Christian from Muslim creates videos for Muslims learning about the Christian faith, and Christians who love them: short answers, testimonies, full lessons with study guides, and reality scenes from the life of a formerly Muslim new Christian.
Christian from Muslim creates videos for Muslims learning about the Christian faith, and Christians who love them: short answers, testimonies, full lessons with study guides, and reality scenes from the life of a formerly Muslim new Christian.
More coming soon.
Study Guide for The Lesson on Suffering and Thanksgiving coming soon.
Study guide for the Lesson on Godly Relationships coming soon.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Should Christians Marry Muslims?
Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: This program shares thoughts on the intermarriage of Christians and Muslims. It draws on the experience of Christians from Muslim countries, former Muslims, and Christians who have married Muslims. Some of the segments were filmed live at a wedding, so you will hear joyous outbursts in the background.
Rather than a teaching session, the video lesson is comprised of several interviews. Because material covered this way is usually not complete or organized, the study guide provides additional information. Besides reviewing the speakers’ content, it includes more examples and testimonies from Christians who married Muslims, a list of questions for Western women considering marrying Muslim men, and a printable testimony tract that you can give to a woman considering marrying a Muslim.
- The people in the examples are known to us personally. Most names have been changed.
- See also study guides and Lessons on Confusing Muslim Marriages, and Islam and Women.
Why Christians Should Not Marry Muslims with George Saieg
In our training we like to emphasize the relationship between Principles and Practices of Islam and Christianity.
George Saieg is an expert in Islam from a Muslim country. He has studied the Islamic documents in Arabic and so knows the principles. And from living in an Islamic society he has seen the practices that fit with them. In this video segment he shares with us some of his ideas of why a Christian shouldn’t marry a Muslim.
Islam does not allow Muslim women to marry Christian men, if they do, Islamic law is harsh with them unless the man converts (more on this in our Lesson on Confusing Muslim Marriages). The main justification for this is the consideration that a Muslim women should not be under the power of an infidel. Also, there is the concern that the children are not as clearly on track to be Muslim. And financially, this means that the dowry, or maher, would pass out of the Muslim community.
Islam allows for Muslim men to marry Christian, Jewish or Muslim women. Because of this, usually the situation that arises is that of a Christian woman being tempted to marry a Muslim man. In the West, this is usually a willing conversion.
George tells us that the Bible says Christians should not be united to unbelievers (II Corinthians 6:14). Marriage is certainly a form of being bound, or “yoked.”
Saieg also draws our attention to the status of women in Islam as a practical reason that a Christian woman should not act upon the temptation to marry a Muslim. He gives us are two of the many examples:
- the way women are described as a possession in Islam
- and the fact that according to the Prophet Mohammed, most of the people in hell are women
On a side note, Saieg says English translations of the Quran are soft, and that Western women would never marry a Muslim if they could read the Quran in Arabic.
Example of a Christian who Married a Muslim, Saieg’s cousin:
As a practical example, Saieg cites the case of his own cousin who married a Muslim man. At first the man assured her that she would be able to practice her Christian faith freely; however as time went on he continued to pressure her more and more to become a Muslim. (This is a situation commonly reported by Christian women marrying Muslims to him and Dr. Cynthia.)
Example of American woman held in Iran:
For a way to make the risks of a Western woman marrying a Muslim man real, Saieg suggests that any woman considering marrying a Muslim watch the film Not Without My Daughter. This film tells the true story of the escape of Betty Mahmoody and her daughter Mahtob from a situation of oppression in Iran. Although it is the story of one woman and her daughter, this film starring Academy Award winner Sally Field, captures the situation of many women in Islam, especially those from the West.
Betty’s situation is an example of how the human rights principles in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (United Nations 1948), are often violated against women, even when agreed on by their government.
Why Ada Resisted Marrying a Muslim
The video introduces us to Ada. Ada was stationed in the Middle East while in the American military. There, she met Muslim men who were attractive and as she says, “tall, dark, and handsome.” They were also very friendly and flattering to her. She understands why American women might want to marry one.
However, she shares with us in this video segment why she wouldn’t marry a Muslim. Her concerns are based on the difference in the religions’ teachings, following what is true, and potential problems.
Ada draws attention to the loving approach to others that Christians are taught to have and how this teaching is lacking in Islam. Islam, she says, is false teaching.
Ada knows that in divorce in Islam, the father retains ultimate control of the children. She reflects on how sad it would be to lose one’s children, especially to someone who would teach them a different basis for life than we have in Christianity. She also reminds us that the Bible teaches we should not be unequally joined to unbelievers, which would be the case if a Christian marries a Muslim. (I Corinthians 13:4-8,13; Matthew 7:15, 16; II Corinthians 6:14)
Christian and Muslim Marriages with Dr. Cynthia and Pastor Ayman Armanious
Dr. Ayman Armanious is a PhD from Egypt who immigrated to America a few years ago and now leads an Arabic-speaking church here. His background puts him in the position to know what the Arabic sources say about Islam and marriage. He has counseled people from Muslim and Christian backgrounds in marriage and other issues, both in Egypt and America. He has experience with Christians marrying Muslims. In his experience this has not turned out well. He explains this and gives several examples to support his points. Dr. C adds cases she has seen.
Dr. C asks Ayman if he has seen differences between Muslim and Christian marriages.
“Christian marriage is entirely different from Muslim marriage,” says Ayman.
Ayman tells us that for example, Muslim men can marry four women at once. Yet the Bible shows us that when God created people, he made only one man and woman for each other – Adam and Eve.
“She’s not equal to a man,” Ayman says with feeling. “She’s not equal at all.”
He tells us that the Muslim wife must obey her husband. She is his servant and mainly to provide for his pleasure of one sort or another. In fact, you can see in the video how uncomfortable he is in telling us about the kinds of rights the husband has over his wife.
In Christianity, he tells us, men and women are equal. The Bible tells men to care for themselves as they do their own bodies. They should love their wives as Jesus loves the church and gave himself for it. (Ephesians 5:25-33)
If a man wants another wife, Ayman says, the Muslim does not need to tell or get permission from the first wife. For example, if a woman does not get pregnant after a year, this is a common excuse for divorce or getting another wife. Dr. Cynthia gives an example of a man who did not disclose his marriage.
Example of an Egyptian man in America who Hid that he was Married to commit Bigamy:
Dr. C knew Abdul, an Egyptian man, and had met some of his children. Brother E had shared the gospel with him, without success. Subsequently, Mary, who was in ministry with Dr. C, told her that Abdul had proposed marriage to her Christian friend Cathy – but he didn’t tell her that he was already married! In other words, he planned to commit the American crime of bigamy.
Mary’s first conversation with Cathy went like this,
Mary: Doesn’t it bother you that his faith is so different than yours?
Cathy: No. He promises to respect my faith.
Mary: Does it bother you that he is already married?
Cathy: dead silence
Before the second conversation, Cathy confronted Abdul about his secret marriage and proposed bigamy. She then explained to Mary,
Cathy: Yes, Abdul is already married. He explained to me that his wife is the mother of his children, and he does not want to disgrace her by divorcing her. He will marry me in the mosque, where it is legal under Islamic law. I will be his “real wife.”
Mary was appalled that even when Cathy knew the situation she would be willing to go ahead with it. She would be complicit in bigamy, or adultery, depending on how you look at it. And she will have no legal rights as a wife in America.
Advice not followed: Follow-up adds more to Cathy’s story. Despite Mary’s council, Cathy went ahead with the marriage. The decision did not go well for her. Cathy stayed married to Abdul for about 6 years, the last two of which they were separated. Abdul became abusive to her. Much afraid of him, Cathy fled the state to escape. Finally she got a “divorce.”
Ayman says that it is common for Muslim men immigrating to the West to build a relationship with a woman from that country, hiding their previous family. They see nothing wrong with this because they are authorized by Islam to do this – they can have several wives.
Often a Muslim man will assure a potential Christian bride that he will respect her religion.
Example of a Danish Woman who Married a Muslim Man:
Ayman gives an example of a nominal Christian from Denmark. She was told by a Muslim that he honored her religion and would allow her to practice it. However, things happened in the relationship which did not fit with his promise: married in the mosque, she was tricked into saying the shahada, the Muslim creed of faith. She was also requested to pray in Arabic.
Later the Danish woman became a true Christian and wanted to be baptized. Her husband was not true to his word to respect her faith. He would not allow it.
Ayman says this happens many times.
Another Example of Being Tricked into saying Shahada:
In the video lesson, Dr. C tells Ayman that once (on outreach in Europe) her son was surrounded by Muslims. They asked to repeat some words in Arabic. Unbeknown to him, it was the shahada. He was simply trying to say a few Arabic words; but the Muslims started rejoicing that he was converted.
(Note: Ayman and Dr. C are not saying that someone truly converts by repeating words they do not understand. Probably most Muslim authorities would agree. However, these are two instances where this did happen with average Muslims. It has also happened in history with mass conversions to Islam.)
Example of a Convert to Christianity who Married a Muslim Man:
Also in the video, Dr. C gives the example of River, a Muslim woman she knows who became a Christian. During her university years as an immigrant to America, River started talking to Christians. As a result she began comparing Christianity and Islam. She then became convinced that Christianity was right and became a Christian.
However, before she understood that Christians should not be unequally bound to unbelievers, her parents approached her with a marriage offer from a Muslim. He was nice and said that he would respect her Christian beliefs. River found this acceptable and married him.
Over time, her husband became more and more religious. He became less and less tolerant of her faith and more and more imposing of Islam on her. It came to the point where he told her that she must return to Islam or he would divorce her. River chose Jesus. She became divorced and rejected rather than forsake her Lord.
Ayman concludes the video segment by explaining that if someone asks him if he would sacrifice himself for his wife he would – because Jesus sacrificed himself for us.
“This is the idea of Christian marriage,” he says.
Why a Christian Shouldn’t Marry a Muslim with Georges Houssney and Elias
Rev. Georges Houssney and Elias, who were raised in Muslim countries different from those of Saieg and Ayman, discuss why they believe a Christian shouldn’t marry a Muslim. They present for us their concerns, but advise that any Christian considering this step spend much time in consultation with a mature Christian advisor.
Houssney and Elias admit that not everything they share applies to every case, and some intermarriages may be happy. But only if the couple are not devoutly religious. They give us spiritual and practical reasons against intermarriage – especially for Christian women.
Spiritual Reasons Against Intermarriage:
Elias shares that a Christian shouldn’t marry a Muslim because of the lack of spiritual common ground they would have. This actually would apply in every case of true Christians and unbelievers of any background. In II Corinthians 6:14, they both remind us that the Bible says light and darkness do not have fellowship, and should not join together.
