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May 22, 2008

Islam in the West, Christianity in the East

From the latest issue of BreakPoint WorldView, Chuck Colson on Islam:

Recently, Archbishop Rowan Williams suggested accommodating British Muslims to observe their own law, rather than that of the United Kingdom. Williams proposes finding “a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law”—in other words, sharia. That begs the question: Where would Williams draw the line? At husbands beating their wives for wearing Western clothes, or perhaps stoning a woman accused of adultery?

Williams’s fellow bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali begged to differ. His father had to leave Pakistan after converting to Christianity—he knows a few things, needless to say, about how Islam fails to mesh with Western ideas and law. Nazir-Ali told the UK Telegraph that sharia is “in tension” with “fundamental aspects” of Anglo-American law. That is because our “legal tradition” is “rooted in the quite different moral and spiritual vision deriving from the Bible.” He also recently spoke about “no-go zones” that Christians should avoid due to threat of violence. Now his own family requires police protection as a result of death threats.

As I said recently on “BreakPoint,” we fawningly respond to Islamic overtures for dialogue, even as we see Christians being persecuted in Muslim nations—and sharia law being imposed on others right in our own backyards. This is a sign of the Church’s weakness. We’re not involved in a mutual exercise of tolerance; we’re being hijacked. . . .

Now, there is good news in this story about Islam and the West. As I recently noted on “BreakPoint,” all over the world, Muslims are converting to Christianity. . . .

Then there is Italian journalist Magdi Cristiano Allam, a former Muslim recently baptized by Pope Benedict XVI. Allam has spoken strongly against Islam and giving place to it in Europe. He counters ideas like those proposed by Archbishop Williams, saying—even before his conversion to Christ—that the “moderate” Islam these leaders talk about, and which he supposedly represented, was a figment of their imagination. The “Islamic Reformation” they longed for could be found in convincing Muslims, Allam believed, to “cease being Muslims.” Although he lives a life “under guard” for his protests against Islam, Allam accepts it because “the miracle of the Resurrection of Christ has reverberated through [his] soul,” so he writes.

So what should Christians do in this age of sympathy for a radical and dangerous brand of Islam? Patrick Sookhdeo, a Muslim convert and now Anglican priest, encourages the Church to witness without compromise. Reach out to your Muslim neighbors, but do so with certain expectations of their reception toward you. While they will welcome you into their home, they will not enter yours—or they may give you a copy of the Koran, but not accept a copy of the Bible. This is due to certain rules they follow in relating to those outside Islam.

Nevertheless, reach out and seek opportunities to engage in conversation, while holding fast to the Christian faith. Two books that will prove invaluable toward your witness are Dr. Timothy George’s Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?, which explains the differences between Islam and Christianity, and Sookhdeo’s book Islam: The Challenge to the Church, available from the Barnabas Fund. . . .

