CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Islam and Fifth Columns

Nov 10, 2008

During the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939, four columns of insurgent forces approached Madrid, while a ‘fifth column’ of supporters was inside the city, seeking to undermine the Republican government from within.

The term became popular after then, especially during World War II, referring to those partisan supporters of the Nazis or Japanese who lived within Allied nations. Thus the fifth column refers to those who are working to subvert a nation from within by means of espionage and sabotage, while armed forces seek to conquer it from without.

The attempt by Muslims to win over the West is a good case in point. There are the violent Jihadists who are doing their best to destroy the West by suicide bombings and acts of terror. But there are also fifth columnists actively at work, seeking to subvert a free West from within.

These fifth columnists come in the form of “moderate” Muslims, those who seek to argue that Islam is really a religion of peace, that Muhammad was really quite a nice sort of chap, and all Muslims are quite happy to live and let live with Christians and other ‘infidels’.

Now it is true that there are many truly moderate Muslims who abhor religious violence and who want nothing to do with the radical Islamists. But there are also many radical Muslims who are quite happy to assume the posture of moderate Muslims in order to win over a gullible and naïve West.

And this is all part of a deliberate strategy. Indeed, many Muslims are quite adept at exploiting Western weaknesses, by seeking to present Islam as just another benign religion, with no hostile intent or imperialistic aims. Part and parcel of the fifth column strategy is the practice of taqqiyah. The Arabic word means deception, dissimilation or concealment. Both in the Koran and the hadith, the term refers to lying to, and deceiving, the enemies of Islam.

A great example of all this is occurring in Australia right now. For several weeks now a Muslim Imam and a Christian pastor from Nigeria have been touring the country in a “The Imam and the Pastor” tour. Today I saw them at the Parliamentary Christian Prayer Breakfast in Canberra.

I have written elsewhere about this tour, so I refer my readers to this post to get some more background information: billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/04/truth-and-tolerance-christianity-and-islam/

In that article I raised my concerns about this pair. I said that the effort to get warring peoples to sit at a table and discuss their issues is generally a good thing. As the old saying goes, ‘Jaw jaw is always better than war war’. Talking is preferable to throwing bombs, and the two are to be congratulated for seeking to diffuse religious violence and enter into dialogue. Yet as I said in that article, such dialogue must never come at the expense of truth.

The pair is being sponsored in Australia by various Islamic councils. These Muslim groups are quite happy to have the seminar presented here. And for good reason: it is all part of the Islamic offensive to convince non-Muslims that genuine Islam is simply a peaceful, friendly religion, with no dangerous elements.

But unfortunately a number of evangelical churches have been hosting this pair, as did the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship this morning in Canberra. Many of these Christian bodies are welcoming the pair with open arms, but many seem quite unaware of the nature of Islamic apologetics and expansion.

Now I have much less of a problem if this pair does their thing in secular venues around the land. But I do have a problem having them come into Christian churches and Christian fellowships. Because the truth is, while Christians gain little or nothing from such events, Muslims gain a great deal indeed.

Dhimmitude in Australia

Consider this morning’s seminar at the Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. The pair was given around 40 minutes to make their case. Thus what we had was the Christian Prayer Breakfast becoming a stage for Muslim evangelism and indoctrination. The Imam did a great job of making the case for Islam. He did all the usual tricks of the Muslim trade. We were told that Islam is really a forgiving and tolerant religion, that Muhammad was a peaceful and likable guy, and that the differences between Islam and Christianity are really not all that great.

Indeed, the Imam happily quoted several suras from the Koran, informing us what a religion of peace and forgiveness Islam is. Never mind that he quoted from the earlier, peaceful Meccan passages, and not the later, violent Medinan passages. But the Islamic doctrine of naskh (abrogation) declares that whenever there is a conflict between suras, the later ones take priority over the earlier ones.

The Imam also stressed how we are all children of Abraham. The Christian faith and the Muslim faith have so very much in common, due to our common Abrahamic origins. But this is a clear case of taqqiyah. In the Koran, we are told that “Ibrahim [Abraham] in truth was not a Jew, neither a Christian” but one who submitted to Allah, (that is, a Muslim) (Sura 3:67). Jesus could tell the Jews (who also descended from Abraham) that they were of their father the devil; only those who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour are true descendents of Abraham (John 8). Muslims deny the central claim of Christianity: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus according to Christ’s own words, Muslims are not true descendents of Abraham at all.

And the Nigerian pastor was not much help here. Indeed, he seemed to be a great example of dhimmitude (or Christian second-class citizenship under Islamic rule) in action. He said our real witness is not with words but deeds. Yes, that is true to an extent: James says faith without works is dead. But as Paul tells us in Romans 10, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. We must confess with our lips and believe in our hearts in order to be saved. Simply engaging in acts of reconciliation – no matter how laudable they may be – does not make one a Christian.

Indeed, preventing bloodshed is a good thing, but it is not the ultimate good. Sometimes bloodshed for the sake of truth is more important. Indeed, Jesus could even say that it is better to enter heaven minus a leg or with an eye plucked out, than to enter hell with the body intact (Matt. 18:7-9).

Religious violence is to be eschewed, but never at the expense of the truth of the Gospel. Reconciliation and forgiveness are important things indeed, but never at the expense of diluting the gospel down to some feel-good ecumenism.

As I said, this seminar at the Prayer Breakfast served the Imam well. He had a captive audience of Christian leaders to whom he could push his Islamic agenda. And given the many times the audience applauded, and the standing ovation (by at least half the audience) at the end, he looks like he was very successful indeed.

The Christian MC did not help things much. He not only refused to take questions from the floor, but he offered a quite insipid discussion at the end of the seminar. At one point he told the Imam what a great risk he took in coming to a place which was almost all Christian.

Of course it was nothing of the sort, for two reasons. First, the Muslim evangelist was given a silver platter in which to push his version of Islam to an audience which was to some extent apparently gullible and undiscerning as to the real aims and objectives of Islam.

Islam is an evangelistic faith, and all good Muslims want everyone to submit to the will of Allah, and come under Sharia law. To have at least twenty minutes to evangelise a Christian audience was of course a golden opportunity for the Imam.

And there was nothing risky about it at all. No one was going to lop his head off. No one was going to throw him in prison. No one was going to torture him for daring to challenge Christian beliefs. No one was going to fly airplanes into skyscrapers in protest, or storm Muslim embassies.

But turn the tables and then we can talk about risk. A Christian evangelist speaking to a group of Muslims in Syria or Saudi Arabia would last about 3 seconds before his head would be rolling on the floor. The only ones taking risks are Christians seeking to win Muslims for Christ. Muslim evangelists face no such risks at all in a Western world in which most Christians are asleep at the wheel, and in which most churches just want to get along and tolerate everyone and everything.

Gullible Western Christians seem all too happy to open their Christian venues up to Muslim apologists and evangelists, while any reciprocal action would simply result in a quick and sudden death. So much for moral and theological reciprocity and equivalence.

And there was quite a contrast at this Breakfast. One very good speaker was Mama Maggie Gobran from Egypt. This Mother Teresa-like saint works in the garbage dumps of Cairo, taking care of 30,000 poor, abandoned and starving children.

And why are these children that way? They are mostly dhimmies, or second class citizens, in Egypt. They are mainly non-Muslim kids who have been marginalised and oppressed by Egyptian Muslims. All around the Islamic world Christians live in second class citizenship, replete with torture, deprivation and death at the hands of their Islamic masters.

Yet here we had a Christian Prayer Breakfast trying to present a moral and theological equivalence between Islam and Christianity. Sorry, but there is no equivalence whatsoever between the two. Almost everywhere in Islamic lands Christians are suffering at the hands of Muslims, yet here we want to let Muslims preach to Christian audiences, telling us that Islam is a religion of peace, and that there really is not much difference between Islam and Christianity.

If this is the direction the Prayer Breakfast is going, one wonders what next year will bring. Will uber-atheist Richard Dawkins be invited along to share the stage with a liberal Christian, and both will tell us how much they actually have in common, and how their similarities far outweigh any differences?

All in all, I and many other Christians were extremely concerned about all this. If churches and Christian Parliamentary fellowships want to go down the path of interfaith union and ecumenicism, fine. But first they should tell us that this is their intent. And then they should inform us that they no longer regard the exclusive truth claims of biblical Christianity to be all that important.

Last night a passage of Scripture very powerfully came to mind: “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. … I will not give my glory unto another.” (Isaiah 42:8, 11). The one true God will not share his glory with any other. He will not honour those who seek to put Jesus and Muhammad side by side, on the same platform as two equals.

And today the verse from Joshua 24 came to mind: “Choose you this day whom you will serve” (v. 15). Now is not the time to go for interfaith dialogue in which Jesus is just one of a number of gods to choose from. We do not need interfaith dialogue; we need proclamation of the truth – Jesus Christ is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. There is no other god. Indeed, all other gods are false gods, idols and deceptions.

We can expect nonbelievers to get into these sorts of ecumenical affairs. But there is no place for biblical Christians to water down their faith in the interests of just getting along. The eternal destiny of each and every one of us is at stake, and having feel-good meetings where the Gospel is compromised and truth is diluted is not going to help anyone. Well, it will aid and abet the cause of Islamic expansionism, but it will do the Christian church no good at all.

[2044 words]

118 Responses to Islam and Fifth Columns

  • Bill,

    I agree wholeheartedly. To sum up the Islamic attitude to Christians or non-Muslims in the words once used in the frontier of the American West: “The only good Christian is a dead Christian”. When Islamic countries such as Saudi Arabia permit Christians to freely congregate and worship without fear then I will start listening to their arguments. Only a few years ago a Filipino servant woman was beheaded in Saudi Arabia on Christmas Day (yes, Christmas Day) for possessing a Bible in public.

    When these Muslims use the argument that we share the same God, a Christian must confront them with the question: “Do you accept the Holy Trinity?” If the answer is “no” then of course the Muslim god is not the Christian God.

    John FG McMahon, Kolonga

  • Well said, Bill.

    I also wonder at the logical fallacy of calling Christians (and Jews) ‘infidels’ meaning non-believers, while at the same time trying to acknowledge that the two faiths are very much alike.

    I have discussed a few things with people who work in the middle east region, who point out that the attitude of Islam to non-Muslims is hostile, yet they seek to ‘evangelise’ (umm what good news can one tell a person after you have told him he is an enemy whom you hate?).

    By contrast, the Christian faith considers outsiders as the same as themselves – people trapped in a condition from which they can be saved by Jesus Christ.

    John Angelico

  • Bill, let’s face it: analysis is not only thin at such meetings, but it is discouraged.
    Who chose the speakers and how do we get new choosers?
    Stan Fishley

  • I agree with Mr Muehlenberg. the way things are going and the violence shown towards other religions,these so called’moslems” should be tried for the murders of numerous inccocent people that they have killed in the name of God. I recently went home to meet my family and my sister who lives in London said that because the English are so democratice they have given a lot of voice to the moslems who now return this gesture of democracy with shouts of “Jihad” against the non moslems.My sister is vey angry with the “moslems” and so am I. I do not recognise them as moslems any more. there is another point that I agree with Mr Muehlenberg is that the two religions have vast differences and it would be better to say this at talks then to try to convince one another the two are alike. then there will be peace because the so called “moslems” will not come across as being condacending to the christians or others and as the Qur’an says there is no compulsion in religion where the “moslems” having realised there are fundalmental differences and importantly ACCEPT this fact,the persecution and killings may stop.it is true that they persecute and kill and i am very sorry for this fact to the non moslems.it is also true that in a western country they treat others with respect but not in the so called moslem world where people of other faiths are persecuted. this fact alone shows that the practices of the faith and understanding of what God wants of us are so different. I understand your point and accept that it is more important to speak the truth then to deny these happenings and i understand your anger.
    Siti Khatijah.

  • Bill,
    Excellent commentary, appreciated.

    Doug Holland

  • I am not sure if all muslims interpret the koran the way the jihadists do? That they will not hesitate to kill an infidel and preach violence against the kafir countries and seek to establish a worldwide caliphate. But I do know that the jihadists have hijacked the religion and have a tremendous controlling influence over muslims who might not fully agree with their beliefs. Just as there are Christians who interpret the Bible differently and hence you have the conservative and reformed churches, the charismatics, the liberals and now the emergents, there are among the muslims, groups that are modern and rational in their outlook reinterpreting the koran to make their religion relevant to modern times. Such groups might still be a minority and might even be suppressed by the very dominant and radical islam as is seen in Indonesia. Even though we do not agree with their beliefs, we need to encourage them to speak up and dialogue intellectually and theologically with the muslims populace and eventually unseat the jihadists from the drivers seat. These groups need to have control over the mosques, their semminaries and their media. As to the imam who is touring Australia, just beware of wolves in sheep clothing and beware also of false teachers in wolves clothing within the church.

    Barry Koh

  • The imam who is touring Australia should instead be educating muslims especially the radical islamists in their own muslim countries (if he truly believes in a peaceful Islam) because we are not the problem. Terrorism around the world is currently a predominantly muslim problem,so teach the right people so that jihad bombings and beheading and the like can stop.

    Barry Koh

  • Thanks Barry

    Yes you are quite right about the Imam. He should stop seeking to convert us peaceful infidels to Islam, but use his energies on seeking to de-radicalize the many millions of Muslim militants. That would be a worthwhile endeavour, and do much greater good.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • My view of Islam is that it is an irrational religion, thus making reasonable debate impossible, which may be one reason we do not see Muslim evangelists on the street, or knocking on doors. At least with Mormons and Jehova Witnesses one can have a some kind of a conversation. The conversion of a country to Islam is done by using force, at the point of a sword, just as it was first established by Mohammed: http://answering-islam.org/BehindVeil/btv2.html

    Where debate between a Christian and Muslim apologists is witnessed, as that between Josh Mcdowell and Ahmed Deedat, the contrast is all too evident. So also is the manner of speaking. Josh is humble in his delivery whilst Deedat is full of superiority and contempt: http://www.answering-islam.org/Debates/Deedat_McDowell.html

    One of the points brought out by Josh in answer to the charge from Deedat that Christianity is a blind faith, is that the Bible, being written by over 40 writers, from every walk of life, over a period of 1600 years, is full of internal checks, balances and harmonisations. No such thing with the Koran, it was the product of deceptive spirits coming to one man, whilst in a trance, to Mohammed and to him alone.

    Another view I have of Islam is how close it is the evolutionary humanism, which is why the latter will soften the ground for the former. Both believe in fate and chance. Allah is a capricious God so is the God called Nature. The effects on a society are those we witness today in our own society, as brilliantly described by Churchill in 1899:

    “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science – the science against which it had vainly struggled – the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.”

    David SKinner, UK

  • I cant agree more with both Barry Koh and Mr Muehlenberg. The muslims must stop trying to convert other faiths into their religion. The minority and opressed groups who are silenced must speak out. one such group are the Sufi’s who are ironically seen as apostates because our Islam is the inner journey towards salvation.our job is too emerge and counter this violence and keep our own house in order because this is causing too much bloodshed and shame to the religion.
    Siti Khatijah.

  • Recommend two books by Walid Phares: “Future Jihad” and “The War of Ideas”.

    According to Walid there are six arms to strategic jihad:
    1. Economic – oil as a weapon
    2. Ideological – intellectual penetration
    3. Political – mollification of the public
    4. Intelligence – infiltration of the country
    5. Subversive – behind enemy [our] lines & protected by our laws.
    6. Diplomatic – controlling foreign policy [FJ page 137]

    You are right to raise the issue Bill – but who is listening and who, outside Fred Nile, are willing to publicly confront the historical and continuing Imperial Islam.

    Ray Robinson

  • David seems to think that there are no muslims who will vehemently protest against the irrational beliefs and action of the radical islamist. There are many such muslims but their voices are often suppressed by their more powerful radical brethen and also unfortunately by christians who refuse to believe that they exist. They need our support. Not all are like the late Ahmad Deedat of South Africa. Take for example, the popular Malaysian blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin (MalaysiaToday) who was recently arrested and imprisoned by the government under the internal security act (without trial) on grounds of insulting the religion of islam when in fact his articles were just critical of extremism (including violence) and other negative aspects he observed among the believers (including intolerance of other religions). We need to get our perspective right when discussing this subject, always bearing in mind that there are muslims out there who are also persecuted for their more enlightened stand.

    Barry Koh

  • Barry thank you for that but let us not forget that it is not against flesh and blood, that we struggle but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. I had a polite but spirited conversation with a Jehovah Witness on my doorstep, last Saturday. He was an extremely quiet and humble man but what he was saying was deception straight from the pit of hell. Perhaps it is the quiet and gentle souls that we have to be careful of the most. We need to look past the person and see what hymn sheet they are reading from.

    Didn’t Christ say even to Peter: “Get behind me Satan.”

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks David. It looks like the Malaysian blogger and the like suffered in vain.He read from the same hymn sheet but his mistake was to reinterpret the music. Must we insist that they should stick to the violent interpretation and be suspicious if they don’t. Yes, be very very aware of the danger of the resurrection of militant Islam, look out for wolves in sheeps clothing, but be mindful also of the persecution of muslims who sing a different tune. Are we to tell them to shut up too. It’s indeed a spiritual warfare and mandates us also to pray for the persecuted regardless of their doctrine. Equally dangerous (if not more dangerous) is the silent enemy creeping within the church; from the soft pedalling and diluting of the gospel in an attempt to be friendly, to the new emergent church who declares that there are no absolute truth (John MacArthur in The Truth War). The battle will never end until the end but God remains in control and no one, absolutely no one, will be able to frustrate His eternal plan, not yesterday not today and not in the future.

    Barry Koh

  • Dear Barry, It doesnt matter that David Skinner is angry. it doesnt matter that the whole world is angry the muslims who are against this violence must protest with or without support of anyone. what matters is we must try to in our own small way like RPK who was jailed and we will fight own. David Skinner doesnt have to believe as long as I do.
    Siti Khatijah.

  • Barry,

    Those intellectual Muslims and pacifistic Muslims to whom you refer, whom you say are being persecuted need to take heed and leave Islam, for they are persecuted in vain. If you listen to what Bill says about the teachings of the Koran, these teachings support the actions and attitudes of the militant Muslims. So wake up to what these teachings are and do not be blind as to where Islam is headed. Study the Koran and see that it does not offer sure peace with God, which is what most Muslims seek. The Koran only offers “maybe” peace with God, if you are good enough. The Bible actually assures each follower of true peace with God. Then if you are persecuted, it is not in vain.

