Archive for the 'Christianity' Category

Does the Bible support slavery?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Photograph of a slave boy in Zanzibar. ‘An Arab master’s punishment for a slight offence. ‘ c. 1890 (photograph ourtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

Claims are made that the Bible supports slavery and that the people of contemporary culture should be able to choose their own values. Here are a few examples of such statements:

  • ‘If you are truthful to the Bible, would you not agree with me that St Paul supports slavery while we today are dead opposed to it? That morality even in the Bible has changed?’ (Greneknight #64, Christian Forums, 22 August 2012)
  • ‘Except for murder, slavery has got to be one of the most immoral things a person can do.  Yet slavery is rampant throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments.  The Bible clearly approves of slavery in many passages, and it goes so far as to tell how to obtain slaves, how hard you can beat them, and when you can have sex with the female slaves. Many Jews and Christians will try to ignore the moral problems of slavery by saying that these slaves were actually servants or indentured servants.  Many translations of the Bible use the word “servant”, “bondservant”, or “manservant” instead of “slave” to make the Bible seem less immoral than it really is.  While many slaves may have worked as household servants, that doesn’t mean that they were not slaves who were bought, sold, and treated worse than livestock (‘Slavery in the Bible’, Evil Bible.com).
  • ‘If the Bible is written by God, and these are the words of the Lord, then you can come to only one possible conclusion: God is an impressive advocate of slavery and is fully supportive of the concept.

If you are a Christian, I realize that what I am about to suggest is uncomfortable. However, it is crucial to the conversation that we are having in this book. What I wish to suggest to you is that these pro-slavery passages in the Bible provide all the evidence that we need to prove that God did not write the Bible. Simply put: there is no way that an all-loving God would also be a staunch supporter of slavery.

What does your common sense tell you about God? Doesn’t it seem that an all-loving, just God would think of slavery as an abomination just like any normal human being does? If any sort of all-knowing, all-loving God had written the Bible, shouldn’t the Bible say, “Slavery is wrong — you may have no slaves”? Shouldn’t one of the Commandments say, “thou shalt not enslave”?’ (Why does God love slavery?)

A glimpse into the Old Testament view

In the Old Testament, there were at least 6 ways in which a person could become a slave:

  1. As a captive of war: Num 31:7-35 (ESV); Deut 20:10-18 (ESV); 1 Ki 20:39; 2 Chron 28:8-15);
  2. They could be purchased. Foreigners could be purchased and sold and were considered property: Lev 25:44-46 (ESV); Ex 21:16Deut 24:7. The OT gives examples of a father selling his daughter (Ex 21:7; Neh 5:5); children of a widow were sold to pay her husband’s debt (2 Kings 4:11); men and women sold themselves into slavery (Lev 25:39, 47; Deut 15:12-17).
  3. Bankruptcy (Ex 21:2-4; Deut 15:12);
  4. A gift of a slave could be given as Leah received Zilpah as her slave (Gen 29:24).
  5. As an inheritance: Lev 25:46 (ESV). Those who were not Hebrews could be slaves from generation to generation.
  6. Those slaves from birth (Ex 21:4; Lev 25:54) (This material is based on Rupprecht 1976:454-455.)

Slavery was widespread in the secular and Hebrew world of the Near East. For the Hebrews, there were regulations concerning the release of slaves (see Ex 21:1-11; Lev 25:39-55; Deut 15:12-18). Slaves were to be freed after serving for 6 years.

For the Hebrews, the slaves were members of the household and were included with the group of women and children (Ex 20:17).

In Gal 4:1, Paul states, ‘the heir, as long as he is a child is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything’. When we go to Gal 4:7 we discover, ‘So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God’.

There are some interesting and challenging dimensions to slavery when we compare the OT and NT material.

How should we respond to these allegations?

The following is how I responded to Greneknight, as OzSpen #65, 22 August 2012.