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May peace and God's blessing be upon you my friend.
I usually only read blogs, however, something compelled me to respond to this particular one.
First of all, I agree with the author's notion that there is a need for an open line of communication between Christians and Muslims. Al though I can not guarantee that on the global level, lets you and I write and discuss.
Your points on the sharia law are well taken, but not entirely complete.
As God's creatures, Muslims believe in the law of God. As our Creator, He knows us and what is best for us better than we do.
I will illustrate my point. An engineer who designed, projected, and manufactured a plane provided the buyer with the manual. The manual states that the plane only runs on cerosine. Not watter, not cooking oil, not unleaded gas, and so on. Further more, he instructed the buyer on how to maintain the plane so that it does not crash. What to change, when to do it, etc. Also he specifically and elaborately described the limits of the machine (how high it can fly, how long, how fast, etc.). No one in their right state of mind would go against these instructions. For who knows it's product better than the engineer himself.
God is our Creator. He gave us the manual in the form of the holly Qur'an. And I try not to go against these instuctions, as to not tempt fate. Whether these instructions are palatable to some is a question on its own. However, that does not make them irrelevant or false.
You mentioned that sharia allows a husband to beat his wife. True. However, I am surprised that you neglected to mention when he is allowed to do that, how, and why. Find that out my fried. Also, I am surprised that you did not mention the abuse of christian women from the hands of thier christian husbands. Evidence of that most of us can find within our own neighborhood or block, especially in the south of America, where I used to live. Strangely, the south is considered to be the part of the country most influenced by Christianity. I guess my point is that we as humans, regardless of our religious beliefs, are not without faults.
What about the blood spilled in the name of Jesus Christ? Have we forgotten the history so fast? Perhaps that was too long ago to matter. But what about Chechenia, the Philipines, Sri Lanka, and Bosnia, country where I am from? These slaughtes occured during the 1990's and the motivation was strictly religious. 109 memebers of my close and extended family were buchered in the name of Chirst (including women and children). However, I do not blame the Christian faith or its teachings. I am simply aware of the fact that people corrupt and misuse everything, including religion, to fulfill personal goals (political, economical, social, etc.). In fact, our God, Allah, tells us in the Qur'an that the closest friends that we have among the inhabitants of the earth are in fact Christians.
You are a very eloquent and persuasive writter, so I encourage you to learn more about Islam. Look at the countless names of profesors, scientists, and Christian priests who converted to Islam, just so you would have a borader view and perhaps see the full picture. All people do bad things, yor people, my people, thier people, because they are just that, people. Let us not focus only on the mistakes of others, lets look at our selves first and ask ourselves, what have we done today to make the world a better place tomorrow.
Hope to hear form you soon and I hope that my comment will find you in good health. Selamu alejkum

Jason Taylor

If they really wish to live under Sharia then they either want to be a vassal state or they want to take over the existing state. If the later they are invaders. If the former, they are non-citizens.
In point of fact, the idea of foreign residents living in autonomous sections is not without precedent and in fact it was a common way of dealing with resident foreign traders. Their rights would be guarenteed by the local ruler, and possibly by their own country if it was powerful enough. But they were still foreigners.

Jason Taylor

And the point "posted by" is whether Sharia is compatable with the British Common Law. It is not about broad-mindedness which must needs be limited and in any case is hardly an Islamic concept. Islam accepts civil tolerance. It hardly accepts repeal of the Law of Non-contradiction, and in practice never even accepted civil equality.
The point "posted by" is that the demand to live by Sharia is in essense either a demand to live as dhimmi or a challenge to the legitimacy of the British state.
If the former, that is all very well and arrangements can be made. If the later then it is a threat of rebellion, which is a thing that is often indulged in Western states, much as Moslems are supposed to indulge People of the Book. But it is not a legitimate political demand.
But as for the good Bishop Williams, it sounds like he is deficient in concern for the dignity of his native civilization. While that is perhaps not overly suprising in a Bishop of a sect founded by a king who married six wifes and beheaded three, it is not a deficiency others are required to share.


May peace and God's blessing be upon you as well.

You make some fine points in your commentary. There is much that can be learned on all sides of the discussion. In some ways we agree more than is apparent at first glance. We each honour God and see ourselves as part of His good creation. Our holy books guide us, as you say, "they are the owner's manual"... but they guide us on different paths. They disagree on some fundamental issues.

You mention the "blood spilled in the name of Jesus Christ" and I agree, perhaps more than you can ever know, that spilling blood in the name of Christ is unconscionable. As you say, "all people do bad things, your people, my people, their people, because they are just that, people," is just as true for Christians as it is for all peoples at all times. But for the Christain it is particularly blameworthy because when we do such things in His name we are acting in the precise opposite of His teaching and example. To understand why this is so, and why we difer so much about the "instruction manual" it is necessary to understand who Jesus Christ really is.

The Christmas Holy Days are coming now, and it is a good time to refect on who Jesus really is. The true nature of Jesus is as often misunderstood by Christians as it is by non-Christians. Even His apostles had difficulty of understanding the reality that is Christ Jesus, and they walked and talked with Him during His time on earth.