    BTW, the Bible assures us that no one is ever good enough. That is why we need the substitute punishment for our bad things, which Jesus, the perfect man, took in our place. That is how we have peace with God, by accepting his substitute punishment. Not by pretending that we don’t need punishment. Look honestly and see that even one little bad thing that we do makes us not good enough for the holy, perfect God. He can never forgive us even one little bad thing without payment. That’s the legality of it. Jesus’s death was the once-and-for-all, lamb-upon-the-altar payment. It is the only payment God accepts. Either our death or Jesus’s death wipes the slate clean. If we receive Jesus’s death as payment for our wrong-doings, our falling short of God’s perfection, then we know that we know that we certainly do have peace with God, not just maybe. And that is worth dying for, right?! And it is what no one can take away from us.

    Rebecca Field

  • Rebecca, your wanting us to leave Islam is commendable because you want us to be saved, it shows to me that you would fight for your religion no matter what, it strangely seems to reflect what I the intellectual/pacifistic muslim wish to do for mine. I wish all of you well but for now I have a bigger fight on my hands because if I dont come out against this then the non moslems will say (apart from the fact that i have to do this) is why doesnt any moslem who is against this come out and say so because it is after all their fight.
    Siti Khatijah.

  • Thanks for this Barry, we have discussed before how much those of us Christians who claim to have the true truth should rub shoulders even with Catholics.

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/07/05/in-the-name-of-tolerance-protests-at-world-youth-day/

    Bill said that if we face a common enemy we need to fight alongside one another. Encouraged by this I said that: “having communion with believers is a totally different thing to fighting alongside others, outside the fellowship, as did William Wilberforce and Abraham Lincoln, for justice and righteousness. I also have marched alongside Muslims, up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, protesting against the gratuitous sex and violence on the TV and the effect it has on our children. We draw the line, and part company, however, when they unfurl banners in Arabic to distract us, as actually happened on this occasion, and start using the event to extol Allah.”

    Seven articles back, “Truth tolerance Christianity and Islam” Ryan Foley said to Siti Khatijah a committed Sufi, “Dear Siti…. my posting … refers to a truth from the Bible where Jesus stated, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’. (Found in John 14:6). If you really do hold Jesus’ teachings as the ‘highest path’ is it possible that you need to step up to that path, meaning that Jesus clearly states that He is the only way, to the Father.”

    So yes, where we meet others of different faiths, even within the so-called worldwide Christian Fellowship, who are sincerely seeking after the truth we need to remind ourselves that truth is not some abstract notion but is found only in the person of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. And were we not ourselves, at one time groping along false trails. As in mathematical solutions, some are way off the mark, some close but there is only one that can be correct.

    I sincerely hope that others of different faiths feel comfortable with contributing to this site. We should welcome this. I hope I am not saying this inspired by some sentimental multicultural/multi-religious nonsense but out of the realisation that we all share the same human condition and need to give one another a helping hand. It will test and strengthen our own faith in process.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Thanks Rebecca. I grew up with muslims as my neighbours and some of my good and helpful friends are muslims. I am aware about the teachings of the Koran and Hadiths way before Bill’s writeup. I have witnessed first hand how some muslims were rejoicing after 11 sept that left me disgusted and angry. I have witnessed my pastor detained because he allowed christian converts (from Islam) to worship in the church. I have seen how they served notice in the middle of a worship service on a church (of which I was a founder member) instructing the church to stop on grounds that the premise is not located on a religious zone. I grieved on news of native churches being demolished. I fear and pray for muslims who turned to Christ for the persecution they have to endure of which we are spared. I am convinced that historical Islam is inherently bent on violence and Islam means submission and not peace. But that should not make me unreasonable and not be supportive of muslims (even though they maybe in the minority) who speak up against violence and other cruel orthodox teachings. You argued that such people should leave Islam but why should they. Are they not entitled to their beliefs? We can’t convert them, that’s God’s work. The puritans in the early days were persecuted by the established church because of doctrinal differences, should they abandon their faith? Of course not.Who knows there might also be a reformation era in the muslim world with a shift from forms, rituals and laws to matters of subtance.
    Just don’t slam the genuine ones. Just give them a chance to bring positive change but be wary of wolves in sheep’s clothing and stand up against them. Just be discerning.
    BTW I believe a personal relationshp withJesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Yes, only Jesus saves!
    Barry Koh

  • Thanks Khatijah. We might differ in our beliefs but I respect your choice though I would rather you know Christ in a personal way and be saved. One day I hope. But that difference should not diminish my respect for you and your stand against violence and other negative or cruel aspects of Islam. The world demands proof that muslims deplore violence by speaking up against it and you have. Never mind that some will not be convinced or appreciate it, even if you are persecuted by your muslim brethen for it, like RPK of Malaysia. Only muslims can reform Islam for their own sake and that of the world.
    Barry Koh

  • How can the moslems not even ackowledge the discernment of the Christians. I read Barry Koh’s comment and wish with sadness that the moslems could be as high in conduct as he.
    Siti Khatijah.

  • The attitude of some of these gullible so called Christians reminds me of the problem we had after the end of World War 2, when the communists took over China and began the slaughter of their opponents. We had so-called Christian clergymen coming out in support of the communists. It’s the old story of the man feeding the crocodile in the hope that the crocodile will eat him last.
    Frank Bellet, Petrie Qld

  • Yes Khattijiah I have read your comments and I appreciate the fact there are moderate Muslims who are anti-violence and I am in complete agreement that we should be in full support of them.
    I must ask though,why is their silence so deafening?
    I, in all truth, have not heard from them.
    It is the responsibility of the home owner to clean their own home, it is not the duty of the next door neighbour.
    Christians would assist if we were convinced of the integrity of the moderates, but, unfortunately we do not see this.
    Daily we see and hear of acts of terrorism and we are asked to trust.
    Jim Sturla

  • There is an interesting article here on Shariah Compliant Finance. This is worrying to say the least.

    http://www.aina.org/news/20081104101654.htm

    “‘Islamic banking’ is a euphemism for a practice better known as ‘Shariah-Compliant Finance (SFC).’ And it turns out that this week the Treasury will be taking officials from various federal agencies literally to school on SFC. The department is hosting a half-day course entitled ‘Islamic Finance 101’ on Thursday at its headquarters building. Treasury’s self-described ‘seminar for the policy community’ is co-sponsored with the leading academic promoters of Shariah and SCF in the United States: Harvard University Law School’s Project on Islamic Finance. At the very least, the U.S. government evidently hopes to emulate Harvard’s success in securing immense amounts of Wahhabi money in exchange for conforming to the Islamists’ agenda. Like Harvard, Treasury seems utterly disinterested in what Shariah actually is, and portends. Unfortunately, such submission – the literal meaning of ‘Islam’ – is not likely to remain confined long to the Treasury or its sister agencies. Thanks to the extraordinary authority conferred on Treasury since September backed by the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the department is now in a position to impose its embrace of Shariah on the U.S. financial sector. The nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Treasury’s purchase of – at last count – 17 banks and the ability to provide, or withhold, funds from its new slush-fund can translate into unprecedented coercive power.”

    Jennifer Parfenovics

  • they are silent because they are afraid of persecution and being shunned by their own kind as i have been and am. they are silent because they do not understand what is right and wrong anymore? (i am guessing, yet in my heart everyone should know whats right and wrong!) they are silent because they think they are doing Gods’s job in this (I am treading dangerous grounds here because David Skinner and Bill Muehlenberg will say its inherent in the Islamic agenda and the Qur’an and well by the conduct and certain surahs in the Qur’an it speaks for itself doesnt it? that is another debate for another time. i respect their opinion though because the moslems themselves are doing this) yes it is the responsibility of the extremists and the non extremist to clean this mess up. i know that you are not convinced of the moderates integrity because they try to convert you into their faith but i need to do what i need to do with or without your help because it is shaming us. yes it is difficult to trust when there are those who kill and like me who reject this vehemently. I must choose what is right and what is right is to reject evil doing. you dont have to trust me but i need to do this it is long overdue. i know you dont trust me but thats okay because i have to live with my conscience not you. in the midst of this insanity with the religion someone or some of us have to do and voice out against it. dont you see that just by writing here i am already neither a moslem nor a christian but i stand alone with my views and if some moslem will do the same thats good but if they dont what am i to dobut just keep fighting this evil.
    Siti Khatijah.

  • Bill, I too was there at the National Prayer Breakfast (NPB). I was very disappointed with the fact that there was no question time. I have been at four NPB’s (2004, 2005, 2006, and this one) and this is the first time there has not been a question time.

    Usually at these NPB seminar sessions the question times are the richest section of the day, with Christians from diverse backgrounds throwing challenging questions at the speakers, providing an opportunity for the truth being spoken by the speaker to be made even more clear.

    It is also always announced at the beginning of the seminar sessions that there will be a question time, and so there is no doubt that in this instance, there was none planned and none permitted. It was not an oversight.

    I would like to ask the NPB organisers, what were they afraid of that they felt they had to protect the visitors from the questions that this audience — which presumably constitutes one of the most dedicated gatherings of Christians in our nation — might pose to them?

    Are not all of us supposed to be people of God? If the NPB organisers think that somehow Australia’s best and brightest Christians cannot be trusted to ask a few questions of these Nigerian visitors, are they suggesting that somehow we are not really enlightened enough to understand their message?

    Perhaps those who are responsible for the decision to bring this Islamic apologetic do not themselves have any answers, and they fear that likewise the Nigerian visitors have no answers either. That is, answers to the many potential scrutinising questions by the audience.

    However I am told by someone who attended another public meeting where the Nigerians were presenting, that there certainly was a good question time, and the Nigerians themselves routinely expect and request to have such a question time. Therefore it should be known that it was not their decision to exclude the question time.

    I am sure that with the very savvy experts who were present in the audience, some of whom are people who have worked in evangelism with Muslims directly for many years, and know and understand various Muslim cultures, there would have been a very rich discussion.

    I know from experience it is much easier to say yes to people you are scared of offending, and no to people you are not scared of offending. It seems the whole event was clouded by the fear of offending. Both in the decision to give them the floor, the decision not to allow a question time.

    That should at least be enough to make people ask, why must it always be that we, the Christians, are the ones that no one is scared of offending?

    Harvey Brice

  • they are silent because they live in fear of everything and everyone that is different from them and by their ommission (silence) they aid and abet murders because they think they can trust these people to protect them. when they live out of fear then they dont trust and when they dont trust they are suspicious and when they are suspicous they manifest wrong doing.
    siti khatijah.

  • Stan asked who chose the speakers and how do we get new choosers. This is a very important question. I have skimmed the contributions and could not find an answer but it may be there. At the risk of repeating the answer (massed and distributed practice is a beneficial educational practice) the members of the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship must have since it was their meeting. How do we change them. Two steps: 1. Get into the coalition and Labor parties and help preselect parliamentary election candidates who are suitable and not deceived. 2. Vote for them and not the deceived candidates at election time.
    Greg Brien

  • Spot on Bill! Instead of promoting Inter-Faith dialogue, Christians should study how best to present the Gospel to Muslims. After all, Christ died and rose for Muslims also that they might believe in Him.
    Graham Lawn

  • Bill, I am concerned at your statement that “Religious violence is to be eschewed, but never at the expense of the truth of the Gospel. ” Does this mean that where the integrity of the gospel is challenged, you would approve of religious violence?

    By suggesting that “A Christian evangelist speaking to a group of Muslims in Syria or Saudi Arabia would last about 3 seconds before his head would be rolling on the floor.” (unfortunately probably true), it seems to me that you are suggesting we should respond in a similar manner when a Muslim gives reasons for his faith in a Christian context.

    The conflict between Islam and Christianity in Africa and elsewhere has caused unacceptable suffering, and if a Christian and a Muslim are major players in brokering peace in a region then maybe we (Christians) might not be too arrogant to think we can learn from the experiences of those who have stopped the killing, regardless of their faith. And if their beliefs have contributed to the motivations for their actions, why are we afraid to listen to that.

    I am not trying to deny that some Muslims have an agenda beyond peace, but we mustn’t live under a spirit of fear of them.

    James Scott

  • Thanks James

    No I am not suggesting we lop off the heads of Muslims. Perhaps my sentence could have been expressed slightly better. What I simply meant to say was that while interfaith dialogue which works to reduce religious violence can be a good thing indeed, it should not come at the expense of biblical truth.

    And I am not sure why my concerns about Islamic fifth columns and the use Christian churches as vehicles for preaching Islam is somehow ‘arrogant’. Nor can I understand how raising such concerns makes me ‘afraid’ and ‘living in fear’. Was Paul being ‘arrogant,’ ‘afraid’ and ‘living in fear’ when he warned about false doctrine and deception in the churches, for example?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks for your reply Bill.

    I was not trying to imply that you personally are arrogant or fearful. And I understand the very real concerns re: fifth columns. A level of vigilance is required.

    But there are so many places in the world where the conflict between Muslims and Christians is resulting in people being brutally killed (and in some of those places, including Nigeria, the Christians are just as guilty of horrific actions as the Muslims). And here are two men who have found a way that people who otherwise hated each other can exist together in peace. If we are genuinely concerned about building peace in the world then maybe we can learn something from both these men. And that requires a level of humility – accepting that a Christian and a Muslim are able to achieve something that a Christian by himself is unable to do.

    Pastor James Wuye does not seem to have compromised his faith, nor does he seem to be encouraging anyone else to do so. And he is praying for the conversion of the Imam. However he seems to have concluded that in order for the bloodshed to stop, the discussion needs to not focus on things other than the differences in the faiths. Those differences are what has caused the conflict in the first place.

    Neither of them seems to be arguing for “full acceptance” as you suggested in your 4th November article (which I thought was excellent, by the way). Otherwise they would not each be praying for the other’s conversion. But it is possible to fully accept a person’s right to be part of a peaceful community without accepting their doctrines.

    Finally, you mentioned that “The pair is being sponsored in Australia by various Islamic councils”. Are there Christian groups also sponsoring the pair? I would be interested to know which Islamic groups are involved.

    Thanks for your discussion.

    James Scott

  • Thanks James

    Probably five times at least in the two articles I mentioned that it is a good thing when those of different beliefs resort to discussions and abandon violence. The real point is whether churches should bring in the pair, allowing the Imam a platform for Islamic evangelism. And I have heard them twice say that we must move “beyond tolerance to acceptance”.

    Whether the pastor has compromised his faith is in one sense immaterial. Indeed, both men may have absolutely the best of intentions. But good intentions alone are not the only thing to assess. Many Nazis would have had good intentions (for the well-being of the German people, etc.).

    The real issue is this: in the interests of interfaith dialogue, do we allow Christian churches to become platforms for a) Islamic evangelism, and b) a view of Islam which is at odds with historic Islam, the traditional teaching and understanding of Islam, the life and teaching of Muhammad, and the hadith – in other words, a watered down and false picture of Islam?

    I would think that a somewhat similar situation would be to allow an Allied and a Nazi soldier to come into Western churches during the Second World War and tell us they are not all that different and we must all learn to peacefully co-exist. While the Nazi is doing his best to convince gullible Westerners that Nazism is really a peaceful ideology, Hitler continues carving up European geography.

    Indeed, the same thing happened during the Cold War. Gullible Western churches allowed Communist spokesmen and sympathisers to come in, telling them that the Soviet Union was a friendly nation that meant no harm. Plenty of believers fell for that line. It is called appeasement and deception.

    Sorry, but Islam is by definition an expansionistic and evangelistic faith. Real Muslims want all people to become Muslims and submit to Allah – either willingly or by force. Sure, all true Christians want everyone to become followers of Jesus. But there is a major difference between the two. One has spread its faith mainly by military conquest, while the other grows by telling others of the love of Christ.

    It is the insidious nature of Islam and the unhelpful side of interfaith dialogue that I am so concerned about here. Letting two people talk about peaceful solutions to religious conflict is one thing. Allowing Islamic taqiyya to infiltrate Christian groups is another. To be honest, I fear most Christians haven’t a clue as to the actual history, teachings and practices of Islam. All they know is a sanitised and distorted view.

    As to Christian groups sponsoring them, presumably every church which has featured them may have been sponsors. And presumably the Parliamentary Christian Fellowship did in order to have them at the National Prayer Breakfast. Various interfaith networks have also been sponsoring the pair. And numerous Muslim groups have been sponsoring them, including The Centre for Muslim States and Societies and Initiatives of Change.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill well said. It is important however to note that this seminar was not the main Parliamentary Christian Fellowship Breakfast but a later seminar after most of the large crowd had gone to work.
    Paul Monagle

  • Thanks Paul

    Although I would estimate that at least half the main crowd stayed for the seminar. But regardless of the numbers, my concerns remain.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Praise God Bill…you are a trully talented and most beautifully honest and brave person..I do so look forward to reading your comments each day…thank God & may he Bless you…. one hundred fold!
    Jane Byrne

  • Bill, much as I hate to admit, but the reality is James has made a strong point. The need for interfaith dialog has become of urgent necessity in countries with sectarian and religious conflicts, something that conflict free countries fail to understand. Tension, fear and bloodshed cause immeasureable sufferings for people on both side of the religious divide. If interfaith dialog (which helps) is unwelcomed, then what immediate practical measure do you propose would be a better way to restore peace as in countries like Nigeria, Indonesia, and even recently India. Will the harping on Islam as bent on violence (which many of us already agree), help restore peace which the suffering people so much desire, or are we so caught up with the rightness of our argument. Is not the fear of being evangelized by another faith the likely consequence of years of neglect in the preaching of the pure word of God (the Bible), having been oustered by another gospel that attracts huge crowd to the church. The real danger that threatens the church today are the peddlars of the false gospel from within the church. Herein lies the fifth column.

    Barry Koh

  • Thanks Barry

    But I have said enough times now that there is great value in getting religious conflict settled over coffee tables, and not on battlefields. How many more times must I state this? But I still have concerns about Muslims using Christian venues in the West to promote Islam, and a sanitised version of Islam at that.

    As to interfaith networks, I also have two main problems with them as well. Both have to do with moral equivalence. The idea that all religions are ultimately equal, or should be seen as such, is a problem. Watering theological differences down in order to just get along is not something a biblical Christian can readily assent to. Theological differences are significant and cannot be ignored. So there are limits as to the value of much interfaith dialogue.

    Also problematic is the notion that all religions are equally good (or evil) when it comes to religious violence. But I reject that premise as well. It is primarily Christians who are getting persecuted around the world. They are the real victims here.

    While Christians are being persecuted in Muslim or Hindu nations, for example, there are very few Muslims or Hindus being persecuted in Christian countries, certainly in the West. So I reject the idea that somehow Christianity is just as much to blame for religious conflict as other religions are.

    Indeed, it is ignorance of the expansionistic and violent nature of Islam that is so much of the problem here. Thus there is certainly the need to keep “harping” (as you put it) on this theme. That is the real problem it seems to me.

