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Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: Today’s lesson is on salvation in Christianity and Islam. If salvation to eternal life is a gift, do good deeds mean anything? Muslims rely on their good deeds for salvation. We discuss faith and works in the setting of Christmas, when God gave us the greatest gift of all – Jesus Christ and salvation through him. Guest Rev. Bob Siegel discusses the gift of salvation, and how it leads to obedience to God.
Reality: Giving Gifts at Christmas
Huda has only been a Christian for three months. This is her first Christmas. In the video lesson’s opening segment, we see Huda and Dr. Cynthia exchanging Christmas gifts – real ones in real time.
Is there a reason that we give gifts at Christmas? Huda asks. Yes. We do it for fun. It is a happy time! But more importantly, we give gifts because at Christmas God came to earth as Jesus to give us the gift of eternal life. Because of our sin, we face eternal death.
The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23
For by grace you are saved, through faith. Ephesians 2:8
This reality scene is another example of how we can use the activities of everyday life to share the truth of the Bible. We close the scene by drawing attention to God’s gift:
Thanks be unto God for his indescribable gift! II Corinthians 9:14
(Note: Because she is teaching Huda, Dr. C uses the Arabic word Injeel for the New Testament.)
Salvation in Christianity: a Ticket to Heaven
Heaven, our hope in the Christian faith, is a wonderful place. It is described as having gardens and lovely places to dwell, jewels and streets of gold; but its primary blessings are spiritual.
In heaven we will meet Jesus face to face, God will live among us, there will be beautiful fellowship with believers, we will not be married, and we will understand many things which are now puzzling. In sum, heaven is a beautiful place filled with love and understanding. (Revelation chapters 21 & 22)
- Getting to heaven
EVERY religion in the world, except Christianity presents a way of salvation, or gaining favor with the gods, through a system of works.
ONLY in Christianity does God reach down to human beings to save us!
Recognizing this, we can get into salvation conversations with people of any religion. Simply ask, “What is the main difference between….. and Christianity?” Let them answer, then share this truth.
- The Foundational Truth of Christianity
God saves us through FAITH in him. This is the truth upon which our faith is based. It was true in both the Old Testament, even during the time of the Law of Moses, as well as after Jesus came in the New Testament. Before Moses,
Abram believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:6
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, will not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16
(Note: In sharing the gospel with Muslims, many of us recommend using “The Path of the Prophets Gospel Method.” It is directed toward their understanding of the Old Testament, and through that explains that Jesus was the prophesied final sacrifice for sin. It overcomes many of the obstacles to the gospel which are built into the Qur’an and as a result Islam. To learn more about it, see the lesson, study guide, and video tract of this name.)
- Does God only love us if we are worthy?
No! God loved us, even though we are unworthy. This is a difference from Islam.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8.
Salvation in Islam: a Ticket to Paradise
We do not discuss salvation in Islam in the video lesson, because the Muslims it was originally broadcast for already knew about it. We present it here however, so that all of you will understand what Islam teaches about salvation, works, and the afterlife.
Paradise is the goal of Muslims in the afterlife, rather than heaven. In contrast to the spiritual emphasis of heaven, paradise is a place of sensual delight. It is described in detail in the Qur’an in surahs 52 & 55. It contains “blessings of your Lord,” which include:
gardens, branches, flowing springs, fruits, thrones in ranks, couches with silk brocade, green cushions and rich, beautiful mattresses, beautiful and devoted virgins for each man, boy servants, meat, wine, fruits, date palms and pomegranates, and curiously enough, they will have “white faces,” in contrast to the “black faces” of those in hell.
It is very sobering to meditate on this and fully comprehend that,
to Muslims, the greatest possible state of human existence is enjoying sex and alcohol in a garden.
Are Muslims ashamed of this version of eternity? No! They say Christians are missing out on these sensual delights. They use it to recruit, especially men, into Islam.
How does a Muslim seek to attain paradise? Many or most Muslims believe that if you say the shahada, the statement of faith or creed, and mean it in your heart, you will eventually get to paradise.
The shahada is:
There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.
La ilaha illa Allah wa-Muhammad rasul Allah.
But if your sins are many and not overbalanced by your good deeds, you will need to spend time in hell to suffer for them. In this way, hell for Muslims can be temporary (something like the purgatory of the Catholic Church). But the suffering is severe and the length of time disproportionate to the misdeed (like a single hair astray of the hijab). So Muslims sincerely do fear and want to avoid hell.
In contrast to Christianity, Allah does not love human beings until they show themselves worthy.
If you love Allah then follow me. Allah will love you and forgive your faults, and Allah is forgiving, merciful. Say: Obey Allah and the Apostle; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers. Qur’an 3:31,32
Perhaps someone could say that this means that Allah does not like it when people choose not to follow his way. The Bible does tell us that God does not like the way of the unrighteous. But nowhere in the Qur’an do we see the kind of intentional reaching down to save those who are still living in sin.
In Islam it is, “Obey Allah and he will love you.”
Basically, in Islam at the Day of Judgement, a person’s good and bad deeds will be weighed. If the good deeds are higher, they have a good chance of being admitted to paradise.
But those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and believe in that which is sent down to Muhammad – for it is the truth from their Lord – he will expiate from them their sins, and will make good their state…O you who believe! If you help Allah, he will help you, and make your foothold firm. Qur’an 47:2,7
How it Works:
And we have created man, and we know what his own self whispers to him. And we are near to him than his jugular vein. The two receivers receive, one sitting on the right and one on the left. Not a word does he utter but there is a watcher by him ready. Qur’an 50:16-18
The “two receivers” are two angels designated to record deeds, one for good and one for bad deeds. On the Day of Judgement:
That Day it will declare its information because your Lord will inspire it. That Day mankind will proceed in scattered groups that they may be shown their deeds. So whosoever does good equal to the weight of an atom shall see it. And whosoever does evil equal to the weight of an atom shall see it. Qur’an 99:4-8
Is there assurance of salvation in Islam?
No! Even Mohammed said,
I am not a new thing among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner. Qur’an 46:9
In our work with Muslims we have often heard, “No one goes to paradise apart from the Mercy of Allah.” This statement has surprised Christians with its similarity to the God of the Bible. But the basis of the mercy is different.
The mercy claim reflects Mohammed’s words in the Qur’anic verse above, and in hadiths from the authentic collections of Sahih al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. For example,
A’isha, the wife of Allah’s Apostle reported that Allah’s Messenger used to say: Observe moderation and if you fail to observe it perfectly, try to do as much as you can do and be happy for none would be able to get into Paradise because of his deeds alone. They said: Allah’s Messenger, not even you? Thereupon he said: Not even I, but that Allah wraps me in His Mercy. Sahih Muslim
So, even if you have an abundance of good deeds, Allah may decide against you. Or, if Allah takes a fancy to you, he might let you into paradise with few good deeds. Although Islam talks much of the mercy of Allah, you might consider that Allah’s mercy is a “wild card,” something that is not consistent. Even the greatest Muslim did not know if in the end Allah’s mercy would save him.
Example of a Muslim explanation for Mohammed’s insecurity:
When presented with Mohammed’s insecurity of his final fate, Muslims have told Dr. C, “Of course Mohammed will be in paradise. He was just being humble.”
This “humility” comes from a salvation based on human effort. Mohammed, they let us know, was reluctant to brag about the weight of his good deeds.
What role does humility plays if salvation is based on God/Allah? Christians have no need of false humility. We don’t need to say, “I’m not sure if I’m good enough to get into heaven,” or “I don’t know if God is merciful enough to save me.”
By way of contrast, we know that God Jehovah’s mercy is reliable. Our salvation is based neither on either our goodness nor the whim of God. It is based on the sincerity and honesty of God’s character, and his word. As it says in the book of Hebrews in the New Testament,
It is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Hebrews 6:18-19
According to Islam can non-Muslims be Saved?
Strictly speaking, according to the Qur’an in Surah 4:48, if you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you cannot be forgiven. As mentioned elsewhere, Dr. C attended an Islamic seminar in which they said if you die with a cross on you have NO CHANCE of forgiveness and paradise, for you have committed the unforgiveable sin.
However, in general practice you will likely find that the average Muslim is not so strict in this interpretation. They will talk about good deeds and Allah’s mercy. They might feel that Muslims have a much better chance at mercy; but except for very strict ones Muslims will not likely tell you to your face that you are going to hell unless you offend them.
Sunnis respect good deeds. They have told us that they admire how our people live and serve God. Shiites have told us, “On the Day of Judgement Mohammed will take his people to paradise with him, Ali and Hussein the Shiites, and Jesus the Christians.”
Old Testament and Islamic Righteousness: Similarities and Differences
Those of you familiar with the Bible might notice similarities between the Muslim and Old Testament views of righteousness, and the way faith was viewed and practiced before Jesus. These similarities are used to support the Muslim claim that they are simply returning to the eternal faith that God revealed to all of his prophets, and which has never changed. But there are also important differences.
SIMILARITIES Between Islam and the Old Testament:
- Similarities exist between what was considered righteous in the Old Testament and what Islam says. For example,
- Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. Genesis 6:9
- Job. This man was blameless and upright. He feared God and shunned evil. Job 1:1
- Mankind, he has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8
- Similarities also exist in the importance of religious law in daily life: like the Law of Moses, Mohammed also brought a complicated law which covered every aspect of life.
DIFFERENCES Between Islam and the Old Testament:
- The BASIS upon which forgiveness of sins is given.
- In Islam it is because, as is announced in the opening of nearly every surah (chapter or book) of the Qur’an, Allah is merciful and compassionate.
- In the Bible, God is merciful and compassionate too. BUT he is also just. He cannot simply forgive and forget. That is why blood sacrifice is required. For the Bible characters before Jesus animal sacrifices were made to show the serious nature of sin, and to foreshadow the final sacrifice of God himself through Jesus.
- Faith in their specific PROPHET is required in Islam. The statement of faith and descriptive verses of what is required for Islamic paradise include the name of the Prophet Mohammed.
- Simply believing in Allah is not enough. You must ALSO believe in Allah’s Prophet Mohammed and follow Mohammed’s teachings.
- None of the prophets of the Old Testament made such a claim. Adding the prophet’s name as an essential component of faith and salvation is way out of keeping with the Old Testament and its emphasis on total devotion to ONE God.
- This can be used as a challenge to the Muslim claim that they are simply following in the steps of all the prior prophets of God. Their creed proves that they are not.
- It is more in keeping with “cults” which elevate respect for the leader the level of God and/or his holy books.
- Note: The important exception in the Bible is Jesus Christ.
- Jesus answered, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. John 14:6
- But Jesus was God in the flesh, not merely a prophet, so he could claim this.
- Extent of LOVE and compassion. In the Old Testament, although God speaks against and hates the way of the wicked (Psalm 1), he loves everyone and everything. We say that he, “hates the sin, but loves the sinner.”
- The Lord is good to all; he has compassion on all that he has made. Psalm 145:9
- PROPHECY. The Old Testament prophecies prepared the people for acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, final sacrifice, and Savior.
- Over time, these predictions became clearer and clearer.
- This idea of progressive revelation, meaning that more information about God and his plan was revealed by prophets over time, is not present in Islam.
- It is through the prophecies that Jesus’ claims and actions were validated during his lifetime, and now after. In John 5, Jesus pointed to them as one of the top three reasons we should believe him.
- Islam claims that every prophet came with the same message.
- Knowing that Islam does not have or recognize these prophecies of Jesus, it is easier to understand why it does not accept the true Jesus, but made up its own.
- Salvation through INTERCESSORS is a process accepted by Shia Islam. By acts of devotion, Shia Muslims hope to gain merit from their saints and martyrs to be taken to heaven. They make pilgrimages to the tombs of Shiite saints in Iraq and Iran. Also:
- Ashura. At times Shiite attempts to gain favor with their saints involves beating and cutting themselves, in ways which remind us of the priests of Baal on Mount Carmel (I Kings 18:28). This especially happens at their commemorative holiday of Ashura. You can find many pictures of this on the internet, for example with bloody parades. Parents even cut their children so that their blood will attract the attention of their saints.
- Hussainiyas, named after Mohammed’s grandson who was killed by Sunni, these buildings are for commemoration of him. The mournful ceremonies conducted there usually breed hatred for Sunnis.
However, at times they can open the eyes of Shiite Muslims. One Shiite who eventually left Islam told Dr. C that the rituals of mourning and self-beating in the Hussainiyas seemed pointless, and did not seem from God.
This reliance on intercessors accounts for why Iranians, who are mostly Shiite, are coming to Christ rapidly, probably the fastest of any Muslim group. Since they already have the concept of intercession, it is a much smaller step for them to accept Jesus Christ as their true intercessor than it is for Sunnis.
- Although Sunnis claim not to believe in intercessors, their sources describe early Muslims wearing Mohammed’s saliva on their clothes, and drinking his urine to gain merit for paradise. To Christians, this seems an idolatrous form of adoration and intercession.
- Christians’ only mediator is God in the flesh, Jesus Christ.
- For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. II Timothy 2:5
- Since Shiite Muslims accept intercessors our challenge is getting them to see that ONLY Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, can intercede for humans.
- Sunni Muslims consider Shiite practices with intercessors to be heresy, nearly as bad as believing that Jesus intercedes for Christians. They call it shirk; the worst sin possible because it gives God a partner in salvation.
- Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with him, but he forgives except that to whom he wills: and whoever sets up partners with Allah in worship, he has indeed invented a tremendous sin. Qur’an 4:48
- It is so sad, and we would say ironic, that the unforgiveable sin in Islam, is the only way to heaven.
- Our challenge with Sunni Muslims is getting them to accept an intercessor – God himself in human flesh as Jesus Christ.
Example of a Strange Muslim Request for Intercession:
On discovering that Jesus was the Savior and the only way to heaven, a saddened Shiite asked Dr. C,
“On the Day of Judgement will you intercede for me?”
This reflects the Shiite reliance on intercessors, yet a reluctance to accept Jesus as their Savior. Let us pray that more and more Muslims come to see that Jesus Christ is their only intercessor.
- Salvation through Hajj. One of the 5 Pillars of Islam is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once during their lifetime. Some do it more often than that. (Note: Although during the Middle Ages Catholic Christians believed that pilgrimage was a way to forgiveness of sins, with the Reformation and return to the Bible, that practice fell into disfavor.)
- During hajj, it is believed that walking around the Kaaba monument takes away one’s sins and makes them as if they were newborn. If a Muslim dies immediately after that act, theoretically all their sins are gone and their effort has gained them paradise.
- Muslims are blind to see how this – saving themselves through their effort – makes themselves partners with Allah in their salvation, and is shirk.
- We reasonably explain to them that hajj is shirk. Christians do not shirk: Since Jesus Christ saves us, and he is God in the flesh, only God saves us. We do not make a partner with God in our salvation. They do.
- Contrary to Muslims’ claim, it is not Christians who shirk, but Muslims themselves.
- In the appropriate setting, who shirks is a good conversation to have with Muslims.
- Salvation through JIHAD warfare is a concept in Islam which does not exist in the Bible. This means of salvation supports the spread of Islam by the sword. In contrast, although battles are recorded in the Bible, neither Moses, nor Jesus, nor any Biblical prophet taught either of these two important teachings of Islam: spreading faith by force, or that fighting cancels sins.
- Spread Islam by force: Fight and slay the pagans where ever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in every ambush…Fight them until there is no more disbelief and the religion will all be for Allah alone… If you march not forth, he will punish you by a painful torment and will replace you with another people. Qur’an 9:5, 29 & 8:39 & 9:39
- Paradise for fighting: Oh you who believe, shall I guide you to a trade that will save you from painful torment? That you believe in Allah and his messenger and that you strive hard and fight in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives, that will be better for you if you but know. He will forgive your sins and admit you to Gardens under which rivers flow, and pleasant dwellings in Eden Paradise; that indeed is great success. Qur’an 61:10-12
- According to a hadith of at-Tirmidhi, if you die in jihad you will not only go to paradise to receive the blessings we described above, but in addition you will receive a crown of jewels, enjoy 72 virgins, and intercede for 70 relatives.
FAITH and WORKS
In the video lesson, former Muslim Huda asks,
“What is the purpose of good deeds if Jesus paid for our sins?”
Jesus died for our sins. Salvation is the gift of God. If salvation truly is a free gift and we don’t earn it through works, why should we be good?
Dr. C tells us that she respects how hard the Muslims work hoping to please God. But they can’t be perfect. No one is. We cannot save ourselves.
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23
(Note: Because she is teaching Huda, an Arab, Dr. C occasionally uses the Arabic words. But she repeats them in English.)
Example of a Muslim Who Claimed to be Perfect:
Once after a women’s study group that Dr. C attended at a mosque, she got into a discussion with the leader, Sarah. When Dr. C tried to explain that God had made a way to take away our sin, Sarah became angry.
“No!” she said forcefully, “I am not a sinner. Since I was a little girl I have been reciting the Qur’an. I don’t need a savior!”
Are We Righteous through Good Deeds?
What a sad attitude Sarah had! She does not see her need for a savior because of points from her Islamic rituals. This is one of the problems with good works. Good works bring pride. Sarah’s pride will keep her from God’s gift of salvation. Pray for Sarah and others like her.
In Islam, you are taught that you receive good deed points for every letter you read or recite in the Qur’an, for your prayers, for giving alms, and for any other good deed. One Imam even told Dr. C that Allah gives good deed points for having sex with your spouse!
After attending many Islamic meetings, and talking with many Muslim leaders like him, Dr. C came to view see the intensity of the point system in Islam as similar to the point system of Eastern Religions. Points, points, points! Everything you do gives you good or bad points toward the Day of Judgement in one, or reincarnation in the other.
Is Life a Game?
QUESTION: Do Muslims and Eastern Religions think that life simply a game in which you try to “level up” in the next form of existence?
ANSWER: Actually, we have heard views like that from the practitioners themselves.
Examples of Life as a Game:
- Muslims commonly say that “Life is a test.” How well we perform here determines our eternal destiny.
- A follower of the Dalai Lama, the head of Tibetan Buddhism, told Dr. C that life is like a game where you use up your merit – money even – from your past life until it is all gone. Then “game over!”
- That, Dr. C was told, is probably what happened to Princess Diana when she died in an accident in Paris. She had used up all of her merit from her past life.
- This view is meant to encourage sober awareness and discourage extravagance. However, it certainly leads to a consciousness of works.
Islam has so many laws that it keeps Muslims busy trying to fulfil them all. You can see how they might get the impression that all the rituals and works they do will make up for their bad deeds.
But that is not what the Bible says,
There is not one righteous, not even one. Romans 3:10 (and Ecclesiastes 7:20)
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6
God’s Standard is Perfection
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
If we go to court for breaking a law, the fact that we kept most of the other laws will not take away our guilt for the one broken. If we say, “Well, I may be here for drunk driving; but I haven’t driven drunk since then, and I didn’t even run a stop sign on the way here!” will the judge be impressed?
God’s standard is perfection. Does this mean that God does not care if we are good? No! He is happy when we are good. But we can never be good enough to deserve eternal life. By explaining it this way, we do not insult Muslims’ attempts to do good deeds.
- We do not deny that the existence of their deeds. We simply point out that they are not enough. We fall short of God’s standard. (In fact, falling short of the target is the origin of the word sin.)
- Saying this prevents the presentation of the gospel from being sidetracked into what deeds are best, and whether Christians of Muslims have more good deeds.
Be aware that the Muslim concept of sin, hateya, is different than that in the Bible. Under certain situations murder, adultery, sexual immorality, pedophilia, theft, violence, destruction, harassment, rape, cursing and hatred are all not only acceptable, but promoted. So sin in Islam is less a matter of true moral guilt, than of not playing by the rules of the game.
Armed with these insights now, you see how it can be difficult for a Muslim to accept salvation through faith Christ.
- You can understand how, after years or decades of hard work, it would be very, very hard to believe that it is all in vain, and to accept God’s grace through Jesus.
- This loss might be considered an “opportunity cost” of this change, meaning that they may be reluctant to trade their handful of hope for the limitless blessings of Christ.
Message from Rev. Bob Siegel on Faith and Works
Bob explains that works and religious rituals, will not save us.
Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking the whole law. James 2:10
Bob says that the essence of our relationship with God is that he is going to rule in our hearts and we are going to obey him.
Bob’s Example of the Unwanted Gift:
Bob asks, what if he wants to give you a watch, but he can tell by the look on your face that you don’t want it? Then he does not want to give it. Likewise, if we do not want the special relationship that God offers us, he will not give it to us. We must choose to accept it.
The Gift of God is: a relationship with him that begins in this life, but continues through all of eternity. Heaven and hell are consequences of our decision. But we must decide if we will turn from our sins and let him make us into the kind of the person God wants to be.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” not just heaven. Christians should want to live godly lives.
Rev. Bob says we can show our desire to be saved and follow Jesus by praying,
Lord, I turn from my sin. I need salvation through the cross of Jesus. I need the Holy Spirit in my life to give me the desire and power to obey you.
It is our decision to accept in faith the process which will help us become obedient to what God wants us to be.
Muslims Ask: So Why Do Christians Have to Be Good?
QUESTION: In the video, Dr. C asks Rev. Bob how he answers this Muslim criticism,
“Since Jesus saves you, Christians don’t have to be good. Christians can do anything because God forgives them. So God isn’t really just.”
ANSWER: How does Bob answer that? Actually, Bob has written a book on it. He shares the fact that the Greek language has different (fewer) words. So one word has more than one meaning. For example, in John 3:16,
… that whoever believes in him should not perish…
The word translated as “believe” in English, in Greek does not only mean intellectual belief. Believe also means trust, cling to, rely upon, adhere to, essentially to obey. That does not mean that we are saved by works. We will never be worthy. And we need the Holy Spirit to help us obey.
What is the Purpose of Christian Good Deeds?
QUESTION: You may ask, “So, if our good deeds do not save us, do they have a PURPOSE or are they just worthless exercises?”
ANSWER: Yes! They have several purposes –
1. They bring salvation to other people:
God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. I Corinthians 1:21
2. They bring glory to God:
Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. I Peter 2:12
3. They show that God is with us:
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35
Whoever lives by truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done through God. John 3:20
4. They will gain eternal rewards for the believer, making heaven a richer experience:
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work. Hebrews 6:10a
The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Matthew 13:43
Those who are wise will shine like the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever. Daniel 12:3
Use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Luke 16:9
Balancing Faith and Works
How do we live our lives balancing faith and works, and grace and deeds?
How do we avoid the extremes of living:
- any way we want
- or in fear that we must be perfect?
We need to recognize that We are not saved BY good works, but FOR good works.
Right after Paul tells the Ephesians that they are saved by God’s grace, not works and have no reason to boast, he says,
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
And to Titus he said,
He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people, totally committed to doing good deeds. Titus 2:14 NLT
If someone truly is saved, you will see an eagerness to do good works.
Living by Grace versus Living by Works
Hannah Whitall Smith was married to Robert Pearsall Smith, a famous evangelist of the 19th century. He was very dramatic and popular, and a faith healer. By contrast, Hannah was down to earth and sensible. Eventually, when the miracles became less her husband started to lose faith. This however had no impact on Hannah, because her faith was based on God and his promises, not miracles.
In the long run, because of Hannah’s sound reliance on God’s promises, and her clear and simple way of explaining theological concepts, it was her faith that left the greater Christian legacy to the world. Several of her books are Christian classics, and highly recommended as reading for serious Christians.
Believe your beliefs and doubt your doubts.
Is one of her simple proverbs. She pointed out how few people really live out what they claim to believe. We should step out in faith upon what we say we believe. That is the way to see God work.
Hannah was part of the Keswick movement in England which was influenced by John Wesley. It encourages Christians not to stop at salvation, but to go on to holiness and the Higher Life of sanctification. Many great Christian workers like Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael and Billy Graham were part of the movement. Hannah emphasized along with the movement that,
“You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” Colossians 3:3
Her teaching emphasized trusting and doing, without relying on our works and self-righteousness.
This chart, which contrasts the difference between living by works and living by grace, is adapted from Hannah’s most popular book, The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, published in 1870.
Living by WORKS Living by GRACE
Do and you will live
Pay what you owe
The wages of sin is death
Demands the service of a slave
Blessings a result of obedience
| Live and then you will do|
I forgive you all
The free gift of God is eternal life
Wins the loving service of a child
Obedience a result of blessings
Or, as another wise Christian said about GRACE,
Most of the problems with Christians are the result of not fully accepting God’s grace, or not giving it to others.
We agree. We need to live in the freedom of not needing to earn God’s grace, and we need to give it to our fellow beings.
Back to Huda’s Bible Lesson on Faith and Works
The Bible tells us,
Whoever claims to live in Jesus must walk as Jesus walked. I John 2:6
Jesus told us that not everyone who claims to be his really is, only those who follow his teachings (Matthew 7:21).
In Genesis (Taqueen in Arabic), Abraham believed God and his faith was counted as righteousness. His faith was so strong, that he was even willing to sacrifice his son. Muslims celebrate this day as the Feast of the Sacrifice, Eid al Adha. (Genesis 15:6 & 22:12, James 2:18-24).
The book of James in the New Testament talks a lot about the relationship of faith and works. The author, James the brother of Jesus bluntly says,
Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead... As the body is dead without the spirit, so faith without works is dead. James 2:17, 26
James points out that people may say that they have faith, but without works, how can they prove it? On the other hand, someone who says, “I have faith, and here are my works,” can prove it.
Belief alone is not enough, says James,
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder! James 2:19
Paul’s Parable of the Building and the Fire
In I Corinthians 3:10-13, the Apostle Paul tells us that the foundation of the Christian life is Christ. We can build on that perishable things like wood, stubble, or hay. Or we can choose to build on it gold, silver, or precious stones. He says our works will be tried as with fire. If Christ is our foundation we may be saved, but as if escaping a fire with virtually nothing.
In the video lesson we illustrate this using a rock with a central hole, called a geode, as a foundation. Huda illustrates building upon this by putting sticks and gold inside of the geode.
This is the meaning:
Foundation – Christ
Building with wood, stubble, and hay – Worldly and selfish deeds
Gold, silver, and precious stones – Good deeds
Fire – Day of Judgement
Example of Applying the Parable of the Burning Building:
For years, Dr. C had felt burdened with guilt for all the religious deeds she could not accomplish because she was so busy with her work as a doctor and her family. She knew that she was saved by faith in Jesus, but she felt she was not keeping up with Christian works.
At an important moment in her life, Dr. C came to see the positive side of this passage. It became a blessing! Works turned from a guilty negative to a happy positive. They became the carrot rather than the stick.
WHY? The mistakes and bad deeds are not held against us. Upon judgement they will burn up and be forgotten. But whatever good we do, however little or however much, will be will be preserved. Does that encourage you also to do good deeds?
So, what are the kind of good deeds that would be gold, silver, and precious stones? In the video lesson, Dr. C and Huda read Galatians 5:13-14,
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Another way of looking at is expressed by Paul in I Corinthians 6:12,
“I have the right to do anything,” you say – but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” – but I will not be mastered by anything.
Dr. C says this is the way we balance our gift of freedom with works:
We should use our freedom to love and serve others.
Since our salvation is secure, we don’t need to spend our lives focused on ourselves and our good works list. No! Since we don’t need to worry about that, we can focus on living for God.
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. II Corinthians 5:14-15
HOW? As we discuss elsewhere, before Jesus ascended to heaven, he gave us primarily two commands:
1. Love one another –
Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34
2. Share the gospel –
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. Matthew 28:19, 20
Jesus said, Freely you have received, freely give. Matthew 10:8
In many countries, Christians are in trouble for sharing the gospel. They are in jail or killed for it. Yet they do it to obey Jesus and live a life of love.
Many of us are tempted to live a Small Story – only for ourselves and our families – rather than as part of Jesus’ Big Story. The secret of how we can live for him was given to us by Jesus after the Last Supper. The Parable of the Vine.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Dr. C says she is surprised by the power of abiding in Christ. Sometimes people ask her how she does what she does. She answers that it is not so much that she is trying, but that Jesus does it when we let the Holy Spirit live in us.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Dr. C summarizes:
- The old way was to obey the law
- The new way is to live a life of love through the Holy Spirit
The video lesson did not get around to explaining this, but there is another great benefit of being a Christian: assurance of our salvation. In Islam, Muslims never know for certain if their works are enough to get them to paradise.
Praise God! Our salvation does not depend on us. Our salvation depends on God’s work, his truth, and his character. That takes a lot of pressure off of us.
As with all theology, there is a variety of opinion in the church about how secure eternal security is. Most Christians believe that once and if you truly believe, you are forever saved. Jesus said,
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:28
His disciple John said it this way,
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. I John 5:13
The Apostle Paul tells us that we are sealed,
In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13,14
Some churches believe that if you really turn your back on Jesus, if you seriously no longer want him, he will not force himself on you. You are not snatched, you leave. He will let you leave. Most say that if you do this, you were never truly a believer in the first place.
As a neutral stance, one famous preacher said,
“I believe in eternal security, but I live like I don’t.”
That meant that he was not going to live just anyway, in the flesh. No. He would to stay close enough to the Lord that he could point to his works as evidence of his faith.
Neither Jesus nor the Bible says we must celebrate Christmas. The tradition was set by Christians long after Jesus returned to heaven.
Sometimes Muslims will criticize Christians for celebrating Christmas and Easter, and point out that we do not even know for certain when those events occurred. We do not need to get defensive over this. We can agree with them. We do not need to celebrate these holidays. A few branches of Christianity even avoid it.
Jesus did not command that we commemorate these important events in his life. He only asked us to remember him with the Communion Service, or Eucharist.
One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Romans 14:5
This verse gives us freedom as to whether or not we celebrate these – and other – holidays. Most Christians want to celebrate special days like Christmas and Easter, so we do. The exact day that we do it on does not matter. Those in liturgical denominations celebrate more holy days, as a way to remember and teach events in the Bible and church history.
(Note: Liturgical churches follow set readings and events through the calendar year. These include: Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and some others.)
Christian Childhood Christmas
To close the video lesson, Dr. Cynthia stands in front of the Christmas tree that she and Huda decorated. She tells us about her experience of Christmases growing up, explaining especially to any Muslims watching, that Christmas for Christian children is magical. They love the scent of Christmas trees and cookies, the bright lights and receiving presents. (Eid al Fitr, the feast which ends Ramadan brings excitement something like this for Muslim children.)
But through all of this celebration, she says, the truth of Christmas starts to come through: Jesus Christ came from God into the world. He came to save us and to teach us how to live!
This indeed is the Greatest possible Gift and is worthy of celebrating – at Christmas, and every day!
(Note: We discuss more about Christmas, its significance, and its symbols in our study guide and Lesson on Christmas: God Becomes Man and is Three in One.)
Scripture References for this Lesson:
Unless otherwise stated, New International Version is used. Some are New Living Translation.
- II Corinthians 5:17 & 9:14
- Romans 3:23 & 6:23 & 5:8 & 3:10
- Ephesians 2:8-10 & 1:13-14
- Revelation 21, 22
- Genesis 15:6 & 6:9
- Hebrews 6:18-19
- Job 1:1
- Micah 6:8
- John 3:16, 20 & 13:35 & 14:6
- Psalms 1 & 145:9
- I Kings 18:28
- II Timothy 2:5
- I Corinthians 6:12
- Isaiah 53:6
- Matthew 5:48
- James 2:10, 17, 26, 29
- I Corinthians 1:21
- Matthew 5:16 & 13:43
- I Peter 2:2
- John 13:35
- Hebrews 6:10a
- Daniel 12:3
- Luke 16:9
- Titus 2:14
- Colossians 3:3
- Matthew 28:19,20 & 10:8
- John 15:5 & 10:28 & 5:16-47
- Galatians 2:20
- I John 5:13
- Matthew 7:21
- Genesis 22:12
- James 2:18-24
- II Corinthians 5:14,15
- Romans 14:5
- Descriptions of Paradise: Qur’an 52:17-25 & 55:38-76
- Allah only loves those who obey: Qur’an 3:31,32
- Saved by works and faith in Mohammed: Qur’an 47:2,7
- Angels record good and bad deeds: Qur’an 50:16-18
- Good and bad deeds weighed at the Day of Judgement: Qur’an 99:4-8\
- Giving Allah a partner in salvation is the unforgiveable sin in Islam: Qur’an 4:48
- Fighting in battle for forgiveness of sins: Qur’an 61:10-12
- Rewards for martyr: Jami at-Tirmidhi (Book on the Virtues of Jihad, Regarding Rewards for the Martyr online at Sunnah.com)
- Mohammed unsure of his eternal destiny: Qur’an 46:9 and hadiths
- Sahih Muslim 2818 (also vol 4 p 318, no 78 in Sahih Muslim’s “Book of Description of the Day of Judgement” by Dar al-Kotob Al-illmiyah, Beiruit Levanon)
Note: as in other lessons, although our examples are true, for safety we change the names of the people involved.
- In the opening reality segment of the video we see gifts being exchanged. Former Muslim Huda asks why we exchange gifts at Christmas?
- What did Dr. C answer?
- How would you answer that question?
- Can you think of a way that you could use Christmas gifts or another holiday activity to share the gospel with:
- Muslims that you know
- Someone else that you know who does not know or accept the gospel?
- Regarding salvation, what is the main difference between Christianity and every other religion, including Islam?
- Give a Bible verse to support salvation through faith.
- Give an example of the way to salvation in any other religion that you know.
- In Islam,
- What is paradise like?
- How does it differ from heaven?
- How does one get to paradise?
- What is the gift of God?
- How do we receive the gift?
- What is the basis of the gift?
- What does Bob Siegel say about salvation?
- Regarding good works, which religion tends to say,
- We are saved BY good works – Christianity or Islam?
- We are saved FOR good works – Christianity or Islam?
- The next time a Muslim challenges you that Christians can sin all they want because Jesus died for their sin, how will you answer?
- If we are saved by God’s grace, what are the purposes of good works?
- Name at least 2 purposes, and
- give scripture references
- Do Christians have assurance that they are going to heaven?
- Give a Bible verse to support your position.
- Can Muslims be sure that Islam will get them to paradise?
- If you were saved as an adult, was this assurance part of what appealed to you?
- Hannah Whitall Smith wrote classic books on Christian living.
- Her life experiences helped her relate to others. What experiences of yours might help you explain some concept of today’s lesson?
- What from her chart on living through grace versus living by works particularly struck you.
- Hannah’s circle desired and worked towards holy living.
- What do you think might be good about seeing life this way?
- Can you see any disadvantages?
- This study guide gave you several examples of Muslim thinking about faith and works.
- Which example(s) especially struck you and why?
- The lesson ends with a description of how Christmas feels for Christian children.
- What holiday excited you the most when you were a child?
- Dr. C says although most of the Christmas festivities are secular, the meaning of Christmas starts coming through. What do you think this means?
- What might you say to a Muslim, or other critic of Christianity the next time they point out that:
- It is pagan to celebrate Christmas?
- We don’t know when Jesus was born so it is fake to celebrate it?
© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2020. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Salvation in Christianity and Islam
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on the Christian Life
Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: Today’s lesson is on the Christian life – what it is about and how to live it. What a big topic for a single lesson! Although the content is not new for Christians, what is different is that we explain it for Muslim thinking. We hope that Muslims will see how Christian living is similar to and different from the Muslim way of living (sunnah).
Muslims tend to think that everything they see from countries which have been called “Christian” is Christian – including the bad and immoral. So we clarify what Christian living is NOT. Muslims get confused by Christian denominations, so we briefly discuss those too.
- We try to keep our content non-denominational.
- We like to be as complete as necessary yet concise. But since this topic is broad and the study guide long, your group leader might want select what to focus on and discuss.
- More details on some of today’s topics are presented in other video lessons and study guides.
Reality: Discussing Jesus in the Airport
In the West, we can discuss Jesus anywhere freely without fear, even public places like an airport. It is good for people to hear us discussing Jesus and how wonderful he is. Jesus gives us joy! Even though life is full of hardships, he wants us to be filled with his Spirit and delight in the blessings he gives us. (Galatians 5:22)
In this reality video Huda, a new Christian from a Muslim background, comfortably shares with us in a public place some of the things she finds amazing about Jesus. She mentions prophecy about his birth. Dr. Cynthia adds that the Bible tells us it was just the right time when Jesus appeared (Micah 5:2, Galatians 4:4).
Huda tells us that she already shares these things about Jesus with her Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish friends, and they are surprised to hear them. That is why Jesus told us to tell his good news all over – people don’t know it. As the old Christian song goes, “Everybody ought to know who Jesus is!”
New Testament ADVICE on living the Christian life
The letters of the apostles in the New Testament contain theology and warnings of false teachers, but mostly focus on how to live the Christian life. Good summary passages include all of Romans 12, and Colossians 3:12-17.
It is important to recognize that Jesus promised us the abundant life – not the easy life. He did not want us following him under the false impression that everything would go well. Several places he clearly states that we will have problems and suffer in life, even if we follow him closely. The blessing is that he will be with us through it all, and bring good from it. (John 10:10, Matthew 10:17-39 & 28:20, Romans 8:28)
We do teach that the Christian life is not easy. Nevertheless we have seen Muslims, and others, become discouraged as new believers when they find that things are not working out as smoothly as they expected.
A clue mentioned in the Bible is to keep our eyes on Jesus and things above. With his life and love in our sights, we are more likely to become like him, (Hebrews 3:1 & 12:2,3, Colossians 3:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
PHILOSOPHY of the CHRISTIAN Life
Ask Christians to summarize the Christian life and you are likely to get many answers. You may hear:
- a walk with God
- the abundant life
- a servant’s life
- being the child of the King
- a spiritual journey
Let’s start with a question: Why do we exist?
A popular Christian response is the first in the Westminster Catechism,
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.
Notice the two parts of this purpose statement: what we do for God, and what God does for us.
- The Bible verses the catechism gives to support human purpose are:
- 1 Corinthians 10:31, Romans 11:36, Psalm 73:24-26, John 17:22-24
- The word “man” is used in the old fashioned sense, meaning “humanity.”
- A catechism is a summary of the principles of the Christian faith in the form of questions and answers. It is used for the instructions of Christians, primarily in traditional denominations. The benefit of the catechism form is assurance that the teaching covers all the important basics. Many churches favor a more relaxed approach to teaching.)
Our way of putting the philosophy of the Christian life is similar to the Westminster Catechism’s, but more specific:
PEACE and PURPOSE
We go into more detail on this in the study guide and Lesson on the Fruit of the Spirit, and other lessons. To summarize it here, we remind you that Christians can have:
Peace – with God, ourselves, and others
Purpose – something God has specifically called and gifted each of us to do
The Christian life is about balancing the two. The closer we follow God, the clearer and stronger our Peace and Purpose. Now let’s look at some of the disciplines that can help further our Peace and Purpose.
The DISCIPLINES of the Christian Life
This one lesson cannot cover in depth everything it takes to become a mature Christian. However, if as a Muslim, now Christian, you make it through our entire Christian from Muslim program, you will be well on your way to understanding Christian principles. It is up to you to put them into productive practice. We hope the study questions help you reflect on ways to do it.
OUR GOAL as Christians is to become like Jesus, our Savior and Lord:
For God knew his people in advance, and so he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:29 NLT
Dr. Mike Licona shares with that there are disciplines of the Christian life. This is not the same as working for salvation. Disciplines are things we do to please God and have a richer experience in the Christian life. They help us to become mature believers.
The 6 Disciplines of Christian Living include:
- Bible study
- Meeting with other believers
- Serving others
- Evangelism – Sharing the gospel
Let’s look at these six disciplines in greater detail.
The Importance of Prayer with Kevin and Dee
Prayer is one of the most important disciplines of the Christian life. Bible teachers Kevin and Dee share with us the importance of prayer in their lives. They have seen God miraculously answer many prayers. At times when things are not going well in their family life, they have stopped to remember that they have been praying less.
Kevin and Dee also explain the importance of prayer in helping adjust our attitudes to be godlier and in line with what he wills, not simply seeking our own way.
Muslims pray at certain set times of the day. During these times specific prayers are to be made in Arabic. The exact number and time of the prayers, and the prayers themselves are specified by the sects of Islam. You might be surprised to learn that these details are not specified by the Qur’an, but by the hadiths, or traditions of each sect.
(Note: We also discuss Muslim prayer in our study guide and video Lesson on Introduction to Islam for Christians.)
Usually, we think of Muslims as praying 5 times a day, since this is for the Sunni, the primary sect of Islam. The prayers are scattered at times from before dawn, until bedtime. The exact times vary throughout the year depending on sunrise and sunset.
It is sad for Christians to think of what Muslims pray every day. Several times they pray the first chapter of the Qur’an, which is known as The Fatiha. In it they pray that Allah will guide them in the right path, not that of those that turned away (the Christians) or those who earned God’s anger (the Jews). Since they pray often not to be led to the gospel, Christians must pray even harder that they will be!
Group prayer in the mosque (masjid) is favored, especially on Fridays. Prayer is done is certain positions, which change during the prayer session. When done in unison, Muslim prayers can make a spectacular impression, like a form of choreography. At times these prayers are done publicly to make a statement. The attention they attract is known to assist in converting people to Islam.
Women are not allowed to pray at all during menses because they are considered “unclean” then. They also cannot then touch the Qur’an. They need to make up for these later. We do not have this in Christianity.
Probably the most striking difference between Christian and Muslim prayer is that in Islam, one must pray in Arabic. This requirement has been so difficult for non-Arabic speakers that some have questioned why it must be so.
Example of Muslim praying in Arabic: Ali, an African Muslim, wondered why Allah, who is much higher than people, required prayers to him be made in Arabic? Ali himself could speak three languages. Could he possibly be smarter than Allah? This quest eventually led him to become Christian.
Can Muslims make personal prayers? Some Muslims say no, that personal prayer was something that attracted them to Christianity. Other Muslims say that du’a’ is the type of personal prayer in Islam, which can be inserted after the memorized prayers are recited.
Example of Muslim feeling distant in prayer: A Turkish university student asked Jay, a missionary in Turkey, if he could really pour out his heart to God in prayer? In Islam, he said could not. Jay said, “Yes, he could and did pour out his heart to God!” That difference opened up a line of ongoing spiritual discussions between the two men. Some months later the student became a Christian
A distant feeling of prayer in Islam might be part of what accounts for the prevalence of “folk Islam,” and other occultic practices in the Muslim world. These provide a way to direct powers to answer their needs. The distance can also make Muslims hungry to know the personal God of love that the Bible reveals to us.
Note: We go into greater detail in the study guide and Lesson on Islam and the Occult.
Example of Christian influence on Islamic prayer: Christianity seems to be influencing Islamic prayer in the West. In America there are now Islamic prayer seminars in English for how to feel closer to God through prayer. Previously only the small Sufi sect would claim this kind of closeness to through prayer.
Types of Christian Prayer
Personal – prayers from the individual to God. Usually when we pray alone we pray silently. But there are times that praying aloud can help us focus on our prayer, keeping out distraction.
You can pray silently wherever you are at almost any time that you do not need to be focused on something else. It can develop into an ongoing conversation with God.
Collective – prayers are read or recited by believers together at the same time. Some denominations do this every time they meet, especially those with a liturgy. Praying together can give us a sense of unity, and that our prayers are magnified.
(Note: The liturgy establishes set prayers and Bible reading and messages throughout the year. Catholics, Lutherans, and Orthodox are noted for this.)
Group – prayer is when Christians pray in a group but not saying the same words at the same time. This is a common form that prayer meetings take, and so is good for new Christians to learn about. In fact, any time that a few Christians are together is a wonderful opportunity to pray. Jesus said,
“Where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” Matthew 18:20
In group prayer usually one person starts out with prayer and another closes with prayer. In between usually anyone in the group is free to pray. But there are times when everyone is quiet, praying silently together in their hearts.
Sometimes group prayers are for a specific purpose, for example: an event, an outreach, church needs, ministry, Muslims, or sick people. And sometimes prayer meetings are for any need on the participants’ hearts.
Written – prayers that were thought through and set down in advance of being prayed. They could be from the Bible, a prayer book, devotional, liturgy, or one written for a special occasion or personal use.
Recited – Jesus told us not to “babel” in prayer by simply repeat phrases over and over. However, sometimes we find it valuable to memorize certain prayers. This can help guide our prayer life when we feel blank, or inspire us to remember specific requests. When done right, reciting prayers is not simply a ritual, but reminds us of what our prayers should be, and makes them deeper.
For example, many Christians pray the Lord’s Prayer daily,
Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored. May your kingdom come. May what you want to happen be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, just as we have also forgiven those who sin against us. Keep us from sinning when we are tempted. Save us from the evil one. Matthew 6:7, 9-13 NIrV
Others memorize the prayers of Paul in the New Testament. (Ephesians 3:14-21, Philippians 1:9-11, Colossians 1:9-13)
With recited prayers, we might be encouraged by the feeling that we are sharing in prayers with others who have come before us and prayed the same words.
(Note: when recited in a group in English, the old King James Version of the Lord’s Prayer is usually spoken.)
Spontaneous – many people yell “Oh God!” when they are trouble, whether or not they believe. Spontaneous prayer is something like that: it comes out of a believer’s spirit as a result of the situation that they are in at the moment. It might be a problem, challenge, or temptation that we need strength to face (“Lord please help me!”). Certainly there are many times during our week, even day, when we should remember to say, “Thank you Lord!”
Meditative – These are prayers made in a relaxed state, usually alone, when we focus on a meaningful Bible verse or phrase, and let its divine truth seep into our soul. In some ways this is like Eastern Meditation: it releases the same relaxing hormones through what is scientifically known as “the relaxation response.” But it is not identical to Eastern meditation. Eastern empties the mind, Christian meditation gently fills it.
(Note: we say more about meditation in our study guides and video on Lessons on Looking for Truth in World Religions.)
Conversational – this very personal form of prayer is a lifestyle which senses the presence of God with the believer in every action of life. And so, the Christian communicates with God on a moment by moment basis, as if a friend were present.
(Note: There is a good example of this with our ministry sister Joanna and former Muslim Huda in our study guide and Lesson on the Fruit of the Spirit.)
Components of Christian Prayer
How do we pray?
If we only pray about our problems without praise and thankfulness, we do a disservice to both God and ourselves. Dr. C discovered this when she would pray in the morning about everything that could go wrong at the hospital that day. Finally she realized that with this practice she started the day already exhausted – worried about problems that hadn’t even happened! So, although we pour out our hearts in prayer it is good to think positively, trusting that God knows our needs.
What do we say in prayer? Well, that partly depends on which of the above 8 types of prayer we are doing at the time. But in general, these are what most Christian teachers would suggest for our prayers:
Praise – honoring God for who he is: his majesty as shown in nature, his faithfulness, and his plan of salvation for us through the cross. This could be a time of silence and “centering” in who God is and the wonder of his glory. Centering washes away our earthly thoughts and distractions.
Thanksgiving – thankfulness should be part of the daily life of Christians. Although there is no set rule, it is good to thank the Lord for 5 things he has done for us every day. This practice not only honors him, but lifts our spirits as well. It helps us realize God’s ongoing care for us. Thankfulness releases hormones which help us feel that care and be contented.
Confession – we need to recognize our imperfections and sins and confess them to God. It is only reality to recognize that we are neither perfect nor worthy.
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. James 1:9
Confession assists us in being humble.
God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble. James 4:6
Intercession – is where we petition God on behalf of other people, nations, causes, religions – things outside of ourselves.
What should we pray for the world? For peace, for relief in disasters, persecution, or famine, for honest governments that uphold human rights, and for missions.
Example of Prayer for National Peace: During times of distress and wars, individual prayers and group prayers have made a difference. For example, a Silent Minute of prayer was established during World War II. The chiming of the Big Ben clock in London was broadcast by radio at 9 pm nightly. People across the country, in battle zones, and even America would pray then for the end of the war and peace. After the war, a high-ranking Nazi official credited their loss of the war to this collective prayer movement. He said it was a secret weapon which they could not counter.
What should we pray for people? We pray that God will work in their lives, for comfort of their sorrows, for their earthly needs, and that the Lord will open doors for us to bless, encourage, and share with them the gospel. (Romans 13:1, Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 4:3)
Petition – is where we lay our own needs and desires before Jesus. Some leaders have said that we should not pray for ourselves, to expect God to act on behalf of something as unimportant as our needs. We don’t agree. We believe that God cares about everything in our lives.
You do not have because you do not ask God. James 4:2
What should we pray for ourselves? The Bible tells us to pour out our hearts to God, and to cast our cares upon him because he cares for us. (Psalm 62:8, I Peter 5:7)
There is one prayer that God has guaranteed to answer positively, and we should take advantage of this every day:
“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5 NLT
Note that in context the advice to pray for wisdom comes right after James telling us that we will have trials. So we should especially remember to ask for wisdom when we are going through trials.
Holy Spirit intercession – the Bible tells us that we don’t always know what to pray, or how best to phrase it. This should be comforting to us, because we don’t know all the details of the situations and people that we lift in prayer.
So, it is a good idea in every prayer of length to pause and let the Holy Spirit pray for you. In this pause you might simply remain silent, or you might say something like,
“Lord, I don’t know all that’s going on in this situation, so I ask your Holy Spirit to pray for me that your will be done.”
At a time that you simply have a burden to pray, but you don’t know why or what for, you can pray, “Holy Spirit, wherever there is a need in the world, with believers or unbelievers, I ask you now to intercede.”
Perhaps you will find this amusing, but some have prayed, “…and anything else I should have prayed, Holy Spirit pray for me now.
(Note: Some denominations put much weight on “prayer in the Spirit,” especially if it is done in tongues, meaning in a different language. Many Christians believe in and practice tongues fully. Others deny that it is valid in the present age. Still others recognize that it might exist, but to avoid controversy pray in tongues privately only, or not at all. Since this denominational issue has led to much conflict in the church, we will not take a position here either way. We encourage you to seek unity with your family in Christ, recognizing that we will not be in agreement in everything. As was said by Christians in the Reformation:
Unity in essentials, liberty in particulars,
meaning we stand united in the basic doctrines of Christianity, but allow each other freedom to believe as we will on other issues and doctrines.)
Committing in Faith – is closing our prayers with recognition that God is in control. We trust him to answer our prayers according to his power and grace, and in wisdom of what is best for us and others. a popular example is, “…for yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory forever. Amen.”
(Note: Amen might be a new word to you. It is an affirmative word, meaning, So let it be.)
Does God ANSWER our prayers?
Prayer does make a difference!
“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16 (NLT)
James tells us that because of wickedness, by prayer Elijah stopped the rain and caused drought, and by prayer he started it again.
Everyone has a tendency to think that if God is real he will answer prayers according to our desires. That is not true. Many factors are involved in whether or not God will answer our prayers: the reason we are asking, the spiritual condition of our heart, what is actually best for us, what is best for others, etc.
If we truly have accepted Jesus as our Savior, we are adopted into the family of God and he will hear our prayers. God answers every Christians’ prayers in one of these 3 ways:
We should believe when we pray, and not waiver – meaning flipping back and forth in our faith. We believe that God hears and will answer according to his wisdom and power. That does not mean that we need to have faith that God will do exactly what we ask in every situation. The Bible is clear that our motives must be unselfish, and we must want God’s will more than ours. (James 1:7,8)
Will God save others if we pray? There are various theologies on this. Some say that God has predestined people and so prayer makes no difference to them, it mainly changes us. Others say that God will work harder to influence someone to come to him if we pray for them. Both groups encourage prayer for others.
What about prayer for healing? This is certainly one of the most common prayers. Many people have become discouraged and even left the faith because they prayed for a healing that did not happen. On the other hand, many people have become Christians because God miraculously healed someone in their family. How can we view these opposite situations?
Here are 3 important Things to Remember Regarding Healing:
- Ultimately it is God’s decision who gets healed and who does not. His ways are not our ways. Many wonderful things have come through not only healing, but the testimony of someone who is not healed.
- We will all die sooner or later. We will not always be healed. It is good to accept that there is a time for us to go to the home of our Heavenly Father.
- All Christians will be fully healed eventually – if not on earth, in heaven. That is a great encouragement to us when we or those we love suffer.
We must pray believing that God will act through our prayers for good. If it is not according to our will, we must accept his decision and way – whether it is Yes, No, or Wait.
(Note: see also our study guide and Lesson on the Place of Miracles.)
Can anything Block our Prayers?
