!
As a result of my lack of training in Arabic, I also depend upon others for information regarding the Islamic faith. Among the many books and articles which compare and contrast Islam and Christianity, two by Ergun and Emir Caner stand out in my mind (Unveiling Islam and More Than A Prophet).
These two are brothers raised in a strict Muslim family who were, with a third brother, disowned by their father when they became Christians. They were fortunate. As they interpret Hadith 9.57, they should have been killed. They state plainly that they did not “switch religions” but were saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, and, they add, “Christianity is not about religion; it is about a relationship with the Savior. It must be understood that orthodox, biblical Christianity assumes the existence of truth. Truth implies the existence of error, and mutually exclusive claims of truth cannot both be correct. Such is the case with Islam and Christianity. Either Islam is correct in the assumption that ‘there is only One God, Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet,’ or Christianity is correct when Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).’ They cannot both be correct” (p. 16).
The Muslim knows nothing of the love and acceptance of his god and hopes salvation is earned through good works, but is never sure outside of martyrdom. The God of Christianity loved us so much that, even while we were still sinners, he sent his son to die for our salvation. Scripture says that “we know that we know him,” “we know that he is righteous and that everyone who does righteousness is born of him,” “we know that he was manifested to take away the sins of the world,” “we know that we have passed from death unto life,” “we know that we are of the truth,” we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us,” “we know the Spirit of God,” “we know that God hears us,” “we know that we have eternal life” (1 John)
The Koran calls Jesus a prophet, and if that were all he was, he would be in very good company. However, he would not be God, nor would he be the savior of all who come to him. The Caner brothers borrow a motif from Christian philosopher C.S. Lewis and state that if “Jesus claimed to be God, He couldn’t have been a prophet. He could have been insane, like those who wander the streets assuming they are divine. But if He were insane, He couldn’t have been one of Allah’s prophets. He could have been a fraud, deceiving people, but, again, an impostor and charlatan couldn’t have been a prophet of Allah” (p. 18).
Among other things, Jesus claimed to be the bread of life, the light of the world, living water, the way, the truth, the resurrection and the life. He said he was one with the father. John R.W. Scott, in Basic Christianity, wrote: “We cannot any longer regard Jesus as simply a great teacher if he was completely mistaken in one of the chief subjects of his teaching — himself.”
It is instructive that Ergun Caner states that in all his contacts with Muslims he has never heard one say that Allah is the same as the Christian God. He asks: “Is Allah triune? If not, then we are not talking about the same God. Does Allah have a Son? If not, then we are not discussing the same God. Is Allah the vicarious Redeemer and atoning Lamb of God, taking away the sins of the world? If not, then we are not talking about the same God” (p. 108).
Just prior to his death Moses recalled to the children of
My desire is not to belittle the god of another faith nor to try to prove someone right in order to prove someone else wrong and certainly not to add fuel to the fires of controversy that rage around the general discussion of beliefs of different religions.
But I have seen the incredible works of God, I have experienced his presence, his love, his faithfulness, his saving grace.
I felt if I did not speak, even the very rocks would cry out, for I consider it an egregious offense to equate with any other deity the holy God we serve, the one who said, “I am the Lord. That is my name, and my glory I will not give to another.”
• Verrall lives in