    As to false teaching within the church – sure, that is always a worry and must be dealt with. But so too are attacks on the church from without. Both must be dealt with. We would be irresponsible to our biblical calling if we did not address both threats.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill for your frank honest reply. In many countries with diverse religious groups, the authorities would set up goodwill or interfaith council to help promote tolerance among the religions. While Christian groups may participate in dialog, this is not to say they will necessarily compromise their faith. Every participant will naturally present a good (but not necessarily true) side of their religion including Islam and while Christians will differ in their beliefs, they nevertheless accept such a goodwill council as a pragmatic necessity for the sake of reducing tension and conflict.
    From your reply I assume you are only against the use of Church premises and will not oppose it so much if held in a neutral venue. Am I right?
    Watering down theological differences and declaring all faiths to be merely different ways to God is catching up fast in the church from Robert Schuller to shockingly Billy Graham (correct me if I am wrong, but John MacArthur comment on Billy Graham discussion with Robert Schuller seems to confirm it). If that is true I am amazed there is no loud outcry.
    Yes Bill, we agree for need to be always watchful and steadfast against all forms of deceit confronting the elect.
    Barry Koh

  • Dear Bill & Barry. I think the most simplest argument against interfaith is that in order to have dialogue with other faiths we avoid being offensive and one of the core truths of Christianity is that Jesus said that He is the ONLY way to the Father. To not be offensive, we must basically dump this statement and if we do that, we really lose the whole package. If other faiths are ways to God we must conceed that Christianity has some big errors or question what Jesus said. I am really glad that Jesus made it very clear. It makes it easy for us to know.
    Ryan Foley.

  • So I am to take plucking my eye or taking my leg off literally. So at what stage do I have to do this if I have a problem with a particular sin.And I write as a bron again Christian ??!!
    Phil Scott

  • Thanks Phil

    Of course Jesus is here using hyperbolic, figurative speech to drive home an important point: we must take sin very seriously, and be willing to take drastic measures to weed it out. In a similar passage (Matt. 5:27-30) Jesus says a similar thing, in the context of warning about the sin of adultery. Obviously actual self-mutilation or maiming is not in view here, because Jesus said that adultery is really a matter of the heart (lust), just as murder is really a matter of the heart (hatred). Therefore a blind person can still lust.

    The whole point of the passage is the mortification of sin, and the recognition that it is better to take radical steps in this life to ensure eternity with God, then to be careless about sin and spend eternity without God.

    Thus I referred to this text in relation to the two Nigerians. Yes, getting people to stop fighting is a good thing. But if the interfaith dialogue which is a part of it leads people to a false sense of security, and/or to a lost eternity, then it is not such a great thing after all.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Hi, I have come late to this discussion through a ‘google alert’ which picked up the phrase ‘Initiatives of Change’. I work for IofC which is the group that brought the Imam and the Pastor out to Australia.

    I want to clarify a couple of points. First, IofC is not a Muslim organization. Rather, it is one that encourages each person to go deeper in their own faith traditions, whatever they are. As a Christian, my own faith has certainly become deeper through my contact with IofC. And I would say that my faith has also grown deeper through contact with people of different faiths. Such dialogue forces me to ask questions of my faith that I might not otherwise ask, And in forcing me to explain things to people who have not grown up in a Christian understanding I find that I understand them more deeply myself. It is an old educational adage that when you are told something you retain a little. When you do something you retain a bit more, but when you have to teach something then you understand it fully. I would want every Christian to have the experience of meaningful dialogue with people of other faiths for precisely this reason – that through it their own faith may become deeper.

    The other thing I want to clarify is where you say that Imam Ashafa is preaching a watered down version of Islam. Bill, I don’t know where you get your understanding of Islam from, but I strongly suspect that it is from books rather than from Muslims. Yes, there is a whole range of interpretations of Islam, just as there is a whole range of interpretations of the teachings of Jesus, but I think that Ashafa’s interpretation is much more mainstream – both now and in historical terms – than the Islamic straw man that you describe. There is much more of a case to say that Al Qaida is a watered down version of Islam, given how selective they are in their use of Islamic scripture.

    I also strongly disagree with those who say that Islam spread mainly through the sword while Christianity spread through love. This such an oversimplification and distortion of history. It was colonialism, backed by military conquest, that took Christianity to large parts of the world. Both religions have forcibly converted people (think of Spain after the defeat of the Moors) and both religions have also spread through non-coerced conversion. It was, for example, Muslim traders who brought Islam to Malaysia and Indonesia.

    This is not to say that there are not serious problems in the Islamic world today. But I would argue that the roots of those problems are more political and sociological than religious. Sadly, for most people religion is more a cultural badge of identity than a spiritual striving for a closer walk with God. Such people, whether Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist, can easily be manipulated by politicians who demonize the ‘other’ for their own political advantage.

    Mike Lowe

  • Thanks Mike

    As I said many times, there is a place for religious dialogue. But I am concerned about the moral equivalence I see coming from groups like the IofC. For example, if you are a biblical Christian, it should not be your aim to help people “to go deeper in their own faith traditions”. It should be your aim to lead them out of darkness, and into the glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Or do the exclusive truth claims of Christianity (eg., “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the father but by me”) not seem all that important to you?

    And sorry, but your understanding of history is equally unhelpful here. All that it does is promote the Islamic version of events. They would have us believe that there is no difference between Islam and Christianity as far as religious violence is concerned, and that both are on the same moral level. But they are not.

    The life and teaching of Muhammad, the Koran and the hadith all make the case for the spread of Islam by the use of the sword, and those Muslims who have done so have full justification by the very standards of Islam.

    Jesus and the New Testament make absolutely no allowance for spreading the faith by coercion or violence. Those Christians who do such things are acting not in the spirit of Christ, but as an aberration. But I have written all this up elsewhere. See for example these three articles:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2006/09/24/islam-vs-christianity/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2004/11/25/a-closer-look-at-religion-and-violence/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/03/07/the-myth-of-moral-equivalence/

    And when you seek to argue that “the roots of those problems are more political and sociological than religious” you are missing the mark altogether. There is of course no separation at all in Islam between sacred and secular, between the political and the theological. They are one and the same. There simply is no separation of church and state in Islam, and I am surprised that you are claiming otherwise. This is – or should be – very well known. But if you need some brushing up on the topic, I refer you to this piece, which provides some important documentation on all this:
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/02/13/islamisation-versus-christendom/

    So it seems the IofC has done everything the Muslim apologists would want: they have managed to get certain Christians to think that all faith traditions are theologically equal, that Islam can be just like Christianity in terms of church and state relations, and that all are equally guilty of religious violence. Sorry, but I don’t buy any of these false moral equivalences.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Mike, our concern with the inclusion of the ‘Imam and the Pastor’ at the National Prayer Breakfast was that a Muslim imam was featured as a speaker at a specifically Christian event. Speaking on neutral territory, to promote the way the two men have been able to get their communities to live harmoniously was not the main issue here. (However, even in more neutral venues, the ‘interfaith’ nature of the promotion does serve to limit or inhibit questioning.) Similarly a debate, where beliefs can be examined or challenged, is not the issue.

    The fact that no questions were allowed from the floor was certainly an issue at the NPB seminar. When the Imam talked of Islam being peaceful, forgiving and helping one’s neighbour … this is only obtained from very selective quoting of the Qur’an. The verse referred to for peace with neighbours is surrounded by other verses that negate and qualify this concept. No-one had an opportunity to rebut this claim and many Christians went away thinking that it all must be true since that’s what the imam said!

    As to what is ‘true Islam’… Mark Gabriel, a former Islamic cleric and Islamic studies professor at Al Azhar University in Cairo, began to question the Islam he was teaching. On studying the texts he realised he needed to embrace the jihad stream of Islam if he was to be true to the teaching of Mohammed. He decided he could not do that and so left Islam – and was nearly killed! Only later did he become a Christian. Read the short version of his story at http://www.arabicbible.com/testimonies/gabriel.htm It reveals a different side of Islam.

    Jenny Stokes

  • Bill, I take seriously everything that Jesus said. “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me” is from the Gospel of John where a trinitarian concept of God and Jesus is most fully worked out. Here, even more than in the other gospels, Jesus is presented as part and parcel of the eternal Godhead rather than as a merely historical figure.

    I have met many Muslims who are, for want of a better word, godly and holy people. Because of this experience I take these words from John’s Gospel as directed at me (and all Christians) to recognise that Jesus (God incarnate as part of the trinitarian Godhead) is at work wherever God is at work. In other words, I see Jesus at work in my Muslim friends, even if they do not recognize Him. Of course, in deeper dialogue with Muslims I would want them to also come to this understanding. But the dialogue comes first. And the dialogue has to be on a basis of mutual respect. Too often these words of Jesus have, I feel, been used in an arrogant way to suggest that we Christians are better than everyone else. I don’t think this is God’s approach, and it is not an approach which is conducive to meaningful dialogue.

    When Jesus was asked (by a lawyer) were the most important commandments, Jesus answered ‘Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself. When the lawyer asked his supplementary question “and who is my neighbour”, Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan.

    Muslims weren’t around when Jesus gave this story, but there are close parallels between the situation of Samaritans then and Muslims today. They were regarded as apostates, sufficiently close in theology to be familiar but with differences regarded as major heresy. They were the main ‘other’ of the time. Did Jesus demand that the Samaritan’s convert? No! Did he tell this parable to make Samaritan’s feel good about themselves? No! He was telling his fellow (religious) Jews, ‘look, these people who you feel so superior to and look down upon may actually be closer to obeying God’s commandments than you’.

    We Christians, along with other religions, get very hung up on labels trying to work out who is a true Christian, who is not, and making judgements along with the labels: this person is good, this person bad, this person godly, this person diabolic. The Jesus that I see in the gospels is not concerned about these labels but only with what is a person’s inner heart.

    Bill, I and Initiatives of Change are not trying to promote a view of moral equivalence of Christianity and Islam. Suggesting moral equivalence or, for that matter, moral inequivalence, implies some sort of ‘objective’ comparison. Speaking personally I am not interested in trying to do any kind of ‘objective’ comparison because how on earth can anyone be objective unless they embrace both religions equally – and since they are incompatible on many points this would be an impossibility. Such comparisons, I think, tend only to serve our natural human tendency to arrogance.

    My position is more of someone who is convinced of the truth of Christianity, humble enough to recognize how far I fall short of God’s demands (and humble enough to acknowledge how poor our historical track record is) and in this spirit of humility wanting to discern and encourage whatever is of God in each person I meet, regardless of labels. So many Muslims have told me that Islam teaches ‘there can be no coercion in religion’ that I believe them. And these are mainstream Muslims of good standing in their communities. Maybe you can prove that this is a minority view, but meanwhile I rejoice that this is the view expressed by the Muslims I meet. For me to come and say to them ‘but actually your religion is wrong because it advocates conversion on the point of a sword’ would serve no purpose. Who knows more about their religion, me or them? If I want Muslims to listen to my truth then surely I must first give the courtesy of listening respectfully to their truth.

    Jenny, as I am Melbourne based I can’t comment much on the National Prayer Breakfast as I didn’t attend it. In all our Melbourne events we did have questions and answers, and our two guests were not afraid to tackle the sticky questions. Perhaps the decision not to have Q&A was more to do with time constraints than out of an attempt to shield them from hostile questions.

    As to whether a Christian event should host a Muslim speaker, I would say ‘what are you afraid of?’ God’s truth is robust enough to survive coming in many forms. Having heard them both several times, I have no doubt that something of God’s truth would have been expressed by the two men ‘for those who have ears to hear’. But if some people switched off their ears because it was a Muslim speaking then that would have been their loss.

    Mike Lowe

  • Dear Mike, while your organisation might be attempting to do a good work, it is focussing mainly on the wrong audience. If the Imam truly believes in a peaceful Islam, he should be addressing primarily the muslim populace whose theology is at the present time greatly influenced and shaped by the radical brand of Islam bent on militancy. That’s where the change should come. Moderate and progressive muslims, while I do not deny they exist, are in a tiny minority with no clout. They need to build their influence in the muslim countries if they are to start any positive momentum towards genuine peace, and in the long term their persuasion need to be taught in the muslim religious schools. They need to boldly voice out their outrage against the killings and injustice done to muslims and non muslims in the name of God. Unless the mindset of the muslims masses are deradicalised,the effort of your organisation is very limited. The muslims can only be deradicalised if you address and convince them theologically, particularly the muslims political leaders, the ulamas, the theologians, the muslim media and the seminaries. The masses will faithfully follow the leanings of the spiritual leaders who controls the mosques and seminaries. Speaking to Christians in the church is not going to achieve this. Very good intention but in the wrong direction.

    Barry Koh

  • Thanks Mike

    With all due respect, it sounds like dhimmitude and taqiyya are alive and well in certain circles. I am afraid your understanding of the exclusive truth claims of Christianity leaves a bit to be desired. The entire New Testament makes it clear that there is no salvation apart from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Sorry, but “good” Muslims, Hindus, secularists, and so on are just as dead in their trespasses and sins as anyone else. We are all spiritually dead and headed for a lost eternity. The NT makes it crystal clear that there is only one means of escaping a lost eternity. And that is why we are to proclaim this gospel message to the ends of the earth.

    We are not told to simply have friendly dialogues and hope everyone will be alright in the end. We have an urgent and serious responsibility to tell sinners (which includes every person) that unless they come to God through his son Jesus in the manner depicted in the NT, then a lost eternity is the only fate awaiting them.

    This has nothing to do with arrogance or feeling superior. It has to do with the truth of Jesus Christ and the Bible. It was Jesus who talked about false prophets, deceivers, and the reality of hell more than anyone else. I do not hear that message coming out in the interfaith groups. It is all a watered down feel good religion which is alien to the very teachings and commands of Christ.

    Can I suggest that instead of just talking to Muslims who are presenting you with a very different understanding of Islam, you actually read and study the Koran and the hadith, and study closely the life and actions of Muhammad? And try to read something more objective than the sanitised versions of, say, Karen Armstrong.

    And I have no problem discussing with Muslims the truth claims of Christianity. But I do have a problem giving them platforms in churches to deceive Christians, especially when any such attempt by Christians to do the same in most Muslim lands would be illegal, and punishable in most severe forms.

    All I am getting from groups like the IofC is one-way traffic. It provides a great benefit to Muslim evangelists and Islamic da’wa and idha’ah, but it is doing very little of value to biblical Christians.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, we will have to agree to differ on our understandings of salvation and our understandings of what is an ‘objective’ view of Islam.

    Barry, when the Imam and Pastor were in Melbourne they spoke more to Muslim audiences than Christians. They were given a platform in two mosques as well as by the Centre for Excellence in Islamic Studies at Melbourne University, and had time with the leadership of the Islamic Council of Victoria. They, and IofC, are just as active in getting a message of peace and non-violence to the Muslims as to anyone else.

    Mike Lowe

  • Thanks Mike

    I do not deny that some Muslim audiences had the seminar. And it is not just Melbourne we are concerned about, but all of Australia. It would be most interesting if you could tell us exactly how many Christian churches and Christian groups had this seminar in the past few weeks.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Mike, you say

    As to whether a Christian event should host a Muslim speaker, I would say ‘what are you afraid of?’ God’s truth is robust enough to survive coming in many forms. Having heard them both several times, I have no doubt that something of God’s truth would have been expressed by the two men ‘for those who have ears to hear’.

    I’m not afraid of anything. However, having a Muslim explain his view of Islam in a Christian setting – which he acknowledges has changed over time – without giving anyone else the opportunity to provide an alternative view or to critique the given view, is naive. The imam referred to several Qur’an verses – but it was quite selective.
    When he claims Islam is peaceful and forgiving, we must be able to question him or to carefully look at the texts quoted.
    All that happened in the NPB audience is that the listening Christians (mostly) say ‘Isn’t that nice’ as they often don’t know much about Islamic doctrine.
    That’s what happens when they say ‘there is no compulsion in religion’. We need to ask ‘When was it revealed’, what verses abrogate it, what was the context of the verse etc, not just accept the statement at face value.
    Even if questioning had been allowed, unless people knew the Islamic texts and/or had a Qur’an with them these matters may still not have been revealed.
    You say

    I have no doubt that something of God’s truth would have been expressed by the two men.

    The issue was the Muslim imam, not the pastor.
    Are you inferring that the Muslim imam would have revealed something of Yahweh, Almighty God, Father of our Lord Jesus?
    Are you saying it is the ‘same’ God?

    Jenny Stokes

  • Bill, the crusades are over.

    Your vigorous exchange with so many of your supporters makes no mention of “The Pastor”. Why is this? I was not at the NPB but I understood that “The Imam” and “The Pastor” were travelling through Australia and speaking together. I heard them in Melbourne and was most impressed by their story. They frankly admitted that they had each faced opposition from within their own circles, the Imam for hobnobbing with an evangelical Pastor and the Pastor for hobnobbing with an Imam.

    Bill, I see from your web site that you are associated with “Catch the Fire Ministry” and so I can understand better your strong views.

    Chris Mayor

  • Thanks Chris

    And what exactly do the Crusades have to do with all this? Or Catch the Fire?

    I would think that a biblical Christian is first and foremost someone who is concerned about the truth of the gospel, and would be concerned about any attempts to make Christianity simply one of many religious paths to God, or to water down the unique saving nature of faith in Jesus Christ alone.

    And let me call your bluff: in both articles about this subject I did mention the pastor.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Mike. But what I have in mind is about speaking to muslims in mosques in muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Malaysia, etc. How welcome is your organisation in these countries? What is your success rate? How receptive and agreeable are they to the Iman’s theology?
    Barry Koh

  • To Mike I thank you for speaking up because I know that we are not here to convert each other we were all deliberately made different nations to test us as to how we treat each other inspite of our different exterior,blue red green or yellow and our different religious paths. That is the prerogative of the Creator ,it is His world.We have no right to convert anyone. We only have the right to listen to what the other speaks and go away and think about it without demeaning them. If the Christians shout aloud that Christ is the Saviour then the moslems must respect their position. If the Christians wishes to depict the cartoons about Mohammed then the moslems should resist violence. In other words the teaching of Jesus is clear for the molslems too, one must turn the other cheek if someone hurts you and not retaliate with violence but communication. And I say this as a Sufi not too impress you here but this is the position it is.We were made to be tested everuday in our choices including and especially how we treat one another. The moslems should not convert any one but must learn to show by example what being good is about like the christians have done so . I am not denying that there are bad christains but we moslems have to rectify the hurt done so if the Imam is genuine then he must do so. yes Barry he should do it to the moslems and influence their ways but Bill, shouldnt he also show the Christians that he is doing something?like what i am trying here.not too preach and influence you , not too make a fool of you about passages in the Qur’an but too make some difference.What Mohammed did 1,400 years ago he was living durting times of treachery ( I am not defending anyone here) to himself . I also know that in some wars with the Chrisitians upon taking them captives,they were treated well. But i am not here to defend anyone’s action that is why I have avidoed talking about Mohammed. It takes alot of time to debate this and it is not my place to do so here. But I will certainly not kill because I differ from you in your opinion of Mohammed or any other discussion about the Qur’an. That is what is needed in the Moslemn world. the maturity to be able to differ in opinion and accept the others point of view. They are currently not able to do so and this is where the violence is.
    To Barry Koh, it doesnt matter that thereare only a few who speak out against this violence,God will help us against it we dont need many.
    Jenny just as you fear that the Moslems are taking over they have the exact same fear of the Christians taking over. So where do we go from here. Isnt is better to dialogue then go to war?Damn if you do and damned if you dont.
    siti khatijah

  • Thanks Siti

    As I have said countless times now, it is better to have people from different religions talking to each other than fighting each other.