- Intentionally sinning can,
- If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. Psalm 66:18
- Mistreating others can. You must treat people with kindness and respect,
- … so that nothing will hinder your prayers. I Peter 3:7
- Selfish motives can,
- You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. James 4:3
- Not being in relationship with God can block your prayers. Sometimes he does hear and answer the prayers of unbelievers, especially if it is something that will help them recognize who he is and assist them in going the right way. But just as an earthly father is not obligated to help a stranger, so God does not need to respond to unbelievers.
Prayer as a Weapon
Ephesians 6:10-18 tells us that we are in a spiritual battle and should pray constantly.
Prayer and Fasting is often paired together in the Bible. The main benefit to this is that our hunger pangs can serve as a reminder to pray. Some leaders feel that our prayers are actually more powerful if we are fasting.
Turnabout prayer – one unusual way to turn a trial into good is by praying this way: when we suffer pain, heartache or other trial, besides praying for ourselves, we can immediately turn it into a prayer for others who are suffering the same thing. For example:
Problem: Physical Pain
Lord help those who are suffering pain. I pray for my friends with cancer. Strengthen and deliver those being tortured for you.
Problem: Unmet Needs
Lord, provide for those who are suffering hunger, or need shelter. Help me Lord, as I study for this exam. And help others who do not feel up to what life is throwing at them today. I lift to you others who need what I need.
Problem: Family Stresses
I pray for my brothers and sisters who are also having marital problems. Give wisdom to other parents with wayward children.
Lord comfort others who have lost a loved one, like I have. Comfort refugees and provide for their needs.
Learning the Muslim holy book
Muslim schools, called madrasas, emphasize learning the Qur’an, especially through rote memorization. Devout Muslims start their children memorize the Qur’an at a very young age. Children of about 5 years old have recited Qur’anic surahs for Dr. C.
Muslims love to say that the Qur’an has never changed, and that it is the same on earth as it is on a tablet in heaven. This belief encourages them to honor their holy book. If you are Muslim you probably believed that, and if you are Christian working with Muslims you will have heard this insisted.
But don’t let their insistence shake you. The Bible is much better preserved, and deserves a high place of honor in our lives.
Actually, there are many printed variant Qur’ans in existence today, with the two most commonly used being the Hafs and Warsh. They have over 5,000 differences between them. Plus, the handwritten manuscripts which have survived show variations and changes.
(Note: we discuss this more in other lessons. If you are interested, new evidence is constantly coming out on the Qur’anic variants and can be researched on the internet and YouTube.)
Learning the Bible
Considering the dedication that Muslims have for the Qur’an, it should not be difficult for them to recognize the importance that the Bible has in the life of Christians.
2 Timothy 2:15 & 3:15-17 tell us,
Do your best to present yourselves to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth…the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
To be a mature Christian it is essential to know and follow what the Bible teaches. In many places the Bible tells us this, like: Deuteronomy, the Psalms, and the letters of Paul to the Colossians, and Timothy and Peter’s first letter.
Throughout his ministry Jesus sets us an example of applying Scripture to his life, for example, by quoting it when he was tempted. He told us that to bear fruit we must let his words live in us. (Matthew 4:1-11, John 15:5)
Daily Bible Reading, with Kevin and Dee
Bible teachers Kevin and Dee share with us the importance of daily Bible reading in their lives. It is one of the most important disciplines of the Christian life. Through daily Bible reading we stay in touch with God’s way, our minds renewed and receptive to what God would show us.
(Note: We have several other lessons about the Bible, its composition, its inspiration, how to study it, and meditating on it. For more on the topic please see those videos and study guides.)
“Let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT
Muslims are to gather collectively in the mosque every Friday for prayers and a message. It is their weekly holy day. Participation, like everything is Islam, is based on law and provides benefit to the participant. In addition, Muslims gather throughout the lunar year for various holy days.
Men and women gather separately in the mosque. Larger mosques have a separate prayer room for women. In smaller mosques, women pray behind the men. This is for convenience, since women may have children with them, and modesty since praying involves deep bowing which exposes one’s bottom to those behind.
Women are excused from gathering if they are: menstruating, have small children, or otherwise are kept home. However, they must make up the prayers and devotion that they miss during these absences. Being unable to keep up with these obligations is one of the main reasons that according to Islam, there are more women in hell than men.
As Mike shares with us, gathering together with other believers is a discipline of the Christian faith. It helps make us all stronger. Usually Christians gather on Sunday*, as they have since the days of the early church. We sing together, pray, share scripture, and usually have a message from a pastor or special speaker.
(*Note: Seventh Day Adventists agree with other Christians on most doctrines except which day to rest and worship on: Saturday not Sunday.)
God made people needing a weekly day of rest. In the Old Testament he also told us to honor that day for the Lord. But Christians are not under that law.
So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. Colossians 2:16 NLT
In most Muslim countries Sunday is a work day, which makes it difficult or impossible for Christians there to join services. Even in America many of us need to work on weekends. If we must work on Sunday, we need not feel excluded from fellowship.
Now multiple weekend worship services are common in city churches. Many offer online services, and zoom meetings where the sick and elderly can participate from a distance in the safety of their own home. These offerings blossomed into popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing a silver lining for many stuck-at-home Christians.
Some American churches have always been very active, offering different activities nearly every day. Dr. C grew up in a church like that.
If we cannot gather together, we should recognize that it is going to have an impact on our faith. We should seriously try to schedule time together with strong believers.
Example: overseas working Christian. Jordan, one of our volunteer overseas national workers has a very responsible position which requires working on Sunday. She watches services online and fellowships with Christians when she can. She realizes this is not ideal, and it is difficult for her to get the encouragement she needs. But living in a Muslim country it is the only option available if she is to work.
Isolation of Christians from Muslim background
Being a Christian by yourself, makes the Christian life more difficult. You have no one to encourage you, share a positive word, pray for you, or provide an encouraging testimony. This is the unfortunate reality for many Christians of Muslim background.
In America when Muslims become believers they often have more opportunity to find a church. Some choose an ethnic church from their background. But many do not feel comfortable in them because of the different cultures of Muslims and Christians within the same country overseas. Each side suspects the other. This attitude can carry over to America.
In Muslim countries, if churches are allowed at all, they are forbidden to convert or welcome Muslims into their midst. If a Muslim shows up at church the Christians fear he is a spy. They could get turned in to the authorities and lose their church or even their freedom.
Frequently the new believer is not allowed into the church. Can you imagine how discouraging that would be? You finally find that Jesus is the way, but your new Christian family rejects you! You might end up wondering if what that the Bible says about Christian love and fellowship is real at all.
If they persist, these new believers can often find someone to baptize them or fellowship within their country. But not always. We have seen believers grow weaker in faith when they return home to Muslim countries. We must always lift them in prayer.
Example of overseas contact seeking fellowship: Raffy of Saudi Arabia contacted us after watching our video lessons. He had studied in America and was hoping to visit again for baptism and discipleship training. But the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled that. He still lives in Saudi, without fellowship and in fear. Raffy needs our prayers.
Although we communicate with other believers we know in Saudi, due to fears we cannot ask them openly about their faith and fellowship.
Good news however! There are now online churches for Muslim background Christians. In the safety of their homes, if the signals allow, overseas Muslims who have become Christians can now connect. They can sing together and fellowship with other Christians who like them are stuck in Muslim countries or families.
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 NLT
Even in America, some Christians from Muslim background cannot freely gather with other Christians because they are in Muslim families.
Example of formerly Muslim woman in America: Nelly’s parents and husband’s family are strict Muslims from North Africa. Because of this, although now a Christian, she still wears her hijab, and does not go regularly to church. She fears that her relatives will discover she is no longer Muslim and take the children from her. This is their right in Islam.
However, Nelly has more freedom since her adulterous husband left her. She has been able to arrange a week off for discipleship training conference for former Muslims. Occasionally she meets with Dr. C or other Christians in person or online.
Please pray for Nelly and believers like her to find more fellowship.
Muslim worship involves reciting portions of the Qur’an, praying in a ritual manner with changing positions – both alone or in unison with others, and on holy days like Fridays, listening to a khutbah, or sermon.
You might be surprised that music is not traditionally part of Muslim worship. In fact, strict Muslims avoid music entirely, as something that is evil because it touches the emotions. This is why you may have heard of the Taliban shooting people at weddings which have music.
Example of Muslim response to Christian Music: The first time Dr. C heard that music was wrong for Muslims, was at an outreach many years ago at one of America’s biggest mosques.
Dr C and Joanna were visiting from out of state, investigating Muslim neighborhoods for outreach potential. They had brought Jesus DVDs and tracts to distribute somewhere that God directed. Having investigated and prayed, they were determined to go to this particular mosque. A local missionary called shortly before they left and warned them not to go there, that it was too dangerous. They were afraid enough already, and this call did not help! But in faith, they decided not to look to the right or to the left, as the Bible says, but to stay to the path God had called them to.
During the outreach, white-haired imam came out to speak to Dr. C, either to distract her from distribution or to try to convert her. One of the several challenges he gave to her was why Christians had music in church? That seemed wickedly sensual to him!
While Dr. C answered this and other challenges, Joanna finished distributing the remaining items to the eagerly receptive cars. Hallelujah! Over 200 went DVDs and tracts went out that day, despite the attempts of the missionary and the imam to stop them!
(Note: After a Christian life well spent, Joanna has now joined Jesus in heaven. You can see her enthusiastic advice to Huda on how to practice the presence of God in our video Lesson on the Fruit of the Spirit.)
Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Psalm 105:2
Usually when we speak of Christian worship, we are referring to services where Christians join together. Most often these are weekly.
Christian Worship Styles
What we are used to largely determines how we react to the worship styles of others. Dr. C received another challenge over the internet from a Muslim who was shocked at the music and variety of Christian worship. He said,
“Christians do all kinds of things is their worship services, like singing, clapping, shouting, lifting their hands, and dancing. How can you justify this? Where did Jesus teach this?”
Dr C answered, defending, “All of those forms of worship are mentioned in the Zabur – the Psalms of David and others. They were already accepted at the time of Jesus. He did not need to teach them.”
Differences in worship styles, especially musical styles, are some of the most obvious ways in which Christian churches differ. Some more traditional churches sing old hymns from traditional hymnals accompanied by traditional instruments, like the organ and piano. Some are even in ancient languages.
Nowadays, more and more churches opt for modern songs with lyrics projected on a screen, accompanied by guitars, keyboards, and drums. Rather than a choir they have a worship team of 3-5 people performing, without an official director leading the congregation to keep in time. A few denominations refuse all instruments.
Since the Bible’s Psalms talk about a wide variety of worship styles and body worship positions, they should all be valid for today as well. But the Psalms do not include musical notes. This is actually good because it leaves every generation and culture free to develop their own musical style, rather than relying on what was fashionable 3,000 years ago in the Middle East.
You might prefer a church with a solemn worship style, one which emphasizes quiet contemplation of the awesome majesty of God. On the other hand, perhaps you enjoy shouting out to the Lord in joy, clapping or raising your hands in praise, or at times even jumping a bit for joy. There are excellent churches which engage all of these worship styles.
There is a debate now about how much music in churches should entertain, versus be simple. Dr. Cynthia tells us in the video that she actually enjoys nearly every style of worship. But she realizes not everyone does. She suggests that you find a church with sound doctrine and a worship style that blesses you.
This may occur in an individual Christian’s quiet devotional time with God, reading and meditating on his word. For your personal worship, besides reading the Bible you could also listen to worship music on the radio, internet, CDs or downloads.
Each of us in unique in our experience in life and music, so it should not be surprising that some music touches us more than others. To increase your sense of worship, try to find music that encourages your heart and Christian growth.
There may also be times throughout the day that your heart adores or rejoices in the Lord. Both of these become more natural when we become fully aware of God’s goodness and presence. Memorizing some meaningful Christian songs and Bible verses that you can take with you everywhere is a worthwhile contribution to your personal worship and encouragement.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord. Ephesians 5:19 (NIrV)
The act of worship can involve a person’s entire being. When we sing a song of worship to God, or meditate on a meaningful Bible verse our focus shifts. Our everyday existence with its problems and cares can fade away as we renew our mind with thoughts of God and his power.
Worship experiences encourage us that we are not on our own. They confirm in our spirit that God is in control of the universe and yet cares about us. Washing our brains with these positive thoughts has the beneficial result of releasing positive chemicals that strengthen and cheer us.
Singing together with others adds another component to the experience. Even secular music groups often feel fulfilled or unified when making music together with others. Likewise and beyond, when Christians sing together there is the opportunity for group bonding. In group worship, there can be an experience of being alone with God at the same time as we are united with others. This is especially true with music that touches our hearts.
Mystical experiences can also happen during private or individual worship. Believers may report unique feelings or visions. These mostly bring individual encouragement. But as with human relationships, we need to remember that the person is more important than the pleasurable feeling they give us. We must not elevate the experience above our devotion to God. And we must not allow it to make us proud.
You might look at worship as something that people do to honor God when they are gathered together. But on a deeper level, how an individual lives their life overall is also considered their worship. For example, mosque outreach like the one in the example above is a form of worship, if we do it unto God with love in our hearts for him and others. It is a sacrifice to God. Romans 12:1 tells us to,
…offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
The verse following that gives us an idea of how to live as a sacrifice,
Do not copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Romans 12:2 NLT
SERVING and SPIRITUAL GIFTS
Jesus told us that he came as a servant. We should imitate that. The greatest of his followers is the servant of all. (Mark 9:35)
Every Christian has been given spiritual gifts to serve and strengthen the church, or bring others into it. Mike Licona shares with us types of Christian spiritual gifts.
There are three good New Testament passages on spiritual gifts. They list a variety of gifts, with no one list being complete.
So we know that there may be unusual spiritual gifts not mentioned, perhaps because they fit with a later culture. For example, people with strong computer skills are now much needed for Christian work. (Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-31, Ephesians 4:4-13).
Some of the gifts we will look at are: hospitality, serving, counsel, giving, mercy, teaching, and a variety of practical gifts.
The Body of Christ
Every believing Christian is a member of the body of Christ. The Bible passages tell us that different people have different gifts, just as a body has different parts. But all the parts work together in a body to benefit the whole. Ephesians tells us that the purpose of the gifts is to,
…equip God’s people to do his work and build up his church, the body of Christ … so that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Ephesians 4:12,13 NLT
The Bible warns us against being proud about how we have been gifted. At the end of 1 Corinthians 12, it tells us to seek spiritual gifts, but to know that love is more important than all the gifts. We can all have love from God as a fruit of his Spirit.
The Gift of HOSPITALITY
In Islamic cultures, hospitality is extremely important. Western Christians cannot, and possibly should not match the hospitality of Muslims and the Middle East. With much of the region engulfed by deserts, hospitality became a survival necessity for everyone. It also became an art form and source of pride.
Example of Middle Eastern hospitality: a Palestinian in America became notable for hospitality. He entertained many Arab visitors – even ones that he scarcely knew or even disliked. They would not consult him on what was a good time for him, as Westerners usually do. They would simply announce that they were coming. In order to be a good host he would take off work for days, even risking his employment and financial stability.
Dr. C would advise him, “Just tell them that you have to work! That’s what I do. They can’t expect you to drop everything for them.” But he could not violate his ingrained hospitality standards.
Hospitality advice. We encourage Western Christians to keep in mind the hospitality expectations of Muslim culture. In our relationships with Muslims we must be hospitable and not stingy. We don’t advise that you risk your job or finances to be hospitable. But you will probably be expected to give and receive more hospitality than you are used to.
And former Muslims especially in the West, please accept that lesser hospitality from Christians here reflects their culture. Also, know that the Lord can deliver you from burden of excessive hospitality. (Luke 10:41,42)
Serving meals is nevertheless a longstanding tradition in the Christian church, going all the way back to its beginning. Licona’s discussion about hospitality and serving meals includes reality footage of Dr. Cynthia and other volunteers preparing a ministry event. Other places Christians serve food is for the homeless and poor, for fundraisers, for group meetings and social gatherings.
The Gift of CHRISTIAN COUNSEL
Muslim counsel. Imams, who serve like pastors for local mosques, are often consulted for interpretation of Islam and advice. On the whole however, you might recall that everything is Islam has already been thought out and turned into a law. In the modern world there are times where Muslims struggle to apply Islamic Law to new situations. So fatawa (pleural of fatwa), official Islamic decisions are still being made.
Examples of Muslim counsel: Dr. C has books of fatawa for women which apply Muslim Law to contemporary life. For example, they tell women that because Islam is against the depictions of living things, they cannot collect family photos. Neither can they have birthday parties, because there is no record that Mohammed did.
Christian counsel. Being human, Christians have problems. Like Barnabas with Paul and later John Mark, this gift of Christian service encourages others. It helps coach them to find where God really wants them.
Wise and experienced Christians routinely give counsel to those in trouble. Often pastors do. It is important for anyone giving advice to know when the situation requires professional psychological or medical help.
The Gift of MERCY
Some people are compassionate and are gifted at showing mercy. They help those who have gotten themselves into trouble, often by not following God’s ways. This is also considered a spiritual gift.
The Gift of GIVING
Finally, Mike mentions the gift of giving. Although some are financially blessed, all Christians should give money to church and charity.
Muslim giving. As with other aspects of Muslim life, giving to charity is an obligation. The exact amount varies by sect. With the tremendous wealth now within the Muslim world, this practice is funding mosques, madrasas, and university departments of Islamic Studies worldwide.
Christian giving is not under obligation. In general though, teachers, especially pastors, point to 10% of our income to be given to the Lord’s work, since that is what was specified under the Law of Moses (Leviticus 27:30).
Rather than as obligation, the Lord wants to give out of thankful appreciation.
…whoever sows generously will reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
As is common knowledge, families and individuals have become busier over the last two generations. Previously most households had one income, and there were fewer entertainments to distract us. Now many, if not most American households have two or more incomes.
The result of increasing employment is that volunteering has greatly fallen. Charitable organizations have suffered and some have closed. With donated time decreasing and productive work increasing, sincere Christians should consider giving more money to make up for it.
Example of working and giving balance: Although very active in ministry now, there were years in Dr. Cynthia’s life when between her medical work and family duties, she had very little time for Christian service. During these times she was reduced to serving through giving money and intercessory prayer. These are ways of contributing that busy working people can do with limited time.
The Gift of CHRISTIAN TEACHING
In the mosque. Through mosque and madrasas Muslims are taught Islam; however much of the Muslim lifestyle they learn is through living in a Muslim community.
In the church. Licona mentions that some people have learned much about the Bible, and are gifted in teaching it. Mature and older Christians are encouraged to teach the newer and younger Christians. Christian teaching is through sermons, Sunday School, Bible studies, Christian schools, seminaries, and discipleship programs.
Several guests we have on our series, like Mark Vyka and Kevin, although not famous as others of our guests, are gifted Bible teachers and serve in their local churches.
In seminaries pastors and other clergy are taught not only the Bible, but its original languages, cultures of the time, commentaries, and ways to understand and analyze the Bible.
At Home. Muslims are told that “Paradise is at the feet of your mother.” This means Muslim mothers should raise their children to be devout Muslims.
Christians are encouraged to bring up our children as believers. We cannot leave them to secular school teachers, thinking that they will grow up neutral. Yes, we believe that everyone needs to choose for themselves what they believe personally; but it is the duty of parents to teach children what Christians believe, and train them in Christian behavior. (Ephesians 6:4, Proverbs 22:6)
Teaching important Life Skills:
Finally, teaching skills that will benefit others and the church is important. An emphasis on teaching reading has been part of Western Christianity for about 500 years, since the Reformation. The priority was for Christians to learn to read the Bible themselves. Sunday Schools were started to give the working children a chance to learn to read. As a result of more people reading, all education flourished in these countries.
A wonderful gift that Americans and some others have is being able to speak English. Most of us did not need to go to a foreign language school to learn it – it was just part of growing up in an English-speaking country. That gift alone opens doors for Christians to serve – maybe even you!
Examples teaching English overseas:
Dr. C’s first overseas trip was as an English language coach in Christ College, Taipei, Taiwan when she was 19 years old. Taiwanese students, most of whom were Buddhist, would eagerly come to the college to practice English. They would also have the chance to live and eat with Christians from America. And they heard the gospel in groups meetings twice a day. For decades after, the students kept in touch with Dr. C, often having spiritual discussions.
Sometimes teaching English is the only door for getting into countries closed to the gospel. Our contacts serve within mainland China, Arabia, and Central Asia teaching American culture and language.
Example of immigrant preference: With so many immigrants in America now, many churches and Christian-run friendship centers are offering English as a Second Language courses (ESL). A North African Muslim in Colorado told Dr. C that of all the ESL classes she had attended, she preferred the one at the church.
Other PRACTICAL GIFTS
Example of Muslim Practical skills promotion: At a Muslim student meeting that Dr. C attended, the Muslim leader told the young people that they should choose careers not for their own sake, but those that would benefit the ummah, or people and influence of Islam.
Christian Practical Gifts: Teaching is a practical gift. In a way all gifts are practical if they help with the goal of building up the Body of Christ.
Skills like that acquired with training, that are useful in secular life, can also be considered spiritual gifts as well when used in Christian service. Practical gifts have been part of service since the beginning. For example, Dorcas making clothes for the poor.
Other examples of practical gifts: are administration, accounting, and helping. Without these the church would be disorganized, and without organization we would lack the tremendous worldwide impact that Christians have to this day. Teaching practical skills is also a part of church ministry: reading and writing, sewing and farm skills, and healthcare.
Because music is part of Christian worship, singing and playing instruments are gifts that can be developed for Christian service.
Example of Christian immigrant centers teaching practical skills: Shaheen directs International Friendship Centers throughout America that not only teach ESL, but skills like sewing, and provide support groups. These assist immigrants accommodate to life in America and provide some support for their families. Gathered together, the classes occasionally hear the gospel as part of devotionals and special events.
New Christian mission emphasis on practical skills: Mission organizations for the past 50 years have changed from the “mission station” model to one more grounded in local participation. For this to work, outsiders help or teach them practical things on a temporary basis, like: developing computer systems, digging wells, and organizing schools.
Healing the sick through medicine and prayer have been functions of the church since it began, developing into the early hospitals. Many hospitals in America originated from Christian outreaches of compassion.
Overseas missions often got their start by bringing medicine to areas where there was none – or only a witch doctor or shaman. Even today mission hospitals are the best in some corners of the world.
Short term medical mission trips deliver healing to isolated areas in Jesus’ name. Often while the patient and their family are awaiting treatment, someone shares with them how God can heal their hearts as well as their bodies.
Example of mission teaching practical medical skills: Volunteer Eithne and her friend Sister Frieda shared the dream of a nursing school in a remote area of Kenya. That dream came true, and Eithne became the dean of Nzoia School of Nursing.
Eithne, while still living in America, visited this remote region of Kenya several times, to set up a nursing curriculum tailored to their needs in Africa. Within a few years they received the award for the best nursing school in the country. Praise God for fulfilling this beautiful dream in a powerful way!
One serving area America does lead the world in is volunteerism. Christians are encouraged to give back by serving alone and with groups.
Examples of how/where our associates volunteer: outreaches, ministry boards, church boards, mission committees, drama teams, translators, medical teams, charities, community committees, driving, babysitting and teaching.
Everyone can pray for healing, but some people seem supernaturally gifted in this. Sadly, there are also fakes. Again, those with flashy gifts need to guard against pride and showmanship.
Miraculous gifts are abilities not natural in people. They include:
- Special “word of knowledge”
- Speaking languages or “tongues” that one has not studied
- Prophecy, which includes:
- speaking or preaching about God through his Spirit
- at times future prophecy
- dreams and visions are especially common with Muslims coming to Christ
Even without special gifting in miracles, most Christians can recount where God has intervened in their lives in ways that they consider miraculous.
(Note: See also study guide and video Lesson on The Place of Miracles.)
EVANGELISM: Sharing the Gospel, and the Gift of Evangelism
Do Muslims “Evangelize” for Islam?
Yes, they do! This is called da’wa, or the invitation to Islam. In America it is practiced on essentially all sizeable university campuses where they have weekly informational tables, and open events. Fastathons for Ramadan, and wear-a-hijab days are ways that they gain interest of students.
Other ways Islam reaches out are open mosques events. In almost every walk of life in the West now, we can see how Islam is spreading its message and gaining acceptability.
According to Islam, Muslims should not live under the authority of a non-Muslim country. Muslims in the West, if sincere, need to justify being here. It is acceptable if they are gaining knowledge, or doing something that benefits Muslim people or spreads Islam.
Most Muslims consider peaceful voluntary conversion to Islam preferable. However, both the principles and historical practices of Islam testify that violent and involuntary imposition of Islam is acceptable. It is also required to offer conversion and submission to their enemies before attacking them.
Examples of Muslim evangelists: include imams, international students, taxi/shuttle drivers, YouTube testimonials and pleasant presentations of Islam.
- Muslim students have told Dr. C that they had planned spread Islam here.
- After a few long discussions with a shuttle driver, Dr. C connected him with Arab evangelist Brother E. The two spoke about the gospel for two hours, during which time the driver admitted he had come to America as a missionary, and so far had converted several to Islam.
- Not surprisingly, Arabic speaking Muslim leaders have told Brother E that they came here to evangelize.
CHRISTIAN EVANGELISM – Sharing the Christian Gospel, with Kevin
There is a gift of evangelism, in Christians who seem especially gifted and sharing the gospel and bringing others to Christ. But there is a general sense in which all Christians are to be involved in sharing the gospel.
Bible teacher Kevin, in this video shares with us that being a Christian involves walking as Jesus walked, doing the things Jesus did. We call this sharing the gospel in word and deed. (1 John 2:6)
We share the gospel by showing love to believers and unbelievers, both friends and enemies. The other thing we need to do is share the gospel story in word – God’s way of salvation through forgiveness of our sins by Jesus’ blood.
We can share the gospel by several means, including:
- making sure that all of our family and friends and work or school connections know the hope we have found in Jesus
- wide scale distribution of tracts, DVDs, and Bibles
- purposely making new friends with whom we will share the gospel (which we call small scale outreach)
- using the internet and television (which can be personal or ultra-large scale outreach)
- meeting and talking to people in public places
Our associates do all of these. Above we gave an example of wide scale distribution at a mosque. For additional illustrations, the video includes photographs of ministry volunteers active in outreach, including campus and various ethnic events, and Dr. C sharing the gospel with Muslims in Hyde Park in London.
All Christians are called to spread the gospel with love and words. We encourage you to find a way that you are comfortable with and pursue it!
(Note: See also the study guide and Lesson on Baptism and the Great Commission)
YOUR SPIRITUAL Gifts?
Think about what we wrote above about spiritual gifts, and how you might fit into it. If you haven’t already found your spiritual gift or gifts, why not pray now and ask the Lord to reveal them to you?
The word Christian means “little Christ.” So, Jesus Christ should be seen in us more and more as we seek to be like him. What do Muslims see when they look at Christians? Christians have freedom, but we are told not to use our freedom as a stumbling block. (1 Corinthians 8:9)
(Note: we discuss more about this in the study guide and Lesson in Liberty or Laws)
The Bible says,
Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do. 1 Peter 1:15
No one is or can be perfect, but Christians are to try to please God. To be a holy person is to be Godlike – as perfect as possible.
Live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way. Colossians 1:10
In this lesson we emphasize the disciplines, or positive goals of living a Christian life. But there are also things we should avoid. Several places in the Old and New Testament there are lists of behaviors that displease God, like, sexual immorality, drunkenness, gossip, lies, theft, violence, rage, unclean language, disobedience, unkindness, selfishness, greed and refusing to work. Sometimes these negative deeds are called the works of the flesh.
One thing that Muslims are especially attuned to is the way Westerners dress. We do not suggest that Christians in the West dress like Muslims. But we should remember that although we have liberty, the Bible does instruct us to dress modestly and to avoid being a stumbling block. Modestly is a relative term, we realize that. For this reason we suggest that Christians dress as the most modest people of their own culture. (1 Timothy 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3,4)
(Note: We go into more detail on this in the study guide and Lesson on Liberty or Laws?)
In contrast to the works of the flesh, we are encouraged to abide in Jesus and let the Holy Spirit bring forth the works of the Spirit in our lives. (Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:3-8, Colossians 3:5-8, 2 Timothy 3:2-4)
Many Muslims and others are confused about why there are different Christian denominations.
First, Dr. C explains that it is not only Christians who have many denominations – every large religion has branches with different beliefs, for example Islam and Buddhism. It is human nature to want to do things in a variety of ways.
REASONS for Christian Denominations
It is not in the human character to agree on everything – just as preferences vary on everything from food to favorite colors – people vary in their understanding and practice of the Christian faith.
Doctrinal Differences: In general, those considered “Christian” agree on certain beliefs as set forth in “creeds.” Beyond these, some of the reasons for Christian denominations are on other beliefs, or doctrinal differences.
Although there are numerous smaller doctrinal differences between Christian denominations, some important or noticeable differences are:
- size, organization and authority structure
- beliefs regarding the communion service, or eucharist:
- if it is symbolic or the actual body and blood of Jesus
- how frequently the service is performed
- if it is required to keep us connected to Christ
- whether a priest is needed to intercede between Christians and God, or if rather, there is a priesthood of all believers with Jesus as the high priest
- whether or not the head of their church holds the authority of Christ on earth
- prayer only to God, or to God and saints who intercede with him
- the degree of devotion given to saints
- the understanding and practices of baptism:
- infant, without understanding
- adult, with understanding and voluntary commitment to Christ
- formal or informal styles of worship service
- the spiritual gifts emphasized
Non-doctrinal Differences: With few exceptions, worship services in all denominations include music, prayer, scripture reading, and a message from a pastor or other trained leader. Some reasons for denominations besides doctrine are:
- language or culture based, reflecting the region in which they arose.
- emphasis on certain aspects of the Christian life, like missions, service, or social justice
- personality and education
- diversity in styles of worship and music.
Categories of Denominations: Individual churches fall into these broad categories:
- Traditional – having historic roots, such as: Catholic, Coptic and other Orthodox churches
- Early Protestant – examples: Lutheran, Anglican (Episcopal/Church of England)
- Evangelical – Protestant traditions emphasizing personal commitment to God through Jesus Christ
- Examples: Baptist, Evangelical Free, Christian Missionary Alliance, independents
- Note: some liturgical churches are evangelical in teaching and outlook
- Charismatic – a form of Protestant, usually evangelical church, which
- Emphasizes spiritual gifts, especially miraculous
- Examples: Pentecostal, Assembly of God, Church of God, Foursquare, independents
- Cultic – churches developed around a leader who emphasized their own teachings over those of the Bible,
- usually have a new holy book
- usually have a different view of the deity of Christ than that of the creeds (for example, that he is not God).
- because of these extreme differences, many do not consider them Christian
- their thinking and lifestyles are usually closer to Christian than Buddhist, Hindu, or pagan, and usually see and present themselves as Christian.
- examples: Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Christian Science, Moonies
Christian ministries also tend to fall into these same four categories.
We feel that all who believe in and follow Jesus Christ as their Savior are part of the Body of Christ, the church, regardless of their denomination. Some denominations strongly state that only they have the truth, or exclusive way to heaven. We disagree.
God saves us, not our perfect theology.
No Christian or denomination has perfect understanding. Only God is perfect and has full understanding. Having come from a tradition where perfect theology seemed to be part of salvation, it took Dr. C decades to realize that.
If it were important that each detail be fully understood, the Bible would have clarified them. But many details are not clear. So, although the Bible emphasizes that we should endeavor to know God well, we are to walk humbly with him, in recognition that we do not have full understanding. (Jeremiah 9:24, 2 Timothy 2:15, Micah 6:8, Deuteronomy 29:29, Ephesians 2:8)
Under persecution denominations become of little importance. Richard Wurmbrand, a pastor arrested by Romanian communists said, “In prison there are no denominations.” Himself a Lutheran, he shared in fellowship and communion with all the believers there, including Catholic, Romanian Orthodox, and Protestant.
In some ways having a variety of Christian denominations could be a good thing. It allows freedom and diversity of understanding and style of worship. For example, some people are distracted by congregational shouting or speaking in tongues in church, while others are encouraged by it. It is good to have a choice so everyone can find a church where they feel comfortable.
- Be sure that the church you attend truly does teach the Word of God, the Bible. Many no longer do.
- Also, beware of any church that places a different holy book or the teachings of another “prophet” above the Bible – even if they do lip service to accepting the Bible. This is what Islam and the cults do. Indeed, there are experts who consider Islam a cult of Christianity because they, like Mormonism, claim to accept the Bible, but put the teachings of their prophet and his book above it.
What is a Real Christian?
In Islam, religion and culture and the political systems are closely intertwined. Although a few Muslim nations claim to be secular, there is really none that has successfully separated the three. Commonly their countries are called “Islamic Republics.” Therefore, it is natural for Muslims to assume that this is the relationship between every:
religion political system and culture.
In the West however, this close relationship is not the case. Yes, Christianity has influenced Western culture, for the better, but it lacks the kind of strong association of Islam with politics and culture. The West allows personal freedom in choice of religion and behavior. Islam provides a system of Sharia Law which creates the culture and limits personal choice.
For those coming from a Muslim culture, where everyone is considered to be Muslim, it is an easy jump to consider everyone in the West to be Christian. This leads to significant misunderstandings. For example, Christians frequently find themselves blamed for the sins promoted by Hollywood. They often need to employ apologetics to defend mistakes of some American and European civilizations of the past.
And so, we have found that new Christians from Muslim background often do not use the best discernment in deciding:
- what Christian to use as an example
- or take as a good friend
Sometimes, merely wearing a cross confirms to a Muslim that someone is a true Christian. That this is because, as the Bible tells us, people look at the outside, but the Lord looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7).
So What does make a Real Christian?
Dr Cynthia explains to us in the video lesson what it takes to become a Christian:
- We must decide personally.
- We are all sinners. We must admit that we are not perfect.
- No one is perfect and deep down we know it, so this shouldn’t be difficult, but somehow it is.
- We must understand that God our Creator is just and punishes wrongdoing.
- But as a father takes responsibility for his child’s errors, in his compassion our heavenly Father became human and took that punishment himself.
- Believing this saves us and makes us part of God’s family!
- Why not pray now, and tell God that you believe it – this is for you!
Then, once we believe we start on our journey of the Christian life. We should find out God’s way and live it day by day. Perhaps by following the guidelines in this study guide.
Come near to God, and he will come near to you. James 4:8
We are praying that this lesson is a blessing to you, and helps you grow in the faith and grace of the Lord. Following the Christian disciplines we discuss here would go a long way toward making God’s presence more real in your life.
Scripture References for this Lesson:
- 2 Corinthians 5:17
- Galatians 5:19-22 & 4:4
- Micah 5:2
- I Corinthians 10:31
- Romans 11:36 & 8:28
- John 17:22-24
- Matthew 4:1-11 & 10:17-39 & 28:20
- I John 2:6
- Psalm 62:8 & 73:24-26, & 119:11
- Colossians 1:9-13 & 3:5-8,12-17
- Philippians 1:9-11 I Peter 1:15, 2:2, 5:7
- James 1:5,7-9 & 4:2,3,6,8 & 5:16
- Deuteronomy 6:6
- Jeremiah 9:24
- 2 Timothy 2:15 & 3:2-4,15-17
- John 15:5 & 10:10
- 2 Corinthians 9:6-8
- Psalm 105:2
- Leviticus 27:30
- Romans 12:1-21
- 1 Corinthians 12:1-31
- Ephesians 2:8 & 3:14-21 & 4:4-13
- Ephesians 5:3-8,19 & 6:4
- 1 Timothy 2:9
- 1 Peter 3:3,4
- Mark 9:35
- Proverbs 22:6
- Micah 6:8
- Deuteronomy 29:29
- I Samuel 16:7
- Hebrews 2:10
- John 3:16
- Luke 10:41,42
- New International Version is used unless stated otherwise. Additional translations used in this lesson are: the New International Reader’s Version, and the New Living Translation
- For their safety, names have been changed.
Paradise under mother’s feet: Hadith Sunan al Nisai 3104
Prohibited prayer during menses contributing to women in hell: Sahih al Bukhari DuS # 304 & 5197 (and 8 other places in this source)
- This lesson is designed primarily to explain to Muslims what it is like to live as a Christian.
- What is a Christian discipline?
- Review the disciplines we discuss in the video and/or study guide.
- What that we covered do you think is of essential importance?
- Did we leave out anything you consider important?
- Dr. C mentions the close link between religion, politics, and culture in Islamic countries.
- Review how Islam sees this connection.
- How does this affect the Muslim understanding of America and Christians?
- Discuss examples of this relationship you have seen in cultures that you are familiar with:
- Christianity’s impact on America?
- Any others?
- Hospitality is important in Muslim cultures.
- What are examples of how you could be hospital to Muslims?
- To others?
- How might what they appreciate be different from you?
- Evangelism is extremely important to us, especially Muslim evangelism. That is why we do these videos.
- What are several forms of evangelism that our associates are involved in?
- How do you feel about evangelism?
- What might you be able to do yourself to help bring the gospel to others?
- Most dedicated Christians consider Bible reading to be of essential importance. How do you think it should be practiced? How often?
- Prayer is powerful. It is a topic so important that many books have been written about prayer. The study guide covered what we felt were the most important aspects for you to know.
- What types of prayer did we mention? Do you think you understood them?
- What are the parts that should be included in prayer?
- In your previous life did you pray? If so, how did the kinds of prayers and what they included differ from what you learned today?
- Do you believe that prayer changes things, or us, or both?
- Regarding Denominations:
- Have you heard Christians being criticized for having many denominations?
- Before this lesson, had you heard that other religions also have denominations?
- If you are a member of a denomination, do you consider yourself first a member of that denomination, or first a Christian?
- How do you feel about Christians in other denominations?
- If you are a Muslim, consider what denomination you are and how it differs from others in Islam.
- As you saw in the video, Dr. C thinks that having a variety of denominations and worship styles is acceptable within the Christian faith.
- Do you agree?
- If there is time, and the group leader thinks it is beneficial, discuss your feelings on denominations and worship styles.
- We talk about spiritual gifts in this study guide:
- Had you heard of this before?
- What are some practical spiritual gifts?
- What are miraculous gifts?
- What gifts that might be useful now were not around 2,000 years ago when the New Testament was written?
- If you are a Christian, you have or will have spiritual gifts. What might yours be?
- Jesus served us. As Christians we should find a way to serve others, not only ourselves.
- In what ways are you currently serving others?
- Who do you know that you consider a true servant?
- Are there any other ways that you are now inspired to serve?
- Regarding being a “real Christian”:
- Have you ever struggled with or known someone who struggled with understanding what makes a real Christian?
- In your own words, how would you define a real Christian?
- How would you explain “real Christianity” to someone who comes from a very different culture like Islam, or maybe Buddhism, which sees everything in Western culture as “Christian?”
- Has watching this lesson, reading the study guide and answering these questions, inspired you in new ways of how you could live?
- How might that be?
- If so, knowing that our enemy will try to discourage you from any improvement in how you serve God, what measures will you take to be sure that you follow through on your plans?
- Peace and Purpose is a view of the Christian life.
- How is that?
- How could seeing life that way help:
- simplify life?
- change what you allow into your life?
© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2020. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on the Christian Life
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Does God Exist?
Note: The existence of God is a topic with much important information to cover. As a result, this study guide is long. Your study group leader might want to assign only certain portions of it, and reduce the number of study questions discussed. Alternately, it could be used over several sessions.
Summary and Notes:
Quick summary: During our lives we must ask ourselves three questions:
Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where will I go when I die?
In this lesson we address the foundation of these three questions, “Does God Exist?” Atheism and skepticism are growing in Islamic countries, as they are in the West. In this lesson we examine the thinking and reasons behind Muslim atheism. In addition, we make suggestions to help Muslims and all atheists reconsider – God exists, but is different and far better than they had ever thought!
(Note: see also the study guide and “Lesson on Why Believe the Bible?”)
Important words: Theist – believes God exists
Atheist – does not believe God exists
Skeptic – doubts that God exists; much like atheist
Agnostic – not sure about any religion; often like atheist
Monotheism – the belief in one God
Reality – Mammoth Site, South Dakota
Dr. Cynthia introduces us to the fascinating Mammoth Site in South Dakota. Here we find elephant-like creatures that are long extinct. It is not a graveyard where the mammoths buried their dead, but is a place of doom.
The story goes back thousands of years, to when South Dakota’s environment was much different than now. The climate was milder, and fertile enough to support mammoths. Large and well-fed, the mammoths became thirsty. They searched for water and found it –murky water, but better than nothing. Or so they thought.
What the mammoths didn’t know was that under the water lay a base of sucking mud. Desperate to satisfy their thirst, the mammoths went deeper and deeper into the dirty water. That meant deeper and deeper into hungry mud which held them tight. Frantic, they tried to escape. What good was a drink if they died?
Exactly what happened next, we don’t know for certain: did they quickly sink and suffocate, or stay stuck and crying out for days? Either way, dozens were trapped until they died.
Dr. C uses this sad story to point out that people also need water – spiritually as well as physically. Jesus tells us in John 4 that he gives living water – the kind that satisfies our souls. This living water is for everyone, yet as we look around, we see most people drinking from muddy puddles – meaning pursuits that promise satisfaction but don’t deliver. Muddy puddles will not satisfy our longings. And if we follow them too far, they can suck away our very life.
An ancient site like this also makes us wonder about what happened long before we were born. How was the earth formed? How long it has existed? What about other extinct animals?
Being of a scientific background, Dr. C the is very interested in age of the earth and its creatures, and the way God brought them into existence. It is a fascinating topic. She has opinions about it. But Dr. C respects Christians who have different views, and encourages everyone to do the same.
The Bible and the Qur’an on Creation
Muslims and Christians usually agree on issues about creation, and whether or not God exists.
There is much agreement between the Bible and the Qur’an on the topic of creation. It is nice that there are some beliefs that we can share with our Muslim friends and family. For example, some parts of the Qur’an that describe nature, sound like the Book of Psalms in the Bible (zabur).
Both the Bible and the Qur’an say that God created the heavens and earth in six days. Many people believe God used 24 hour days. The word for day, yom, is the same in both ancient Hebrew and Arabic.
Ancient Hebrew only had 3,000 words, which meant words often had more than one meaning. Some people interpret yom in the Bible and the Qur’an to mean that the days were time periods, rather than 24 hour days. You can hold either the short or long day view and be a true Christian or Muslim.
The main issue is not WHEN the universe was created, but WHO or WHAT created it. None of us were alive at the time of the origin of the universe and life. So, to look back in time, we must:
- examine the evidence that still remains, then
- try to interpret it. Naturally, there will be different interpretations of the findings.
We believe it is important not to be dogmatic about the beginning or end of the earth in terms of timing, or the mechanisms God used to create.
It is good to be convinced ourselves, and fine to have friendly discussions within the body of believers. But we should not demand that everyone share our view. Rather, we should focus more on sharing the gospel in word and deed. That is what Jesus told us to do. We must not let “friendly fire” derail our main calling – to make disciples of all nations.
The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing – sharing God’s plan for our salvation in word and deed.
You might hear that the Qur’an gives contradictory accounts of creation. That is because in Qur’an 41:9-12, if you add up the days you get eight, not six. But in multiple other places the Qur’an says six. Some non-Muslims are critical of this seeming contradiction.
Muslim apologists however, explain that some of the days described in surah 41 overlap. We give Muslims the benefit of the doubt, and accept this explanation. After all, there are some Biblical passages that need explanation. There are other passages that we disagree on in the Qur’an that are more important to discuss with them.
Both the Bible and the Qur’an point to creation as a sign of encouragement that God exists (Psalm 8 & 19, Romans 1; Qur’an 2:164). This is another area in which we agree, as we do on most of the material in this lesson.
Many Muslims are Becoming Atheists
Muslims are told not to ask questions if it would cause them to doubt (Qur’an 5:101,102).
Yet some do. As Muslims begin to question Islam, which has been taught to them as undeniably true from birth, they start to question everything else that they had thought was true. Often, they go from questioning Islam, to disbelieving Islam, to disbelieving in God.
For example, a BBC South Asia interviewer asked Dr. Cynthia,
“Since you are saying that the Qur’an, the last revelation of God is corrupted: does that mean that there is no God?”
At first Dr. C was surprised at his jump to this conclusion. But thinking it over, she saw how clearly it reflects Islamic thinking. To Muslims, the very existence of God is so strongly linked to their view of Mohammed and the Qur’an, that it is a package deal. If one part is wrong, perhaps it is all wrong.
Mercifully, some do go back to believing in God – a different kind of God – and Christianity.
(Note: In order to keep the lesson focused on Islam, we have moved other causes of atheism to Appendix 3, the end of the study guide.)
Atheism in a nutshell
Modern atheists tend to believe:
- natural processes alone are enough to explain the origin of the universe and life, also called “scientific materialism.
- the Theory of Evolution accounts for the development and diversity of life on earth, by mutation and natural selection
- the physical world is all that exists
Some go beyond these beliefs to become anti-theist, saying:
- their view is the only one with evidence
- no one intelligent believes in God
- God-believers are superstitious because they claim a “God of the gaps” for anything not explained; but some day science will explain
- people who believe in God are judgmental
- religion is the cause of most of the problems in the world
- if God does exist, he is an evil dictator that you can’t even escape by dying
Many go beyond even those with aggressive behaviors:
- ridiculing students and other theists
- forbidding education to even mention Intelligent Design as an option
- removing university professors who admit to believing in God
- trying to remove social networking and other platforms from theists so that they cannot express their views
Ways to Consider the Existence of God
We will consider 3 types of proof that God exists:
Subjective (meaning with personal experience, insight, or feelings)
Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God: using LOGIC
Guest Luke Price makes a very simple presentation of what logic is. Then, he presents his four favorite arguments for the existence of God. They are:
- The Beginning of the Universe
- The Complexity of the Universe
- The Origin of Life
Learning Easy LOGIC
Before we examine Price’s favorite four, let’s look at how to form a logical “argument.” This way of organized thinking, Price explains, goes back to ancient Greece.
An argument in this sense does not mean fighting. It means an orderly presentation of statements which are called “premises.” Each of the statements presented must be true. If true, the premises lead to an unavoidable conclusion.
The Logical ARGUMENT:
Conclusion: based on the Premises
The only way to avoid the conclusion is to disprove one of the premises.
Presenting the case for God to Muslims is similar to how we explain the existence of God to any agnostic or atheist. We present truth and pray for God’s Spirit to confirm it and convict them.
(Note: Islam uses circular reasoning, which is different than logic. For example,
“The Qur’an is God’s word because Prophet Mohammed says so. Mohammed is a prophet because the Qur’an says so.”
Using one thing to prove the other and vice versa is not considered logic. But if you were raised with it, it is probably convincing.
Jesus did not use circular reasoning. In John 5, Jesus told us if he testifies for himself (as Mohammed did) it is not valid. He then gave three outside reasons, to back up his claim.
(Note: See also the study guide and Lesson on What Makes a True Prophet?)
Example: using logic with Muslims Dr. C had the opportunity to tutor a strict Muslim in Critical Thinking and Rhetoric. After these two courses, she encouraged the student to apply this way of thinking to religion, not simply to accept Islam’s claims. She is still praying for a result.)
Price’s Favorite Four Arguments
- Argument #1 The BEGINNING of the Universe
The Cosmological Argument
Premise 1: Anything that begins to exist has a cause
Premise 2: The universe began to exist
Conclusion: Therefore the Universe has a Cause
This argument is one of a family of arguments for God called “cosmological.” meaning related to the universe, or cosmos. Some of our Muslim friends might recognize it as the “Kalam,” which originated in the Middle Ages by a Muslim trained in logic.
The Universe had a Beginning.
Among world religions, only the Bible and Qur’an claim that the universe began.
- This significantly points toward which religion is true: Judaism, Islam, or Christianity.
- For thousands of years there was no proof of whether the universe was eternal or began. Religions could teach whatever they chose about the beginning of the universe, without fear of being proven wrong.
- All that changed in the1920s when high powered telescopes became able to look into deep space and discover that the stars and galaxies are moving apart. This means that at one point back in time everything was all together, until a “Big Bang” explosion blew it apart.
In other words, the universe began.
Eastern religions, like Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and New Age are becoming popular alternatives to monotheism. But they hold significant problems with logic and truth, because they:
- teach an eternal universe, which does not fit the facts.
- believe in pantheism, that god is inside creation, as “the coexistence of god and matter.” This belief does not provide a force or god outside of the universe to create it.
- God needs to exist outside of the creation to create it.
- Nothing cannot create something
- God cannot create himself out of nothing.
The Bible is not a science textbook. However, it does clearly say that the universe had a beginning, and God “spread it out.” Both claims fit with the evidence of science. (Genesis 1:1, Isaiah 42:5)
- Argument # 2 The COMPLEXITY of the Universe
The Design Argument
Premise 1: Design is evidence of a Mind
Premise 2: The Universe shows evidence of Design
Conclusion: Therefore the Universe was Designed by a Mind
Logical arguments about complexity suggesting design of the universe are called “Teleological Arguments.” Intelligent Design is the name some scientists use to explain that the evidence of design in the universe shows that designer a was at work.
- Fine tuning of the Universe. The complexity of the universe becomes more and more clear as science understands it better.
For example, the evidence of:
- design in the cosmos
- variations in the background radiation of the universe are even called “the fingerprints of God”
- the fine-tuning of the universe required for life on earth
- design in the cosmos
Life only can exist under narrow conditions. Our amazing universe is so finely tuned for life on earth that it is impossible to ignore.
Position, physical laws, and constants: In the last 100 years we have discovered many physical laws and constants which must be exactly right for life to exist. A common one you know is gravity. Gravity must be just right – not too much or too little. Besides constants, there are many other things which must be precisely right for life to exist. For example, the sun must be just the right kind of star at the right phase of its life, set in the right spot of the universe with a planet at just the right distance away to support life.
- The Complexity of Life is appearing less and less random as we learn more about:
- DNA coding of the cell’s genetics
- intracellular information processing
- how the cell knows to use DNA for growth, etc.
- intracellular micromachines
- the limits of mutation and natural selection
Considering this, in the video lesson Luke Price says,
“Personally, I find the level of complexity that is present in nature is very difficult to explain if you are only appealing to evolution, naturalistic processes, and random chance.”
He tells us that these process can explain a lot, like the diversity of dog breeds, but not the complexity of genetic diversity. Astounded by this genetic diversity, some atheist scientists become theists because:
The complexity of information coded in the cell is fast becoming the greatest evidence of Intelligent Design.
Example of Complexity without Meaning: Granite
Dr. C likes the analogy of patterns in granite rock. Granite counters are popular now. Perhaps you have seen some, or even have one in your kitchen or bathroom. The complexity of the patterns is immense: the colors, size, and placement of the minerals forming dots, lines and patterns seems endless. The chance of any slab of granite with exactly that pattern is exceedingly rare. Yet, its random pattern has no significance.
Consider life: not only is it exceedingly rare that any particular combination of information would exist, but the chance that it would encode meaningful information – as DNA and RNA do – is so remote as to be unreal. Computer engineers say the detail in the genetic code reminds them of complex computer coding that could in no way be random.
Example of Complexity with Meaning: Literature
In the video Luke gives us an example of random chance versus information with meaning. Imagine monkeys pushing keys for 6 billion letters on a typewriter at random. The chance of any particular sequence is remote. However, for the 6 billion letters to create the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare at random, is laughably unlikely.
Advances in Science reveal complexity
During the days of Darwin, who presented the Theory of Evolution in the mid-19th century, science was much simpler than today. Telescopes and microscopes were less powerful. Biochemistry was basic. Guesses about how living things worked seemed adequate.
In the decades following Darwin, major scientific advancements and discoveries were made. Now we look far into space through high powered telescopes. We peer deep into cells to see teeny, but advanced, machines and processes. By sequencing the amazing complexity of DNA we discover: where our characteristics come from, how humans are related, our susceptibility for diseases, and even where our ancestors lived.
Attempting to explain how all this complexity could arise without God, scientists came up with the following explanations:
- Atheistic Explanations of Complexity
Only Appearance of Design. Atheists are willing to accept all the evidence of design as appearing to be design, yet still consider it only chance.
