Summary: An analysis of Islam from a Christian perspective, highlighting the doctrinal contrast between rules-keeping and seeking mercy.
World Religions…Islam--Submission vs. Grace Scripture reading> Romans 5:1-9 -Pastor Bob Leroe, Cliftondale Congregational Church, Saugus MA
Having participated in Desert Storm, I received training from the Dept of Defense in Arab culture and Muslim thought. I’ve read the Koran and have spoken with Muslims serving in the military, to include the US Army’s first Muslim Chaplain.
From the start, I want to contrast Islam with the Christian concept of grace. The word Islam means “submission”, which means keeping the rules. Our Judaic-Christian heritage includes rules as well, the most well-known being the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament and the Golden Rule from the New. But here’s the difference: Getting to heaven under Judaism and Christianity involve redemption, through an atoning sacrifice for sin. We believe God’s promise and accept His gift of forgiveness. Under Islam, salvation comes through strict adherence and obedience to the directives given in the Koran.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer grace. Under grace, God gives us what we don’t deserve—Heaven; and He doesn’t give us what we do deserve—Hell. God’s grace forgives what it cannot excuse. The Bible is clear that we can’t save ourselves. We’re sinners, and we’re far from perfect, so we clearly need God’s mercy. We are not saved by good works but by God’s work. Thanks to the Cross, we are declared “not guilty.” The Gospel message declares that we can know for certain we are citizens of Heaven; and so we enjoy assurance of salvation. God is a relational being Who has chosen to reach out to us in love. Under Islam, it’s a whole different matter. According to the Koran, God is characterized primarily as a Judge, whose primary attribute is justice. Not surprisingly, the Koran harshly condemns all who reject the teachings of Islam. Under Islam, God is not seen at all as a loving Father; in fact such a concept is considered blasphemous by Muslims.
In speaking with Chaplain Mohammed at Fort Bliss, I posed a hypothetical question: What if a soldier breaks the required fast during Ramadan? This is a monthly period in which Muslims are to abstain from food from daybreak to sunset. I asked, “Can such a violation be forgiven?” The firm answer was No—that soldier has broken Islamic law, and his action will be a black mark against him for all eternity.
Christian ministers are sometimes labeled as “fire & brimstone” preachers. The OT mentions Hell 31 times, the NT 74 times…but the Koran warns of hell 783 times, and anyone who questions the divine inspiration of the Koran can expect to go there.
By now we all know that Islam is a strict religion. It divides people into two categories: “those who have submitted/the house of Islam”, and “those who are resisting/the house of war.” Non-Muslims are regarded as infidels, under God’s curse. The Koran states, “Those that deny our revelations will burn in fire” (Al-Nisa). The Koran repeatedly dictates aggression against non-Muslims, e.g. “Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell among you” (9:123). Islam claims to be a religion of peace…but only for those who convert.
In the aftermath of 9/11 we’ve learned that America is regarded by the militant Muslim world as the “Great Satan”. According to this thinking, there are no innocent Americans. Osama bin Laden has repeatedly directed his followers that it is their duty to kill Americans and their allies. The Koran, filled with declarations of war, states: “Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the hereafter, fight for the cause of God”, and offers rewards for those who die as martyrs in the cause of Jihad/holy war. Muslim heaven is filled with concubines to satisfy those who die in its cause.
Followers of Christ point to verses that state believers should be willing to give up their lives rather than deny their faith…but nowhere does our Bible instruct disciples to kill nonbelievers. While many Christians believe warfare can be justified for a nation’s defense, war may not be used to coerce religion. Have so-called Christians used force to promulgate their faith? Yes, indeed. The Crusades and the Inquisition are prime examples. But here’s the difference: No one can find or quote any words of Jesus to justify the slaughter of others. Such action is in violation of Scripture. The atrocities of the Crusades and Inquisition contradicted the teachings of Jesus. Yet Muslim suicide bombers are acting in full accord with their holy book. In addition, Muslim teaching demands Islamic control over all civil authority--no separation of church and state, no freedom of religion. Christians who live in Muslim countries are being imprisoned for holding prayer meetings and Bible studies in their homes. Most non-Muslim nations, and most world religions condemn violence today, and are tolerant of other faiths. The intolerance of Islam is very troubling.