The Challenge of Islam: Compared to Christianity
By Dr. David R. Reagan
How does Islam and Christianity compare concerning it's claims to the character of God, Jesus, sin and salvation?
Lamb & Lion Ministries conducts a number of Bible conferences in the Dallas, Texas area each year. Our June 2011 conference theme was Christianity Under Attack.
One of our guest speakers was Kerby Anderson. Mr. Anderson is the National Director of Probe Ministries International. He holds masters degrees from Yale University (science) and from Georgetown University (government). He is the author of several books. He serves as the host of a radio program called "Point of View" which is broadcast nationally. Mr. Anderson's topic at our conference was "The Challenge of Islam" (watch).
The Character of God in Islam
Look at the nature and character of God. Have you ever heard anybody say that Christians and Muslims worship the same God? Have you heard sitting Presidents say that? Let's talk about that for just a minute.
First of all, Islam denies the Trinity. I want to suggest to you that one of the greatest doctrines under attack in the 21st Century will be the doctrine of the Trinity, because first of all the second largest religion in the world rejects the Trinity.
Have you ever been at your home and heard a knock at the door and you see as you look out there two young men in white shirts with bicycles? You know what I'm talking about here? That's one of the fastest growing religious cults in America. Do they deny the Trinity? These Mormons say all sorts of people can become gods.
Ever had another knock on the door and you look out and you see some people holding Watchtower material? Do they deny the Trinity? The Jehovah's Witnesses are one of the most aggressive evangelistic groups out there.
Have I made my point? I think it's absolutely essential that every Christian in America and around the world in the 21st Century knows how to defend the doctrine of the Trinity. But, with Islam, right off the bat you can see that we disagree, because Allah is supposed to be alone. God in Islam is not to have a partner. The worship of anybody else other than Allah is known as "shirk" or idolatry, so right off the bat Muslims would disagree that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
The character of God to Muslims is that Allah is transcendent, he is distant, and he's unknowable. As a matter of fact, he is unpredictable and he's capricious. This description is very different than the God of the Bible.
God in Islam or Allah reveals his will, but not himself. He reveals his will through his prophet Mohammad. He reveals his will through the angel Gabrielle. He reveals his will through the Koran. But, you cannot know him personally. Is that the God of the Bible? Not exactly.
In Christianity, can we call God our Father? The Lord's Prayer tells us to pray, "Our Father who art in Heaven." Can we have a personal relationship with God? Yes, we can. So, are we talking about two different individuals here? I think that we are.
One of the things that I found so interesting while working on my book that I document a study that at that time was done with about 700 former Muslims who had converted to Christianity. The updated study is up to almost 900 former Muslims who have converted to Christianity. The pollers asked these former Muslims what caused them to leave Islam and become a Christian. Their number one reason was the love of God. If you are a Muslim you don't have a personal relationship with God. You don't feel the love of God. As a matter of fact, you fear Allah and you're not sure of your salvation. You are not sure that anything you do will actually merit salvation, unless maybe you are killed as a martyr in a jihad or something like that.
Muslims have this hunger to know God, but there's never a way that this hunger can be fulfilled. So, I would suggest that you talk to your Muslim friends talk about the love of God. For a Muslim it seems a bit strange to talk about the love of God. That I can know God personally is a strange concept to them, but in their heart often times they desire that personal relationship. That's really one of the most effective witnessing tools today, because Muslims see Allah as the master and not their father. But, Christians can call God what? "Our Father."
Just look at the differences between Jehovah God and Allah for a minute when people claim Christians and Muslims worship the same God. Allah in the Koran is a Unitarian monotheism, but in the Bible Yahweh is a Trinitarian monotheism. Islam is a master-slave relationship, whereas in Christianity it's a father-son or father-daughter relationship.
In the Koran Allah determines all. If you are ever with a Muslim they will say a phrase "Insha'Allah" when something happens. That means "Allah wills." You fall down a flight of stairs — that's Insha'Allah. I am blessed — that's Insha'Allah. You know Allah determines everything, but then ultimately he is the author of both good and evil. Whereas in Christianity recognizes that God is sovereign, but He's given us free will and He's the author of good.
The Jesus of Islam
How about the person and work of Jesus? Well, here again, something very important to know about the Koran is that it right out denies that Jesus is the Son of God. They deny the Resurrection. Islam instead claims that Jesus will return one day to establish Islam universally.
When witnessing to a Muslim, I think that it's important to begin to help them understand who Jesus really is. Many Muslims have said that they can actually find Jesus in the Koran, and some Christians have used the Koran to lead Muslims to the Lord. It is a controversial tactic and I'm not suggesting we always want to do it.
It's interesting that if you just look at the Koran you learn a lot more about Jesus than most Muslims know, because in the Koran it says Jesus was sinless, He was born of a virgin, He's a prophet, and He's the Messiah. They just don't believe He's the Son of God.
That gives you a lot to work with when witnessing to a Muslim, doesn't it? You now know the starting point.
Get this, later on in the Koran Mohammad is actually told by Allah to confess his sins, so Mohammad is sinful, whereas Jesus is sinless. Bringing this point up has been another tactic that has been very, very useful for Christian missionaries in Muslim countries. They'll begin by asking, "Would you not like to know more about this sinless prophet Jesus?"
There's also a place in the Koran where Muslims actually are encouraged to read the before books. What are the before books? Those are the books about Moses and the book about Jesus. They believe that Moses was a prophet and that Jesus was a prophet. Mohammed actually encourages them to read the before books and so the missionaries ask, "Would you not like to know more about this sinless prophet named Jesus? Well then here's the Gospel of John." This has been a very effective technique to begin to open the door for them to read the Bible.
Salvation in Islam
What about sin and salvation in Islam?
Muslims really deny the Fall. They say Adam and Eve fell, but God forgave them. They really don't believe in the sin nature the way Christians do. They in a sense believe that you can work out your own salvation. There's an image that's given in the Koran that's kind of like a fulcrum or a balance sheet of the good works and the bad works that one does. They hope that their good works will outweigh their bad works, and ultimately they'll be saved. What an incredible evangelistic opportunity to share the grace of God, isn't it?
Back to that seminary study where they looked at 700 former Muslims and now 900 who had converted to Christianity. Do you remember what the number one reason was for why they converted? It was the love of God. Do you know what the number two reason was? It was the assurance of their salvation, because a Muslim never knows if he or she is going to be saved. Christians can believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ and know that we have been saved. Agreed? That's a very powerful witnessing technique, and when we come to the end of it all we have to teach the fundamental issue is salvation. The Bible states that it's impossible to be accepted by God on the basis of works. Only by God's grace can we be saved through faith, and really only if Jesus is divine can He provide a sacrifice sufficient for the sins of the world.
One of the most significant verses to share with a Muslim is Ephesians 2:8-9. When you witness to a Muslim friend, let them know what we are saved by. It is grace, and not by works. I think that's a very powerful way to share the Gospel.
Not the Same
Again, we have people saying that Christianity and Islam are basically the same, but they are as different as they can possibly be:
- Islam believes in an absolute, single entity of God. Christianity believes in God in three persons.
- Islam believes that Jesus was a major prophet, but not God. Christianity believes that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity.
- Islam believes that He did not die on the cross and rise again. Christianity teaches that he rose from the dead.
- Islam teaches that the Bible is corrupted. Christianity teaches that the Bible is the Word of God.
- Islam believes that humans are good by nature and that they can save themselves. Christianity believes that we are sinful by nature and we are saved soley by grace.
Islam and Christianity are about as different as night and day.