If you or I found a watch on the ground in the desert, regardless of our religion or philosophy we would know that it didn’t come from the dirt. Someone had made it. We would know that it had been left there, probably on accident, and we might try even to find the owner.
Atheists however, must look at the universe, which is far more complex than a watch, and say that it was only chance. Atheist Richard Dawkins in his book, The Blind Watchmaker says,
“Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of being designed for a purpose…the living results…overwhelmingly impress us with the illusion of design and planning.” (p. 1 & 21)
Yet consider what Dr. C calls The Flint Inconsistency, with its simplest recognized evidence of design:
- Early Tools: Before metals were developed, people used stone tools. Flint is a strong stone that early humans chipped, or knapped, to make a sharp edge for knives and axes.
Although you and I might overlook a flint with a chip as nothing – merely time and chance acting on stone – the scientists which study early humans (anthropologists and archaeologists) would not. To them, even a tiny piece of flint with chips is evidence of design – the action of human beings.
Yet the complex universe as a whole these scientists believe was the result of chance, not design.
- Notice their inconsistency? Scientists should be consistent. But atheist scientists are not. In one case they accept the tiniest evidence. Yet in the other they overlook an abundance. It’s like the expression, “They can’t see the forest for the trees.” Or as Jesus said in Matthew 23:24,
“You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.”
- The multiverse hypothesis tries to get around the fine tuning of earth for life. It proposes that there are unlimited universes, of which ours is only one; the others aren’t tuned to support life.
The multiverse hypothesis is supposedly scientific, but has little scientific basis. They simply guess at how the constants of the universe could be set as they are without God being involved. They nod to quantum mechanics to say that these multiverses could have originated out of nothing. Yet, when you ask them what nothing is, the nothing of quantum mechanics it is not really “nothing.”
- The simulation hypothesis sounds like a strange marriage of computer science, Hollywood, and video games. Yet it is a serious hypothesis, gaining in popularity. In this idea, all of us are in a computer simulation of life. Not real. We simply think we are.
Are these 3 explanations adequate to explain the complexity?
We do not think that these atheistic explanations adequately account for the complexity of the universe and life.
Considering the weight of the evidence theists have, and how much the multiverse and simulation theories sound like fairy tales, believing in God is even easier!
As Dr. C says, “When you get to the beginning of the universe, and the origin of life, both theists and atheists alike must rely metaphysical explanations,” meaning beyond physics – explanations that we can think of, but cannot prove.
To theists, believing in God is more sensible than the unprovable, atheistic theories of the origin and complexity of the universe.
- Argument #3 The ORIGIN of Life
Besides explaining how things came into existence, another big hurdle is the explanation of how life began. This is not so much in terms of an argument of logic, as scientific explanation.
Three Huge Hurdles for Atheists:
- Out of Time
- Because they reproduce quickly, the mutation rates of bacteria have been studied for the past several decades. In fact more than 50,000 generations have passed – a number we could not dream of observing with animals. The mutation rate and types of mutations have been documented. Most mutations are negative, not constructive, and would not lead toward evolutionary development.
- It is estimated that there are over 8 million species on earth, of which we have identified over 1 million. Whether you believe life on earth began 6,000 years ago or 3 billion years, there is simply not enough time for mutation and natural selection to develop this many species.
- More against Less
- The tendency of all things is to become less complicated, rather than more complicated over time. We see this in situations from everyday life, for example an untended garden, as well as in physics with The Second Law of Thermodynamics.
- This tendency goes against the atheistic evolution. In science, a law is something that is always true. If a theory contradicts a law, the theory is usually wrong.
- Right or Left Turn
- You might have heard that the building blocks of life were made in a laboratory over 50 years ago. What you did not hear is that they were very simple compounds which lasted only brief seconds. They were unstable. They were formed in a special environment very different than that of early earth. Plus, they were a mixture of right hand and left hand orientation.
Did you know chemicals are oriented right or left, like hands? Proteins are made of parts that must all line up left (levorotatory). Even if we had a mixture on early earth of the chemical building blocks of life in precisely the right environment, their connections would be at random. We would not have all the right and all the left-oriented chemicals attaching to each other unless an outside force assisted them.
Example of Orientation: hand in glove. Our right and left hands are different. Our thumbs are on the different sides of the fingers. As you remember if you have worn a glove for work or in cold weather, right and left gloves are different. You simply can’t make one work for the other.
Imagine that you have ten sets of wet gloves. You put them into the dryer and spin them for an hour. After an hour, you open the door. Do you expect to see all of the right hand gloves lined up on the right side of the dryer and all of the left hand gloves lined up on the left? No! What if you kept spinning them for 2 hours? 5 hours? a day? 10,000 years? 1,000,000 years?
I think we agree that no matter how long we spin the gloves, without outside assistance they will always distribute at random, not in an organized pattern. And yet, this example is extremely simplified compared to the number and complexity of chemicals needed to create life.
Atheists Propose Panspermia to try to get around there not being enough time for life to have evolved on earth. It proposes that the earth was seeded with life from outer space. Very few people would take seriously the idea that aliens visited earth and planted life here. But, perhaps a meteor carried elements of life, they claim.
Panspermia is extremely unlikely. Other planets in our solar system cannot sustain life. As for planets beyond our solar system, the distance to the nearest star makes it unlikely that living material would make it from there.
Panspermia’s Problem: Even if this were possible and did happen, it would not really help. Why? Because you would still need to explain how life began on the planet of its origin. You would only be knocking the ball into a different court, but it would still be a ball.
- Argument #4 CONSCIOUSNESS
Assuming that there were reasonable explanations for the origin of the universe, its complexity, and the origin of life, we still have to explain the miracle of human consciousness.
Luke tells us that consciousness is the part of us that we alone have access to. That means it is subjective.
Objective and Subjective
Objective evidence means factual, not related to how someone feels.
Subjective means opinion or the way something feels to a person, not the facts.
When we die, all of our physical parts are still there, but something is missing Luke tells us, our soul or spirit. It is the essential part of who we are – our pain, loves, and emotions.
Where would these come from if not from a mind? It takes a mind to create a mind. That creator would be God.
Consciousness is not merely a sense of right and wrong (discussed in “The Moral Argument”), but the fact that humans have a special sense of awareness of who they are, the situation they are in, their mortality, and wonder about the meaning of the universe. Bible-believers consider it related to our creation in the Image of God:
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 (NLT)
“He has also set eternity in the human heart yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11
So we have a Biblical explanation that at the time of their creation, God did something special with human beings, different from the rest of creation. The Image of God is not clearly defined, but in general, it is thought to mean:
- Resemblance to God
- Representative of God on earth
- and/or have Relationship with God
Resemblance: Characteristics of Image-bearers which give us resemblance to God are:
Creative Moral Rational Spiritual Relational
The first four of these characteristics require the use of symbols and abstract thinking, which are considered distinctive of human beings.
If you have seen nature documentaries you will know that chimpanzees and gorillas show many human-like behaviors. That is not what makes them in the image of God.
Don’t be distressed if someone points to characteristics that seem human in apes or hominids (extinct creatures with features between humans and apes). Many characteristics that we think of as human, can also be seen in other animals.
Some animals have special capacities. They have been called “soulish animals.” Soulish animals can show affection to each other and humans, mourn their dead, learn behaviors, and use tools. It is as if they were specially created to comfort humans, or assist them with specific functions, like herding animals or detecting drugs. But they do not have the special relationship with God that we do.
Representative: of God on Earth
As God’s representatives, the Bible says we are to be stewards of the earth. We are to tend the land and its animals well. We honor and care for creation. (Genesis 1:28, Psalm 8:6-8, Proverbs 12:10) At the same time, as believers we know that there is a special quality about human beings which we should honor above other animals. Not all philosophies recognize this.
Relationship: God’s Family
Only human beings can have a special, family relationship with God. (John 1:12)
Two Other Arguments for God
Besides Price’s Big Four arguments for God, there are other philosophical and scientific arguments. Probably every believer has their favorites. You might have heard of some of these, or perhaps others.
(Note: Feel free to share your favorites on the comments section of our video.)
- The “God Gene”
Related to the Consciousness Argument is the idea that most people have a sense of there being a God. This trait is so deeply associated with humans, that those studying ancient humans (anthropologists), consider worship of a greater power a distinctly human trait.
In his Letter to Huda at the end of this lesson, Georges Houssney quotes French philosopher Pascal who describes a God-shaped hole in each heart which can only be filled by God. We try to fill it with human love, activities, money, position, or possessions – but they don’t satisfy.
If we focus on:
- circumstances, we will fear
- people, we will be angry
- things, we will be disappointed
- God and his Word we will have hope, abundant life, love, joy, and peace (John 10:10 & Romans 14:27)
Most people go through life either feeling, or trying to suppress the feeling that:
- there is something or someone greater than me
- I exist in a greater capacity than my body expresses
- things are not right in the world, and something should be done about it
- all this glory of nature surely can’t have come from nothing
- a loving God gives me peace
Your personal testimony of how Jesus saved you and the Holy Spirit entered your life is part of your subjective experience. Because subjective experiences are only experienced by you, they are not objective. Other people can’t reason it out objectively like they can other arguments. Atheists will tend to disregard it as emotionalism. So, in discussion with atheists for we don’t find this a top way to prove that God exists. (See Appendix 4 on the Personal Apologetic Testimony)
However, Dr. C agrees with Christian philosopher and debater William Lane Craig, that one’s personal experience can be a valid proof to themselves. And sometimes, when other’s see the love and power of God acted out in your life, it touches them too. So, Dr. C often likes to end a discussion with a personal note, for Jesus told us to use spirit and truth in our worship of God. (John 4:24)
Not everyone has a sense that God exists. A famous mountaineer feel down an ice crevasse, and thought he would die. At his life or death moment, he says, he had no sense of God. But then, he had been atheist for a very long time.
Does it mean there is no God if we can’t sense him?
That God is imagined? Or perhaps that he only exists for those who believe in him?
As noted Craig has said, we don’t have a sense organ for everything. Things like ultrasonic sound, radiation, and math exist, but we can’t sense them like we can light and sound. What about diseases? So many, like infections and cancer can only be seen with a microscope.
We must use more than our 5 senses to determine if God is real. We must use our “capacity for reason,” which some philosophers go so far as to call our “sense organ for God.”
- The Moral Argument
The idea that people everywhere have a sense of right and wrong is a favorite proof to many people that there is a God. If there is no God, they say, there would be no reason for this sense, because without God there is no real right and wrong. This is not a favorite of Luke and Dr. C, because the sense of right and wrong is deeply tied to cultural values.
(Note: For a fuller discussion of The Moral Argument, see Study Guide and Lesson on Godly Relationships.)
In Conclusion, God is the Best Fit
As you can see from the six above arguments for God, an outside force is necessary to:
- create something from nothing
- design complex and information rich systems
- create life from dead chemicals
- create a mind with consciousness, morality, and a sense of God
It is not possible to 100% prove some things. For example something that happened in the past or will happen in the future. What we accept if we are using reason, is the best fit of the facts that we have. Words that debaters might use are “plausible” or “potentially valid.”
The existence of God is the best fit for the scientific and philosophical evidence we have.
As one former atheist said after his conversion,
“The evidence for God is strong, clear, and convincing. The evidence against God is weak, vague, and dubious.”
Dr. Cynthia, a medical doctor who has done research and taught medicine, believes science and logic fit better with the existence of God than atheism. She is not alone in this. Besides believing physicians, Ph.D. scientists are starting to leave atheism because of the weight of evidence favoring God. This doesn’t mean that scientists support the Bible, or that all discoveries fit neatly into a Christian world view. But, when we look at the facts overall, they fit best with the world view of theism: there is a God.
The “Other Fields Fit Better” Defense. When faced with these facts, how can scientists continue to be atheists? They say something like, “Yes, there are problems in [my field], but the other fields fit well with naturalistic causes only.” But the other fields don’t. Every field of science faces significant challenges and unlikelihood in explaining everything with natural processes and no help from outside nature.
Atheists have a lot to answer for. Objective evidence that fits best with a God must be explained by them in a powerful way. There are many things which are difficult to explain in the absence of God, regardless of how hard atheists try to smooth things over.
Deeper scientific details are beyond the scope of this lesson. For more information on how science fits with the Bible, see sites such as: www.discovery.org, or www.reasons.org. For more information on philosophical approaches to theism, see www.reasonablefaith.org.
(Note: Additional information for this lesson can be found in Appendix 1 – Appendix 4, after the study questions. We think it is important information, but do not want to lengthen the lesson. The topics are: How to Follow Science without Being Tricked, Stumbling Blocks to Believing in God, Causes of Atheism, and Developing a Personal Apologetic Testimony.)
In summary, there are many things about the universe and human experience that fit best with there being a God. God is the best fit solution for the objective scientific information, and for the subjective experiences and needs of the human heart and soul.
Reality: Driving into the Smog
On a road trip, former Muslim Huda and Dr. C drive down the mountains north of Los Angeles, California. As they descend, it becomes clear that they are entering impure air – the notorious smog of Southern California.
Dr. C uses this as an illustration of how we can live surrounded by something we do not notice. We get used to what is in our culture, without always identifying if it is good or bad. The kinds of sins the people of Los Angeles get used to living in might be different than those of Islamic countries.
Example of seeming clean: a white railing. In the video lesson, Dr. C used the illustration of washing the white railing of her veranda. It looked clean, but when water was sprayed on it, it became clear that it was actually dirty. That’s the way it is when Jesus’ living water comes into our life. We see how far short of perfection we fall, and long for pure, refreshing, living water. (John 7:38)
Letter to Huda: from Georges Houssney
In this part of the video lesson, Georges encourages Huda to seek a life close to Jesus, rather than a happy life. True happiness, he says, comes only from Jesus. If she gets deeper into Jesus, and fully relies on him, her life will be its best.
He refers to these Bible verses:
- Jesus is the way, truth, and life. (John 14:6)
- Seek God’s kingdom first, and everything important will fall into place. (Matthew 6:33)
- If we seek to make a great life, we will end up losing it; but if we give our life Jesus, we will find it. (Matthew 10:39)
And as Jesus did, Georges gives us several metaphors, or word pictures:
- We might become thirsty enough to drink salty water, but it will not satisfy.
- The bread that Jesus gives satisfies. It is the bread of life.
- Georges puts together puzzles with his grandchildren. If a piece is missing, the picture is not complete. As in our discussion above that most people have a sense that God exists, Georges reminds us that only God can fill the hole in our heart – he is the missing piece of the puzzle.
“Don’t be distracted by the world,” he says, “Seek Truth.”
- II Corinthians 5:17
- John 5
- Romans 1
- Psalm 8 & 19
- Genesis 1:1,27, 28
- Isaiah 42:5
- Ecclesiastes 3:11
- John 1:12
- Psalm 8:5-8
- Proverbs 12:10
- John 10:10 & 4:24
- Romans 14:27 & 8:28
- Psalm 118:1
- John 1:3
- Colossians 1:16
- John 7:38 & 14:6
- Matthew 6:33 & 10:39
- Ecclesiastes 9:11
- Job 23 & 38 & 40-42
- Luke 13:4
- Romans 8:28, & 8:15-17
- John 16:33
- Genesis 6:4
- Hebrews 12:2,3
- Isaiah 63:9 & 61:8
- Galatians 3:28
- I Peter 3:15
- 6 days of creation – 10:3, 11:7, 25:59, 32:4, 50:38, & 57:4
- 8 days described for creation 41:9-12
- as signs of God – 2:164
- Why are Muslims becoming atheists?
- Does it make sense to you?
- Why do you think non-Muslims become atheists? (see Appendix 3)
- Review the steps of a logical argument.
- What is a “premise?”
- Why do you think it is important to know how to make a logical argument?
- This lesson contains some words which are new for most people.
- Practice saying these words:
- Theist and atheist
- Objective and subjective
- Define them if you can.
- Review four of the following arguments for the existence of God:
- Cosmological (origin of the universe)
- Teleological (complexity of the universe and life)
- Origin of Life
- God gene
- Subjective experience
- A casual, “There’s just too much to explain without God” argument
- Which four of the above arguments does Luke Price think are the best?
- Which four do you prefer?
- Regarding the beginning of the universe and its age: In the video lesson, Dr. C emphasizes the importance for Christians to agree on the arguments that support the existence of God, rather than argue with each other about details like the time involved to create the universe.
- Were you present at the beginning of the universe? (Job 38)
- What neutral point does Dr. C say that we can make about the age of the earth and its creatures, that Christians can agree on without arguing?
- How do you feel Christians should balance Christian unity with their different views of creation, for example if the days of creation are 24 hours, eras, or allegorical?
- Which is more important to you:
- winning the lost to Christ?
- convincing others, that the world was created the way you think it was?
- What does it mean to “keep the main thing the main thing?”
- Review how these religions/philosophies explain the origin of the universe and life:
- Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism
- Scientific materialism (common atheism)
- any other that you know
- Christianity and Judaism
- Regarding the complexity of the cosmos and nature:
- Give examples that you think go against naturalistic processes.
- For an illustration that you can use with your friends, do you find the granite, or monkeys on a typewriter examples helpful?
- Can you think of examples of complexity with meaning and without meaning?
- What are some obstacles that must be overcome for life on earth to originate?
- Have scientists ever been able to create real life in the laboratory?
- Do you feel you have been told the truth about this by your teachers and the media?
- Did you learn anything new/different about it in this lesson?
- Do you like the illustration of gloves in a dryer?
- Review some arguments that atheists propose to explain away the need for God, that Luke’s top 4 arguments support?
- Have you heard these before?
- On the surface, do they sound reasonable to you?
- Do you think they are more likely explanations than the existence of God?
- Regarding Consciousness: Since atheists only accept material, naturalistic processes, they have trouble explaining human consciousness.
- How would you explain human consciousness?
- How do you think it might relate to the “image of God?”
- What other things do you think are difficult to explain by naturalistic processes alone?
- Do you believe God exists?
- Why or why not? List the objective reasons.
- If not, what would it take to convince you that God does exist?
- If you are an atheist or skeptic:
- Is there a subjective component to your lack of belief in God? For example:
- Could you be disappointed with God over something?
- Are you struggling with the problem of evil and pain in the world?
- Could you be letting negative feelings influence your consideration of whether or not God exists?
- Are there activities that you enjoy which you fear you would have to give up if you believe in God?
- What do you think are the best arguments for the existence of God? Ones that make you think?
- Georges Houssney says that God is the missing piece in the puzzle of our lives.
- From what you have learned about objective and subjective, is the feeling that something is missing from our lives objective or subjective?
- Is that feeling something that is easy to prove to another person?
- Do you find it a strong or weak argument for the existence of God when someone shares their testimony of what God has done in their life?
- What does misattribution mean regarding the works of God and Satan? (see Appendix 2)
- If you are a believer:
- Has this lesson strengthened your faith?
- Has it made you more comfortable defending it with atheists?
- Do you think that the presence or absence of a father figure might have influenced:
- whether you, or people that you know, believe in God?
- what you think he is like?
- (for more, see Appendix 3)
- Evangelism suggestion. One well-known evangelist has successfully had atheists reconsider that God might exist by this: he has them hold and flip through a book with simple, colored pictures. He follows that with questions such as,
- “Do you think that this book with all its colors and printing could have appeared from nothing, by chance?”
- “What would you think of someone who said it did.”
- “Do you know what DNA is? It is the instruction book for life. It is far more complicated than that printed book.”
- “Do you think it could have appeared from nothing?”
- “If the book had a designer, wouldn’t DNA have a designer?
- What do you think of this approach?
- In what circumstances could you see yourself using this approach?
- Would you change it at all?
- If you are in a group setting, practice this approach with each other.
- Regarding a Personal Apologetic Testimony (PAT, see Appendix 4 ):
- Have you made one?
- What are the main points in yours?
- How could you adapt it for sharing with different people or settings?
- When is the next time you plan to use it?
Appendix # 1 How to Follow Science without Being Tricked
Considering the current discord between science and religion, most people are surprised to discover that Christianity was a founding principle of science. Most great scientists for the first 200 years were devout Christians. For example, Isaac Newton, who among other things discovered gravity.
Modern science with its Scientific Method, originated in Europe in the 1600s. It was based on the belief that God was reasonable and orderly, and that his ways in the universe were reasonable and orderly. That being so, they thought, his ways in nature could be discovered.
During the 19th century, the era of Darwin, scientists started looking to worldviews that were “natural,” meaning did not rely on God. That trend continued to grow through the end of the 20th century. Then discoveries of the complexity, constants, and unlikelihood of all that exists, brought God back into the picture for many people.
Keep an eye on science. Discoveries are constantly being made about the complexity of the universe and life. They demonstrate more and more that chance alone cannot account for everything. But, uncomfortable with the emerging facts, atheist scientists will tend to overlook facts that don’t fit, or twist findings into their naturalistic model. Their twists can trick you unless you are aware and looking for them.
Two Ways Not to be Tricked
- Watch for FACT and FICTION
Look at the evidence, but don’t trust the conclusions that atheists draw from it.
They expertly mix the objective evidence with their subjective opinions and wishes. So be skeptical, doubtful, of their interpretations. (Other words to describe this would be bias, prejudice, lack of objectivity, or presuppositional stance.)
For example, a popular TV science host uses the time-proven formula for deception, that used by Satan in the Garden of Eden: truth, truth, then untruth. With this approach, he has managed to deceive people, especially youths, into believing that God neither exists or is necessary. In fact, he ridicules believers.
Example of Mixing facts with Untruth: Early Earth and the Origin of Life
In this example regarding the origin of life, a top media scientist presents two true facts, but draws a false conclusion. The conclusion seems true because the premises are true, but not related:
True Premise: Early earth had harsh conditions
True Premise: There are bacteria that live in harsh conditions today
FALSE Conclusion: Bacteria like these could have arisen in early earth
The clever argument sounds convincing, and probably convinces almost everyone that watches. Only people who know a about logic or microbiology – and you if you are suspicious – can detect the error.
The problem is that the bacteria which can survive in these conditions are not primitive. They are very sophisticated. Bacteria, like those in their example which survive in extreme heat and salt, need special membranes with complex systems like salt pumps. These are not present in simple organisms. The true argument should be more like this:
Premise: Early earth had harsh conditions
Premise: Only complex organisms can survive in harsh conditions
Conclusion: Simple organisms would not survive on early earth
QUESTION: Perhaps you say, “I am not the most logical person, and I am certainly not an expert in every branch of science. How can I keep from being deceived?”
ANSWER: Don’t be tricked. Now you know the formula: mix facts with falsehood – more facts than falsehood so that it sounds convincing. When reading or listening, try to separate the facts from their interpretation.
Facts are something that we can prove, for example, that some bacteria can exist in extreme conditions. Then look for assumptions and opinions, like the idea that it means life originated in hot, salty water.
- DON’T BE SHAKEN
Don’t jump at the first few reports of a discovery.
Dr. Cynthia learned this studying medicine. There are always reports coming out of medicines that cure everything, or “amazing” discoveries. Discoveries need to be repeated and confirmed by other groups in different places, in order to be certain.
Dr. C, and most physicians, wait until treatments and practices are solidly confirmed before putting confidence in them. This is called “the standard of practice.” There are research institutions that try new things; but they need to let patients know that the treatment is unproven. In America they must review the risks and benefits before using it.
So don’t be shaken when you hear of new discoveries that appear to contradict the idea of God, or what you learned in this lesson. Wait for more evidence to appear.
For example, two areas of active investigation now, in which new information is being reported that might shake you are:
- LIFE on OTHER PLANETS: analysis of meteors and other space matter to determine if life could exist on other planets:
- evidence of water in space would not be surprising – much of the universe is water
- even if there were other planets with life, we know that anything anywhere was created by God (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16)
- GENETIC TESTING to determine the age and history of early humans
- sophisticated techniques are being used which are good; but the findings are early and incomplete.
- The methods have a wide variation of interpretation, especially with dating
- Europeans appear to have some DNA in common with hominids, non-human primates called Neanderthals. The reasons are not clear yet: interbreeding or independent adaptation to the climate are options.
- Humans are all related, but it’s not proven to one man and woman.
- It could be, if Eve’s eggs were genetically mixed.
- It’s good that we are all related. Evolution supports racism. Creation does not.
Again, these and other findings are being investigated now. Don’t be shaken, and don’t reconstruct theology around findings which could be disproven in a few more years.
Appendix # 2 Stumbling Blocks to Believing in God
Besides their misunderstanding of science, there are a few other stumbling blocks to believing in God which we commonly see:
Stumbling block 1: The Problem of Evil/Suffering/Pain
The world is full of pain and suffering. Some things happen which are downright evil. All of us experience these. None of us like it. Evil and suffering are not exactly the same; but their negative power make people doubt that there is a God.
In general, people tend to think that if they are good, nothing bad will happen to them. Often they think, if something bad happens to you, you deserve it. Certainly people can bring on bad results, and wisdom helps us live a safe and successful life; but the Bible warns us against “blaming the victim.” As Ecclesiastes 9:11 says,
“Time and chance happen to them all…so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.”
Examples from the Bible:
- HEALTH: The Book of Job in the Old Testament has the theme of “Why do the Righteous Suffer?”
- The answer is that they do, and that sometimes only God knows why, but we can count on him not to forsake us (Job 40-42)
- ACCIDENTS: Jesus explained to his followers that those who died when a tower fell were not more sinful than others. (Luke 13:4)
Modern Example of blaming the victim: Motor Vehicle Accident Autopsy.
Dr. C recalls an autopsy she did years ago at the Los Angeles Coroner’s office, on a 16 year old young man. He died in a car crash on a winding road – one that she herself used to take at his age. Externally, the young man showed little evidence of injury. His naked body lying on the autopsy table was well-formed and his face handsome.
She thought he looked like a dead Adonis, the handsome young man of legend. As they turned over his body to examine the back, Dr C said to her assistant, “His parents must be devastated!”
The assistant saw it otherwise. He replied harshly, “Aaaah…he was probably a spoiled brat!” His hardened attitude shocked Dr. C. She discovered it reflected his general view that those dead in the coroner’s office deserved what they got.
But most of the time, suffering leaves us puzzled. The Bible does tell us that God will reward his followers, but he does not promise an easy life. (Romans 8:28, John 16:33)
Other Religions and the Problem of Suffering/Evil
All religions and philosophies must address the problems of suffering and evil. Atheism probably finds it easiest, in explaining that natural process account for it all.
Because of their strong belief in fate, devout Muslims tend to accept suffering as the will of Allah, to be borne with patience. Alhamdulillah, praise Allah, is to be said in all circumstances.
However, some Muslims notice that most of the world’s conflicts occur in Muslims regions. The suffering resulting from these conflicts, and the often violent enforcement of Islam cause some to doubt it. They then doubt God’s existence as a consequence of doubting Islam.
Eastern religions see human suffering as the consequence of deeds from a past life, bad karma. Buddha agreed with reincarnation, but began a new religion to help his followers suffer less by detaching from everything in life – including people.
Subjective and Objective Views of Suffering/Evil
Objectively, there are 4 Main Causes of Suffering:
- from poor human choices
- at times we know, but keep doing something destructive any way
- examples: drugs, alcohol, dangerous hobbies, sexual misbehavior
- from people hurting people
- physically – crime, war, violence, cruelty
- from diseases
- others – cancer, immune, developmental
- from natural forces which keep the world running, but can also bring disasters
- hurricanes, earthquakes, volcanos, weather
- we can only predict and avoid some
The first two categories can be modified by human choices, the latter two less so. All of them are difficult to accept, and at times to understand.
Subjectively, human suffering is bad or worse. Dead bodies on a battlefield or starving children break our heart. We are outraged by crimes against humanity and war. The evil of Satanic ritual’s torture of children is unimaginable for most of us. Accidents and natural disasters scare and appall us. And if we survive these, we will eventually die from disease.
Some diseases and injuries can bring pain so severe that we want to stop living. Dr. C can never forget the pain of patients calling out for mercy, or her brother’s lifelong suffering with physical and mental disability. At times, death and eternity seem easier to accept than ongoing pain and distress.
The Logical Argument of Suffering/Evil
Worldwide, evil, suffering, and pain are probably the greatest stumbling blocks to believing in God. A famous skeptic, who publicly complains that his doubts about Christianity came from manuscript variants, in his book admits that it was actually the problem of Evil/Pain that made him abandon God. Many others say the same,
“If there is a God, Why do Suffering and Evil Exist?”
As an argument of logic it could be stated this way:
Premise: If God exists there would be no suffering or evil
Premise: Suffering and evil exist
Conclusion: God does not exist
Remember, to disprove the logic of a conclusion, we must show that a premise is wrong. If we examine the premises, what do we find? We find three underlying assumptions – things that are assumed to be true:
- God is good
- God would change things if he/she existed
- God could change things if he/she existed
But are these true?
- Some religions have evil gods.
- How do we know that God would change things? Maybe he/she has another plan?
- Could an omnipotent God have limitations?
Cultures built around monotheism tend to see God as omnipotent, all-powerful. Miracles happen when God steps in and changes the way things operate. But God doesn’t always step in, he allows suffering and evil.
Not in the video is Luke’s explanation for how an omnipotent God allows evil:
“God permits evil choices to maintain our free will. God can do all things which are possible; but when God made the decision to allow humans to freely choose good or evil, it became impossible to make them freely choose the good.”
Watch out for misattribution!
Misattribution in this sense means giving credit wrongly. It is easy to give Satan credit for the good in life – like fun, music, beauty – and God credit for the bad – like injustice and cruelty. Actually, the reverse is true. If we are not familiar with God’s word, and remind ourselves of it daily, we can easily fall for this trick of the enemy.
Can Evil Spirits Cause Diseases? We know from the Old Testament that evil spirits exist which are different and more powerful than us. They could take on human flesh and impregnate women (Psalm 8:5, Genesis 6:4). Human beings have learned how to clone, genetically engineer crops, and modify viruses for vaccines, etc. Dr. C thinks it is entirely possible that, having greater powers than humans and evil intentions, these spirits could genetically engineer bad things: infectious diseases, cancer cells, and even alter mosquitos to suck blood.
Sometimes good comes from pain or evil.
Examples: of Pain for Good.
- C hated making children cry to treat them, yet it was necessary. Sometimes even adults would cry out or faint. In order to heal patients, doctors must steel themselves against reacting to this.
- Older diabetics lose their sense of pain. As a result, they injure their feet. Sometimes they can’t even tell they are having a heart attack, as happened with Dr. C’s father-in-law.
These are only examples of good that comes from pain. We are too limited to know all of the good that comes, but one thing we know is that,
“Pain is God’s megaphone to the world.” said CS Lewis
He is right. A megaphone makes voices louder. Haven’t you noticed that people who ignore God, often speak to him when they suffer or face disaster? They ask, “Why God?” Pain helps them realize that life is not all fun and games. It helps prepare them for eternity, which is for their ultimate good.
Awareness of daily risks and the finality of death should keep us all humble and close to God.
(Note: See also Dr. C’s presentation in the videos and study guides for the Lesson on Suffering and Thanksgiving, and the Lesson on Human Relationships.)
Stumbling Block 2: Anger with God
Often people who don’t believe in God are angry with him. Does that make sense? How can we be angry with someone who doesn’t exist?
Possibly they are angry over suffering or wars they have experienced or observed. Perhaps their anger comes from a deep-seated belief that God actually does exist, and they hold him responsible for things they don’t like. When people are angry at God, you can ask:
Are you angry because God will judge people? or because he hasn’t judged them yet?
Let them talk about it. Perhaps together you can find the source of the anger. That can help heal it. God was there when the tragedy happened. He cared.
“For I the Lord, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity. In my faithfulness I will reward…”
“In all their distress, he too was distressed.” Isaiah 63:9 & 61:8
Stumbling Block 3: Disappointment with God
Muslims might become disappointed in the character of God/Allah that they have come to know in Islam. Syrian Wafa Sultan, our guest in another lesson, says it with the title of her book, A God Who Hates.
Others quit believing in God when prayer wasn’t answered: for example, healing of a loved one, a bad grade, loss of promotion, or a disappointing love life.
We must realize that we cannot make God be what we want. We cannot say,
“If he is real, God will be the way I want him to be.”
In many religions, ceremonies and gifts are essentially bribes to get something from the god. In contrast, Christians are in relationship with God. That means:
- We pray for what we think is best. But we must trust him to do what is best, even if we can’t see it.
- It is important to believe God is good. Otherwise we won’t trust him if we are disappointed. “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good” is the most common phrase in the Bible for a reason. (Romans 8:28, Psalm 118:1)
Disappointment is also a reason that Christians, including those from Muslim background, fall away from Christian faith.
Examples of disappointment: God didn’t do what expected
- A woman who had been a “good Christian” from her heart since childhood was surprised that life turned out to be so hard. She thought that if she obeyed the Bible, life would be smooth.
- Muslims who become Christians have often seen many answers to Christians’ prayers. They can be surprised to find that God is not obligated to answer our prayers the way we want. One said,
“I don’t pray. God doesn’t answer my prayers anymore.”
The solution is a better understanding of what a relationship between God and his follower means. If you find this is the problem with an atheist or backslidden Christian, try to help them through it.
Stumbling Block 4: Gender Issues
In the past few decades various kinds of gender issues have become major stumbling blocks to believing in God.
The originally wholesome movement for women’s rights, in which true Christian women have participated, has been largely derailed into promoting abortion and immorality. Now, women’s movements find the Bible, and the men who claim to represent it, unfair to women. These issues become of top importance to the women’s movements and other concerns, like the existence of a moral God, become of lesser importance.
(Note: Dr. C lectures on how the curse of Genesis 3 has influenced the treatment of women, and can be broken.)
Likewise, the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) movement. It has gained such popularity that even those who do not fit within those categories support it. Even though the Bible is clear that everyone sins, because the Bible mentions homosexuality and other forms of sexual immorality, the movement feels especially condemned.
Both these movements paint Bible-believers as intolerant and judgmental. Their anger at Christians, and the very thought of God, is not based on reason. It is an emotional distaste at the possible existence of a force which might disapprove of what they value.
The irony is that, atheists tend to be materialists – believing only in what is physical. Yet, although physical bodies tell people that they are male or female, LGBT “sense” that they are something else. That sense is not physical. “Cognitive dissonance” results, which means that their feelings are at odds with their beliefs. They believe they are only physical, yet they have a sense that it is not so.
Talking about the cognitive dissonance of physical evidence versus gender feeling could potentially help them understand their situation better and be more open to the gospel.
(Note: read more about cognitive dissonance in the Study Guide for Lesson on Looking for Truth in World Religions.)
Do not Covet
Wanting something that we don’t have, or can’t be – like changing our sex – could be covetous: breaking the 10th commandment. Coveting hurts us by bringing dissatisfaction, and misbehaviors. We are the happiest, when we learn to be content with who we are and what we have.
Stumbling Block 5: Race Issues
Resentment against races that have been strongly identified with God, can be a stumbling block to believing in God or becoming Christian for those not of that race. In this case they misdirect their attention to sins or errors of the people they dislike. We have heard this mainly against white Caucasians and Jews, from blacks, East Indians, and Caucasians.
You could devote time to defending those they attack. But it is better in the long run to point out that there are nominal believers and imperfect followers, then redirect their eyes to Jesus. In him there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. (Hebrews 12:2,3; Galatians 3:28)
Stumbling Block 6: Personal Preference
We all have personal preferences that impact what we believe in the subjective sense. For example, Dr. C and Luke do want to know the truth. They believe the evidence is much stronger for the existence of God than not. But even if the evidence were only equal, rather than godless emptiness,
- Luke would prefer to believe that there is a God, the high judge who will eventually straighten out all injustices.
- Dr. C would prefer to believe that there is a God, the loving Creator who made everything and cares about it.
The positive side of subjective we discussed above under “The God Gene” as the missing puzzle piece. On the negative side of subjective however, some atheists, including scientists, have admitted that they simply prefer not to believe in God. With this underlying motive, they accept the arguments against the existence of God, rather than the evidence for God, even if it is stronger.
- Usually, there is sin in their life that they know goes against what the God of the Bible teaches. Often it is sexual immorality. If they deny that God exists, they feel free to continue living however they want.
- But perhaps the deeper, underlying fear is the sense of obligation that one would have to their Creator as a Lord if they acknowledged him freely.
Misattribution, is probably involved:
- Naturalistic processes made the world, not God
- Their pleasures in life are due to Nature, rather than God
- A sense that “If I believed in God, I would lose myself and my pleasures.”
Appendix # 3 Causes of Atheism
(Note: This is a continuation from the section above on “Causes of Atheism”)
- Islam – see discussion in the main lesson
- Biased Education
Those raised in the United States school system will have had the philosophy of atheistic scientific materialism throughout their education.
And what about Christian young people? Studies and personal observations over the past decades have shown a that most of the young people raised in Christian homes leave the faith when they enter college. Why?
- Almost every class presents the atheistic viewpoint, sometimes ridiculing Christians
- Young Christians were not adequately trained in apologetics (why to believe the faith). Many cite that their questions were not adequately answered by the church.
- Inadequate spiritual support in their new environment. There are Christian clubs on campus, but they do not always fit with the students’ schedules. Needing to find a church in their new area, along with all the other duties might seem too much for them.
It seems easier for many people to simply go through life ignoring the Big Questions:
Where am I going? What am I here for? Where will I go after I die?
Even near the end of life, when you think these questions would be looming, if people have trained their brains to ignore them for so long, even then they do not or cannot, consider what is of ultimate importance.
“Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”
This popular saying, originally by Aristotle and commonly quoted, emphasizes the power of the first years of life in making us who we are. If you are a parent, or other adult who has raised children, you have probably already sensed this.
A child’s mind and emotions are like a blank computer system. What we say, and how we treat them create the connections that will program how they act and feel for the rest of their lives. Here are two models where atheism can be part of a person since childhood.
Model #1 Good Family
In this setting, a child’s family is relatively “normal,” meaning providing security and shelter for the child and making them feel loved. If the parents are atheists, and teach that worldview, it is likely that the child will simply absorb the view from their parents and become atheist – unless some crisis or other situation intervenes (for example a romantic relationship, a challenging friend, etc.).
Model #2 Deprived of Care
The best example of this is called Reactive Attachment Disorder (known as RAD). Classical examples are Romanian orphanages and the American foster care settings.
Infants have a Satisfaction Cycle of:
need – crying – provision – satisfaction
Infants’ physical needs include food and physical comfort (diaper changing), and psychological needs like gentle touch, and comforting speech or singing. There needs to be at least one person that they can attach to in the belief that they care. If an infant’s needs are met, their brain becomes programmed that someone cares. Life is good.
Physical abuse is very damaging. But in the long run, it has been found that neglect is worse. Children who suffer with no one who cares, especially early on, learn to trust no one. Even God.
Orphanage setting: An infant in the orphanage setting can easily be deprived of provision and affection during its very important first year of life. Dr. C has studied and experienced the results of this first hand.
Foster Care: With more and more disturbed families, drug abuse and crime, the number of children in foster care is increasing. In the foster care setting, children are placed in a family that is not their own on a temporary basis, usually by court order.
Often these temporary situations drag on for years in uncertainty, while the court decides what to do with the child. As a result, these children end up moving from foster home to foster home. In short stays they don’t have time to bond to a caregiver. Perhaps as bad or worse, if they do attach then must leave the foster home, they often feel that the caregiver no longer cares, even if they do. As a result, they grow up feeling disconnected and unloved – unattached emotionally.
Sadly worse, some foster families are not good. They take in children not as a calling, but for the support money. Neglect, abuse, and even sexual molestation can occur. In this setting, children deeply sense that no one cares for them, and may actually live in fear.
Absent Father: It is said that we attribute to God the attitudes of our earthly fathers. As more and more children are raised without earthly fathers, we can expect negative attitudes about God, and denial of his existence. A look into the background of prominent atheists has shown that many of them lacked a caring father.
We have also found that the absence or attitude of Muslims’ fathers impacts how they think of God. In some Islamic families the father is distant or harsh. Polygamous fathers may support more than one family, stretching his time and resources. Or the father may have died in one of the many Islamic conflicts across the globe. Or, as with one case we know, the divorced father, who gets custody in Islam, removed the child from its mother and put him in the care of the rival wife, who neglected him.
RESULT: When a child is neglected to the point that they believe that no one cares, negative behaviors emerge. They feel that they must fend for themselves. No one else matters. God, if he exists at all, cannot be trusted. If no earthly parent cared for them, how can they believe that a heavenly parent cares?
HEALING: Attachment disorder can be repaired. It takes time and special training in psychology of the disorder since the “unconditional love” of usual Christian parenting does not work. Coming to understand that Christians are adopted into God’s family can also help heal the wound. (Romans 8:15-17)
Appendix # 4 Developing a Personal Apologetic Testimony
Note: Similar material is in the study guide for “Lesson on Why Believe the Bible?”
A PAT is a Personal Apologetic Testimony
In the New Testament, 1 Peter 3:15 says, “If you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”
When teaching apologetics, Dr. Cynthia encourages participants to, “Develop a PAT and get it down pat.” A PAT explains the reasons why you believe what you believe, and how they impact your life. It’s a great tool for all Christians to develop, because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on the reasons for our faith, and to strengthen it.
(Note to English learners: to get something “down pat,” means to learn it well.)
Today’s lesson gives you a good opportunity to think about the reasons that you personally believe in God, and given the opportunity, how to express them to others.
In Spirit and in Truth
In the study guide above on “Does God Exist?” we spoke about objective and subjective information: facts and feelings. We pointed out that human beings are physical, but are in the image of God and have a consciousness.
In John 4, Jesus told us that God wants us to worship him both objectively and subjectively – in spirit and in truth. We think that a good PAT will bring both to your listeners. The objective facts will prevent your listeners from discounting your testimony as simply emotional. But ending with a bit of subjective testimony could touch their spirit as well.
How to Prepare a PAT
Since today’s topic is “Does God Exist?” let’s focus a PAT on why you believe in God. Consider, what are your favorite objective arguments for God? They might be ones we covered in the lesson, or others.
3 Steps to a PAT:
- Objective: Pick 3 reasons for the existence of God that are most convincing to you
- Subjective: Pick one reason that you personally feel God is real
- Combine: Practice combining them in ways that would:
- appeal to the needs of different people you might know or likely meet
- could be varied in length from 2 to 15 minutes
A PAT is as individual as you are. There is no right or wrong PAT. What we want to encourage is that you think about some realreasons for why you believe in God – something besides “I believe because my pastor, or Iman, told me so,” or, “I believe there is no God, because then I can do whatever I want.”
Maybe your PAT is complex, with many points, and might even include some of the evidence we share in this or other study guides.
Perhaps your PAT is simply, “From what I’ve seen in the world, nothing comes from nothing.” Or, “If my old watch falls apart, I think it will take more than shaking it in a bag for a million years to put it back together. So I don’t believe we could have the universe without an intelligent designer.”
People consider the source of who is speaking. If you already know who you are speaking to, and they respect you, you will not need to introduce yourself. Otherwise, if you think that your background contributes to your PAT, you might want to introduce yourself. Present yourself in a way that naturally leads in to your PAT.
Know your Audience
Be sensitive to the needs of whom you are speaking to. Your PAT should vary in emphasis, depending on whom you are sharing it with a Muslim, an atheist, or a child.
Some people have big “heart needs” and will want to hear more about how God showed his love to you. On the other hand, testimony based simply on feelings or a miracle will not hold up to the attacks of someone who wants objective facts. They could say,
“Well, you can believe that if it makes you feel good, but I don’t feel it. It isn’t real to me.”
People usually make decisions based on how they feel, so ending with something that touches their spirit is a good idea. Feelings are real, but unstable. We need stable faith based on facts; one that is not blind, and extends beyond feelings. Spirit and Truth.
Example of a PAT: Dr. C
Since Dr. C dealt with death on a daily basis in her medical work, her PAT explains how she cannot deny that we are going to die. Since this is so, why we are here? Where do we go after we die? These are questions of the utmost importance. Then she explains to her listeners the scientific and other reasons that she believes in God, and the salvation presented in the Bible.
But don’t feel that you need to be a doctor or a scientist to have a PAT. Everyone has reasons for what they believe. A PAT is just recognizing what your reasons are and learning to express them.
(Note: Some of you might recognize that a PAT uses the classical Logos, Pathos, Ethos form of argument found to be persuasive since the days of antiquity.)
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2020. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Does God Exist?
Download FREE PDF Version: Lesson on the Introducing the Bible to Muslims
Summary and Notes
Quick summary: The Bible is a large book which can be intimidating to those who don’t know it. In this video lesson and study guide, we explain to Muslims, and Christians teaching Muslims: the purposes of the Bible, how it is organized, and good places to start reading.
(Note: for a fuller understanding, we recommend that you also view these video lessons and study guides:
- Why Believe the Bible? and Inspiration of the Bible for understanding the authenticity of the Bible and how it came to be
- The Bible and the Qur’an for aspects of the Bible which are different from the Qur’an, so Muslims can know what to expect with the Bible, and
- Bible Study Tools which gives assistance with how to study and meditate on the Bible.)
Reality – Washington D.C. and MAPS in Life
This reality clip takes you to Washington D.C. with Dr. Cynthia and Huda. Besides seeing a few sights of the area, you are encouraged to think about the importance of a map, cell phone, or GPS in helping you find your way around a strange place.
In a way, earth is also a strange place. It is a planet we are attached to for “our life on earth.” Growing up, we learn how to live within the expectations of our families and cultures, to succeed or simply to stay out of trouble.
We should also all think about where we came from, what we are doing on earth, and where we are going when we die. What “map” guides our lives? Is it the Qur’an? The Bible? Or simply our impulse of the moment?
Read the Bible to Nourish Your Soul, not for Points
With Bible Teacher Mark
As we discuss in another lesson, Muslims believe they get points toward paradise by reading the Qur’an – that is if they read or recite it in Arabic. The number of points they expect to accrue depend on factors such as the number of times they read/recite it, the time of the Islamic calendar in which they do it, and even the quality of their accent in Arabic.
Because each letter of the Qur’an is thus believed to counteract 10-40 bad deeds, you can see why a Qur’anic teacher once strongly insisted to Dr. C,
“No! I don’t need a savior! I have been reciting the Qur’an since I was little!”
Understanding this, you can see that those reading the Bible who come from a Muslim background would likely have different expectations than those from a Christian or other background.
Bible Teacher Mark explains to Dr. C and our viewers that Christians do not read the Bible for points. He calls the blessing of reading the Bible, “Nourishment for the soul.”
Salvation and eternal life in heaven are gifts we receive by humble faith, not by effort. The benefit of reading the Bible is to let it purify our minds, and let hope, faith, and truth enter it. We then attempt to live out the Word of God, not for points toward salvation or heaven, but for our own encouragement and to please the Lord.
Introduction to the Bible
The Qur’an says that the holy writings that came before them contain guidance and light. It says that Christians should judge by what is in the Injeel, or New Testament. We agree with that! We want to share that guidance and light, so that others will find eternal life.
As we discuss in another lesson, although Muslims know some about the Bible, they have different terms for portions of it, and those terms don’t neatly fit with how the Bible is put together. So, they are usually clueless about the Bible’s structure, and much of what it contains.
What is the Bible and how is it put together?
Watch us explain it in the video lesson to former Muslim Huda, who wants to know about the Bible. Huda already knows that the Bible is the Word of God. Dr. C tells her that is true!
In learning about the Bible, Muslims are usually interested to find books written before Jesus, called the Old Testament, as well as books written after him, called the New Testament.
Both the words “testament” and “covenant” mean “agreement.” So, the Bible contains the writings under the old and new agreements of God with people. The Old Testament is generally considered the agreement of Law, and the New Testament the agreement of Grace.
The Bible is Also
- God’s message to us
- The story of God and us
- God’s love letter to us, and
- The book which explains the way of salvation
Like a News Article, the Bible Answers the Big Questions of Life
Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How
|Who?||God and us|
|What happened?||Bible stories|
|What does God expect of us?||Walking with God|
|When did salvation come?||With Jesus the Messiah|
|Where did we come from and Where are we going?||Creation, heaven and hell|
|Why are we on earth?||God’s plan for us|
|How should we live and get to know God?||New Testament letters|
You should know that Bibles include a table of contents before Genesis, the first book. This shows you the names of the various books within the Bible, and what pages they begin on. Until you learn the order of the books, you will probably want to refer to the table of contents often. That way you will gain familiarity with the books, and find what you want to read, such as the verses we refer to in our lessons.
There are a total of 66 books in the Bible: 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. Most books of the Bible are much longer than surahs of the Qur’an.
Introducing the Old Testament to Muslims
What’s in the Old Testament?
If you are Muslim, you already know the names of some of the Old Testament characters, and call them “prophets.” You have heard that they received holy books from God. But not a lot is written about them in the Qur’an, and the Qur’an itself refers to the Bible for more details. So, it is a real blessing for Christians to be able to share with you Muslims that we actually have the preserved writings by and about characters you know!
The Old Testament contains the Torah, which includes the first five books of the Bible, and is known to Muslims as the Taurat. These five books of the Torah include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Sometimes the Torah is called the Law, or the Books of Moses, since he is most closely associated with them. Since Muslims know of the Torah, it is relatively easy to explain to them that part of the Old Testament.
Genesis, called Taqueen in Arabic, means “Beginnings” in both languages. It tells us how people were created and the beginnings of society groups and practices. For example, here we meet Muslim “prophets” Adam, Noah (Nuh in the Qur’an), Abraham (Ibrahim), and Ishmael (Ismael). In Exodus we find Moses (Musa in the Qur’an), Miriam, and Amran (Imram), whom Muslims know of.
Muslims are also aware of Sarah, Joseph, David, Solomon, and a few others in the Bible. Both the Qur’an and the Bible have a book called Jonah (Yunus).
Several Old Testament characters are actually common personal names for Muslims. Dr. C has found that a good way to spark interest in Muslims to read the Bible, is to present to them a passage discussing their namesake. We can also interest Middle Easterners by sharing positive Bible stories set in their country – like the repentance of Nineveh for Iraqis, Darius and Esther for Persians, and the Wise Men of the East in the Christmas story.
Muslims also know the Psalms of the Old Testament, which they call the Zabur. But the Old Testament has many other books that Muslims don’t have and haven’t heard of. These include books of history, wisdom books, and the prophets.
Although Muslims in general know that there were many prophets, in our experience they are not familiar with the Old Testament books of the prophets or history, so these will be new material for them. It is wonderful that the Bible preserves the words of so many previous prophets.
The books of the prophets are divided into the “major,” and the “minor” prophets. This distinction is based on the length of their writings, not their importance. These books give messages to people like kings, warnings to the people in general, and prophecies of things we see come to pass, such as the destruction of wicked civilizations.
Especially important are the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ. We discuss the prophecies of Jesus in more detail elsewhere, but here are a few of the best ones: Isaiah 9:6,7 & 11:1-5 & 53, Psalm 22, Micah 5:2, and Jeremiah 31:31.
Now let’s look at an important passage from the Old Testament.
Psalm 23 with Rev. Bob Siegel
The video lesson presents to you a well-loved psalm. Psalm 23 is one of the all-time favorite Bible passages of Bible-believers, both Jews and Christians, who are known together in Islam as People of the Book.
This poem, or “psalm,” is from what Islam calls the Zabur. Psalms are a type of poetry which does not depend on rhyme – that way the poems work in any language. Among other techniques, psalmists used are word pictures. That is what prophet and king David (Daoud) did in Psalm 23.
Psalm 23 is one of the many poems and songs to God which were written by David while he was still a shepherd boy, watching his father’s sheep in the hills above Bethlehem.
In the days of David and beyond, in Bible times many of the population were familiar with raising sheep and could easily identify with this psalm. Our culture is out of touch with the life of a shepherd; yet modern day shepherds have pointed out that every detail of the psalm relates to the real-life experiences of sheep and shepherds.
Psalm 23 draws a simple, yet profound word picture. David, as he writes under the power of the Holy Spirit, describes himself as a sheep, and God as his good shepherd. When we read or recite it, we also visualize ourselves as a helpless sheep, cared for by its master.
It is interesting that prophecies of the Messiah spoke of him as a shepherd (Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 37:24-28). Jesus called himself The Good Shepherd. He taught that the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. That is exactly what he did for us! (Read what Jesus said about this shepherd in John 10:1-18.)
The message of Psalm 23 is that God cares deeply for those who follow him. He actively provides for and protects us throughout all the seasons of our lives. When we die, it will not be the end, for our shepherd will take us to live with him in his heavenly home.