There are some excellent assessments and I do not plan to regurgitate what others have said. See:

Concerning ‘1 Corinthians 7:17, 20 Remain in Slavery?’ (Hard Sayings of the Bible 1996. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, pp. 591-593), this writer’s assessment was:

The difficulty with which 1 Corinthians 7:17 and 20 present us arises primarily from the surrounding verses in the paragraph (1 Cor 7:17-24). In 1 Corinthians 7:21 the situation chosen as an illustration is that of slavery. In 1 Corinthians 7:17 the various situations in which persons found themselves when they were called to faith in Christ are understood as assigned or apportioned by the Lord, and they are told to remain in those situations. That instruction is given further weight in the sentence “This is the rule I lay down in all the churches” (1 Cor 7:17).
In light of these statements, Paul has often been charged not only with failure to condemn the evil system of slavery, but indeed with abetting the status quo. These charges can be demonstrated to be invalid when the paragraph which contains this text is seen within the total context of 1 Corinthians 7 and in light of the historical situation as Paul perceived it.

In 1 Corinthians 7 Paul is dealing with questions about marriage, the appropriate place for sexual expression, the issue of divorce and remarriage, all in response to a pervasive view in the church which rejected or demeaned the physical dimension of male-female relationships. In the immediately preceding paragraph (1 Cor 7:12-16), Paul’s counsel to believers who are married to unbelievers is twofold: (1) If the unbelieving partner is willing to remain in the marriage, the believer should not divorce (and thus reject) the unbelieving partner; for that person’s willingness to live with the believer may open him or her to the sanctifying power of God’s grace through the believing partner (1 Cor 7:12-14). (2) If the unbeliever does not want to remain in the union, he or she should be released from the marriage. Though the partner may be sanctified through the life and witness of the believer, there is no certainty, especially when the unbeliever desires separation (1 Cor 7:15-16).

Having recognized the possibility, and perhaps desirability, of this exception to his general counsel against divorce, Paul reaffirms what he considers to be the norm (“the rule I lay down in all the churches”): that one should remain in the life situation the Lord has assigned and in which one has been called to faith (1 Cor 7:17). In light of exceptions to general norms throughout this chapter, it is probably unwise to take the phrase “the place in life that the Lord has assigned” too literally and legalistically, as if each person’s social or economic or marital status had been predetermined by God. Rather, Paul’s view seems to be similar to the one Jesus takes with regard to the situation of the blind man in John 9. His disciples inquire after causes: Is the man blind because he sinned or because his parents sinned (Jn 9:2)? Jesus’ response is essentially that the man’s blindness is, within the overall purposes of God, an occasion for the work of God to be displayed (Jn 9:3).

For Paul, the life situations in which persons are encountered by God’s grace and come to faith are situations which, in God’s providence, can be transformed and through which the gospel can influence others (such as unbelieving partners).

The principle “remain in the situation” is now given broader application to human realities and situations beyond marriage. The one addressed first is that of Jews and Gentiles (1 Cor 7:18-19). The outward circumstances, Paul argues, are of little or no significance (“Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing”). They neither add to nor detract from one’s calling into a relationship with God, and therefore one’s status as Jew or Gentile should not be altered. (It should be noted here that under the pressure of Hellenization, some Jews in the Greek world sought to undo their circumcision [1 Maccabees 1:15]. And we know from both Acts and Galatians that Jewish Christians called for the circumcision of Gentile Christians.)

Once again, it is clear that the general norm, “remain in the situation,” is not an absolute law. Thus we read in Acts 16:3 that Paul, in light of missionary needs and strategy, had Timothy circumcised even though Timothy was already a believer. Paul’s practice in this case would be a direct violation of the rule which he laid down for all the churches (1 Cor 7:17-18), but only if that rule had been intended as an absolute.

Paul now repeats the rule “Each one should remain in the situation which he was in when God called him” (1 Cor 7:20), and applies it to yet another situation, namely, that of the slave. Paul does not simply grab a hypothetical situation, for the early church drew a significant number of persons from the lower strata of society (see 1 Cor 1:26-27). So Paul addresses individuals in the congregation who were of the large class of slaves existing throughout the ancient world: “Were you a slave when you were called?” (that is, when you became a Christian). The next words, “Do not let it trouble you,” affirm that the authenticity of the person’s new life and new status as the Lord’s “freedman” (1 Cor 7:21-22) cannot be demeaned and devalued by external circumstances such as social status.

