Friday, August 11, 2006

Keepin' Religion Real

(What an interesting time to be teaching about World Religions! The observations and comments I offer in this post were put together before the events of the last few days).

As I prepare to teach a course on World Religions for the first time, one thing I frequently meet up with is the attempt to sidestep or gloss over those parts of the Qur’an that deny the legitimacy of Judaism and Christianity, and that express divine judgment against everything but Islam.

As a Christian, I might not start out with Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except by me.” Maybe I would. I probably wouldn’t start with Paul’s assertion that when Christ returns, the Lord “will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

But the fact is, even after our analyses, interpretations, and “yes, but”s, those passages invariably draw lines. Better yet, they identify lines that were drawn by Christ himself. If the Christian gospel is true, then those lines are decisive.

Again, those wouldn’t be the statements I’d start out with in talking about Jesus and his kingdom, or in teaching a unit on “Christianity” in a World Religions course. But neither would I try to hide them. And why would I try? What they say explicitly is something the New Testament says implicitly many times. And why would I want to? C. S. Lewis wrote to the effect that there’s a “Great Divorce” between heaven and hell, between what’s true and what isn’t. The New Testament says that the dividing line is Jesus. As a Christian, as a teacher, would I do someone a favor by pretending it was some other way?

Judging from the politically-correct versions of Islam being foisted onto the American public, though, one would get the impression that no straight-thinking Muslim ever thought the Qur’an had anything bad to say about non-Muslims and their differing beliefs.

Exhibit A: I have a packet of material titled, “Teaching Islam and the Arab World.” Its author evidently hopes that no one will ever read sections of the Qur’an other than the ones the author quotes. Here’s how he works. He quotes from the Qur’an 2:136 as follows:

“Say: We believe in Allah and that which is revealed to us, and in what was revealed to Abraham, Ishma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, to Moses and Jesus and the other prophets from the Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Allah we have surrendered ourselves.”

Then the author comments: “Thus, in Islam, the prophets are seen as spiritual brothers to one another. Some commonly known figures who are considered prophets in Islam include Noah, Jonah, Abraham, Ishmail, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus.”

Sweet, isn’t it? And true enough. But why doesn’t the author quote the statement that prompts the Muslim to “Say” what he says? In the Qur’an, here’s what immediately precedes the “Say” section quoted above:

“They say: ‘Accept the Jewish or Christian faith and you will be rightly guided.’ Say: ‘By no means! We believe in the faith of Abraham, the upright one. He was no idolater’.”

The way the passage is cropped and quoted in the study packet seems to be motivated by a desire to avoid the very point of the text: Christianity and Judaism are not along side of Islam. They are superceded by Islam. My question is, Why not just acknowledge that that’s what the Qur’an says?

In our study of Islam this semester, I won’t attempt to portray Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as some sort of happy trinity of Abrahamic religions. Why? Because it ain’t so.


Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

You are right, Frank. Absolutely right.

I've started long comments a couple of times to you concerning this post and some other of your recent ones, but they got too long and complicated.

Instead, what I'll say this. Tom and I saw the movie just out World Trade Center over the weekend and we think every single American of every age should go see it, see the stories of 2 of the only 20 (these two men were numbers 18 and 19 to be rescued) survivors out of the 2,996 who died, read their stories and interviews, read about all of the others who didn't survive and then come back to the table to discuss who's done what to who everywhere in the world since Mohamed wrote the Qu'ran centuries ago.

Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

Well - I managed to misspell both Qur'an and Muhammad, so let me correct those two things.

Further, I would just add that we all need to educate ourselves concerning these things, what the Qur'an actually says and teaches, what Muhammad wrote, why he wrote it, how he lived (around 600 A. D.) and what the historical consequences have been in the world since Muhammad lived and are today, as the religion HE CREATED HIMSELF has since been practiced.

As Christians, we must do all we can with our time here on earth to reach out to all we can reach who are lost without Jesus Christ. I firmly believe our time here on earth is very limited in every way, not only by the length of time of each of our lives.

This world is rapidly being taken over by followers of Muhammad who have been waging a series of world wars against everyone but their sect since he himself instigated the first while and after writing the Qur'an around 600 A. D.

At the rate these things are taking place compared to the rate we as Christians are able to evangelize, our prayers should possibly be, "Lord Jesus come quickly."

Jim Martin said...

What an interesting post! Thanks for sharing some of your work on Islam.

Motkue said...

So I do not profess to be a scolar,but keeping it real, I was able to engage a Muslim friend of mine in some discussion about Islam and Christianity at the only place you can get a good healthy debate- the barber shop! I simply reasoned that if the bible does recognize Jesus' existance at all, one cannot discount his deity because 1)his life unfolded just as prophesied by all the prophets 2)The Qu'ran teaches of this prophet born of a virgin. If Jesus is ideed not God incarnate, then all of those prophets have been invalidated. See you can even use the Qu'ran to teach Jesus. 'Cause after all truth is truth. My friend chose to never try to engage me in religious discussiobn again. Peace y'all.

Motkue said...

From my earlier posting I should have said that if the Qu'ran recognized Jesus' existance...I inadvertantly said Bible.

Matt Elliott said...

I just tagged you, Frank.

Stoned-Campbell Disciple said...

Frank thanks for the post. I learn everytime I come by.

Bobby Valentine