Because its words are comforting, this psalm is commonly read at Christian funerals, or recited in times of trial. For example, Dr. C recites it in her mind while in the dentist chair!
Apologist Bob Siegel, of Jewish background now a Christian pastor, shares with us that Psalm 23 is one of his favorite Bible passages. During his journey from Judaism to Christianity, Siegel has faced many challenges. The words of this psalm have comforted him. He is especially glad to know that surely goodness and mercy will follow him all the days of his life and he will live with the Lord forever.
Siegel recites for us from memory Psalm 23 in an old-fashioned translation of English. If you are new to English, you might find it difficult to understand. Here it is in the simple, New International Reader’s Version:
The Lord is my shepherd; he gives me everything I need.
He lets me lie down in fields of green grass.
He leads me besides quiet waters.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths for the honor of his name.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid.
You are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me right in front of my enemies.
You pour oil on my head.
My cup runs over.
I am sure that your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life.
And I will live in the house of the Lord forever.
Now that you know more about Psalm 23, perhaps you also would like to memorize, in a translation that speaks to your heart?
Introducing the New Testament to Muslims
Why the New Testament?
The Qur’an tells us that Jesus brought a book. Actually, the Injeel, as Muslims call the New Testament, was written not by Jesus, but by his followers in the decades after his death and resurrection.
We learn in the New Testament how the Old Testament’s teachings and predictions were fulfilled. The New Testament does not cancel or “abrogate” the Old Testament, rather it fulfills it.
(We discuss the Muslim Doctrine of Abrogation elsewhere.)
Jesus told his followers that having his new teachings alongside the Old Testament was like adding new treasures to old,
“Every Teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven
is like the owner of a house. He brings new treasures out of his storeroom as well as old ones.” Matthew 13:52 (NIRV)
Some Muslims and other unbelievers say that it is bad that Jesus did not write the New Testament himself. Muslims believe that the book that Jesus wrote, the true Injeel, has been corrupted and basically lost.
If Christians don’t know better, this criticism can worry them that somehow a mistake was made. They might think that Jesus should have written it himself, or that the New Testament is not accurate because it was written after Jesus went to heaven. They might develop unnecessary doubts. (See also Why Believe the Bible?)
Actually, it is good that Jesus did not write the New Testament himself. Here’s why:
In the Old Testament, the prophecies about Jesus the Messiah as God, and his sacrifice for our sins were so strongly stated, that the church began with Jesus’ followers teaching from the Old Testament. By teaching from the Old Testament, the disciples were referring to existing scripture that people respected, rather than simply giving their own opinion.
Before his death, Jesus referred to the Old Testament prophecies as one of the three greatest witnesses confirming who he was and what he was doing (see John 5). After his resurrection, Jesus instructed his followers in how these prophecies applied to him in detail.
“Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the scriptures. He began with Moses and all the prophets.” Luke 24:27 (NIRV)
So, the disciples were trained, and prepared to use the prophecies correctly once the Holy Spirit had empowered them. There was no need to wait to write new material. New material would not then have had the same authority that the Old Testament scriptures did.
People in Jerusalem and Israel already knew that Jesus did amazing miracles and then died on the cross. Building upon this, the disciples explained that it had happened in fulfillment of Old Testament promises. The entire city witnessed the fulfillment of those prophecies. The disciples’ task was simply to remind them of all that had happened, and explain how it fit with the scriptures they knew. Then they testified that Jesus rose from the dead to prove who he was and what he said.
On the Day of Pentecost, when the church began, the Apostle Peter preached a sermon quoting Old Testament prophecies. He ended by saying,
“God has raised this same Jesus back to life. We are all witnesses of this.” Acts 2:32
Another original disciple of Jesus, the Apostle John also emphasized that they were witnesses of the fulfilled prophecies. (1 John 1:1-3).
The prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31 that there would be a New Covenant or Testament explains why Jesus teaching of a new way of living was accepted by his disciples, and later by those who joined the church. It makes way for Christianity and the New Testament. Without the old prophecies, there would be no sound basis for Jesus to introduce a new agreement with God.
By the time the New Testament actually was written, the church had grown. People believed the prophecies of the Old Testament were fulfilled. Many miracles had happened through church leaders. By then, Christians honored the words of the disciples and apostles of Jesus. They wanted to read about their lives with Jesus – the gospels. And for its health and future, the church needed the specific instructions and theology originally written in the letters of Jesus disciples, now saved in the New Testament.
What a unique and wonderful beginning! There is no other religion that began with such power and proof as the Christian faith. That includes Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism, Sikhism, the Moonies and atheism, (which functions like a religion).
What is in the New Testament?
The New Testament contains the holy writings that came after Jesus Christ. It is much smaller than the Old Testament. The New Testament is similar in size to the entire Qur’an.
The New Testament contains 27 books:
- Four gospels, those of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which tell of the life and teachings of Jesus by his early followers.
- The Acts of the Apostles is the story of the early church.
- There are, 21 Letters to the churches, also known as “Epistles,” that were written by apostles like Peter and Paul. They talk about theology – God and his grace and salvation through Jesus – and how to live a Christian life.
- Simple summaries of some of the New Testament letters: If you are looking for-
- the theological basics of Christianity, you might want to read Romans or Hebrews
- the relationship of law and grace, Galatians
- a positive outlook on faith, Philippians
- an eternal perspective, Ephesians
- a view of Christ in us, Colossians
- The final book, Revelation, is composed of prophecies from visions given to the Apostle John while he was in exile on the island of Patmos. Besides messages to 7 specific churches in Asia Minor, it touches on the end of the world, Christ’s return, the final judgment, and what heaven will be like.
Example from the New Testament, Romans 8
For those unfamiliar with the Bible, here is a lovely sample of encouragement from the New Testament. It is a favorite of Dr. C and others, who memorize it to help them in times of trials.
“We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him…What shall we say then? Since God is on our side, who can be against us? God did not spare his own son. He gave him up for us all. Then won’t he also freely give us everything else?
Who can bring any charge against God’s chosen ones? God makes us right with himself. Then who can sentence us to death? No one. Christ Jesus is at the right hand of God and is also praying for us. He died. More than that, he was raised to life.
Who can separate us from Christ’s love? Can trouble or hard times or harm or hunger? Can nakedness or danger or war? … No! in all these things we are more than winners! We owe it all to Christ, who has loved us.
I am absolutely sure that not even death or life can separate us from God’s love. Not even angels or demons, the present or the future, or any powers can separate us. Not even the highest places or the lowest, or anything else in all creation can separate us. Nothing at all can ever separate us from God’s love. That’s because of what Christ Jesus our Lord has done.” Romans 8:28-39 (NIRV)
Where to start reading the Bible?
Huda, like most new believers, asks in the video, “Where do I start reading the Bible?” This is an important question. The Bible is a very large book, and although every part is important, some places are definitely better for a new believer to start reading than others.
Old Testament. For many Muslims a good place to start reading the Bible is the first book, Genesis, because its characters are already familiar to Muslims.
New Testament. It is also important for seekers and new believers to learn about Jesus, and how to live a Christian life.
In the New Testament, the Gospel of John is great favorite among Christians for its beautiful and spiritual analogies of Jesus. But the refreshingly powerful Sermon on the Mount is in the Gospel of Matthew, where it fills chapters 5-7. Muslims should not miss it, so that would also be an excellent place to start. And Matthew also points out how Jesus fulfilled prophecies.
Or you could start reading the Bible with the Gospel of Mark, which being the shortest gospel is very fast-paced and gives a quick view of the life of Jesus. Since it is thought to be the earliest gospel, it is one that Muslim critics of Christianity are most likely to accept: yet even it shows the remarkable and unique person of Jesus Christ and portrays his god-like attributes.
And finally, as Dr. C points out in the video, you can start reading the Bible based on what is being studied at your church or in your Bible study group, or with the person that is discipling you. Or you can look up passages which encourage you for whatever you are going through in life at the time.
You might have noticed that at the end of each of our study guides there is a list of the scripture references used in the video lesson and study guide. Reading through this list would also be a good way to start studying the Bible. It would also have the added benefits of reinforcing and helping you remember what you learned in the lessons, and give you experience in finding your way around the Bible.
- II Corinthians 5:17
- The Bible’s Table of Contents
- Isaiah 9:6,7 & 11:1-5 & 53
- Psalm 22
- Micah 5:2
- Jeremiah 31:31
- Psalm 23
- Isaiah 40:11
- Ezekiel 37:24-28
- John 10:1-18
- Matthew 13:52
- John 5:31-40
- Luke 24:27
- Acts 2:32
- I John 1:1-3
- Matthew, especially 5-7
- Romans 8:28-39
- The Bible has Guidance and light – Surah 5:46
- Christians should judge by what is revealed in the New Testament (Injeel) – Surah 5:47
- Do you see the Bible as a map for life?
- What guides for life might people use who either don’t believe the Bible, or don’t bother to read and follow it?
- Reflect on the concepts presented above, of the benefits of reading the Bible versus reading the
Qur’an. What thoughts do you have?
- Are you surprised to know that Muslims are familiar with Biblical characters?
- Do you know any Muslims with names of Bible characters?
- Think about them now and pray for them.
- You might want to write down their names and come back to the list often to pray.
- What parts of the Bible do Muslims know exist and have names for? (review if necessary)
- What books are essentially unknown to them?
- Bob Siegel recounts the blessing Psalm 23 has been in his life.
- Is there a special Old Testament passage that has been meaningful to you?
- Can you think of a way that you might some time share it with a Muslim?
- What New Testament passage might you use to introduce a Muslim to the Bible?
- Brainstorm: what ways can you think of to use Muslims’ knowledge of Biblical characters and
books to interest them in the Bible?
- How would you explain to a Muslim, or a new believer in Jesus, the importance of the Bible
in a Christian’s life?
- Would you be able to explain to someone a relationship between the Old and New Testaments?
- If not, consider how you understand it yourself, and what you might need to learn to
comfortably explain it.
- If not, consider how you understand it yourself, and what you might need to learn to
- Are you surprised that the Qur’an says that the Bible contains “guidance and light?”
- We go into the reasons for this in other lessons,
- but for today’s lesson, can you think of any way that you could use that claim of the Qur’an to help introduce the Bible to Muslims?
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2020. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Muslims and Miracles
Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: In this lesson we discuss the place of miracles in Muslims becoming Christian. Many Muslims have had miracles, dreams or visions of Jesus before they become Christians. Should this be required for a Muslim to come to Christ? Can Christians demand Miracles? What if we don’t get our miracle? Has anyone who had a dream or miracle not believed in Jesus? These are the kinds of questions we will discuss today.
Reality – a Visit to Hot Springs South Dakota
Today’s reality segment of the video lesson introduces the topic of healing and miracles with a visit to one of the most famous healing spots of history: the natural hot springs of Hot Springs, South Dakota.
As Dr. Cynthia demonstrates for us, hot mineral waters bubble out of the earth right in the small town of Hot Springs. Just across from the main street the waters create something beautiful and almost unreal: a mossy waterfall with an actual shower of hot water. The stream then passes out of town through a gully between the sandstone buildings of Hot Springs, and the red sandstone cliff opposite.
Before there were good medical treatments for many diseases, the soothing effect of hot springs often brought relief to sufferers worldwide. In the past, Native Americans believed that the finger of the Great Spirit, their name for God, had touched the springs of this region, making them hot and providing them with healing powers.
Outside of town we find Battle Mountain. Before the region was settled by outsiders, there was a major battle between the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes on this hill for control of the hot springs. Wisely, the Native American tribes eventually agreed to share the springs.
As good medicines have increased, the popularity of mineral springs for medical treatment has declined around the world. So has the popularity of Hot Springs, South Dakota. However, its waters are now free to all who visit this somewhat remote spot, regardless of their ethnic background.
Human beings of all races have suffered illness since the beginning of time, and have sought a variety of means for healing. Whether from natural hot springs, prescribed medication, or miraculous intervention, all healing comes from God.
Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all of his benefits – who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion. Psalm 103:2-4
The Purpose of Miracles
During his ministry on earth, Jesus performed miracles of the most magnificent kind ever done. This is actually something that Christianity and Islam agree upon. In John 5, a favorite passage that we often refer to, Jesus used miracles as one of the three top proofs that he was who he claimed to be.
When the church began and spread throughout the Middle East and beyond, the Book of Acts in the New Testament tells us that miracles accompanied the new message to bear witness to its truth. These miracles helped overcome the reluctance of the people to believe and live in a totally different way. When doubts developed over time, they could still remember the miracle. Paul said,
I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders and miracles. II Corinthians 12:12
Even now, there are some cultures which are so entrenched in their ways of thought, and under such Satanic oppression, that the only way to break through this stronghold is with a miracle. Jesus met a Roman like that.
“Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” John 4:48
This is why we commonly hear of miraculous occurrences in remote areas where the gospel is making new inroads, like Mel Tari describes in Muslim Indonesia in his book Like a Mighty Wind.
Muslims are Having Dreams and Miracles
Many Christians have heard that dreams, visions, and miracles are happening throughout the Muslim World resulting in Muslims coming to Christ. A survey of things that were instrumental in bringing Muslims to Christ put dreams and miracles near the top of the list. The Jesus Film Project and Missionaries in Muslim countries report many miraculous occurrences.
Examples of Dreams and Miracles Overseas:
One night, most of the residents of a North African town had the same dream of Jesus. Miracles of healing have occurred while watching Jesus heal others in the Jesus film.
Dreams and Miracles in America:
Examining Christian history, we see that areas which have long been filled with Christians and Biblical teaching, God’s presence already has witness. Flashy miracles are less necessary and much less common. They not required to bring to the people knowledge of the truth of scripture. They are surrounded by it. The conclusion of Jesus’ parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus would support this observation,
He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31
From this we see how important it is that all peoples, including Muslims, have access to the Word of God. And if their hearts are hard to his word, there is little chance that even a miracle would convince them.
Nevertheless, although less common than overseas, dreams and miracles do happen in America.
Example of Dreams in American Muslim:
Nelly is a North African woman was raised in America with a devout Muslim family. Georges Houssney referred her to Dr. C for discipleship. Part of her testimony is the three powerful dreams that exactly spoke to her understanding and heart. These helped bring her to Christ during a time of life crisis.
- Please pray for Nelly’s continued growth, and for her family.
Muslims Demanding a Miracle
Christians have become excited about the reports of Muslims having dreams and miracles. They often encourage their Muslim friends to ask Jesus for a dream or miracle to confirm that he is the Jesus of the Bible. As a result,
Muslims considering Christ have begun to expect miracles from God.
In this segment of the video lesson, Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, and Rev. Bob Siegel, are interviewed on a television panel. Dr. C asks for their input on the place of miracles in becoming a Christian, especially for Muslims.
Dr. C shares that she has three different and unrelated Muslim friends in America telling her the same thing at the same time. They are awaiting a miracle to come to Christ. It is remarkable because they are very open to Christianity, love it, and say that:
- They no longer believe:
- in Islam or follow it
- that Mohammed is a true prophet
- that the Qur’an is of God
- They now do:
- believe the basics of the Christian faith
- that Jesus is God in the flesh
- that he died for our sins on the cross
- that the Bible is the true Word of God
- understand and accept the Trinity
- prefer the Christian way of living to that of Islam
- believe the basics of the Christian faith
- However, they are unwilling to become Christians unless God confirms it with a miracle or powerful dream.
Dr. C does not believe in pushing people to become Christians. She shares the gospel and Bible with them as natural part of sharing life, until the Holy Spirit convinces them of its truths. However, when she hears them willingly make such statements of faith she will then ask if the Muslim is ready to cross over to Christ.
In these three situations she heard such statements of faith, which seemed to indicate that they were ready to become Christians. However, all three told her independently,
“I have been hearing and watching on-line the testimonies of Muslims that become Christians, and they all seem to have a dream or a miracle. So, I will wait for a dream or a miracle.”
There is an American expression, “We’ve created a monster!” for something that was intended well, but gets out of control. Dr. C asks the panel if this is what Christians have done in praying for Muslims to have dreams and visions and encouraging them to expect them?
Nabeel answers “No.” He says that,
God knows what each person needs to come to faith, and that is what he will give them.
Nabeel did receive a vision and three miraculous dreams. He believes that his decision was so difficult that he needed this affirmation to convert. However, he says it is not the same for everyone, and that God will tailor the experiences for each individual. He mentions another Muslim, Abd Murray, who came to Christ without miraculous events, but through a conviction that the Bible was true.
Bob came from a Jewish background. He also had dreams and visions. However, he said,
That is not the primary way that God wants to get through to you. He wants to touch you with his Spirit.
Bob then explains his story. He heard the gospel from Christians on his campus. He didn’t like it. But when Bob thought about it later that night, he was “bombarded by the Holy Spirit.” This means that he was touched in a personal way with confirmation that what he had heard from the Christians was true.
Example of the Holy Spirit’s Confirmation of Scripture to a Muslims:
After six years learning about Jesus with Dr. C, her Muslim student Sohaila described an experience similar to Bob’s. When reading the Bible the night after again hearing the gospel, and having her questions answered the Holy Spirit flooded her with its truth.
Is it Bad to Ask for a Miracle?
In the video lesson we also learn that two of the three Muslim friends demanding a miracle have said that they ask Dr. C to pray when they want an answer. She is glad that they see Jesus’ power, but wants them to see God as the source. She then asks Nabeel and Bob if it is wrong to ask for a miracle, because in Jesus said,
An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it. Matthew 16:1-4
Bob tells us that it is fine to ask for a miracle if we are sincere. Jesus condemned the men in that passage because of their bad attitudes.
The Dangerous Side of Miracles
Rev. Georges Houssney in a separate interview gives his opinion on this situation of three Muslims demanding a dream or miracle to convert.
Georges preaches to Muslims all over the world. He tells us that he has seen tremendous miracles and dreams with people leaving Islam. One evening not long before the interview he saw three healings while ministering in Lebanon. One of those was of a man with a paralyzed arm. After the healing he was moving it and shaking hands.
But Georges has found a danger with miracles: people may seek miracles and experiences, rather than the truth of God. He says.
The most important thing is the truth.
Life as a new believer is not easy. Miracles can sometimes make us think everything will go our way if we are following God, but that is not the case. Although God may confirm his truth and power to us through a miracle, we must keep our faith in God himself and his Word – the truth, not supernatural manifestations. Dreams and visions do not save people. Jesus does.
False Dreams and Miracles
There can also be false miracles and dreams. Do not be led astray by signs and miracles which confirm false belief systems. Every religion has its miracles. They can shake your convictions unless you remember this.
Matthew 24:24 tells us that,
For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
Although it is debated if Mohammed performed any miracles besides the Qur’an, you will hear tell of healings occurring at Muslim shrines, and dreams of Muslim saints.
Example of Healing at a Muslim Shrine:
Mashad al Shams is a historic shrine, about 60 miles south of Baghdad in Hillah. Interestingly, before it was Islamic, the site was a Babylonian temple of Shamash, the sun god.
Umm Mariam visits there to decorate its walls with henna every Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. She claims that the shrine cured her daughter of a chronic illness after she slept there one night. Other people claim that they are cured of infertility there.
It is certainly not unique in Islam to have a shrine. They are especially popular in Iraq and Iran, where Shiites are more numerous, because Shiites believe in intercessors. Sunnis are less inclined to seek healing at shrines, except for the Kaaba in Mecca, which they do not see as an idol or intercessor, although in practice it is.
(Note: See also the study guide and Lesson on Islam and the Occult.)
Example of False and True Dreams in One Muslim:
Holly, a Muslim that Dr. C was mentoring, told her that Caliph Ali had appeared to her in a dream. To Holly this confirmed that Islam was true. Dr. C was disappointed to hear that dreams could lead people away from Christ.
A few years later after learning more about Jesus, Holly’s sister Sally told Dr. C that Holly had had another dream, but did not know what it meant.
In Holly’s second important dream, a dove descended onto the top of a mosque, and a woman ran out of it. Based on Luke 3:22, Dr. C gave Sally, not yet a Christian, the interpretation that the Holy Spirit would come to deliver Holly from Islam.
The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
Sally shared this verse with Holly. Holly was so moved to hear the interpretation and see the verse of her dream mentioned in the Bible, that she soon came became a Christian.
QUESTION: Is there a chance that if you are a Christian you will see God perform clear miracles?
ANSWER: Yes! God can and does perform miracles everywhere, every day.
- If you keep your eyes open you will see healings, miraculous provisions, and the desired unexpected, at frequencies much greater than chance alone.
- This is especially true the closer you walk with God, trying to do his will, and praying that he will intercede in situations and for people.
Invisible miracles are interventions of God in a special way into our everyday lives that because of their usual-seeming nature go unrecognized: the car crash that you nearly had, a cooking knife missing your finger, a child recovering overnight, getting the right job, finding a home, money arriving in time to pay a bill.
Many things like this happen every day. We usually don’t see anything remarkable about them. It is true that remarkable coincidences do occur. On the other hand, perhaps an angel has stepped in many times, whether you are a believer or not, in order to preserve your life and set you on the path to either discover God, or to serve him better.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:11
Time and Chance
I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11
The Bible also tells us that it doesn’t always make sense why things happen, because time and chance happen to us all. The way the world works things just happen. We age. The earth is active: it moves, has earthquakes and floods. Diseases infest the air. We eat or do things that harm us.
In a way the time and chance factors are good news. They explain much of why there is suffering in the world. Sometimes we can get depressed when something bad happens to us, thinking that God doesn’t care about us anymore.
But actually, it may just be time and chance mechanism of how the world works. God may decide to miraculously step in to stop time and chance. But he may not.
(Note: See also the study guides and lessons on Fear, Persecution, and Spiritual Warfare, and Suffering and Thanksgiving.)
Evil into Good
Happily, if God does not stop the bad event, the Bible also tells us that God can turn them into good. For example, in the Old Testament Joseph told his treacherous brothers,
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. Genesis 50:20
In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul encouraged the believers this way,
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28
If you keep your eyes open for invisible miracles, God’s intervention, time and chance, and bad into good you will be much encouraged in your everyday life.
America as a Miracle
A number of years ago, an American returned from a mission trip overseas and told Dr. C about the miracles there. She then went on to criticize America because it was not having the same kind of miracles. She said it was due to the lack of faith of Americans.
Dr. C disagreed. She explained that America has very many sincere believers – possibly more than any other country. There are large numbers of individuals and teams of intercessors in America dedicated to praying every day for the country, its people, its problems, and the world.
“The miracles of America are different,” she said. “The main miracle of America is America.”
Because of America’s freedoms and success, stemming from its Christian heritage, people come here from all over the world. Here they not only experience the blessings of God in terms of opportunities, freedom and finances, they have an opportunity to hear the gospel from Christians. Even in the corrupted culture around them, they can see testimonies of the gospel – churches, memorials, and quotes in many forms of writing.
Acts 17:26, 27 says,
From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.
This passage tells us that God puts people in places where they can have experiences which will lead them closer to him. We see this happening now with the obvious migration of people groups from restricted nations into the West, where they have greater opportunities to hear the gospel. Let’s be part of it!
Example – an Observation of Acts 17 in Action:
Keith is a teacher and Bible teacher who volunteers with us on outreach. Keith is also a great prayer partner. Dr. C shared with him the case of Muslim # 1 above. She explained that the Muslim now believed in Christianity with her head, but would not pass over to become a Christian without a miracle.
Keith had met this student. He knew that she had come to America partly to learn about Christianity. He knew that she met Dr. C 10 days after arriving, and the “coincidence” of how they had met. In response to the situation Keith said,
“What is she thinking? She met you 10 days after arriving? You are her miracle!”
Both this sort of “natural” intervention of God, as well as more glamorous supernatural manifestations, are all “miracles” through which God draws us to himself.
Let us take advantage of God’s moving people from these faiths to locations near us. Remember how the Native Americans finally resolved to share the healing waters between tribes and with the white settlers? Let us likewise not fail to share with immigrants and refugees the healing gift of Jesus’ living water.
Is God Obligated to Perform Miracles for Us?
Prayer for healing is certainly one of the most common prayers. There are verses in the Bible that encourage us to pray for miracles and have faith that they will happen. But we are also told to pray in accordance with God’s will. Let us look at two models of faith, and their approach to prayers for miracles, like healing:
The “Transaction Model” of Faith
A transaction is a form of business. Pagan and other religions are based on the idea that if one does certain ceremonies or acts of honor, or makes certain sacrifices in the right way, the god is then obligated to perform on behalf of the person requesting favor. In English we would say, “tit for tat.”
However, there are also Christians, and even churches, that act as if this were the way to practice Christianity: that God is obligated to do whatever we ask if our faith is strong enough. Many times God does honor this faith. He has certainly told us that,
- Ask and you will receive Matthew 7:7
- You have not because you ask not James 4:2
You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.
You do not have because you do not ask God.
But the Transaction Model puts demands on God that he might not want to fulfill. If we believe that it is the power of faith that heals rather than God’s power and will, negative consequences can result, such as:
- discouragement and loss of faith
- condemnation of people whose prayers are not answered, accusing them of too little faith
- delay in proven medical treatment while awaiting a miracle
- mistreatment of a friend of family member who brings practical advice
Examples of the first two consequences are commonly heard of or seen on the internet. Atheists often cite such examples of unanswered prayers from their childhood.
Examples of Transaction Model Delaying Treatment:
One year, Dr. C had three Christian friends with cancer who fell into the third consequence: they delayed their medical treatment for cancer while awaiting a miracle. Their faith was misplaced to the point that they that they did not do the wise thing of getting recommended help. All died sooner because of it.
Jerry’s Story. Dr. C had been regularly visiting Jerry, one of these three, bringing flowers and meals. One day when in addition to food, with respectful concern she brought papers with medical recommendations, Dr. C was thrown out of Jerry’s house. The family angrily said that considering treatment options would hurt their faith. They must not let in a shadow of doubt if mom was to be healed.
Indeed, before she passed away Jerry said to Dr. C, “I never doubted for a moment that I would be healed.” You see, the faith was displaced away from wisdom and the will of God into a game of mind control in order to impress God and gain the desired healing.
Jerry knew some of Dr. C’s Muslim students, and they wanted to see her. Dr. C had been hoping for a demonstration of a beautiful faith from Jerry that although she desired healing, she accepted God’s will, and also longed to see Jesus in heaven. This would encourage the students toward Christian faith.
Unknown to Jerry’s family, Dr. C had had a powerful dream that Jerry was going to die. Because of Jerry’s insistence on a miracle, Dr. C could not bring the Muslim students to see her before she died. She knew Jerry’s obsession with healing would be a stumbling block to them when she did not recover.
Deathbed witness. It can be a powerful thing to see a Christian testify of their faith in Jesus, the resurrection and the life, shortly before joining him eternally. If you are close to a Christian who shines in this regard, you might consider having them share with friends of yours who could be encouraged by it. That would be a great way to bring good from a bad situation.
- May we all provide such a witness to our friends and family before we die.
The “Relationship Model” of Faith
In contrast to the Transaction Model, is what we call the “Relationship Model” of faith. In this way of practicing the faith, we see the faith walk as a relationship with God. As in other relationships, we can make our requests known. But we can not demand that we always get our way.
For example, children routinely ask for things that parents know are not good for them. How much higher is God’s knowledge than ours! James told us that we pray and might not receive because our motives are wrong (James 4:3).
Although believers may follow the Transaction Model, we prefer the Relationship Model. Here is how it would work in Christian cancer patients:
- Dr. Cynthia’s advice for CHRISTIAN CANCER PATIENTS
Being a medical doctor who has diagnosed cancer and been on cancer committees, plus having experienced attitudes and behaviors in Christians like those above, Dr. C advises, even pleads with cancer patients these things:
Dr. Cynthia’s Advice if You have Cancer
- REALIZE: Wherever you are in your faith walk, God is now calling you to be closer to him.
- to be healed
- but also pray for grace to be content and to shine in whatever circumstance comes your way
- Either option above is a wonderful testimony. As Paul says,
- I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. Philippians 4:11
- REMEMBER, you are HUMAN too!
- Do not think that you better than other human beings and will get special favors from God.
- Regardless of how close you are to God: do not think that because you are a Christian that you do not need medical treatment.
- SEEK Medical TREATMENT!
- If God has provided a medical treatment for a disease, and you have access to it, GET IT!
- Do not tempt the Lord your God by expecting a miracle when he has already provided a way for you.
- Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Matthew 4:7
- BRING GLORY!
- Your healing may indeed bring glory to him if he does heal you. Declare it AFTER it happens.
- Blindly insisting in advance that you will be healed, if you are not will likely bring dishonor to God. Dr. C has seen how it hardens medical workers against faith in God.
- The better path is to be assured that either way, God’s way is best, whether or not we know why. Daniel and his friends knew this when awaiting a miraculous deliverance from the fiery furnace,
The God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us … But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. Daniel 3:17,18
So, pray, and have faith that God will heal you, if it is his will, and only wanting his will. But follow the principle of Nehemiah who wisely posted a guard as well as prayed to God when under threat. (Nehemiah 4:9)
Do not be like the drowning man in the silly story, who was waiting for God to save him and so refused to take the life boat.
Doesn’t the Bible Teach that if we have Faith God Will Answer?
Part of good Bible interpretation is paying attention to whom the verses we are reading were written. After we answer that we can better discover how to apply the verse to us today. For example, we need to remember that not everything the prophets preached, or Jesus said to his 12 disciples is necessarily spoken to us.
You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it. John 14:14
This lovely promise above was directly given to Jesus’ elite group of disciples before he died. We can not necessarily apply it to ourselves. Well, you might point out that a few verses earlier Jesus said,
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12
That verse does specify “whoever” and so very likely includes us. If we believe in him we will share his words and care for the sick and needy.
However, what is the idea of “greater things?” Perhaps you are thinking it is flashy miracles? Could it not be that persisting in serving Jesus throughout a long life, bearing fruit, and bringing others to salvation is more likely what was greater from Jesus’ perspective?
Example of Misunderstanding “Possible”:
Dr. C was helping disciple an Indian, who asked her about Mark 9:23,
“Everything is possible for one who believes.”
The new and struggling believer was frustrated because he had prayed believing that Jesus would come through in his favor in a legal judgment. Dr. C told him that believing was not a guarantee that we would get what we want.
Notice the beginning of the verse, “‘If you can?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’”
Our faith is important. It makes everything possible. It does not guarantee the result we want.
God’s Will – The Essential Part
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him. I John 5:14, 15
This passage was written in a letter by the Apostle John to believers in Christ, so it applies to us today.
Notice that the guarantee is that we will receive what we ask if it is in accordance with his will. Even Jesus prayed this way in the Garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross. As we know, it was not the Father’s will to release him from that agony (Luke 22:42).
Three Important Things to Remember About Healing
Many people have become discouraged and even left the faith because they prayed for a healing or other miracle that did not happen. On the other hand, many people have become Christians because God miraculously healed someone in their family. How can we view these opposite situations?
- Ultimately it is God’s decision who gets healed and who does not. His ways are not our ways. Many wonderful things have come through not only healing, but the testimony of someone who is not healed.
- We will all die sooner or later. We will not always be healed on earth. It is good to accept that there is a time for us to go to the home of our Heavenly Father.
- All Christians will be fully healed eventually – if not on earth, in heaven. That is a great encouragement to us when we or those we love suffer.
We must pray believing that God will act through our prayers for good. If it is not according to our will, we must accept his decision and way – whether it is Yes, No, or Wait.
(Note: We also talk about this in the Prayer section of the study guide on The Christian Life.)
Example of God Doing Good through NOT Healing
Evelyn, a Christian volunteer with us that died of cancer had been praying for years that her husband Tony would yield his life to God. It was not until after Evelyn died that he started taking life seriously and yielded it to God.
In fact, Tony went beyond accepting fulfilling an absolute dream of Evelyn: in his retirement, he trained and became a missionary! He lived his life serving God until he passed away suddenly, joining her in heaven several years later.
If Evelyn had known what would happen would she willing have gone to heaven earlier? Yes, we are certain of it! But there was no way she could have realized this before she passed away.
Should We Pray for Muslims to have Dreams and Miracles?
QUESTION: So, should we pray for miracles for Muslims? and if so, how?
ANSWER: Yes! We should pray for Muslims to have dreams and miracles. Here are suggested ways how:
- That the Lord will confirm the Word of God that you have shared with Muslims you know with a dream, miracle, or special conviction.
- That the Lord will do something similar for Muslims who have received God’s word from other people and sources.
- That dreams, visions, and miracles would come to people trapped deep in Islam, who have no access to his Word.
- This especially includes those who have little contact with the outside world, the illiterate, women in purdah (secluded), villagers, and those with strict families.
- We pray Lord, that in all of these situations miracles will overcome the obstacles that keep them trapped in Islam.
Follow-up of the Three Miracle Seekers
Some of you might be interested in what happened to the three Muslim miracle-seekers. Since this video lesson was filmed God has been working in their lives.
MUSLIM #1 About two years after concluding a year of Bible Study with Dr. C, she had a dream of Jesus. The voice of a man dressed in white, surrounded by light said to her,
Look up these words, “I have put my trust in you.”
The voice was loud and compelling, almost forceful. She obeyed it. She googled the words and was amazed to find them in the Bible. In Psalm 143:8,
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.
After finding these words in the Bible, she called Dr. C and prayed with her on the telephone to receive Jesus as her Savior.
MUSLIM #2 The second Muslim did not have a dream or miracle. But a mutual Muslim friend of hers and Dr. C became a Christian. Then she also became a Christian shortly before leaving America. In her final days here she said,
Cynthia, I can’t leave the country without telling you – I have become a Christian.
The new believer returned to a very restrictive Muslim country, without the opportunity for discipleship. She is now there as a secret believer.
MUSLIM #3 Received but rejected: The third had a request for a specific miracle answered, and a powerful dream – both of which were answered as requested. This Muslim still resists becoming a Christian, and is attracted to the Eastern and New Age concepts of god in us.
- All three of these are still very much in need of prayer to assist them in their spiritual walk.
Nabeel Qureshi’s Testimony of Becoming Christian from Muslim
Nabeel closes the video lesson by sharing with us his spiritual journey, and decision to follow Jesus. In Nabeel’s case both miracle and the truth of scripture testified to him that Jesus is the crucified and risen Savior. Together they gave him the courage to step forward in assured faith to Christ.
Nabeel came from a very loving and spiritual family. His parents came to America as missionaries to bring what they believed was the truth of Islam to Americans. Nabeel was 100% sure Islam was correct.
But during Nabeel’s university years a good friend began to challenge him about the truth of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. He also pointed out to Nabeel unpleasant details about Islamic history and laws.
As Nabeel grew closer to the truth, the cost of believing it began to dawn on him. If he crossed over to Christianity from Islam, he would deeply hurt his precious family and risk losing everything in his life.
Then Nabeel read in Matthew 10:37-39, where Jesus said that whoever loves his family more than Jesus is not worthy of him. The Bible says that to truly follow Jesus we lose our life for his sake – but we will end up finding it.
“To be willing to follow Jesus we are willing to lay down our lives for the sake of God and the truth,” says Nabeel.
He goes on to tell us that with our eyes on Jesus we will have the strength to pour ourselves out for others in service to God because we know that he is taking care of us. We will be with him forever.
To those like these three miracle-seeking Muslims Nabeel advises,
“Keep your eyes on Jesus. Read the scriptures. Note what he says… There is something about him that is captivating.”
Again, as he closes Nabeel reminds us, “Keep your eyes on Jesus. Will you take his hand?” Nabeel asks. “Will you follow him?”
That is what Nabeel did. He had dreams, a vision, and clear conviction of the truth of God’s word. He kept his eyes on Jesus and he followed him. Nabeel served God to the full, preaching and defending the gospel, and challenging Islam.
Nevertheless, Nabeel got cancer. Despite the prayers of thousands of admiring Christians, including Dr. C, he did not receive the miracle of healing. He died of cancer at the young age of 34 in 2017, leaving a wife and young daughter, and fruitful ministry.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. Isaiah 55:8
This is a major example of how we cannot always understand the way of God with miracles and answers to prayer. Considering the options we discussed in this lesson, perhaps it was time and chance. Or perhaps there was some better plan that God had in mind which required this heartbreaking loss.
The Apostle Paul also tells us that God did not answer his prayer to remove a “thorn in the flesh.”
In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. II Corinthians 12:7-9
Comfort in Rejection
We can take heart from the fact that not even prayers for the healing of Nabeel and the Apostle Paul were answered. Therefore, when our own most heartfelt prayers are not answered, it does not mean that we have failed in our faith, or God does not love us. Perhaps he wants to shine through us with contentment in suffering. Or perhaps he wants to fulfill, earlier than we had hoped, his own desire to have us with him and see his glory.
As Jesus prayed shortly before he was crucified,
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. John 17:24
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Psalm 103:2-4
- John 5:31-47 & 4:48
- II Corinthians 12:12
- Matthew 16:1-4 & 24:24
- Luke 16:31 & 3:22
- Psalm 91:11
- Ecclesiastes 9:11
- Genesis 50:20
- Romans 8:28
- James 1:7 & 4:2, 3
- Acts 2:17 & 5:12 & 17:26, 27
- Philippians 4:11
- Matthew 4:7 & 7:7
- Daniel 13:17, 18
- Nehemiah 4:9
- John 14:12, 14
- I John 5:14, 15
- Luke 22:42
- Psalm 143:8
- Matthew 10:37-39
- Matthew 5-6
- Isaiah 55:8
- II Corinthians 12:7-9
- John 17:24
You can read more of Nabeel’s testimony in his books Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and No God but One: Allah or Jesus.
Names: The examples given are true. The names have been changed for safety.
- Examples: Outside of the cases presented in this episode, have you, or members of the study group, heard of any particular case of God using dreams, visions, and miracles to bring Muslims to Christ?
- Why do you think God uses these vehicles for revealing himself to Muslims?
- Could it be cultural?
- Could it be because there is limited access to him through books and teaching in these lands?
- Do Muslims tend to have more revelations of Christ than Christians do because they love him more than Christians do, are better people, or pray more?
- Nabeel Qureshi told us how dreams played an important role in his deciding to become a Christian.
- Why does he think this was so?
- Does he say all Muslims should have a dream or miracle?
- Bob Siegel came to Christ from a Jewish background.
- What kind of supernatural experience did he have?
- Does he say all Jews should have a dream or miracle?
- What risk in Muslims has George Houssney seen for who come to Christ seeking a miracle?
- At times judgmental Christians accuse American Christians of not having as many miracles as those in more primitive areas because they do not have enough faith.
- How does Dr. C answer that?
- Do you agree or disagree?
- Consider the “transaction model” of faith:
- How was it described in the study guide?
- Can you think of any religion that especially practices this?
- Have you ever found yourself approaching God and prayer with this attitude?
- Hot Springs South Dakota has been considered a place of natural healing for centuries. For hundreds of years the Native Americans argued and even battled over it.
- What did the tribes eventually decide to do with Hot Springs?
- We can understand the desire of some tribes to reserve this wonderful place for themselves. Can you think of some resource that:
- a particular group has but does not want to share?
- you have but are reluctant to share?
- Is there a way in which the hot springs of Hot Springs could serve as an analogy, simile or parable? (Note: If needed see the study guide and Lesson on Jesus’ Parables.)
- Throughout history, people have sought healing through both natural and supernatural methods.
- As time allows, recall, share, and praise God for times he has healed members of the group (or you as an individual) through both “natural” and “supernatural” means.
- Regarding Muslims requiring a miracle before believing in Christ:
- Does the lesson support this?
- What does it suggest is the place of miracles in conversion?
- What do you think should be the place of miracles in conversion?
© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2020. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Muslims and Miracles
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Looking for Truth in World Religions
Program Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: People are searching for Truth. This lesson provides guidelines for those wondering which religion is true. To assist them, we present tools for how to objectively evaluate religions’ claims. For example, we show how to use basic logic to compare the teachings of various religions.
We also provide “keys.” Using these, we can determine if anything, everything, or nothing is true. We take a look at expectations and pitfalls. And we especially examine Eastern Religions, which so many people are now finding an attractive alternative to monotheistic faiths.
(Note: See also Lesson on Does God Exist? where we address that question specifically. Both these lessons are directed to seekers, but also serve to strengthen the faith and provide apologetics training for believers.)
Reality: Mosques in America with former Muslim Huda
Huda and Dr. Cynthia have been on a road trip since early morning, 8 hours earlier. Messy and tired, they come across a mosque. Huda expresses frustration at the number of mosques being built in America. Dr. C grabs the camera and films her response for our video.
As Huda sees it, she had no choice about which religion she would follow until she came to America, far into adulthood. She wishes she had been free to choose her religion in the Middle East.
Huda points out the impossible challenges Christians face when trying to build churches in the Middle East, compared with the ease with which Muslims can build mosques in America. She strongly feels this is unfair. Muslims should build mosques in their own countries, not America, Huda tells us.
Dr. C, in the background, reminds her that the United States has freedom of religion. Huda says she fears that Americans will lose their freedoms if Islam takes root, by building mosques. For example, she has said, “If Islam gains power in America, then women will be nothing again.”
Being reality, this video clip exposes Huda’s gut reaction to Mosques in America. It also reflects the Middle Eastern attitude, still held even now that she is a Christian, that a country can limit religious freedom. There are views that we are raised with that are difficult to change, even when living in a different country and with a new religion.
Do not fear however: we are not saying that there should be no mosques in America. As Dr. C explains later in the video lesson, because of Freedom of Religion, we do allow Mosques in America.
Which Religion is True?
Why Muslims Look for Truth
Seeing much violence and violation of human rights in Muslim countries, many in Islam are discouraged and doubting. First, they doubt Islam. Then, since they have been told that Islam is the final revelation of God with his final prophet, they doubt the existence of God as well. Some ask, “How do I find the Truth?”
A vast number of secular people in the West, raised without religion, are also looking for something to believe. Can we really help them find the truth? Or is all we can do shout that we have the truth, and hope they believe us?
Can we find Truth?
We believe that it is possible to compare religions objectively, meaning in a factual way. This lesson helps you do that.
“But,” you might say, “I don’t have time to look deeply into everything. And I’m not very educated. If smart people still argue about what is true after all this time, how can I figure it out? I might make a wrong choice. And if I choose a religion different than that of my culture I could face real trouble. I wouldn’t want that! What if I choose the wrong one and suffer anyway? Doesn’t it make sense to follow what everyone around me believes? I will trust my Imam.”
Jesus in the Injeel tell us to,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
Your Ability. Some people have a greater brain ability than others. Those who are very intelligent or educated are expected to use their great ability to learn and to reason more. They should honor God by looking diligently for Truth. Jesus said,
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” Luke 12:48
What if your intelligence and education are not so good? God expects less. He is merciful and compassionate. God does not expect more from you than you can do. In fact, it is very comforting to remember that Jesus defended a woman with these words,
“She did what she could.” Mark 14:8
Example: the Parable of the Talents. In the Injeel, the New Testament of the Bible, Jesus told us a parable, a story with meaning. It explained that people are given different abilities. They are expected to act according to what they have received. If they are very gifted, much is expected. But even the one who has little is expected to do what he can, and is scolded when he does not. (Matthew 25:14-30)
The Bible tells us that God honors it when we use our minds, not simply believe whatever we are told. For example the people in Berea,
“…were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” Acts 17:11 (KJV)
“Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” I Thessalonians 5:21,22
And if you are Muslim, consider these ayah from the Qur’an:
“Produce your proof if you are truthful.” Qur’an al Baqarah 2:111
(Note: This is how the Qur’an challenges the Christians and Jews.)
“When it is said to them, ‘Follow what Allah has sent down.” They say, ‘Nay. We shall follow what we found our fathers following.’” Qur’an, al Baqarah, 2:170
(Note: The Islamic commentary on this says it means that you should follow God’s way, not simply what your parents did. We agree!)
So, to the best of your ability, you are encouraged to find out the truth. God expects that of you. According to both the Bible and the Qur’an, it is good for you to examine proof of religions, and use your mind. It is not good to simply follow what your parents and grandparents did.
Again, you are not expected to do more than you can do, but you are expected to do what you can. If you don’t like to read, you can watch videos online, like the ones at here on this website. And there is material available in almost every language online somewhere.
Example: Former Muslim Huda. Part of Huda’s journey to becoming a Christian was learning about Jesus and Christian practices and loving them. But she also looked for the truth. As Huda says in another of our videos,
“I can’t believe that for so long my eyes were blind. I did not know the true religion. Now there is more opportunity if people try to search for the truth.”
(Note: See also the short video of Huda on Islam in either English or Arabic.)
Expectations in Looking for Truth
Dr. C says in looking for Truth, these expectations are important:
- God expects you to do your best in looking for truth – not more, not less
- Expect to find some truth in every religion or philosophy
- If there were none, no one would follow it
- Some truth does not mean that the entire religion is correct
- Don’t be surprised or sidetracked by this
- Expect to find deception. Remember, Satan in the Garden of Eden showed us the best way of deception is 2 to 1:
- Truth, truth, and a lie – tell two truths for every untruth
- This is what we can expect from many false religions
- Also popular science teachers/documentaries which preach the religion of atheistic materialism: a few scientific facts, then falsehood twisted in.
- Most people are fooled by this strategy, so beware!
- Expect some similarities between all religions
- especially if they are related, like many Eastern Religions
- and monotheistic faiths
- this doesn’t mean they are all the same
- Expect to find some things that you don’t understand in every religion or philosophy
- being complicated doesn’t mean it is true
- don’t get confused and give up
- for example by trying to understand all the levels of Buddhist and Daoist realms, or interpretations of Biblical future prophecies
- Focus on major beliefs and the evidence for them
- Don’t get sidetracked by something that:
- you like (for example Eastern Meditation)
- you don’t like (having only one wife in Christianity, or the way some people of a faith dress)
- a minor belief, possibly an interpretation
- as Dr. C likes to quote, “The Main thing is to keep the Main thing the Main thing!”
- Don’t get sidetracked by something that:
MAJOR WORLD RELIGIONS
Our lessons primarily address Christianity and Islam; but since Muslims are turning to Eastern Religions, let’s look at some of the major ones.
Most of our lessons are directed to people who are Muslim, or are familiar with Islam. So we won’t teach it here. We do list some of its major doctrines in the comparison chart below.
(Note: If you are unfamiliar with Islam, we highly recommend that you view our video and/or study guide “Lesson on Introduction to Islam for Christians.”)
Why Eastern Religions?
Eastern Religions, those from the Far East like India and China, are now being strongly considered as alternatives for people from both Muslim and Western backgrounds. Why is that?
Their Good News is Up Front
Modern life is hectic. Every day we hear of tragic violence. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism emphasize meditative practices which can lead to a feeling of peace. The peaceful concepts of Buddhism and Hinduism have a widespread appeal. They are promoted as a retreat from conflict and busyness.
Doesn’t it sound good, as Eastern Religions teach, to:
- think of the interconnectedness of all living things?
- believe that all is well, and detach from your problems?
- connect to the body’s God-given ability to relax by emptying the mind of stressful thoughts?
- simplify your life?
- follow mindfulness – meaning being fully present in the moment, not worried about what comes next, or what else you need to do?
Another appeal of Eastern Religions is their reluctance to specify sin. That means people can feel peaceful from meditation, and self-righteousness from performing ceremonies, without needing to clean up their lives from things that the Bible clearly states are wrong.
But their Bad News is Big
While presenting the positive aspects of Eastern Religions, the negative reality of these faiths is not advertised up front. They include the burdensome rituals, lack of practical hope, and the impact on societies that believe in things like fate and the caste system.
Once one sincerely practices these faiths, their burdensome nature is revealed. For example, a dear Buddhist friend who has been called a bodhisattva (demigod), said about samsara, the futile cycle of reincarnation,
“I hate the samsara. I wish it wasn’t true.”
She wishes that reincarnation would not have to continue until every creature had passed through thousands of lives. It doesn’t. But sadly, she does not yet see that.
Another negative aspect of Eastern Religions is Maya, the idea that reality is illusion, unreal.
Can you say that the pain of a mother who has lost her child is not real? Do you believe that cancer pain is unreal? Are mutilation and child molestation illusion?
Denying the reality of pain is not easy when you are suffering it yourself. That is going too far for most Westerners, and for those who have left Eastern faiths. Notable examples are Rachel Brown in All the Fishes Come Home to Rest, and Rabi Maharaj in Death of a Guru.
Science. Monotheism’s very belief in the physical nature of the universe and its laws, is what allowed them to originate science. Although using science now, the East’s pantheism has a less linear or predictable view of the universe, which prevented the logic needed to develop The Scientific Method.
In contrast, Christianity puts its negative up front. It openly admits that people are sinners and need saving. So it is seen by the world as a negative, exclusive religion. But people are not all good. This accounts for crimes and violence. Deep down most people recognize this, at least to some degree.
Once we move beyond the obvious fact that no one is perfect, Christianity has the good news:
- Peace – with God, ourselves, and others
- salvation and Eternal Life after only one earthly life!
The Main Eastern Religions
Those of Eastern Religions will usually agree that Christians are on the right path to God, but resist and be offended if we say Jesus is the only path to God.
This, the traditional religion of India, has up to 300 million gods. Some Hindu priests claim there is only one god (the Brahma or highest god). What they mean is since all things are unified, all the gods are part of one god. In this pantheistic view, god is part of the universe, not personal.
Karma is a system of merit. Hinduism believes in reincarnation, not just through animals, but through multiple levels of human beings, depending on how much karma they have merited from their past lives. The process of reincarnation is called the samsara.
The cycle of the samsara is the basis of the caste system, which places every person at a different level depending on their birth family, sex, and wealth. Each caste must stay within its level, or earn negative merit for the next life.
Important to Hinduism are a variety of ritual practices, called dharma. These must be performed reverently and in a specific way for them to have effect. If done right, the ceremonies are thought to win favor with the gods, for both answers to prayers, and merit towards a higher level of incarnation.
There are differences between village “folk” Hinduism, which tends to emphasize revering local gods, for example snakes, and the Hinduism practiced by the high castes and elite, which tend to emphasize a more monotheistic view of God.
The ultimate goal is to progress, through innumerable incarnations, to a plane in which we slip into nothingness and merge with the eternal emptiness – nirvana. Nirvana is not heaven, but non-existence.
Hindus may readily agree that Jesus is “the son of god” – but seeing him as “the only Son of God” is a challenge for them.
Buddhism originated in India, but is more popular in lands farther East, like China, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan.
Since Buddhism is a religion which grew out of Hinduism, the two religions have much in common. It does believe in reincarnation, but with less emphasis on castes. Buddhism attempts to provide way of escaping the samsara to nirvana faster.
Buddha lived around 400 B.C. Through various experiences, he developed a philosophy called the Four Noble Truths. These explain that suffering is a result of desire and attachment. The Eightfold Path are practices to help a follower withdraw from what causes us suffering in this life, and earn merit towards a higher level of incarnation in the next.
One thing that may surprise you is that in Buddhism, you can be either atheist or believe in God, which is an impersonal power. The goal is to have an enlightenment experience, like Buddha did. This means to be able to see numbutsu, that everything is the same: the crooked tree is straight.
(Note: There is a wonderful testimony of a man who almost became a Buddhist priest, but actually became a Christian while meditating in a Buddhist compound. He could not see the peaceful face of Buddha and the agony of Jesus on the cross as being numbutsu – the same thing. His “enlightenment” showed him that Jesus actually was the savior! Purple Pomegranate Press)
The current trend presents Buddhism in science-like terms which make it believable to many people. Its leaders emphasize there is no absolute evil or good; just actions that bring about results. Cause and effect rule everything, they say, because of power and balance in the universe.
Using science concepts like quantum mechanics, which few people grasp, this approach sounds real. Seekers can find it hard to resist. And even those who aren’t seekers meet this philosophy almost daily in movies and other media. But as we discussed above, this is an example of taking truth from science and philosophy and adding something untrue.
Buddhism has many sects. One of them, the “Pure Land” sect, is quite popular for offering a heaven-like final state. Zen Buddhism is quite popular in the West. Zen offers a very fast track to enlightenment and nirvana.