As in the previous applications of the norm (“remain in the situation”), Paul immediately allows for a breaking of the norm; indeed, he seems to encourage it: “although if you can gain your freedom, do so” (1 Cor 7:21; note the RSV rendering: “avail yourself of the opportunity”). As footnotes in some contemporary translations indicate (TEV, RSV), it is possible to translate the Greek of verse 21 as “make use of your present condition instead,” meaning that the slave should not take advantage of this opportunity, but rather live as a transformed person within the context of continuing slavery. Some scholars support this rendering, since it would clearly illustrate the norm laid down in the previous verse. However, we have already noted that Paul provides contingencies for much of his instruction in chapter 7, and there is no good reason to doubt that Paul supported the various means for emancipation of individual slaves that were available in the Greco-Roman world.

And yet, Paul’s emphasis in the entire chapter, as in the present passage, is his conviction that the most critical issue in human life and relations and institutions is the transformation of persons’ lives by God’s calling. External circumstances can neither take away from, nor add to, this reality. The instruction to remain in the situation in which one is called to faith (which Paul repeats several more times, in 1 Cor 7:24, 26, 40, and for which he also grants contingencies, in 1 Cor 7:28, 36, 38) can be understood as a missiological principle. To remain in the various situations addressed by Paul provides opportunity for unhindered devotion and service to the Lord (1 Cor 7:32-35), or transforming witness toward an unbelieving marriage partner (1 Cor 7:12-16), or a new way of being present in the context of slavery as one who is free in Christ (1 Cor 7:22-23).

The transforming possibilities of this latter situation are hinted at elsewhere in Paul’s writings. Masters who have become believers are called on to deal with their slaves in kindness and to remember that the Master who is over them both sees both as equals (Eph 6:9). The seeds of the liberating gospel are gently sown into the tough soil of slavery. They bore fruit in the lives of Onesimus, the runaway slave, and Philemon, his master. The slave returns to the master, no longer slave but “brother in the Lord” (Philem 15-16).

Note too that the three relational spheres which Paul addresses in 1 Corinthians 7–male-female, Jew-Gentile (Greek), slave-free–are brought together in that high-water mark of Paul’s understanding of the transforming reality of being in Christ: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). As a rabbi, Paul had given thanks daily, as part of the eighteen benedictions to God, that he had not been born as a Gentile, a slave or a woman. It was his experience of Christ that led him to recognize that these distinctions of superior and inferior were abolished in the new order of things inaugurated in Christ. Surely in this vision the seeds were sown for the ultimate destruction of slavery and all other forms of bondage.

Finally, Paul’s understanding of the historical situation in which he and the church found themselves provides another key for his instruction that believers should remain where they are. He, together with most other Christians, was convinced that the eschaton, the climax of God’s redemptive intervention, was very near. Statements in 1 Cor 7:26 (“because of the present crisis”) and 1 Cor 7:29 (“the time is short”) underline that conviction. This belief created a tremendous missionary urgency. The good news had to get out so that as many as possible could yet be saved (see 1 Cor 10:33). This expectation of the imminent end was surely an important factor for the Pauline norm “remain where you are.”

The biblical view of slavery might be wrong in the estimation of some contemporary Christians, but God did not have such a view when he breathed out the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Response to the allegations against the Bible and slavery

There is an eerie silence by Jesus, the apostles and Paul in regard to rejecting slavery in a society. I would have thought that Jesus, the sinless Son of God, should have been condemning slavery outright – racial slavery like that in the USA — but this was not so. Why?[1]

  • Please don’t assign a barbaric, violent, unjust view of slaves to the Romans. Paul’s word to slave masters was that they should treat slaves with kindness and consideration (Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1).
  • Slavery had become a well-known way to become a Roman citizen throughout the Empire;
  • One study found that between 81-49 BC, “500,000 slaves were freed [by the Romans] during this period” and the city of Rome’s population was about 870,000.[2]
  • In the Roman Empire, a slave could expect freedom in about 7 years.
  • “When a master freed his slave, he frequently established his freedman in a business and the master became a shareholder in it.”[3]
  • “While an individual was a slave, he was in most respects equal to his freeborn counterpart in the Graeco-Roman world, and in some respects he had an advantage. By the first century A.D. the slave had most of the legal rights which were granted to a free man.”[4]
  • “Living conditions for most slaves were better than those of free men who often slept in the streets of the city or lived in very cheap rooms.”[5]
  • “The free laborer in NT times was seldom in better circumstances than his slave counterpart.”[6]
  • “In fact, in time of economic hardship it was the slave and not the free man who was guaranteed the necessities of life for himself and his family.”[7]

