As an ex-Muslim I find myself challenged by certain teachings regarding Islam that is being promoted in a large scale in our church today. Is Islam truly a religion that shares many similarities to the Seventh-day Adventist church? Can both these religions claim inspiration as their birth-right? These are just some assertions that is being promoted by a large class within the Seventh-day Adventist church today. Some may feel or even believe that a little compromise for the sake of the greater good for unity is well worth the effort. But what are we sacrificing for the sake of ecumenism? Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amos 3:3) These teachings challenge our traditional perspectives about:
- the nature of God,
- the person and mission of Jesus Christ,
- the authority of the Bible and
- the method for evangelism.
Below I will discuss these assertions and try to present a balanced Biblical approach to this dilemma.
CLAIM 1: ISLAM STEMS FROM ABRAHAM
Some reason that since Arabs are the descendants of Abraham and Islam is the religion of the Arab world, Islam must be an extension of Abraham's faith. This leads many to conclude that Islam is fundamentally good. However, this position is not supported by the Bible or by historical facts. It is true that some Arab tribes in the Middle East are of the lineage of Abraham. But that Abraham had anything to do with the formation or practice of Islam is an impossibility since this religion did not even arise until 2000 years after the time of Abraham.
CLAIM 2: MOHAMMAD WAS A PROPHET
The idea that Mohammad was at one time a "chosen" vessel, a "reformer," or even a "true prophet" is Biblically unsupportable. The founder of Islam early set himself on the opposite side of the Gospel. If Mohammad had the spirit of prophecy, surely, he would have supported the most basic fundamental doctrines of the Bible, and definitely he would have pointed to Jesus Christ as the "Lamb of God which taketh away the Sin of the world". But he did not do that. While the Koran honors Jesus as a prophet, it does however set Jesus as only moral human.
CLAIM 3: ALLAH AND GOD ARE THE SAME
Is Allah the same God the Christian worships? My answer is simple. If Allah is the God of the Bible, then he would agree with His own words which He spoke testifying about Jesus saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17), or "This is my beloved Son: hear him." (Luke 9:35). But there are no verses in the Koran and support the divinity of Christ, in fact the Koran denies Jesus’ divinity.
CLAIM 4: ISLAM REPRESENTS A SPECIAL BLESSING
What about the teaching that is taught today that makes Islam somehow a "forgotten blessing" simply because Islam was used as a scourge against the Papacy in the Dark Ages? Let’s answer that question with another question. Are the Babylonians and their religion valid just because God at some point used Babylon as a scourge to punish His people Israel? Or are the Persians somehow a special blessing because God used them under Cyrus the Persian king as a scourge against the Babylonians? I don’t think so. All this just proves God’s sovereignty over all human affairs. God can use whomever He likes to achieve His purposes. The fact that it pleased God to use Islam as a scourge during the Dark Ages does not make this religion a blessing or truthful.
CLAIM 5: ADVENTISM HAS MUCH IN COMMON WITH ISLAM
Although at first glance it may seem that Adventists and Muslims share many viewpoints these connections however are largely on the surface only. Regarding the substantive doctrines of Scripture, we have little in common with the Muslims. Just one example: Muslims don't eat pork and abstain from alcoholic drinks, but apart from that they can smoke cigarettes and freely partake of the flesh of camels, crabs or any other form of scavenging sea creatures. In Islam, diet restrictions are of little consequence except for eating swine's flesh which, incidentally, in times of dearth is permissible according to Sharia law.
ISLAM'S TRUE PURPOSE
Those who are going out of their way to teach the false narrative that Islam and Adventism basically share many principles and therefore they are brothers are in fact doing a misjustice to the true cause of God. The above claims on Islam are certainly being promoted by well-meaning individuals in our church. Nevertheless, they miss the true and subtle purpose of Islam – to make of no effect the Gospel of Jesus Christ. To set Jesus as a mere man with mortality on par with any other man that has ever walked upon the earth. This, I submit, is the real reason for the existence of Islam.
ELLEN G WHITE VIEW OF ISLAM
In all of her writings Ellen White only mentions Islam once which sets Islam as a false religion.