A marriage relationship will be strained with such different backgrounds as Christianity and Islam. George agrees with Elias. He adds that they will not have the basis for problem-solving, because their outlooks are different. And they cannot pray together about their challenges. He has counselled many couples in this situation.
Elias says that without spiritual common ground life will be harder, and the soul thirstier.
Practical Reasons Against Intermarriage:
Christian women should be aware that they will face challenges they might not be expecting:
First, a woman should be aware of is that in Islam, the father has priority in custody of the children. If separation or divorce happens, you would very likely lose your children to the Muslim family of your husband. Houssney says he knows of more than 10,000 cases where this happens. Often the husband takes the children out of the country, and the Christian wife never sees them again.
Even though before marriage he promises freedom, the Muslim husband may forbid the children going to church and may insist on the mosque.
Since the Quran gives a man the right to have 4 wives, whom he can divorce rather easily, it tends to put a man in the mindset of always checking out other women as possibilities. Why not? It is their right in Islam. Houssney has heard this from many women. For example, they find that their husband is going out with another woman. He may then divorce her, or simply marry the new one in addition to her.
Why would a Christian woman ever marry a Muslim man? George asks.
Elias says it could be simply attraction, without thinking about it and doing adequate research.
Houssney recognizes that Muslim men can be attractive because compared to American men they are very romantic, and give generous gifts. It seems like they will do anything to gain the hand of their loved one in marriage. But in his large experience counseling around the Muslim world, this changes after marriage.
Houssney strongly encourages that before taking such a significant step as marrying a Muslim, that a Christian get counseling from an experienced leader, and look deeply into what they might be facing.
Six More Examples of Christian-Muslim Intermarriage
Religious differences are the most important ones that couples of mixed Muslim/Christian background face. But whether or not one converts to the other’s faith, there are still substantial worldview and cultural differences to be faced. There are so many that they are beyond the scope of this program.
However, we want you to be aware that issues like family structure, the place of women, finances, truthfulness, customs, and expectations need to be discussed in detail before any intercultural marriage is approached, whether or not the religion is the same.
Example of an American Christian Marrying a Muslim Overseas:
As a 21 year old nominal Christian, Hope visited North Africa with her boyfriend. While there she was forced to marry him. In fact, she even had to say the shahada to be able to leave the country. Her husband was at first kind and loving, however, in the following years, she and her children suffered abuse at his hand.
Now A strong Christian, Hope’s heart is burdened to warn Christians against marrying Muslims – or any other unbeliever.
(For more of Mary’s story, see Appendix 1, after the study questions for this lesson.)
Example of an American Christian Man Marrying a Muslim Student:
William met a very beautiful woman who had recently converted from Islam to Christianity. Everywhere she went men chased her. She had started to be discipled as a Christian, but since they met soon after her conversion, her focus changed to romance. William had thought that since she was willing to go to church and conferences, he would be able to continue her discipleship on his own.
However, after their marriage she soon dropped her interest in Christ. Instead, she focused on finances and differences in their cultures. After only a few weeks together she returned to her country and cut off communication with William. At one point she said she reverted to Islam.
When William was asked what he would say to a Christian man considering marrying a Muslim or recently converted Muslim woman, he said, “Under no circumstances!” and “Her family will not accept you.”
Example of an American Marrying a Muslim and living Overseas:
Rita is an American who married a Saudi she met in college and moved to his country. She has found it very difficult to transition between cultures and expectation. Through much effort she has managed to stay married. She hopes that her husband is a closet Christian, without his family knowing, but she is not convinced.
A few years ago she moved back to America because of problems in Saudi, and to assure an American education for her children. She has taught her children about the Bible, and some are following Jesus.
Example of a Nominal Christian who Married a Muslim and Converted:
Wanda told us her story – of how she converted to Islam out of a nominal Catholic background when she married a Muslim man. Wanda moved with him to Turkey. Her father-in-law kept pressuring her deeper and deeper into Islam. But as she got into Islam, she had less and less peace in her life.
Passing through life stress and panic attacks she came to the point she was willing to talk to a pastor. He told her that she could receive Jesus as her personal Savior. Although she was reluctant to do so because of her marriage to a Muslim, the Lord’s love and peace irresistibly drew her to him. His peace has sustained her through the distress she subsequently faced, as she has managed to stay married to her husband.
Example of a Christian who Married a Muslim that she Thought was a Christian:
Erika, a strong Christian from the Midwest says,
“We’ve been married 7 years. I was saved beforehand. He said he was a believer before we got married; but it was evident shortly after that though he believed in Jesus, he was not genuinely saved.
But as we continued to pray and fast God did a work in his heart all on his own. My husband became a Christian. He was saved and baptized in the beginning of 2017(4 years after marriage). We got pregnant with our first baby the end of that year.
There is a lot of difficulty with his mother. We do not speak. She did not accept me because I was a Christian. I’ve tried 4 times to give grace and create a relationship; but it had become dangerous to the point of her threatening and trying to physically attack me for absolutely no reason.
So at the moment my husband sees her on occasion alone. It is very hard as his mother has a great influence over him and it creates friction in the marriage. My father in law is very kind and they are separated, so we see him occasionally.”
Example of the Child of American who Married and Moved to a Muslim Country:
Several years ago, Dr. C met Rabab at Mary’s house and shared the gospel with her. Here is Rabab’s story:
While working in his country, Rabab’s mother met a wealthy Moroccan and married him. She moved to Morocco and accepted many of their values. Although Rabab was born in Morocco spoke English and looked and sounded American.
She was beautiful and privileged. Yet Rabab did not have the privileges of an American girl. She was not granted a full education. She had imposed upon her and also absorbed Muslim concepts, including marriage.
Rabab’s father, as she says, “sold” her as a child bride to a Muslim man when she was age 14. The man was abusive. Rabab managed to come to America where she remarried twice and had three children. The third husband was also abusive so they divorced. Without much education, Rabab was then unable to get a decent job to support her children.
Still relatively young, Rabab married a fourth time – to a prosperous Arab Muslim physician. At the time of this writing, they are still married, but their marriage has been tumultuous. He alternates between abusing her both physically and mentally, then buying her very expensive gifts. In Islam he has the right to keep her from leaving house. Even in America he uses it. Rabab is now a prisoner in her home.
Mary continues to share the gospel with Rabab. However, because of Rabab’s upbringing and difficult experiences she seems incapable of accepting God’s love. Rabab says that she has experienced many religions. She believes all of them and believes none of them.
May the Lord touch her heart and open her mind to the truth.
Additional Considerations about Intermarriage
Islamic Laws Apply
Divorce: Legally in Islam a woman can be divorced by pronouncement. This quick and easy way supports impulsive behavior, and results in confusion and a lack of paper documentation.
Custody: Children in Islam belong to the husband. He can take them from the wife entirely after they have reached an age of about 8 years old. Some of our friends have lost their children this way, and because of it others live in fear of marital break-up.
It is against Muslim law for a woman to take her children out of the country without the father’s permission. If he is unavailable, she must obtain consent from another man in his family. Wafa Sultan describes this in her book, “A God Who Hates.” She had to obtain the permission of a drunk in Syria because her husband was already in America.
Polygamy: Multiple marriages are being certified through mosques. It is not always clearly explained if other wives exist, that these marriages are not legal, and that these wives have no legal rights of marriage. They are considered single, and even encouraged to apply to the state for aid when they become mothers, as “single mothers.”
Secrets: Middle Eastern men often come to America alone to study or to earn money to send home. Home – where unknown to anyone in America, they may already have a wife and children. Since Islam allows men four wives at once, in their mind they do nothing wrong by marrying an American in addition to another wife.
Rights: The Quran and hadith grant husbands other rights which could be unacceptable to Western wives. For example, the Muslim marriage contract entitles the man to not only exclusive, but also on-call sexual services from his wife, regardless of her activity or mood at the time.
Likewise, we read and have observed, that a wife may not leave the house or allow anyone into it without her husband’s permission. In a rape case in the Middle East from several years ago a cleric condemned the victim saying, “Maybe she did not have a good reason for leaving the house.”
Culture, Culture, Culture
Besides religion, we have seen many other inbred differences challenge Christian-Muslim marriage. To reduce these, experts advise thorough pre-nuptial discussion on every aspect of marriage. Don’t assume they’re thinking what you’re thinking about anything. Learn the risks and the questions to ask.
Erika, from the example above says even if your spouse has converted from Islam,
“There is difficulty shedding the culture of Islam. The men were raised to see women as second class citizens, and the woman were raised to believe as a Muslim woman they somehow are above a non-Islamic man. These can cause difficulties in marriage.”
Remember that not all Muslim cultures are the same. Some are very poor and with limited opportunities. In this case, they may be quieter and less confident than Americans. Others, for example from a wealthy family, or country like Kuwait, may be used to spending lavish amounts of money on portable goods like jewelry, purses, and perfume in a showy way that seems unnatural even to wealthy Americans. They may find it normal to run up debt.
Hospitality, hygiene, food, family, modesty, friendliness, socializing, work ethic, expectations and treatment of women, and many, many more cultural differences may emerge to challenge a marriage between a Christian and a Muslim.
For Green Card: As with other nationals, Muslim immigrants have been motivated to marry Western women to gain favorable immigration status.
Prosperity: Compared to most people in the world, Americans are well-educated and wealthy.
Example of Encouraging Marriage for Immigration:
Brother E, is a Palestinian Christian man came to America to share the gospel with Muslims. He had a protracted immigration case. During this time Muslims repeatedly suggested to him brief marriage to an American woman, followed by divorce – solely as a solution to his immigration problem.
For example, once he was playing basketball in a recreation area of a mosque with Muslim young men. When they heard that he was not yet a permanent resident, he was told,
“Marry an American woman. Then it’s easy to get a green card. You can divorce her after, no problem.”
Romantic practices of cultures differ, especially during the courting phases. These can present big challenges to Christian-Muslim relationships. As you can see in the above true stories, the greater romantic sentiments expressed by Muslim men tend to attract Christian women.
Conversely, since American men are usually not so romantic, Muslim and former Muslim women who marry them can be strongly disappointed. They may see them as unromantic and dispassionate, when actually they are being sensible by Western standards.
The Christian may feel “second class” when around the Muslim family. Part of this could be limited language and awkwardness in the culture; but part of it because Muslims are told in the Quran that,
“You are the best of all peoples ever raised up for mankind.” Quran 3:110
The verse goes on to contrast Muslims with Christians, saying it would have been better if they had been Muslims.
Rita from the example above says,
“Muslim men feel fine about basic dishonesty. It’s part of the culture and Mohammed was the perfect example. Also it is spelled out in the Quran. Secondarily, non-M women can be treated in any manner (thought of as lower status, it’s okay to lie to them, use them etc.), so for him to wine and dine her, make her feel special, lie to her about beliefs (“our religions are almost the same”), is acceptable.