Simply being good is not enough to guarantee that you move up through reincarnations to nirvana. For example, the Buddhist friend mentioned above that had known Dr. C for decades. After studying with the Dalai Lama, she made a special trip from her home in East Asia to America, to share an important message with Dr. C. They spent long days and nights reviewing Buddhist and Christian doctrines. After days of this, the friend warned Dr. C,
“You have good karma from your past life because you became a doctor and are doing well. And because you are a doctor in this life, you have good karma for your next life. But that is not enough for you to reincarnate at a higher level. Unless you start practicing Buddhist dharma you will not get any higher. You will not get out of the samsara. You might even go down.”
Dr. C loves and respects this friend, but for many reasons, she is glad that her religion is not true.
So, while denying human pride and lust, Buddhism appeals to both of them:
- You are good, because you have reincarnated to your current high level
- You are smart, because you are following the way of the universe
- You are not a sinner, although your choices have consequences
- You can have peace with the power of the universe through meditation and other Buddhist dharma
Although not as well-known as Hinduism and Buddhism, Sikhism is the fifth most popular religion in the world. Founded by Guru Nanak only 500 years ago, it is also the newest.
The Sikh religion arose in the Punjab of India, a region of conflict between Islam and Hinduism, and is a mixture of those beliefs. Its holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, contains passages from the Qur’an and Hindu books. In practice, it feels closer to Hinduism. Its participants frequently follow traditions of both. For example, the Diwali (or Deepavali), the Hindu Festival of Lights, and the Nagar Kirtan, annual parade of the Sikh holy book.
Sikhs believe in one supreme God who resembles, but is less personal than the Christian God. They do not claim to be the only way to God, and consider many religions as valid paths.
They do believe in reincarnation, but have the modification that all humans are on the same level – so in theory there is no high or low caste, and women are equal to men. Christians would consider this an improvement over Hinduism. Because of this equality, communal meals are an important component of worship – something unheard of in Hinduism, where castes must eat separately. Free meals are always available at their meeting places, which are called gurdwaras.
The most devout are “baptized” or Khalsa Sikhs, who must wear five symbolic items, including a turban. Sikhs are taught to defend themselves and the weak, with violence if necessary. Khalsas must pledge this. But unlike Islam, Sikhism does not have a manifesto of violent conquest of the world.
Like Christians, Sikhs face persecution from Muslims and militant Hindus. Sadly, being mistaken as Muslims because of their turbans, Sikhs have even been attacked in the West (attacking Muslims is not acceptable either). Fortunately, most Sikhs understand this is not true Christianity and have not retaliated. For example, Dr. C was asked to represent Christians at a Sikh-sponsored community memorial for those killed in a terrorist attack on Sikhs in Wisconsin.
Although less popular than the top five religions, Zoroastrianism is important because of its attraction to people from the former Persian Empire, mainly Iran. Having suffered under Islam, a faith they consider imposed on them by Arabs, many Iranians look to Zoroastrianism as their natural, pre-Islamic faith.
This faith is characterized by its reverence towards fire, and ceremonies which honor it. Traditionally, fire itself would be worshipped. However, modern, educated Zoroastrians say fire is only symbolic of God and Truth. If you meet an Iranian who wears a golden-winged creature, they are likely more interested in Zoroastrianism, than in Islam.
This religion also originated in Persia, in 1863. It is unitarian in that it openly accepts all faiths as valid expressions of God. However, they believe its originator, Baha’u’llah was an incarnation of god. His teachings should be followed.
They affirm family as the pillar of society, marriage between a man and woman, and value human unity. Importantly, they look forward to and encourage a New World Order.
This category of religion incudes most of the polytheistic religions. Daoism is a polytheist religion that arose in China. As with other “pagan” religions, it honors spirits in the natural world, such as water, rocks, and trees. This it shares with Wicca, Druid, Native American, Shaman, voodoo, and Shinto religions. Daoism and spirit worship may be mixed with Buddhism in Asia, for example Taiwan and Japan.
Pagan worship practices look like idolatry, superstition and demonism to Christians and Muslims.
Although frowned upon by pure Islam, some of the practices of folk Islam can resemble pagan, occultic ceremonies. Astrology is also popular in the Middle East.
(Note: for more, see the study guide and Lesson on Islam and the Occult.)
Is Detachment Good? with Luke Price
Detachment is an important part of most Eastern Religions. In the video, Price and Dr. C discuss the question, “Is detachment good?” and if so, to what extent?
Christianity and Eastern Religions both warn us of the dangers of attachment to worldly things. The Bible says,
“Do not love the world, or anything in the world.” I John 2:15
Eastern religions however, go farther than asking us not to be attached to things, or this world or life. They say that the higher path requires detachment from people – even their nearest and dearest. They say that the best peace arrives as a result of not caring about anything, except doing religious duties.
One of Dr. C’s friends, a celebrity former Muslim, was considering Buddhism. After examining its beliefs, and really liking the peaceful aspects, the decision was against it. Why? Detachment from people was unacceptable. This person has a big heart, and is very involved with family and the international community. The idea of not caring what happens to them, or those in the country that they left, makes no sense to them.
Christians agree. We are NOT to detach from people. In fact, we are told to,
“Love one another deeply, from the heart.” I Peter 1:22
Many ills in Eastern societies result from extreme detachment. Price shares his view that attachment to others shows our humanity and makes life richer.
A Look at LOGIC with Luke Price
Price helps us think logically. He provides guidelines for someone who is searching for the true religion. He tells us that there are classic laws of logic which can help us. The names of these two laws are long, but their meanings are easy.
#1 The Law of Non-Contradiction:
Two statements which contradict each other cannot both be true.
The name sounds complicated, but the rule makes sense, doesn’t it? At least it does to people raised in Western culture. For example, you wouldn’t say that a dog is white, and then turn around and say it’s black, would you? Not unless you had just painted him!
In the West it is becoming common to believe that all religions are true, despite the illogic of it. Have you heard any of these?
- Many paths lead to God.
- All religions worship God, just in different ways.
- All religions are the same. They basically tell us to be good.
- If you say that there is only one way to God, you are intolerant and wrong.
In New Age Religion, the Sikh Religion, and popular philosophy you will hear these. But you won’t hear them much in Islamic countries, because they teach otherwise from childhood.
Another logic law Price shares with us is called,
#2 The Law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals:
If two things are different, they are not identical.
Things are not the same if they are different. In the West, we would say that is logical.
Examples: things that are not the same. The video gives two examples,
- Two people. Price and Dr. C use themselves – a man and woman sitting in different chairs are not the same thing.
- A crooked tree is straight. Dr. C gives us an example from a Buddhist book. It says that to be enlightened, you must be able to look at a crooked tree and see it as being straight. It is very difficult for educated people from the West to enter into this way of thinking.
From our discussion, this law has two applications:
- To Numbutsu, the idea that everything is the same: this law shows the illogic of saying that the crooked tree is straight.
Even for people who have not been trained in logic, seeing a crooked tree as straight is not easy. It requires a great deal of training in the Eastern way of thinking to convince yourself that it is true.
- To World Religions: if we can tell them apart, they are not the same.
Perhaps it is easier to believe all religions are the same than finding out specifically what each religion teaches. That would mean needing to sort through them, or admit that some view might be “wrong.” People often prefer to be like ostriches – hide their head in the sand.
Important CONTRADICTIONS between Major faiths
There is a great difference between religions in answers to big questions like:
- LIFE: Is it real, or illusion?
- REINCARNATION: Do we keep coming back to earth after we die, or not?
- GOD: How many gods are there? What is God like?
- FEELING: If I feel good, does that mean I am going to heaven?
- DEEDS: How can I please God?
- JUDGMENT: Will I be judged or not?
- HEAVEN: Is heaven, or non-existence (nirvana) better?
- SALVATION/Moksa: How can I get to heaven?
World religions answer each of these questions differently. How can all religions can be true when they teach different things?
APPLYING the Law of NON-CONTRADICTION
Price and Dr. Cynthia discuss contradictory claims of several of the world’s most common religions.
|universe began||universe began||universe eternal||universe eternal|
|one life||one life||reincarnation||reincarnation|
|sin||sin||no right/wrong||no right/wrong|
|personal God||distant God||many gods||many gods|
|life real||life real||life illusion||life illusion|
|saved by faith||by works||by works||by works|
This chart powerfully illustrates that religions teach very different things. According to the Law of Non-contradiction they cannot all be true. Buddhism and Hinduism come the closest to agreeing on major doctrines, because of their relationship. Note that in nearly every essential doctrine, Christianity differs from the other religions, including Islam.
Confronting contradictions is hard for the West
If you are from a Muslim country, you have probably been told many times that other faiths are wrong. And most Muslims are taught to confront other beliefs. So hearing that something is wrong might seem natural to you. You might not understand why people in West have a dread of telling anyone they are wrong.
People in America and Europe are much more reluctant to confront someone about unrealistic beliefs. We are programmed to accept that everyone has rights not only have their own views, but to express them. It is not nice to tell someone they are wrong. And so, Westerners often think it better to say that everything is right.
But different religions have very contradictory claims. When we apply the Law of Non-contradiction, they fail. The popular idea that all religions are true is not logical.
Three Keys to the Truth with Georges Houssney
Many Muslims are disenchanted. The religion they grew up with seems to connected to practices they dislike: terrorism, Muslim on Muslim violence, and the mistreatment of women and minorities. Many want to find the truth.
Georges Houssney, renown teacher and evangelist from the Middle East, gives us these Three keys for finding the truth:
- Be Sincere
- Compare Teachings and Leaders
Be Sincere. Do we truly want to find the truth? It takes courage to openly examine what we have been taught or grew up believing. But if we are sincerely seeking truth, we put ourselves in the position to find it.
Pray. This can be difficult if you do not believe in God. Many agnostics however have prayed, “If there is a God, reveal yourself to me.” And it has happened! If you do believe in God, pray that he shows you which holy book and teachings reveal him and his way. If you don’t believe, why not ask God if he is real anyway?
Compare the teachings and leaders of the major religions. You will see that although most have similarities, they vary in significant ways. They can’t all be true. When you compare the leaders of world religions, you will clearly see that there is no one who compares to the Lord Jesus Christ. Even Muslims often recognize this, as we have been told by Muslims from Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Kuwait even before they converted to Christianity.
The REALITY TEST for World Religions
This was not discussed in the video lesson, but is very important. As time goes on, we recognize that Reality is one of the strongest defenses of the Bible. It is also an evangelistic tool with secular unbelievers, because it touches the discomfort they might already sense from their view of reality.
Jesus teaches us in John 4 that God wants to be worshipped in both Spirit and Truth. True religion must do both: meet spiritual hunger and provide practical truth.
Of all world religions, the Bible, fit the best with reality.
- PHYSICAL: The Bible starts out with the creation of the physical, material universe by immaterial God. Eastern religions deny the reality of the material, physical world. Everything physical, they say, is illusion.
- SPIRITUAL: The Bible recognizes spiritual reality. Scientific materialism recognizes only the physical. It denies a spiritual world. There are no souls or spirits, they say, including ours.
- EVIL and SUFFERING: The Bible admits the existence of evil and pain. It explains how it arises, how to deal with it, and what will happen to it. Many other religions and philosophies either deny evil and pain, calling them imaginary, or only a result of neutral causes.
- GOODNESS: The Bible also tells us that good exists. Love and beauty are real, not figments of our imagination.
Almost everyone feels that all four of these are real. They have a sense that the material world exists, that part of them is an immaterial soul or spirit, and that love and evil exist.
To believe a worldview besides the Bible’s (and Islam’s as it agrees with the Bible’s), you must deny one of the aspects of life which your senses tell you are real. Technically, this results in what is called cognitive dissonance – believing things which don’t fit comfortably within your experience.
Jesus or Mohammed? with Georges Houssney
Who is the true prophet, Jesus or Mohammed? This is a question anyone who compares Christianity and Islam must ask. Houssney gives guidance for how we can determine who has the true message from God.
Muslims claim that both Jesus and Mohammed are prophets, yet they make opposite claims of what is true, how we should live, and how we get to heaven. Houssney tells us to
look at what leaders claim about themselves
Mohammed claimed to be “only a warner” (Qur’an Surah 7:188 and 46:9). Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and Savior. Although some Eastern religious leaders have claimed to be one of the many incarnations of god, none were like Jesus: he claimed to be equal to the one Creator God, and then proved it by rising from the dead.
The difference between these messages is extreme and impacts our eternal destiny. A sincere seeker of truth must decide which is true, Jesus, Mohammed, or another religious leader?
SHARING the GOSPEL with People of Eastern Religions
Our lessons are mainly about Muslim evangelism and discipleship. But Christians working with Muslims will find some considering Eastern Religions, or already believing them. For that situation, here are ideas that might help you to build bridges for conversations, or to share the gospel with them.
Who is God? Saying “God loves you” has an entirely different meaning depending on who you think God is. Christians might take for granted that everyone has the same view of God. For example, that God is personal, not simply a detached power source, and that God is good. Eastern Religions see god as impersonal power of nature, possibly with some human incarnations, for example Krishna.
Bear this in mind when addressing the religions of East Asia. Although they differ on specifics, Christians and Muslims share the idea that God is outside as well as inside creation, and has personal aspects. So their concepts of God are closer to each other than the Far Eastern concept.
DISCUSSION TOPICS for Eastern Religions
In case you are talking to someone who is favoring an Eastern Religion, here are a few things you can discuss:
- Compare: Ask what they believe, listen well, and when it is your turn share how your faith is the same and different.
- Unique: All religions are NOT the same
- the main difference between Christianity and every other faith in the world, is that God loves and reaches down to save us (Romans 5:8)
- through faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
- by faith saved to do good works, not by good works (Ephesians 2:8-10)
- Use symbolism and parables. Like the people of Jesus’ day, those of Eastern Faiths like illustrations more than lists. Christians working with Eastern Religions have found it helpful to share concepts like: the Light, the Way, the Living Water, the Name, the Good Shepherd, the Truth
- Religious practices – discussing theirs and ours
- Christian meditation also brings us peace; but not salvation points
- For those attracted to Eastern Religions for the peace of meditation, let them know that Christian meditation, although somewhat different, produces the same “relaxation response” (Isaiah 26:3 & Psalm 131:2)
- (Note: Christian meditation is focusing on a peaceful truth or verse in a relaxed state. Eastern meditation is mind-emptying, to “merge with the void.”)
- Christian practices, like communion, fasting, worshipping, fellowshipping, and serving bring spiritual encouragement, not salvation points (Ephesians 2:8-10)
- Christian meditation also brings us peace; but not salvation points
- Peace. Reincarnation and has been described as spending your whole life pushing a large rock up the hill. Then it rolls down for you to push back up in the next life. Jesus promises us peace in this life and the next. (Matthew 11:28-30 & John 16:33)
- Security. In Eastern Religions there is no assurance what will happen to them when they die. It is good for them to know that they can walk with God here, and go to heaven after this one life. (John 6:47)
- God’s character. (See above discussion) These verses show that God is INSIDE creation, which Eastern Religions believe, but also OUTSIDE of it:
- Colossians 1:17 – “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
- Romans 11:36 – “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”
- Ephesians 4:6,10 – “One God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all… He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.”
- Hebrews 2:10 – “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.
- Paul’s sermon in Athens is a good example of God’s character: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.‘ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring!’ Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (Acts 17:24-31; NIV)
Disillusion with Islam
In this video of “Dr. Cynthia’s Side,” she discusses how disillusion with Islam encourages Muslims to leave Islam and become Christians.
When Huda was a Muslim, she looked at the Muslim world, its trials and abuses, from the view that Islam was true.
“No country in the world practices true Islam,” she would say. The closest to true Islam, she felt was Iran under the Shah before the revolution, because of its more open attitude at that time.
However, BE, an Arab evangelist working with us challenged Huda that Islam actually teaches the abuses in the Muslim world that she hates. Then Huda looked into facts for herself. As she watched debates, testimonies, and commentaries in Arabic and English, Huda’s disillusion with Islam grew. She saw that principles of Islam underlay its practices.
Through travel, Huda had visited churches and already grown to love Jesus. She found him beautiful compared to what she had learned of Mohammed or seen in Islam. But, she told Dr. C a few weeks before her conversion, she was afraid to leave Islam. It could mean her death. Yet her discovery that the Principles of Islam teach the Practices of Islam, added to her love of Jesus, gave her the courage to leave Islam. Spirit and Truth had come together for her.
There is an urban legend that argument or debate does not bring anyone to faith in Jesus Christ. This is not true. It does not work fast, but it can work. It worked to open the eyes of Nabeel Qureshi when David Wood exposed the truth to him. Huda’s example is another. These and other examples confirm the teaching of BE that,
It is so difficult for Muslims to leave Islam, that they must first know that it is wrong.
This is why we teach that Muslim evangelism should:
Build Bridges, Share Truth, and Expose Falsehood, preferably in that order.
Scripture References for this Lesson:
- The Bible
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Luke 12:48
- Matthew 25:14-30 & 16:15,16 & 26:63,63 & 27:42 & 3:16 & 11:28-30
- John 14:6 & 11:25,26 & 6:51-53 & 16:33 & 6:47
- Romans 5:8
- Isaiah 26:3
- Psalm 131:2
- Ephesians 2:8-10 & 4:6-10
- Colossians 2:3 & 1:17
- I John 2:15
- I Peter 1:22
- Romans 11:36
- Ephesians 4:6, 10
- Hebrews 2:10
- Acts 17:24-30
- Mohammed claiming to be “only a warner”- Surah 7:188 and 46:9
- Regarding Christians sharing with Muslims – Surah al Baqarah 2:111,170
- Regarding the reality video segment:
- Why do you think Huda says she would like to see all the mosques in America torn down?
- Do you think she really means this?
- What frustration with her past does Huda reveal?
- What does “Dr. Cynthia’s side” at the end of the lesson say about mosques?
- Luke Price discusses logic concepts which go back to thousands of years to ancient Greece. The names are long, but their meaning makes sense.
- What does the “Law of Non-Contradiction” refer to? Could you state it in an easier way?
- What does the “Indiscernibility of Identicals” refer to? Could you state it in an easier way?
- Do you think all religions can be true if they contradict each other?
- Price and Dr. C discuss some ways in which common world religions disagree.
- Can you remember any?
- What contradictions in world religions have you come across in your spiritual journey? (Consider: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Bahai, New Age, etc.)
- We presents some important expectations you might face when comparing religions.
- Have you previously had the opportunity to compare world religions?
- Have you found any of these expectations to be true in your search?
- Is comparing religions a topic that you have any interest in?
- Regarding truth in religions?
- How much truth does a religion need to be the Truth?
- How much falsehood would you allow for it to be True?
- Can you see a difference between the clear teachings of a religion and different interpretations of its holy book or practices?
- What in other religions might be attractive to you?
- Does Christianity include something like that?
- Is it essential for a religion you believe to have that?
- Reality is an important thing to consider when looking at religions. By this we mean that it fits with what we know or believe to be real. Looking at what religion fits best with what we know to be real is an important consideration.
- Do you believe that humans are both physical and spiritual?
- Which religions/philosophies believe the world is only physical?
- Which religions/philosophies believe that the world is only spiritual/unseen?
- Rev. Georges Houssney gives us three important keys for finding the truth.
- Can you recall what they are?
- How important do you think sincerity is?
- Do you think we can deceive ourselves that we are sincere when we aren’t?
- Houssney says we should look at Jesus in comparison to the founders/leaders of other religions. Can you think of similarities and differences between Jesus and:
- Hindu and Sikh Gurus?
- Joseph Smith?
- After taking this lesson, and thinking about it:
- Do you think all religions are the same?
- Did you learn anything about comparing religions?
- What religion do you think is true?
- Give your reasons why?
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2020. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Looking for Truth in World Religions
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Jesus’ Parables
Summary and Notes
Quick Summary: Today we examine the colorful word pictures and stories that Jesus used to illustrate his teachings. We highlight popular ones, and mention which stories especially appeal to Muslim and Middle Eastern thinking.
Dr. C and Huda discuss several of the parables. Rev. Bob Siegel discusses his favorite parable – The Prodigal Son. We also show reality segments to illustrate parables in modern settings, and how to use real life situations to share parables with your contacts.
This is a companion lesson to the Study Guide and video Lesson on Jesus’ Style of Teaching and Living. It is best if these are viewed as a set, with this as the second.
Lessons from Picking Pomegranates
It is early autumn in Northern California in this reality segment, and Dr. C and Huda are picking pomegranates. Expected and unexpected things happen during their small harvest. Huda has always loved pomegranates, and gets special pleasure from harvesting them every year. She says her father grew up on a farm, so the desire is probably in her blood.
The way Dr. C and Huda find lessons from the activities and nature around them, reminds us of how Jesus gave object lessons from everyday life, and told stories called parables. For example:
- Their seeking pomegranates reminds us of how Jesus came to “seek and save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)
- We also discover how pomegranates need light to ripen. This reminds us of how the light of Jesus and God’s Word enables us to mature as Christians. (John 8:12)
Why did Jesus Teach in Parables?
In the Lesson on Jesus’ Teaching Style we mentioned that parables are one of several styles of teaching that Jesus used. Why? Parables are illustrative stories. Undoubtedly Jesus knew what studies in psychology have shown us: word pictures and stories help us remember, especially if they touch our emotions.
In ancient times, as in some regions of the world today, reading and writing have been limited to only a small percentage of the population. In these cultures, verbal forms of communication predominate, like memorization of traditional poems and genealogies in what is called the “oral tradition.” Storytelling also ranks high with them as a means of communication, sometimes accompanied by dances or actors. Rather than dancers, Jesus’ stories painted pictures on our imaginations.
Imagine caravans or Bedouins gathered around the campfire after a long day, telling stories. Muslim cultures today remain closer to that storytelling heritage than the West. So it was in Jesus’ day. Stories grabbed people’s attention and also entertained them. If people were wise, they would think about the meaning. Possibly they would discuss them afterward with each other, as did Jesus disciples.
Agatha Christie, the third best-selling author of all time, after the Bible and Shakespeare, made an interesting observation. While working with her archaeologist husband on an archaeological dig in Syria she noticed,
“The New Testament comes very near when I ask Max to repeat the gist of long conversations that he has had with the Sheikh, for their exchanges consist almost entirely of parables- to illustrate your wishes or your demands, you tell a story with a point to it, the other counters with another story which turns the tables, and so on. Nothing is ever couched in direct language.”
Although this describes communication from the 1930s, Dr. Cynthia has found that even today, a great way to engage the attention of many Muslims is with a story parable. Although we tend to overlook it, stories often work with Westerners too, as shown by the popularity of novels and movies.
Jesus’ Teaching: Similes and Metaphors
While sitting in a gazebo surrounded by a beautiful lake, Dr. C explains to Huda that a common way Jesus taught was with metaphors. He also used similes.
- A metaphor is saying that something is something else – something that it is not, but has qualities in common with.
- A simile is stating that something is like, or similar to something else.
- Parables often start with a simile, saying for example that, “The Kingdom of God is like…”
Example of Metaphors – SALT and LIGHT
Jesus said that:
- We are the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13) Why is that important? Think:
- Salt brings flavor to bland food – and we should bring good flavor to the world!
- Salt preserves meat from rotting – so Christians preserve society from rotting.
- Salt was, and at times still is, used for healing – so Christians should be healing in what we say and do!
- He is the light of the world. Why is that important? Think: (John 8:12)
- Without light we stumble in darkness.
- Light brings warmth in a cold world.
- Seen shining in sunlight, the world is a beautiful place. This cheers us.
Reality – Visiting a Lighthouse: To demonstrate the importance of light as a guide, Dr. C visits a lighthouse on the Northern California coast. She points out as how the lighthouse saves lives by giving ships at sea knowledge of where the land is. So to us light is what directs us through the darkness and fogs of this world.
LIGHT is a common and powerful image used throughout the Bible to describe how God’s way keeps us out of darkness. We discuss this also in the lesson on Christmas, because that is when the true light came into the world. Since we think that Light is very meaningful, we would like to share a few more examples of Bible verses on “light.” You will notice that many are from John’s gospel or letters.
Light in the OLD TESTAMENT – God’s Word
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119: 105
The light of the righteous shines brightly, but the lamp of the wicked is snuffed out. Proverbs 13:9
Light in the NEW TESTAMENT – Jesus
And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. John 3:19 NLT
This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. I John 1:5-7
May we always walk in the light, with Jesus, our Savior.
Risks of Overinterpreting
Parables, Similes and Metaphors
Parables, metaphors and similes are analogies. This means they are something used to describe something else. Analogies have limitations. Good ones illustrate in a powerful and memorable way. But all analogies break down at some point.
- This means that not everything about them exactly mirrors what they illustrate.
- Some analogies fit better than others. The important thing is their strength in illustrating our point.
- “Leave a good thing alone” is a saying we have in English which means not to risk ruining something by overdoing it. That applies to analogies as well.
Example – Common analogies Christians use:
An egg, the Irish shamrock, and the phases of water are common illustrations of the Trinity – because they are three in one like God. But these analogies break down at some point, because obviously God is identical to none of them. For example, the egg has membranes dividing its parts, and a shell made of calcium, which God is not, and so on.
Example – Using the Empty Glass Analogy:
Muslims have difficulty understanding how God could be Jesus. Some obstacle keeps them from seeing that God can be inside Jesus and outside at the same time. They challenge us by asking,
“If God was in Jesus who was watching the world?”
Sometimes they ridicule us when saying this, as if they caught us being stupid in thinking that God could be limited to a body. Yet the question is almost humorous to longtime Christians, because we accept automatically that God is always everywhere because he is omnipresent. David tells us this in Psalm 139. (Note: It may surprise Christians that Muslims are not sure that Allah is everywhere at once.)
How do we answer? First we remind them that God was in the burning bush and outside it at the same time. The Qur’an says this as well as the Bible. Then we remind them that Jesus is “God in human flesh.”
Dr. C likes to point to an empty or partly filled glass as an illustration of the incarnation – God becoming man in Jesus Christ. Many times we are sitting with Muslims eating or drinking, as fits with their hospitable culture. So usually an empty glass of water, and a partly filled cup of tea or coffee are the table. We can use those for an easy illustration.
Just as air is both inside and outside the empty glass at the same time, so God was inside the human body of Jesus as well as everywhere else.
If we leave the analogy at that, it is powerful and gives them something to think about. The fact that they saw it on the table helps make it memorable. But we keep the illustration simply to the analogy of where the air is. We don’t overinterpret it by referring to what is in the cup, or say that the Holy Spirit is like the caffeine in coffee, or worry about other cups on the table. Short and sharp make it memorable. (Note: This is an example of using everyday things and situations that we encourage you to do in sharing God’s truth with Muslims and others. Keep your eyes open for other examples.)
Parables and Metaphors in the Gospels
The First Three Gospels
Have you noticed that the first three gospels in the New Testament are similar? That is because they used similar eyewitness testimonies to tell their stories of the life of Jesus (synoptic). Some people ask why there were three if they were so similar?
- Each gospel has a slightly different slant and length. This is because of the people groups that they were written for.
- The gospels were not all circulated in the same location, for example, Mark went to Alexandria, Egypt as a missionary, where his gospel was mainly used.
- Matthew is especially focused on fulfilled prophecies. It is felt that is because he wrote for the Jews. He included many of Jesus’ metaphors in the most complete Sermon on the Mount recorded.
- Luke is especially thorough on including parables.
- Mark, felt to be directed to the Romans, is shorter, action oriented, and includes the emotion accompanying the events.
The Gospel of John
QUESTION: The Gospel of John, comes after Matthew, Mark, and Luke in the New testament. Many people have noticed that it is very different than the first three and have wondered why?
ANSWER: The early church historian Eusebius explained it for us. Within a few decades after Jesus’ resurrection the first three gospels were written. They were good descriptions of what Jesus did and said. But Eusebius tells us that decades later, some believers approached Jesus’ disciple John. They knew he had a unique view, focused on love and other spiritual aspects of the Christian life, as we can see from the three letters he wrote in the New Testament. They asked John to write a “spiritual gospel.”
When we think of it that way, it makes sense why John’s approach is so different. He was not as concerned with as many of the different activities and miracles that Jesus did compared to the other three gospel writers. He was much more focused on the spiritual discussions that Jesus had, the symbolism and metaphors.
John’s gospel has some of the best metaphorical descriptions of Jesus. For example,
- the Word of God
- the light of the world
- the bread of life
- the source of living water
- the resurrection and the life
- the Good Shepherd
- the door
- the way
- the truth
- the life
When interpreting a parable – or anything Jesus taught – we should consider it in the context he was presenting the parable in. If we dig a little to uncover the setting Jesus was speaking in or about, Jesus’ teaching takes on more power.
Examples of Jesus’ Teaching in Context:
- Living Water.
- When he offered living water to a woman in Samaria, they were seated by a well, drawing water. (John 4)
- When Jesus invited the spiritually thirsty to come to him, he was in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles. Water was an important part of this festival.
- Jesus was likely standing near the water gate. The people would see the water flowing forth, so when he spoke about spiritual water, the impact would be unforgettable. (John 7:2,37,38)
- Light of the World. When Jesus said he was the Light of the World in John 8:12, he was likely near candlesticks in the temple during the Feast of Hanukkah, which was a festival of lights. These lights behind him would hold the people’s attention as he announced that he was the light. Then they must all have turned their eyes to him, amazed!
- Bread of Life. Jesus’ claim to be the Bread of Life came just after he fed bread to over 5,000 people in John 6.
- The Resurrection and the Life. Jesus arrived at the home of Mary and Martha to mourn with them after their brother Lazarus had died. They were severely disappointed by Jesus’ late arrival, for they had hoped Jesus would heal him.
- Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” John 11:25,26 NLT
- Jesus could have claimed any day to be the resurrection and the life. But…
- Imagine how you would feel if you had just lost a loved one. Hearing this message when the despair of death was upon them, made the promise of resurrection especially hopeful to Mary, Martha, and their gathered friends.
- After making this bold claim, Jesus actually raised Lazarus from the dead! What a way to prove his point!
Reality – Eating Bread: In this reality segment Huda and Dr. C share a lunch of tasty homemade soup and Middle Eastern bread. Bread has been called the staff of life, because of its great importance as a food in many cultures. Dr. C points to Bible verses written on her wall, which mention food. One is from Job.
The Prophet Job suffered very greatly in the Old Testament (and the Qur’an). In trying to prove his innocence to the friends who accused him of being punished for his evil, he used bread to express how important God’s words were to him. Job said,
“I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread.” Job 23:12
These words are even more significant when we consider that Job is possibly the oldest book in the Bible – written even before Moses recorded Genesis (Taqueen). Notice that even at that early time, believers had and cherished God’s words.
In the Qur’an, Job is called Ayub. This is why Dr. C calls him that as well as in English.. A few other Arabic social words are used in this segment, fitting with the reality of Huda tutoring Dr. C in Arabic; but they are obvious from the context, and repeated in English.
Parables Illustrating our Value to God
Jesus’ Parables of Jewelry
Some of the most effective parables in sharing God’s love with Muslims, in Dr. C’s opinion, are those of jewelry (Luke 15:4-32).
Women of Jesus day placed a high importance on their jewelry. It provided a degree of security and could serve as a form of dowry. The coin mentioned in the parable was possibly hanging on a chain, as we see in done in some cultures today. Jesus used the coins as a meaningful illustration of our importance to God. He told us that the way a woman searched her house for a lost coin that was is the way God values and seeks us.
Jewelry is still of great importance to Middle Eastern and Asian women. Even now they relate to the idea of losing something special to them.
Examples of searching for lost Jewelry:
- In the video, Huda tells us a very similar story. She lost a piece of valuable jewelry and diligently searched for it. When she found it, she was joyous, like the woman in the parable.
- Another of Dr. C’s Muslim friends lost a valuable piece of jewelry and looked all over her apartment for it. When she shared this distressing experience, Dr. C pointed to this parable of Jesus, illustrating how much God loved her. That helped make it real to this young woman. Eventually, after three years Bible study and discussions with Dr. C, she became a Christian.
Example of Jewelry’s value to a Muslim Woman:
Bejeweled yet Homeless. We know a divorced Middle Eastern woman who became homeless after moving to America. She was so low she had to live in a women’s shelter and suffered from bed bugs. Yet in her safe deposit box she had tens of thousands of dollars of gorgeous jewelry!
If you are Muslim or from the Middle East, this might not surprise you. But to Americans this is a paradox (meaning two opposite things which are both true). We would never imagine that a woman so poor would have such jewelry. But easily divorced and ousted in Islam with only their jewelry, jewelry can represent to them both a woman’s security and identity.
Most people have lost something of value to them. So, the parable of the lost coin/jewelry might hit closer to home than the parable of the lost sheep with adults in today’s culture.
Both parables can also be used with those of a variety of backgrounds to illustrate how God values and searches for us. There is no similar illustration of God’s persistent love in Islam.
Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Sheep
People who cannot relate to jewelry might be able to connect better with Jesus’ parable about a lost sheep. The shepherd left alone his 99 sheep to seek for the lost one. When it is found the shepherd says,
Rejoice with me I have found my lost sheep.
Then Jesus explains it,
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” Luke:15:4-7
Jesus’ Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
Here is another parable, not presented in the video, that Dr. C has found to be very effective in explaining God’s love to Muslim women. It tells of a valuable pearl.
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. Matthew 13:45, 46
Oysters from Kuwait and other countries on the Arabian/Persian Gulf have long been known as a source of pearls. So, pearls are typical gifts from this region. They present the perfect kind of bridge which leads into sharing Bible truth that we talk about in our Lesson Building Bridges with Muslims.
Examples of using the Pearl Parable:
- Once Dr. C took two Muslim students out to eat, young women from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait respectively. They had brought her gifts back from summer vacation returning home, including pearl jewelry. They had never heard how pearls form from a grain of sand in an oyster shell. Dr. C was delighted for the opportunity to share a pearl’s formation with them, plus Jesus’ parable of the pearl. How valuable they are to God! Both these women became Christians before returning to the Middle East permanently. They now face trials there and need your prayers.
- Another time, at a medical conference Dr. C met Nelly, a Muslim doctor serving in Qatar, which is also on the Arabian Gulf. The two got along well, giving Dr. C had the opportunity to share the Path of the Prophets and a few local souvenirs with her. Later that week, Nelly returned with a multi-strand pearl bracelet as an appreciation gift for Dr. C. What a surprise! But also, what an opportunity to share how much God loves her.
Reality – Seeking Coffee: This is a short modern parable which illustrates in a humorous way a kind of search. While on a driving trip, Dr. C and Huda need a break. They vigorously search for coffee, but have difficulty finding a place open where they are. This reminds them of Luke 19:10, where Jesus seeks and saves the lost.
Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son with Bob Siegel
One of Jesus’ most famous and powerful stories, parable of the Prodigal Son, is virtually unknown to Muslims. Jewish background believer Bob Siegel recounts the story for us. He includes background information from the Jewish culture he was raised in, and in which the story was set. This makes parable even more interesting and powerful.
In Luke 15:11-31 in the New Testament, Jesus tells us of a rebellious young man, a wasteful “prodigal,” who does not realize what is important until he hits rock bottom. He demands his share of the inheritance and runs off to a sinful place far away. When he has lost all of his money, is lonely and starving, then he remembers how good his father was. He decides to return and beg for mercy.
So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Luke 15:20
The foolish young man’s father is patient and loving. He faithfully awaits the son’s return, and willingly forgives him. The father is a picture of God as our Heavenly Father, full of hope, waiting for us to come to life’s most important realization: that following God’s way is the best. He loves us and wants us in his family! There is nothing like this in Islam.
GOD as FATHER: Most Muslims dislike hearing of God as a Father, feeling that it makes him less, one of several gods. In our experience however, some Muslims that at first found the idea of Father God offensive, over time came to find it comforting. It helped lead them to faith in Christ. (Note: We discuss more about the father in the parable with parenting, in the study guide and Lesson on Godly Relationships.)
Parables about Farming
The 4 Types of Soil
In Matthew 13:1-23, Jesus tells a story based on something people knew from every day life: seeds and types of soil. He told them that a farmer sowed seeds onto four types of soil, but only one type bore a good crop.
Here is what the parable means: God’s word is like seed.
- If we do not understand or accept it, it is as if it fell on the packed dirt of a path, and the birds snatched the seed away.
- Perhaps we accept God’s word with joy when we first hear it; but we fall away at the slightest difficulty. Then we are like the seed that fell on rocky soil, and could not get rooted.
- In the thorny soil, the weeds choke the seed, and keep out the light so that the sprout can’t grow. Probably most of us who claim to believe are like thorny soil. Life is hard. It is full of distractions. In most of us the seed does sprout; but we focus on the cares or pleasures of life rather than God’s word and kingdom. So we don’t bear fruit.
- The best soil is fertile, and receptive to the seed. In it the seed will grow, and it might produce up to even 100 times what was sown. This is the type of soil we want our hearts to be!
More Parables on Seeds and Soils
Mark 4 has four wonderful stories using seeds to help us understand spiritual truths. Besides repeating the one from Matthew 13 above, it includes two more:
One of Dr. Cynthia’s favorite parables is also in the way of using what Jesus’ audience knew about seeds and soils. As you have seen in other videos, she loves gardens. Many times she has planted seeds, eager for the day that their heads pop above the soil.
This parable tells us that after the farmer plants the seed,
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. Mark 4:26-29
This reminds us that God is the one who makes things grow, even the gospel seeds that we have planted. We are not the ones responsible for bringing fruit from the seed. That is the work of the Holy Spirit of God. What comfort! We simply do our part – sharing as he told us to – and he does the rest. As the Apostle Paul confirms,
It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. I Corinthians 3:7 NLT
This parable encourages Christians to keep sharing, and praying for fruit from gospel seeds we planted hours, years, even decades ago.
Seeds of Faith. The third story from Mark 4 is also of a seed. The seed is teeny; but when it is planted it becomes so big that even birds rest in its shade. So it is when we live and share God’s word in faith. A little can do a lot. But if we do nothing, how can we hope for results? (Mark 4:30-32)
Jesus’ Parable of the Weeds – Explaining Evil
Besides seeds and soil, Jesus spoke symbolically about weeds.
If you farm or have a garden, you are familiar with how annoying weeds are. They were a curse of the earth in Genesis 3. People have been looking for ways to get rid of them ever since.
Many times we wonder why God allows evil people and evil deeds to hurt us and contaminate our planet. Have you ever asked God why? What is he thinking letting people like Hitler and (name someone who hurt you or your people) to live and harm others? Well, Jesus explained it to his followers in this parable:
A man sowed good seed, but during the night an enemy came and sowed weeds into his field. When the wheat sprouted, the farm workers were distressed to find the crop polluted with weeds. They asked the owner if they should pull out the weeds,
“No,” he answered, “because when you are pulling up the weeds you may root up the wheat.”
The owner told them to wait until harvest, then the weeds would be destroyed. Since as usual, Jesus’ disciples were clueless to the meaning of the parable, he later explained it to them. The explanation concluded with,
“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43
Dr. C says that this parable encourages her when she is discouraged at the evil surrounding us. It helps her understand why God tolerates so much evil for so long. Maybe you too have been discouraged with the wrong that you have seen or suffered?
If so, isn’t the parable encouraging? Not mainly that evil people will be destroyed, but that someday all evil and the things that cause us to sin will be taken away. Jesus told his hearers that the righteous, those that believed in his message, would be in their Father’s kingdom. They will shine like the sun! Won’t that be nice? Believers will live somewhere perfect and we will be glorious. What encouragement!
A sense of waiting, of holding back judgment is seen in something that happened when Jesus and his disciples were passing through Samaria on their way to Jerusalem. In Luke 9:51-56 we learn that the Samarians would not receive them because they travelled to Jerusalem. They did not agree with worshipping in Jerusalem. James and John asked Jesus, should call down fire from heaven to destroy them?
No! Jesus rebuked them, and they went on to another city. Some ancient manuscripts tell us that Jesus reminded them that he came to save men, not to destroy them.
Regarding God’s delaying his return, the day when he will gather his own and destroy those who like weeds are of the devil, Peter tells us,
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
We are also encouraged to know that God loves everyone! He wants us all to repent. He does not want to destroy us, and so he is patient. He lets the weeds grow with the wheat. That means there still is hope for our friends and family, Muslims and atheists. May they all come to know our glorious heavenly Father, and shine with us in his kingdom!
Jesus’ Teaches about Neighbors with a Parable
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). He taught us how to treat our neighbors, and who our neighbors are.
Some of this teaching is in the laws of the Old Testament, but with his usual flair, Jesus affirms, expands, and breathes life into the old law. It is part of his teaching on how we should live for God’s kingdom here on earth.
These are some of Jesus’ teachings which contrast with Islam. They are refreshing and at times startling to people from Muslim background. As former Muslim Huda tells us in the video lesson, she loves these teachings of Jesus on neighbors and enemies.
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as ourselves, confirming what God instructed the Jews under Prophet Moses. When Jesus was challenged on who a neighbor was, he told the story of the Good Samaritan. (Matthew 22:39, Leviticus 19:18, Luke 10:25-37).
The story’s message is especially powerful if we remember that in the prior chapter, Luke 9, Jesus’ disciples were so angry at the Samaritans that they wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy them!
In the parable, a man is beaten by thieves and left for dead. Two Jewish holy men passed by, but could not be bothered to dirty themselves by helping him. Finally, a Samaritan passed by. He would be considered an enemy, yet he was the one who took pity on the injured man, treated him, and left him at an inn with funds to assist in his recovery.
Jesus teaching on neighbors illustrates that we must love whoever comes across our path, as ourselves, whether they are like us, or dramatically different, as was the Good Samaritan from the injured Jew he rescued.
Other religions have incorporated The Golden Rule into their teachings, without knowing that it was Jesus who taught it in Matthew 7:12,
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.
The Importance of Abiding and Being Prepared
Jesus’ Parables of The Vine and The Virgins
The Parable of the Vine and the Branches
Reality – Driving past vineyards: Huda and Dr. C pass by vines on a trip through California. Huda tells us that one of her favorite parables of Jesus is that of the vine and the branches. Actually, the story of the vine is also Dr. C’s favorite parable.
In John 15:1-8, Jesus uses the powerful parable of the vine and the branches to illustrate the importance of abiding in him like a branch of a vine. He spoke these words after his last supper with his disciples on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane, probably as they were walking through a vineyard. This is another example of where the context of a story helps strengthen its impact.
He takes the metaphors of himself as the vine and his followers as the branches, and expands it into a parable with the heavenly Father as the Gardener.
If we stay attached to Christ, and let his word live in us we will bear fruit. Simply trying to do it on our own, in our own way will accomplish nothing worthwhile for the eternal kingdom of God.
Barbie on the Parable of the Vine. We include an interview Barbie, Dr. C’s Bible teacher from long ago, explaining why the vine is also one of her favorite parables. She again reminds us that we musts remain in Jesus to bear fruit. (Note: For more on bearing fruit, see the study guide and Lesson on the Fruit of the Spirit.)
Example from Christian History – the Vine and Hudson Taylor:
This was not mentioned in the video lesson, but it illustrates the power of this parable. Hudson Taylor was a missionary to China, and the first Protestant to seriously push into the interior with the gospel. His ministry in China was during a very turbulent period of the 19th century. Many conflicts and battles occurred. Missionaries and other white people were often targeted and killed.
Taylor said that what helped him overcome fear of the many dangers was when it fully dawned on him what it meant that we were united to Christ, like the vine. If we are so attached to Jesus, then he will let nothing hurt us unless it is so important that he would allow it to hurt him too. So abiding in Christ not only lets his fruit come forth, but keeps us assured of his guidance and protection.
The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins
Reality – Being Unprepared: Have you ever felt unprepared? Probably most people have had nightmares about not being prepared for a big day or event: a test, wedding, going on stage, and so on.
In this video segment, we discover that Dr. C has forgotten to bring her sunglasses on a trip into the sunshine. Like Jesus taught her, Dr. C likes to use ordinary events to teach Huda truths from the Bible. So she tells us that being unprepared reminds her of a parable Jesus, the one about wise and foolish young women, or “virgins.”
That story reflects the culture of the time, when young women would wait for the bridegroom to come to take them to the wedding feast. In this parable five young women had oil for their lamps and five did not. By the time the foolish five returned with their oil, the party had started without them and they were excluded. (Matthew 25:1-13)
The meaning of the parable is that something important is coming our way, and we should be ready. We certainly want to be ready when the Lord returns for us, don’t we?
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
As we discuss in other lessons, Muslim cultures are considered to be “shame and honor” based. Much of cultural influences of the Middle East arise out of nomadic tribal traditions. Holding grudges against others, especially those of another tribe is not uncommon, and blood feuds (vendettas) can arise. It can be considered honorable not to forgive.
Example of non-forgiveness – Shiites and Sunni:
At the battle of Karbala Mohammed’s grandson Hussein was killed by the Sunni. During Ashura, the annual festival of remembrance of the battle, besides beating themselves the Shiites chant,
“We will never forget. We will never forgive.”
Since the Shiites will never forgive the Sunni for the battle, and the Sunni consider the Shiites idolaters for honoring Hussein and their other saints, you can understand why the two branches of Islam continually fight.
Examples of non-forgiveness – Middle Eastern Muslims:
Parenting skills are not well-taught in the Muslim world. They do not have the Holy Spirit to guide them. Women are married young and can feel competition with their children. They are inexperienced. Fathers may have several families and can be distant. This of course is not true of all families, but many children, especially girls, have been harshly treated.
A Muslim student said with passion and pride,
“I will never forgive my father for how he mistreated me!”
Years later, now as a new Christian the student said with the same passion, “I will never forgive X!” Even with discipleship, and having been after Jesus’ teaching on the topic, the student has not forgiven.
Another former Muslim said the same thing to Dr. C about both her parents. She had been severely beaten and locked up and drugged many times. As a result, she carried physical, emotional, and mental scars.
Decades later, the mother, formerly Muslim became a Christian and deeply apologized. Part of the daughter’s discipleship has been trying to address her understandable deep-seated resentment and helping her move toward forgiveness.
Jesus on Forgiveness Jesus taught to love our enemies and forgive those who have offended or mistreated us. Responding to this, Matthew 18:21-35 records that Jesus’ disciple Peter asked Jesus how many times he needed to forgive someone. A natural question, correct?
Jesus’ Forgiveness Story – The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
In Jesus’ usual style he illustrated his answer to Peter with a story. He told of a man who begged for forgiveness by his master for the loan of a tremendous sum. In mercy the master forgave him.
However, the forgiven man immediately grabbed another worker and threatened him over a small unrepaid loan. When the boss heard of this, he severely punished the unmerciful servant, saying,
Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had on you?
Jesus then commented to his disciples,
This is how my father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.
Wow! How powerful.
The Parables of the Rich
Another category of story that Jesus told was about rich people. In those days, as often in ours, wealth was seen as a blessing from God. Sometimes it can be. Jesus does not tell us that money and all rich people are evil; but he does make it clear that a greedy heart is. We must love and serve God first!
Rich and Foolish Jesus told a story of a man who had had luck with farming. He was making his plans to get richer and have a good life. But abruptly, the man’s life ended. All his work was for nothing. Jesus summarized the meaning,
This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. Luke 12:13-21
The Rich Man and the Beggar is a popular story Jesus told of a rich man and a sick man who begged at his gate. In the afterlife the roles were reversed – the beggar was in paradise, but the rich man was suffering in hell.
Then just when we are thinking that the message is not to be inconsiderate of the poor, the story takes a twist. Another message is coming:
Jesus tells us that the rich man was begging, not only from relief of his fiery pain in hell, but for his family. He begs that someone be sent back to warn his five brothers so they would not follow him to hell. The answer is,
If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead. Luke 16:19-31
And so, Jesus explained in advance that people with hard hearts would not be convinced to follow God either from the writings of the Scripture, or from the testimony of Jesus’ resurrection. Let us not be like one of those!
(Note: It is important to remember that this is a story, not a theological explanation. We should not base our understanding of heaven and hell upon this story. It might reflect the way things are, at least in some ways; but Jesus did not say that. That was not the point of the story. For a more accurate picture, it better to look at other passages that clearly describe heaven and hell.)
The Power of Parables
As we mentioned earlier, modern psychology has discovered that if we can use a fitting word picture to illustrate a point that touches emotions, it gives the story more impact.
Huda confirms this by telling us that she loves Jesus’ stories, and that the power of Jesus’ parables is such that she will never forget them. That is so encouraging to hear from a former Muslims. May Jesus’ words continue always to live in her heart.
Problems with Parables… and Answers
The Kingdom. Sometimes readers get confused with the different ways that Jesus referred to “the kingdom.”
QUESTION: Luke and Mark refer to the Kingdom of God, why does Matthew call it the Kingdom of Heaven?
ANSWER: Remember we mentioned that Matthew was written for the Jews? Well, the Jews were so protective of the name of God, so anxious not to dishonor it or blaspheme that they were reluctant to write any form of it. And so, sometimes they would even use the word “heaven” instead of “God.” It was sort of a code. Other Jews would automatically understand that they meant “God.”
This is why in understanding the Bible it is important to know the context. For example, who Jesus is speaking to, and to whom is a portion of the Bible is written? Asking these questions can keep us from mistakes in interpretations.
(Note: we speak more about interpreting the Bible in the study guides and Lessons on How to Study the Bible and others.)
A Difficult Parable: The Shrewd Manager
One of our volunteers likes what is considered a problem parable. Yet it is only a problem if we mistake the message.
In Luke 16:1-13, Jesus tells a story, about a man who knows he is going to lose his position. He gets an idea about how to gain favor with some people who might be able to help him when he is unemployed. Just before he loses his job he goes through the account books and reduces the amount that clients owe to his boss. This effectively gains him friends. In a surprise twist, when the owner finds out he actually compliments this dishonest action!
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. v. 8
QUESTION: Does this mean that Jesus approves of dishonesty?
ANSWER: No! In the next sentence Jesus explains that the manager is a man of this world. He is not a believer or good man. In fact, he is called dishonest. The aspect of the manager that we are called upon to admire is that he was wise in providing for his future.
For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Luke 16:8,9
So then, the message of the parable is that we should treat people on earth in a way that they will be glad to see us in heaven.
Misuse of Parables. Beware of the misuse of parables, especially by enemies of the cross.
Jesus’ parables were used to illustrate a point that he was trying to make, not as a basis for theology. Dr. C has seen parables not only used out of context, but deliberately twisted to make a point by enemies of the cross.
Now there are many opportunities for Christians and Muslims to interact online without ever meeting each other, for example on YouTube or Facebook. Dr. C and her associates are dismayed at how often they see Muslims quoting things taken out of context of the passage, or overlooking what the rest of the Bible says on the issue. Then they say that Christians are wrong or stupid!
Example of misusing a parable: Dr. C cites the parable of the talents in Luke 19:11-27, and the misuse of this parable by an imam she heard lecturing at a large event. The story is about a man who is going away to be crowned king, but has enemies. At the end of the parable the king says,
“Those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.”
Wow! Strong words! But they are part of a story, not a command.
Dr. C heard this Islamic teacher publicly misattributed this quote to Jesus himself, saying that Jesus told his followers to kill their enemies! He used this to justify violence in Islam, a completely wrong application. Perhaps he purposely overlooked that it was said by a character in a story Jesus told. Perhaps he was sincere but wrong. Sadly, the audience was unfamiliar with the Bible and likely believed him.
Jesus never told his followers to kill his enemies, nor did he teach the promotion of faith by force, rather the opposite (Matthew 13:24-30). Moses did not teach promoting the faith by violence. Mohammed however had his enemies killed in front of him and taught promoting his faith by force.
(Note: for more about Mohammed’s violence see the study guide and Lesson on Islam and Violence.)
There are More Parables …
The parables that we discussed in the video and study guide are not all of the parables that Jesus told. When you read the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, you will find others – perhaps even one that you like better. But we hope that these we have discussed will help you understand more about Jesus, his style, and his teachings. If you meditate on, or think about, these parables over the next few days, we are certain that you will find deeper meaning and blessings in them.
With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything. Mark 4:33,34
Peace and Purpose in the Garden
We close with another word picture in a modern setting. In several lessons and study guides we propose that Peace and Purpose is a good way to look at the Christian Life. In review:
The 3 kinds of Peace are:
- with God
- and other people
Our goal as believers is to balance that peace with fulfilling God’s purpose for our individual lives. Each of us was created for a reason, and are given special things that only we can do.