Mohammedanism has its converts in many lands, and its advocates deny the divinity of Christ. Shall this faith be propagated, and the advocates of truth fail to manifest intense zeal to overthrow the error, and teach men of the pre-existence of the only Saviour of the world? O how we need men who will search and believe the word of God, who will present Jesus to the world in his divine and human nature, declaring with power and in demonstration of the Spirit, that "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." O how we need believers who will now present Christ in life and character, who will hold him up before the world as the brightness of the Father's glory, proclaiming that God is love! (The Home Missionary, September 1, 1892)
THE TEACHINGS OF THE KORAN AND THE BIBLE
Let’s compare the Koran with the Bible focusing on those truths of Scripture that show why the above claims are not sustainable. In 1 John 4:1 we read, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." If we are going to take the apostle's counsel seriously, then we must look at what it is that Islam teaches and compare it with the Bible so we won't be deceived. Let's compare the spirit of Islam with the Spirit of God because John has admonished us to do so.
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:2-3).
Does Islam in this sense "confess” Jesus Christ?
WHAT THE KORAN SAYS ABOUT JESUS
Advocates of Islam may say, "Islam is not an antichrist religion because it teaches Jesus was chosen by Allah and that Jesus came in the flesh according to the Koran." Now, it's true that Islam teaches that Christ was chosen, but only as a prophet and not the Son of God. Jesus is only mere flesh, according to the Koran. Look at the following statement taken from the Koran: "...the example of Jesus, as far as Allah is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; he created him from dust, then said to him, 'Be,' and he was" (Surah 3:59). According to this verse, Christ was created from dust just as Adam was. This is evidently a denial of the divinity of Jesus.
There are many more Surahs in the Koran that talk about Jesus. However they mislead you in regard to His true identity. Some of these Surah’s talk about His birth and others talk about His character, His mission and teachings. But the big question remains, do these Surah’s agree with the Bible? John the apostle, in 1 John the fifth chapter, has much to offer that is important to us as Christians seeking how to relate to Muslims. In fact, I believe the first thirteen verses in 1John 5 are buffers placed in the Word of God to protect His church from any false advances against the truth, and that includes the Koran.
Let's look at these verses and do a comparison. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:1-5)
Right at the start John expounds on eternal truths that are central to Christianity: Jesus is the Christ or the Messiah (verse 1), and the Son of God (verse 5). Islam too calls Jesus Messiah but strictly rejects His divinity. In the Koran Surah 19:88-92 we read these startling words: Those who say: 'The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son,' preach a monstrous falsehood, at which the very heavens might crack, the earth split asunder, and the mountains crumble to dust. That they should ascribe a son to the Merciful, when it does not become the Lord of Mercy to beget one!
Next John focuses on the most powerful expression of who God is, and that is love (verses 1-3). As we surrender to Him, He causes to grow in us love for God and love for the "children of God." This God-given love helps us keep His commandments. If we are "born of God" (see verse 4), we overcome the world through faith. And what helps us to overcome the world? Unless we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, we cannot overcome the world. But Islam denies the Sonship of Jesus and therefore cuts itself off from the Source of power and love.
Let's read two more verses from the Koran: "Creator of the heavens and the earth. How should He have a son when He had no consort? He created all things, and He has knowledge of all things" (Surah 6:101). "Allah forbid that He should have a son!" (Surah 4:171) Let's continue with the rest of what John has to say: This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth (1 John 5:6).
WHAT THE KORAN SAYS ABOUT THE CROSS
The Koran denies that Jesus ever died on the cross thus undoing the plan of salvation. Salvation in Islam is merited by good works and not by faith. Let's read from the Koran the account that denies Jesus' death on the cross: And for claiming that they killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah. In fact, they never killed him, they never crucified him - they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain, they never killed him (Surah 4:157).
WHAT THE KORAN SAYS ABOUT THE GODHEAD
The Bible says the following about the Godhead: For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one (1 John 5:7-8).
Islam is opposed to this all-important truth about the nature of God which teaches the unity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, and whom the Bible refers to as the "Godhead." Here is another verse from the Koran that teaches against the Godhead: People of the Book (in the Koran, Christians and Jews are referred to as the "people of the Book"), do not transgress the bounds of your religion. Speak nothing but the truth about Allah. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was no more than Allah's apostle and His Word which He cast to Mary: a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His apostles and do not say: "Three." Forbear, and it shall be better for you. Allah is but one God (Surah 4:171).
About the Sonship of Jesus to the Father, John warns us not to receive the witness of men over the witness of God. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son (1 John 5:9-10).
Let's read more:
And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:11-13).