Once they are married life usually changes and the truth comes out, whether it is intentional or unintentional. Some men think they are open, but when children are born then their ideology, fears for the children, desire to have the family that brings them honor rather than shame all come flowing out.”
Marrying a Western man is said be a sign of success for a Muslim woman in the Arab Gulf – IF he converts to Islam.
As you heard, Western women might be attracted to Muslim men because of their exotic appeal, but the reverse also applies. It has been said that Muslim men want the experience of a “white woman.” In fact blonde women have been one of the promises used to spur Muslim men on to conquest in the past and present.
PAST: Islamic commentaries on Quran 9:49 explain that Mohammed was enticing men to jihad by offering blonde women captives. This was causing men to lust. One man objected to this tactic and was cursed.
Mohammed said, “Are you ready to attack the children of the blondes and make them mistresses and maids?” (An-Naisiburi 505; also Ibn Kathir & at-Tabari).
PRESENT: Yazidi women captured by ISIS and being sold as slaves, were valued higher for their blonde hair and blue eyes, because their bloodlines had not intermarried with Arabs.
This is a recent term coined to express the underhanded and often violent way which non-Muslim women are forced into Islam through involuntary marriage in some countries.
KIDNAPPING EPIDEMIC: In Muslim countries with a Christian population, like Egypt and Pakistan there has been an epidemic of kidnappings of Christian young women for brides to spread Islam. These women are snatched from the streets, forced to convert, raped and forced to marry. Then their parents are sent notice that this has happened. It’s over, done deal.
The Christian communities from these countries cry in woe at how they are losing their young women. The young women lose their families, their education, their freedom, and their virginity by almost unimaginable treachery. The parents lose their daughters and grandchildren, who are forced to be Muslims and into their culture. The young men are defrauded of potential Christian mates. We need to pray against this abuse of our Christian sisters overseas.
Example of Oppressive Coerced Marriages of Christian Women:
In October, 2020, Arzoo Raja, a 13-year-old Christian girl in Pakistan, was kidnapped. She was forced to marry her 44 year old Muslim kidnapper and convert to Islam. In spite of widespread protests, Islamic courts upheld the marriage, saying that she had willing converted – despite the fact that she tried to run to her mother in court, but was restrained by her husband. Subsequently the parents lost their jobs and have been threatened.
Islam does not allow Muslim men to marry women that are considered polytheists, like Hindus. This causes interesting complications for Muslims and Hindus living in a country where they are mixed, like India.
(Note: Not directly related to the topic of Christian-Muslim marriage, but connected to Islam and interfaith marriage are forms of love jihad reported between Muslims and Hindus. They can be just as diabolical as love jihad against Christians.
In one type, the young woman is gradually drawn into a web of deceit which “accidentally” becomes physical. Videos are made of inappropriate behavior and used to blackmail the girl. Marriage is promised. Rape by other men is used to keep her compliant at various stages along the way. Once married she is trapped inside the house, as in Muslim law, and raped by family members if she rebels. She has no legal recourse because they claim she converted AFTER the marriage. This means she does not get the dowry Muslim girls do. Moreover, the Muslim husbands claim rights to the wife’s family property under Hindu law. Meanwhile, the husband repeats the trick with another woman.
Example of Love Jihad of a Muslim against a Hindu:
In October of 2020, in Faridabad, India, 20 year-old Nikita Tomar was shot in the head and killed in front of her college, after a failed attempt to abduct her. The Muslim man who killed her had been her classmate since childhood. He had been repeatedly calling and harassing her to convert to Islam and marry him. Her assailant had even previously abducted her and been legally charged; but her family dropped the charges under pressure from his family, and a promise that he would stop harassing her. Sadly, he did not.)
Questions about Muslim-Christian Romance
QUESTION 1: Gary, a mature American Christian man asked us this question: “What do Christian women see in Muslim men that they don’t see in Christian men?”
ANSWERS from Christian women who married Muslim Men:
Besides those given in the video and discussion, we received these responses to our question:
Hope says, “For me, at that time in my life as a college student, I think there was something mysterious that was intriguing about the attraction, including the dark and handsome aspect. There was that attention that I received that, looking back now was more representative of a controlling personality that appeared likeable at first, but not so later on with jealousy and control playing itself out.”
Earica who married a Muslim friend of her brother says, “One of the things that attract a woman to an Arabic man, is not so much that he’s Muslim but that their culture is very hospitable and respectful toward strangers, And usually initially they’re respectful to non-Muslim woman. It’s something different than we’re used to because it’s showered and lavished upon us. So it draws you in. They’re very generous and open.”
Shaheen, leader of a ministry to Muslims, believes that one of the things attracting Christian women to marry Muslim men is the beautiful and colorful, yet modest clothing of countries like Pakistan. She now stages annual fashion shows for Christians to show them how they can dress with Asian flare without converting to Islam.
QUESTION 2: Christian leaders often ask, “How do we keep Christians, especially young women, from getting romantically involved with Muslims?”
ANSWERS: In schools, neighborhoods, and work: Christians are to be salt and light wherever they are. They are to share the gospel. Friendships between children of the same sex but different faiths could result in opportunities to love and share the good news with them.
If your children are in friendships with those of other faiths, it is a great opportunity to discuss with your children the differences in the faiths, and why Christianity is true. This puts more obligation on parents than in past generations when most children in schools and neighborhoods were at least nominally Christian, or Jewish. A degree of “apologetics,” knowing why you believe what you believe, is now essential for all Christians.
As children mature into adolescence, churches and families should share information about other religions, and the risks of intermarriage. They should emphasize the importance of not being unequally yoked with unbelievers, and discourage any serious relationships of a romantic nature between Christians and unbelievers of any kind. Using what you learned from this lesson, and possibly discussing the study questions would be a good idea.
On outreaches and missions and other Christian activities: There are cases reported that Christian women on outreach are getting into relationships with Muslim men while sharing the gospel with them. Some have even married them and converted to Islam.
This is a definite risk. Muslim men have pretended an interest in Christianity as a way of starting a relationship with an American woman. Christian men, on the other hand can get into trouble for talking to Muslim women and be confronted by angry Muslim men who misunderstand their intentions.
How can leaders prevent this:
Confront the risks in advance by training the team in what to expect and the risks of getting into relationships with Muslims and other unbelievers. (Perhaps using this lesson and study guide.)
Some leaders forbid any speaking to someone of the opposite sex on outreach or missions. We however realize that when distributing literature one will need to give it to people of both sexes. Brief conversations may then start. If brief and on topic, this could be OK.
If someone gets flirty with your team member, wants to get into deep conversation, or meet again to discuss Christianity, we advise that the team member passes the connection on to someone of that sex. They can tell the Muslim that it is their policy not to get involved beyond a few words.
One exception may be mature, older Christian women if they can speak to men as a mother. Dr. C has found that this works with her and is of little risk. The status of elder woman allows her to share with women, and men – including imams. However, once again if the men get flirty or want to continue meeting, it is advisable to pass the connection on to a man.
When overseas, leaders should train the team on appropriate behavior for that country. They will need to decide where and when it is appropriate to push cultural boundaries to forward the gospel, including situations where men and women might connect.
Learn to weigh risks vs. benefits of any Christian work (in fact it is a good idea for everything you do). Sharing the gospel carries a variety of risks. We must face them or we can’t obey the Great Commission. Yet we can reduce them as reasonably possible while still sharing the gospel.
Summary of Why Christian Women are Attracted to Muslim Men
Let’s summarize the answers presented by our experts and testimonies above, plus more from our experience with in this situation:
- Physical attraction to their “tall, dark, and handsome” appearance
- The strong factor of romance, and costly gifts, especially compared to Western men
- The appeal of the exotic culture, food, faraway places, and intricate or colorful clothing
- Simply the situation of the time and place of meeting
- Forceful personality seen as pursuing
- Affirmation: women considered overweight in Western culture are told that their curves are appreciated in Muslim cultures
- Easy life: being told that they are honored and respected, not expected to balance home and work
- Motivation of immigration, prosperity, or spreading Islam making men persuasive
Can Talking About it Prevent Christians Marrying Muslims?
YES, It can! We shared with you the example of Cathy, who did not listen to warnings about marrying a Muslim man. But GOOD NEWS, sometimes advance warning does make a difference!
Example of an American Dissuaded from Marrying a Muslim:
One day our team got a call from a devout Christian woman who had heard them speak at a church. She was very worried because her daughter Shelly. Shelly had met a Turkish man, planned to go to Turkey with him, and marry him. Shelly was not a believer, so she could not appeal to her on that basis. She asked us to meet with Shelly and discourage her decision.
Shelly, an attractive college student, kindly agreed to meet with Dr. C and Brother E. While sharing dinner, Shelly heard the gospel, as well as details about Islam and what happens to women married to Muslims. She told them that she would consider what they had said.
A few months later the mother reported the good news that her daughter had decided not to go to Turkey. Shelly was still not a believer, however.
Fast forward over ten years. Dr. C was at a coffee house when an attractive woman with long and silky, golden brown hair came up to her.
She said excitedly, “Do you remember me? I am Shelly! You met with me long ago when I was thinking of going to Turkey. Guess what? I didn’t! And a year ago I became a Christian! I am so excited about Jesus. I am studying the Bible, and tell everyone I meet about him!”
Praise God for that happy ending. May the Lord continue to strengthen her.
We hope that you too will try to discourage Christian-Muslim intermarriage.
Summary of Why Christians Should Not Marry Muslims
Here is a summary of the reasons from our speakers and study guide notes for why Christians, nominal or sincere, should not marry Muslims:
For Christian Women:
- Christians should not be tied, or “yoked” to unbelievers. You will have different worldviews and not have spiritual fellowship. If you knowingly do this, you will be disobeying the Bible. You will be asking for trouble in your life. (II Corinthians 6:14)
- Muslims are encouraged to marry Christians to spread Islam, and might not be sincere
- for immigration status
- for security and prosperity of life in the West
- desire for a “white” woman
- Flattery often changes to battery after marriage (Quran 4:34)
- The children belong to Islam and the father. This means that:
- As the head of the household, he can make them Muslims
- In the case of divorce, Islamic law grants them to him
- The mother-in-law or other wife will have charge of the children of the divorced woman and might not care for them
- He may take them and leave the country
- Promises of religious tolerance often changes after marriage
- Husbands frequently become more religious as they age
- They start pressuring the Christian woman to convert
- You might become Muslim –
- Surrounded by Muslim culture, you might forget the blessings and reasons for believing in Jesus as your savior
- You might be tricked into repeating words which would make you Muslim
- Polygamy –
- Because it is his right in Islam, your husband can practice this whether or not he promises you otherwise
- Since in Islam he can do this with or without your knowledge, you will never be sure if he has another family
- This creates the tendency for the man to always be looking for another or “better” woman, even if he can only have one
- Easy divorce, since marriage is a contract, not a sacrament, as it is in Christianity
- Can be done verbally or in mosque, which is not legal in America
- He can marry someone else overseas even before your divorce is final
- Whether or not you believe in Islam, you may be subjected to living according to Islam’s rules. These are not easy for women:
- You are considered property
- You can be beaten, forbidden to leave the house, forbidden to have anyone in the house, forced to cover your body, not celebrate birthdays of your children, not keep family photos, fast when the culture does, drop everything when your husband calls for sexual attention, etc.