Islam and slavery

Do not confuse the Christian view of slavery in the Old and New Testaments with the contemporary view of ‘Islam & Slavery’ (Barnabas Fund). That article provides this conclusion:

Many Muslims agree that there is no place for slavery in the modern world, but there has as yet been no sustained critique of the practice. The difficulties and dangers of confronting the example of Muhammad and the teaching of the Qur’an and sharia (which most Muslims believe cannot be changed) have dampened any internal debate within Islam. Although slavery still exists in many Islamic countries, few Muslim leaders show remorse for the past, discuss reparations or show that repugnance for the scourge of slavery that eventually led to its abolition in the West. It is time for Muslims emphatically and publicly to condemn the practice of slavery in any form and to ensure that their legal codes An enslaved Pakistani Christian boy supporting it are changed.

Barnabas Fund: hope and aid for the persecuted church

Conclusion

I do not subscribe to the relativistic presuppositions of cultures determining their own values. I have too high of a respect for the Lord God Almighty and His Scriptures to secede to that view. This is what the Scriptures state:

  • Isaiah 5:20, ‘ Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!’ (ESV)
  • Psalm 111:7-8, ‘The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; they are established for ever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness’ (ESV).
  • Proverbs 3:5, ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding’.
  • Ecclesiastes 12;13, ‘Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind’ (NIV).
  • John 17:17, ‘Sanctify them in the truth;your word is truth’ (ESV).
  • 1 Peter 1:25, ‘The word of the Lord remains for ever’ (ESV)
  • James 2:12, ‘Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom’ (NIV)

Notes:


[1] The following is based on the article by A. Rupprecht, ‘Slave, Slavery’, in Merrill C. Tenney gen. ed. 1976, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 5, Q-Z, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 453-460.

[2] Ibid., p. 458.

[3] Ibid., p. 459.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., p. 460.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 October 2015.

Three Crosses on Horizontal Bar

ChristArt

Is the God of Islam the same God as Elohim of the Christian Scriptures?

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Medallion showing “Allah” (God) in Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

By Spencer D Gear

A Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands, Tiny Muskens, has proposed that Dutch Catholics should pray to Allah, as ‘ God doesn’t mind what he is called’. The Catholic News reported:

Breda Bishop Tiny Muskens, who once worked as missionary in Indonesia, has proposed that Dutch Catholics should pray to Allah just as Christians already do in other countries with significant Muslim populations.
Radio Netherlands reports that Bishop Muskens says his country should look to Indonesia, where the Christian churches already pray to Allah. It is also common in the Arab world: Christian and Muslim Arabs use the words God and Allah interchangeably.

Speaking on the Dutch TV programme Network on Monday evening, Bishop Muskens says it could take another 100 years but eventually the name Allah will be used by Dutch churches. And that will promote rapprochement between the two religions.

Muskens doesn’t expect his idea to be greeted with much enthusiasm. The 71-year-old bishop, who will soon be retiring due to ill health, says God doesn’t mind what he is called. God is above such “discussion and bickering”.[1]

This view is alive and well on Christian forums on the www in the 21st century. Some claim that the Allah of Islam is the same God as the Almighty in Christianity.[2] Albert Mohler Jr. (2007), to the contrary, stated, ‘From its very starting point Islam denies what Christianity takes as its central truth claim — the fact that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father’.

Who is correct?

The promotion of idolatry

J. C. Ryle, an evangelical and the first Anglican bishop of Liverpool, wrote in the 19th century:

‘I believe that we have come to a time when the subject of idolatry demands a thorough and searching investigation. I believe that idolatry is near us, all around us, and in the midst of us, to a very fearful extent. The second commandment, in one word, is in danger. “The plague is begun”‘.[3]

Ryle’s definition was that ‘idolatry is a worship, in which the honor due to the Triune God, and to God only, is given to some of His creatures, or to some invention of His creatures’.[4]

A lawyer once came to test Jesus with the question, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” What was Jesus’ response? “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment” (Matt 22:35-38).