Some places and situations make it easier for us to sense God’s peace than others. In the peaceful garden we visit in this video, the way the pond reflects the trees is like the way we should reflect the image of Jesus in our lives. The trees are beautiful. The colors are strong. The reflection in the water comes close to capturing the beauty of the original. This is a word picture of how Christians should live. (II Corinthians 3:18)
Every region and culture has some way that it demonstrates the image of God in its beauty and creativity. Japanese gardens, even if at times designed around Buddhist principles, nevertheless demonstrate God’s glory, because,
Every good and perfect gift is from above. James 1:17
The pleasing Japanese design of the garden that we visit in this video illustrates how we should reflect Christ in our lives. Such reflection of Christ brings together both peace and purpose.
Likewise, the sun shines to light the day, and the moon reflects it to light the night. We could also say that Christians should reflect Jesus’ light, like the moon does the light of the sun. Then we too can overcome the darkness. We can be like little moons. What a simile! Let’s try to remember that when we see the moon, or beautiful nature reflected in water.
(Note: In in the study guide and video Lesson on the Fruit of the Spirit, we talk more about, and give the Bible references for Peace and Purpose. Its segment on Peace and Purpose in the City, discusses how the idea applies to life in New York City.)
Scripture References for this Episode: New International Version unless otherwise stated, and New Living Translation
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Luke 19:10
- John 8:12 & 7:2,37,38
- Psalm 11:105 & 139
- Proverbs 13:9
- John 3:19 & 6:35 & 11:25, 26 & 4:1-26
- I John 1:5-7
- Mark 4:26-29, 30-32, 33-34
- Job 23:12
- I Corinthians 13:7, 3:7
- Matthew 22:39
- Leviticus 19:18
- Luke 10:25-37 & 9:51-56
- Luke 15:4-32
- Matthew 13:1-35
- Luke 12:16-21 & 16:1-13
- Matthew 7:12
- Matthew 5:43-35
- John 15:1-8
- Matthew 13:36-43 & 25:1-13 & 18:21-35
- II Peter 3:9
- Luke 19:2, 11-27, & 12:13-21 & 16:19-31
- James 1:5,17
- II Corinthians 3:18
Moses and the burning bush – Qur’an, surah 20:11,12
Note: the Agatha Christie quote is from, Come Tell Me How You Live. Pocket Books division of Simon and Schuster, New York, 1977 edition.
Names Note: The names of Muslims, and some people working with them, have been changed for their protection.
- As you might remember from English class, a simile says something is like something else, a metaphor says it is something else. For example, in John 8:12 Jesus uses a metaphor when he says, “I am the light of the world.”
- Could you give an example of a metaphor from today’s lesson, or The Sermon on the Mount?
- Can you remember a simile that Jesus used?
- God is so above humans, it is a challenge, even for Christians, to view him in terms of a father in comparison to earthly fathers.
- How does your relationship with your father affect your relationship with your Heavenly Father?
- How might you approach presenting God as a loving Heavenly Father to your Muslim contacts?
- If you are Muslim background, how do you struggle with this picture of God? Would you like to share that with the study group?
- One of Huda and Dr. Cynthia’s favorite metaphors for Jesus and his followers is in John 15. Jesus is the vine and we are the branches.
- As time allows, meditate on this chapter
- What of Jesus must abide in us if we are to bear fruit?
- Hudson Taylor, missionary pioneer to China’s inland, found this passage so empowering it motivated and enabled his work. How could you see this passage empowering you to serve and please God, perhaps in a greater way than you do now?
- This lesson reminds us that Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He tells stories of a lost sheep and a lost coin to illustrate this. We illustrate these with examples of how we applied these parables with Muslims. If we are his disciples, we should do likewise.
- What are some ways that you could “seek and save the lost” that you encounter in your every day life
- The unreached people groups in Europe and America often lived in isolated areas. This can make them easy for us to ignore or forget. What are some ways that you could “seek and save the lost” of the immigrant or unreached groups in your region?
- Beyond your region?
- Is this a practice that you need to perform more? Less?
- Which of the parables presented in the video and study guide,
- did you find the most interesting for the concept it presented?
- did you learn the most from?
- most touched your heart?
- The Parable of the Good Samaritan was given to illustrate to us how we should love whoever comes our way, regardless of who they are.
- Think of someone, or some people group, that would be especially difficult for you to love and care for the way the Samaritan did the Jew. (If in a group, you might or might not want to share this with the others.)
- Even for a stranger who was not an enemy, would you be as willing as the Good Samaritan to go to the time and inconvenience that he did, and pay for their medical bills?
- Can you imagine how the world would be different if everyone behaved like the Good Samaritan?
- The Parable of the Prodigal Son reveals much to us of God’s character.
- Do you know someone who has foolishly wasted the opportunities and gifts that they have been given?
- Have you ever run away from the Heavenly Father?
- Before this parable, did you realize that God was like that, patiently waiting for us to come home?
- If you are or were Muslim, how does this depiction of God/Allah compare with what you knew of him.
- If you are wanting to share Jesus with Muslims, might you be able to use this parable in some way?
- The Parable of the Virgins is about being prepared. They are to go to a wedding, but not all brought enough oil to light their way.
- Have you ever felt unprepared for something?
- What do you think the parable is warning us to be prepared for?
- Dr. C has found the parables about jewelry to be powerful with Muslim women.
- Can you visualize a situation in which you could use a parable about sheep or jewelry to help someone feel that they are of value?
- Why do you think that heaven rejoices more over one sinner who repents, like a lost lamb that is found, more than over the 99 righteous who never ran away.
- What did you learn about the importance of context and the use and misuse of parables in this lesson?
- Have you ever heard a parable misused?
- Have you heard Jesus misquoted or taken out of context?
- Give an example of how context affects a parable, or any other story you can think of, including outside the Bible.
- From studying Jesus’ parables, metaphors, and similes
- Did you sense a tenderness of Jesus?
- Do you think that you have been revealing that kind of tender love of the Father, Good Shepherd, and Good Samaritan in your life?
- How do you think you could be a better testimony of God’s care for humanity?
- Perhaps abiding in the vine?
- Being filled with the Holy Spirit?
- Keeping your eyes on Jesus?
- Considering all the parables, similes, and metaphors you learned about today (and perhaps in the Lesson on Jesus Style of Teaching and Living),
- Putting them together, what is the picture that you get of “The Kingdom of God.”
- Do you think that they teach how we should really live, or are some sort of ideas?
- How do you think we should apply them?
- Considering your background:
- If you are Christian or Western background, was there something about Muslim culture that you found especially insightful?
- If you are Muslim background, what struck you as different from what you are used to?
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Jesus’ Parables
This lesson focuses on the importance of letting the Holy Spirit fill Christians, so that their lives will bring forth fruit. As we actively abide in Christ, letting the Holy Spirit and scripture fill us, we will naturally bring forth the Fruit of the Spirit.Continue reading...
Disclaimer: This video lesson and study guide is for people from a Christian background who want to know how to connect with Muslims. It is directed toward the way Western Christians think. Those from Muslim background might learn some things from it. However, it is one of our few lessons which is not directed toward Muslim thinking. Some Muslims might even be offended, but that is not our intention.
Quick Summary: In this video lesson and study guide, Arab Pastor George Saieg inspires us to reach out to Muslims, and Dr. Cynthia gives us important tips on how to do it.
Introduction to this Video Lesson and Study Guide: the Manual on Building Bridges with Muslims
The video lesson attempts to squeeze a day-long seminar into half an hour. The accompanying study guide is actually a full manual on how to connect with, and bring the gospel to Muslims in America (and to a degree all Western countries). It fills in details not covered in the video, adds more material and examples, and is much more complete.
The manual presents such important and foundational material that we want you to have it all, so it is longer than our usual study guides. However, we understand that you might not have time to read it all.
The material is organized so that you can easily skim its headings, and then focus on the parts that interest you. Likewise, for study groups, the leader might need to pre-select portions for group review and discussion.
Reaching Muslims for Christ takes prayer, preparation, and intentional forethought. It can be challenging. But don’t let that scare you. Jesus told us to take the gospel everywhere, and that we could do it because he would be with us. So the church began, so it has been, and so it will be for you.
The Manual covers:
Essentials for securing both ends of the bridge – yours and theirs
Bridge Type #1 – from you to the Muslim
Bridge Type #2 – from the Muslim to the gospel
Bridge Type #3 – from the Muslim to other Christians
Study Questions and Practice Laboratories
- DOs and DON’Ts
- Dress for Success
To receive a link to the Video Lesson and PDF copy of the full Manual on Building Bridges with Muslims, please send an email describing you and your group to [email protected] or click on the link below:
NOTE: For the exclusive use of trained individuals. See also Lesson and Study Guide on Fear, Persecution, and Spiritual Warfare
Lesson Summary and Notes
Quick Summary: This lesson and study guide are an introduction to the teachings and practices of violence in Islam. It is not a complete analysis. There are many other books and videos which focus on exposing Islam’s violence.
The GOALS: are basically to understand why violence is associated with Islam, especially in relation to the “Doctrine of Abrogation,” to process how you feel about it, and what might correctly be done about it.
- The information given in this lesson is primarily for your education. We want to clarify the confusing, and at times contradictory picture of violence in Islam. We hope that learning this you will have greater insight into history and current events:
- The image of Islam being presented to the West is far different than that recorded in history, including the Qur’an and other documents of Islam. It is sanitized and idealized. Violence and human rights abuses, like slavery and the mistreatment of women and minorities, are called irrelevant and swept away.
- Looking deeper into accurate translations of these sources, a grimmer reality emerges: one that fits with the violence and human rights abuses we see flooding the Islamic world every day.
- We hope that your compassion for Muslims increases, by understanding what influences their thinking and the resultant sufferings.
- We would like you to get ideas about what, when, if, and how to discuss these with Muslims.
- And perhaps how we can prevent Americans and Europeans from converting to Islam – especially to its false image – through ignorance and propaganda. Potential converts do not need to believe us, but they should read what the authentic Islamic sources themselves say before converting.
This Study Guide answers 11 of the most common questions about Islam and Violence. (If reviewing the lesson in a study group, you might select only a few for discussion.)
Here are the questions we will address:
- Is Islam a Religion of Peace?
- Why are some Muslims nice and others violent?
- Were Christians told to spread their message by force?
- Did Islam spread by force?
- What is the meaning of Jihad?
- Have Islamic Governments been more tolerant than others?
- Is there other violence in Islam?
- Would a Muslim reformation help?
- Is there hope for peace?
- Do we need to fear Muslims?
- Since Islam can be violent, isn’t there a better way to serve God, besides sharing the Gospel with Muslims?
We then mention PTSD, and present some Guidelines for discussing the violence in Islam with Muslims.
QUESTION 1: Is Islam a religion of Peace?
At the beginning of the video lesson, Dr. Cynthia tells an audience that to understand violence in Islam, we need to look at what the Islamic sources say, in Arabic. George Saieg has studied these sources in the original Arabic, and has a clear understanding of what they mean. He will help us cut through the politically correct presentations of Islam’s promoters, Western media, and modern Qur’an translations to give us an accurate picture of Islam and Violence.
Likely you, like most Americans, have heard statements from Islamic leaders, in the media or in events, that support the idea that Islam is the “Religion of Peace.” They even may quote some verses from the Qur’an to support their claims, especially at community events after a terrorist attack. We ourselves have heard this many times.
For example, a university event that Dr. C attended in California, had an audience of mostly American students curious about Islam. During the presentation Dr. C was stunned to hear an imam tell the assembly, “There is absolutely no violence in the Qur’an.” For someone who has read the Qur’an, this is like saying, “There is no sex in Hollywood.”
Such a bombastic claim is actually easy to refute. A more reasonable claim would be harder to refute, for example saying that any violence in the Qur’an was excusable, and for that time only. But that is not what the imam, an American convert to Islam, claimed.
Obviously, the imam must have thought that the Muslims in the audience would not contradict him, and that the others were too ignorant to call his bluff. But with Dr. C was Brother E, a Palestinian Arabic speaker familiar with the Qur’an. He was nearly crawling out of his skin at hearing this falsehood so baldly proclaimed.
Brother E had an Arabic Qur’an with him. After the speech, at the question time Brother E raised his hand to oppose the statement about no violence, quoting two verses from the Qur’an in Arabic and English, which demonstrate that Christians are infidels, and the infidels must be killed.
Although violence in the Qur’an is easily documented, the imam interrupted Brother E to say that the word “infidel” is not in the Qur’an. Brother E started to explain that infidel is the English translation of kafir, the Arabic word. The imam kept interrupting and repeating himself to shut Brother E down so that the audience could not hear the truth.
Although some Muslims do not fully understand the teachings of Islam, it is incredible to believe that even in America someone could become an imam without having read the verses we will discuss in this lesson. Frankly, we don’t believe he did.
The two verses Brother E was trying to share with the group explain that Christians are unbelievers, and that unbelievers should be killed until subjugated:
“Surely they disbelieve who say: ‘Allah is the Messiah, son of Maryam…whosoever sets up partners with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise to him, and the fire will be his abode… Surely, disbelievers are who say that Allah is the third of three’…”
“So when you meet those who disbelieve, smite their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (as captives).”
A media example supporting this peaceful view of Islam, is a 2012 Hollywood film about the Iran hostage crisis. It mistranslated a Qur’anic verse, deleting its instruction for Muslims to be “harsh with unbelievers.” By ironic contrast, this same verse was actually often quoted by the Ayatollah Khomeini to incite violence against Americans and other non-Muslims. (You would need to know the verse or Arabic to detect this deceptive translation.)
Christian Peace is one of the Fruits of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22. (In other lessons, we present the Fruit of the Spirit and the idea that the Christian life is Peace and Purpose.)
The Peace of Christ is spiritual peace. Jesus tells us it is not the peace of the world. His peace brings us:
- Peace with God Romans 5:1
- Peace within ourselves Psalm 131:2, John 14:27
- Peace with others, leading to Romans 12:18, Proverbs 16:7
- Peace between nations Joshua 21:44
This is not the model of peace that Islam proposes. Adding to the video lesson, this study guide will document and discuss the basis of Islam’s peace through violence model. It will show some ways it is practiced around the world.
A Heritage of Warfare
That Islam grew out of pre-Islamic, Arabic and Bedouin cultures, is affirmed by experts in many fields. Rather than change those cultures, Islam cemented most of their virtues and vices.
In regards to violence, these experts point to the historic difficulty of life in the Arabian Peninsula. The scarcity of provisions, and the many tribal conflicts, meant that only the strongest survived. Being quick to fight was considered a necessity. Courage and violence were signs of manliness in Prophet Mohammed’s 7th century Arabia. Defending one’s territory and tribe, and plundering one’s rivals, were simply part of lifestyles which Islam did not confront or attempt to change.
In Islamic thinking, the people of the world fall either into The House of Peace (Dar al Islam), which holds the now large tribe of Muslims, or The House of War (Dar al Harb), which includes everyone else. So, the peace that Islam offers is similar to that of communism – when the entire world is within the House of Peace, meaning under Islam’s control, there will supposedly be peace.
Examples of Muslims discovering the Violence of Islam
When noted apostate Dr. Mark Gabriel was studying at Al Azhar University in Cairo, he asked his teacher about love and forgiveness in Islam, and received this answer,
“My brother, there is a whole surah called ‘Spoils of War.’ There is no surah called ‘Peace.’ Jihad and killing are the head of Islam. If you take them out, you cut off the head of Islam.”
Later, that teacher, Omar Abdel Rahman, was locked up as the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing, of 1993. He had no doubts that Islam was not about Peace.
Mark Gabriel got his Ph.D., and went on to teach Islamic history at Al Azhar. He tells us in Islam and Terrorism, that little by little he became convinced that Islam was not about peace and love, but about violent propagation. He left Islam and his professorship. A year later became a Christian.
Dr. Wafa Sultan, our guest in Lesson on Islam and Women, shares her experiences of living Syria in her book A God Who Hates. While growing up there she regularly heard hatred pouring forth from the mosques against non-Muslims, like Israel and the West. Adding to that the treatment of women, apostates and the disabled, she came to see Allah, the God of Islam, not as a god of peace, but a God who Hates. Although she is not a Christian, it was when she came to America that she saw in action “A God who Loves.” “It was a total surprise!” she says.
Many others on both ends of the Islamic spectrum – the very religious as well as those who have left Islam – confirm the understanding of Gabriel and Sultan. Remember, the word Islam, means “in submission,” not “in peace.”
When addressing non-Muslim audiences, the spokespeople of Islam say that Islam promotes peace. But when addressing Muslim audiences, they tell a different story. For example, here is what the commentary in The Noble Qur’an edition of the Qur’an from Saudi Arabia says to English-speaking Muslims:
“You will not find any organization past or present, religious or non-religious as regards the whole nation to march forth and mobilize all of them into active military service as a single row for jihad in Allah’s Cause so as to make superior the Word of Allah, as you will find in the Islamic Religion and its teachings.” (bold emphasis ours)
They openly admit that ideally, every Muslim should be involved in military action for Islam. It is difficult coming from our Western and to a large extent Christian perspective, to understand why they make it sound like an admirable thing.
QUESTION 2: The BIG QUESTION: Why are some Muslims violent and others nice?
(Note: Dr. Cynthia’s part of this video lesson is part of a seminar recorded in front of a live audience.)
Possibly the biggest question non-Muslims have about Islam is “Why are some Muslims violent and others nice?”
Millions of Muslims now live in the West. Not only in big cities, but in more rural areas we find a mixture of Christians and secularists, with followers of Islam and other faiths. The hope is that all will grow to live together in a neighborly sort of mutual acceptance that has prospered in the best of times. Indeed, the Bible teaches, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Workplaces and schools have integrated people from across the globe. Comraderies developed there bring a feeling of tolerance that looks beyond racial and cultural differences. Trust and friendships emerge between people of different backgrounds.
But crashing into these zones of tolerance and adaptation comes news of Muslim terrorism. Western news media tries to smooth over incidents and terrorism to prevent violent reprisals and escalation of hostilities. This means sometimes they hide the names and religions of perpetrators until public interest has passed.
Sometimes immigrant Islamic clerics are caught screaming messages of hatred, and are deported. At the same time, other Muslim leaders gain a platform to say that “to kill one person is as to kill all humanity.” They assure us, along with university scholars and news media, that Islam truly is a religion of peace, and that violent practitioners have “hijacked the religion,” turning it into something it was never intended to be.
So – What is the truth? How can we explain the Violence in Islam?
Non-Muslims, and even some Muslims, are left scratching their heads at the difference in attitude between the Muslims they know and love, and the violence of Islam they hear of on an almost daily basis. In this segment, we answer this important question of how some Muslims can be nice, or apparently peaceful, and others violent terrorists.
Most Muslims in the West lead peaceful lives. They want to prosper, just like traditional Americans and other immigrants do. They say and follow verses in the Qur’an like,
“There is to be no compulsion in religion.”
So how can we then explain forceful, violent Muslims?
The KEY to UNDERSTANDING Islamic aggression is the: Doctrine of ABROGATION:
Devout Muslims understand and believe in Abrogation. This doctrine claims that later revelations replace earlier ones:
“Whatever verse we do abdicate or cause to be forgotten, we bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things?”
Most sects of Islam, including the major ones of Sunni and Shiite, follow the Doctrine of Abrogation based on this verse in the Qur’an’s second chapter/book, Surah al-Baqarah. Although the exact verses canceled, or abrogated, by this doctrine differ by sect, in practice abrogation means that all the peaceful verses were cancelled by aggressive ones. The result of abrogation is invalidation of up to 2/3 of the Qur’an.
If it is the first time you have heard of abrogation, you might have trouble believing it. How can this be?
Early in his ministry, Mohammed lived in Mecca, he and his followers were a minority, mixed in with polytheists, Christians and Jews. The revelations he received then, supposedly from Allah, told them to keep peace with those around them. That was sensible, since Muslims were greatly outnumbered.
Later, Mohammed came to power after his fateful move to Medina in 622 AD, called the hegira. There he had much public support and his followers grew in number.
Now confident and powerful in Medina, Mohammed’s revelations became more forceful. Mohammed and his followers began to not only fight against those who had been persecuting them, but started spreading Islam by force. Revealed in Medina were verses such as,
“Fight and slay the pagans where ever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and lie in wait for them in every ambush.”
“I will strike terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.”
“Let not the unbelievers think that they can get the better: they will never frustrate them. Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into the enemies of Allah.”
These and many other verses in the Qur’an justify Islamic aggression. Educated and devout Muslims know about abrogation. Nonetheless, they continue to quote peaceful verses to Westerners. Frankly, some do this deceptively, because Mohammed’s two-step tactic is still followed: extend peace when in the minority, but be forceful when in power. Muslims are still in the minority in the West. That explains why they are mostly peaceful here.
You will know that you understand abrogation when you experience an ah-ha moment!
One day when Dr. C and Brother E were meeting with Muslims, Brother E caught a Muslim cleric doing this, quoting abrogated verses. Brother E rebuked him in Arabic for this deception. The cleric admitted without apology that he was quoting verses to Americans he knew were not valid. But he was not ashamed because in Islam, it is acceptable to say anything to make the faith appealing to non-Muslims. (This is called taqiyya.)
Muslims less expert in Islam usually say they believe the entire Qur’an, including abrogated passages. In spite of the contradictions they read, they will try to live peacefully. Some explain this by saying that the violent verses were given for a specific time and place and no longer apply. This doesn’t fit with the Qur’an’s abrogation verse. It is rather like reverse-abrogation – having the earlier revelations cancel the later, and it is not a view authorized by Islamic authorities. Since it leads to peace, it is naturally preferable to the West, but it holds no water with serious Muslims.
Does the Bible have abrogation?
The answer is NO. The Bible tells us,
“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.”
At this point you might want to point out two things regarding the Old Testament that seem different in the New Testament: There was violence in the Old Testament, and the way of following God is different from the New Testament. Here are the brief answers to those:
Jesus tells us that no word of God passes away; it is fulfilled. The symbolism of the Old Testament law pointed to Jesus, and its obligations enabled us to appreciate God’s grace. Jesus said,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”
The Apostle Paul said,
“Wherefore the law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”
QUESTION 3: Were Christians told to Spread their Message by force?
Apologist Louis from Truth Defenders answers this question for us in the video. He explains that Jesus and his followers told Christians to share their teachings by word of mouth, and to prove it by love.
In the days before Jesus, the God-fearers of the Old Testament, mostly Jews, were likewise to share the faith by teaching and lifestyle. This included visitors and immigrants who came from around the world to enjoy the prosperity of Israel under God’s laws, and at times by missionaries, like Jonah, who were sent to outlying nations.
Bob Siegel, a Jewish background Christian expert on the issue, affirms in the video lesson that Moses and the Old Testament writings do not teach spreading the faith by force. Siegel says that often Muslims confront him thinking that spreading faith by force is something that Islam has in common with the Jews.
Siegel assures them that they misunderstand: in a few instances the Jews were instructed to punish cities that were involved in deplorable practices, like child sacrifice. This was after their residents had been given generations to repent but did not. Never were Jews to spread the faith with violence or coercion.
So, neither Jesus nor Moses, nor the Bible itself teaches promoting the faith by violence. This is in sad contrast to Islam. Islam not only teaches promoting the faith with violence, in the Qur’an and hadith, but has proven it in the practices of its devoted practitioners through the centuries.
QUESTION 4: Did Islam spread by Force or by willing Conversion?
Have you heard that Islam spread by peaceful means? Dr. C has heard this in Islamic presentations, especially on university campuses. The narrative goes like this: “When people of the nations surrounding Saudi Arabia saw how beautiful Islam was, they wanted to become Muslims, and so Islam spread rapidly by peaceful means.”
How do they defend and even whitewash what has traditionally been called the “Islamic Conquests?” By using this effective tactic: overlooking Islam’s attacks and conquests, they take an isolated incident, and generalize it to represent the rule, rather than the exception.
For example, the Arabs were good sailors. The case is made that Islam spread peacefully in Southeast Asia when Muslim sailors in contact with Southeast Asian sailors. That is entirely possible. But again, it is a notable exception: a four-leaf clover for Islam.
Another example is the legend that a visitor to Morocco complained of Visigoth rule in Spain, saying that Morocco was better. The story is that this instigated the conquest of Spain. But the complaints one discontented subject, hardly constitute willing conversion of a nation, or justify its invasion.
As with other aspects of history, like the founding of America, the distance in time and location between now and when things happened, allows rewriting and presenting a new narrative. Few in America are knowledgeable enough, or care enough to check the facts on either. So the new narratives are told and retold.
An exception is Palestinian Brother E. He has attended campus events with Dr. C, and heard their claims about Islamic expansion. Being Palestinian, he was very familiar with how Muslims conquered his and other regions.
“How can you say they willingly converted?” Brother E asked the speakers. “They didn’t even understand the Arabic they had to say to convert! They simply repeated the words of the shahada to keep from death by the sword!”
Growing up in Islamic countries, Brother E and George Saieg were not taught the peaceful conversion narrative. It wasn’t necessary, since Islam dominated. There was no need to cover up.
The new narrative is also very contrary to what Dr. C remembered being taught in American university in several decades ago. So back she went to her History of Western Civilization textbook. Then not under the current pressure to be politically correct, it confirmed the conquests, saying that within less than a hundred years of Mohammed’s move to Medina,
“…to the economic and social factors that contributed to Arabic aggression was added the stimulus of a holy war (jihad) – an ideal that bound all the Arabs together in a common cause and imbued the campaigns with a certain religious fanaticism…By 720 all the Middle East (except Asia Minor), all North Africa, and most of Spain had been overrun and conquered.”
To be complete, Dr. C checked other sources, including Islamic ones. None back up the new narrative of peaceful expansion.
Noted contemporary historian and expert on Islam, Michael Cook says,
“The Arab conquests rapidly destroyed one empire, and permanently detached
large territories of another. This was for the states in question, an appalling catastrophe.”
Muslim apostate Ibn Warraq, in his critically acclaimed book, Why I am Not a Muslim, gives Islam’s violent expansion of empire as a reason for his not following Islam.
In our video lesson, George Saieg says, “Absolutely the last marching orders of Mohammed were to conquer the world for Islam by force.” For example, besides the hadith, the Qur’an itself says,
“Fight them until there is no more disbelief and the religion will all be for Allah alone.”
The Qur’an’s view of prophethood differs greatly from the Bible’s. Prophet Mohammed himself participated in battles, and he sent his followers into others.
“It is not for a Prophet that he should have prisoners of war until he had made a great slaughter in the land.”
Mohammed’s usual conquest strategy was to first offer conversion to Islam. For example, he sent letters to the kings of the surrounding nations, proclaiming himself a prophet and inviting them convert and follow him. If territories resisted, they would be attacked and invaded, with conversions forced.
Some of the monotheistic civilians would be allowed to live without converting if they would pay jizya, a high “ransom tax” protection money. Even so, Christians and Jews were often slaughtered, without an option to ransom themselves. Polytheists, like India’s Hindus, did not have that option. They must convert or die.
Let’s look at A brief chronology of Muslim conquests:
- In 632 AD Prophet Mohammed died. Conquest of all the Arabian peninsula followed, and then:
- Israel/Palestine: in 634 AD – 4,000 monotheistic Jews, Christians, and Samaritans were killed defending their territory
- Syria: 636 AD attacked
- Mesopotamia: 635-643 AD – unbelievers killed or forced to convert
- Armenia and Assyria: 640s AD – forced conversions and partial to full slaughter of towns
- Egypt: 641AD – entire towns exterminated, even women and children who surrendered
- Persia: about 642-651 AD – Elam’s population slaughtered, likewise Susa’s dignitaries
- Tripoli: 643 AD – pillaged
- Morocco: 647 AD – Islamic conquest of Byzantine North Africa reaches here
- Carthage: 698 AD – most inhabitants were killed, queen’s head sent to Damascus
- Spain and Portugal: Invasion begins in 711AD – fully conquered about 8 years later. The very word Gibraltar, is from Jabal at-Tariq, meaning “Mountain of Tariq,” named after the conqueror of Spain.
- France: 720 AD – got raided and settled, until Muslim expansion in Europe was halted in the Battle of Tours, in 732 AD by Charles Martel
- Sind, India: 712 AD – forced conversions or slaughter because polytheists had no other option
- Punjab, India and beyond:
- 1000 AD Islam pushed its way into India from the Western frontier, there were forced conversions and slaughter
- including 50,000 killed at a Hindu temple
- Out of this terrible conflict Sikhism was born in the 16th century. The youngest and fifth largest of the world’s major religions, it mixes Muslim and Hindu concepts. Many early Sikh saints were tortured and killed by Muslims.
- Muslim intolerance toward Hindus and Sikhs has led to on-going bitterness and feuds.
Consider: When Muslims and Islamic governments promote their faith by force, they act in accordance with Islamic teachings. If Christians and Western nations do this, they act in defiance of Christian teachings.
The truth of Islamic aggression also stands against another new narrative: Slavery.
- One way Islam spreads in America, especially among blacks, is to claim that in Islam there has been no racism or slavery.
- But slaves were typically taken from those conquered, including beautiful women for sex slaves.
- The slaves could be kept or sold: for example to pre-civil war American slave traders. (This source of slaves is another thing you will not hear in Islam’s – or even America’s – new narratives.)
- Mohammed himself had male and female slaves. One of them, a sex slave whose father and husband he killed, is recorded as having poisoned him, possibly leading to his long and painful decline.
Islamic conquest and colonialization permanently destroyed or changed many cultures. The pre-Islamic artistic and scientific achievements of these cultures were then claimed to have come from Islam. For example, most of what we now think of as Islamic style in architecture and design is largely pre-Islamic Persian.
QUESTION 5: What is the meaning of Jihad?
According to Mohammed, to participate in jihad holy war, is next to the statement of creed as a good deed (Sahih Al Bukhari DuS # 1516).
Saieg explains to us that there are different types of jihad:
- The Apostle Paul, said to “fight the good fight.” He was not speaking of physical fighting, but of enduring faithfully to the end. The word “jihad” is used for this type of struggle in the Arabic Bible. Paul admitted he struggled with sin. Shortly before he died, Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Then Paul was martyred by Rome.
- In the USA we are told by Muslims that jihad is within oneself to gain mastery over a weakness. Is that accurate? Jihad in Islam, Saieg explains, is different. It is struggling in in the way of Islam. Because morality in Islam is not as clear-cut as in Christianity, he explains, the internal struggle of Islam is not so much against one’s sinful nature, as struggle against a weak level of commitment to Islam. He gives examples of being reluctant to commit one’s money, or the life of a son to promote Islam.
- Saieg tells us that jihad in Islam clearly includes violence. The word in the Qur’an usually translated as “fight” in English, he says in Arabic clearly means to fight with the sword. His preferred Qur’anic translation is one that says “fight and kill.” Saieg relates two stories regarding participation in the hadith:
- Prophet Mohammed said that his greatest desire was to die in jihad, come back to life and die in jihad, over and over again./li>
- A woman had seven sons. All died in jihad, yet she never shed a tear until the seventh died. People asked her, “Did you love the seventh son more than the others?” “No,” she said. “I am crying because I have no more sons for jihad.”
That, Saieg tells us, is the struggle of jihad.
Similarly, most English Qur’ans translate the Arabic phrase clearly meaning “decapitate” as “smite the necks” which is less clear, and also less graphic and gruesome to would-be converts.
There are many verses in the Qur’an which promote violence, not only for defense, but as offensive against non-Muslims until they die, convert, or pay jizya the ransom tax. Saieg’s claim that the main meaning of jihad is violent promotion of the faith is confirmed by the notes in the back of Darussalam’s Noble Qur’an, English 1996 edition. In its section on “The Call to Jihad” it says,
“Praise is to Allah who has ordained al-Jihad (the holy fighting for Allah’s Cause):
- Within the heart (intentions or feelings)
- With the hand (weapons, etc.)
- With the tongue (speeches, etc. in the Cause of Allah)”
The Qur’an recognizing that Muslims might not be inclined to fight, says,
“Jihad is ordained for you though you dislike it, and it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you.”
What good is promised to those who fight? Blessings, booty and approval of Allah. Plus, if one dies in jihad, among the benefits will be:
- will not feel the pain of death
- sins forgiven
- no fear of judgement
- paradise, with up 72 virgins
- can intercede for 70 family members
Have you been surprised at hearing some Muslim mothers encourage their children to jihad? Now you know why. Not simply honor for the family, but for her own supposed salvation and that of 69 other family members. This doctrine guarantees a society that will approve of and promote violent jihad: parents raising children with this mindset, for basically self-centered, as well as Islam-centered reasons. (You can view on-line videos of Muslim children singing the glories of martyrdom.)
If you have been learning about Islam for a while, you might have noticed a great irony in these promises for jihadis, because:
- Islam’s greatest criticism against Christians is, that by believing God as Jesus died to save us from our sins and take us to heaven, we make Jesus a partner with God. That is shirk, the unforgivable sin in Islam. But isn’t that hypocritical when …
- … they believe that if they die in jihad, or have a child die for them, that their sins are forgiven and they go to paradise?
- And, since Jesus is God, it is only God who gets credit with Christians – not a human warrior or relative.
Muslims are encouraged to do physical battle with the carrot and the stick – rewards if they do, and punishments if they don’t.
- For example, they are threatened in many verses of what will happen if they don’t,
“If you march not forth, He will punish you by a painful torment
and will replace you with another people.”
Perhaps a good summary of the call to jihad is this explanation in the contemporary commentary from the Noble Qur’an,
“As it is now obvious, at first ‘the fighting’ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory –
- against them who start ‘the fighting’ against you (Muslims)…
- and against all those who worship others along with Allah.”
QUESTION 6: Have Islamic Governments been more TOLERANT than others?
“The Golden Age” of Islam is commonly claimed to be a time of tolerance and prosperity in the Muslim World. This is a myth. As with Muslim conquests, the claimants take isolated instances of relative tolerance under Islam, and generalize them to be typical. They contrast these with times of relative intolerance under “Christian” rule, which they generalize to represent all of it. Three examples:
- Brushing aside the fact that Spain was invaded from North Africa and forcibly converted to Islam by Muslims, proponents of a Golden Age will point to a time when the Moors tolerated Christians and Jews. A favorite example is that of Muslim Spain, in tenth century Cordoba under the Moor Abd Ar-Rahman.
- Bagdad under Harun Ar-Rashid, of the Thousand and One Nights fame, 786-809 AD might also be mentioned (although he did have times of Christian and Jew slaughtering.)
- Akbar the Great of Moghul India has been mentioned as a tolerant Muslim ruler. Actually, he was more ecumenical than Muslim. He gave non-Muslims improved status and consulted their religious leaders. In 1579 AD, he issued an edict which put him in charge of all religions, above mullahs, thereby making himself a heretic. He later claimed himself to be a prophet and invented his own religion.
During these times of relative tolerance, the Islamic rulers were influenced by non-Islamic philosophers, like the Persian Averroes, who mixed Persian, Byzantine ideas, and the writings of Aristotle into Islam. But since their ideas were against Islam, sometimes these philosophers were killed or exiled, rather than honored.
Those who perpetuate the myth of Islamic tolerance won’t tell you that under Islamic rule these ethnic cleansings and atrocities occurred:
- in Fez, Morocco:
- 6,000 Jews massacred in 1033 AD
- in 1465 AD near genocide of thousands of Jews left only 11 alive
- Marrakesh, Morocco: Jewish massacre in1232 AD
- Muslim Cordoba, Spain: 48 Christian Martyrs were beheaded between 850-859 AD
- Muslim Granada, Spain: genocide of the entire Jewish community of 4,000, during the riots of 1066 AD
- Egypt, Syria and Yemen under Islam: issued many decrees to destroy synagogues between 1000 AD and 1676 AD
- Idolaters like Hindus needed to convert or be killed. Protected dhimmi ransom tax status was not an option for them.
Even in the so-called “tolerant” times, there was never a suggestion of equality.
- Christians and Jews would be allowed to live in Muslim lands at times, but they were always second-class citizens, called dhimmis.
- Not only did they need to pay the ransom tax, but they lived under a situation of extremely reduced privileges: with restrictions on what they could do, wear, read, and say.
- For example, see “The Omar Agreement” of what the Christians in the Holy Land had to abide by in order to live there. (You can look it up online.)
- These civilian conditions were similar, but even more repressive than those of Jews under the Nazis.
When you meet traditional Christians from the Middle East, show them double respect:
- They and their ancestors have refused to convert under pressure for many hundreds of years. They have had to pay extra taxes to be allowed to survive.
- It is thought that poor Christians did not survive Islamic invasions: they had to convert or die because they could not pay the jizya.
- The survivors have had to endure ridicule, repression, criticisms, and hearing Islam broadcasted from minarets day and night. Often mosques were intentionally placed next to churches for this harassment.
- They have had to hold their tongues in frustrating situations and against false accusations.
- They usually have kept quiet about abuse. Outside observers have been requested not report the abuses to authorities, in fear that reprisals will bring worse abuses.
- They could not share a word of what they believed without severe risk.
As Brother E from Palestine said,
“For 1400 years we Christians in the Middle East have not been able to share about Jesus or criticize Islam. Now that we are in America, it is hard for some of us to stay quiet!”
Consider: When Muslims and Islamic governments treat non-Muslims harshly, they act in accordance with their teachings. When “Christians nations” treat unbelievers harshly, they act in defiance of their teachings.
QUESTION 7: Is there other violence in Islam?
Yes. We won’t give many details here, but the categories are roughly:
- Killing apostates who leave Islam: The Qur’an in Surah 4:89 tells Muslims to,
“Those who reject Islam must be killed. If they turn back take hold of them and kill them wherever you find them.”
- The hadith, the traditions of Mohammed, also tell them that Mohammed said to kill those who leave Islam.
- For example, in Sahih Bukhari, Mohammed himself cauterized their eyes and cut off apostates’ hand and legs, then let them bleed to death (DuS # 6802, vol. 4, 87:1; also see DuS # 6922, 9:84:57).
- Domestic Violence:
- Wife beating is actually sanctioned in the Qur’an
- (It is dealt with in greater detail in the Lesson and Study Guide on Islam and Women.)
- Can result in physical and psychological damage needing treatment. Since this is usually not received, lasting damage and behavior patterns remain.
- Honor-killing of family members who are felt to have disgraced the family or Islam:
- exact numbers are difficult to find, but cases are increasingly reported in the West, as children of immigrants clash with their families’ traditional values. This is especially true of young women who choose to wear Western dress or have boyfriends.
- those who leave Islam are often killed by family members for honor, rather than an official Islamic court
- Wife beating is actually sanctioned in the Qur’an
- Mohammad’s violence as the example for all Muslims:
- battles, treatment of apostates, teachings
- punishments of those who ridiculed him, like 100 year old Abu Afak
- the poetess Asma, killed by the sword as she suckled an infant
- sets the precedent for violence against cartoonists and publications in our modern world
- Harsh legal punishments:
- • Stoning for adultery (flogging in Qur’an; but stoning in hadith, so it is followed)
- • Blasphemy laws requiring the death of those who speak against Mohammed or the Qur’an (can include cartoons).
- • Chopping off hands for theft
- • For “making mischief” (like selling alcohol or making movies) —
“The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and his Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter.”
Note 1: since the West has attacked Muslim countries, however justified, and because of our liberties, according to a strict interpretation, we are all subject to the punishment of this verse. As a former Muslim from a royal family told Dr. C,
“You do not need a special fatwa on your head. From the teachings of Islam, Muslims are authorized to kill you at any time.”
Related to this is the concept of Booty of War, which Gracia Barham and her husband became when they were taken hostage by Islamic terrorists in the Philippines. You can read about it in her book, In the Presence of My Enemies.
On the video lesson, Dr. C asks Saieg if it is true that Christians and residents of the West are considered booty of war? Does Islam consider all that we own, and even our own bodies, can be considered as belonging to Islam? Fundamentally speaking, it is true. George gives us an example of a Muslim man claiming George’s wife to be his, at least in paradise.
Note 2: It is curious that Surah 5:33 comes right after 5:32, the oft-quoted verse that says killing one person is like killing all of mankind.
QUESTION 8: So, would a “Muslim Reformation” help as it helped Christianity?
No. Here’s why:
By the sixteenth century, the time of the Protestant Reformation, official Christianity of the Roman Catholic Church had drifted far away from Biblical teachings. The drift covered everything from personal life, to evangelism, to church structure, and even national policies. The teachings and decisions of the organized church were considered to outweigh the Bible.
When Martin Luther and other reformers started reading the Bible itself, a new image emerged of how Christianity should be practiced. Gradually, Biblical principles became incorporated into individuals, church structure, and nations. New life from God was breathed into them. The concept of a personal walk with God arose, and from that the freedom, tolerance, and personal liberties that we now believe in.
So, when Christians become devout and return to the Bible, they become more Christ-like, and filled with the Fruit of the Spirit. Ideally this means more loving, tolerant, and peaceful.
When Muslims become devout and return to the Qur’an, they also immerse themselves in the hadith, and Islamic writings. These encourage then to become more aggressive, and to promote Islam with violence.
|Muslim devotion often increases:|
|with age||after marriage||in enclaves||when challenged by Christians|
PROOF: Islam is currently in a period of return to its original writings and practices. Fundamentalism did re-emerge in the later part of the 20th century. If you ask people who lived in the Muslim World in the 1960s and 1970s what it was like compared to today, or look at pictures of how populations dressed on the street then compared to now, you will see the difference.
How has this return to fundamentalism arisen, and what is it doing? To understand this phenomenon we need to consider the impact of Islam’s “manifest destiny” – the idea that it is predestined to encompass the entire world in an Islamic government.
Islam’s Manifest Destiny
Having been promised success in expansion by Mohammed, the replacement of Muslim empires with Western control has been difficult for Muslims to account for and accept.
On September 12, 1683, Islamic expansion faced its end at the second siege of Vienna. Following that, a large part of the world, from Spain to Indonesia and down Africa, became lost to Islamic control especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
As Paul Marshall explains in his book Islam at the Crossroads, this trend of territory loss has severely challenged Muslim theology. Mohammed promised Muslims success until all the world was in “The House of Islam.” The loss stimulated self-examination within the Muslim World. Rather than consider that their prophet and Islam might have been wrong, strict leaders conclude that the loss is because Muslims have not been practicing Islam strictly enough, or taking jihad seriously enough.
- A backlash of fundamentalism has resulted with more Muslims focusing on the teachings and practices of the Qur’an and hadith.
- The writings of Osama bin Laden, the Shiite Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, and Sunni Hassan Al-Banna, who started the Muslim Brotherhood, reflect these attitudes.
This explains why Brother E says,
“Not all Muslims are terrorists; but all true Muslims are terrorists.”
QUESTION 9: Is there HOPE for PEACE?
As Christians we are to pray for peace, and for the gospel to be spread and honored. What hope do we see for peace in the Muslim World and beyond?
- Non-Christian options:
- Secularization – people keeping the name “Muslim,” and perhaps some of the rituals, but not being seriously religious. Like secular Americans, they look for good lives for themselves and their family, without feeling obligated to participate in verbal or violent jihad.
- Modernists and the Secondary Precepts movement – especially in Iran, seek reform from Islam’s harshness, restrictions, and legalism.
- They state that the harsh teachings and view of Allah from the Qur’an should be considered limited to that time, 7th century Arabic.
- Now, they say, the principles, or “precepts” of Islam, should be modified. In their place, they propose a gentler view of God and society, similar to that of Christianity.
- Since there is no basis in the Islam for this approach, it will not easily gain widespread acceptance.
- Christian options:
- Conversion to the Christian faith, and discipleship:
- dreams and visions of Jesus are common in Christians who convert from Islam
- Note that not all who have dreams convert, and dreams confirming Islam also occur
- (See more on this in the lesson and study guide on The Place of Miracles.)
- internet websites, like this and others
- literature distributed
- personal relationships
- dreams and visions of Jesus are common in Christians who convert from Islam
- In order for Muslims to become Christians, Christians need to:
- live like real Christians
- open their hearts and lives to Muslims
- reach out to Muslims – nearby and far
- financially support others who reach out
- and PRAY!
- Conversion to the Christian faith, and discipleship:
QUESTION 10: Do we need to fear Muslims?
(See also the Lesson and Study Guide on Fear, Persecution, and Spiritual Warfare)
Yes and No.
Most Muslims are peaceful, and surprisingly grateful when a Christian makes the effort to meet or befriend them. But, knowing what you now know about Islam, you will understand that some Muslims are indeed inclined to promote their faith by force, and to punish those who stand against Islam.
It is unlikely that you would come to harm in the West, unless you are a family member who has left Islam, but overseas the situation is different. This is especially the case in Muslim countries which have Blasphemy Laws for speaking against the Qur’an or Mohammed, Anti-conversion Laws, and Anti-Proselytism Laws. It is best to check on the existence of these laws before you attempt to evangelize in a Muslim country, although in general you can assume that they exist.
QUESTION 11: Since Islam can be violent, isn’t there a better way to serve God, besides sharing the Gospel with Muslims?
The Bible says we are to try to live peaceful lives (1 Timothy 2:2, I Thessalonians 4:11); but that is regarding our prayers for our nations, and our way of behaving with each other. This advice does not exclude taking risks for the gospel.
It can be disconcerting that God allows his servants to suffer, at times even to die in his service. The Bible is full of such examples, from Old Testament prophets to New Testament apostles. In Matthew 10, Jesus warned us that we would face hardships while standing for him. But then in Matthew 24 he commands to go and share his gospel with every ethnic group. After that is done, the end will come and we can all be with the Lord.
In its word origin, Martyr means witness. In Arabic the two words are similar. But the similarity between Muslim and Christian martyrs stops with the name. Why?
- Muslim martyrs usually die in violent jihad, killing others.
- Christian martyrs die not while killing others, but being killed by unbelievers because of their faith in Jesus. Many even forgive their persecutors and invite them to repent while dying.
Jesus commanded us to go into the world and share the good news about him with everyone. He told us that all authority on heaven and on earth is his, and that he will be with us forever. That is to be sufficient to preserve and empower us.
Certainly, it can be dangerous today to share the gospel in some parts of the Muslim world. It was likewise dangerous in the days of the early church. All but one of Jesus 12 main disciples died as a martyr.
But let these quotations by brave Christians encourage you move forward:
“We are immortal until our work is done.”
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
“Perfect Love drives out Fear.”
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Guidelines for Discussing the Violence in Islam with Muslims
The information given in this lesson is primarily for your education. We want you to know it so that you will have greater insight into what is going on in the world, and into the thinking and sufferings of Muslims. We also want to prevent you from believing a false image of Islam, and hope that together we can prevent Americans and Europeans from converting to it.
Dr. C’s PALM Project training breaks down all our interactions with Muslims, actually everyone, into three aspects:
- Build Bridges
- Share Truth
- Challenge Falsehood
Of these, we prioritize Building Bridges and Sharing Truth – showing the sincere love of God, especially in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Discussing the violence in Islam mostly comes under the category of Challenging Falsehood. That means it needs to be approached with caution, as does any challenge.
(See also the lessons and study guides on Building Bridges and Sharing the Gospel with Muslims.)
The truth is a sword.
The truths you have learned today are powerful weapons. Like knives, they must be used carefully and appropriately to bring about healing, not damage.
Discussing the violence in Islam is something that can easily seem like an insult to Muslims. How would you feel if someone you just met told you that Christianity is violent and that Christians are violent? So, by mentioning things you learned today, you can accidentally alienate someone that you actually want to bring close. And in today’s societies, it doesn’t take much to be labeled “intolerant” or making “hate speech,” even if what you say is totally true.
Who is the Enemy?
Remember, spiritually speaking, Muslims are not our enemy. Satan is. They are his victims and captives. We want to free them into salvation and the abundant life.
We are to speak only what is good for others (Ephesians 4:29). Our goal is not to insult Muslims, but to help them exchange a God of Hate for the God of Love.
As in all our difficult discussions with Muslims:
The Main thing is to Keep the Main thing the Main Thing!
Islam does not have the Savior. That is its main problem. Yes, we want to stop terrorism, and end the hatred between the Muslim World and the West. We want to stop abuse of women and Christians. But the ultimate thing we want to do is bring Muslims into the Kingdom of God. False teachings make life difficult for Muslims, and show that Islam is not the truth. Our goal is not to gloat over this. It is to reveal the one who can give them abundant and eternal life (John 10:10 & 3:16).
Prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and its impact on ministry to Muslims
Research has shown that about 10% of refugees and immigrants have experienced violence to the extent that they developed PTSD. In countries where torture is practiced, this is higher, for example in 20-40% of those from Somalia and Eretria.
When meeting refugees from zones of known conflict, Dr. C approaches them as if they have been traumatized. She uses caution in approaching their personal experience. Some might have been asked to work on telling their life story as a part of therapy. Others are asked to write it out. Some will be eager to tell you, but bear in mind that others might be reluctant to relive their most traumatic experiences.
Talk about violence with PTSD sufferers might trigger unfavorable reactions.
Wise Use of the Information on Islam and Violence
Having learned all of this about violence in Islam, you might be bursting to share it. But please, don’t just blurt out challenges and insults. This goes for any problem area in Islam and other world views. You must use forethought: learn, pray, strategize, and only speak on this topic when the Holy Spirit clearly leads you.
It is possible that you will not need to use this information at all. If you are in relationships that are leading more and more to the truth, and they already know the draw-backs of Islam, we suggest that continue to emphasize sharing the Bible’s truth until they are ready to trust in Christ as their Savior (see upcoming Lesson and Study Guide on Out of the Saltshaker).
Two situations in which you might need to use this information on violence are with:
- Someone who is very attracted to the Christian faith, and understands its primary teachings, but is not ready to accept Jesus: because they believe that at its core, Islam is good.
- They think that Muslim countries would be good if Islam were practiced right.
- This is what our on-video disciple Huda used to think. She did not cross over to become a Christian until Brother E convinced her, in Arabic, that oppressive Muslim regimes are practicing Islam correctly — for example Iran under the Ayatollahs, and Afghanistan.
- As we explain elsewhere, it is so difficult to leave Islam that no one will do it unless they are convinced that Islam is very wrong. Instead, they might simply add Christian virtues to Muslim ones.
- If so, pray for wisdom and the right time to discuss with them the violence in Islam, women’s issues or other things that might open their eyes
- They think that Muslim countries would be good if Islam were practiced right.
- Someone who is very certain that Islam is right and is not really interested in anything else. In long term relationships we don’t like to push topics or agenda, but wait for things to arise naturally. We suggest you pray and wait. An appropriate time may arise to start them questioning various Islamic teachings, for example with current events, their questions, or family situations.
Violence in Islam is not something you would usually want to bring up in an outreach, or early in a relationship. An exception might be a debate setting. Otherwise, here are some suggestions of what you might say when the time is right:
With refugees, immigrants and foreign students:
- The easiest and safest thing to say is, “I am praying for your country. I am sorry about what is happening there.”
- Be sincere. Do pray for their country. Even learn about it.
- This is mostly a bridge to the person. It shows them that you care about them and the situation they come from. Of course, this does not apply to all Muslims; but the situation across the world means that most Muslims, especially those that come to America and Europe, have faced violence in their homeland.
- This bridge is also an indirect challenge. It reminds them of the tension and violence within Islam, in contrast to the peace and acceptance they now feel in America or Europe. Most of those who suffer from Islam’s violence are Muslims. Sect battles sect. For example, since Shiites believe their saints can intercede, Sunnis consider them infidels, and attack them as such.
- 2. Later on, if the relationship is right, it might be appropriate to ask the immigrant or student something like this:
- Was it difficult for you, coming to America?
- Was it safe in the part of your country that you lived in?
- Tell me about what is happening in your country. Who is fighting whom? Why?
With Muslims American-born or here a long time
You may find that they are so much like mainstream America, that they are as confused about the Islamic violence around the world as they are. Very possibly they will think that no country practices pure Islam. Your challenge will be to gently open their eyes to the consistency of the teachings and the violent practices.
In the Debate Setting
In the debate setting, it is usually appropriate to discuss points made in the debate with Muslim friends attending with you, or those nearby. Even after the debate, you can ask Muslims in the area if they attended it. Whether or not they did, you can use the event as a bridge to bring up topics discussed then. But again this must be in the proper setting – one in which you know that the potential benefit outweighs the risk of the topic.