    As I also have said, a true Muslim wants everyone to submit to Allah. A true Christian wants everyone to have a love relationship with Jesus Christ. So both faiths are inherently evangelistic, and both are theologically exclusive.

    As to your comment, “just as you fear that the Moslems are taking over they have the exact same fear of the Christians taking over”, this is another faulty example of moral equivalence. There are no Christians trying to set up a theocracy today and forcing everyone to submit to it. But all true Muslims long to see a universal Caliphate established, with everyone submitting to sharia law. There is no separation of church and state in Islam, and they do indeed want to set up a theocracy. Christians are interested in evangelising, and getting all people to accept Christ and live with him forever in heaven. So there is a huge difference between the two.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill. I consider myself a strict Sufi moslem in that i impose the teacings upon myself, outwardly you would not even know I am one.it is about polishing the heart and soul to shine and choose the highest choices of love. you are correct in that the majority wishes to impose and convert you into Islam (have you heard the saying,”there are those who destroy the world because of their good intentions”). well i declare they are wrong because conversion of the heart and soul into believeing inGod is His job not ours. We must live our best life in unconditional love towards the other.Gods will be done ,that is the law and we cannot change that and if that Will is we all become Christians than it will be done. apologies, I wasnt trying to be false i was merely trying to show what they seem to think in their “fear of you”(i dont know what there is too fear anyway)which is totally unfounded because with dialogue now i know that you wish upon me love. that is certainly nothing to fear and everything to shout about.
    Siti Khatijah

  • Bill, we Christians tend to have short memories. A few centuries back there was no tolerance of different religious perspectives. In fact it took two centuries of bloody religious wars between Protestants and Catholics in Europe before we came to our senses and could agree to differ. The consequences of that period of history (the Enlightenment) are still with us – and they are not all good. The vigorous separation of church and state has tended to relegate religion to the status of a Sunday club or a sub-culture existing in an enclave separate from the rest of society. It has often robbed us of the imagination to transform culture.

    Islam’s history has been different. The Enlightenment was born out of horrible and sustained religious violence. Islam has not had a comparable period. Perhaps if the current situation between Sunnis and Shia in Iraq continues for another 200 years, and this conflict spreads to the whole Middle East then Islam may also embrace a Western-style divorce between religion and the rest of society and become more ‘tolerant’ in our Western way.

    Personally I hope they can be spared this, and learn to accept diversity of religous viewpoints by discovering the streams within their own tradition which support this (and there are many such streams). But meanwhile, I think a little more humility from Christians would help. At the moment there is a great inequality in power between Christian nations and Islamic nations. People who lecture others from a position of power tend to build up anger and resentment which prevent the message being heard, even if it is a good message.

    Barry, as far as I know the Nigerian Imam and Pastor have already been to several Muslim countries and have plans to visit more. IofC is also active in some Muslim countries though, as I am sure you will appreciate, this is sensitive work and not necessarily conducive to publicity.

    Jenny, yes I do believe that something of Yahweh, Almighty God, Father of Jesus, would have been revealed through Imam Ashafa. I don’t recall reading anywhere in the Old Testament that Moses had accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour. And yet God still managed to reveal something of himself through Moses. Or was the God of the Old Testament a different God?

    Mike Lowe

  • Thanks Mike

    But I still do not buy your moral equivalence. When Christians have engaged in bloodshed, it was directly against the teachings and example of Jesus Christ. Christian violence is an aberration and an oxymoron. When a Muslim kills in the name of Allah, he has full justification to do so, from the Koran, the hadith, and the life and example of Muhammad. Such a Muslim is acting in accord with his own religious tradition, not against it.

    As to your comment about Moses, why are you parroting the Islamic line here, instead of the biblical Christian line? As a believer you of course should know the answer to this.

    The shed blood of Christ is the basis for our salvation. In the OT people responded to the revelation of God that they had, and faith in his gracious provision was the means of entering into his covenant community. So of course Moses had revelation of God, to which he responded. But Jesus Christ is the full and complete revelation of God (Heb. 1), not Muhammad.

    The differences between Allah and Yahweh are well known – or should be. If you are unaware of these major differences, you might try reading these articles for starters:

    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/08/16/what-to-make-of-allah/ https://billmuehlenberg.com/2007/08/19/no-we-do-not-worship-the-same-god/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Siti

    I can feel your frustration and sense of being caught between conflicting factions. Of course as a Sufi, you are engaged in a mystical version of Islam which many mainstream Muslims are unhappy with; and some Muslims would look down on Sufis as traitors to real Islam.

    In a similar way, biblical Christians have concerns about those more liberal Christians who water down doctrine and teachings and emphasise just getting along and loving everyone.

    But biblical love is never divorced from truth, and biblical truth is never divorced from love. Jesus is the epitome of both love and truth. So the most loving thing a Christian can do is tell others about the truth of Jesus Christ, and that he is indeed the only way to reconciliation with God. These are the claims Jesus made about himself.

    So truth is very important. If what Jesus said is true, then not everyone is right with God, and all who reject Christ will be rejected by God (John 5:22-23; 8:19; 12:26, 44-45; 15:23, etc.). And biblical Christianity is not a syncretistic religion, where we can simply take bits and pieces from all religions, and just try to be nice people. The Christian truth claims are exclusive, and those who seek salvation apart from Jesus Christ and the cross will sadly miss out.

    Sufis are to be praised for seeking to act as a sort of reform movement within Islam, and for their emphasis on love, good works, and non-violence. But that in and of itself is not enough, according to the teachings of Jesus. Lots of “nice” people will unfortunately be going to hell, not heaven.

    So while we are glad you strongly reject militant Islam, it is our prayer for you that you will come to know Jesus Christ as your own personal Lord and Saviour, and the only real source of peace and love.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • When Christians have shed blood in the name of their religion they have done so believing they had full justification from the Bible. Similarly when Christians engaged in slavery, apartheid and racist segregation. The fact is that in both religions you can find verses to support violence (you suggested as much yourself when said that peace is not the supreme good and invoked Jesus saying it is better to cut off a hand or pluck out an eye than fall into sin). And in both religions you can find plenty of verses which are against violence.

    Please note, I am not saying there is a moral equivalence here for the reasons I gave above. What I am saying is that there are grounds to question your statements of moral inequivalence. I simply don’t think it is helpful to make these kind of comparisons.

    Allah is simply the Arabic word for God. Similar to Elohim in the Old Testament. As a point of interest in Northern Nigeria the Christians also use the word Allah, as do Christians in many Arab speaking countries. Of course we have different understandings of God, and as a Christian, I believe that my trinitarian understanding of God is more complete. But I have no doubt that the God my Muslim friends worship is the same God.

    Mike Lowe

  • Paul’s warning from 2 Cor 6 is relevant:

    14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
    15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever?
    16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
    17 “Therefore come out from them
    and be separate, says the Lord.
    Touch no unclean thing,
    and I will receive you.”
    18 “I will be a Father to you,
    and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty

    I see no command there to “try to emphasise the common ground”. Quite the opposite. Differences are crucial … albeit Christianity’s exclusive truth claims need to be presented humbly and with some measure of sensitivity to the enquirer.

    Stephen Frost, Melbourne

  • Thank you for your point Bill. I understand that.
    Siti Khatijah

  • Thanks Mike

    But sorry, you are still offering us more moral equivalence and Muslim apologetics here. As you should know, there is not one clear New Testament passage anywhere which tells us to kill in the name of Christ, or force people to get saved. Not one. The passage you mention (Matt. 5:27-30) is nothing of the sort, and I already explained its meaning in an above comment. So why do you even raise it Mike? Neither is there one thing Jesus did to provide an example of killing for the faith. Nor did any of his followers in the NT engage in any acts of coercion or violence against non-believers.

    The exact opposite, however, is true of the Koran and Muhammad. I trust you are not denying the many Koranic passages which speak of killing and using force for the faith, and denying the many militant, violent actions Muhammad and his immediate followers engaged in. If you are, then I greatly worry about your real agenda here.

    And again, we do not worship the same God. I take it you have not read the two suggested articles. But the case for this is made there, so I will not repeat the arguments here.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Mike. My point is that unless the muslim spiritual leaders in high influential places are converted to the Imam’s theology, the peaceful coexistence you want to establish will be a very fragile and superficial one. The measurement of your success will be the change we see on the ground. Can we expect freedom of assembly and freedom of worship by Buddhists, Bahais, Christians, Sufi and other beliefs in Muslim countries? Will their rights be respected and persecution and hostility cease? For their sake and even for the muslims’ sake, I hope you succeed.

    Barry Koh

  • Bill, if there is only one God, how can we be worshipping different Gods? If you are saying that the God worshipped by Muslims in not the one God, then however much you may find theological arguments for your view I think the logical, inevitable consequence of a position such as yours is global conflict.

    Barack Obama has written of “…the underlying struggle… between those who embrace our teeming, colliding, irksome diversity, while still insisting on a set of values that binds us together, and those who would seek, under whatever flag or slogan or sacred text, a certainty and simplification that justifies cruelty toward those not like us…”

    Unless Christians and Muslims can increasingly be part of the former dynamic, they will be (like many Christians – and Muslims are now) part of the latter tragedy.

    Edward Peters

  • Thanks Peter

    As to the one true God, yes the Bible makes it clear that there is only one. But it also makes it quite clear that there are false gods, false prophets, a real personal devil who comes to deceive, and doctrines of demons. And Paul even informs us that the worship of false gods is in fact the worship of demons (1 Cor. 10:20).

    And as to conflict, because we live in a fallen, sinful world, there will always be differences – whether religious, political, ideological, cultural, etc – and therefore there will always be conflict. The mere elimination of differences and conflict is not always the highest good, and it is not the highest priority as found in the Bible.

    Truth is vitally important, and so too is letting people know that not every religion will get people right with God, or lead them to heaven. Christianity is an exclusive religion, and the claims of Christ cannot be watered down in order to give people of other religions false hopes about their eternal destiny.

    It seems that the interfaith movement is all about peace on earth. But without the true Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, we will never have true and lasting peace on earth. Indeed, Jesus told us that wars would be with us until the end of time. While it is a good thing to try to work for peace on earth to some extent, the utopian and non-biblical quest for peace and social justice by means of laying aside all religious and political differences is not the way to go.

    People will not voluntarily lay aside all such differences, so the absence of disagreement and conflict can ultimately only be accomplished by coercion. Thus there was a sort of peace and absence of conflict in Saddam’s Iraq, in Soviet Russia, and in places like North Korea. Dictatorships will always produce relative peace and absence of conflict.

    And given the globalist agenda of Initiatives of Change, and its close relationship with the UN, it is clear that its agenda is a far cry from the agenda of the Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

    So I am not into all this sort of one-world religion and one-world government stuff as so many in the interfaith community seem to be striving for, even indirectly. And I am certainly not going to water down the absolute claims of Jesus Christ simply in order to get along in some sort of artificial peace and one-world collective.

    And it is interesting that you have conveniently not told us that you in fact work for “Initiatives of Change”, the interfaith group sponsoring this seminar.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, thanks for taking the trouble to reply personally to comments made. By the way, my name is Edward not Peter, but you are not the only one to find my name confusing!

    It is revealing that you think I have “conveniently not told us” that I work with IofC. It never occurred to me to mention this, as I was interested in addressing the spiritual issues being raised rather than arguing for a particular group’s position. But you seem to assume that I tried to hide something. (In fact I work for IofC in the UK, not Australia, and only came to this discussion through a Google Alert…)

    You seem to like putting everyone into a box – where you know exactly what they think, where they are wrong (or right), what their “agenda” is. So, I am in IofC, therefore my agenda must be “a far cry from the agenda of Jesus Christ…” Siti (see comments above) is a Sufi, therefore she is not as heretical as most Muslims. Etc etc.

    Well, I don’t buy this approach and I don’t find it very Christ-like. I go along with Bishop Tom Butler who said on BBC’s UK ‘Thought for the Day’ this week, “I’m disturbed by those who have terrible doubts about religion but I’m even more disturbed by those who have terrible certainties.”

    Truth is vitally important, you say. I couldn’t agree more. So let’s seek to deepen our understanding of God’s truth by listening to each other – really listening, not just hearing what we assume the other person thinks because of the label we have put on them.

    And why this obsession with “exclusiveness”? It may make you feel comfortable. But this was not the approach of Jesus – his whole life was about inclusiveness. Even those sayings of His which you use to “prove” the exclusivity of Christianity are (through the eyes of others who consider ourselves equally committed to follow Christ) proof of his unfathomably inclusive life and message.

    And for the record, IofC is not “into all this sort of one-world religion and one-world government stuff”, nor is it interested in “laying aside all religious and political differences”. It is a disparate network of people actively seeking to help bring change in the world by “each starting with change in our own lives”. Now isn’t that something we heard a good deal about from Jesus?

    Edward Peters

  • The ‘problem’ in the multi-faith dialogue, especially in the context of Islam, is that many of its proponents do not appear to: a) know God; b) know the Bible; and c) know much about Islam and especially its ability to selectively quote verses (at least in the West) which have been abrogated. The reality is that the two religions are completely incompatible and the only way to make them otherwise is to ‘interpret’ both lots of holy texts in a way that ceases to be either Christian or Islamic.

    To quote some examples from this thread to date: “I take seriously everything that Jesus said. ‘I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me’” but then later “Too often these words of Jesus have, I feel, been used in an arrogant way to suggest that we Christians are better than everyone else.” (Mike Lowe). Such a comment by Jesus is nothing to do with making Christians superior – it is about God and the only path available to Him for ALL mankind. Whether some, or even the collective minds of all mankind disagree with this claim by God is irrelevant! The only ‘arrogance’ is an attitude that man knows better than God.

    So, whereas Mike Lowe is perfectly entitled to say: “We will have to agree to differ on our understandings of salvation” in response to Bill’s comment that “there is no salvation apart from repentance and faith in Jesus Christ,” it doesn’t mean he is correct. All it does is to demonstrate that he too either rejects Jesus’ credentials as being God or the accuracy of the Bible (or both). However, such a position is only possible if a ‘different hermeneutic’ is applied to the Bible, i.e. it can basically mean anything you want. Equally, some of the comments about Islam are only possible if the Qur’an is read with a similar hermeneutic.

    If Bill’s comment in the most recent post is correct, then Mike Lowe’s stablemate, Edward Peters, comes out with another example of not only unbelief but also a lack of understanding of Islam when he says, “if there is only one God, how can we be worshipping different Gods? If you are saying that the God worshipped by Muslims in not the one God, then however much you may find theological arguments for your view I think the logical, inevitable consequence of a position such as yours is global conflict.” Here we see a position fundamental to many in the interfaith movement that we all worship one God whereas as Bill rightly demonstrated, other religions can have as many ‘gods’ (small ‘g’) as they want but they are not the one true God. To imply the Christian God is the same as Allah is breaking the second, and potentially the third commandment. Furthermore, the ultimate battleground is that between God and His opponents meaning that conflict IS inevitable. Quite what form that takes, though, is a separate issue.

    The most basic comparison of the two religions shows they are utterly incompatible as evidenced by the fact that where Sharia Law exists, it is a capital offense to convert to Christianity. Equally, on any of a number of comparisons of the God of the Bible with the Allah of the Qur’an, it can readily be shown they are poles apart. I will take just two of at least 14 possible comparisons: the reliability and faithfulness of God and Allah and also their relative attitude to unbelievers.

    The reliability and faithfulness of God and Allah
    Jesus claims to be the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6) and a major theme in the Bible is that God does not lie (Nu 23:19; Mal 3:6; 2Ti 2:13) nor does He deceive anyone, but He is a faithful and unchanging God (Heb 13:8) who can be trusted. God has chosen to make a number of covenants with His creation and He keeps them (e.g., His covenant with creation, Abraham, the Israelites, and David) although the ultimate and everlasting covenant is fulfilled through the blood of Jesus Christ (Hb 13:20; 12:24; Mt 26:28).

    Allah, however, is not bound by any covenant. He can change his mind, and he acts capriciously and can scheme (Sura 3:54; 8:30). The Qur’an even says “And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers” (Sura 3:54, Pickthall). If Allah, according to the Qur’an is portrayed as the best of deceivers, is it any wonder, therefore, that Islam has a doctrine of taqiyya as alluded to by Bill earlier in this thread?

    Attitude to unbelievers
    God says things like: “Live in peace with all men” (Hb 12:14) and “Love your enemies” (Mt 5:43-44). However, Allah commands his followers not to befriend (e.g. Sura 3:85; 4:144; 5:51; 5:80; 9:23; 58:14-15; 60:1; etc.), or obey (Sura 25:52; 26:151; 33:1; 76:24) non-Muslims with statements such as “No other religion will be tolerated but only Islam is acceptable to Allah” (Sura 3:85).

    Multi-faith – or another religion?
    Having attended an inter-faith forum last night to see for myself what was being said, it was apparent that the vast number of people in the audience (about 100) were not Bible-believing Christians but ones (if they did profess any form of Christianity) who wanted to ‘reinterpret’ the Bible. One of the speakers even stated that there must be more, critical INTRA-faith discussions where ALL the holy texts needed to be reinterpreted. Put simply, the vast majority there were promoting what was tantamount to another religion. Once again, that is their choice, but one can only wonder how much the doctrine of taqiyya is being adopted into this new religion.

    As a matter of interest, the meeting closed with a promotion of the DVD of the Nigerian pastor and imam.

    Roger Birch

  • Thanks Edward

    Apologies for the name mixup. Yes, it is obvious that you are not into certainties. The New Testament is of course full of certainties, or exclusive truth claims, which is why so many people reject it. The spirit of the age is all about relativism, subjectivism, fuzzy notions of tolerance and acceptance, and denial of absolute truth.