Since the worship of God is of first importance to us, engaging in false worship is one of the greatest calamities Christians can practice. Worshipping a false god is a serious problem as it is worshipping an idol, something the Israelites fell into on a number of occasions according to the OT.

I’m reminded of the warning against idolatry in 1 John 5:21: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols”. Therefore, it is of vital importance that we know who God is. So the differentiation between Allah and Elohim-God is of top priority.

Knowing what is idolatry is important as it is a dangerous practice. It can involve the worship of demons (see 1 Cor. 10:20 and compare it with Deut. 32:17). From the OT, we know that people can worship another god or demons and think they are worshipping Elohim God (see Ex. 32:1-6; 1 Kings 12:28-20)

That’s why it is of decisive importance to know that Elohim, the Almighty God, is not the same god as Allah. There is only one God and He is not Allah, according to the Scriptures. Nowhere in the OT and NT is God identified as Allah in the original languages (Hebrew-Aramaic OT and Greek NT).

One writer on Christian Forums stated: “If Abraham worshiped God and Abraham is recognized as the ‘father’ of believers then Judaism, Islam and Christianity worship the same God”.[5]

My response[6] was that this person was trying to argue for the ideology of old – old-fashioned religious syncretism.

What is syncretism?

W. A. V. Hooft (1963:11) stated that

‘the syncretic approach may be defined as ‘the view which holds that there is no unique revelation in history, that there are many different ways to reach the divine reality, that all formulations of religious truth or experience are by their very nature inadequate expressions of that truth and that it is necessary to harmonise as much as possible all religious ideas and experiences so as to create one universal religion for mankind’ (in Anderson 1984:17).

Sir Norman Anderson (1984:17) observed that syncretism was not a new phenomenon but was practised in ancient Israel and was denounced by the prophets. It also was a characteristic of Hellenism, Gnosticism and had wide practice in the Roman Empire. Emperor Alexander Severus

‘had in his private chapel not only the statues of the deified emperors, but also those of the miracle worker Apollonius of Tyana, of Christ, of Abraham and of Orpheus’ (Hooft 1963:15, cited in Anderson 1984:17).

The essence of syncretism is that all paths lead to the same God. In a paper on Hinduism given to the world’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago 1893, it was stated:

‘May He who is the Brahma of the Hindus, the Ahura-Mazda of the Zoroastrians, the Buddha of the Buddhists, the Jehovah of the Jews, the Father in Heaven of the Christians, give strength to you to carry out your noble idea!’[7]

This was an example of the promotion of syncretism in the 19th century. The person on Christian Forums in the 21st century was attempting to make out that just because a religion (Islam) claims to go back to Abraham, that it represents the same religion as that of Judaism and Christianity. That is the promotion of a very old religious ideology. That is an example of support for religious syncretism, which is an old-fashioned way of encouraging theological falsehood, worship of an idol instead of the true God Almighty.

He wanted to syncretise Christianity and Islam because they go back to the one Abraham. A religion that supposedly goes back to Abraham (Islam) and tries to identify this with the Abraham of Israel and Christianity, is just pulling our theological ‘legs’. There is no way that the doctrines of Christianity can be harmonised with those of Islam, which is what syncretism tries to do.

On the Internet, this person’s theologically liberal promotion of world religions was an attempt to make the God of Judeo-Christianity look like the Allah of Islam. It sounds like and looks like religious syncretism and it is a false amalgamation – thus, idolatry.

This is one of the major areas where this attempt to syncretise Christianity and Islam fails with its effort to make Allah = Elohim. For the Muslim, one of the unforgivable sins is what is called shirk[8], which is the association of anyone or anything with the Almighty. Therefore, the very idea of the incarnation of the Deity is anathema. It is blasphemy, especially for the orthodox Sunni Muslims that make up about 90% of the world’s Muslims.[9]

The Qur’an demonstrates this theology of ‘ruin’ and ‘tremendous sin’ of those who promote Allah as being the God of Jesus’ incarnation:

‘Had there been within the heavens and earth gods besides Allah , they both would have been ruined. So exalted is Allah , Lord of the Throne, above what they describe’ (Al-Anbiya 21:22).

‘Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin’ (Al-Nisa 4:48).