Another Possible Challenge
If the setting is right, politely ask: Islam says that Christians make Jesus a partner with God when we say his death can cover our sins and take us to heaven. How is that different from Islam saying that a Muslim’s death in jihad covers sins and takes people to paradise?
Responses to Expect
Don’t expect that Muslims will respond positively, unless they have already expressed deep doubts about Islam. When presenting this information, your goal is to provide something to think about, NOT to get them to agree. Even as they disagree, they will think about the discussion afterwards.
It is “an enormity” meaning a major sin, to bring shame to Islam. Agreeing with you about Islamic violence would do that. Nevertheless, we know from experience, that our discussions DO make a difference. For example, two members of a Muslim family who later became Christians, said to Dr. C,
“Cynthia, we used to argue with you that Islam was not about violence, but inside we knew it was.”
References for this Lesson:
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Mark 12:30-32
- I Timothy 6:12
- II Timothy 4:7
- Romans 7 & 8
- Galatians 5:17
- Isaiah 40:8
- Matthew 5:17,18 & 10:16-42 & 24:9-14 & 28:18-20
- Galatians 3:35
- I Timothy 2:2
- I Thessalonians 4:11
- I John 4:18
- Joshua 1:9
- Ephesians 4:29
- Surah 2:256,216
- Surah 9:5,29,39
- Surah 2:105
- The Qur’an, mostly:
- The Noble Qur’an, Darussalam Publishers. Riyadh & Houston, 1996
(Note: various translations used, including The Noble Qur’an, 1985 edition, from which commentary promoting Jihad has been subsequently withdrawn for the American market.)
- Sunni and Shiite Hadiths:
- Al Bukhari’s Sahih. Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 2003
- Sahih Muslim. Dar Al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 2005
- Books and Articles:
- Al-Banna, Hassan. The Way of Jihad (Risallat al-Jihad), available on-line in English
- Note on al-Banna: he was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood party. His manifesto on jihad, written decades ago, is credited with re-igniting interest in jihad in the Muslim World.
- Andrew, Brother, God’s Call. Fleming H. Revel Publishers, 2002
- Langer, et al. Western Civilization I second edition. Harper and Row, 1975
- Marshall, Paul, et al. Islam at the Crossroads: Understanding Its Beliefs, History, and Conflicts. Baker Books 2002
- Rose, Mark. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” NetCE, September 2015
- Note on books: There are many books partly or entirely devoted to exposing the violence in Islam. The below are two of the best, written by former Muslims from different Muslim countries. Gabriel’s is from a Christian perspective, and Ibn Warraq’s from the secular perspective:
- Gabriel, Mark A. Islam and Terrorism. Charisma House 2002
- Trifkovic, Serge. The Sword of the Prophet: Islam, history, theology, impact on the World. Regina Orthodox Press, Boston, 2002.
- Warraq, Ibn. Why I Am Not a Muslim. Prometheus Books, 1995 (very well-documented, fully rounded expose).
- What was your thinking about Islam and violence before this lesson?
- Whatever your background, had you heard that Islam was peaceful, or violent?
- Where had you heard that?
- What impression have you received from various media outlets about violence and peace in Islam?
- Give examples of things you had heard or seen on both sides of the issue:
- Violence is part of Islam
- Violence is not part of Islam
- Discuss in your group, or consider on your own, the Doctrine of Abrogation.
- Review what the doctrine teaches
- Why do George Saieg and Dr. C think this is the key to understanding how violence in Islam is practiced?
- How does this differ from the Bible with its Old Covenant, or Testament, and the New Covenant, or Testament?
- Previous to today, what had you heard about:
- the way Islam spread over much of the globe? (west to Morocco, north into Spain and France, south into Sub-Saharan Africa, and east through Pakistan and India to Indonesia)
- the tolerance of Islamic governments?
- in history
- how has today’s lesson impacted what you previously thought about the above two points?
- Review the three forms of Jihad described in the Saudi commentary:
- Were all three of these forms familiar to you?
- What does George say is the internal struggle of jihad in Islam?
- How does that differ from the internal struggle of Christians?
- Do you now accept that the primary meaning and purpose of jihad is forceful expansion of the Islamic dominion?
- Have you ever been told Christianity is a violent religion?
- If so, what examples have you been given?
- Are you familiar with violence in the Bible?
- What are difference between the violence of the Bible and that of Islam?
- Did Jesus or Moses give a command to spread the faith by force?
- Did Mohammed give a command to spread the faith by force?
- How might you defend Christianity if a Muslim told you that it is just as violent as Islam?
- Why won’t a “Muslim Reformation,” like Christianity’s Reformation, work to bring about tolerance?
- During the Christian Reformation people went back to the Bible. How did that change practices of the Christian faith?
- If Muslims devoutly follow the teachings of the Qur’an and hadith, will it reduce or increase the violent practices of Islam?
- Think about the Muslims that you know personally.
- Do you think that they are nominal, moderate, or very serious and knowledgeable about Islam?
- How do you think that they feel about violence?
- Do you think they understand abrogation?
- Can you imagine a situation in which you might discuss violence with them?
- How might you do that?
- What do you know about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?
- Have you met anyone with it?
- Can you imagine why it is more common in refugee populations?
- How would you feel approaching someone who has suffered severe violence or loss of family members to conflict?
- Does knowing that many Muslims are at risk for PTSD impact your approach to them?
- If you are a Christian, where do you plan to be sharing the gospel, in word and deed, with Muslims? Knowing what you do now about the violent teachings of Islam, how might your approach differ for these locations?
- in America
- in Europe
- in a moderately Muslim country
- in a strict Muslim country
- If you are a Christian, how has learning about the violent teachings of Islam affected your desire to bring the gospel to Muslims?
- Are you more or less afraid of reaching them?
- Do you have more or less sympathy for them?
- Might your approach have changed?
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
ChristianfromMuslim.com is an extensive free video resource for Muslims who want to learn about the Christian faith, and Christians who want to help them do it. Here you find teaching, testimonies, reality clips of a formerly Muslim new Christian, and expert answers to questions Muslims ask.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Islam and Women
Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: Islam and Women is a huge subject. It would take many lessons to fully cover how Muslim women vary as individuals and by subcultures, and the special ways to build bridges, share truth, challenge their thinking, and bring them to Christ. We only cover a few here.
For this video lesson we have as our guest Dr. Wafa Sultan. Sultan is a psychiatrist from the Middle East. Although largely unknown to Americans, she is one of Time Magazine’s “most influential people in the world.” She is an outspoken former Muslim human rights advocate, and critic of Islam.
Notices: The Study Guide and video lesson on this subject contain adult content. Viewer, reader, and parental discretion are advised. Due to the broad topic and documentation, this study guide is long. Group Leaders may want to select portions for study and group discussion.
See also Lesson and Study Guide on Building Bridges with Muslims.
The Study Guide for this lesson is divided into Two Parts:
Part 1, a Review of the video lesson with Wafa Sultan. This lesson focuses on 5 important Women’s Rights issues in Islam that we think are important for Western Christians to know. We include the relationship between the Islamic Principles and these Practices. Are the abuses simply cultural?
Part 2, an Appendix of References, one of the largest English listings of authentic Qur’anic, Sunni, and Shiite references on women’s issues in Islam.
Part 1: Islam and Women with Guest Dr. Wafa Sultan
“I invite the advocates of the multicultural society to acquaint themselves with the suffering of the women who, in the name of religion, are enslaved.”
“Every Muslim country abuses women. That is why I am so poor after my divorce. I came to America to start a new life.”
Our PALM Project training teaches us to:
- Build Bridges
- Share Truth
- Challenge Falsehood
Five of the Worst Abuses faced by Muslim Women
Today’s lesson focuses on challenging an aspect of Islam: Women’s rights. The video lesson presents Five of the Worst Abuses faced by Muslim women. These are:
- The claim that women are “Lacking in Mind and Religion”
- Women’s Testimony being worth half a man’s
- Male domination of Women
It discusses these in the context of the Qur’an and authoritative traditions, (the sahih hadith), and answers the question, are these abuses due to Culture or True Islam?
Meet Dr. Wafa Sultan
Dr. Sultan has a fierce international reputation for her courage to speak out against the violence and human rights abuses of the Muslim world. She jumped to worldwide fame through an interview on Al Jazira television, but her convictions did not arise overnight.
Born and raised as a Muslim in Syria, Sultan saw and experienced many abuses against women, and observed Islam’s anger toward other people groups. In her culture, it was accepted without question that Islam was right. In that case, she thought, the abuses must be because her country did not correctly practice Islam.
Then she met the man who became her husband. He was Muslim, but he knew of another worldview – Christian. Little by little he convinced Wafa that the things they both disliked in their culture were a result of Islam. She began to see that it was true. And she began to doubt the existence of God.
Because of her excellent command of Arabic, when she moved to America, Sultan began writing articles for Syrian publications on what it was like to live here. Although she did not become a Christian, little by little her observations of America showed her a culture that was based around the belief in a God who loves. This made a stark contrast to A God Who Hates, her view of the God of Islam, and the title to her book on the subject.
“The righteous are bold as a lion.”
That describes the righteous indignation of Sultan in facing the system and leaders who exploit those trapped in the Muslim World. Yet on a personal basis Sultan is warm and full of Middle Eastern hospitality. You see this warm side as she welcomes Dr. C at the beginning of the interview.
(Note: Dr. Sultan is controversial. Some of our Muslim and former Muslim followers may already know her. Many admire her, including Muslims we know who have left Islam, partly because of her. However, perhaps you are offended by her and her message. If so, we ask you to overlook that and focus on the material we present as objectively as possible.)
Women and the Prosperity of Muslim Nations
Dr. Sultan starts out by telling us. “If women in the Muslim world were treated the way they are in America, every nation there would be as wonderful as America.”
“I believe the situation of any country is a reflection of the way its women are treated. How can a nation prosper,” Sultan asks, “if half of its citizens are mistreated? Several times during the interview she comes back to this theme – that a nation cannot do well if its women are abused.
The importance of ISLAMIC SOURCES in the Treatment of Muslim Women
Dr. C gives the references which set the foundation for the abuses that women face in the Muslim World. Dr. Sultan shares her experience with the reality of how they are practiced.
Since the West is constantly told that the mistreatment of women in regions dominated by Islam is cultural, not based on Islamic teachings, Wafa and Cynthia want to be sure that we know that the authentic documents of Islam prove that there IS a relationship.
It is true that there are a wide variety of Islamic sources, and they are of variable authenticity. Dr. C takes care to use the most authentic – the ones that are undeniably accepted by Muslims of Sunni and Shiite sects: the Qur’an and high level, or mutawater, hadith (for example Sahih Al Bukhari, and the Sayings of Ali).
When we see what the Islamic documents teach, and compare it with how the women under Islam are treated, we cannot reasonably deny that there is a connection:
The Teachings cause the Treatment, or
Islamic Principles = Islamic Practice
Pastor George Saieg, who is featured in several other lessons, told Dr. C off screen that when these principles are taught in Muslim countries, like where he was raised, the documentation is not given.
“Everyone accepts what is being taught, so the references are not necessary,” he says. “It is when Westerners want to understand or expose these teachings that the references must be used.”
That is our situation here, so we will give the references.
Are WOMEN LACKING in MIND and RELIGION?
Dr. C presents one of the worst principles against women in Islam: that they are Lacking in Mind and Religion. This concept is at the highest authority level of any teaching in Islam and cannot be denied by either Sunnis or Shiites. To deny a teaching with this level of authority would be similar to denying other major teachings of Islam, such as how many times a day to pray.
ISLAM TEACHES: Women are lacking in Mind and Religion
- Sunni Sahih Al Bukhari DuS # 304 (in seven books with indisputable transmission)
- Shiite Sayings of Ali (NaHjul Balagha)
- Both of which refer back to Qur’an Surah 2:282
- (see references in Appendix)
“Do not you see that two women’s witness is equal only to one man’s witness? …Then, this is women’s deficiency of intelligence. Do not you see that the menstruating woman could neither fast nor perform prayer? …This is her shortage of religion.”
“Women are deficient in Faith, deficient in Shares and deficient in Intelligence… So beware of the evils of women. Be on your guard even from those of them who are (reportedly) good. Do not obey them even in good things so that they may not attract you to evils.”
ISLAM TREATS: Women as lacking in Mind and Religion
Dr. Sultan’s response: When asked if she agrees that women are lacking in mind and religion, Dr. Sultan responds to the question as if it is ridiculous. “You are asking Wafa Sultan if women are lacking in mental ability? Of course, we’re not!” She goes on to add that to her, the role a woman plays in building a nation by building good families is highly dependent on women and their intelligence.
The belief that women are lacking in mind can be seen with American Muslims as well. Take for example, “Student S,” a Muslim undergraduate that Dr. C met at the University of California at Davis. Although born in Yemen, she was raised in America. When asked by Dr. C what she thought of women lacking in mind and religion, S answered,
“It is proven that women’s memories are not as good as men’s.
That’s why their testimony is only worth half a man’s in court.”
The idea expressed in the Sunni and Shiite hadiths that women are lacking in mind and religion is based on the instruction in Surah 2:282 of the Qur’an,
“And if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses,
so that if one of them err, the other can remind her.”
Even highly intelligent Muslim women in America are under this misunderstanding:
- A pre-law Student at the University of California Berkeley
- Ph.D. Pharmacist Dr. O, and
- an Islamic Newspaper publisher from the Midwest
These three women from strategic fields all told Dr. C on separate occasions:
“It is right that a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s.”
Dr. C finds this astounding. First, it is shocking to hear these points of view from educated women in America. Secondly, because women are NOT proven to have worse memories than men. In fact, some studies show that they have better memories. Dr. C presents evidence which supports the positive view of women’s intellectual abilities and religious devotion.
In the video lesson Dr. C says that these three women should know better. It is this sort of thinking that demonstrates why she is not happy with the thoughts of Sharia Law coming to America and Europe. Look at what it does in just two countries overseas:
PRACTICE: Status of Women Before the Law
- Women’s Testimony in Iran (Shiite) is worth half a man’s
- Bahrami of Iran said regarding the publicized court case of her blinding with acid, “Each man is worth two women. They are not the same.”
- Mahnoush of Iran said, “I am protesting that in any instance I am considered only half a man…maybe I am more effective than a man so why should my rights be half his?”
- Afghan Constitution (Sunni) made under the “direction/protection” of the United States government says:
- Woman is worth half a man
EVIDENCE that Women are NOT intellectually below Men:
- Women have higher IQs than men and
- Better memories than men
- More university students in America are women, and they are more likely to graduate with a degree
Also: women in at least one Middle Eastern university have higher admission requirements, as affirmative action for men, reportedly because male applicants have lower grades. (Dr. C has confirmed this claim by viewing the university’s admission requirements chart.)
Looking Down on them:
There actually are a few ways in which women might appear less intelligent than men, but they are not valid:
- Generalizing from the example of a simple, stupid, or obnoxious woman to claim that all women are that way.
- Keeping education from women, and then accusing them of being uneducated (Egyptian Muslim reformer Nawal Al Saadawi, also a physician points this out concerning village women in her writings.)
- Marrying girls at a young age before their education is complete, and diverting their attention to raising children.
- Telling women that their value is in providing sex and children, and then wondering why, as Islamic literature claims, they are mostly interested in sex and children.
Regarding Women Lacking in Religion: Lacking in Religion, or Religious Ritual?
Islam considers women unclean during their menstrual periods. This means they cannot attend the mosque. They cannot touch the Qur’an. They cannot even pray. They can not fast. When they are pregnant and breast-feeding children they also do not fast.
Women cannot pray in the same mosque zone as men. It is preferred if they have their own prayer room (which is never as large or grand as men’s), or in some situations they can pray behind all the men. While raising small children, they are excused from mosque attendance.
Set up for failure. With all these restrictions upon women, you can see how easily they fall behind in religious ritual. In a religion like Islam, which so heavily weighs religious rituals, being denied opportunities to perform them is a big strike against one’s religious progress. Theoretically, women can make up some of these prayers and fasting on other days. But the daily obligations are so many, that it is nearly impossible to make up additional rituals.
In the hadith, Mohammed said that women were lacking in religion. Why? Because of these ritual limitations. Is it fair to put ritual limitations upon women, and then call them lacking due to them?
Excepting Islam, Dr. C has seen that on several continents, regardless of the culture or religion, it is women who are the most frequent visitors to places of worship, apply rituals, and tend to pass on teachings of faith to the next generation.
The Pew Research Center agrees. Possibly the most prestigious organization studying religious trends over decades, it has collected much data that supports her view. In March 2016 it published, “The Gender Gap in Religion Around the World,” which says,
“Based on these wide-ranging and comprehensive datasets, this study finds that globally women are more devout than men by several standard measures of religious commitment.”
In Islam, however, the study noticed that although men and women are equally religious, men attend mosque more often, because of “religious norms.” And you now know what the “religious norms” are – discriminatory laws.
Proving Our Point
Having PROVEN our Point: that Women are Lacking in NEITHER Mind nor Religion MEANS:
- Women should be considered men’s equals in every culture
- Women deserve equal rights with men
- We see that Islam’s teachings are inaccurate
Deuteronomy 18:22 tells us not to follow a prophet who has spoken something that has been proven to be untrue. The Qur’an and both Sunni and Shiite hadiths strongly assert the falsehood that women are lacking in mind and religion.
Therefore, based on the above evidence, and applying Deuteronomy 18:22, Dr. C asserts that exposing the error of this teaching alone is enough to prove that Islam itself is not true. That means it is not from God.
Any Muslim, man or women, who is familiar with logic or can reason, should reflect on this, and consider leaving Islam.
Put in the terms of a Logical Argument:
- Premise 1: We should not follow a prophet who speaks untruth (Deuteronomy 18:22)
- Premise 2: Mohammed spoke untruth (about women lacking in Mind and Religion)
- Therefore: We should not follow Mohammed or Islam
WHY do educated Muslim women accept this FALSE stereotype?
Dr. Sultan makes another very strong statement, “I always say that education without values is of no value.” Without women being appropriately valued, how can they be expected to fulfill their roles to improve society?
Dr. Sultan explains that growing up in Islamic society being told this, influences the way women think. They have never even considered that they might be the equals to men.
LEAVING the CAGE:
Dr. Sultan says, “The worst form of slavery is when the slave thinks they are free.”
Noted reformer Ayan Hirsi Ali comments on this too,
“Psychological conditioning is very powerful…Muslim girls … have internalized their subordination, they … never succeed in escaping from the cage. They are like prisoners suffering from Stockholm Syndrome… comparable to slaves … who prefer the certainty of their existence in slavery to a freedom that they perceive as treacherous.”
“Marry of the women, who seem good to you two, or three, or four…”
Quoting this, Sultan says, “Muslim men can have four wives.” She asks how that makes a woman feel? It makes them feel that they are not adequate to fulfill the needs of their husband and raise his family.
“There is no doubt that the woman who has…one forth is better off than the one who has no husband at all,” says a contemporary law book from Saudi Arabia.3
Certainly, we disagree with this baseless claim. Dr. C’s Muslim students have expressed hoped that their marriage contract could prevent subsequent wives. But this Saudi book makes that doubtful. When addressing a woman’s complaint that she had kept her part of the marriage contract, yet her husband wanted another wife, the legal advice is:
“You do not have the right to prevent him from marrying again no matter what your activities toward him. He may desire more children or he may feel that having only one wife does not keep him completely chaste.”
So, what Christians call adultery, these Sunni leaders call “chaste.”
The Impact of Polygamy
Another former Muslim, Noni Darwish exposes the broad impact of polygamy:
“Men do not even have to exercise their right to additional wives for the damage to be done. By allowing men to be “loyal” to up to four wives, the stage is set for women always to distrust their husbands. Nor can they trust their friends.”
Darwish states that polygamy indirectly results in:
- making Muslim women adversaries
- single women seeing married men as available
- wives vulnerable if childless
- preventing support groups to help women
- manipulative wives
Since polygamy is respected, and divorce by pronouncement is easy, to avoid divorce, women may:
- Endure beating
- Endure husband’s women in their house/bed
- Pay money to husband
Did you know that Muslim polygamy goes on in America? Only the first wife is considered legal. Second marriages can occur in the mosque, and are considered valid by Muslims, but have no legal standing. As reported by co-workers, extra wives obtain government support as single mothers. (There is much more about polygamy and temporary marriages that we do not cover in this lesson.)
One Man One Woman?
The movement to establish this as the definition of marriage in America failed. A concern of those working with Muslims is that the erosion of the traditional American version of marriage could allow for the legalization of polygamy in America. As we hope you now see, that would be a big step backwards for women’s rights in America, and for the world.
“If Islam gains power in America, women will become nothing again.”
“In Islam,” Dr. Sultan tells us, “a man can beat his wife, and they practice this.” She tells us that beating a person takes away their dignity, and treats them as less than human.
“As to those women on whose part you see ill conduct, admonish them, and BEAT them.”
“My husband used to beat me until my whole side was blue. My mother told me to stay with him. It would be shame if I did not.”
Because this verse is actually in the Qur’an, Muslims in the West cannot deny that men have the right to beat their wives, something which is never granted in the Bible.
This is disastrous for Islam’s public relations with the West. To get around this, Dr. C has heard them attempt to soften the shock of the verse by claiming that it simply means, “slap them to bring them to their senses,” like something we might see in an old TV comedy.
But that is not the way it is practiced. And the truth is far from humorous.
There is an important book called, Reasons for Sending the Verses from God by al Sayuti, which explains the circumstances in which verses of the Qur’an were revealed to Mohammed.
When we look up the situation described for Surah 4:34, which allows a man to beat his wife, the situation becomes worse, not better: A woman came to Mohammed complaining of being beaten. Mohammed inquired of Allah, and Allah said that the man had the right to do this.
“My husband beat me and left some marks on my face. In spite of that the man was not punished, though Mohammed wanted to do so.”
Also consider these other Examples from the Qur’an and Mohammed:
In the Qur’an, Job is commanded to beat his wife, in Surah 38:44
A woman, greener than her veil from being beaten, complained to Mohammed. Regarding this, Aisha, Mohammed’s favorite wife said,
“I have not seen any women suffering as much as the believing women.”
on another occasion, because she left the house without his permission, Aisha said Mohammed,
“Struck me on the chest, which caused me pain.”
(Note: Sahih Muslim is another collection of highly regarded Sunni hadith, second only to Al Bukhari, and perhaps equal to it in esteem.)
The argument could be made that children need discipline. Some Westerners spank their children. Islam allows men to marry children (pre-pubertal girls), so they might need spanking, right? But does that make Islam’s treatment of women sound better or worse?
The PR and the Reality of Wife-Beating
While much effort is made in the contemporary English writings, especially online, to soften the blow of these verses (literally), and to come up with hadiths which would suggest nice treatment of wives is better.
One hadith says the “best of men” treat their women well. We don’t think it should be only the best of men. We think all men should treat women well, and their religion should tell them that. For example, the Bible says all Christian men must love their wives like their own bodies, and as much as Jesus loved the church he died to save.
Internationally the domestic violence statistics do not show Muslim wives being treated well:
- Pakistan: Many studies out of Pakistan report that up to 95% of women suffer domestic violence, so much so that they consider it a normal part of married life.
- Afghanistan: According to a 2013 HRW Report, 85% of Afghani women have experienced violence. 60% suffer serial violence. Afghanistan is the only country in the world where female suicide tops male.
- Egypt and Jordan: A UN Study in 2012 found 33% of Egyptian women, and 20% of Jordanian women experienced physical domestic violence.
- Bangladesh: The UN in the 1990s found that 45% of Bangladeshi women had experienced domestic violence.
- Other high figures are reported from Turkey, Iran, Syria and Palestine
Remember that this rough treatment will leave deep psychological scars and behavior patterns, at times even Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Some women are starting to report the abuse they experience, but in their shame-and-honor cultures it is extremely difficult to get a response or see progress.
“Men have a status above women. God is Majestic and wise.”
“Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property.”
Surah 4:34 sets up for woman to be under the domination of males for her entire life, including her:
- and even her Juvenile son
Several experts believe that the key to improving Muslim societies is to empower women with the courage and skills to raise their sons to respect them and other women. This means not letting the son, even little boys, boss them around, as happens in so many Muslim homes.
One expert says allowing sons to boss adult mothers not only undervalues them, but it leads to a misunderstanding of how things work. When a boy tells his mother to do something, and she does it, he gets the idea that saying = doing. Whereas, the reality in life is far different. Saying it does not get it done. Effort is needed to bring goals into reality.
Male custody of children is based on this verse as well.
In the West primary, custody of children in a divorce is granted to the mother, unless she has significant problems. The thinking is that she most loves them, and has their best at heart. Notice that this is the opposite view of Islam. Although Sharia may allow the children to be with the mother for a while, for example two years for a boy for nursing, and seven years for a girl, the ultimate custody belongs to the father.
We know of an example where the father took custody of a boy, out of his mother’s house, and turned him over to another wife. The boy was overlooked by both the dad and stepmother. Both neglected to educate him. He later went back to the birth mother as a barely literate older teen, struggling to survive in society because of his neglect.
“Not Without My Daughter,” a film starring Sally Field, as an American mother trying to get custody of her daughter from a Muslim husband. Based on a true story, it is a not uncommon example of situations that can result when international Muslim marriages break up. (In the video lesson Should Christians Marry Muslims? George Saieg strongly recommends this film for women considering marrying Muslims.)
What about decisions regarding herself? Some Muslim countries the husband can notify airports not to let his wife leave the country.
“The man has to have the upper hand!” affirms Sultan in today’s video lesson. He needs to control every aspect of a woman’s life. She cannot even attend her own father’s funeral unless her husband gives permission. If she cannot make even simple decisions regarding herself, Sultan asks, how can she be expected to make the kind of important decisions that impact those around her and the world?
Tina, a successful business woman working in the Middle East, told Dr. C that “Muslim women have difficulty making decisions. They have not learned how to do it – make a choice and take responsibility for the results. There is always someone making the decisions for them – a father, brother, or even juvenile child. After time, some of these women get tired of being bossed around, and rebel. That can start other problems.”
In Tina’s country, women have the opportunity to be educated and get jobs. “But they have no practice in how to make decisions,” she says. “So, society is now facing a group of educated women who insist on having their own way; but because of their lack of experience, make bad decisions and mess up their lives.” (Note: Tina is not her real name. She asks to remain anonymous)
There is one area where women are considered equal in Islam: before the law in responsibility for performing the duties imposed upon them. As it says in the Qur’an,
“Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female while a true believer… we will bestow on such their reward according to their actions.”
“So Allah has stated that the woman is an equal partner of the man in terms of reward and punishments for their actions…. Yet, as a class, men are superior to women in general.”
Are these Abuses Cultural, or related to Islam?
“They are NOT cultural!” insists Dr. Sultan.
Sultan says these abuses are a result of Islamic teachings. “And I can prove it!” she says. She points out that in her country, Syria, there are Christians. Muslims and Christians there share the same broad culture. But, the Muslims have “honor killings” of women who are felt to disgrace Islam and family.
The Muslims in Syria hold this custom in common with Muslims elsewhere, like Pakistan. However, she has never heard of honor killing among Christians. Because of Islam, she says, Muslims in Syria behave more like Muslims in Pakistan that with their own Christian neighbors.
Dr C agrees with Dr. Sultan: the abuses Muslim women face are primarily due to Islam. Why? Because Islam teaches them. These abuses could be considered cultural only in the sense that the culture of Muslim countries is based on Islam, which originates and authorizes these mistreatments.
So – is there a relationship between:
the PRINCIPLES regarding women and the PRACTICES regarding women in Islam?
Yes, the Teachings of Islam give rise to the Treatment of women in Islam.
In his well-documented book, Why I Am Not a Muslim, Ibn Warraq states,
“The horrendous behavior toward women, non-Muslims, heretics, and slaves manifested in Islamic civilization was a direct consequence of the principles laid down in the Koran and developed by the Islamic jurists.”
Dr. Cynthia thinks that understanding this relationship is probably the most important message to get out of this lesson.
The Presentation of Islam and Women to the West
Dr. C has attended many presentations of Islam to Americans in person, as well as many others online and in the media. In these, spokespersons paint a bright picture of women in Islam. They say,
“Islam puts women on a pedestal. We honor them. We do not treat them like sex objects, making them expose their bodies. We do not treat them like slaves, expecting them to work outside of the home, as well as having children and raising a family.”
This chart summarizes how Islam explains the treatment of its women, compared to the way most in the West would find it:
|Islam’s Presentation||West’s View (Reality)|
On American university campuses, it is common for the Muslim students to put on “Women in Islam” presentations. As part of these, they often have a panel of Muslim university students, and at times educated Muslim women who share their positive experiences as women in Islam.
Egyptian reformer Nawal Al Saadawi sees through the pedestal presentation. From her long experience she says,
“When fundamentalist movements become powerful, it is women, especially poor women, who suffer most. These movements direct their attack against women and minority groups… In the name of protection, honor, sacred motherhood, women are degraded and exploited inside and outside the home.”
Dr. Sultan responds to this situation in the video lesson, explaining that what they present to the West is not representative of Islam around the world.
“Those women live in America,” she says. “They are protected by the United States Constitution. No one can beat them, no one can abuse them.”
She encourages them to visit or live in a strict Muslim country to see how pure Islam treats women.
Herstory in Islam
Considering all of the above, Dr. C explains to us that HerStory, The Story of Women in Islam has the shape of ___, a flat line.
Most of us find that,
A Good Story Has:
A Beginning, Middle, and End
Drama: Good vs. Evil
Reversals of fortune
A Happy Ending!
In Islam, there was no lovely beginning for women; meaning that there is no evidence that Eve was ever equal with Adam. Throughout their lives, Muslim women suffer great indignities and pain, sadly much of it is authorized and institutionalized by Islam. And what end do Muslim women have to look forward to? One of these options:
Islam’s Eternally Bad Option for Women:
- They have a greater chance of being in hell than men (most of those in hell are women)
- They get hell because they are disrespectful or ungrateful to their husbands (This puts a woman’s eternal destiny at her husband’s pleasure; not something appealing to Western women. They would prefer an objective judge – like God.)
Islam’s Eternally “Good” Option for Women:
- Believing women who do good are promised paradise in Islam, but there is no specific description of its delights for them.
- They could end up as one of 2-72 perpetual virgins servicing a man (depending on how many he merits)
- A Saudi cleric, trying to soften the prospects for believing women, told one of our students that the wife could be a social secretary of sorts, scheduling the women’s sex nights with her husband.
- Is it any wonder that one of the first things that attracted her to Christianity was the Bible’s description of heaven without marriage?
As Dr. C points out in the video lesson, perpetual virginity would not be a pleasant thing for the virgin. It might be good for the man; but since a woman’s first experience of sexual intercourse is usually uncomfortable, she would face continual suffering (especially if she had had female genital mutilation).
By way of contrast, the Story of Women in Christianity is the shape of a W. Women start out equal with men, experience a disastrous fall, but rise greatly with Jesus. After Jesus, women still face consequences of the curse; but believing women are assured a beautiful future in heaven with God, when the curse haunts them no more, and they again share equal status with men.
Muslim DENIALS of the Sources and Abuses:
Denials of the Sources
In a Western setting, Muslims will not readily admit what the abundance of authoritative Islamic literature says about women. Some will respond by saying they believe only the Qur’an. But how does that really improve things when all these abuses are set up through the Qur’an?
We are presenting only the strongest and earliest claims about women here. These are documented so well that to be a true Sunni or Shiite you must accept them. Later Islamic commentators, like the respected expert Al-Ghazali, say utterly atrocious things about women, which could perhaps be denied – but not the Qur’an itself and hadith.
As Christians, we cannot deny that historical church leaders have said terrible things about women too, and have negatively impacted women’s equality and rights throughout history. The difference is that the Holy Scriptures we rely on for our faith, when properly viewed, disprove those statements and practices. Whereas, in Islam, the documents which must be accepted to be a Muslim, firmly assert the inferiority and suppression of women.
Dr. C thinks most Muslims are unaware of many of the specific teachings, especially women. That is why she hears views like Wafa had before she left Islam – that Islam is true, but simply not practiced right.
This was also the view of Huda and other women we know who left Islam after fully realizing Islam’s teachings. As Nabeel Qureshi said, “I had read the words multiple times since childhood, never stopping to consider what they meant.”
When speaking with educated Muslim women on American university campuses, Dr. C finds that even they are ignorant of the weight of Islamic literature against them. If they do come across something which they are uncomfortable with, their leaders give them a very soft interpretation of it – one which fits with American life, but would not be practiced in an Islamic country. Dr. C encourages these women to become experts in what Islam has written about women, the scriptures on which the leaders base the rules, in order to be better able to serve their fellow Muslim women.
At a Muslim convention Dr. C asked one of the leaders, an extremely knowledgeable Muslim man, how he would explain their doctrine that women are lacking in mind and religion. Since Dr. C knew the documents, he could not deny them as he otherwise might.
Instead, he paused, then “punted,” as Americans would say, meaning he tried an entirely different approach:
“I suggest,” said the leader, avoiding the question,
“that you fall in love with the Prophet Mohammed.”
Dr. C was dumbfounded. “Does he really think that would work with me?” she thought, “knowing what I do about Islam, and what I must know about Mohammed? He is certainly desperate for something to say without telling me to my face that yes, in his religion says I am lacking in mind and religion.”
Denial of the Abuses
If you ask a Muslim woman how Islam treats her, she will almost always say, “Very well. I like it,” Dr. C tells us from her experience. But she says in the video lesson that this claim is less convincing when you know that is what they must say.
In a highly authoritative book of Sunni Law, Reliance of the Traveler, # w52.1(384) tells Muslims they must cover embarrassing things about Muslims/Islam. If not, it is “an enormity,” a major sin.
Most of us respect someone who does not gossip about their loved ones. For anyone to share something sad like abuse, they usually have to know a person well. This is especially true in shame-and-honor cultures.
So, it is good for those befriending Muslim women to know that their natural reluctance to share negative experiences is underlined by Islamic law forbidding it.
Dr. C tells us that in the West, we have found that the first step towards progress is to admit there is a problem. For example, this is the case with drug/alcohol and domestic violence situations in the United States. The reluctance of Muslim women to admit the problem, understandable as it is, makes it more difficult for Muslim cultures to progress toward better treatment of women.
SUMMARY OF WOMEN in ISLAM:
- True Islam truly represses women
- Westernized Islam can be similar to secular America
- The great women of Islam are great in spite of Islam, not because of it
- The more a religion favors man, the less it is of God
- Down deep, most Muslim women know they are treated wrong in Islam because Their conscience is better than their religion
An Inescapable CONCLUSION
Perhaps we could explain away a few problems are misunderstood/mistranslated verses, such as is the case with Christianity. However, this is not the case with Islam. The Islamic writings are weighted down with many harsh rules and insults against women (see reference list in Appendix). Although newer translations try to lessen the impact, you do not have to look hard in the Qur’an or hadith to find many harsh sayings and laws regarding women.
That means that either or both of these statements must be true:
- The authoritative documents of Islam teach the suppression of women
- After 1400 years, Islam – which controls all the minute details of the lives of its followers – is powerless to bring about the fair treatment of women
The Best, and possibly Only HOPE
- Individually – inner freedom through Jesus, and to carry the hope of heaven in their hearts
- Culturally – redeemed, as more and more Muslims come to know the truth of the loving God personally, and apply the Bible to their culture
- “Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you really are my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31, 32
(Note: See secular options in the section on “Is there Hope for Peace” in the Study Guide on Islam and Violence, also apply here.)
What Can We DO About these Abuses?
“Do you have to be mistreated, raped, locked up, and repressed yourself in order to put yourself in someone else’s position? Is it not hypocritical to trivialize or tolerate those practices, when you yourself are free?”
In the video lesson, Dr. C tells us that Christians are authorized by the Bible to do something about these abuses. It might seem difficult, or unpleasant, but we are instructed to Expose, and Reform them. Read what the Bible says:
Expose darkness and bring people into the light:
“Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”
Ephesians 5:11 (NLT)
Reform women’s rights in Muslim cultures:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.”
So Exposure and Reform should be our goals.
The Style we use to do this is of great importance:
- We must remember to speak the truth in love, and with gentleness and respect
- We must not be overcome by the power of evil. We must overcome evil with good. (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 3:15 and Romans 12:21)
- We must be humble, and guard against falling into sins (1 Corinthians 10:12, Galatians 6:1)
Then, you might ask, will it work? Will we be wasting our time? Perhaps we should simply spend more time with our families or at church activities? Consider these examples:
RESULTS of EXPOSURE with INDIVIDUALS:
Classic Example from the Past:
Pandita Ramabai – In India, over 100 years ago, her high caste father broke the traditions of his religion: he allowed brilliant Pandita to read the Vedas, the high-holy books of Hinduism forbidden to women. When she saw what the books of her religion really said about women, she was shocked and hurt, and knew they could not be true.
So, Pandita left Hinduism. After more study she eventually became a Christian. A century later, India issued a stamp in her honor for the good work she did rescuing child widows from wandering the streets and starving. These children were traditionally shunned in Hindu culture, for it was believed that their bad karma had brought bad luck and death to their husbands.
Note: The example of Pandita Ramabai shows the power of a person reading for themselves the harsh writings of a religion against them. Following this example, rather than us saying these harsh things, whenever possible we like to let Islam speak for itself. We have found it powerful to tag these references in an Islamic book with post-its, and give them to a receptive Muslim to read on their own. That way the insult comes directly from Islam, not the Christian.
- Former Muslims Nabeel Qureshi, and Ismael of Canada
left Islam partly due to its principles and practices regarding the treatment to the women (Surah 4:24, 23:6 & 70:30) (See Nabeel and hear his testimony in the Lesson on The Place of Miracles.)
- Middle Eastern student “F”
lost faith in Islam at age 14 when she discovered their teaching on women and became a Christian in USA over a decade later when she heard the gospel (see her written testimony in the “Testimonies” section of our website)
- Two Shiite students in USA
Became very disillusioned after being shown what Ali said about women, and they became less and less strict in Islam, eventually became Christians. (see their written testimony in the “Testimonies” section of our website)
RESULTS of EXPOSURE on a CULTURE: Example India’s elimination of SUTTEE
The practice of suttee, burning Hindu widows alive with their husbands, has now largely disappeared from India, thanks to exposure and reform. Reformers worked against it from both cultural and legal angles, both inspired by Christian values.
English ruler in India, Sir Charles James Napier, when told by Indian locals it was their custom to burn widows alive with their husbands, responded that it was his “custom to hang at dawn” those burned widows alive.
Using the cultural angle, missionary William Carey convinced high caste Hindus to join him in fighting suttee. They assured the people that burning widows was not necessary Hindu practice.
If Exposure and Reform worked with Hinduism, why not Islam?
As David told Solomon,
“Be strong and courageous and do the work.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord, my God, is with you.”
1 Chronicles 28:20 (NIV)
Note: List of Important Issues regarding Islam and Women not covered in this Lesson
Women in leadership, no women prophets, hijab, covering and its consequences, the many types of Muslim marriages, double standard for sex, female blame for male sexual misconduct, temporary marriages, incorrect assumption that women are more sexually oriented than men, rape, conquest rape, and gang rape, “rape capitals,” “outcasts,” traumatic or repeated abuse leading to post traumatic stress disorder, divorces, secret marriages and secret divorces, child marriage, selling in marriage, bride baiting for greater dowry, “only boys count,” female illiteracy, female infant mortality rates, honor killing, cooler white clothing reserved for men, forbidding wigs, infidel and attractive fashions prohibitions, female genital mutilation (“female circumcision”) and whether Christians and Muslims should marry (See Lesson and Study Guide on Should Christians Marry Muslims?). Some references for these can be found in Part 2, the Appendix.
Scripture References for this Lesson:
II Corinthians 5:17
Ephesians 5:11-13 and 4:15
I Peter 3:15
I Corinthians 10:12
Ephesians 4:15 & 5:11
I Peter 3:15
I Corinthians 10:12
I Chronicles 28:20
The Qur’an, mostly from:
The Noble Qur’an, Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh & Houston, 1996
Sunni and Shiite Hadith Collections:
Al Bukhari’s Sahih. Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, Lebanon, 2003
Sahih Muslim. Dar Al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beiruit, Lebanon, 2005
Ali, Imam Ibn Abu Talib. NaHjul Balagha: The Peak of Eloquence. Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an Inc, New York, 1985
Books and Articles:
- Ali, Ayaan Hirsi. The Caged Virgin. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006. & Infidel 2007
- Darwish, Noni. Now They Call Me Infidel. Sentinel Publishers, New York, 2006
- Sultan, Wafa. A God Who Hates. St Martin’s Press, New York, 2009
- Warraq, Ibn. Why I Am Not a Muslim. Prometheus Books, 1995
- Ward, Olivia, “Worst Countries for Women” Toronto, Canada 2008
- Al-Fauzan, Saleh. Rulings Pertaining to Muslim Women. Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2003
- Al-Sistani, Ayatullah. Islamic Laws: English Version of Taudhidiul Masae’l. World Federation Publisher, Lebanon, 1994
- Human Rights Watch, “Afghanistan: Ending Child Marriage and Domestic Violence” 2013
- Harrison, Frances, “Iranian Women Struggle for Equality,” BBC News, Tehran, 2009
- Al-Musnad, Muhammad bin Abdul-Aziz. Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women. Darussalam Publishers, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 2003
- Wikipedia “Islam and Domestic Violence” 2019
- Rose, Mark, et al. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,” NetCE, September 2015, Vol. 141, No.4
- An-Naisaburi, Abu Al-Hassan. Reasons and Occasions of the Revelation of the Holy Quran. Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut Lebanon, originally written about 1000 AD
- Al-Misri, Ahmad. Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law (sic). Amana Publications, Beltsville, MD, 1994
- El Saadawi, Nawal. The Nawal El Saadawi Reader. Zed Books, New York, 1998
- Merinisi, Fatima. The Veil and the Male Elite. Perseus Books Pub, New York, 1991
- Qureshi, Nabeel. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2014
- Dr. Sultan believes the situation of any country is a reflection of the way its women are treated. We think this is a strong point.
- Do you think she made this point clearly?
- What reasons did she give to support this claim?
- Thinking it over, do you agree or disagree?
- What else might be needed to make a nation prosper? (see Proverbs 14:34)
- The TREATMENT of women in Islam is based on the Teachings of Islam. Or, as Dr. C says, Principles = Practice
- Do you think this video lesson made a solid case for that claim?
- Have you heard the Muslim claim that the mistreatment of women in Islamic countries is based on culture, not the principles or teachings of Islam?
- What was some of the evidence Wafa and Dr. C gave to support this claim?
- True Story for comparison: Jaycee Lee Dugard was kidnapped at age 11. She was discovered in Antioch, CA, in August 2009, at age 29. Jaycee had been used as a sex slave for 18 years by Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy. It was called “an unfathomable crime” in USA.
- Do you think it would have been better if –
- the stepfather were paid?
- the parents agreed?
- she were taken during war?
A situation like this in the Muslim world is not unimaginable. Islam today still has child marriage and sex slaves. If any of the above conditions were met in the Islamic world, the situation would have been acceptable. Basically, since women belong to men, as long as there is no man forbidding this practice it is acceptable; or if the female is taken as “booty of war,” even married women. (By the way, according to strict interpretation, all Western women are declared “booty of war” because the West has attacked Muslim countries.)
- Since it is culturally acceptable in Islam, should we consider that it would not be “an unfathomable crime” if done there?
- Since it is acceptable under Sharia’ Law, should it be acceptable in Europe and USA in areas where Sharia’ Law is now practiced?
- What does it say about the differences in the Western and Muslim world views that one considers as an unfathomable crime” what the other world view could find acceptable?
- Which 5 Women’s Rights ISSUES did today’s lesson cover?
- Which issue do you feel is most important?
- If you are Muslim, do you have experience with any of these?
- What related to these abuses might women in the West have experienced to some degree?
- Regarding Women LACKING in Mind and Religion:
- Do you recall why Islam says women lack these?
- Do you think we present solid evidence that women do not lack these?
- Do you think that the evidence suggests that since Islam in incorrect about these, it might be unreliable in other things as well?
- Did you realize that the Qur’an, and thus Sharia Law, state that a woman’s TESTIMONY is worth half of a man’s?
- How does that make you feel about Sharia Law?
- Knowing that Sharia Law also allows polygamy and grants child custody to the man, how do you feel about Sharia Law being allowed in any areas of the West?
- Regarding POLYGAMY: At creation, God established one man and one woman as a married pair. Jesus affirmed this during his ministry. Although never approved by God, polygamy existed in the Old Testament. Some experts that the verse forbidding sister-wives means co-wives, more than one (Leviticus 18:18).
- How do you feel about polygamy?
Polygamy is being used to recruit men into Islam. Can you see the appeal in that?
When prophets like Mohammed and Joseph Smith re-instate polygamy, does it seem that they are going forward or backward in spiritual progress?
How would you feel if you were a woman who discovered her husband was getting another wife?
How would you feel if polygamy becomes legal in America?
- How do you feel about polygamy?
- “J,” one of our volunteers, was having lunch with Dr. C and a Muslim student. She was surprised when he told her that his father had several wives. “That’s just wrong!” exclaimed “J.”
- Do you agree with her?
- Is that the way you would approach the situation?
- What might you say?
- Try to imagine a religion designed to mistreat women.
- What sorts of principles and practices would the religion include?
- How would this differ from Islam as you learned today (including the references in the appendix)?
- Regarding Muslim women discovering the teachings of Islam about them:
- Why do you think this lesson says it is better for Muslims to read it for themselves than for a Christian to tell them?
- Does this mean that a Christian should never tell them?
How would you feel if you unexpectedly came across writings by your religion which said you were very low, and probably going to hell simply because of something beyond your control, like your race, size, or gender?
Study Guide Part 2
Appendix: Islamic References Regarding Women from the Qur’an, and Authoritative Sunni and Shiite Hadiths
- Note 1: This is the most complete list we know of anywhere of authoritative references on the problems of women in Islam.
- Note 2: Surah designates the book, or chapter, of the Qur’an. The books also have names as well as numbers.
- Note 3: Sahih Al Bukhari is generally considered the highest level of Sunni Hadith, and required to believe/follow for Sunni Muslims. Dr. C has run into at least 5 numbering systems for Sahih Al Bukhari, none of which is always used. This could cause you confusion. The DuS # we use here is the Dar us-Salam number, which is good.
- Note 4: If you want to look up references, an online source for multiple sources of hadith and different numberings, and commentaries is https://quranx.com, which uses three systems, including DuS.
- Note 5: Some hadith about women are getting more difficult to find online due to political correctness.
- Note 6: The Sayings of Ali, NaHajul Balagha, are highly respected by Shiites.
Authoritative Quran and Sunni References:
- Men superior to women – Surah 4:34, Surah 2:22, 228
- Women are a man’s field to plow as he wishes – Surah 2:223
- Women are a desirable “possession” – Surah 2:223 & 3:14
- Woman’s testimony worth half a man’s – Surah 2:282
- News of the birth of a daughter depresses a man – Surah 43:15-17
- Women are lacking in Mind and Religion –
- Al Bukhari DuS # 304 (USC-MSA 1:6:301; 6:9, 2:541; 3:286), & Sermon 79 from the Sayings of Ali, NaHjul Balagha
- Surah 2:282 is the basis
- No women prophets or leaders – Surah 16:43
- “Those who entrust their affairs to a woman will never know prosperity.” – commonly quoted, attributed to El Bukhari
- Inherit from father half of a man’s share – Surah 4:11
- Inherit from husband only 1/4 if he is childless, and 1/8 if he has children – Surah 4:12
- Status before the law is different for women and slaves than men – Surah 2:178
- interpreted by Muslim jurors that in cases of manslaughter, the financial compensation for a woman is half of that of a man
- Sex slaves, “booty of war,” permitted – Surah 4:3, 24
- Four wives permitted Muslim men – Surah 4:3
- Can beat women –
- wives – Surah 4:34, Sahih Muslim 11:35:103 (7:2127)
- daughters – Al Bukhari DuS # 6845 (Aisha’s father beat her violently)
- No women suffer like Muslim – Al Bukhari DuS # 5825 (USC-MSA vol 7 book 72 #715)
- They are green from being beaten – also 5825
- Don’t have sex with wife after you beat her like a slave – Al Bukhari DuS # 5204
- Pre-pubertal child wives acceptable – Surah 65:4
- Mohammed married Aisha when she was six and consummated it when she was nine, so child marriage is ok – Al Bukhari DuS # 5133, 5134, & 5158
- Temporary Marriage
- Surah 4:24
- Al Bukhari DuS # 5118, 5119
- Forced Prostitution Acceptable – Surah 24:33
- Seclusion of Women – Surah 33:33 & 53
- Covering of Women – Surah 33:59, 24:31
- Women lower gaze – Surah 24:31
- Beware of women’s voices – Surah 33:32 & 53 and other
- Men are sexually weak and need to be indulged – Surah 4:28
- Husband’s permission for visitors to home – Al Bukhari DuS # 5195
- Husband’s permission for wife to fast – Al Bukhari DuS # 5195
- Mohammed’s wives complaining? No great loss, Allah will send better! – Surah 66:5
- Pronounce or text divorce – Surah 66:5
- Husband originates divorce, and can take dowry back – Surah 2:229
- No official means for a woman to instigate divorce, although some branches now accept it under certain conditions.
- “The Legalizer” al mohalil, is the man who “marries” a divorced woman so she can remarry a husband who has divorced her by triple pronouncement – Surah 2:229, 230
- A woman can pay her husband to prevent him from being cruel or divorcing her – Surah 4:128
- Most in hell are women – Al Bukhari DuS # 304 & 5197 (and 8 other places in this source)
- Because ungrateful to husbands Al Bukhari DuS # 5197
- No women prophets or leaders –Surah 16:43
- Touching a woman makes a man unclean for prayer – Surah 4:43
- Mohammed married his daughter-in-law by divine revelation – Surah 33:37,28
- this incident led to the outlawing of adoption in Islam
- Mohammed’s wife Sawda, gave her night to Aisha to stay married – Al Bukhari DuS # 5212
- Women are like a bent rib, and cannot be straightened – Al Bukhari DuS # 5185
- Women are evil omen – Al Bukhari DuS # 5093 (7:30)
- Nothing more harmful to men than women – Al Bukhari DuS # 5096 (7:33)
- Angels curse wives who decline sex – Al Bukhari DuS # 5193
- No society will prosper with woman leader – Al Bukhari vol 4:226
- Note: Honor killing – derives secondarily from men’s authority over women, and punishments for immorality and apostasy.
Somewhat lower Sunni authority, but still strong and current:
- Female genital mutilation is indirectly referred to, but unfortunately this seems to be adequate to continue the custom –
- weakly connected to Surah 30:30
- Al Bukhari 58:89, & 64:17, & 77:106;
- Don’t ask why a man beats his wife – Hadith Abu Dawood 11:2142 (somewhat lesser authority Sunni hadith collection than Al Bukhari, but also authoritative)
- Women may not leave town without a near relative accompanying – Reliance of the Traveler m10.3
- Lying to wife ok – Reliance of Traveler r8:2
- OK to keep rival wives secret – Reliance of the Traveler r8.2
NaHjul Balagha, Peak of Eloquence (Shiite)
By the fourth Caliph, Ali ibn Abu Talib as translated into English by Sayed Ali Reza, 1975
Although Dr. C’s Shiite students told her that the Shiites honored women because Ali loved Mohammed’s daughter Fatima so much, these “Sayings of Ali” about women are just as bad or worse as the Sunni.
Sermon 79, page 204
“O ye peoples! Women are deficient in Faith, deficient in Shares and deficient in intelligence… So beware of the evils of women. Be on your guard even from those of them who are (reportedly) good. Do not obey them even in good things so that they may not attract you to evils.”
The commentary says “The second weakness is that their natural propensities do not admit of full performance of their intelligence… nature has given them the power of intelligence only in accordance with… child care and household affairs…”
Sermon 152, page 313
“Beasts are concerned with their bellies. Carnivores are concerned with assaulting others. Women are concerned with the adornments of this ignoble life and the creation of mischief herein.”
The commentary says that if men try to satisfy bodily needs like these beasts, they will be “like a woman, because in a woman both these passions act side by side and because of these she is extremely eager of adornment and is active in fanning mischief and disturbance.”
