"The Bible and Koran: Different Versions or Visions?"
Sept.19, 2010 2Peter 1:12-21, 2:1-3
OUTSPOKEN T-SHIRTS, CHURCH-SPOKEN KORAN - WHAT'S RIGHT?
In the news leading up to September 11, a pastor in Gainesville Florida planned to mark the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks by burning 200 copies of the Koran. For some time now, the church has had a sign on its lawn declaring "Islam is of the Devil." The Koran-burning was eventually called off, but the church maintains its publically anti-Islam stance. Some time back, students from the congregation were sent home from school when they wore T-shirts with John 14:6 on the front and the same words as on the sign on the back. Here's a short clip about the incident in which Pastor Jones defends the shirts as a logical deduction from John 14:6, and emphasizes that churches cannot be Christian and at the same time be accepting towards Islam.[PLAY CLIP]
Meanwhile, leaders of religious groups (including some church leaders) responded to the Koran-burning idea by actually incorporating readings from the Koran into their worship services, saying they wanted to 'honour' the Koran and the Islamic community. Here, for instance, is the audio from a church in London Ontario as they introduce such a reading. Note how they attempt to place it in a framework of
"Holiness" somewhat on a par with the reading of the Bible...[PLAY CLIP]
So, which is it? Is the Koran something of the Devil, or is it to be accepted and embraced alongside the Bible? Are they both in the category of 'holy scripture'? Does the Koran complement the Bible, affirming that portion of God's word contained within it (as Muslims hold) or are they mutually exclusive?
As we refer to what the Apostle Peter writes to the early church, we find the Bible and the Koran are not simply different 'versions' (of the same truth) but that they in fact present very different visions of reality.
HOW DOES GOD SPEAK?
Beginning in 2Peter 1:14-15, we find the apostle was aware his departure would becoming 'soon', so he wants believers to be able to remember (v15) and have fresh in their memory (v13) the TRUTH in which they can be 'firmly established'(v12). So the issue of authority and trustworthiness of his message and Scripture itself (the medium) are clearly important, back here at the beginnings of the church, when the original manuscripts are being written. As if anticipating later objections by those who'd doubt the Bible, Peter writes in v16: "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty." He contrasts apostolic testimony with what false teachers will fabricate in 2:3, "In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up."
No, Peter insists that he, James, and John were 'eyewitnesses' such as could be relied upon in court. They've faithfully recorded firsthand evidence: v18, "We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain." It's not made up or imagined. It's an account of events rooted in a reality beyond (and greater than) the transmitter. God speaks directly: Peter's just passing it on. V17 refers to the voice they heard, addressing them, about Jesus from the Father at the Mount of Transfiguration: "This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased." Peter and the other Scripture writers witnessed something God was doing IN history, involved with His people for their salvation.
Compare John 1:14-18: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory...who came from the Father, full of grace and truth...For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." In Jesus the Son, God the Father was communicating His own glory, grace, and truth to humanity; God was speaking loud and clear, revealing Himself, coming to us on our level.
How did the angel interpret Mary's pregnancy to a surprised Joseph in Matthew 1:21? "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Not "Jesus because He'll be a great prophet" [that wouldn't follow grammatically] but because He'd save us, Jesus / Yeshua / Yahweh saves.
Nor is the New Testament unique in this regard of God stooping to help us, getting His hands dirty to save. Yahweh revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush saying, "I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them..." (Ex 3:7-8) Yahweh, the God of the Bible, cares about people caught in bondage to sin and suffering, and takes action on their behalf, inviting prophets and apostles alongside as witnesses and even to play key roles.
Peter alludes to this historic heritage of witness from Moses and the Old Testament prophets in v19, "And we have the word of the prophets made more certain..." Jesus fulfilled many prophecies throughout His life, from birth right through to resurrection - things over which He had no control, humanly speaking. In doing so, He confirmed their witness, He validated the Bible. Not to mention little asides like "the Scriptures cannot be broken" (Jn 10:35) and Luke 24:44, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."