    Am I obsessed with exclusiveness? Only as much as Jesus was. No one can read passages such John 3:18; 5:24; 6:46-47; 8:44; 10:7-11; and 14:6 (to name but a few) without acknowledging that Jesus was absolutely into exclusiveness. He was so much into exclusiveness that he said over and over again that those who reject him as the sole way to salvation will spend a lost eternity in hell.

    That does not sound very tolerant or inclusive or mushy or sentimental. That is because Jesus was none of those things and was not into that sort of stuff.

    As to your last question, the answer is no, it does not at all sound like what Jesus said. He never said just look into yourself and your own resources and then seek to bring peace and harmony to the world. He never said just dig deeper into whatever religion or philosophy you are into and things will be just fine. He never said we are all acceptable with God just as we are, so don’t worry about it. He never said a bit of self-help and picking oneself up by one’s own bootstraps will do the trick. He said the exact opposite of those things. I am sorry, but no one objectively reading the four Gospels or the rest of the NT can come away with that sentimental, feel-good, ecumenical self-helpism.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill for starting the discussion that we must have. Recently I came across an account from a Christian about going to an interfaith panel discussion and how some members of the audience who were Christian asked prickly questions, like the koran tells MUslims not to take Christians as friends, death for apostasy and how come Christians don’t object to Muslims calling Jesus Issa and saying he’s coming back to destroy Christianity.

    It seems the Muslim panel member wasn’t used to this sort of question and tried to worm his way out of it. At one point, he even claimed Christians were all Muslims.
    I would have objected to this if I’d been there. You can read about it on

    http://islammonitor.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1752&Itemid=96

    Stephanie Williams

  • if there is only one God, how can we be worshipping different Gods?

    Edward, I’m not quite sure what to make of this comment of yours. Are you suggesting that a person who worships any God at all is in fact worshipping the one true God? Such an idea is obviously false.

    Men make god in their image. Such is the pride of mankind. Scripture tells us the opposite, that we are made in His image, not He in ours.

    There may be many gods. By definition, all are false gods, except one (as it is quite illogical to try to argue that there could be two omnipotent beings) … unless you plan to argue that its okay to worship really powerful beings, rather than the sole omnipotent one.

    What I do understand is this idea of placating Muslims by claiming that we all worship the one God. You know a tree by its fruit. The word apostasy comes to mind.

    Stephen Frost, Melbourne

  • Further to my previous post, someone may try to argue this:

    If Muslims have in mind “the one true God” as the object of their worship (and I have no reason to doubt their sincerity in this regard), then isn’t that enough?

    Well, no, it isn’t. Here’s the rub. Either Jesus is the Son of God, co-equal with and proceeding from the Father … or He isn’t … and if He isn’t, He’s an imposter. But Christians think He is and is therefore worthy of our worship.

    If He is, then He is worthy of our worship. To not worship him is in itself a sin, an offence against the very nature of God.

    So Muslims (and the interfaith movement) need to address some questions, such as:
    — is Jesus = God, or isn’t He
    — Christians say he is and worship Him as God … are they right to do so, or not?
    — is it an offence against Allah to worship Jesus as God?

    There are probably half a dozen other critical questions that need to be addressed head on, so lets not mince words here.

    I have yet to meet a Muslim who will agree that Jesus is God. They agree that He is a prophet. Therefore we each have something completely different in mind, and so “no”, we are not worshipping the same God.

    Stephen Frost, Melbourne

  • A very good video on the true nature of Islam is now available to view on Google Video. ISLAM: What the West Needs to Know consists mostly of interviews of experts on Islam such as Robert Spencer, Bat Ye’or, Walid Shoebat, and Serge Trifkovic. The official website is here.

    Ewan McDonald

  • As Bill knows, I am an Atheist who is enthusiastic for the Bible.
    When I read these posts, my heart cries out.
    No doubt, the Gospels are the core of Christianity. But why restrict ourselves to the Gospels when challenging Islam?

    There is so much other merit in the Bible, that could be used.
    Lets consider the audience we are trying to reach. What I am trying to do is listen to that audience and find the parts of the Bible that will speak clearly to them.

    What I suggest is, if you like, an extra weapon in our armoury, that we could use to demonstrate the overwhelming superiority of the Bible to the Qur’an.

    I would suggest that, for many Muslims, and perhaps Secular People, a good place to start would be the Book of Proverbs.

    Proverbs is the part of the Bible that, in style, is similar to the Qur’an, so good for direct comparison.

    One thing I would like to do, is have a Muslim explain why the Qur’an is better guidance for life than the Book of Proverbs.
    They won’t be able to. The Qur’an is clearly inferior.

    Dear Siti khatijah,
    (And others who know the Qur’an)
    What do you think of this approach?
    Compare the Qur’an with the Book of Proverbs.
    Suppose you had the choice of neighbours.
    One who lived by the Qur’an.
    One who lived by Provebs.
    Which would you prefer, and why?
    I would of course, much prefer one who lived by Proverbs.
    It has much wisdom that is not in the Qur’an.
    It is much better expressed.

    Blessings for your day,

    David Cohan

    (ps, I certainly find merit in other parts of the Bible, if I have time, I will address them another post)

  • David Cohan, I completely agree with you that there is much in the Qur’an that is inferior to the Bible and could comment at length on such differences. Equally, my heart also cries out for those people who don’t have an assurance of their belief such as Bishop Tom Butler, plus those who apparently share his views, who (in the quote earlier in this thread) claimed to be: “even more disturbed by those who have terrible certainties.”

    However, I‘m somewhat puzzled by your own position. You describe yourself as “an Atheist who is enthusiastic for the Bible” but then talk of the “audience WE are trying to reach” and “an extra weapon in OUR armoury” (emphasis added) which almost implies you place yourself in the Christian camp.

    Without in any way wishing to be disrespectful, the reality is that the Bible is far more than a “better guidance for life.” I would therefore like to briefly comment on your suggested approach of using Proverbs and then make an additional comment regarding the Gospels, especially that of John.

    Proverbs is one of the books in the Old Testament referred to as Wisdom Literature. The sequence of these books has been lost in our modern English versions, but if you go to the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, which is based on the Codex Leningradensis, the oldest known complete surviving copy of the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible dated 1008, then we find a different – and potentially very interesting – sequence, namely Psalms, Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. Very simplistically, Psalms is unique in the Bible in that it is man talking to God and covering many of the basic issues of life. Job says that not all bad things come from God. Proverbs, as you rightly point out, relates to ‘good living’. The final chapter of Proverbs is about the Godly wife which then is followed by an example of one such wife, I.e. Ruth, which in turn is followed by the sexual side of marriage in Song of Solomon.

    Finally, there is Ecclesiastes in which Solomon, the man given wisdom from God, talks about the various aspects of wisdom. However, the whole of this series of wisdom books can effectively be summed up in the final two verses of Ecclesiastes: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Ecc 12:13-14)”

    So, whereas Proverbs does indeed contain some wonderful words of wisdom, they are only part of the larger collection of wisdom literature. However, if God is removed from the equation, then they merely become another way of life – albeit one better than recommended in the Qur’an with its call to violence as has been posted elsewhere.

    Bringing this into the New Testament, John states that his purpose in writing his Gospel was “so that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing you may have life in His name” (Jn 20:31). Throughout his Gospel, John demonstrates to the Jewish leaders of the day almost by way of a legal defense that they have completely missed the whole point of the Old Testament. It is not merely a set of rules – or even a way of life – but it points to Him. John therefore provides the hermeneutic by which we should read the Old Testament, the one which the Jewish leaders failed to see. Furthermore, he shows that the new promises in Jesus are far superior to those of the Old Testament.

    Again, with the greatest of respect, if this crucial aspect of the Bible is omitted, then whether we are trying to reach a Muslim – or an atheist – we are not being faithful to its teaching.

    The Jewish leaders knew precisely that Jesus was stating He was God and that was why they killed Him. That claim is just as ‘offensive’ today to non-believers of whatever form as it was back then. However, it remains just as true today as it did back then and any attempt to water down that message has major, inherent problems.

    It is apparent from the inter-faith movement that it is not just Islam using a fifth column, but also those people, like the Bishop quoted above, who are NOT certain of their own belief and who then try to promulgate that unbelief on others.

    Roger Birch

  • There are a lot of good points in this thread. But we do need to be discerning about comments such as:
    “Those differences are what has caused the conflict in the first place.” (James Scott)
    “I think the logical, inevitable consequence of a position such as [Bill’s] is global conflict” (Peter Edwards)

    Bill seems to use “conflict” to mean “differences of opinion”, including verbal debate. This is the dictionary definition. But it seems to me that some other people might use “conflict” to mean “violence”, physical conflict, conflict that damages people emotionally or physically. Therefore it is worth noting that “differences” do not cause physical conflict (ie violence). Violence is a choice some people take as a means to remove opposition. And Bill’s position may result in global conflict. But any global violence will not be _caused_ by people like Bill who talk and debate but eschew violence. Any view that a victim causes the violence must be rejected.

    We should not lose the big picture. James Scott wrote, “in some of those places, including Nigeria, the Christians are just as guilty of horrific actions as the Muslims”. Let’s look at the big picture. How many mosques have been burnt in Nigeria over the last ten years? How many more churches? Why do riots often happen after Friday prayers? What has been the impact of church leaders calling their congregations to peace? Why do minorities such as Christians, Bahais and others face such a torrid time in so many Muslim-majority countries?

    Mike, I admire you for trying to build bridges and trying to practice James 1:19. I agree that the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) is not about who needs to convert. It is about _who_ we should treat well. Jesus’ point was that we need to treat everyone well, not just those who agree with us, or who are of the same religion. Jesus was speaking to a Jew, but this is a standard of the kingdom of heaven that does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity. I call on everyone, including Muslims, to reflect this, including towards those who disagree with them.

    Mike, you claim that Jesus did not demand that the Samaritans convert. You are correct: Jesus was too much of a gentleman to _demand_ this. But Jesus did call Samaritans to follow him as the saviour of the world (Jn 4:22-25, 39, 41-42). And somehow, when Jesus went to a dinner party, people repented from wrongdoing and followed him.

    Mike, you wrote that you were “not interested in trying to do any kind of ‘objective’ comparison”. That statement surprises me, because you make a lot of comparisons. But I don’t see how it is relevant to Bill’s concern. The concern in this case is not about who is a better person, or primarily even which religion is right. In this case, the concern is primarily that a Muslim evangelist was allegedly claiming things that seem wildly inaccurate compared with the practice of his own religion in most Muslim-majority countries. For example, your idea that “there is no compulsion in Islam” is so different to how Islam is practiced in most Muslim-majority countries that it would be laughable if the situation was not so serious. Even your comment about plucking out an eye: there is a vast difference between Jesus’ big exaggeration about people plucking out their own eyes, and violence against others.

    Any dialogue needs in the end to develop trust. Let’s not hide or obscure this big problem.

    James Wheeler

  • David,

    You stated: “I am an Atheist who is enthusiastic for the Bible.”

    How can you be enthusiastic for the Bible when it is “breathed out by God” in whom you don’t believe? This same Bible says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). Do you believe this?

    You are enthusiastic for using the Book of Proverbs when engaging with Muslims. It is this Book of Proverbs that states, “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar” (Prov. 30:5-6).

    The Koran has clearly added to God’s Word and God’s Word calls for a rebuke and those people are called liars on the basis of Prov. 30.

    Your combination of calling yourself an atheist, being enthusiastic for the Bible, and recommending the Book of Proverbs, is an interesting amalgamation. Doesn’t this create a lot of tension? Or are you an atheist who is changing his views like Antony Flew?

    Sincerely,
    Spencer Gear, Hervey Bay, Qld.

  • Hi Spencer,
    Thanks for your comments. Obviously, as I am an Atheist, there are things we do not agree on. And you can certainly quote the Bible against me. No, I’m not changing like Flew (maybe just more stubborn). There is tension, not from internal inconsistency, but from feeling rather alone.

    But I come back to my main point. How do you reach people that at present you are not reaching? You can keep trying the same messages, or you can try a different one (Proverbs instead of Gospels, say)

    It’s a matter of what will be significant to the target audience, to meet them where they are, and bring them across.

    Anyway, I’ve tried to help.

    David Cohan

  • Reading any of the articles at this site will dispell any pretension of Islam is a ‘religion of peace’.
    http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/

    Make sure you scroll down to this chart: ‘List of Islamic Terror Attacks For the Past 2 Months’

    Jennifer Parfenovics

  • Hi David
    Whereas I appreciate your idea about using Proverbs, I would suggest that you have provided your own answer as to why the idea doesn’t work in that you remain an atheist despite seeing the value of the teaching!

    As I said in my previous response to you, your suggestion to use Proverbs as a means to “bring people across” omits the ‘God factor.’

    So, with all due respect, my concern for ANY suggestion that removes the God factor, and especially the ‘offense’ of the cross, is that all we will do – at best – is create fair-weather Christians who are Christians in name only. We may even create zealots for the cause who will go to war – but bring the name of Christianity into disrepute because they do not understand, or follow, its teachings.

    Although God does the drawing, we as individuals still have our part to play and so I am not opposed to any suggestion as to how we can reach people which is why I appreciate your comments.

    However, one of the reasons I am so concerned about the inter-faith movement as a whole is that God has not given us the option of negotiating a deal with other belief systems. Jesus said “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Such a command cannot be cast aside for sheer numbers.

    Roger Birch

  • I have been most intrigued by the discussion about this post. I feel out of my depth here from an academic and intellectual perspective, but I want to quote St. Francis of Assisi; “Go forth and preach the Gospel, and if necessary use words”. Our actions, our integrity, and our credibiility as believers and followers of Jesus is summed up not only in what we believe in, but also in how we act it out. Reading a book recommended to me recently, by Norm Geisler and Randy Douglass; “Bringing Your Faith to Work: Answers for Break-Room Skeptic” highlighted to me that we need to ‘walk our talk’. I have had interaction with many Muslims AND Christians in the marketplace. It is NOT the validity of the argument: Bible vs.Quran, nor is it a works-based view that is important. It is about fruit. It is all about fruit. how can one promote the Gospel and appeal to unbelievers if we are not the the real deal, God fearing – neighbour loving, authentic Salt and Light to the earth? As far is Jesus is concerned, He didn’t compromise – He loved…
    Justin Lippiatt

  • David,

    You stated: “But I come back to my main point. How do you reach people that at present you are not reaching? You can keep trying the same messages, or you can try a different one (Proverbs instead of Gospels, say)
    “It’s a matter of what will be significant to the target audience, to meet them where they are, and bring them across.”

    That seems to be your methodology in trying to reach people. But the Gospel cannot be compromised in its presentation, no matter what the cultural resistance. There are people in Australia who are responding to the Christ-centred Gospel where churches engage in evangelism. This is also happening in Peru, China, the Congo, etc.

    Throughout church history, the church has not needed marketing techniques to present the Gospel. I am not saying that we don’t have to be sensitive to cultural differences, but I’ll speak for me: I will not flinch from presenting the bad news with the good news.

    Dealing with sinful rebellion is always significant to the target audience and the Gospel addresses that core need.

    Sincerely,
    Spencer Gear, Hervey Bay Q.

  • I have been away and only today had the time to check the discussions here. I have to work for a living!Dear David Cohan, i am willing to read and share with you if you would be willing to check http://www.ibnarabisociety.org. my Sufi teaching (islamic) is that the movement which is the existence of this universe is the movement of love. this reconciles more with Jesus teachings than with the passages you have quoted in the Qur’an this is where Bill has said many times that he understands there are Sufi’s who wish to do good and live peacefully ( i understand the point about “alot of good people will still go to hell”-i dont quite agree there but i respect Bill’s belief . I agree with Justin, Jesus loved..thats the secret of this universe because when you love you cherish there is no destruction there is only respect for all creatures great and small and their differences ) There is only one realm and that is love, we must not lower God to our standard but bring ourselves up to His.This is what Sufi teaches and we reconcile Jesus and Mohammed not in the physical sense (for his kingdom were not of this world)but in the spiritual realm of where they are from as with all the the main ones Abraham,Moses Adam and so forth. This is not the real world merely an illusion and we have to try to penetrate the veil to find beyond what seems,what the naked eye cannot perceive . If I was born into Islam and understand that unconditional love is the prerequisite for growth and preservation (as oppossed hate and fear for destruction)and live this everyday then might you not inquire where i got this from if i have never read the bible and why Ray Robinson said I sound like i would make a good Christian. As for the differences I believe it is deliberate on God’s part for exactly this debate that we have here.Whos is better?Which Book is better or worse (in point). The Christians are known as the People of the Book in the Qur’an which to me shows a lot of respect as they are learned and have proven that they can be succesfull in this world, very reasoned and mature ,can agree to disagree. what is it about the Qur’an that says it is okay to go to war. I have said before that it is not to be taken literally and that Sharia without Internal Wisdom (the commandment “he who knows himself will know his Lord” applies here )will come to naught as we see and witness. yes i know that you say there is no wisdom in the Qur’an ,there is none if the surahs are taken literrally, there is only madness and it is now proven.We have absolutely NO RIGHT to take a life any life even the ant has their purpose and I say this from the bottom of my heart. I know that Jesus is alive and He can hear me now and I would not lie about your faith or any ones faith. there are many hidden meanings to it and there is more than 1 meaning to every surah there is in there. You are all correct when you say that the majority Moslems dont even know the Qur’an their own faith (and therefore cannot answer difficult questions yet wishes to cast the stone). As to the life and times of Mohammed there is a Qur’an that we can read and go through together by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and discuss it.There are Islamic theology by Sheikh Abdul Qadir Al Jilani :The Removal of Cares”,”The Sublime Revelation”,”Revelations of the Unseen” which teaches humans to detach from this world because we are in transit ,we are in this world but not of this world. There is another by Toshihiko Izutsu “creation and the timeless order of things” where he discussess the Qur’anic verses of Creation and reveals the transformation of the the heart (physically and spiritually) when we are in Unity with God the Creator. There are deeper meanings and these surah’s are red herrings for those who wish to use it for their bad purposes and there are revealed the connection of the 25 messengers in the Bezels of Wisdom by Ibn Arabi in the website above. These takes years of learning and digesting and translating and discourse and for the majority of Moslems they deny and use the Qur’an for destruction yet there is evidence to the contrary as well which is ignored. I am not here to convert you but i must now speak up about Islamic Sufism and I believe you will have the choice to investigate this claim. This is why the Sufi’s are persecuted because the majority do not understand the Qur’an and manifest destruction in behaviour . When a moslem wants you to be a moslem he really thinks he is the superhero of the moment in trying to convert you to salvation ( i am not defending merely knowing their mindset). They cannot even explain why the Qur’an says “there is no compulsion in religion” because it contradicts other passages a s you have pointed out. To find out why we are made in the image of God and in His nature we must go inward and not outward as revealed in my Sufism. I am not just on a journey of self improvement this is my salvation too and i am not here to convince anyone by all means read and tear it to shreds if you will all i am saying here is without those who are in destruction Sufism cannot come out and now it is time for the molems themselves to delve into this.
    Siti Khatijah.