Saying of Ali #61, page 583
“Woman is a scorpion whose grip is sweet.”
Saying of Ali #124, page 595
“The jealousy of a woman is heresy, while the jealousy of a man is part of belief.”
Saying of Ali #235, page 618
“The best traits of women are those which are the worst traits of men, namely: vanity, cowardice, and miserliness. Thus, since the woman is vain, she will not allow anyone access to herself; since she is miserly, she will preserve her own property and the property of her husband; and since she is weak-hearted, she will be frightened with everything that befalls her.”
Saying of Ali #239, page 619
“Woman is evil, all in all; and the worst of it is that one cannot do without her.”
Saying of Ali #267-8, page 630
Encourages men to stay away from women because they weaken their enthusiasm for Jihad.
Saying of Ali #362, page 653
“Do not devote much of your activity to your wife and your children, because if your wife and children are lovers of Allah then He will not leave His lovers uncared for, and if they be enemies of Allah then why should you worry and keep yourself busy about the enemies of Allah.”
Saying of Ali #61, page 583
“The eyes of these men are covetous and this glancing is the cause of their becoming covetous. Whenever anyone of you sees a woman who attracts him, he should meet his wife because she is a woman like his wife.”
© Copyright by Christian from Muslim, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Islam and Women
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Islam and the Occult
Program Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: In the discipleship of a new believer in Christ, it is always good to address the occult. Occultic practices should be recognized and left behind as the new believer walks from darkness into light. This is especially true with believers from a Muslim background, because occultic practices are extremely common in the Islamic World.
Occultic Practices in the Muslim World
Despite the fact that pure Islam is against occultic practices like amulets, spells, reading of coffee grounds, superstitions, and astrology, these are common in most Islamic cultures. Sometimes they are called, “Folk Islam.” But more than just country folk follow these practices. Almost everyone does to some degree. So, sooner or later a Christian working with Muslims, or Muslim background believer themselves, will need to confront these practices.
The Evil Eye
It is curious that the contemporary book Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women, from Darussalam publishers in Saudi Arabia, warns against the evils of using a fortune teller, psychic, or astrologer, amulets, or seeking the dead. Yet it also says,
“A disbeliever like any other may afflict with the evil eye for the evil eye is factual.”
Such a statement would appear to open doors for superstitions and amulets like the evil eye beads – those blue, black, and white beads so common in Muslim lands and Greece – and if we include the “eye of Horus” even Egypt.
The Bible agrees with Islam in warning against people who claim supernatural powers or practices,
“Do not practice divination or seek omens…Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:26,31 (NIV)
Christianity does however recognize the kind of demonic power that the evil eye cult implies. It can be scary. However, even if they seem insignificant, all practices that draw protection or power from a spiritual source other than God, should be rejected by Christians. We fight evil power with spiritual weapons from God. (see below)
Rev. Houssney and Dr. Cynthia Discuss Islam and the Occult
In the video lesson, guest Georges Houssney and Dr. C discuss especially common occultic practices of Muslims and former Muslim Christians. Since the Bible renounces such practices, they comment on ways to recognize and combat them.
The Power of the Words
Verses of the Qur’an can be used as a talisman, or lucky charm, by Muslims. Some roll up verses and wear them in jewelry, or inscribe them on a surface for protection. Most schools of Islamic thought reject using the Qur’an itself as an amulet.
You may see the word Allah in Arabic as a necklace on Muslim women. To our understanding there is controversy if this is acceptable. Most Muslim leaders will allow this, especially in the West; but the strictest will likely also consider it a talisman.
Since the words of the Qur’an in Arabic are felt to have power, we can see how Muslims could be attracted to this sort of talisman. Elsewhere we explain that the very words of the Qur’an are believed to have power when recited in Arabic (see Lesson on The Bible and The Qur’an). Muslims believe they receive points for these, the amount depending on the time of year and excellence of their pronunciation. This helps gain credit for the reciter at the Day of Judgment.
In contrast, with the Bible the power is with the message. As long as it is clearly translated, the message is the same in any language. The Word of God is sharp and powerful (Hebrews 4:12).
Other Occultic Practices in the Muslim World
Tea and coffee are popular drinks with Muslims, perhaps because Islam forbids alcohol. Practices like reading patterns in the tea leaves and coffee grounds left in cups after these drinks are finished, is extremely common, especially with women. Dr. C has experienced the discomfort of having to decline graciously made offers to do this for her.
Because the occult is so pervasive in the Muslim world, it is difficult for former Muslims who are now Christians to recognize and eliminate it from their life style. They may still be reading astrologic forecasts without thinking that it is a habit which must now be discarded.
Curses may sound medieval to Christians, or like something they would encounter mainly working with Satanists. But curses and charms are part of the daily occultic practices of folk Islam. Huda has shared with Dr. C that she has had several curses placed on her by jealous women.
Charms are popular for a variety of causes, like protection, infertility or health. Dr. C has even had to decline a love charm for one of her family members offered by a Christian from Muslim background.
Perhaps related to curses is poisoning. That is definitely be an unlucky charm! 19th century missionary Lilias Trotter described it as a common method Muslims used to punish, even kill, her converts to Christianity. Their team tried protect their new believers from being poisoned by relatives. Others have found the same thing. New believers from Muslim backgrounds and their disciplers should be aware of this possibility. We have also had a case of suspected poisoning of a new convert.
The Qur’an’s Spell
In the video lesson, Huda explains to Dr. Cynthia how the Qur’an is whispered over Muslim babies. She feels it is like a spell that controls the lives of those living under it.
The lesson includes reality video of the call to prayer in Turkey. Being loudly broadcast from mosques across Muslim countries five times a day – from before dawn until bedtime – you can see a sense in which the Qur’an does have a hypnotic and controlling effect among those it touches. Huda expresses regret that the Qur’an was spoken over her from her birth onward until she left the Middle East.
As a child, she was afraid to even touch the Bible a friend gave to her. As an adult, when she started reading the Bible, she found God very clearly speaking. Huda says she feels like she came out of a cage when she left Islam and its spell. This echoes what former Muslim Ayan Hirsi Ali wrote in her book Infidel.
Psychological conditioning is very powerful… They are like prisoners suffering from Stockholm Syndrome…comparable to slaves…who prefer the certainty of their existence in slavery to a freedom that they perceive as treacherous.
In contrast, Dr. C encourages reading the Bible. It is not a hypnotic spell. Its words comfort us. It is a light to our path. As we allow its words to abide in us, we bring forth spiritual fruit.
A Christian’s Weapons against Evil
Don’t try to get from anything or anyone what you can only get from God.
Life is difficult. We certainly understand the need for supernatural assistance – sometimes just to make it through the day. But Christians should take our burdens and fears to God, and rely on his supernatural power to assist us.
We cannot force God to do what we want; but we can rely on him to do what is best in our situation. Many times, we see him supernaturally intervene. Other times, he simply gives us power to endure the difficulties, or to see the deeper reasons for what is happening. (1 Peter 5:7, Joshua 1:9, Ephesians 1:19,20, Romans 8:28, 2 Corinthians 10:13)
The Armor of God
“Finally, let the Lord make you strong. Depend on his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor, then you can remain strong against the devil’s evil plans. Our fight is not against human beings. It is against the rulers, the authorities and the powers of this dark world. It is against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly world.
So put on all of God’s armor. Evil days will come. But you will be able to stand up to anything. And after you have done everything you can you will still be standing.
So remain strong in the faith. Put the belt of truth around your waist. Put the armor of godliness on your chest. Wear on your feet what will prepare you to tell the good news of peace. Also, pick up the shield of faith. With it you can put out all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Put on the helmet of salvation. And take the sword of the Holy Spirit. The sword is God’s word. At all times pray by the power of the Spirit.”
Ephesians 6:10-18 (NIRV)
With these weapons, we can defend ourselves from evil. Remember, we are not to fight evil with evil. We are to overcome it with good. Here is one of Dr. C’s favorite verses:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21 (NIV)
Are all Muslims Arabs?
Because Islam originated in the Arab world, it is most often associated with Arabs. However, Arabs now represent a minority of Muslims worldwide. Indonesia has the largest number, followed by India. Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan are other non-Arab Islamic countries.
To give you the flavor of a part of the Muslim world, one where you can choose from an abundance of “evil eye” accessories in tourist shops, the video lesson concludes with a 5-minute Travel Segment of Turkey. Dr. Cynthia narrates a quick trip for you, from the Christian perspective. Watch for significant sights and events from around Istanbul and Asia Minor.
Turkey, now a Muslim country, was one of the first to receive the gospel, through the Apostle Paul. It became one of the earliest Christian regions, until conquered by Islam. Many locations from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible can be seen there.
At the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Istanbul has been a hub of human activity for thousands of years. Perhaps you know that the Emperor Constantine made Constantinople, now Istanbul, the new capital of the Eastern half of the Roman Empire? And with his conversion to Christianity, it became a major Christian city.
Although Constantine made Christianity a legal religion of the Roman Empire, contrary to popular opinion he did not invent Christian doctrine. All the points of the gospel and of Jesus’ deity were laid out long before Constantine’s conversion, or the church councils he called. (See also Lesson on Why Believe the Bible.) And remember also, the Old Testament prophecies were so clear about Jesus, that they were the Bible the early church used, before the New Testament was written.
Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul, enjoyed nearly a thousand years of glory as a major church of the Christian World. It was once earth’s largest building. But with the fall of Constantinople to Islam in 1453 AD, it became a mosque. For a Christian visiting it now, seeing the large medallions of Islamic calligraphy bolted onto the walls of this spectacular church can be a heart-rending experience. Some even cry. But here and there, glorious golden mosaics survived the conversion to mosque, and from them, Jesus peeks out, depicted in his golden glory.
Christian church building attacks have become more common across the world. They are now happening in Europe as well as the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. In some countries they have become routine. To say this is terrible is an understatement. But thank God, the Bible tells us that God does not need a beautiful church to be worshipped in.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made by human hands. And he is not served by human hands as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all nations that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not very far from every one of us.” Acts 17:24-27
In the travelogue, Dr. C also shows us Ephesus and other sites traditionally associated with the Bible or early Christians. With such a rich Christian heritage, it is sad to see how Turkey came under the spiritual domination of Islam.
However, we are now seeing Muslim Turks coming out of Islam and back to Jesus. Please pray that the Turkish people will return to their Christian roots, and that the Holy Spirit will breathe new life into its ancient foundations.
“They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated.” Isaiah 61:4
Bible Messages to Turkey
Some of the Old Testament, and a significant part of the New Testament are about, or written to people who lived in what is now Turkey. Here is a sample of them:
There is … one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female.
Salvation by Grace
By grace you have been saved, through faith – and that not of yourselves.
It is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.
How to Live
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Know this love that surpasses knowledge –
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God.
Keeping the Faith
Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel
other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned.
The First Sermon in Turkey
‘Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent… We tell you the good news. What God promised our fathers he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus…from the dead, never to see decay…Therefore, my brothers, I wat you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is preached to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law.’ When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord…The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” Acts 13:26-49
In the last book of the Bible, Jesus gave a message to the church in Laodicea, a town near the modern city of Pamukkale. It compares our heart to a door.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in. Revelation 3:20
Is your heart open to Jesus today?
Have you accepted him as your own Savior?
Is he living in you, giving you love, peace and joy, and guiding all day long?
Scriptures (NIV unless otherwise stated)
II Corinthians 5:17
Leviticus 19:26, 31
I Peter 5:7
I Corinthians 10:13
Ephesians 6:10-18 & 4:6, & 2:8,9 & 3:18,19
Galatians 1:8 & 3:28 & 5:22,23
Acts 13:26-49 & 17:24-27
Definitions of terms used:
Jinn – demons converted to Islam (related to “genies”)
Tafsir – commentary, especially Qur’anic
Abraj – horoscope
Shouwajad – occultic practices like witchcraft
Al Hasad – the “evil eye,” often seen as a blue glass bead
Thawab – power
Note: the photograph of the Qur’an used in this video lesson is of the Topkapi Codex – an early Qur’anic manuscript in the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
(Note to study leaders: This episode gives us much food for thought and discussion. You may select only a few of the below questions for discussion, or cover them in more than one session.)
- The discussion between Houssney and Dr. Cynthia brings to light occultic practices that our Muslim friends have, which might not be obvious in short acquaintance.
- If you are from a Muslim background, reflect on what occultic practices you might have come across is life.
- Are any affecting you now?
- If so, are they ones you are involved in, or
- ones around you?
- If you are Christian, have you found occultic practices in your Muslim associates?
- if so, which?
- What about in yourself or associates?
- Huda says the Qur’an is like a spell:
- What do you think she means by that?
- How does it affect someone to be exposed to certain ways of thinking over and over?
- Can you name Muslim behaviors which are difficult for the West to comprehend, but which become understandable in light of the effect of the Qur’an’s spell?
- Do you think we in the West could be brainwashed?
- Name three concepts which have been repeatedly presented to the West over the last generation, or decade, in order to make them accepted.
- Can you see ways in which this has changed our societies?
- If you are a Christian, do you think being under this constant exposure to Islamic discipline and doctrine would mold you into a good Muslim or cause you to rebel?
- What if you did not know anything else?
- If you are Muslim, how did this exposure affect you?
- Can and should Christians be “brainwashed?”
- If so, what might that mean? (see Colossians 2:8 and Romans 12:2)
- Are there ways in which Christians should allow their scriptures to affect them? (see Colossians 3:16)
- How is the Christian sort of brainwashing similar and different to that of Islam?
- Can you name other regimes which brainwash their people?
- Can you imagine what it would be like to be obligated to pray not only at set times in daylight hours, but to routinely pray late and to rise before dawn to pray and recite the Qur’an?
- How would this affect your sleep?
- How would this affect your work?
- How might it affect the productivity of Muslim nations?
- Some popular Western films and stories revolve around the concept of rescuing someone who is captured physically, or by a totalitarian system.
- Can you name such a tale?
- Are there ways we can help rescue those in bondage to Islam?
- How do Proverbs 24:11 and 31:8 come into play here?
- How could we tie these Proverbs in with Matthew 28:19,20?
- Do you think God cares about those under such totalitarian regimes which rely on mind control?
- How might he reach those people?
- What occultic practices are common in the West?
- Might some of these be in your own life?
- In this episode, which Islamic concepts and practices did Huda says come to disbelieve after coming into contact with the Bible? (select all she mentioned)
- The Qur’an taught much violence she felt was not of God
- The Qur’an teaches that we are God’s slaves rather than children
- The Qur’an has many, many rules
- The Qur’an teaches God can hear us anywhere we pray, no matter what we wear
© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Islam and the Occult
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Liberty or Laws?
Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: This video lesson and study guide help us work through an age-old problem: is the Christian life to be characterized by freedom or obligations, liberty or laws? All Christians struggle with this. We usually end up emphasizing one side or the other of the balance.
As you might imagine, this question of liberty or laws is especially challenging for Christians of a Muslim background because everything in Islam, including their eternal destiny, depended on their successfully obeying laws.
Reality – Shopping Day
This video clip from the real life of former Muslim Huda and Dr. Cynthia might seem frivolous – just for fun or showing off. However, that is not the point. It brings to our attention the challenge of finding an appropriate wardrobe for Christian women, especially new believers who were raised Muslim.
Today we see Huda trying to find a suitable clothing. She looks to Dr. C for advice, but struggles to find something that they both think is acceptable.
Are there Rules in Christianity?
Every Christians must decide how their freedom in Christ will affect the way they live. This applies to believers from all backgrounds, men as well as women. If we are not careful, liberty can lead to a license for wild living, or caution can lead to legalism and judgementalism.
Coming from Islam, a religion based primarily on laws, presents a special challenge to this dilemma. As a Christian, former Muslims learn that they are saved by grace, not law. Now they are free from rules about fasting, praying, diet, and dress codes. Does that mean that they can do anything? Or will they simply exchange one restrictive code of rules for another?
In Islam, religion is tied to culture and politics more than in the West. Thus, they tend to see all Western behavior as reflective of Christianity, and acceptable to Christians. As a result, we find misunderstandings among Muslims of what Christianity teaches. This also impacts the thinking of Muslims who become Christians.
One of the things which often attracts a Muslim to Christianity is our freedom in Christ. The fact that we are loved and accepted by God without good deeds is a refreshing change for them. Their life in Islam is burdened with heavy labor, and every mistake recorded with no promise of salvation at the end. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said,
“Come to me all you who are tired and carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest… You will find rest for your souls. Serving me is easy, and my load is light.” (NIRV)
But for the burdened looking up, sometimes the attraction of freedom itself is too strong. Sadly, obtaining that freedom can become the Muslim’s chief goal, rather than the deeper blessing of knowing Christ.
For example: on-call to the houka bar: Brother E, an evangelist from Palestine who works with us, received an urgent night call from a Christian in a houka bar. It was from a young Arab man who was there with two young Muslim women. The women said wanted to convert to Christianity and needed a minister. Brother E is sociable, but does not go to houka bars. For this occasion, however, he went immediately.
After talking to the women for several hours, sharing the gospel, and discussing the Christian life with them, he realized that they did not want to become true Christians. Nor did they want to know Jesus personally. They simply wanted the life of license – dressing scantily, smoking, drinking alcohol, picking up men in bars – that they imagined Christians had. So, despite their requests, he did not pronounce them “Christians.” He left them as they were, simply “bad Muslims.”
It is not uncommon for us to find this motivation. We are thankful that at least these two Muslim women let Brother E share the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ with them. We believe that God’s word does not return void (Isaiah 55:11). Although they were not ready to respond to it at the time, we pray that later in their lives the Holy Spirit will open a door for the message that they heard to be received.
Are there Rules in Christianity? Dr. C & Rev. Georges Houssney in discussion
In the video lesson, Dr. Cynthia and experienced guest Georges Houssney discuss the challenge of bringing new disciples into discipline without delivering a burden of rules similar to what they carried under Islam. The two lay out guidelines reflective of how inward transformation can result in outward change.
Islam is a system with a long list of rules and laws. By following these laws, Muslims believe they obtain points, or thawab, and gain favor with Allah at the Day of Judgment. This gives them a better chance to enter paradise.
Dr. C explains to Houssney the challenges she has faced in encouraging new believers from a Muslim background. She wants to help them grow in disciplines like Bible study and prayer, without making them feel like they have simply entered another system of rules.
Houssney affirms that yes, Christians are saved by grace (Ephesians 2:8,9), not by our good deeds. But if we want to grow as Christians, we need to follow certain things called disciplines. We are not obligated to do these for salvation, but if we do not, we will not fully live in Christ.
For example, to live we need to breath, eat, and drink. Similarly, to live spiritually we need to read the Word of God and pray. The fruit of the Spirit of God living in us gives us self-control, and enables us to do these things (Galatians 5:23).
Although these are suggestions, not rules, for their own growth, strength and joy, we encourage all believers, former Muslims and otherwise, to:
- read the Bible daily
- memorize verses that encourage them
- take time for reflection and meditation on what they learned
- pray to God throughout the day as in conversation
- learn some spiritual songs to sing in their hearts
- join with other believers in fellowship, and
- serve God with their spiritual gifts.
- (For more information on growing in Christ, see lessons and study guides on Lesson on Being New in God’s Family, The Christian Life, and others.)
Are there things Christians shouldn’t do?
Muslims often think that since Christians are saved by grace, that they are authorized to do anything – including immoral activities. Dr. C and Houssney discuss how much liberty we as Christians have. Can we do anything we want to and still be Christians? What about dressing scantily, drinking alcohol, swearing, sexual relationships, or going to R rated movies?
The Bible tells us that although all things may be permissible for us, not all things are helpful
(I Corinthians 6:12). Houssney says that yes, we have freedom, but we are told not to misuse it. We must live in a way that loves others and considers their good. We should not put a stumbling block before someone else, that might encourage them to sin.
“Be careful how you use your rights. Be sure you don’t cause someone weaker than you to fall into sin.” I Corinthians 8:9 (NIRV)
“The only thing that really counts is faith that expresses itself in love.” Galatians 5:4-6 (NIRV)
More on the Christian wardrobe:
As introduced in today’s reality video, a particular problem for the practice of Christian liberty that is in the area of dress. Dr. C has found this is especially a problem for women leaving Islam.
Men leaving Islam do not seem to face the same challenge, probably because men’s dress codes are less strict in both cultures.
First, know that it is not our policy to encourage any Muslim or former Muslim to take off their head scarf or dress in Western style. That should be a decision between them and God.
Imagine – you are a woman brought up that it is a sin to expose almost any of your body, possibly even your eyes or hands. How can you learn or “get a feel” for what is an acceptable amount of skin and/or figure to show now that you are a Christian?
Example, an Iraqi refugee woman: This lively and friendly 46-year-old Muslim woman is happy now to be safe in America, and is open to ideas of Christianity. But adjusting to dress standards in America has been difficult to her.
In Bagdad, Mrs. L always wore long skirts. Here, she got jobs that required her to wear pants/trousers – first loose, then tighter. Since she had to make the change for her job she did. She has been allowed a head scarf, which she still wears (hijab). Although it has been a few years, she has still not adjusted to wearing pants/trousers. She feels that people are looking at her body, and she is not comfortable with anyone – man or woman – doing that.
Example, Westernizing dress standards: Sometimes we see liberalizing of dress standards as an indication that a Muslim is becoming more open to the Christian message. For example, some Muslim women students that we followed for several years that removed their head scarves a year or two before they became Christian.
One, in her mid-twenties had worn a hijab outside the house since she was a young girl. She was thrilled with what Christians take for granted. On a lovely day, she was walking with Dr. C around a fountain in the town square near her campus. With an enthusiastic smile, lifted her hair with her fingers, and let the gentle breeze pass through it, saying,
“I just love the way the wind feels in my hair!”
Example, North African immigrants: Two married women in their thirties who were born overseas but grew up in America became frustrated with Islam and left it. One of them had dreams and became a Christian. The other has not. Both still wear hijabs for two reasons:
- For safety – so that their families and Muslim communities they live in will not know they have left Islam. (They and their children could face trouble.)
- Even when away from family, since they have worn head scarves their entire lives, they confess they have no idea of how to style their hair. This makes them insecure in removing their hijabs.
Example, Saudi Arabian women, now Christian: Several women we know who had to cover all but part of their face and hands in Saudi, are now sincere Christians in America. They want to wear miniskirts and low-cut tops showing cleavage. What should we say to them?
What is the appropriate way to dress now that you are a believer?
Think about how you might feel about changing from Muslim to Western dress. You might feel odd or “guilty” about showing anything – hair or even fingers, since you are breaking an ingrained pattern. But does that mean if you are going to feel guilty anyway, that you might as well show everything that anyone in Western culture shows?
In the Balance: Believers need to learn to balance freedom in Christ with modesty and Western lifestyle.
- Houssney reminds us that although people look on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart (I Samuel 16:7).
- True beauty comes from the inside, as we are told in both the Old and New Testaments (Proverbs 31:30 & I Peter 3:3,4). We should let our internal beauty flow out. In that way, we should care about what others think.
Example, a journalist: In Islamic countries, Westerners might be surprised to learn that a woman’s most attractive feature, after her face, is considered to be her hands. Once Dr. C read an article by a woman journalist in the Middle East. She was concerned about women’s rights and accepted dress standards. She pointed out that if hands are the only part of a woman that men can see, they will lust over a woman’s hands.
This shows Dr. C that no matter how modestly a woman dresses, it will not be modest enough to prevent sin in a man’s heart.
Example, an Imam: A high-ranking Imam in a large American city told Dr. C that if a man sees a woman and lusts – no matter what she is wearing – the sin belongs to the woman, not the man. She has somehow enticed him. This sharply contrasts with what Jesus taught,
“Here is what I tell you. Do not even look at a woman in the wrong way. Anyone who does has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28 (NIRV)
This important verse confirms that it is the heart that God is most concerned with. But Dr. C expresses concern that if women worry too much about how men see them, they can be reduced to covering their faces and hands with gloves, as in strict Islam.
Example, the cowering: Once when Dr. C was volunteering in an immigrant friendship center, she saw something that made her sad. Dr. C was in a room of Arab Muslim women who were studying English as a second language. One of the women was totally covered in black, with only narrow slits for her lovely eyes (niqab). Beyond that, even her hands were covered with black gloves.
The friendship center was directed by a man. When that man walked into the room to make an announcement, Dr. C was surprised to see the veiled woman bow her head, cower, and retreat into herself. Even covering everything was not enough. She had to become invisible.
So, Dr. C says there has to be a balance between a woman’s rights and a man’s lust. Women should respect men’s weakness, and not try to tempt them sexually. But shouldn’t women have the right to wear something in public that pleases them, without needing to cower or hide?
Houssney agrees. He quotes a saying, “If we dress sexy, we will get sex, if we dress lovely, we will get love.”
Of course, different cultures consider different areas of a woman attractive, and encourage different dress standards. So, it is not really possible to select one appropriate wardrobe for all Christian women in every situation. Somehow there must be a compromise.
The Compromise: In the end, Houssney and Dr. Cynthia agree that guidelines for Christian dress in America or Europe could be to try:
- not to be a stumbling block (seductive)
- to reflect well upon the Lord, and
- generally, follow how a conservative person in Western culture might dress, in terms of how much of their body is shown. That way they will not stand out as looking for attention. (Usually this would mean nothing too tight, low cut, above the knee, or revealing the shoulder or upper arm.)
(For specific wardrobe suggestions for Christians working with Muslims, see lesson and study guide on Building Bridges.)
Legalism and Judgementalism:
Muslims that were comfortable with the rules of Islam, may feel comfortable continuing with rules as Christians, and fall into legalism.
- There may be a necessity to continue in these laws outwardly in order to live as secret believers in their culture.
- Some of the early Jewish Christians were very comfortable with laws, and tried impose rules back upon other Christians (see Acts 15 and the book of Galatians). The church leaders spoke to this error to correct it.
Legalism leads to judgementalism. A risk for former Muslims, as all Christians, who are successful with laws is judgementalism.
Several professional and reliable sources, and our own experiences, have reported a critical spirit in many people from the Middle East, especially Muslim women. Someone who falls easily into a legalistic Christian life style is at risk for developing a critical attitude toward those less strict than them.
In fact, it is common among all Christians to view someone more strict than them as legalistic, and someone less strict as morally loose. We should pray to avoid both these extremes.
Although we must be cautious about who we associate with, and encourage them to seek Christian virtues, we should also refrain from being judgmental.
“Don’t let anyone fool you. ‘Bad companions make a good person bad.’ You should come back to your senses and stop sinning. Some of you don’t know anything about God.” I Corinthians 15:33, 34 (NIRV)
“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others.” Matthew 7:1 (NIRV)
Returning to Islam
Dr. C shares reasons that we have found for Muslims returning to Islam after leaving it. (Technically, this is called recidivism of an apostate).
For Christians working with Muslims, it is always sad to see a former Muslim returning to Islam. But this is not a new trend. It has been happening since the early days of missions to Muslims. Then it was at a very high rate of up to 70%.
One of the reasons for recidivism, returning to Islam, is that the new believer from Muslim background came to the faith for the wrong motives. Maybe they were getting something in exchange for converting – food, increased status, marriage, free life style, acceptance, etc. In that case it is very doubtful as to whether or not they ever sincerely believed in their heart, or if they were simply making a bargain which lost its appeal over time.
A common reason for returning to Islam is fear and intimidation. When a Muslim leaves Islam, they are automatically under a fatwa for death, which extends all the way back to the time of the Prophet Mohammed. It does not need to be specifically pronounced for each of them. Although new converts to Islam don’t always know, those raised in Islam know the fatwa is on the head of an apostate, and any Muslim is justified in killing them anytime. (See lessons and study guides on Fear, Persecution, and Spiritual Warfare, and Violence in Religion.)
If someone has left Islam and been captured, before execution takes place, they are given three days of reflection to consider returning to Islam. In reality, this becomes a time of intimidation and attempted brain washing This period of reindoctrination and reflection, is often accompanied by imprisonment and beatings. Only by great strength of will power, or the Holy Spirit is someone able to withstand these pressures. (See many published testimonies of Muslim converts to Christianity.)
Another reason for returning to Islam is because of missing family and cultural support. Anyone leaving their family and culture is prone to miss it, and Muslims especially so. Why?
- First because Muslim culture is much more socially interconnected than Western: more group than individual.
- Secondly, because being disowned and shunned by one’s family is a painful thing for anyone, and
- Thirdly, Islamic culture is intimately entwined with their religion. The Muslim has been programmed to base their year around the events of Islam. The special foods, the activities, the ceremonies which formerly made their lives rich are now gone.
Economic survival is another reason for returning to Islam. Muslim economies are typically not strong and without government safety nets. Their safety nets are based on family, clan, and the mosque. When one leaves Islam, they not only lose family, but often their job and any means of survival. The Qur’an tells them that apostates should face hardships in this life. Not everyone faces starvation and privation willingly. In the short run it is easier to submit to Islam and eat, than risk starvation, even for heaven.
In America, thankfully economic survival is not tied to religion, so here that is not such a factor. However, it is not always easy for even well-educated English-speaking Americans to find a job; how much more difficult for immigrants, even international students, to compete with Americans? Dr. C has seen examples of Muslims who return to their home nation for economic survival, where they then face all the above pressures to return to Islam.
Sometimes, Dr. C has found, that former Muslims are so repulsed by Islam that it is not Islam that attracts them to leave Christianity. If what attracted them to become Christians was freedom from the bondage of Islamic Law, then they might be attracted to become secular. They become and more entangled in the ways of the world until they are little different from anyone in Western culture, and scarcely have any faith at all.
Dr. C tells Christians working with Muslims that they can assess what kind of risk Muslims have of returning to Islam by finding what most attracted them to Christianity.
And in any case, it is advisable for Christians discipling Muslims to provide for them emotional and social support to help make up for what they have lost in leaving Islam.
Many in the Muslim world are facing insecurity. With the economies of most Muslim nations being weak, people wonder about finding jobs and supporting their families. Women especially face insecurity: what if my husband divorces me? What will happen to my children? If I struggle to study will my husband become angry at my new independence? To whom will my father marry me? Will I be beaten tonight?
Mark Vyka is facing insecurity. In fact, he is dying of cancer. In this video he shares what has helped him face the insecurities of life.
When facing insecurity, Mark recommends that we read the Bible and look for a verse that encourages us, then “camp on it.” By this he means that we would think about it, meditate upon it and even memorize it. He encourages us to seek God first, because when we do, everything else falls into place (Matthew 6:33). If we walk in faith, God will provide for us what we need and a way to escape from our fear, temptation or problem (Genesis 22:14, I Corinthians 10:13).
(This video is in memory of our beloved brother in Christ, Mark Vyka 1957-2016.)
Scripture References for this Episode:
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Matthew 11:28-30
- Isaiah 55:11
- Ephesians 2:8,9
- Galatians 5:23
- I Corinthians 6:12
- I Corinthians 8:9
- Galatians 5:4-6
- I Samuel 16:7
- I Peter 3:3,4
- I Samuel 16:7
- Proverbs 31:30
- I Peter 3:3,4
- Matthew 5:28.20
- Acts 15
- Matthew 7:1
- Matthew 6:33
- Genesis 22:14
- I Corinthians 10:13
Mohammed said to kill those who leave Islam:
- Qur’an in Surah 4:89
- Hadith – Sahih Bukhari 52:260 & 84:57.
- If you are a former Muslim, how did the freedom of Christians you knew personally, or saw in media, impact your decision to become a Christian?
- Was it favorable or unfavorable?
- What part of your conversion was desiring the freedom that you thought Christians had?
- If time allows and you want to, perhaps you could share these ideas with the group.
- How might the Christian lifestyle be different than that of a strict Muslim?
- Dress for men?
- Dress for women?
- Prayer and other spiritual disciplines?
- What are some principles that Rev. Houssney and Dr. Cynthia suggest might be helpful in assisting new Muslim background Christians in adapting to Western behaviors which reflect Christ, rather than worldliness?
- In reflecting over the course of your Christian life:
- Have you been more inclined to liberty and license, or laws and legalism?
- If liberty vs. laws is a spectrum from one extreme to the other, where along that line do you see yourself at this moment?
- Do you think there is something you could do improve this balance?
- What are the disciplines that Houssney and Dr. C encourage all Christians to participate in.
- To what point do you think it would be good for Christians to participate in these?
- Can you think of what might be too much or too little participation in these?
- Are there ways that you could apply Houssney and Dr. C’s dress guidelines to your life?
- Have you ever been used to wearing a watch or ring, and then lost it, forgotten to wear it one day?
- How did you feel going without it?
- Does this give you insight into how someone might feel when they start to dress differently?
- It is not easy to assist someone walk through the transition from a life of rules to a life of controlled freedom.
- Do you know someone who might be in need of guidelines such as Dr. C and Houssney present?
- Without being judgmental, what might be an appropriate way to share these guidelines with them?
- What response might you expect at first? Over time?
- How do you think a person’s clothing reflects who they are and what they believe?
- Dr. C loves to go out with Muslims. Mostly this is to connect with them and make friends. But another thing she likes is seeing how people react to her, a blond woman, with one or more people in Islamic dress. She thinks this is good for several reasons, including the people she is with and those watching them. Why do you think it would be good:
- For the Muslims she is with?
- For the people watching them?
- Would you consider dressing as a Muslim in your community some day as a learning experience?
- Do you think that would be a good idea?
- Why or why not?
© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Liberty or Laws?
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Jesus’ Style of Teaching and Living
Summary and Notes:
Quick summary: In learning about the Christian faith, or as part of becoming a Christian, it is very important for Muslims, and others, to learn about Jesus. This video lesson and study guide are to help give people unfamiliar with Jesus, insight into the special ways he taught and lived.
(See also the lesson and study guide for Jesus’ Parables for Muslims, which is a companion lesson to this one.)
Reality – getting attention.
Today’s video lesson opens with Dr. Cynthia by the pool on a beautiful day. She is typing on a laptop, wearing earphones. Huda enters and tries to catch her attention. Huda wants to talk about Jesus.
In our electronic age, flashy things grab our attention; but such things did not exist in Jesus’ day. He had to get attention by other means. One was miracles. Another was through his special teaching style.
Understanding Jesus Teaching Style
The setting changes. We see Huda and Dr. C entering a lovely gazebo surrounded by a lake in an urban setting. Here Dr. C and Huda draw analogies from the world around them, in a way similar to what Jesus did in his teaching.
It is important to understand the style of Jesus’ teaching so we can:
- Fully absorb the point he was making
- Keep from being confused or finding it a stumbling block
- Not misapply what he says
- Explain these things to others
- Use Jesus’ techniques when we share God’s word with others
The Purposes of Jesus teaching
The purposes of Jesus teaching were to:
- draw attention
- challenge people’s thinking
- touch hearts
- teach and to prophesy
To do this, Jesus used various teaching techniques, to make his points clear.
Techniques Jesus used in Teaching:
- Drawing illustrations from the environment surrounding him
- Using common everyday objects and activities
- Telling stories known as parables
- Using similes and metaphors (saying what things are like)
- Speaking plainly
- Occasionally speaking poetically (beatitudes)
- Exaggerating (hyperbole)
- Setting an example with his life
The Sermon on the Mount
Jesus’ most famous sermon is called The Sermon on the Mount. In this sermon, recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus uses these techniques to explain how to live for God’s kingdom. The video lesson demonstrates several for us.
Rather than focusing on rules and condemnation, this sermon presents love and inner change. This was in contrast to the methods of the religious leaders of his time, who emphasized rules. Emphasis on the rules in Jesus day was similar to the emphasis on rules in Islam.
The Beatitudes, poetically phrased blessings, begin the Sermon on the Mount. They are famous in the Christian faith, and are worth being familiar with.
One beatitude is Blessed are the peacemakers. We happened to get a real-life video illustration of this: Kevin, a mature Christian, is shown being a peacemaker between arguing neighbors.
Also, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used nature, objects, stories, and exaggeration. Besides getting the crowd’s attention, they illustrated his points and helped people remember them – that the Kingdom of God is more important than the physical world.
Worry is a trap that we all fall into from time to time, and for some of us it is a continual habit. Science has discovered that worrying is unhealthy. So in this, as in many other areas, Jesus is showing us the best way to live.
Jesus directed our attention to birds and flowers. For our encouragement, he suggests that we meditate upon them and what they are doing. They exemplify what is nowadays called “living in the moment,” without worrying about the future.
“I tell you do not worry. Don’t worry about your life and what you will eat or drink. And do not worry about your body and what you will wear. Isn’t there more to life than eating? Aren’t there more important things for the body than clothes?
Look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant or gather crops. They don’t put away crops in storerooms. But your Father who is in heaven feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they are?…
And why do you worry about clothes? See how the wild flowers grow. They don’t work or make clothing. But here is what I tell you. Not even Solomon in all his royal robes was dressed like one of these flowers. If that is how God dresses the wild grass, won’t he dress you even better?…
But put God’s kingdom first. Do what he wants you to do. Then all those things will also be given to you. So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Matthew 6:25-33 (NIRV)
Jesus also spoke plainly about prayer, fasting, money, and forgiveness. Let’s compare his teachings with those of Islam:
Muslims perform ritual prayers in Arabic several times a day. They can be done alone or in a group. They must be performed in a specified way. Those around you know if you are praying or not. Often, other Muslims judge how religious you are by watching your prayer life.
(For details on this, see Lesson on Introduction to Islam for Christians.)
Jesus way of Prayer
“When you pray, do not be like those who only pretend to be holy … They want to be seen by people … When you pray, go into your room. Close the door and pray to your Father, who can’t be seen. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.”
Matthew 6:5,6 (NIRV)
Muslims have a strong tradition of fasting. Its practice is very different than Jesus suggests. Although there are other fasts in Islam, Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting, where the entire community fasts during daylight hours. Eating in public is forbidden. Those not fasting are noticed and judged. (For details on this, see Lesson on Introduction to Islam for Christians.)
Jesus way of Fasting
In contrast to the open show of Muslim fasting, Jesus says,
“When you go without eating, do not look gloomy like those who only pretend to be holy. They make their faces look very sad. They want to show people they are fasting. What I’m about to tell you is true. They have received their complete reward.
But when you go without eating, put olive oil on your head. Wash your face. Then others will not know that you are fasting. Only your Father, who can’t be seen, will know it. Your Father will reward you, because he sees what you do secretly.”
Matthew 6:16-18 (NIRV)
Again, we see with this teaching that Jesus is emphasizing our inner life. Does this mean we cannot attend an Eid al Fitr party at the end of Ramadan? No. We have found it to be a good time make friends, and to talk about Jesus teaching on prayer and fasting.
Regarding ritual prayer and fasting
As we point out throughout these lessons, Muslims work very hard to gain merit with God. They feel that they need to earn forgiveness through good works. Our approach is not to belittle this effort. What we say is something like this,
“God appreciates that we try to do good. But his standard is perfection. None of us is perfect. We all need forgiveness for our sins. God showed us through his prophets that his way is blood sacrifice for sin, but he accepts a substitute. Jesus is the prophesied final sacrifice for sin. His blood covers our sins and will substitute for us if we accept it.”
Loving our Enemies
Louis of Truth Defenders talks to us about loving our enemies, and money.
Loving our Enemies. One radical aspect of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ instruction to love our enemies. It seems natural to love our friends and hate our enemies. But Jesus told us,
“Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.” Matthew 5:44
Louis points out that in his view, this teaching is unique to Jesus. Jesus forgave his persecutors when he was on the cross.
“Father forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34 (NIRV)
Love and forgive your enemies, like most virtues, is easy to say, but difficult to do. Muslim refugees in the West have often faced atrocities. Perhaps all they owned was taken away, and family members were killed, raped or tortured. Can you imagine the challenges they might face with accepting and applying these verses?
The film “The Passion of the Christ” powerfully illustrates how Jesus forgave his persecutors from the cross. God used it to show Dr. C hardness in her own heart. After watching all the torture that they put Jesus through, she felt like screaming, “No! Don’t forgive them! They were too evil!”
Serving God or Money?
Louis tells us that surprisingly, the Bible speaks more about money than any other topic. Jesus also spoke about money. That is because the use of it reflects people’s hearts, and Jesus main goal in the Sermon on the Mount was to get people to look inside their own hearts.
“You can’t serve God and money at the same time.” Matthew 6:24 (NIRV)
How Jesus Exaggerates
Many people find it difficult to understand his message when Jesus exaggerates. For example, Matthew 5:30, “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.”
Yet, as Huda points out in the video, when she says her headache is “killing her,” she does not really mean that she is dying. She means that it is very severe.
Likewise, when Jesus talks about throwing away your eye or hand, he is showing us how serious an offense an eye or hand can cause. He wants to motivate people to guard their hands and eyes against sin.
It would be wrong however, to take exaggeration out of context and say that Jesus taught mutilation (meaning hurting our bodies to please God).
History’s Greatest Speaker
Given near the beginning of his ministry, The Sermon on the Mount established Jesus as a great speaker, with an amazing gift of teaching.
“When Jesus had finished saying all these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” Matthew 7:28,29
The Sermon on the Mount itself is a powerful evangelistic tool for Muslims and others. We have found that distributing it, encouraging Muslims to read it, or even quoting a small part of it in the right setting, can open eyes to the dramatic difference between Jesus’ teachings and those of Islam and other ideologies. It lets people taste that God is good (Psalm 34:8), and gives them hunger to know more.
Later in his career, Jesus clearly prophesied his own death, the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, and the end times. And he confronted the religious hypocrites to the point that they did have him killed.
Living as Salt of the Earth
“You are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13
You learned in this video lesson and study guide that Jesus would teach by using everyday life situations, and things in nature around them. That is exactly what we try to pattern in our daily life with Muslims, and the former Muslims that we are discipling.
You have seen many examples of using common things and events of everyday life in the reality sections of this video lesson series. We call this style Out of the Saltshaker, because it is an easy and practical way that we can be as Jesus says, salt of the earth. Often you might hear Dr. C saying, “And that reminds me of…”
In fact, once a Christian develops this skill, they can use it with everyone – from teaching their children to encouraging their friends and loved ones– and hopefully, they do it with love and wisdom.
Life is full of SALTSHAKER opportunities. Here’s how to find them:
- Know God’s word the best you can (he will use whatever you know) 2 Timothy 2:15
- Ask God to open your eyes to see opportunities for salting Colossians 4:3
- Once he does, you will start to see them everywhere John 4:35
- Have courage and speak, remembering that, “Kind words make people want to learn more.” (NIRV) Proverbs 16:21
Many people in the West have a vague idea of what Jesus’ ministry was like. But it is unlikely that people from a Muslim background would know, unless they are one of the millions that have seen a film about the life of Jesus.
Even then, they might be confused about what he was doing, because his lifestyle was so different from that of the prophets they are familiar with. Muslims might be expecting Jesus’ life to be like Prophet Mohammed’s life, or perhaps like Abraham’s. They might try to fit Jesus into their mold.
Muslims could be surprised to learn of the type of life Jesus lived, after he began his ministry at about age 30. He was neither village man, nor hermit, king, military leader, nor powerful man of influence. Jesus was a traveling teacher with students, a rabbi, of a type that was not uncommon in those days.
Rather than write out all of the Bible verses about Jesus in this study guide, we will let you do that on your own. Instead, what is presented here is a summary of Jesus wonderful life, as brief as we can make it, while covering the important basics.
Brief Summary of the Life and Lifestyle of Jesus Christ
While always existing and still filling the universe, God once humbled himself by coming to earth in human form as the prophesied messiah. This was Jesus Christ.
On earth, Jesus spent time alone in prayer and meditation to confirm what he must do. He started by teaching about the Kingdom of God. It was now nearby, he said, and everyone could live in it! Anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, Jesus went around doing good, and healing everyone who came to him – Jews, Gentiles from the surrounding regions, and even Roman oppressors – the nation’s enemies.
Jesus touched people to heal them, including unclean people, like lepers. He was willing to enter the homes of unbelievers, considered unclean, in order to bring the grace of God to them. He was entertained in the homes of the wealthy. But he himself had no home of his own, no wife, no children, and little support from his family.
Emmanuel is one of Jesus’ special names. It means God with us. This thought is so surprising and unexpected, that Muslims have trouble accepting it. God lived with us, ate with us, slept and got dirty with us, and was even tempted as we are. But Jesus never sinned, as even the Qur’an recognizes.
Jesus taught us in ways that we would always remember. Mostly he taught in parables – stories that touched our hearts. But at times he gave examples from everyday life that made spiritual principles come alive. Once in a while he clearly told us what we needed to know.
Jesus was comfortable speaking to either large crowds, or to his select followers. Women traveled with his group, and in all but the most private occasions were taught by him, along with his male disciples. Some of the women were wealthy and helped support him and his work; yet he never used them sexually.
The crowds found Jesus’ teaching amazing and his miracles astounding. He was nothing like any religious leader they had ever met. Love and honesty were balanced in his gracious teaching.
Although he told us we could live like birds and flowers who trusted in God’s provision, he knew when people needed to be confronted for their own good: like the dishonest tax collector Zacchaeus, and the religious leaders whom he rebuked for their pride and hypocrisy.
One day he met a Samaritan woman, an outcast for her race, gender, and lifestyle. He reminded her of her past; but then he offered her “living water,” fresh, and more satisfying than her failed love affairs. God’s grace had come to her, and through her to entire village.
Jesus and his followers had frightening experiences in which they were almost killed by nature and by humans. In these dangers, Jesus had confidence in God that they would be fine, because he knew it was not yet his time to die. To his disciples’ surprise, he simply slept or calmly walked away.
The time came however when Jesus began to predict his betrayal, trial, and cruel death. Being human as well as God, just before his arrest he prayed in agony to avoid the coming torture. He knew the extent of the suffering he would and did face. But Jesus willing endured it in order to accomplish the plan of God. He kept his eyes on the goal that was the ultimate purpose of his life – taking upon himself God’s full anger for the sin of the world he had created.
But as Jesus had predicted he did not stay in the grave! He willingly laid down his life on Good Friday, and took it up again on Easter. After appearing to about five hundred of his followers, encouraging them and reinforcing his teaching, Jesus returned to heaven.
Jesus gave his followers, then and now, last instructions to accomplish before his return to judge the world. They should go throughout the world, peacefully teaching his gospel to everyone – the good news of repentance, forgiveness, and eternal life in God’s kingdom, which they could start living in right now!
Jesus’ life is his greatest teaching example. Let’s look at passages in the Injeel (New Testament) various aspects of it that we should try to reproduce in our own lives.
Jesus showed us how to live:
- Take time to be alone with God Mark 1:35
- Be tempted without sinning Hebrews 4:15
- Don’t worry Matthew 8:24-26
- Be responsive to the needs of others Mark 5:23,24
- Associate with people lower than us Luke 5:12,13
- Treat all people as equals Matthew 8:5-11
- Serve humbly Philippians 2:6-8
- Help the ill and needy Acts 10:38
- Teach what we know in a way that others can understand Matthew 5-7
- Tell people the truth they need to know John 4
- Obey laws, pay taxes Matthew 22:17-22
- Be willing to confront evil and hypocrisy, in love, even when it makes us unpopular Matthew 23
- Lay down our lives for the kingdom of God John 10:18
- Suffer for doing God’s will – when it is unavoidable Matthew 26:38
- Have faith that something better awaits us as a reward Hebrews 12:2
(See also the lesson and study guide on What Makes a True Prophet?)
Reality – Lessons from Surfing
The current lesson includes a reality segment filmed at a famous surfing beach in Santa Cruz, California. Huda and Dr. C have fun watching surfers catch waves, and sometimes loose them. It’s a great place for imitating the way Jesus taught, by drawing lessons from nature and human activities.
Notice that first Dr. C talks about how good it is to catch a wave in life – either literally or figuratively. We feel like we are sitting on top of the world! But as we watch surfers either loose the wave, or even crash, we are reminded that life is a ride of ups and downs. God is our foundation whether we are doing well, feeling left out as life passes us by, or when the waters sweep over us.
Our attention is also drawn to the tremendous physical effort it takes not only to catch and surf the waves, but also to simply carry a surfboard up and down the rocky cliffs to reach the surfing ground. This reminds Dr. C of 1 Timothy 4:8. In this verse Paul tells Timothy,
“Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next.”
Although physical exercise is of value, it is of much greater value to put effort into praying, reading the Bible, serving others, and be close to God.
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Matthew 5-7
- Luke 23:34
- Psalm 34:8
- II Timothy 2:15
- Colossians 4:3
- John 4:1-42
- Proverbs 16:21
- Matthew 23 & 24
- John 13:34,35
- Mark 10:43-45
- John 13:12
- Hebrews 2:10
- Mark 1:35
- Hebrews 4:15
- Matthew 8:24-26
- Mark 5:23,24
- Luke 5:12,13
- Matthew 8:5-11
- Philippians 2:6-8
- John 13:4,5
- Acts 10:38
- John 4
- Matthew 22:17-22
- Matthew 23
- John 10:18
- Matthew 26:38
- Hebrews 12:2
- I Timothy 4:8
- Jesus sinless – Surah 19:19
- Jesus taught from the surrounding environment. His style fulfilled the Old Testament commands of Deuteronomy 6 and 11 to teach our children about God’s word wherever we are and in everyday situations.
- Give an example of an everyday setting or thing that Jesus taught with.
- Can you think of a situation of object in your life in which you could similarly find a lesson for yourself or to share with others? Share this example with the group and see if they too find it meaningful.
- When time allows,
- read the entire Sermon on the Mount
(Matthew chapters 5-7). In this and elsewhere, Jesus taught from nature.
- Give an example of something from nature Jesus used as an example in this sermon
- There are months’ worth of discussion topics in this sermon, but name one or two points that especially touch you.
- Read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. Kevin exemplifies for us being a real-life peacemaker.
- Can you give an example of someone who fits one of the other beatitudes?
- Is there one you feel you come close to exemplifying?
- Some of the more difficult to understand of Jesus’ teachings involve exaggeration.
- Give an example of where Jesus exaggerates
- Can you think of an exaggeration you or a friend said to emphasize your point?
- Can you see how Jesus exaggeration could cause people to take something he said too literally?
- In this lesson, apologist Louis of Truth Defenders spoke about money. Much of our lives has to do with the getting and spending of money.
- What did Jesus say about money in the “Sermon on the Mount?”
- Consider Jesus’ lifestyle:
- Is there anything about what you learned today that surprised you?
- What parts of Jesus’ lifestyle are you currently sharing?
- What parts of Jesus’ lifestyle might you like to accomplish more in your life?
- The lesson illustrates Jesus teaching us humility through serving others, for example washing his disciples’ feet (John 13:4,5). If you have read enough about Jesus to know how he lived, share one or two examples of how he taught through his example.
- Regarding the surfing segment:
- Have you ever surfed? If so, can you share with the group what kind of physical effort is involved?
- What other sport might you have participated in? Does having done this help you relate to the scripture verse from I Timothy?
- Not shown in the video lesson because of poor quality audio, was a reality segment with Huda saying that the ocean waves reminded her of God’s blessings. They come new every day. Dr. C said that since the waves reminded her of new trials every day, Huda had the more positive spiritual outlook.
- Which do you tend feel come more your way each new day: blessings or trials?
- Forgiving our enemies:
- Have you ever felt that there is someone you don’t want forgiven? Someone who has mistreated you? A political enemy? A monstrous dictator?
- Does loving and praying for our enemies mean that they should not face justice for their crimes?
- Think about someone now that you would not be pleased to see in heaven with you. Ask God to soften your heart. Then pray for them to hear God’s voice and follow his ways.
- Encouragement from Nature: Lilias Trotter has a fascinating life story. She left a life of Victorian wealth and a promising artistic career to become a missionary to Muslims. Lilias gave her money and health to set up missions in North Africa.
Rather than gain her fame and money, she used her artistic skill to illustrate spiritual truths. Lilias had a heart condition. She found her work very stressful. One thing that helped Lilias relax was to look at nature, meditate upon it, listen for God to speak through it, and paint pictures of it.
- Was there a time in your life when you were encouraged by something in nature?
- Can you remember how it made you feel? Or what message it gave you?
- Do you think it would be of benefit to meditate on nature regularly?
- How might you incorporate nature into your life? Perhaps taking a daily walk? Planting a garden? Getting a pet? Simply looking up at the sky when you walk to work? Other ideas?
© Copyright by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2019. Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Jesus’ Style of Teaching and Living
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