When God decided that the time was ripe to initiate the salvation of the world, He reached down with His Spirit, and quickened the seed of life in a virgin peasant girl. He then made His home, in the person of Jesus Christ, in the virgin's seed, and was made man. That man is Jesus the Christ, fully man and fully God, a carpenter by trade, a teacher by calling, Son of God by nature. So, for the Christian, Jesus Christ is more than a man, He is God in the flesh, reaching down to us, His beloved, but stiff-necked and sinful, creatures.

But the truly astonishing part of the story is method God chose to reach out to us, His beloved creatures. God, being God, could use any method he desired for redeeming His creatures, but the way He chose is the way of love. In the beginning God made us in His image, and respects that image, tarnished as it may now be. He respects our liberty, even when we use that liberty to our own destructive purposes, and He wants us to freely come to Him. So, He invites, He does not command, He invites us to enter His home as welcome guests. No! We are more than guests... We are His own lost children come home at last. But He does not coerce us, for a love forced can be no love at all.

God is God, He may act as He pleases. But God chose to act in love and compassion. He could have come to us as Emperor of this world, and brought us home by force, but that would not be an act of love. So He came to earth the son of a peasant girl, a poverty-stricken itinerant preacher, to lead us home. To show us the depth and breadth of that love He walked among us, taught us, and died for us.

So when a Christian takes up the sword to convert his neighbor, he is acting contrary to the clear and public teaching and example of his God. When the Christian sucumbs to this most wicked temptation, he not only acts contrary to God, but he thwarts God's stated purpose. God wants all people to be saved.

That is why Christians (for the most part) react with shame and remorse to the (un)"holy wars" that have been fought in Christ's name. We know such (un)"holy war" is wrong. We know it is more than wrong. We is worse than wrong. These misguided adventures drive our neighbor away from the true and loving God who calls all of His children home. And what could be worse than that?

Gina Dalfonzo

Jason -- it's a minor point, but he beheaded two wives. (Henry VIII is one of the few historical subjects about which I have any knowledge -- and even then, it's not much.)

Jason Taylor

Sorry Gina, I guess I got caught out.

Jason Taylor

Dave, when you talk of "shedding blood in the name of Christ" there are some nuances. Many were in fact shedding blood in the name of "Christiandom" as a political confederation, in conflicts that sometimes were at least arguably justified and occasionally were clearly so. In other words Torquemada and Jon Sobieski are quite different people even though as it happens, both "shed blood in the name of Christ" and thought of themselves as doing so.
And yes Posted By, chivalry demands that I agree that a Moslem warrior and a Moslem slavehunter are not necessarily the same kinds of people. And that I greatly respect the Jordan's Arab Legion, for instance, even though I very little respect Al Queida.
Another thing to remember is that the presumption against shedding blood in the name of Christ is exclusively part of a certain interpretation of Christianity. Natural Law common to all men can give no indication that it is more wrong to fight for one's religion then one's tribe or city. That interpretation is simply a corralary of the command to love all and even more the doctrine that Christ's Kingdom is not of this world.


The philosophy of "Just War" is a particularly Christian idea. Although some non-Christians have considered the ethical justifications of warfare, the obvious contrast between the teaching and example of Christ Jesus and the vicissitudes of life in a sinful world made it imperative that Christian theologians and philosophers to develop a theory about if, when, and how a Christian may legitimately use force.

"But the wise man, they say, will wage just wars. Surely, however, if he remembers he is a human being, he will be readier to deplore the fact that he is under the necessity of waging even just wars." Augustine

A pretty good history of "Just War" thought, with a critique of a modern application of the theory, may be found here. The first two thirds is particularly apt.

And for some really great thinking on "Natural Law" try J. Budzewszewki. He has written several books that are worth reading and a search on his name will find numerous articles.

Review by Philip Johnson

The Revenge of Conscience
J. Budziszewski

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