In my previous post, I shared a story of a bumper sticker seen this week. I commented on that message from a Christian point of view, namely that Christianity is certainly not the homogeneous faith demanded by St. Paul:
10 I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? … (1 Cor 1:10-13)
More specifically, that post was a call to action for all Christians. If we are truly the evangelists to the world that Christ intended then we better begin honestly examining our respective differences and vigorously try to close the gaps. This will require personal humility from all and a constant focus on our love of Jesus Christ and His love for us. To be sure, this will be a difficult task but not impossible. Without sounding melodramatic, I don’t think it is too much to say we seem to be standing at a turning point in historical Christianity.
But that was the last post. In this follow-up, I want to look at the bumper sticker from the position of Islam. I want to quickly summarize what the Muslim woman might have really meant and intended with that bumper sticker. I want to shed a little light on Islam and what they believe about Jesus.
The Simple Catholic Truth
I’ll get right to the point regarding Islam’s view of Jesus. To those billion+ followers of the Quran, Jesus was simply a mortal man, a prophet sent by God to deliver a message. Even more, they reference the Bible as proof for this position. Consider the following quote from the Muslim apologetics site www.onereason.org [my emphasis added]:
“Some ambiguous verses of the Bible can be applied erroneously to show that Jesus is in some way divine. But if we look at the clear, direct verses of the Bible, we see again and again that Jesus is being referred to as an extraordinary human being and nothing more. What emerges, when we consider the historical and logical facts about Jesus’ life, is conclusive proof not only that Jesus cannot be God, but that he never claimed to be either.“
First of all a bit of a tangent. Does this sound a little familiar within our own Christian history? For centuries, people have been claiming that such and such a verse is ambiguous when it doesn’t support their interpretation and worldview. They continue to point out that if you would pay attention to this or that “clear, direct” verse then you will see the real truth. This is referred to as cherry picking proof texts. I can’t think of any better evidence for the need for a single divinely appointed authority ( a.k.a. the Church) to guard the truth of the Gospel message – but that is a post for another day!
Now lets look quickly at some of their “proof texts” organized by category. I will again lift directly from that site referenced above but will rearrange for the sake of brevity. I can assure you that I retained the intent of the author.
1. JESUS NEVER CALLS HIMSELF GOD
“The Bible contains many verses in which Jesus speaks of God as a separate person to himself. Here are just a few of them:
I don’t seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me. [John 5:30]
I’m going up to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God. [John 20:17]”
I’m not going to counter with numerous other verses which Jesus in fact alludes to the Trinity, says that He and the Father are one, and even says he is God. I’m not going to mention the countless teachings of the Church Fathers discussing the Trinity and the nature of Christ. Now, to be fair it must be mentioned that even beginning in early Christianity the nature of Christ was debated. Many heresies such as Gnosticism and Arianism were rooted in the mystery of Christ’s nature. However, to claim that the Bible provides “conclusive proof not only that Jesus cannot be God, but that he never claimed to be either” is simply not true.
3. THE NATURE OF JESUS
“The nature of Jesus was totally different to that of God. There are many parts of the Bible that highlight this difference in nature:
God is All-Knowing but Jesus by his own admission was not All-Knowing. This can be seen in the following passage when Jesus says ‘But nobody knows when that day or hour will come, not the heavenly angels and not the Son. Only the Father knows.’ [Matthew 24:36]
God is independent and he doesn’t need sleep, food or water. Jesus however ate, drank, slept and depended on God: As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father. [John 6:57].
Also the Bible calls Jesus a Prophet [Matthew 21:10-11], so how could Jesus be God and be God’s Prophet at the same time? That wouldn’t make sense.
Additionally the Bible informs us that God does not change: I the Lord do not change. [Malachi 3:6:]. Jesus however went through many changes in his life such as age, height, weight etc.”
Again, these texts show a compete disregard for the concepts of a Trinitarian God and that fact that Jesus is both 100% man and 100% God. Yes, both of these are Christian mysteries in the sense that we can not currently completely grasp the fullness of their meaning. However, because I don’t not understand the fullness of some truth does not change the fact that it is true.
5. THE EARLY CHRISTIANS
“Historically there were many sects in early Christianity who had a range of beliefs regarding Jesus. Some believed Jesus was God, others believed Jesus was not God but partly divine, and yet others believed he was a human being and nothing more.
Early Christianity was quite conflicted about the issue of the nature of Jesus…
Since there were so many sects in early Christianity, each with different beliefs about Jesus and with their own versions of the Bible, which one can we say was following the true teachings of Jesus?
It is clear that the sect of Christianity who believed Jesus to be a human Prophet and nothing more, were following the true teachings of Jesus.”
Here, the Muslim position is that because there were differences of opinion, they must be false. My conclusion, one that is totally consistent with the Bible, is very different. Jesus left us a Church to arbitrate and teach the truth when the inevitable debates and disagreements and misunderstandings surfaced. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the concepts of the Trinity and the dual nature of Christ that were revealed in the Bible (particularly in the New Testament), were fleshed out into the theologies we hold today.
Lets look at the final section of the web page I’ve been referencing and then we’ll wrap this up:
JESUS IN ISLAM
“… Jesus in Islam was an extraordinary individual, chosen by God as a Prophet and sent to the Jewish people. He never preached that he himself was God or the actual son of God. In the Quran, God addresses the Christians about Jesus in the following way:
O People of the Book, do not commit excesses in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word, directed to Mary and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers and do not speak of a Trinity stop [this], …[4:171]
Since it has clearly been shown that Jesus is not God both according to the Bible and for historical and rational reasons ‘“ what is the next step for you? We invite you to look further and investigate Islam. Islam is not just another religion. It is the same message preached by Moses, Jesus and Abraham….
…Becoming a Muslim is not changing or losing your Christian identity. But it’s going back to the original teachings of Jesus.”
So now I want to conclude by returning to that original bumper sticker to see what the real intent was. I do not disrespect the Muslim faith nor the sincerity of its followers. However, it should be clear by now that the Jesus the Muslims love is not the Jesus Christ of Christianity. In that regard we must be very clear, and very careful.
It is attractive to think that we all worship the same God and of course that is true – there is only one God. However, we must see the “proof texts” offered above to be an incomplete extraction of the Gospel message. Alluring in apparent simplicity but dangerous and eternally lethal. They say that to become Muslim would not result in a loss of your Christian identity. I must strongly disagree. To be Christian is to believe in the Trinity. To be Christian is hold that Jesus is the Incarnate Son of God. To be Christian is to believe in the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross. To be Christian is to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus for all mankind.
I’m glad that my Muslim sister loves Jesus for there is so much to love. Yes, he is a great man, a prophet of sorts, a messenger from God the Father. But there is so much more. I pray that she continues to love our Lord. I pray that her mind is opened to the true light of the Gospel, to Jesus the Son of God who gave His life for me.
That is the Jesus I Love…Because I’m Christian.