  • I dont mane to offend any believes with reconciliation of jesus and Mohammed ,please dont take offense there is too much to explain.
    Siti Khatijah.

  • Today, there was an interesting news report on the Pope’s comments that cast doubts on the possibility of interfaith dialogue but called for more discussions of the practical consequence of religious differences. He said in theological terms, a true dialogue is not possible without putting one’s faith in parentheses. The current interfaith dialogue led by the Pastor and Imam is just another theoretical academic discussion that does not practically address or solve issues on the ground. Persecution and hostility against other faiths continues in muslims countries. Where is the peace the two talk about?
    Barry Koh

  • Mike, sorry about the belatedness of this comment, but you made a point (17th Nov.) that the omission of a question time at the seminar presentation of the Imam and the Pastor might have been due to time constraints, rather than to shield the Nigerian speakers from questions:
    Yes, certainly it was not the Nigerians’ initiative to forbid questions. Somebody I know confirmed this a few days later by specifically asking Pastor James Wuye about this. On the contrary, the two Nigerians love to have question times. However, the decision not to have a question time was not a matter of time constraint. It was clearly predetermined by the person or persons who organised the event (see my earlier comment – 13th Nov). What is debatable is their reason for doing so.
    Prior to the event, I understand that certain Christians had already attempted to dialogue with one of the leaders who brought the Nigerians to the National Prayer Breakfast. They submitted their concerns, but the response they reportedly received was — from what I can gather — somewhat dismissive.
    But I know that those who had voiced their concerns were people quite knowledgeable about Interfaith and Islam, and are respected Christian leaders. So, it is clear that whatever the reason for the decision not to allow questions, it was made in the context of their being fully aware that there was going to be a strong climate of disapproval among the audience.
    In my opinion, the reason was not to “shield the Nigerians” but rather to shield the other half of the audience who were not aware of the “agenda” behind the visitors’ mission. If we had had the chance to ask questions and challenge them (including the host of the event), then many others in the audience would have been alerted to that. And I do believe the agenda is something quite undesirable for Christians.
    As Bill related, there was a standing ovation from the audience after the Nigerians’ presentation. I think the warm glow of the Imam and the Pastor’s friendly pantomime enraptured everybody — to some degree I got caught up in it myself. But there was an agenda and it was being successfully played out, in my opinion to the general disadvantage of all.
    Islam has an international political agenda. The first step in a country like Australia is to psychologically disarm the society by presenting itself as harmless. The objective is exactly what is also achieved by Interfaith meetings. Not so much to convert people to Islam as to present Islam as as innocuous, so that “Christians” who think the are not Muslims effectively go about promoting Islam without realising what they are doing.
    This paves the way for the subtle introduction of elements of Islamic law. Less Christians will oppose Islamic developments, such as permitting alternative sharia law for Muslims, Islamic banking, and special rights in various institutions like prayer rooms, designated swimming pool days for Muslims, and so on. When legislation such as religious vilification laws, which effectively put into practice the Islamic sharia blasphemy laws, are introduced, instead of taking to the streets in outrage, Christians just sit to the side and clap.
    If we allow ourselves to be charmed by personalities, we will be deceived into handing our nation over to a new, antichristian system without a shot being fired. This is the agenda to which I referred. I would be interested Mike and others on your comments and what you see as the “agenda” of this worldwide tour, and of similar “interfaith” activities.

    Harvey Brice, Sydney.

  • Harvey,
    You asked about the ‘agenda’ of the interfaith movement. Maybe the real question should be “what is the ‘hidden’ agenda?”

    On the positive side, the interfaith movement can be seen as examining ways how we can all live together in harmony and to respect one another’s differences. However, such a position is based on trust and mutual understanding with no ‘hidden agendas’. The problem is that there is a substantial amount of literature emerging on different hidden agendas.

    For example, you mentioned the first step in the political agenda of Islam. Mark Gabriel in “Islam and Terrorism” talks of three stages of Jihad where Muslims go from being a weak minority who basically submit to the law of the land with comments such as “there is no compulsion in religion” to eventually fully-blown jihad once the minority has strength, influence and power and at which point they actively fight to overturn the non-Islamic system with an Islamic one.

    It is also claimed that for Sufis, “our Islam is the inner journey towards salvation” (e.g. siti khatija 11/11/08 above). Now the writer may genuinely believe this, but T.P. Hughes’ Dictionary of Islam, Published in Lahore states that Sufi writers say there are two Jihads: Al-Jihadu’l-Akbar, or “the greater warfare”, which is against one’s own lusts; and Al-Jihadu’l-Asghar, or “the lesser warfare”, against infidels. Who do we believe? Do we simply accept this ‘softened’ view which is attractive to Western liberals because it supposedly embraces tolerance, or is there another hidden agenda?

    But, can we identify the hidden agendas of the inter-faith movement? Clearly, any generalization would be difficult, but the parable of the Arab and the camel comes to mind. For those who don’t know it:

    One cold night, as an Arab sat in his tent, a camel gently thrust his nose under the flap and looked in. “Master,” he said, “let me put my nose in your tent. It’s cold and stormy out here.” “By all means,” said the Arab, “and welcome” as he turned over and went to sleep. A little later the Arab awoke to find that the camel had not only put his nose in the tent but his head and neck also. The camel, who had been turning his head from side to side, said, “I will take but little more room if I place my forelegs within the tent. It is difficult standing out here.” “Yes, you may put your forelegs within,” said the Arab, moving a little to make room, for the tent was small. Finally, the camel said, “May I not stand wholly inside? I keep the tent open by standing as I do.” “Yes, yes,” said the Arab. “Come wholly inside. Perhaps it will be better for both of us.” So the camel crowded in. The Arab with difficulty in the crowded quarters again went to sleep. When he woke up the next time, he was outside in the cold and the camel had the tent to himself.

    Roger Birch

  • Thanks Siti

    You raise a lot of points which I cannot address in (what is supposed to be) a short comment. So I may do a whole article soon on Sufism if time permits. Thanks again.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • There is a major problem with ‘interfaith dialogue’ in the context of ‘organised dialogue’ and ‘interfaith networks’, which are being established around Australia following encouragement by a booklet published through the Living in Harmony project. The problem is that one is expected to not openly criticise other beliefs. It is not considered ‘good form’. The notion of respecting the person gets somewhat confused with the idea of respecting the actual beliefs or the religion.
    As a Christian we should love the person, but we must claim the exclusive nature of the truth presented by Jesus Christ – that He is the only way to the Father.

    As to the acceptance and promotion of interfaith activity by IofC. . .
    A few years ago I attended a meeting at the IofC headquarters in Melbourne – it was a private function, organised by someone who had merely rented the room. Since we had previously known people who were involved in Moral Rearmament, whilst there I took the opportunity to investigate – l looked at the book table and chatted to those in charge etc.

    It was obvious that if one wasn’t prepared to accept that everyone can choose their own path and then do good from that premise, then either you wouldn’t hang around very long to get involved, or would be made to feel that sort of response was inappropriate. Just the week before, so the co-ordinators told me, a group of Buddhist monks had come to the centre (as part of the actual centre’s activities, not just renting space) to pray and have a celebration.

    Jenny Stokes

  • Mr Roger Birch, perhaps i didnt make my self quite clear. what i am trying to say is that the moslems need to change and urgently because they are causing to much bloodshed in this world and this must stop. It must. So whether you suspect my motives or not , that is not material what the Sufi’s have to do is be more verbal and tell the majority moslems to leave well alone. To leave others alone and respect their path in this world . To accept there are differences. To understand that it is not our place to disrespect other people. It is not our right . Every being has his place in this world. The moslems must change the momentum to one of getting our own house in order and respect others. That is my agenda . To gain back some self respect for the moslems who have shamed us so much.
    Thank you Bill for giving me a voice which is more than what the majority moslems would have done for you.
    Siti Khatijah.

  • Siti,
    I can fully appreciate how you see the need for, and would also like to change the current face of Islam and, as I said earlier, you may well be very genuine in your beliefs. However, my basic contention with Islam as a whole is that the only way you can achieve your stated goal is to avoid a straight reading of much of the Qur’an.

    A religion which: a) is based on a holy text which, as you appear to admit, if taken literally leads to a violence; b) that can have the doctrine of taqiyya; and c) has its god (who I would strongly deny as being the same as the Christian triune God) described as the best of schemers (Sura 3:54), must have the closest possible scrutiny placed upon it. I am not saying you practice taqiyya. However, I have commented earlier on your Sufi view of jihad and in your post of 25/11, you make another comment which creates concern.

    In that post, you said: “The Christians are known as the People of the Book in the Qur’an which to me shows a lot of respect…”. Now the Qur’an shows that while Muhammad was weak, he taught that Jews and Christians may enter paradise (Sura 2:5, 62) which would support your view. But, when he became strong, that changed such that all who disbelieved the Qur’an would be sent to Hell (Sura 5:86) and that Allah has cursed the Jews and Christians (Sura 4:51-52).

    Then, in what is probably the latest, chronologically, of all the Suras, the final stage of how Muslims should treat the People of the Book was prescribed, i.e. “fight with those of them who have been brought the Book, who believe not in God nor in the Last Day, and who forbid not what God and His apostle have forbidden, and who hold not the true religion, until they give tribute [i.e. the jizyah tax] out of hand and be humbled” (Sura 9:5, 29). This does not sound to me like a command to give Christians a lot of respect!

    I know you argue that the suras should not be taken literally, but then liberal Christians argue the same about the Bible. Ironically, those who follow the straight reading of the Bible will, or at least should be guilty of excessive love whereas those who follow the straight reading of the Qur’an are those whom you yourself criticize for their violence. I also readily accept that not all Christians are characterized by an excess of love in the same way that not all Muslims are characterized by an excess of violence!

    But – and it’s a big ‘but’ – how do we get the vast majority Muslims to reject large sections of their holy text and, if they did, would they still be Muslims? Equally problematically, how do we get the vast majority of Christians to ACCEPT their holy text in full! In the interim, we have ‘inter-faith’ dialogue between people with all sorts of variants of their particular religion and each with their own hidden agendas.

    Roger Birch

  • Roger, to imply that later Sura’s have greater authority than earlier Sura’s goes against classical Islamic scholarship which was always more thoughtful and nuanced. The Koran, like the Bible, is open to interpretation. Indeed both books have to be interpreted. Even those who claim to take them literally are, in fact, interpreting simply by choosing which particular scriptures to apply to a particular situation.

    As with the most thoughtful Christian scholars, the best Islamic scholars will always try to look at the particular historical and cultural context for any verse of scripture. I am not an Islamic scholar, so I would not attempt to comment on the Sura’s you quote above. But I do know enough to say that is is not simply a matter of the later Suras trumping the earlier ones.

    Mike Lowe

  • Thanks Mike

    But here you go again with more theological equivalence. This time you are trying to weasel your way out of the plain differences between Islam and Christianity by giving us this tired, ‘it’s all a matter of interpretation’ line. Sorry, but I am still not buying it. If a Martian came to earth and read the Gospels, then read the Koran, there would be no question in his (its) mind that clear and compelling differences exist between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Muhammad, not just on the issue of religious violence, but on many key issues.

    Sure, as fallen human beings we all interpret everything we read, but Jesus Christ himself promised that the Spirit would guide and lead us into all truth. That does not mean we will have perfect understanding, or exhaustive understanding, but we can have true understanding of Scripture. Thus while minor differences can exist, on the fundamentals Christians are united. And those fundamentals are nicely expressed in the Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed for example.

    Your position is far more in keeping with postmodernist writings than the writings of the New Testament. Indeed, you remind me of another sceptic: it was Nietzsche who said there are no facts, only interpretations.

    And the Islamic doctrines of naskh and mansukh are hardly fringe doctrines in Islamic theology. They are not only expressly taught in the Koran itself, but are part of mainstream Islamic theological and legal discussion.

    Finally, can I humbly make this observation? If it were not for your claim that you in fact are a Christian, pretty much everything you have thus far written would lead most objective readers to the conclusion that you are actually a Muslim evangelist and apologist. Of course there is nothing wrong with that – if you are a Muslim. One expects that of Muslims. But one does not expect that of someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ.

    You have spent all your time here standing up for the claims of Islam, while critiquing those who would defend the exclusive truth claims of biblical Christianity. All this leaves many of us very puzzled indeed.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, it seems to me that rather than engaging seriously with my arguments you are just labeling me as an Islamic apologist in an attempt to dismiss what I am saying. Be assured. I am a Christian – one who takes seriously the Sermon on the Mount. May I remind you: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

    My concern in these forums comes from a concern for truth and for peace. In my last comment I was pointing out an obvious flaw in Roger’s exegesis. You could also have pointed it out (or do you also believe that later Suras automatically take precedence over earlier ones).

    The events in Mumbai are further proof that there are plenty of people who want to provoke conflict between Islam and the rest of the world. As someone who is called to peacemaking I want to help prevent that conflict. It seems to me that a good way to do that is to support those Muslims who interpret their scriptures as supporting peace, forgiveness and respect for people of other faiths. For me, it is not about ‘weaseling my way out’ of anything, but out of a Biblical injunction to be a peacemaker, and a Biblical injunction to hunger and thirst for righteousness.

    Bill, you have clearly studied Islam more than I have. But again I ask you, where does your knowledge of Islam come from? From Muslims or from books written by Christians or others hostile to Islam? To do the latter would be akin to trying to understand Christianity from the writings of Richard Dawkins, or from someone who had converted from Christianity to Islam. Just as it would be better to learn about Christianity from a mature believer, surely the best way to learn about Islam is from mature and educated Muslims. Although you keep trying to assure people that Islam is a religion of violence, there are many, many Muslims (including the vast majority of Muslims in Australia) who say something different. I want to support their interpretation of Islam.

    Karen Armstrong once made the telling accusation that ‘most religious people would rather be right than loving’. This, I believe, is at the root of most religious conflicts. Whatever you think of Karen Armstrong, I think all believers would do well to meditate on these words.

    Mike Lowe

  • Hi People,

    I have just been browsing Melbourne Uni website and came across this gem.

    http://uninews.unimelb.edu.au/news/5228/

    Inside Muslim Minds

    [ The University of Melbourne Voice Vol. 3, No. 3 9 June – 13 July 2008 ]

    By Silvia Dropulich

    The Islamic world is a diverse and changing world and the beauty of the Qur’an is in its emphasis on justice, HUMANISM (my capitals), mercy, compassion and charity, according to Professor Riaz Hassan.

    Yes it really does say humanism!!!

    I seen it, but I don’t believe it!!!

    Islam is about submission to the will of Allah. How this is consistent with humanism is beyond me.

    My working definition of Islam is increasingly “the religion of wonderful but meaningless adjectives.”

    Cheers

    David Cohan

  • Thanks Mike

    Thanks for the reply, but I am afraid your assurances are not all that reassuring. Your latest response is simply more of the same. I am glad you like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Muslims like it too. So do atheists and secularists and Hindus and Buddhists, because it seems to speak so much about love and so on. It does, but it is no safe haven for the interfaith crowd I am afraid. That is because this key teaching of Jesus also contains some pretty exclusive truth claims. Let me refer you to just one: 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

    Do you take that passage seriously Mike? What is Jesus teaching us here? Is he telling us that all religious roads lead to God, and that all religious leaders are equally authoritative? And I must respectfully remind you that there are 25 other chapters in Matthew, and 26 other books in the New Testament. How seriously do you take them? You speak of a concern for truth, but so far it has been the truth of Islam that I see you being concerned about, not the truth of Christianity.

    I have already spoken to the doctrines of naskh and mansukh. If mainstream Islam accepts them, why do you continue to downplay them, especially when you admit to being not all that knowledgeable about Islam? It was not Roger who needed correction on this, but you.

    And sorry, but being a peacemaker has nothing to do with diluting Christian truth claims, and trying to make Islam into something it is not. Are there moderate, peaceful Muslims? Sure. But the real issue is this: is Islam itself a moderate, peaceful religion? Few objective observers can answer this question in the affirmative.

    And your question about my knowledge of Islam is actually quite bizarre. My knowledge of Islam comes from the same place your knowledge should come from, but apparently does not. It comes from the Koran, the hadith and the Siras. Have you ever actually read the Koran Mike? Which of the six authorised collections of the hadith do you regularly consult Mike? And how many early biographies of Muhammad have you read Mike?

    Also, your analogy is quite off the mark. Here is the correct one: Talking only to Muslims for your knowledge of Islam is like talking only to Christians without ever reading the Gospels, the New Testament and perhaps the early church fathers for knowledge of Christianity. A person will get a very distorted picture of what Jesus said and did if that is the case.

    Finally, you would of course look to Karen Armstrong for inspiration. A perfect choice from your point of view. But not if you are trying to be objective. The former Catholic nun is one of the biggest Muslim apologists around. Her whitewashed treatments of Muhammad and Islam have worried many. And of course now she is leading the charge to implement her religious globalist ‘Charter for Compassion’ project.

    And I certainly do not accept at all her – and your – false distinction. It is not a question of either being right or loving, but being both right and loving. Jesus was the perfect mix of this. He was right, he was the truth, and he was loving. But truth was never compromised by Jesus in the interests of some feel-good sentimentalism, or in some vague effort to just get along. Because truth (being right) was so vitally important to Jesus, he could say in Luke 12:51: “Do you suppose that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, No; but rather division”. Read the entire pericope Mike (49-53).

    You have admitted to us your ignorance about Islam. I suggest before you go any further in your interfaith crusade, you actually study what Islam is about, and from its own authoritative sources, not from second-hand conversations. And perhaps do a bit more study about what Christianity is about as well. And try to use someone other than Armstrong as you do this. The original sources would be a good place to start.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Mike
    Looking at your last two responses, what ARE your arguments? Your comments appear to be more ad hominem with an implicit superiority of intellect on your part, or apparent statements of ‘fact’ which are not necessarily as factual as you assert. You raise the topic of ‘classical scholarship’ which, I always thought, involved going to original sources and yet you admit to not being an Islamic scholar, have a knowledge of Islam taken merely from western Muslims rather than the Qur’an and Hadith themselves and yet happily claim there is an ‘obvious flaw’ in my exegesis! With the greatest of respect, I find a disjoint in your logic!

    Your first response appears to hinge on three concepts, namely ‘thoughtful,’ ‘classical scholarship’ and ‘interpretation’ which, in many ways, are inter-related.