- Religious rights must be performed in Arabic, which you do not understand
- Cultural differences may make it difficult for his family to accept you, and you might feel excluded or disliked.
- You and your children may be treated as “second class”
- Eventually these feelings may be transferred to your husband, making him look down on you.
- You may end up living in fear that someone may be coming to kill you or your spouse.
For Christian Men:
- Christians should not be tied, or “yoked” to unbelievers. You will have different worldviews and not have spiritual fellowship. If you knowingly do this, you will be disobeying the Bible. You will be asking for trouble in your life. (II Corinthians 6:14)
- According to Muslim law, it is not legal for you to marry a Muslim woman. This means that either:
- Your marriage must be kept secret from her family
- You must convert
- Realize that if you do convert to Islam, if you leave Islam, you must be killed and your wife punished. At least one fatwa states this.
- If the woman that you marry converts to marry you, she might revert to Islam and leave you. If she does,
- She can declare that her marriage to you is invalid. She can return to her country where she is considered single, but you are married according to America.
- Islamic law gives her and the Muslims custody of your children.
- Cultural differences may make it difficult for his family to accept you, and you might feel excluded or disliked. Eventually these negative feelings may be transferred to your wife, and she may despise you as well.
- Whether or not you believe in Islam, you may be subjected to living according to its rules:
- These lifestyle will seem foreign to you and is not easy
- Performing all the required religious rites required will likely be a drain on your strength and time, and make it more difficult for you to work in Western style to provide for your family
- Religious rights must be performed in Arabic, which you do not understand
- You might become Muslim
- Surrounded by Muslim culture, you might forget the blessings and reasons for believing in Jesus as your Savior
- You might be tricked into repeating words which would make you Muslim
- If she remains Muslim, not only are you unequally yoked, but your marriage is considered invalid in Islam.
- At any time she can leave you with the children. The ummah, the community of Islam, will encourage her to do this all along and will support her when she does.
- If you are in a Muslim country, or if she returns to one, she may consider herself unmarried and free to remarry, while you are still bound in marriage to her under American law. In that way, Islam allows polygamy for women.
- You may end up living in fear that someone may be coming to kill you or your spouse.
Five Questions for Women Considering Marrying Muslim Men
We’ve seen serious problems with Christian or Western-Muslim marriage. Here are five questions which could protect a hopeful bride from hellish situations.
1. Are you already married?
It seems almost too crazy to be true, but you must ask. In the past, most people in America were from there or assimilated. They knew that marrying when you already had a wife was bigamy – a serious crime, and wrong. There was no need to ask.
For bigamy our federal government used to hunt men from state to state. But bigamy is happening in America now with increased frequency and decreased government intervention, and with the approval and at times promotion of mosques.
2. Do you accept American laws and customs when they conflict with Islamic Law?
This is especially important regarding child custody and women’s rights. In America a woman still has hope of this, but not overseas.
3. Can I practice my non-Islamic faith, and to what extent?
No doubt the answer will be “yes” if you are of Christian or Jewish background. Other faiths are usually considered idolaters and totally unacceptable to Muslims.
You may think that your fiancé is open, yet be aware that although agreeable before marriage, but experiences have shown us that things change. Muslim men tend to get more religious as they get older.
4. What is your immigration status?
It is not uncommon to hear marriage being used as a solution to immigration problems. When marriage is seen as primarily as a contract, why not use it as a stepping stone into America… or for other benefits?
5. Do you believe in temporary marriage? and Will this be a temporary marriage?
Officially, temporary marriage has mutually agreed upon length and pre-set payment determined in advance. The time can range from an hour to years. A man’s other wife/wives need not be informed of the arrangement.
Marriage may also be used as a temporary stepping stone by the Muslim man without the woman being aware that it is temporary.
(Note: Find more about Temporary Marriage, and other types of marriage, not had in Christianity in our video and study guide on Confusing Muslim Marriages.)
Scripture References for this Lesson:
- II Corinthians 5:17 & 6:14-16
- I Corinthians 13:4-8,13
- Matthew 7:15,16
- Ephesians 5:28,29
- Women are possessions – Quran 2:223 & 3:14
- Polygamy – Quran 4:3
- Ok to marry Christian women – Quran 5:5
- Wife beating – Quran 4:34
- Muslims are the best of all peoples – Quran 3:110
- Fighting for blondes – Quran 9:49 commentary An-Naisiburi 505, Dar Al-Kotob Al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, Lebanon, p. 140; also At-Tabari and Ibn Kathir
- Most in hell are women – Sahih Al Bukhari 7:124; 1052
(Note: More extensive Islamic references, including those regarding marriage are given at the end of the study guide for the Lesson on Islam and Women.)
- What are the main scriptural references that were used by the speakers in this video lesson?
- Review what they say and how it applies to Christians marrying Muslims.
- Can you think of other Bible references that would apply?
- According to Muslim law,
- women of which religions are Muslim men allowed to marry?
- men of which religion are Muslim women permitted to marry?
- what religions are neither Muslim men nor women to marry with?
- What are some of the things that attract Christian women to marry Muslim men.
- Try to name at least 5.
- What can be done to resist these?
- What unexpected consequences might Christian women face after marrying Muslim or recently converted Muslim men?
- What unexpected consequences might Christian men face after marrying Muslim, or recently converted Muslim women?
- True or False:
- If a Muslim man wants to marry more than one wife, he must first get permission of the prior wife or wives.
- A Muslim man must inform his fiancé if the has another wife before he marries her.
- A Muslim man can keep marriages secret.
- Men and women in Islam have equal rights in marriage.
- What kinds of questions should a Western person (Christian or not) ask or investigate before marrying a Muslim?
- Do you think similar questions might apply to some degree before marrying anyone from a very different background?
- Do you feel that Christians should confront other Christians who are considering marrying a Muslim?
- What example did the study guide give of where confrontation did NOT help?
- What example did the study guide give of where confrontation DID help?
- Considering those, what might you say to a Christian or Western
- woman who was considering marrying a Muslim man?
- man wanting to marry a Muslim woman?
- If you are a Christian, would you consider marrying a Muslim? Why or Why not?
- If you are a Muslim, would you consider marrying a Christian? Why or why not?
- Has watching this program affected the way you feel about marrying someone not of your faith background? Why or why not?
- If you are leading an outreach or mission trip to Muslims,
- What risks do you foresee with the sort of work you are planning?
- What policies might you consider which would accomplish both the goals of your project, yet protect your team from romantic relationships with Muslims?
Appendix 1 Hope’s Testimony of Marrying a Muslim
Hope is a Christian who married a Muslim man. She gives her testimony in brief here, hoping that you might read it, and print it out to share with any woman you know who might be making a similar mistake.
Are you or someone you know in love with a Muslim man? As a Christian American woman, I have been in your place. So, please open your eyes, mind and heart to what I have learned.
Just because he looks good, doesn’t mean he is. And just because he speaks sweet, kind and loving words to you, doesn’t mean he believes it.
Just because he says it doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian and that you both really believe in the same God, don’t believe it! In fact, investigate whether it is true or not. (It’s not!)
Just because he brushes off questions about his faith, marriage and raising children, doesn’t mean ‘it will all work out’. While he may have accepted western life, he is still very much connected to his cultural and religious background. You cannot erase these things from your relationship and believe that they don’t really matter that much.
Even if he says that he admires your faith in God, he will dismantle what you believe and may attempt to bring you into his belief if you continue in this relationship. Later on, he may mock your Bible and discredit what it says.
But, you say, he loves me and treats me well. He cooks for me and is always a gentleman. You might even tell yourself that you never met an American man who treated you so well. And I would agree that the beginning seems like a great adventure dating a foreigner. However, the ending may not be what you imagined would happen.
You might think, but all relationships have their problems. Yes, but a Christian will always be unequally yoked with a Muslim or non-believer. That’s why the Bible says,
“Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness. And what communion has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
My romantic relationship with a man from North Africa led me to his country where I went to jail, was forced to marry him after being pressured to say the Shahada (Muslim prayer of acceptance), and live in a marriage filled with mental and emotional abuse that later affected my children. I was finally released from this marriage as he said he divorced me 3 times, which is part of the Islamic Sharia Law.
There is much more to my story, but my burden now is to warn those who might find themselves in a similar situation. Seek God’s plan for your relationship. He will show you the right one in His perfect timing!
Copyright by by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2021.
Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Should Christians Marry Muslims?
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Comparing God’s Character in Christianity and Islam
Program Summary and Notes:
Quick Summary: Christianity and Islam are based on their understandings of the character of God or Allah. To understand how the faiths are the same and different, it is very important to know how they see God’s character.
In the video lesson, guests Bob Siegel and James Anderson join Dr. Cynthia to compare God’s character versus Allah’s, and God in the Old and New Testaments. It includes two reality segments from everyday life that connect with the topic.
This study guide gives more details, yet focuses on only a few important characteristics and differences between God and Allah. More on their names and characteristics is in the Appendices after the Study Questions.
Reality – a quick Visit to Boston and a Graveyard
The video lesson starts with a visit to Boston, Massachusetts, USA with Dr. Cynthia and some friends.
This region of the United States was active in bringing freedom to America. Freedoms to worship, to express ourselves, and work as we choose are tremendous blessings. Because of its great freedoms, for centuries people have been coming to all over the world to America. In the last 30 years many of these have been from Muslim countries.
Even greater than the freedom a country can give is our freedom in Christ. Through him, we can be free from sin and its destructive forces in our lives. (Romans 8:2)
Today, we visit the Old Burying Ground on the edge of Boston. Look at the old tombstones, with dates from long ago. Right next to this old graveyard we hear the busy noise of traffic driving past, within feet of the graves. Someday not many years in the future, those in a hurry now will also be asleep in the dust.
Visiting a graveyard reminds us that no matter how good we may feel at the moment, there will come a day when we do not walk upon the earth but lie beneath it. Jesus told us that he will come again for those who believe in him and take us to our heavenly home.
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:2, 3
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. I Thessalonians 4:16-18
We can count on this because our God is faithful to his promises!