Peter goes on to offer insight into the mechanism of how Scripture was produced - it didn't drop from heaven intact like some meteorite, but was produced from the divine Spirit's impulse dynamically using people's language and idioms: vv20-21, "Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along [moved, borne along] by the Holy Spirit." God superintended the human's packaging of the message so it came out conveying what God wanted to get across. The prophets and apostles weren't self-starters, didn't manufacture it on their own, but faithfully wrote in response to what God revealed or spoke to their spirit.
Later in the same letter, 3:15, Peter expresses the same thing with different words regarding his contemporary apostle, Paul: "Just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him." His next verse implies Paul's writing fits in the same category as 'other Scriptures'.
So, in the Bible, God shows He can speak clearly through dozens of authors over thousands of years, consistently, directly, for the benefit and understanding of His covenant people, with whom He seeks to be in close relationship.
KEY DIFFERENCES - #1: GOD'S NATURE
There's obviously a lot more to this topic than could fit into a 20-minute sermon. Where do you even start to do research? I headed over to John Ankerberg's website, as I've found his print resources on cults excellent. There you can download several interesting videos of experts discussing this topic, and lots of print resources. There's a comparison chart "Christianity-vs-Islam.PDF" that's a good place to start.
Can the Bible and Koran agree on such a basic item as God's Nature - who God is, what He's like? For instance, is God loving? In the Bible, John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son..." 2Pet 1:17 refers to "My Son, whom I love" - so we can see love exists at the core of the Trinity itself, God's essence is love even within the community of Godself. Nor is Yahweh's love conditional on the creature's behaviour: Romans 5:8, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." 1Jn 4:16, "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him."
In this regard Ankerberg's chart says "Allah is Temperamental": Surah 32:13: "If we so willed, we could have brought every soul its true guidance, but the word from me will come true: 'I will fill Hell with demons and men all together.'" The experts on his program emphasize Allah's love is conditional, depending on human conduct. Allah would not love sinners. Allah remains aloof, transcendent, to be feared not just revered; it's foreign for a Muslim to think of Allah becoming immanent or seeking personal relationship with us.
An article by Ankerberg and Weldon has this: "In What Is Allah Like? George Houssney writes, "we humans can never know Allah, because he is so far from us and so different from us. The only knowledge Muslims may admit to is knowledge about Allah, not a personal, experiential knowledge of him. People cannot know Allah and should not even try to know him. Allah is not involved in the affairs of humans...The Christian claim that humans can have a relationship with God is considered by Muslims to be a metaphysical impossibility."
Another article states: "Dr. J. Christy Wilson observes that the concept of God's love is foreign to Islamic thinking because of the extreme emphasis placed upon Allah's sovereign power and transcendence: "It should be said, however, that most Muslims will misunderstand and question the statement of the New Testament that 'God is love.' His power and sovereign transcendence over all creation are so emphasized in Islam that to call Him a God of love or to address Him as 'Father' would be far from Muslim thought."
We're talking about God's nature. Is God a Trinity, 3-in-1? The New Testament says, directly or indirectly, God the Father is God, Jesus the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God (Jn 6:27; Col 2:9; Acts 5:3-9). Granted, the word 'trinity' is not in Scripture - it was coined by Christians to describe this community and unity within the Godhead that is apparent from Scripture. Peter recalled the voice from heaven at the Transfiguration declaring about Jesus, "This is My Son." Romans 9:5 and many other passages clearly affirm the deity of Jesus (see references in NIV Study Bible note).
But the Koran maintains that to say God is a Trinity is blasphemy. Surah 5: 73: "They do blaspheme who say God is one of three…for there is no Allah except one Allah." Surah 18: 4-5 "And it (the Qur'an) warns those who say: 'Allah has taken a son.' Surely, of this they have no knowledge, neither they nor their fathers; it is a monstrous word that comes from their mouths, they say nothing but a lie."
KEY DIFFERENCE #2: WAS JESUS SPECIAL?
What about Jesus - was He just another man (if a great prophet) like Moses or Adam, or (if also God) beyond creation? Colossians 1:17 says, "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist." John 1(1ff) says "the Word was with God" in the beginning, "through Him all things were made." But the Koran portrays Jesus as made of dust like Adam. Surah 3: 59: "The similitude of Isa (ie Jesus) before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust…" Quite a downgrade from deity to dust!