The Unitarian god of Islam

Abul A’La Mawdudi has stated:

The most fundamental and the most important teaching of Prophet Muhammad (blessings of Allah and peace be upon him) is faith in the unity of God. This is expressed in the primary Kalimah of Islam as “There is no deity but Allah” (La ilaha illallah). This beautiful phrase is the bedrock of Islam, its foundation and its essence. It is the expression of this belief which differentiates a true Muslim from a kafir (unbeliever), mushrik (one who associates others with God in His Divinity) or dahriyah (an atheist).

The acceptance or denial of this phrase produces a world of difference between man and man. The believers in it become one single community and those who do not believe in it form an opposing group. For the believers there is unhampered progress and success in this world and in the hereafter, while failure and ignominy are the ultimate lot of those who refuse to believe in it.[10]

So, the incarnation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in the Trinitarian God of Scripture is anathema to the Muslims. This is one clear indication that Allah does not equal Elohim. The Trinity of Christianity is incompatible with the Unitarianism[11] of Islam.

Of Jesus, the NT Scriptures state,

And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14 ESV).

Who is this Jesus, the Word?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:1-4 ESV).

It could be not clearer, from biblical revelation, that Jesus was and is God and never ceased to be God during his incarnation on earth.

For the Christian, the unity of God has a very different understanding to that of Islam. The unity of God can be defined as follows:

‘God is not divided into parts, yet we see different attributes of God emphasized at different times. This attribute of God has also been called God’s simplicity, using simple in the less common sense of “not complex” or “not composed of parts” (Grudem 1994:177).

When we understand both Christianity and Islam, it is impossible for Islam’s Allah to be one and the same with the Lord God Almighty of reality and as revealed in the Christian Scriptures.

Dr. Albert Mohler Jr. (2007), in his reply to Tiny Muskens’ syncretism, has rightly stated the issues when people try to identify the Trinitarian God of Christianity with that of the Unitarian god of Islam:

Those making the case for a Christian appropriation of Allah must take their argument in one of two trajectories.  The first trajectory is to argue that Allah can be used in a generic way to refer to any (presumably monotheistic) deity.  This case will be very difficult to make.  Language, theology, and worship are so closely intertwined that it is difficult, if not impossible, to argue for a generic use of Allah.  Further evidence against this trajectory is the fact that non-Arabic speaking Muslims also use Allah when referring to their god.

The second trajectory presents even more of a problem.  Those following this line of argument must make the case that Allah and God refer to the same deity.  This represents a huge problem for both Muslims and Christians.  Allah is not a personal deity in the sense that the God of the Bible is.  Furthermore, the Qur’an explicitly denies that Allah has a son, and Islam considers the notion of a triune God to be blasphemy.

Thus, from its very starting point Islam denies what Christianity takes as its central truth claim — the fact that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father.  If Allah has no Son by definition, Allah is not the God who revealed himself in the Son.  How then can the use of Allah by Christians lead to anything but confusion . . . and worse?

To be faithful Christians, we must obey John’s exhortation: ‘Keep yourselves from idols’ (1 John 5:21). To worship Allah (as defined by Islam) is to worship another god and that is idolatry.

Appendix A: Schaff & Muir on Islam

Eminent church historian Philip Schaff noted that

Goethe and Carlyle swung from the orthodox abuse to the opposite extreme of a pantheistic hero-worshiping over-estimate of Mohammed and the Koran by extending the sphere of revelation and inspiration, and obliterating the line which separates Christianity from all other religions….

But the enthusiasm kindled by Carlyle for the prophet of Mecca has been considerably checked by fuller information from the original sources as brought out in the learned biographies of Weil, Nöldeke, Sprenger and Muir…. Sir William Muir concedes his original honesty and zeal as a reformer and warner, but assumes a gradual deterioration to the judicial blindness of a self-deceived heart, and even a kind of Satanic inspiration in his later revelations (Schaff n d: 4:92).

Schaff used the research of Muir who stated of Mahomet (Muir’s spelling)[1]:

He was delivered over to the judicial blindness of a self deceived heart; that, having voluntarily shut his eyes against the light, he was left miserably to grope in the darkness of his own choosing….