    I do not wish to enter into a personal debate on who is more ‘thoughtful’ or even ‘most thoughtful’ but, with respect, I would suggest that by using these terms you are falling into the same fault as that of which you accused many ‘Christians’ (18/11), i.e. arrogance. If by ‘the most thoughtful Christian scholars’ you are referring to the liberals who have a virtual stranglehold on most theological institutions, then I admit I am not thoughtful! Needless to say, my own ‘interpretation’ on what constitutes being ‘thoughtful’ differs substantially from the differing ways the liberal camp applies the word to themselves and, more especially, their opponents.

    ‘Classical scholarship’ is an equally loaded term which is open to ‘interpretation’ and again is often defined by the camp in which you reside. For what it’s worth, my citing of the chronology of the sura regarding the ‘humbling’ of Christians is taken from what many consider to be a classical work. I therefore find it problematic for you to “know enough” to dismiss my comment supposedly because it “goes against classical Islamic scholarship” and yet you admit not knowing enough to comment upon it specifically!

    I might also add that it is simply incorrect to suggest that people other than Muslims can write on Islam or that all such non-Muslims are hostile to Islam. Such a statement implies that scholarship is either biased, hostile or both. However, if your background is as liberal as it appears from your posts, this is maybe more of a reflection of your own theological position than ‘genuine’ scholarship.

    Given your dismissal of the doctrine of ‘naskh,’ I might paraphrase its definition – and purpose – in a very non-classical source, i.e. Wikipedia, but one which is hardly pro-Christian let alone right wing: “Naskh (‘abrogation’) is a technical term for a MAJOR genre of Islamic legal exegesis dating back to the first centuries of Islamic civilization that is directed at the problem of seemingly contradictory material which involves the replacement of an earlier verse/tradition (and thus its embodied ruling) with a CHRONOLOGICALLY SUCCESSIVE ONE.” (emphasis mine). I appreciate you will probably dismiss Wikipedia, and I’m most certainly NOT quoting it as being authoritative, but present this simply as being what others see as ‘fact.’

    Finally, we come to ‘interpretation.’ You assert that “both books HAVE to be interpreted” and this is where we both agree and differ. If, as with the Qur’an, you have a god being depicted as the best of schemers (Sura 3:54), then I agree with your assessment, as, apparently does Siti. Conversely, with the Bible, you have a God who on numerous occasions portrays Himself as being the truth. As such, I expect to be able to ‘interpret’ what He says as being what He means! I should not need to interpret ‘truth,’ for example, as being anything other than what it says!

    However, given the liberals’ propensity to redefine words, not only do I prefer to use the term a ‘straight’ reading of Scripture to a ‘literal reading’ I also prefer to talk about my hermeneutic rather than my ‘interpretation’ since the latter term, as per your use of it, is too loaded.

    Roger Birch

  • Roger, I was not aware of the principle of Naskh. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I can see that in the light of this my earlier comments appeared arrogant. I am sorry for this. You ask about my knowledge of Islam – which I freely admit is limited. It comes mostly from the many discussions I have had with many Muslims. They are not only Western Muslims, but Palestinians, Egyptians, Indians, Pakistanis, Afghanis, Sudanese, Indonesians and Malaysians. I have also read some books – “Understanding the Muslim Mind” by Dr Charis Waddy (a Christian who takes the approach of letting Muslims express what their religion means) and, more recently, Hanifa Deen’s “Caravanserai – a journey among Australia’s Muslims” and Waleed Aly’s “People like us”. Aly’s book expresses what I have heard from several Muslims first hand – that the problem with modern Muslim extremists is that they have departed from “classical” Islam. I quote: “To the classical mind, it is clear that the divine message is too vast, too rich, too endowed and teeming with meaning to be encompassed by a singular human reading. Abu al Hasan al-Mawardi’s eleventh-century Quranic commentary regularly lists four or five differing interpretations for a given Qur’anic verse. Certainly the classicist shows interest in reaching a conclusion, but is compelled to accept a legitimate plurality of doctrinal views. (Aly, page 66).

    In questioning your exegisis earlier, I was also mindful of listening to Imam Sajid, (one of Britain’s senior Muslim leaders and jurists) a few years ago talking about which Hadith had more authority and which Hadith had less. From what I remember it was much more sophisticated than simple chronology. That said, I do acknowledge what you say about Naskh and have now read the relevant Wikipedia article.

    You ask about the purpose of my comments. In essence it is quite simple. I want to defend the idea that there are legitimate interpretations of Islam which promote forgiveness, tolerance, giving space for different cultures and creeds. I want to do his to out of respect for my Muslim friends who think this way, so that I honour their right to call themselves fully Muslim (not ‘moderate’ or ‘watered down’ Muslims). And I want to do this because I think this is important for building peace.

    As a Christian, I believe the Bible to be Divine truth. It seems to me therefore, that those parts of Islamic tradition which agree with the Bible are also expressing Divine truth, and I want to encourage those parts and discourage those parts within Islamic tradition which express a contradictory message. I think this was St Paul’s approach when he told the Athenians that their ‘unknown god’ was, in fact, the One True God. In other words, his approach was to find what aspects of the culture he was coming into was consistent with Christianity, and then build on that.

    From my observations of Muslims, I find the idea that there is some kind of vast conspiracy to deliberately misrepresent Islam as being tolerant in order to then infiltrate the West, take over and reveal their true ‘intolerant’ colours, simply laughable. They are far to divided and disorganized for that. The Muslims I know personally are sincere people of integrity who are Muslim for the same reason that I am a Christian – because of their families of origin.

    Mike Lowe

  • Roger what I am saying is that those who profess to read and follow the Qur’an as their faith must not just read it literaly but must delve into the inner journey simultaneously or else everything will come to naught. When God talks about I have my scheme and I am a schemer, He means that “His will be done” no matter what humans want , it is full of allegory and symbolism. This world is like a negative and a photograph, the negative can exist without the photograph but the photograph cannot exist without a negative. so it is with God He is and we cannot be without Him but the other world can exist without this world. When it talks of a smaller jihad or big jihad He means your small and great fights within you. Your intoxications with this world and your attachment to it. The sin is not money or wealth or success or development the sin is the attachment to these things and forgetting the Source of all and everything. Forgetfulness of Him .Yes it is a huge task that the majority will not listen to me, the sufis because they are driven by hatred, anger, hatred of America,the Jews etc etc,and these blind them. They are Ego driven. I am not asking them to reject the Qur’an what I am asking them to do is to investigate the Inner journey ( Spiritual dimension) of the Surahs in there for if it were true that it came from the spiritual dimension then, there must be another meaning to these comandments. After all they , the majority believe there is only One God, so my question to them would be why are they killing those created by that One God. The other question would be isnt the taking of life in His hands not ours, this is what they say all the time. The sufis need to speak in a language they would understand and it has to come from within their own circle. No group of people will listen to anyone from the outside. Bill, is correct they have to stop saying it is the same religion and they need to apply their minds to what these Surahs really mean, are they literal or are they symbolic of something deeper. are the Christians really the infidels or are those on a killing spree the infidels. By conduct who would want a moslem near them now? People are scared and suspicious, I am personally embarras, growing up was never this difficult. Now the majority have to look inward and ask themselves is this really what we have become and wish to leave as legacy for our children. what does the Qur’an really state. This is not the only mess, there is murders of children, child bride issues, in Afghanistan girls are not allowed education whats going on? In Sharia court back home I know first hand of the oppression caused to the women. One example is a man married another and left his wife $20.00 per month for 7 kids I think and my friend who was present stood up in shock. The issue of marrying more than 1, breaking up of families, the suffering of single mothers because they are accused of doing it to themselves, this insanity shows that they are not right. The loving Christian man towards his family is more God like than what they claim they are. So you see something must be done. And I call them the infidels by all this hypocrasy that the practice on the women the christian world. I am sure that the full hijab is cultural more than religious because it si full of sandstorms in the middle east but for someone in Malaysia for example should not be using that because of the heat. There must be more than literal meanings. And so my task is difficult because if you want to become good in conduct with high morals it is the inward that you must start with first and not the outward.If your heart and soul is healthy and full of love then your outward will manifest good conduct towards human beings. and so we must speak up because everything in the “Islamic” world is wrong. There are full of hidden meanings and it is out there for the seeking, a whole body of theology of inner journeys.So Bill is right we the moslems must not impose on others because we have not come close to even knowing what we seek is correct or not let alone teach others and convert them. Every individual is on a journey to seek if we are so far from perfect then how do we point a finger? Who are we to point a finger?it is with looking within that we may have a chance at cleansing our own heart and soul of may be doing it right . Of asking questions ( seeking) which is the right path. How do I find my salvation?it is difficultbut a lot are suffering at the hands of these egoistic people right now and it has to be done. We have no alternative do we?
    Siti Khatijah

  • Siti,
    As I said previously, I fully appreciate your problem and sympathise with your predicament which only gets worse with every new round of Islamic violence. Your response raised many issues – including the treatment of women under Sharia (and even then didn’t touch on the more barbaric practices) – which makes it hard to respond to everything.

    However, this whole thread comes back to how the differing religions read their holy texts with the liberals in each religion ‘interpreting’ what is written whereas the conservatives take a ‘straight’ (or literal) reading. Your statements would indicate you fall into the liberal camp.

    I completely support your position because, on theological grounds, the literal reading of the Qur’an leads to violence which appears to be in conflict with the concept of a Creator. Conversely, I reject such a position regarding the Bible because it is driven more by humanistic philosophy than theology. For example, liberals tend not object to the Bible’s claim that there is only one way to God for theological reasons but rather because Christians might become ‘arrogant’ as suggested earlier in this thread or, more commonly these days, such a claim is not ‘tolerant’ and thus breaks the humanist’s creed.

    But, even accepting your position, is it valid to interpret Allah’s scheming as meaning “His will be done” when the actual translation is “the best of schemers” (“makara” (the Arabic word used) is defined as meaning to deceive, delude, cheat, double-cross or dupe)? Some literary works are all allegory or symbolism and this is perfectly valid. Equally, allegory can be used in a limited way and its use is clear because it contradicts the rest of the message. However, the Qur’an states on many occasions that Allah may lead astray whom he will, e.g. Sura 4:88,143. See also: Sura 6:39, 126; 7:178,186; 13:27; 14:4; 16:93; 17:13, 97; 30:29; 35:8; 36:8-10; 39:23, 26; 40:33,34,74 ; 42:44,46 ; 45:23 ; 74:32. So, whereas it MIGHT be valid to allegorise the occasional verse, to have to do this to the bulk of the text is highly dubious.

    Your position on interpretation appears to be based on a supposition that “if it were true that it [the Qur’an] came from a spiritual dimension…”. If you have reached a point whereby you must allegorise even the nature of your god, then I suggest you may not only have to re-examine your presupposition, but even the very source you are searching since you appear to be Islamic in name only.

    You asked “How do I find my salvation?” Given that Muhammad himself was not even sure of his own salvation (Bukhari Vol. 8, Hadith 319; also see Vol. 1, Hadith 711), I suggest you start looking at the Bible – but from a conservative, not liberal perspective – since it does offer the salvation you seek.

    Roger Birch

  • Thanks Mike

    But you still are missing the boat here. You earlier lectured us about naskh (27-11), and yet now you admit that you know nothing about it. Pontificating on something which you are ignorant about does not seem like a very helpful way to proceed.

    Also, I again must urge you – if for no other reason than for a little intellectual integrity – to read from the actual sources of Islam, instead of relying on mere second-hand knowledge, and Muslim apologists like Aly. If you would actually do that one day, instead of spending all your time defending Islam from your limited knowledge of it, you would find, for example, that Aly is quite wrong in his claims, and he is engaging in typical Islamic taqiyya, something which you just laugh out of court.

    And your spin on Paul in Athens is not much more helpful. You conveniently forget (as does the interfaith movement generally) that when Paul was at Mars hill he was “greatly distressed” by the rampant idolatry there. He did not seek to find some good in these false gods, but he shared God’s broken heart and rejection of these false religions.

    Of course he sought to build bridges with his pagan listeners, but not in any vain and foolish attempt to find all sorts of common theological ground, but to lead them to the knowledge of the only true saviour. He had to begin with general worldview issues before he could go on to the truth about the unique and sole saviour of mankind.

    And he mentions that such pagan ignorance of the true God is no longer on, but repentance is demanded of all men. Again, this is a message I do not hear coming from you or the interfaith crowd. So Paul sought to build bridges, using pagan philosophy and poetry, but he distanced himself from the pagan worldview. And he showed courtesy, but he showed no approval whatsoever for alternative ways of salvation. He was not into appeasement and compromise here, but confrontation and proclaiming the truth.

    And as to your concern about “building peace” I have just penned a whole article on this. The biblical concept of peace is a far cry from the interfaith understanding of peace: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/30/peace-on-earth-and-interfaith-dialogue/

    And can I respectfully suggest that you should not be a Christian because of your “family origin”. But as you should know, we all must come to Jesus in a personal relationship, based on repentance and acknowledgement of his Lordship, not simply because we happened to be born into a Christian household. Being born in a garage does not make one a car. Being born into a Christian household does not make one a true follower of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus told us we must be born again.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Bill, you are twisting my words when you say I am pontificating on something which I am ignorant about. I freely admit that I was ignorant about the principle of naskh, but I am still not convinced that I was wrong to say that ‘classical Islamic scholarship was always more thoughtful and nuanced’ and drew on the context for each sura or hadith as a basis for interpretation. The reason I say this is because of the understanding I have gleaned from Muslims who are extremely well versed in their scriptures.

    You are very quick to dismiss my knowledge of Islam because it comes from Muslims rather than from books – even if those books are the Islamic holy texts. Here is the crux of our disagreement. You see, my interest is to have a relationship with actual human beings rather than with an abstract set of concepts. To me, what Muslims actually believe is more relevant than what your books say they should believe. So, for example, I strongly support Siti when he says above, that ‘those who profess to read and follow the Qur’an as their faith must not just read it literally but must delve into the inner journey simultaneously or else everything will come to naught’. No doubt I have been lucky because most of the Muslims I know would support this view. Perhaps you would conclude, therefore, that they are not ‘proper’ Muslims, or that they are deliberately misrepresenting their faith (taqqiya). Here I cannot agree. In fact I wonder if you would still maintain that Waleed Aly was engaging in taqqiya if you knew him personally as a friend.

    So it seems we have fundamentally different views, not only on Islam, but on the best way to understand Islam. Not only on Christianity, but on what it means to follow Jesus. I may not know the Koran, but I do know the Bible and try sincerely to understand what God is saying through it. It seems that you and I have come to some different conclusions on this. My prayer is that God will lead all of us into a greater understanding of His truth.

    You say that you don’t hear hear me talking about repentance. First of all, I should point out that this thread is about “Islam and Fifth columns” and I have been trying to stay on topic. Secondly I have hinted that we Christians might have something to repent about in terms of our bloody and unloving history. Didn’t Jesus say something about removing the beam from our own eyes before pointing out the speck in someone else’s eye? So yes, certainly we are all called to repent, but starting with ourselves.

    Best wishes,
    Mike Lowe

  • Mike
    I note – and accept – your apology for the apparent arrogance in your earlier comments.

    Your latest reply, though, exemplifies precisely WHY I keep questioning what is happening in the inter-faith movement and especially the level of ignorance that prevails.

    With respect, you did not actually “question” my exegesis as per your latest reply, you claimed you were “pointing out an obvious flaw.” However, it now turns out you mixed up Suras with Hadith, a not insignificant error! You referred to ‘classical Islam’, but cited a third party and one, as Bill alludes to, whose motivation may not be as pure as you apparently believe. My observations of many leaders in the inter-faith movement is that they demonstrate similar levels of ignorance when, I would suggest, it is incumbent upon you to be as knowledgeable as possible.

    I find your latest response particularly disturbing because having admitted your ignorance of Islam, abrogation, and confusing suras and Hadith, you dismiss the doctrine of taqiyya as being “simply laughable.” If your comment wasn’t so serious, I would see IT as the joke.

    Have you ever studied that concept of truth and deception in Islamic thought? Space prohibits going into detail here, but I have a number of proven, documented examples of Muslim leaders in recent years saying one thing in the West and exactly the opposite ‘back home.’ However one academic, Dr Taj Hargery, Chairman of the Muslim Education centre in Oxford, admitted on British television: “We have one vocabulary in private and we have another vocabulary for the public domain and that’s why you don’t hear it because you’re the public domain.”

    I have many documented examples of deception in scholarly circles, but perhaps best known is the attempt to ‘sanitise’ Islamic history with a rewriting of our Western history books. This is necessary because there are numerous, documented examples of taqiyya that have been used throughout history to mislead church leaders!

    I have previously documented that the Qur’an describes Allah as the best of schemers, but add to this the pattern established by Muhammad and the nature and teachings of the Qur’an generally and you really do become almost culpable for leading Christians down an inter-faith path without giving them any warning.

    All we hear in these inter-faith forums is that there is no compulsion in Islam, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that Christians and Jews are People of the Book and so are respected in Islam, etc. etc. etc.

    You state that your concern in these forums is for truth and for peace. I too am passionate about the truth – and prefer peace! – but truth will not emerge by propagating, or allowing falsehoods.

    Again, I have no doubt about your sincerity and most certainly do not question your respect for your Muslim friends, nor that many of them also want the same things as you and I. But that is not the issue.

    From a Christian perspective, any ‘love’ we direct towards non-Christians of any flavor is with the overall objective of drawing them to Christ. In total contradiction to Muhammad’s portrayal in the Qur’an, Jesus is constantly, and consistently, portrayed as being ‘the truth’ in the Bible. When ‘the truth’ says there is only one way to God, then you are utterly failing your Muslim friends – and Jesus Himself who died for them – by discouraging this ‘contradictory’ message.

    Roger Birch

  • Thanks again Mike

    We keep coming back to a major problem here: your understanding of Islam. You say “You are very quick to dismiss my knowledge of Islam because it comes from Muslims rather than from books – even if those books are the Islamic holy texts. Here is the crux of our disagreement. You see, my interest is to have a relationship with actual human beings rather than with an abstract set of concepts.” You imply that you are into people, while I am just into books, and that this somehow makes you superior to me. But that totally misses the point.

    Let me try once again to explain all this to you. Maybe an illustration might help. Let’s suppose I am not a Christian, and I have told my biblical Christian friends that I nonetheless know all about Christianity. Yet I never have read the New Testament, have no knowledge of the church fathers, and don’t even own any of the Gospels. Yet I tell my biblical Christian friends I nonetheless know all about Jesus and Christianity, because I have a number of friends who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. They would rightly tell me I was completely out to lunch. Not only do the JW’s have a radically different understanding of what Biblical Christianity is all about, but unless I actually read the NT documents, I would never even know these differences.