Peter said, "we have the word of the prophets made more certain." (1:19) Matthew and Luke recount the miracle of the virgin birth, in accord with Isaiah's prophecy centuries earlier (Is 7:14). That was an important pointer to Jesus as unique Messiah.
Is Jesus Lord, or at best an apostle or one in a line of prophets capped off by Muhammad? Here Ankerberg's chart quotes John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life.No one comes to the Father except through me." (Remember the T-shirts!) Peter uses phrases like, "our God and Savour Jesus Christ" (1:1), "Jesus our Lord" (v2), "our Lord Jesus Christ" (14), v11 "our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ". But the Koran views Jesus as just an apostle. Surah 4:171: "O people of the book, commit no excess of your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth, Christ Isa the son of Mary was an apostle of Allah." Surah 19: 30 "He (the baby) said: 'I am the worshiper of Allah.Allah has given me the Book and made me a Prophet."
Christians maintain Jesus actually died by crucifixion. Peter writes 'we were eyewitnesses of His majesty' - so also His death: "He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree..."; "Christ died for sins once for all..."; "I...a witness of Christ's sufferings..." (1Pet 2:24; 3:18; 5:1) In fact, note Peter's curious word for his coming 'departure' here in 1:15: literally 'exodus' - where else does the New Testament talk about death as an 'exodus'? Luke 9:31, it's the term used when Moses and Elijah are speaking with Jesus on the mountaintop about HIS coming 'departure'.
And Jesus' crucifixion didn't spring upon Him like a fluke. He predicted it to the apostles on at least 3 separate occasions (Lk 9:22, 44; 18:31-33). It was all part of the plan as prophesied - Luke 18:31, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled..."
But the Koran plainly teaches Jesus was not crucified.Surah 4:157: "That they said in boast 'we killed Christ Isa, the son of Mary'…but they killed him not, nor crucified him."
Ankerberg and Weldon conclude, "both the Koran and the Muslim religion are in serious error concerning their teachings on the most important man of history, Jesus Christ. Islam claims that it honors and reverences Jesus even though it rejects what the Bible teaches about Him. It denies His divine nature when it teaches that He was only a servant of God, a mere man. It denies His mission when it teaches that Jesus never died on the cross. It denies Jesus' own teaching concerning the reason He came into the world: 'to give his life as a ransom for many' (Matthew 20:28)."
KEY DIFFERENCE #3: HOW CAN WE BE SAVED?
Another big area of variance between the Bible and the Koran is the question of how we can be saved. Is it by grace or by works? Ankerberg & Weldon: The Qur'an clearly teaches that salvation is achieved on the basis of good works. Considering the following statements: '...every soul shall be paid in full what it has earned,...God loves those who cleanse themselves...' Islam teaches that on the Day of Judgment one's good and evil deeds will be weighed on a scale. Good works are heavy and evil deeds are light. Thus, the person whose balances are heavy with good deeds will go to heaven, while the person whose scales are light will go to hell. The Qur'an asserts: '[In the Day of Judgment] they whose balances shall be heavy with good works, shall be happy; but they whose balances shall be light, are those who shall lose their souls, and shall remain in hell forever.'" Somehow, good works cancel bad deeds: Surah 11:114: "For those things that are good remove those that are evil."
Of course, the classic passage summarizing the Christian view is Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast." Peter puts it more directly: "By His wounds you have been healed [/saved]." (1Pet 2:25) Here in today's passage he refers to false teachers who "secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who BOUGHT them..." (2:1) Literally agorasanta - bought in the marketplace like a store-purchase; 1Peter 1:18f, "it was not with...silver or gold that you were redeemed...but with the precious blood of Christ..." What was Jesus' own explanation for His coming? Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."
Salvation in Islam is "DIY" - Do It Yourself, it totally depends on your works of righteousness. Salvation in Christianity is DIYP: Died In Your Place.