The Character of God in Christianity vs. Islam
God and Allah are both seen as all-powerful beings, but they are not identical. There are areas of both agreement and disagreement in the ways God and Allah are described in their respective holy books.
AGREEMENT: Muslims and Christians agree on some of the characteristics of God/Allah. We agree that there is a single Creator God. We agree that God is all powerful, merciful, compassionate, and that he sent prophets to warn people not to sin, and to worship God only.
We agree that God is over all, including humans and angels. He will hold us accountable for what we do on earth and has ordained a Day of Judgement. We agree that Jesus is the Messiah and the Word of God, although we disagree about what these terms mean.
DISAGREEMENT: Muslims and Christians have strong differences in our views of the character of God.
The Name of God Controversy
The differences are so many and so strong that some Christians say God and Allah are totally different gods. True though this may be, telling it to Muslims directly burns a potential bridge.
In Arabic, Allah is the word for Creator God, so even Arabic Christians pray to Allah. Similarly, English-speaking Christians use the pagan word God for Jehovah, the one true Creator. Other religions also use this English word for false ideas of God.
Some Christians have been taught by non-Arabic speaking Christians that it is wrong to use the word “Allah” in talking about God. In our opinion, a rose by any other name is as sweet. THE MAIN THING IS TO KEEP THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING. We want to preach the gospel to Muslims, not waste time arguing.
We prefer to take a positive approach. Our goal is to bring Muslims to Christ. We start with small truths that we agree on about God, such as that he is the Creator, and gradually reveal more truth until they come to understand the full gospel.
An essential difference in the characteristics of God in Christianity and Islam is in the balance of Justice and Mercy. In Islam, God’s mercy can overcome his anger at our sins. When he wants to Allah can forgive with no penalty. In Christianity, God’s justice is equal in strength in his character to his mercy. The two must balance, as they do when he came to earth as Jesus and died in our place on the cross.
The Character of God in the Bible
Because understanding the character of God is so essential, in our presentation of the gospel to Muslims we dedicate the first page of our gospel booklet The Path of the Prophets to that topic. Here is what it says,
- God is one. He is the Creator of everything.
- God reveals himself to us through creation, and the words and lives of his prophets.
- Through creation, we see that he is powerful, creative, and wise.
- The Prophets told us more about God and his way. They told us that God is good!
- He is merciful and compassionate, perfect and just, loving and giving. Every good thing in your life is a gift from God.
Since there is one God, and he is good, we must find and follow his way.
Throughout the content of this gospel booklet, we come back to the character of God. Each of the characteristics we mention in the booklet are used to explain why the gospel is the gospel.
GOD’S GOODNESS: The Path of the Prophets booklet begins with telling us that God is good. It is so very important to believe that God is good. When we clearly see that he is good we will be willing to trust him with our salvation and follow him every day.
The Bible tells us,
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever. Psalm 118:1
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights,who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
So many adjectives of wondrous characteristics apply to God, as well as a few special names.
GOD IS I AM:
God is Jehovah. The name of the independent, self-complete being. “I AM WHO I AM” is how God introduced himself to Moses. Our proper response to Him is fear and awe of the One who possesses all authority. (Exodus 3:13,14)
One discussion we constantly run into with Muslim apologists is whether or not Jesus claimed to be God. They like to say that Jesus did not claim to be God or the only Son of God. That is not true.
It is very important to understand the culture of the people that Jesus was speaking to in the New Testament. One way that Jesus presented himself to the Jews of his day was as the “I AM.” They clearly understood that he was claiming to be God. He used many other ways as well.
Jesus was not condemned to death for healing people and telling stories. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record that at his trial Jesus admitted under oath to be the Son of God. Blasphemy was the charge against him for which the religious leaders turned Jesus in to Rome for crucifixion.
It is important to bring this to attention of people who say that Jesus did not claim to be God.
The Character of God in Islam
The character of God in Islam shares some characteristics with the God of the Bible; yet is very different.
Characteristics of Allah that Muslims emphasize are:
- Oneness or “Tawhid” with absolutely no partners (no Son of God or trinity)
- Merciful and Compassionate – is mentioned at the opening of nearly every surah, or chapter of the Quran.
- Sovereign will over all
- High and Distant
- Judge of the Day of Judgement
Remember, our main goal at Christian from Muslim is to make mature Christians out of Muslims. We do not want to get caught in non-productive arguments. We could spend all day arguing with Muslims about their description of God, and still not get close to sharing the gospel. So we need to be strategic in our discussions with them, focusing on what is essential for them to understand and accept the gospel.
Nevertheless, we think you will find it an interesting exercise to examine the list of the 99 names of Allah in Islam and compare them to God’s names in Christianity (see Appendix 1 and Appendix 2). The 100th name of Allah, some Muslims say, is known only to the camel.
Dear friends, when you look at the list of the 99 names of Allah, do you notice any names of God that are missing? God is Love and God is Savior are two characteristics notably absent from Allah’s list, but are very important to Christians.
Brother E, the Arab evangelist who trained Dr. C in Muslim thinking, made T-shirts with those 99 names in Arabic – but he added a few more to show Muslims what they had left out, including Lamb of God, and Savior!
COMPARISON of God’s Characteristics in Christianity and Islam
It is not unusual to find Christianity and Islam using the same word, but with different meanings. For example, our understandings of heaven and hell, righteousness, and messiah. We find the same thing when discussing the character of God. Here we will compare some of the important characteristics and their differences:
- God’s Love
- God’s Justice
- God’s Greatness
- God’s Way
#1 GOD’S LOVE
In Christianity, God’s love is one of the most outstanding features. Very rarely you will hear a Muslim saying this. If they do, it is because they live in the West and have absorbed it from Christians.
Do not be fooled! Allah is NOT love. You may notice that in the list of the 99 names of Allah in the appendix that #47, al Wadud, is translated as the “the Loving One.” That is not how former Muslims describe Allah. In fact, Wafa Sultan, whom we interview in another lesson, says that Allah is “A God who Hates” and wrote a book documenting that.
Usually, Christians talking about God’s love in Arabic will usually say mohub. This is the word that you will find in the Arabic Bible. We asked a former Muslim from Saudi Arabia to explain the difference between wadud and mohub. Here is the response:
Arabic is a very complicated language. Wadud doesn’t exactly mean “God is love.” It is like “God is near and merciful.” Allah’s love and mercy are only for those who worship him – based on deeds. It is conditional. Jesus came for the world. He loves sinners but hates their sin.
This is in keeping with how other former Muslims describe God’s love in Islam.
QUESTION: Why is it important to know the difference in the words used for love?
ANSWER: So that:
- You will have an accurate picture of Allah in Islam: his love is conditional.
- Say: “If you love Allah, then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive your sins. And Allah is oft-forgiving, most merciful… Allah does not love the disbelievers.” Quran 3:31, 32
- You will be able to explain to Muslims that the God of the Bible truly loves. He loves us unconditionally, and died to save the world while we could not care less about him:
- God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
#2 GOD’S JUSTICE
As we discuss in the video lesson and mention above, the difference between God’s justice in Christianity and Allah’s justice in Islam is one of the biggest differences between the two faiths.
In the list of the Muslim names of Allah, #29 says he is Just. Although Islam claims this, it is not strong enough in his character that it requires a penalty for sin, what Islam calls hataiya.
In Islam there is a hadith that says, “Allah’s mercy overcomes his wrath.” In practice this means that “Allah’s mercy overcomes his justice.” However, we know from the Bible that in God’s character his justice is equal to his mercy in strength.
We point out to Muslims that how God balances Justice and Mercy is most important difference between our two faiths.
Here are two analogies of justice and forgiveness:
Example 1, A mouthy toddler. This kind of forgiveness would be like forgiving a child who had said something disrespectful, but not done any permanent damage. In Islam Allah can simply forgive if he has a mind to.
Example 2, A destructive teenager. What if the child does serious damage? What if an angry teen burns down a house? Will the judge say, “Oh, that’s OK. I forgive you. Just don’t do it again.”
How would the homeowner feel about that? Where would he live? There is a debt and that needs to be paid, both financially, and personally. But if the father pays to rebuild the house, and if the teen does time in juvenile hall learning how to respect property, that would be just.
Allah’s forgiveness is like the first example. God’s justice is like the second. God forgives when asked, but justice must be done.
Muslims think that Allah can just forgive his followers because he cares. We tell them that if we were making up a religion, we would probably say that too. But God is not like that. How do we know? Because he told us in his word, and through the lives of his followers since the time of Adam.
(Note: See also the study guide, video tract, and Lesson on the Gospel for Muslims: The Path of the Prophets for more details on how to explain this to Muslims.)
God’s love/mercy is strong, but it cannot overcome his justice. That is why he came to earth once to die for our sins. He took our place in human form.
A Muslim Question – why would God make Jesus die for us?
QUESTION: Muslims are quick to point out that it would be unfair to make Jesus, whom they say was perfect, die for the sins of others. They say it is unjust. How do we answer that?
ANSWER: If Jesus were a mere human, they would be right. It would not be fair to have a good prophet suffer for someone else. Not to mention that he would not be able to make up for the evil deeds of absolutely everyone.
The reason that the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins works in ONLY because he is GOD. He did not commit the sins, and he told us not to do them. Yet since he made the world, like a loving father he took responsibility for its wrongs.
So, in a unique way, Jesus’ death was God suffering with us. He took the blame for everything his creatures did. And no one can say to God, “You don’t know what it’s like down here. If you did you would be more understanding!”
God did walk down here. He was mistreated in almost every way imaginable. He understands how we suffer. And so, he is qualified to be:
- fittingly associated with his creatures in suffering Hebrews 2:10,11
- both just and the one who justifies Romans 3:26
- our sympathetic high priest Hebrews 4:15, & 7:25
- the one who brings together heaven and earth Colossians 1:20
#3 GOD’S GREATNESS
Both Christians and Muslims believe that “God is Great,” but we mean it and express it differently.
Examples of Proclaiming that GOD is GREAT in ISLAM:
General Example: One of the things that Muslims are inclined to shout out about Allah, literally when committing acts of terror, is Allahu Akbar. This Arabic phrase is roughly translated, “God is Great,” or more literally, “Allah is Greater!” If you have seen or read reports of Muslim acts of terror, such as those of 9/11 you will have heard this.
Specific Example: Once Dr. C attended a regional Muslim convention on a prominent American university campus where she had been doing outreach for over a year. She was the lone Christian in a group of about 300 Muslims. A Muslim woman had been appointed to chaperon her and sit with her so that she would not be able to talk to any Muslims present. Dr. C sat quietly.
