Friday, November 6, 2015

Islam and Protestantism: Part First

Many Protestants, for varying reasons, see Islam as one of their greatest enemies.  Two ensamples:

Albert Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary):  ‘And, all things considered, Islam almost surely represents the greatest challenge to Christian evangelism of our times.’

Rev John Hagee:  ‘Ladies and gentlemen, America is at war with radical Islam . . . .  Jihad has come to America. If we lose the war to Islamic fascism, it will change the world as we know it.’

Đere (There) is some truth in those statements (along with some war propaganda).  But what Protestants do not seem to understand is that Islam helped shape Protestantism itself.  This is tremendously important for a people like the South, who have thought of themselves as ‘a fellowship of “the Book”’ (M. E. Bradford, ‘The Rhetoric for Continuing Revolution’, A Better Guide Than Reason, New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1994, p. 190), and still do in large measure.  Father Stephen Freeman sheds light on this in his essay ‘Has Your Bible Become a Quran?’.  Here is how he opens it:

Those who engage in debates on a regular basis know that the argument itself can easily shape the points involved. This is another way of saying that some debates should be avoided entirely since merely getting involved in them can be the road to ruin. There are a number of Christian scholars (particularly among the Orthodox) who think that the classical debates between Christians and Muslims during the Middle Ages had just such disastrous results for Christian thinking.

Now when engaging in religious debates it is all too easy to agree to things that might make for later problems. It is possible, for example, to agree to a comparison of the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament and the Book of the Quran. After all, Muslims have a holy book – Christians have a holy book. Why should we not debate whose holy book is better?

It is even possible to agree with the Muslim contention that Christians (and Jews) are “People of the Book.” Of course Muslims meant that Christians and Jews were people of an inferior book, but were somehow better than pagans. Again, it is possible, nevertheless, to let the matter ride and agree that Christians are “People of the Book.”

And it is also possible to give wide latitude to the Muslim claim that the most essential matter with regard to God is “Islam,” that is “submission.” After all, if God is the Lord of all creation, then how is submitting to Him, recognizing and accepting that He is God, not the most important thing?

But each of these proposals had disastrous results in the history of Christianity and may very well be the source of a number of modern distortions within the Christian faith.

Thus, at the outset I will state:

1.      The Bible is not the Christian Holy Book.
2.      Christians (and Jews) are not People of the Book.
3.      Submission to God is not a proper way to describe the Christian faith

Further, any and all of these claims, once accepted, lead to fundamental distortions of Christianity. An extreme way of saying this is that much of modern Christianity has been “Islamified.” Thinking critically about this is important – particularly in an era of renewed contact with Islam.

 . . .

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