Islam has no Trinity; so it has no mechanism by which a holy God can reconcile Himself to a sinful world. Thus there is no mechanism of truly satisfactory divine justice in Islam compared to Christianity: in the latter, Someone pays the price for the sin; in the former, it's just arbitrarily dismissed. Thus Christianity in the final analysis treats sin seriously, it gives both sin AND God's marvellous grace due weight.
Ankerberg & Weldon highlight this justice issue, that in Islam there is no atonement for sin. In Christianity, they quote Paul: "'God did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus' (Rom. 3:25-26).In Islam, however, Allah simply forgives whom he chooses to forgive. Again, this forgiveness is predicated upon both personal merit and Allah's choice of mercy. Again, no one ever knows if one's personal works are sufficient to forgive one's sins or if Allah will finally be merciful to him. Muslims certainly hope they will be saved."
Can we be sure we're saved? The Muslim always goes to bed at night wondering if he or she has done enough to balance the scales, if there's 51% 'good'. Christian believers rest secure in Jesus' promise in John 10:28, "I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
Ankerberg & Weldon note, "one wonders if the Muslim can have any assurance of salvation at all. Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq comments that the Islamic reliance on good works is bound to leave any Muslim who seeks for personal assurance of salvation 'utterly confused' because in this life no Muslim can ever know if his good works are finally sufficient--let alone if he is pre-destined to Allah's favor."
The more I read about Islam, the more I feel - certainly not hatred for Muslims - I feel more sorry for them: such bleak prospects, ever having to work to earn salvation, such a distant unconnectable God, no personal communion with God's spirit, no assurance of heaven, it's all about power and law-keeping and submission (the meaning of the word 'Islam') not love or relationship. Is the Lord starting to put a burden on your heart for the Muslim world? Do you suppose the Lord Jesus is burdened for Muslims?
HOW OUGHT WE THEN TO LIVE?
Here comes the application part of the sermon - so what? Knowing these truths, how should we live, consequently? Peter in 1:4 says God "has given us His very great and precious promises" [find 'em in the Bible!] "SO THAT [purpose clause follows] so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." Having Bible truth means we can participate in God's nature, not get snared by worldly traps. 1:5-7 talks about adding to our faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love" (none of which probably include burning a Koran; instead, love your Muslim neighbour, get to know them, befriend them).
As Biblically-informed Christians, you know the truth. You have hope, you're not locked in a state of being 'utterly confused'; 3:11 asks, "What kind of people ought you to be?" It goes on: "You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God..." Show how positive that hope can be, so you make the teaching about Christ attractive to unsaved neighbours and colleagues, whatever their religious background. Make 'em want what you've got!
As you keep Christ's coming in mind, let it influence your behaviour. 3:14, "So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him." Peter ends his letter, "be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge [that's relationship! Knowing personally] of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2Pe 3:17-18)
I'd like to close with a couple of paragraphs of testimony by Dr.Anis Shorrosh as he appeared with Muslims in a debate episode of the John Ankerberg show. See if you resonate with his joy. Hear how positive he is as someone who knows and trusts in Jesus.
"I praise the Lord Jesus Christ for saving me as an Arab Palestinian to teach me to love my enemies and forgive them; only Jesus can teach that. I would like also to announce to everybody who is listening that neither the Koran nor Muhammad can give you an assurance of your sins forgiven while here on earth...The credentials of Jesus of Nazareth, the man from my hometown, are authentic and overwhelming. The prophets of old predicted His coming 300 times or more, predictions He faithfully fulfilled from His birth, to His death, to His resurrection. Our heavenly Father confirmed his relationship to Him as His Son. His miraculous works affirmed His power. The Holy Spirit clarifies this truth to which the apostles and the New Testament testify powerfully...
Jesus [is] the Lamb of God whose blood covers our sins and even removes them totally...Isn't it fantastic? God demands good works as a result of salvation, not to obtain it. You don't have to go to a holy city, Jerusalem, Mecca, Rome - they are too small to contain the majesty of God. Ceremonial cleansing can wash the stain, but never a heart full of sin. God is not impressed with your fasting and mine, your prayers and mine, these often promote self-righteousness rather than humility and holiness. God loves you and wants to save you by His grace through your faith in the Saviour, Jesus the Christ." Let's pray.