Although she had said or done nothing offensive, simply knowing that a Christian was in their midst riled the attendees. The speaker was amazing – and not in a good way. An Islamic scholar, he worked up the crowd in a way that Dr. C had never seen before, and hopes to never again.
He started out speaking calmly, but ever increased the pace and intensity of his delivery. He spoke louder and louder and began to mention the early days of Islam when Muslims were persecuted. When he had worked the crowd into an indignant and passionate frenzy, he started waving his arm, yelling and pointing. He screamed,
“And today, we have Christians here among us, against us as in the early days of Islam!”
The audience became frenetic. Someone yelled, “Takbir!” and the crowd answered loudly in unison,
Allahu Akbar! Takbir! Allahu Akbar! Takbir! Allahu Akbar!
Over and over they yelled this as a mob, incensed at the presence of a Christian in their presence and expressing hostile anger!
Praise God, they did not attack Dr. C physically. But the violence of their zeal was unsettling and unforgettable. Dr. C then knew that if this were Pakistan, she would be dead.
May the Lord have special mercy on Christians who daily face persecution under the proclamation of the greatness of the Allah of Islam, especially in regions where, unhampered by Western values, they are tortured and killed.
(Note: “Allah he greater” is the word for word translation, in the way Arabs express things without the verb “is.” By an ironic twist, the word akbar in Arabic is “mouse” in Hebrew. So, if a Hebrew speaker hears them yelling Allahu akbar, to them is sounds like, “Allah is a mouse!”)
Examples of Proclaiming that GOD is GREAT in CHRISTIANITY:
General Example: In contrast, when Christians pray or sing, “God is Great!” it is in worship. By it we recognize that God is more powerful than our problems – and more powerful than the gates of hell, which try to stop his kingdom from moving forward (Matthew 16:18). We are not proclaiming that he is violently imposing his will on unbelievers.
Specific Example: Once while in a mosque in a major city, an Imam was trying to convert Dr. C. He said many things against the Bible, and tried to pull Jesus down from his lofty position. Dr. C had been patient for a long time, behaving modestly because this mosque was extremely conservative. The Imam misunderstood her patience and was convinced that she was going to become a Muslim.
Then, the Imam started chanting from the Quran in Arabic that God did not have a son. In response, Dr. C had had enough! Filled with the Holy Spirit, she started singing loudly, and drowned out his falsehood. She sang in Spanish a song that she had sung daily as she stepped onto the port in Spain. It encouraged her to share the gospel with Muslims by remembering – God is Great!
Proclamaré mi Dios es grande.
Te exaltaré tu eres santo
Y te daré la gloria y honra
Yo te adoro y me postro ante ti.
I proclaim my God is Great!
I will exalt You for you are holy.
I will give you the glory and honor.
I adore you, and I bow myself before you.
The imam, who had used Arabic as an incantation, did not understand the words of the Spanish song; but he surely understood the message:
The God of Christians is Great! He is not overcome by your falsehoods. This is how we proclaim him – with peace and joy, not with force!
#4 GOD’S WAY
God’s way reflects God’s character. His character does not change, and it is peaceable.
God does not Change
“I the Lord do not change.” Malachi 3:6
When talking to Muslims it is important to keep in mind that the Bible presents a God that does not change. (See also: Psalm 102:27, Hebrews 13:8)
In the Old Testament God’s people lived under law, and in the New Testament under grace; but in both they are saved through faith, based on blood sacrifice for their sins.
The way of Allah of Islam is so different to the way of God in the Bible, that for Islam to be a true path of God, God’s character must have changed over time. This is especially true concerning sacrifices.
Two excellent questions to ask Muslims are:
- If in both the Old and New Testaments God required blood sacrifice for sin, why is it absent from Islam?
- If God’s justice previously required sacrifice, how can he forgive without it in Islam?
These are especially important for those who have converted from a nominal Christian or Jewish background, and so might have a recollection of sacrifices in those faiths. They should be challenged to reconcile these differences.
Muslim responses when we ask these questions are usually:
- Initially surprise. They are focused on a life of law. The only sacrifice they are aware of is that of Abraham, which they follow annually in ritual as Eid al AdHa.
- Some say that they will have to think about it.
- After thinking about it they may:
- if trained, pull Bible verses out of context that say God does not want sacrifices. But remember, these were said in a context of his desiring a pure heart and relationship rather than ritual. (Isaiah 1:11-17, Hosea 6:6-7, Micah 6:6-8)
- say that the Bible is corrupted. However, they cannot reasonably deny that Judaism and Christianity were based around sacrifices because:
- There are abundant references to sacrifices throughout the Bible, not just a disputable few. The Quran affirms the prior scriptures, and these references were in manuscripts present at the time of Mohammed,
- Historical and archaeological evidence of sacrifices in Jewish history, and crosses in early Christians culture, for example:
- Babylonian and Roman reliefs of stolen temple furnishings
- Mention of Jesus’ crucifixion in Roman writings
Peace or Force?
The way of God in spreading the faith differs in the Bible and Islam. In the Bible’s Book of Proverbs God’s wisdom is spoken of as a woman.
Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. Proverbs 3:17
Neither Jesus nor Moses, nor the Bible itself teaches promoting the faith by violence. This is in contrast to Islam. The religion which calls itself “The Religion of Peace” is anything but peaceful and does not present a god whose paths are peace.
In our video Lesson on Islam and Violence, Arab Pastor George Saieg tells us that jihad in Islam clearly includes violence. The word in the Quran usually translated as “fight” in English, he says in Arabic clearly means to fight with the sword. There are many verses in the Quran which promote violence:
- as offensive against non-Muslims until they die, convert, or pay jizya (the ransom tax)
- to protect the honor of Islam by killing:
- those who insult the Quran or Prophet Mohammed
- those who “spread mischief in the land” (selling alcohol, encouraging immorality, teaching against submission to Islam, questioning Islam.)
- those who bring shame to Islam through their behavior
In his teachings, Jesus told us to love our enemies. In forbearance with Samaria, and in his parable of the wheat and the tares, told us not to worry about the troublemakers now. At the time of harvest, the judgement, evildoers will be punished. (Luke 9:51-56, Matthew 13:24-30 & 36-43)
Both the old and New Testaments of the Bible tell us not to take revenge. (Deuteronomy 32:35 & Romans 12:19)
We are told to fight with spiritual weapons like truth, righteousness, and the gospel of peace:
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but …against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
(Note: For more information see the study guide and video Lesson on Islam and Violence.)
God’s Character in the OLD and NEW Testaments
Now we leave the comparison of God and Allah to discuss God’s character in the Old and New Testaments.
The panel in our video lesson, Rev Anderson, Rev Siegel, and Dr. C discusses the question of a new believer from a Muslim background:
“Is God in the New Testament different from God in the New Testament?”
Muslim apologists, along with other critics of the Bible, say that parts of the Old Testament of the Bible can give the impression that God is a God of anger, whereas the New Testament God appears more loving. Our panel points out that although we might see more of these traits in some Bible passages than others, the overall character and plan of God is the same throughout the Bible.
In both the Old and New Testaments, we see the same characteristics of God in his:
- love and concern for his creation
- faithfulness to his people and his word
- eternal attributes such as being:
- the only all-powerful God (omnipotence)
- everywhere (omnipresence)
- knowing everything (omniscience)
- cohesive plan running through history
James Anderson on God’s Care in Creation
Dr. Jim uses Genesis 1 as an example of the tender care of God for humanity in the Old Testament. He says as we follow the creation of the earth, day by day, we see that God was making it into a place that would be suited for human habitation. His concern for his creatures was evident there, just as when he sent Jesus to save us.
Bob Siegel on the Justice of God in both testaments
Rev. Bob tells us that God is loving in both the Old and New Testament. God has two attributes, he tells us. God judges. He holds us accountable for our wrong deeds. But he is also merciful and compassionate. We tend to see more of the judgement side in the Old Testament and more of the mercy in the New Testament, but we do see both in both testaments.
God has not changed between the Old and New Testaments, but his agreement with humans has changed. This agreement is called a testament or covenant.
In the Old Testament, in Jeremiah 31:31, God told us that a new agreement or covenant would be coming. In it the laws would be written on our hearts. That is what happens when the Holy Spirit, which was sent in the New Covenant, directs our lives. When this happens we do good without laws, so fewer laws are necessary.
Progressive Revelation: Bob points out that God’s communication over the years was progressive, meaning more and more clear over time.
This is a different view than the Muslim view which says that Allah’s prophets always brought the same message. In the Bible we learn that not only is God the only God, but he would one day come to earth. He would live as an example, die to create a new covenant or agreement in his blood.
Sometimes Muslims tell us that Muslims and Jews have the same view of God. Bob says this is correct mainly in denying that Jesus is the Son of God – God in human flesh. However, when Muslims claim that the Quran’s commands to fight are the same as the Old Testament wars, Bob says,
“There’s a great, great difference…there was never a command given to the Jews to conquer the world for God.”
There were only specific instances where they were to fight for a cause, such as judgement of the people practicing child sacrifice, to destroy that nation and its way.
“Jesus is leaving the choice to you,” he says. “God is a respecter of free will. God is a gentleman; he will not force himself upon you. He does not command Christians to force their message upon people. Some Christians have been forceful, but that is not the way Christ would have them be… God will leave it up to you, what you’re going to do with the mercy of Jesus.”
Examples of Faith Expressions that Christians and Muslims Share:
Our understanding of God and his character impacts the way we live, the way we talk and even the expressions we use.
Muslims are in the habit of often saying two Arabic word phrases:
Inshallah and Alhamdulillah!
These phrases mean “God willing” and “Praise God!” respectively.
Although we could argue that Muslims say these words by rote and for different reasons, Christians also say, “Lord willing” and “Praise the Lord.”
Muslims usually respect that Christians do this. It helps distinguish us to them as people of faith, rather than the secular public they meet in the West who do not honor God. We can also use these words as a bridge both to be friends with Muslims, and to share the Christian faith with them.
Muslims have an extreme view of fate. Belief that every single thing that happens has been predestined by Allah is their sixth article of faith. Living in an awareness of this doctrine encourages them to say, inshallah before any predicted plan, event, or outcome.
Christians, whether or not we believe in the extent of predestination that Muslims do, are also instructed to say, “Lord willing.”
You ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:15
This humbly reflects the fact that we have very little control over our lives and what happens in the future. Our health, circumstances, and many other particulars must come together for us to follow through on a plan. We share this view with Muslims. That makes it a good connection for us.
Muslims say alhamdulillah for both good and bad events, because Allah is always to be praised. Christians usually only say “Praise the Lord!” for something good, like an answer to prayer. However, certainly can relate to the Muslim practice because as Job said,
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. May the name of the Lord be praised. Job 1:21
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28
Really, we can learn faith lessons from Muslims from these two expressions which we could/do/or should share. In fact, you will find Christians who work with Muslims often using these expressions – in English or Arabic.