I would warn the reader against seeking to portray in his mind a character in all of Mahomet, its parts consistent with itself as the character of Mahomet. The truth is that the strangest inconsistencies blended together according to the wont of human nature) throughout the life of the Prophet. The student of the history will trace for himself how the pure and lofty aspirations of Mahomet were first tinged, and then gradually debased by a half unconscious self-deception; and how in this process truth merged into falsehood, sincerity into guile, – these opposite principles often co-existing even as active agencies in his conduct. The reader will observe that simultaneously with the anxious desire to extinguish idolatry, and to promote religion and virtue in the world, there was nurtured by the Prophet in his own heart, a licentious self-indulgence; till in the end, assuming to be the favourite of Heaven, he justified himself by “revelations” from God in the most flagrant breaches of morality. He will remark that while Mahomet cherished a kind and tender disposition, “weeping with them that wept,” and binding to his person the hearts of his followers by the ready and self-denying offices of love and friendship, he could yet take pleasure in cruel and perfidious assassination, could gloat over the massacre of an entire tribe, and savagely consign the innocent babe to the fires of hell. Inconsistencies such as these continually present themselves from the period of Mahomet’s arrival at Medina; and it is by the study of these inconsistencies that his character must be rightly comprehended. The key to many difficulties of this description may be found, I believe, in the chapter “on the belief of Mahomet in his own inspiration.” when once he had dared to forge the name of the Most High God as the seal and authority of his own words and actions, the germ was laid from which the errors of his after life freely and fatally developed themselves (Muir 4:320, 322-323).


References:

Al-Bab 2009. Arabic words and the Roman alphabet. Available at: http://www.al-bab.com/arab/language/roman1.htm (Accessed 13 February 2012).

Anderson, N 1984. Christianity and World Religions. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Grudem w 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Hooft, W A V 1963. No Other Name: The Choice between Syncretism and Christian Universalism. London: SCM.

Krusch, D 2011. ‘Sunni Islam’, Jewish Virtual Library, available at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/sunni.html (Accessed 15 September 2011).

Mohler Jr., A 2007. ‘What does God care what we call Him?’, August 22, available at: http://www.albertmohler.com/2007/08/22/what-does-god-care-what-we-call-him/ (Accessed 15 September 2011).

Muir, W 1861. The biography of Mahomet, and the rise of Islam, in W Muir, The life of Mahomet (e-book), 4 vols, 4:302-324. London: Smith, Elder, & Co. Answering Islam, available at: http://www.answering-islam.org/Books/Muir/Life4/chap37.htm (Accessed 13 February 2012).

Endnotes:


[1] ‘Pray to Allah, Dutch bishop proposes’, Catholic News, 13-17 August 2007. Available at: http://www.cathnews.com/article.aspx?aeid=5904 (Accessed 15 September 2011).

[2] For a lively discussion of this topic, see Christian Forums, “Is Allah God?”.

[3] J C Ryle, ‘Idolatry’, available at: http://www.biblebb.com/files/ryle/warn8.htm (Accessed 15 September 2011).

[4] Ibid.

[5] Christian Forums, “Is Allah God?”.#53.

[6] I’m OzSpen on Christian Forums.

[7] ‘Paper on Hinduism’ given at the world’s Parliament of Religions, Chicago, September 19, 1893. Available at: http://www.mathfundamentals.org/geocities/Religion/Vivekananda/Paper.htm (Accessed 15 September 2011).

[8] For an explanation of shirk, see ‘Shirk (Polytheism)’, available at: http://www.missionislam.com/knowledge/Shirk.htm (accessed 15 September 2011).

[9] This paragraph was based on information from Anderson (1984:17). David Krusch (2011) stated that ‘Some estimates say that Muslims constitute 20 percent of the world’s population. Although the exact demographics of the branches of Islam are disputed, most scholars believe that Sunni Muslims comprise 87-90 percent of the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims’.

[10] Abul A’La Mawdudi, Towards Understanding Islam, ‘Tawhid: Faith in the unity of God’, islamworld.net. Available at: http://islamworld.net/docs/mautaw1.html (Accessed 15 September 2011).

[11] Muslims use the term, ‘the unity of God’ in a different sense to that of Christianity and by ‘the unity of God’, Muslims mean Unitarianism. For them, God is one, but not Trinity.

 

Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 December 2015.
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