    You are in the same position. You confess to being ignorant about, and unread in, all of the core source documents of Islam, yet you somehow want to lecture others as to what true Islam is all about! And you do this simply by your second hand knowledge of Islam via Muslim friends! Sorry, but the two are just not the same thing. As any Koranic Muslim will tell you, real Islam is found in and based upon the traditional Islamic sources, not in liberal, westernised modern Muslims who may not even agree with their own sources.

    But it seems you are not interested in what Islam actually teaches. You are quiet happy to take the sanitised version from your friends and from Muslim apologists, and pretend that it is the real deal. I cannot see how you are actually helping anyone in that case. The cause of Islam may be helped, but not biblical Christianity.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Every person has a different understanding of the Qur’an and hadith. This is deliberate so that God may judge us on the interpretation of it and how we apply it in our short life on this earth. That is the difference between Christianity and Islam. You can call it deception but I see it as giving us the choices to choose as we were given our own will. As i have said before the Qur’an has two levels of potraying the same truth., one the outer symbolic and then the deeper,which is the Essence conveying the profound truth ( like law-the patent and latent meanings) Why is the Qur’an patent and latent because it deals with the ephemeral “Reality” of this world and also the ethereal ineffable Reality of the other/next world. So we are asked to choose.Those “moslems” who create havoc in this world and distortions and thus kill and then there is warning in the Qur’an, Gods final judgement- be warned.As is now witnessed in Mike’s and Bills discourse it is case in point because both are now (albeit not moslems) discussing on what exactly the Qur’anic messages are. Bill is convinced and so is Mike. So there you have it how the Qur’an works to make sure that the followers investigate (seek and you shall find) debate, persevere be patient no compulsion outwardly but inwardly (Islamic Sufism)seek your higher wisdom and live your highest conduct of Good (made in His nature) as shown by outward messangers and inner messangers ( our instinct). Those who deceive you and Roger has documented proof they say they potray one thing in public and another in private ( perhaps preaching hatred towards others? ) is in serious trouble for they can await Gods final judgement on them for deception. I know you have said that the Qur’an itself teaches all these but is my declaration that with the bodies of Islamic sufism thoelogy (not a new Islam Roger, has been around since the 10th century or earlier, but the Essence of the Qur’an)) then the proper application outwardly of the laws therein can be practiced. For now it is lost amongst the hateful deeds of those who practice the literal version upon the non moslems. Mohammed said, “I have not brought anything new, save to confirm and affirm that which was revealed by previous Appostles”. So believers of the Abrahamic traditions are NOT infidels and this has been distorted by the syariah moslems themselves of the Qur’anic surah “Al Kafirun”.
    Siti Khatijah

  • Mike
    I still find the logic in your latest response (2/12) very problematic and again feel you are bordering on being superior, or at the very least patronizing by claiming that your interest is in relationships, not ‘abstract concepts.’ As with your Karen Armstrong quote (28/11), you appear to be again falling into an “either/or” trap rather than considering a “both/and.” Generalisations are always dangerous, but I have found many on the conservative side of Christianity who are just as interested in relationships as those on the liberal side but their motivation is to win people to Christ rather than simply befriend them so as to affirm them as “proper” Muslims (or whatever) and not be prepared to raise the ‘offense’ of the cross and Jesus’ claims that flow from it.

    A site which examines media bias just posed a question “Are terrorists credible sources?” I note that your ‘friend’ on whom you apparently rely to determine what constitutes “classical Islamic scholarship” wrote in the Age a couple of days ago that “The brutalizing of Muslims in Kashmir may no longer be understood as a problem that begins and ends with India. It may be constructed as a part of a broader conspiracy, spearheaded by the US.” Are all the other 12,000 plus Islamic attacks since 9/11 also the fault of the US?

    Now my purpose in citing this is not to suggest that your ‘friend’ is a terrorist but merely to pose the question as to just what DOES constitute a ‘credible’ source in terms of what Islam really is (as opposed to what some Muslims believe) and what constitutes ‘classical scholarship.’

    You might wear as a badge of honour the fact that you learn about Islam from ‘proper’ Muslims rather than “what YOUR books say they should believe” (my emphasis) and yet still claim you are not incorrect to talk of “classical Islamic scholarship” despite again talking of “sura and hadith” and thereby contradicting your previous retractions! However, the reality is that the books Bill and I are citing are NOT “Our” books but the Islamic holy texts themselves! I find it bordering on the incredulous that you are suggesting the Qur’an and Hadith on which Islamic doctrine are based – and, by implication, the Bible for Christian doctrine – are “an abstract set of concepts.” I would suggest THIS is the crux of the disagreement, not an emotive appeal to some nebulous desire for relationship.

    Your argument is the equivalent of me saying that you’re a ‘proper’ Christian because you question what the Bible says – and I happen to like you – whereas Bill is not because he believes what it says is what it actually means – and I don’t like him anyway!

    Put simply, you cannot have it both ways! If your hermeneutic is based purely on feelings and personal relationship, that’s fine. I might disagree with it, but it’s still your belief. However, if you wish to cite classical scholarship, then you MUST look at, and be prepared to understand the sources and not take that from just one viewpoint. I cannot simply modify the nature of a classical source, or even define which sources ARE classical in an academic essay and use as my citation that “Mike said this was the case.” Talking of things that are laughable, this would surely be the case in academic circles and yet isn’t that what you are doing?

    Roger Birch

  • I saw your discussion for the first time yesterday and would like to contribute. Living in the UK many of us are conscious that, especially after 9/11 and the London Underground bombings, one of the big issues facing the world at present is Muslim/Christian/Western relationships. How do we address this?

    I am the national co-ordinator of an IofC programme going into schools to stimulate thought with Sixth Form (16-18) age group on deeper issues in life. When I saw the film “The Imam and the Pastor” which was made about the lives, and deep changes, of the two men that your discussion is about I decided that this would be just the focus needed to address the issue mentioned above. I met a young Nigerian Muslim who agreed to join me. He is a good friend of both Imam Ashafa and Pastor James.

    We facilitated 30 sessions in a wide variety of schools, most of which had no religious affiliation. But some were either Muslim or Christian foundation. Ten minutes of the film was shown as part of our interactive session.

    My friend Musa had been living in the conflict area, in which over 50,000 people were killed. He had worked as a journalist with one of the strongest Nigerian national newspapers. At one point, as he covered a story, a Muslim mob attacked a Christian girl. It looked like she would be killed. Musa, a Muslim himself, abandoned his camera and notepad and intervened (A real example of a modern day Good Samaritan?). The girl was saved but in the process Musa’s arm was broken and he was nearly beheaded. For the following two years he felt traumatised. These experiences led to his deep conviction to play a part in reconciliation and community building.

    The students we met (often in groups of 100 – 150) were struck and challenged by what Musa shared. It was also an eye-opener to them that, in the film, Ashafa was the first to reach out having had a change of heart. (James’ group had killed some of his relatives and his religious teacher, aged 70.) Ashafa’s change of heart had come because of the challenge he felt from the Qur’an and the example of forgiveness that the Prophet Muhammad had shown when people had attacked and stoned him. Students asked how it was that the same religions that had led these men to fight had also led them to forgive and reconcile. We quoted Imam Ashafa who had given an example of a candle, which can either be used to light up a house or to burn it down. The same is true of religion. Students were also struck by the fact that both the men had to radically move out of their comfort zones to begin their reconciling work together.

    In getting to know Musa I was interested to hear that he had been in discussions amongst fellow Muslims about whether non-Muslims can go to heaven. I was glad to be able to reassure him, with a twinkle in my eye, that similar discussions don’t go on amongst Christians!!

    In schools we visited we were left with the sense that, if any issues come up in the future which involve Muslim/Western conflict, the students will have a much more constructive reaction. What also made a real impression is the fact that we, Muslim and Christian with different beliefs, were going beyond understanding and tolerance, to deliberately work together in addressing this important issue. At the end of one session a girl stood up and said with conviction that she was struck by our launching out together. “You are actually doing something about the situation.”

    One student wrote afterwards, “I am a Christian myself. I just wanted to say to Musa that although we may never agree spiritually, what you did for that young lady in 2001 was immense – so thank you for sharing that with us. I think there is a place for improving inter-faith relations in the world. Its about acceptance and learning to forgive and living in peace…”.

    A Muslim student from another school wrote, “The talk you delivered at my school was truly inspirational. It taught me the value of having the ability to understand and tolerate other religions. Prior to your talk I never fully appreciated the true power of understanding faiths of others, and for that I thank you greatly. I truly hope that almighty Allah rewards you for your fine efforts.”

    I don’t want to get involved in a discussion over doctrine. But I wanted to share with your correspondents just some of the fruits of the work of this courageous pair of people and their friends.

    Howard Grace

  • Thanks Howard

    Hey, the way things are going I will soon have all the officials of IofC coming to this post! Unfortunately however we are really going over old ground here. But let me pick up on your last paragraph in which you say you do not want to get “involved in a discussion over doctrine”. Yes, that much is apparent. That is one of the big differences between the Bible and interfaith groups. One sees doctrine as tremendously important, while the other downplays it altogether.

    And can I respectfully submit that what the interfaith crowd is doing is light-years apart from what someone like Father Zakaria is doing. He rightly says that if we really love our Muslim friends then we need to set them free from the bondage and deception of their false religion, and lead them to the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. See my write-ups about him here:
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/12/07/good-news-for-muslims/
    https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/12/10/a-review-of-defying-death-by-stuart-robinson/

    While the interfaith movement may achieve limited modest goals in this life, I am afraid its long term damage will be far greater. It was Jesus who told us, “For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, but loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Achieving a bit of transient “peace” on this earth while allowing many to be lead to a lost eternity is surely no advantage, to my way of thinking.

    Sorry, but if I have to choose between Christians like Zakaria, and Christians putting all their efforts into interfaith dialogue, I know which one I will side with any day of the week.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thank you Bill.

    For the record, I am not an official of IofC. I am an unpaid volunteer, with a sense of God’s calling.

    You write, “Unfortunately however we are really going over old ground here.” and then criticise me for not discussing doctrine. You’ve missed the point. I’m not discussing doctrine precisely because THAT would be going over old ground. And going over old ground is what you are doing. Most of your discussion has been about doctrine. So I was trying to inject something new, with reality about how we can be used by God in addressing practical issues like the London bombings, which many Muslims abhor as much as I do.

    You write about, “Christians putting all their efforts into interfaith dialogue ….” What my Muslim friend Musa did in intervening to save the life of the Christian girl who was attacked by a Muslim mob went far beyond “interfaith dialogue”. The students we meet with in schools see this clearly. I quoted above a girl who said at the end of a session in her school, “You are actually doing something about the situation.” Students recognise that courage is a universal fruit of God’s spirit, not confined to Christians or Muslims. They sometimes face choices too, especially in inner cities, for instance about whether to have the courage to intervene when somebody is being beaten up by gang.

    They also recognise the courage of Pastor James and Imam Ashafa working together after all they have been through in their conflict and despite opposition of some from their own religions who have a blinkered view of how God can convict, bring together, and use people like them.

    Of course there are dangers in reaching out to work with others. But when you write in belittling terms about “Achieving a bit of transient ‘peace’ on this earth….” I see that we are indeed on a different wavelength of understanding what a commitment to follow Jesus is about. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). I am sorry that rather than rejoice at the undoubted change in James’ and Ashafa’s lives, and their peacemaking work, you prefer to see sinister fifth columns at work.

    Howard Grace.

  • Howard,
    As Bill has commented, you have not added anything to the discussion other than emotion. Your argument is basically no different to the emotive appeal for an abortion for the young, beautiful, blue-eyed (etc., etc.) girl who has fallen pregnant after having been raped by her grandfather. In other words, take one example which tugs powerfully at the heart strings, one which no ‘reasonable’ person would reject, and then extrapolate it to the general scenario. This is completely invalid logic.

    I do not know the Imam or pastor whom you have been promoting, but even if I did, it would not change the argument! The issue is not, as has been suggested by people in your organization, relationship OR doctrine. It should be relationship AND doctrine. The central issue is about honesty and the teachings, and relative claims of Islam and Christianity and whether the interfaith movement can have any impact in terms of ‘peace.’ To claim ‘fruit’ by citing a high school girl in England is hardly ‘impact.’ What is happening regarding the more than 12,000 Islamic terrorist attacks which have occurred post 9/11?

    The truly sad thing about the whole interfaith movement is that all sides are in deception either knowingly or unknowingly. The western, humanist media is in deception in its refusal to mention the “I” word in its reporting – always assuming of course that it DOES report the atrocities. After all, it might seem ‘intolerant’ to publish each of the 174 jihad attacks that occurred in October alone!

    I will not repeat previous comments on taqiyya, but the liberal Christians who are in the movement are also in deception, or, at the very least, ignorance of the motives of Islam. For example, the level of ignorance of some in your organization about Islam has already been demonstrated in this discussion.

    Then, of course, there’s your own position. You claim to be avoiding a discussion over doctrine, when in reality you do the opposite! For example, you included Islamic propaganda regarding forgiveness (Mike Lowe has already admitted ignorance regarding abrogation) plus an allusion to hell which almost trivializes the issue of what Christ did on the cross. Christians do not have the authority to water down a work that Jesus said “It is finished” in favour of a doctrine that says there is yet more revelation and that anyone who says Jesus is God should be put to death.

    Relationships are wonderful and no one is disputing their importance. BUT… relationships cannot be built on a lie. It is imperative that we see a level of truth and openness coming into the interfaith movement – from ALL sides. Until then, it will be nothing more than the “Villain’s Charter” that Jack Straw has just accused the Human Rights Act of being in the UK.

    Roger Birch

  • Thanks Howard

    But I am still not with you guys on all this. Doctrine is very important, but Christians in the interfaith movement unnecessarily and unhelpfully play it down. But those debates have already been covered here.

    As to bringing up an emotive personal story, two can play at that game. We could offer thousands of personal stories which would tug at the heart strings – stories of Christians suffering persecution, hardship, deprivation, torture and death in Muslim countries. It is called dhimmitude, and is a huge problem around the world. But of course the interfaith crowd is quite happy to ignore all this injustice, suffering and second-class citizenship – all in the interests of some feel-good ecumenicism and just getting along.

    And in your last paragraph you are of course being disingenuous. My article on fifth columns was written about the interfaith movement in general and the two Nigerians in particular, and not about the story which you have only now just raised.

    Also, I have already written on the faulty understanding which the interfaith crowd has about the biblical understanding of peace: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2008/11/30/peace-on-earth-and-interfaith-dialogue/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Yes Bill, you are right, Christians are suffering in Muslim countries – and in other places, like Nigeria, Christians and Muslims are killing each other. The relationship is not good, to put it mildly!

    Given that you say “Jaw jaw is better than war war”, I am interested to ask what kind of “jaw jaw” you propose?

    Mike Lowe

  • Thanks Mike

    Because I am not a diplomat, a UN peacekeeper, a specialist in arbitration and dispute resolution, or an expert in territorial conflict, I propose none. But that of course is not the issue here. My point all along has simply been this: Christians in the interfaith movement tend to engage in at least three unhelpful activities. One, they tend to downplay and minimise the exclusive truth claims of Biblical Christianity. Two, they tend to downplay and minimise the horrendous Muslim persecution and dhimmitude of Christians all around the world (while there is no equivalent Christian persecution and dhimmitude of Muslims). Three, they tend to fail in the most important calling of Christians: to evangelise and disciple all nations.

    The interfaith movement tends to engage in the very thing you said of the IofC in your first comment: “it is one that encourages each person to go deeper in their own faith traditions”. That is not at all what a biblical Christian should be on about. All followers of Jesus should be doing all they can to deliver people from their false gods and false religions, to set them free from their deception and idolatry, and help them come to the one true God via the only means available to us: the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Instead of wishing people to go deeper into their own faith traditions – which simply means abandoning them to a Christless eternity – we should be doing all we can to proclaim to them the glorious and liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the only true way to love our Muslim friends. That has been my point all along.

    And the only way to really bring peace into this world is to help those who are estranged from God (which is every one of us before we come to Christ), to first have peace with God – which only comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the true peace we should be working for as Christians. Without this peace with God through the finished work of Christ, all other attempts to create peace on earth will ultimately be only provisional and incomplete.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • The great stumbling block in a discussion of this nature is biblical interpretation which ultimately hinges on the difference between truth and opinion. Bill believes a certain Australian Rules team in Victoria is the best in the world but even if 95% of Australians sincerely agreed with him, it remains opinion not fact!

    Conversely, in the Bible, John sets out to prove that Jesus is the Christ (Jn 20:31). Whether the Pharisees accepted this back then or whether most Muslims, atheists and many liberal Christians do so today does not alter the inherent truth of the statement. In this case, it is not a matter of opinion, but absolutes. Jesus is either God or He is not. The theological implications that flow from Jesus not being God are enormous.

    Earlier, Mike Lowe claimed that both the Qur’an and Bible HAVE to be interpreted (his emphasis) which appears to be the essence of the liberal position. Unfortunately, this statement is inherently flawed. Whereas there may be more than one way to interpret the Bible, it does NOT logically follow that all are valid.

    The argument hinges on what we understand by the attributes of “God” coupled with biblical inerrancy. Even liberal textual scholars accept the Greek NT we have today is ninety nine point something percent accurate and there is only any real debate over 40 verses, none of which affect basic Christian doctrine. So, if God is who He says He is, and has the power we/He claims He has, why should we even question that what He says is what He means?

    This, I would suggest, is the basic issue in this debate. If God IS who He says He is in the Bible, then atheists, liberal Christians, Islam and the Qur’an are all wrong. Full stop, end of story! If we’re dealing with an absolute truth, all contrary opinions are just that – opinions, and totally worthless. Furthermore, we are NOT free to ‘interpret’ or fall into either/or traps or select favourite verses at the expense of others. We must look at what ALL of the NT has to say.

    Conversely, if God is NOT who He says He is, then we will continue to debate whether Matthew 5:9 carries more weight than Matthew 5:13-16 or whether either or both override Matthew 28:18-20 (Make disciples of ALL nations). We will continue to debate whether the term “peacemaker” which only occurs once in the NT, but has already been cited by 2 different IofC people, overrides Luke 12:49-53 where Jesus stated He had not come to bring peace but division. Furthermore, we will cite emotional issues as if they matter more than the Bible and continue an implicit attack on the Bible by asking what “jaw jaw” should be used.

    By NOT believing what the Bible says is what it means, by NOT following Jesus’ command to make disciples of all nations, by NOT demonstrating true love to Muslims and actually encouraging them to go deeper into a false religion, by NOT exposing what they actually do and what the Qur’an teaches, we come to the REAL question: “How will a NON-biblical solution work?”

    Roger Birch

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