We would call these “word bridges” because we can use these words to start discussions with Muslims. You might also recall the “magic word bridge” asalaam alaykum, meaning “peace be upon you all.”
(Note: We discuss these and many other bridges in our study guide and Lesson on Building Bridges with Muslims.)
Bible Teacher Keith on the Use of the Tongue
When Bible teacher Keith was asked to share with us something of importance to him, he chose to speak about the use of our tongues. Above, we spoke about one use of our tongues – to praise God. “God is Great!”
Dr. Cynthia introduces the topic of the tongue by mentioning activities practiced everywhere, but especially common in the Middle East: gossip, criticism, lying and deception.
Brother Keith reminds us of what the Bible teaches about the use of our tongues. He reads to us James 3:2-12. This passage, in the book by Jesus’ brother James and paraphrased here, tells us,
“Just like a horse’s bit and a ship’s rudder are small, but they move a large object, our tongues can do the same thing. They are like a spark which can begin a big fire, or like a deadly poison. With our same tongue we praise God and yet curse people. This is wrong! A spring can produce salt or fresh water, not both. If we are never at fault in what we say, we are perfect.”
Dear friends, how should we use our tongues? Consider these Bible verses,
- Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Proverbs 4:24
- The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy. Proverbs 12:22
- From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be silenced. Proverbs 10:31
- The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit. Proverbs 15:4
- Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. I Peter 2:1
- Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11
- Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
A Prayer for the Tongue:
As a devotion, reflect on these verses and how your use of your tongue matches up to their high standard. Then perhaps you will be ready to pray this:
Every day Lord, more and more, help us to use our tongues, mouths, and entire bodies to give you praise, and to benefit those around us. In Jesus’ dear name, Amen.
Reality – the Analogy of the Quilt
This segment in the video presents making a quilt as a reflection of God’s character.
You might remember from other lessons that our approach to life is Peace and Purpose:
- Peace with God, ourselves, and others.
- and a Purpose to serve God for his kingdom.
A lack of satisfaction in life generally comes from failure to find peace or recognize our purpose.
To simplify your life and intensify its success, everything that comes into your life should either contribute to your well-being, meaning Peace, or be part of your Purpose. If it does not, and you can, you should eliminate it. If you cannot eliminate it, it could actually be part of your purpose, which is good, or an addiction, which is bad. Either should be presented to God in prayer.
Everyone needs some activities that they enjoy. These encourage them of the goodness of God in their life and strengthen them to serve God. That is part of their Peace.
For Christian teacher Dee, quilt-making relaxes her and releases her creativity. Dee is from Connecticut. Part of her New England heritage is making quilts. Both of Dr. C’s grandmothers also made quilts. In the video, Dee demonstrates how she quilts, and some of the results.
Creativity is one of the characteristics of God. According to Genesis 1:27 humans were made in the image of God. For that reason, we are creative too!
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31
One of the most rewarding experiences of human existence is to be able to look at our work and be pleased with it – whether it is something big like saving lives through medicine or building a house, or something small and personal like writing a poem or making a quilt. If you do not have such an outlet, even if you are busy it would be good for you to find one. Because,
A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God. Ecclesiastes 2:24
Dee explains that making a quilt from fabric scraps is like the way God works with us. He takes the broken pieces of our lives and patches them back together into something beautiful.
“God’s cool that way,” she concludes.
May God do that with the broken pieces of your life. Lift them to him in prayer. May he heal you and give you the gift of satisfaction with your work. For again,
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28
Scripture References for this Lesson:
- II Corinthians 5:17
- Exodus 3:13,14 & 34:6, 7
- James 3:2 & 5:11, & 1:17, & 4:15
- Job 1:21
- Romans 3:26 & 6:26, & 3:23 & 5:8
- Leviticus 17:11
- Hebrews 2:10, & 4 :15, & 7:25 & 9:22, 26 & 1:3
- Colossians 1:20
- Psalm 75:7 & 118:1
- Romans 14:12 & 8:2,28 & 10:9,10 & 12:19
- James 1:19 & 3:1-12 & 4 :15
- Deuteronomy 6:4
- I Timothy 2:5
- Genesis 1:27, 31
- Jeremiah 31:31
- Isaiah 43:10
- John 1:17 & 3:17-19 & 8:58 & 14:2,3
- Luke 9:51-56
- Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 & 16:18
- Deuteronomy 32:35
- Acts 6:7
- Proverbs 3:17 & 4:24, & 10:31, & 12:22 & 15:4
- Psalm 102:27
- Malachi 3:6
- Hebrews 13:8
- Isaiah 1:11-17
- Hosea 6:6-7
- Micah 6:6-8
- I Peter 2:1
- I Thessalonians 4:16-18 & 5:11
- Ephesians 4:29 & 6:12
- Genesis 1:27,31
- Ecclesiastes 2:29
Note: See also the references in Appendix 1, after the questions, listing the names and characteristics of God.
- Quran 3:31, 32
- Scientists, especially in the Intelligent Design community, describe how the universe seems custom-tailored for human life.
- Give an example of how this is true, either from science directly, or from the lesson.
- How does this fit with Dr. Anderson’s view of Genesis 1, that the account of creation is an expression of God’s care?
- Rev. Bob Siegel, a Jewish background believer, has heard accusations that violent Muslims are no different that Old Testament Israelites.
- Does he agree with this?
- What do you think?
- Give a good reason or verse to support your position.
- Does Moses, Jesus, or the Bible ever teach to spread the faith by force?
- Does Islam teach spreading faith by force?
- Give documentation for your answer, if possible.
- Does the panel think there is a difference in God’s character in the Old Testament and New Testament?
- How is the apparent discrepancy resolved?
- What do you think?
- Dr. Cynthia explains that it is very important for Muslims to understand God’s justice.
- What is the basis of forgiveness in Islam?
- What is the basis of forgiveness in Christianity?
- How do God’s Justice and Mercy balance in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross?
- When it comes down to it, even heirloom quilts are made from scraps.
- How does creating something like a quilt reflect God’s work with people?
- Can you give an example from your own life, or the life of someone you know, of how God took the broken pieces and put them back together into something beautiful?
- In our lessons we talk about “peace” as something that gives us contentment, so that we can better appreciate God’s goodness and accomplish his special purpose for our lives. In the book of Ecclesiastes Solomon tells us that one of the best things in life is to find satisfaction in the work of our hands.
- What do you do that you find satisfying?
- Is there something good that you could do that would bring you satisfaction?
- How could you fulfill God’s blessing to someone else by helping them find satisfaction in their work?
- Consider the names and characteristics of God in the Bible.
- Which name of the God of the Bible especially touches you?
- Which characteristic of the God of the Bible especially touches you?
- Consider the names of God and Allah:
- Compare the lists of the names of God/Allah in Appendices 1 & 2. As a sort of game,
- What similarities do you find in the lists?
- Do you think that most of the characteristics and names of God and Allah are similar?
- Are any important names of God left out of the list for Allah?
- Are there any names of Allah which would not fit for God?
- Compare the lists of the names of God/Allah in Appendices 1 & 2. As a sort of game,
- The human tongue can be used to recite spells and promote falsehood and bondage. However, it can also be used for good.
- Give an example of a bad use of the tongue.
- Give an example of a good use of the tongue.
- How can we encourage our Muslim and Christian associates to use their tongues to build up rather than tear down? (see I Thessalonians 5:11)
- WORKSHOP Option: (This can be brief or be expanded into a several hour workshop, at the choice of the study group leader.) Muslims deny that Jesus Christ claimed to be God. At times they deny that the gospel writers claimed that Jesus was God. They will say that Paul invented the idea that Jesus is God and Savior.
- List things that Jesus said about himself that would show that he is God.
- What things that Jesus said especially told the Jews of that time that he was God?
- Where do the gospel writers say that Jesus is God, or the Son of God?
- CONTROVERSY Resolution Option: (Because of its potential for controversy, this topic of discussion should be at the discretion of the study group leader)
- Do you consider “God” and “Allah” as roughly equivalent neutral names for God?
- What is the origin of the word “God?”
- What is the origin of the word “Allah?”
- What word do Arab Christians use for “God?”
- What word or words does the Old Testament use for God?
Appendix 1, Names and Characteristics of God in the Bible
Below you will find names of God from the Bible, with a verse that demonstrates that characteristic.
NAMES of GOD:
Hebrew Names of God
- God is Jehovah. I AM. Known in Hebrew by the “tetragrammaton” YHWH. God told Moses he is YHWH-Asher-YHWH meaning “I am,” “He who is,” or “He brings into existence whatever exists.” He is the self-sustaining one (discussed above). It may be translated in English as LORD. Exodus 3:13-15
- God is Jehovah-jireh. This name means “the God who provides.” He provides all good things for our needs and enjoyment, life, and salvation. Genesis 22:9-14, I Timothy 6:17
- God is Jehovah-shalom. This name means “the God of peace” or “shalom.” God’s peace surpasses understanding and helps us through difficult times. God gives us Peace and Purpose. Judges 6:16-24
- (Notice how similar shalom is to salaam, the Arabic word for peace.)
- God is Jehovah-rapha. This name means “Jehovah heals.” God alone provides the remedy for all our ills – physical, relational, and spiritual. Exodus 15:22-26 (Note: also, Jehovah-rophe)
- God is Jehovah-nissi. This name means “God our banner.” Under His banner we triumph and say, “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57). Exodus 17:8-15
- God is Elohim. This name means “Strength” or “Power.” Elohim is the great name of God, displaying His supreme power. Genesis 17:7,8
- God is Jehovah-M’Kaddesh. This name means “the God who sanctifies.” He requires that the people who follow Him be cleansed from all evil. Leviticus 20:7,8
- God is Adonai. This name means “Master” or “Lord.” God, our Adonai, is the Lord of all. 2 Samuel 7:18-20
- God is YHWH Adonai. This double name means “Sovereign Lord.” Jeremiah 32:17
- God is YHWH Sabaoth. This double name means “the Lord of Hosts” who is over all powers. I Samuel 1:3
- God is Adonai YHWH Sabaoth which means “the Lord, the Lord Almighty,” emphasizing his power. Isaiah 1:24
- God is El-Shaddai. This name means “God Almighty,” the God who is all-sufficient and all-bountiful, the source of all blessings. Genesis 17:1
Other Names of God
- God is the Creator. All that exists was made by him and through him in action that involved Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Genesis 14:22
- God is Father. God is called “Father” in both the Old and New Testaments. The Creator of the universe cares for each one of us as his child. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father.” Christians can even call him “Abba, Father,” which means “Daddy.” (Romans 8:15-17) Isaiah 63:16, Matthew 6:9
- God is Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 63:11,
- The Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 49:7
- God is Redeemer in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 63:16 & 49:7
- God is Savior in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 63:8, Titus 2:13
- The Faithful One. Isaiah 49:7
- The Counselor and the Spirit of Truth is what Jesus called the Holy Spirit of God. John 14:26, 15:26, & 16:7 (Note: Islam misinterprets these as prophecy of Mohammed.)