AN HONEST CONCLUSION
Islam is undermining Christianity at its very core, and it does so by attacking it on three uncompromisable fronts: These are: Jesus Christ as the Son of God, His divine nature and Oneness with Father, and His death on the cross as a substitutionary offering on behalf of mankind. This allows but one honest conclusion: The Jesus of the Koran must be an imposter and the Allah of the Koran, and the Father in the Bible are not the same either. If so can we really use the "Isa al Masih" (Jesus Christ) mentioned in the Koran as a bridge to Muslims? Can we use an imposter Christ to lead people? Certainly not. Today God is calling His children to come all the way out of fallen and false religions. This applies as well to Muslims and we need to communicate it accordingly – at the right time, in a loving and sympathizing manner, led by the Holy Spirit.
If a Muslim accepts present truth and the True Jesus of the Bible as his Savior, he will no longer remain a Muslim. He will be a born-again Seventh-day Adventist Christian.
LEARNING FROM THE GREATEST OF ALL MISSIONARIES
There are so many ideas about how best to reach Muslims with the Gospel that the choices can be baffling. Yet the answer is simple: We have to follow the example of Jesus. Jesus clearly has shown us the correct method for evangelism both in His own life and that of His apostles. Ellen White commenting on this wrote: Christ's method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, 'Follow Me' (The Ministry of Healing, 143).
We do not necessarily learn about evangelism by only reading books or learning theories. The best way Jesus taught His disciples was through modeling. He was an ever-present example to them. His disciples saw Him work in the lives of the people around them. They saw Him minister to the needs of old and young alike; they saw Him deliver the people from their bondage to sin. His love and care for the masses was unmatched. This prepared the disciples to become the apostles of Christ’s church on earth. When considering evangelizing the Muslim world of today, it is absolutely essential for us to continue the Biblical model and not deviate from the methods of Christ, Who is our pattern.
BUT WHAT ABOUT PAUL IN ATHENS?
Some try to use Paul's experience on Mars Hill to say it is okay to contextualize the Gospel, so it is palatable and easily understood by Muslims, or any other difficult to reach people groups. They believe Paul took great liberty in his evangelistic approach somewhat along the line, "As long as the evangelist has good intentions and purposes it is alright.” But what was really Paul’s method? What exactly took place on Mars Hill? Let's pick up the story in Acts 17:16. Paul was in Athens waiting for Silas and Timotheus to join him. While he was waiting for them his "spirit" was "stirred in him," because "he saw the city wholly given to idolatry." Paul longed to work for these people in spiritual darkness. So he went out and disputed in the synagogues and in the open markets of Athens:
"Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him" (Acts 17:17). The Greek word "disputed" in verse 17 is dialegomai where we get the word "dialogue" which means conversation. The word dialegomai literally means "to reason with, reason, preach unto, preach, speak, to ponder, to converse, argue, discuss". While Paul was busy disputing, "certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, met with him." (See verse 18.)
Those philosophers had a difficult time understanding Paul's message to them for he told them things they had never heard before. "He preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection." Paul openly promoted Christianity to the idolatrous people of Athens – no indication of a gospel version especially "adapted” to Athenians!
In verse 19, when the Athenians made further inquiry of Paul, they did so with the intent of wanting to know "what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is....". Obviously, what Paul was telling the philosophers was radically different than what they were used to hearing. Paul in no way changed the Gospel or mixed it with Athenian doctrines.
This is why the people desired to learn more: "And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know. For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean" (Acts 17:19-20).
The people were starving for new ideas. (See verse 21.) But above all needed salvation. Paul saw his chance and seized the moment. Carefully, but fearlessly he described the religious condition of this superstitious people. (See verse 22.) Then in verse 23 Paul carefully pointed the Athenians to their own altar, which they had erected to the Unknown God. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.
Notice Paul did not ascribe an Athenian name to the unknown God. He did not point to the great number of idols sitting close by, but instead he pointed the people to the Unknown God. Why the Unknown God? Wouldn't it have been easier to tell them about the common points between their idols and the God of heaven? After all, wasn't Paul trying to bridge the gap between himself and the Athenians?
Paul chose this wise way because the title "Unknown God” was neutral. It was not ascribed to any other deity. There was no room for misunderstandings and misapplications. Paul did not have to fear to prompt inappropriate associations in his hearers about the character, honor and glory of the true God. Instead, a desire was awakened in them to get to know the unknown Deity. This was a redemptive act on the part of Paul which did not compromise principle. In the verses that follow, Paul further expounded on who this Unknown God is, being ever careful not to ascribe to God any of the characteristics that, in the minds of the people, belonged solely to the idol deities they worshiped. There is an important lesson for us: We too should not ascribe to the God of universe the attributes of some false god whether from Islam or some other heathen religion.