- God is Refuge and Strong Tower Proverbs 18:10
- God is the Potter we are the clay. Isaiah 64:8
- God is the Gardener; he makes things grow and prunes the vines. John 15:1
- God is the Beginning and the End, Alpha and Omega, in both the Old and New Testaments. Isaiah 48:12, Revelation 1:17
Special Names of Jesus:
- Son of God John 1:34
- Son of Man Mark 8:31
- Son of David Matthew 1:1
- Lamb of God John 1:29
- Lion of Judah Revelation 5:5
- Root of David Revelation 5:5
- Rose of Sharon Song of Songs 2:1
- The Morning Star Revelation 22:16
- The Good Shepherd John 10:11
- The Bread of Life John 6:35
- The Door John 10:9
- The Light of the World John 8:12
- The Way, the Truth, and the Life John 14:6
- The Resurrection and the Life John 11:25
- Wonderful Counselor Isaiah 9:6
- Prince of Peace Isaiah 9:6
- The Faithful and True Witness Revelation 3:14
- The Ruler of Creation Revelation 3:14
- The One Mediator I Timothy 2:5
- The Righteous Judge II Timothy 4:8
- Lord Philippians 2:11
- Master Luke 8:24
- Teacher/Rabbi Luke 11:45
- The Heir of All Things Hebrews 1:2
- The Vine John 15:1
- The Firstfruits I Corinthians 15:20
- Husband/Bridegroom 2 Corinthians 11:2
- Servant of the Lord Isaiah 52:13
- Emanuel, God with us Matthew 1:23
- Great High Priest Hebrews 4:14
- King of Kings I Timothy 6:15
- Lord of Lords I Timothy 6:15
CHARACTERISTICS of GOD:
- God is unique. There is only one God. Isaiah 43:10
- God is good. God is the embodiment of perfect goodness. He is kind, caring, and full of favor toward all of creation. Psalm 119:68
- God is love. God’s love is so great that He gave His only Son to bring us into fellowship with Him. God’s love encompasses the world, but also embraces each of us personally. 1 John 4:7-10
- God is just. God is righteous and holy, fair and equitable in all things. We can trust Him to always do what is right. Psalm 75:1-7
- God is merciful. God’s merciful compassion is never ending and does not run dry. Through His provision in Christ, He took the judgment that was rightfully ours and placed it on His own shoulders. He waits and works now for all people to turn to Him and to live under His justification. Deuteronomy 4:29-31
- God is infinite. God is beyond measurement. He has no beginning, no end, and no limits. Romans 11:33
- God is omnipotent. God is all-powerful. He spoke all things into being, and all things are sustained by Him. There is nothing too difficult for Him. Jeremiah 32:17, 26
- God is omniscient. This means God is all-knowing. He knows anything that currently exists, existed in the past, or will exist in the future. Psalm 139:1-6
- God is omnipresent. God is everywhere—in and around everything, close to everyone. “‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the Lord.” Psalm 139:7-12
- God is immutable. This means that God does not change. All that God is, He has always been. All that He has been and is, He will ever be. Malachi 3:6
- God is perfect. This means he is complete, lacking nothing, and does what is right. Matthew 5:48
- God is the Church’s head. God the Son, Jesus, is the head of the Church. Ephesians 1:22,23
- God is our intercessor. Knowing our temptations, God the Son intercedes for us. He opens the doors for us to boldly ask God the Father for mercy. Hebrews 4:14-16
- God is faithful. Out of His faithfulness God honors His covenants and fulfills His promises. Our hope for the future rests upon God’s faithfulness. Psalm 89:1-8
- God is full of grace. God’s grace moves Him to give undeserved favor, and to forgive debts that cannot be repaid. Ephesians 1:5-8
- God gives comfort. Paul writes that the Lord is “the God of all comfort.” 2 Corinthians 1:3,4
- God is transcendent. God is the highest being, existing beyond and above the universe he created, as well as identifying with it. Psalm 113:4,5
- God is holy. God’s holiness is not simply our best image of perfection. God is uniquely without stain. Revelation 4:8-11
- God is wise. God knows and acts with perfect wisdom in all things. He always acts for our good, which is to make us like Christ. Proverbs 3:19,20
- God is sovereign. God rules all creation with knowledge and power. He is the ultimate authority and decisionmaker. 1 Chronicles 29:11-13
Appendix 2, Names of Allah/God in Islam
This is the official list of the names of Allah. You will notice that many of these names are also characteristics or adapted from characteristics. Many are similar to characteristics of God in the Bible.
Allah (الله) God The Greatest Name, is also known as:
- Ar-Rahman (الرحمن) The All-Compassionate
- Ar-Rahim (الرحيم) The All-Merciful
- Al-Malik (الملك) The Absolute Ruler
- Al-Quddus (القدوس) The Pure or Holy One
- As-Salam (السلام) The Source of Peace
- Al-Mu’min (المؤمن) The Inspirer of Faith
- Al-Muhaymin (المهيمن) The Guardian
- Al-Aziz (العزيز) The Victorious
- Al-Jabbar (الجبار) The Compeller
- Al-Mutakabbir (المتكبر) The Greatest
- Al-Khaliq (الخالق) The Creator
- Al-Bari’ (البارئ) The Maker of Order
- Al-Musawwir (المصور) The Shaper of Beauty
- Al-Ghaffar (الغفار) The Forgiving
- Al-Qahhar (القهار) The Subduer
- Al-Wahhab (الوهاب) The Giver of All
- Ar-Razzaq (الرزاق) The Sustainer
- Al-Fattah (الفتاح) The Opener
- Al-`Alim (العليم) The All-Knowing
- Al-Qabid (القابض) The Constrictor
- Al-Basit (الباسط) The Reliever
- Al-Khafid (الخافض) The Abaser
- Ar-Rafi (الرافع) The Exalter
- Al-Mu’izz (المعز) The Bestower of Honors
- Al-Mudhill (المذل) The Humiliator
- As-Sami (السميع) The Hearer of All
- Al-Basir (البصير) The Seer of All
- Al-Hakam (الحكم) The Judge
- Al-`Adl (العدل) The Just
- Al-Latif (اللطيف) The Subtle One
- Al-Khabir (الخبير) The All-Aware
- Al-Halim (الحليم) The Forbearing
- Al-Azim (العظيم) The Magnificent
- Al-Ghafur (الغفور) The Forgiver and Hider of Faults
- Ash-Shakur (الشكور) The Rewarder of Thankfulness
- Al-Ali (العلى) The Highest
- Al-Kabir (الكبير) The Greatest
- Al-Hafiz (الحفيظ) The Preserver
- Al-Muqit (المقيت) The Nourisher
- Al-Hasib (الحسيب) The Accountant
- Al-Jalil (الجليل) The Mighty
- Al-Karim (الكريم) The Generous
- Ar-Raqib (الرقيب) The Watchful One
- Al-Mujib (المجيب) The Responder to Prayer
- Al-Wasi (الواسع) The All-Comprehending
- Al-Hakim (الحكيم) The Perfectly Wise
- Al-Wadud (الودود) The Loving One
- Al-Majid (المجيد) The Majestic One
- Al-Ba’ith (الباعث) The Resurrector
- Ash-Shahid (الشهيد) The Witness
- Al-Haqq (الحق) The Truth
- Al-Wakil (الوكيل) The Trustee
- Al-Qawiyy (القوى) The Possessor of All Strength
- Al-Matin (المتين) The Forceful One
- Al-Waliyy (الولى) The Governor
- Al-Hamid (الحميد) The Praised One
- Al-Muhsi (المحصى) The Appraiser
- Al-Mubdi’ (المبدئ) The Originator
- Al-Mu’id (المعيد) The Restorer
- Al-Muhyi (المحيى) The Giver of Life
- Al-Mumit (المميت) The Taker of Life
- Al-Hayy (الحي) The Ever Living One
- Al-Qayyum (القيوم) The Self-Existing One
- Al-Wajid (الواجد) The Finder
- Al-Majid (الماجد) The Glorious
- Al-Wahid (الواحد) The Unique, The Single
- Al-Ahad (الاحد) The One, The Indivisible
- As-Samad (الصمد) The Satisfier of All Needs
- Al-Qadir (القادر) The All Powerful
- Al-Muqtadir (المقتدر) The Creator of All Power
- Al-Muqaddim (المقدم) The Expediter
- Al-Mu’akhkhir (المؤخر) The Delayer
- Al-Awwal (الأول) The First
- Al-Akhir (الأخر) The Last
- Az-Zahir (الظاهر) The Manifest One
- Al-Batin (الباطن) The Hidden One
- Al-Wali (الوالي) The Protecting Friend
- Al-Muta’ali (المتعالي) The Supreme One
- Al-Barr (البر) The Doer of Good
- At-Tawwab (التواب) The Guide to Repentance
- Al-Muntaqim (المنتقم) The Avenger
- Al-‘Afuww (العفو) The Forgiver
- Ar-Ra’uf (الرؤوف) The Clement
- Malik-al-Mulk (مالك الملك) The Owner of All
- Dhu-al-Jalal wa-al-Ikram (ذو الجلال و الإكرام) The Lord of Majesty and Bounty
- Al-Muqsit (المقسط) The Equitable One
- Al-Jami’ (الجامع) The Gatherer
- Al-Ghani (الغنى) The Rich One
- Al-Mughni (المغنى) The Enricher
- Al-Mani’(المانع) The Preventer of Harm
- Ad-Darr (الضار) The Creator of The Harmful
- An-Nafi’ (النافع) The Creator of Good
- An-Nur (النور) The Light
- Al-Hadi (الهادي) The Guide
- Al-Badi (البديع) The Originator
- Al-Baqi (الباقي) The Everlasting One
- Al-Warith (الوارث) The Inheritor of All
- Ar-Rashid (الرشيد) The Righteous Teacher
- As-Sabur (الصبور) The Patient One
- The 100th name of Allah, it is said, is known only to the camel.
(Note: Not listed, but important is Allah’s name/description as “the best of the deceivers.” Quran 3:54)
Copyright by by ChristianfromMuslim.com, 2021.
Permission granted for personal and study group copying only.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Lesson on Comparing God’s Character in Christianity and Islam
More information on this video coming soon.
Study guide coming soon.
Download FREE PDF Version: Study Guide for Salvation in Christianity and Islam
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.
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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?
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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.