Reformed Baptist Fellowship

Islam, Christianity, and the Wrath of God – Part 1

In Reformed Baptist Fellowship on June 6, 2011 at 6:53 am

All We Need Is Love

In September 2006 the Pope received An Open Letter to the Pope from 38 Islamic scholars from around the world. In September 2007, 138 Muslim scholars complied a document entitled A Common Word Between Us and You. This document attempted to identify a point of agreement common to both Islam and Christianity, that being the summons to love God and to love neighbor. In November 2007, a favorable and welcoming response was drafted by Christian scholars at Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith and Culture. Some of the signatories are unknown to me. I sadly recognize some others who don’t surprise me and there are others who I recognize upon whose motives for signing I want to put the best construction. I’ve found the contribution of Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe of The World Evangelical Alliance entitled We Too Want To Live In Love, Peace, Freedom And Justice (March 2008) to be a more biblically cogent response.

This present dialog brings me to ask some questions. We know that God is love (1 John 4:8). Is our God the God of Mohammed? We know in this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10). Can “love” be defined apart from the cross of Christ? Is “love” something we have in common with Islam?

God is Love. What is Allah?

I confess that I am profoundly apprehensive, indeed suspicious, of this whole venture as instigated by Islamic scholars. The god of Islam is a philosophical construct far different than my God who is the true and living God, who is unique and incomparable among all the idols of the nations. The god of Islam is an amalgamation of Arab paganism, Abyssinian Christianity, and Talmudic Judaism. Christians who know the true God and who have labored to advance the gospel in Muslim lands tell us plainly that the Islamic god is not the God of Scripture and is not known among Muslims as a god of love. Patrick Fairbairn (cited p. 84, Islam: A Challenge to Faith, by Samuel Zwemer, 1907.) observes of Islam: “As we conceive God, we conceive the universe; a Being incapable of loving is incapable of being loved.” Zwemer then describes the god of the Koran. “Islam reduces God to the category of the will. The Koran shows that Mohammed had a measurably correct idea of the physical attributes of God, but an absolutely false conception of His moral attributes. [His] conception of God is negative. Absolute sovereignty and ruthless omnipotence are His chief attributes, while His character is impersonal – that of a Monad. The Christian truth, that “God is love,” is to the learned Moslem blasphemy and to the ignorant an enigma. ‘Islam,’ says Palgrave, ‘is the Pantheism of Force.'” (p. 86,87) The Christian God is Love and the response He seeks is love. The Islamic god is “force” and the response sought is “Islam” – submission to theocratic force.

You Wouldn’t Lie To Me, Would You?

I know, we’re being told that “Jihad” merely means “struggle,” that “Jihad” is a term describing the effort needed to live the Islamic life. Westerners, accustomed to subjectivizing religion, accept that definition and hope to think that Islam can be like the other religions in our pluralistic society: a privatized, individualized sentiment that willingly submerges beneath the landscape of life and bothers no one. I am, however, suspicious of those who propagate this “subjective struggle” definition of Jihad because of Islam’s teaching on the morality of truth-telling. One Hadith (El Hidayah, Vol IV, p.81) reads: “Verily a lie is allowable in three cases – to women, to reconcile friends, and in war.” Who is excluded? When is it not allowable to lie? When Islam divides the world into two realms: dar al-Islam (the realm of Islam) and dar al-harb (the realm of war), am I not right to think that since I live in the “realm of war,” that Muslims would find it “allowable” to lie to me as a strategy of warfare? Those Westerners so eager to accept that “Jihad means personal religious struggle” are, I fear, victims of the West’s own religious apostasy and philosophical postmodern pluralistic, even nihilistic suicidal tendencies. Could our extolled virtue of “tolerance” be inducing us to drink our own poison? Westerners, by and large, fail to understand that Islam is essentially a theocracy. Islam must, by definition, express itself socio-politically and infuse itself via Sharia law into the institutions of its acquired culture. It’s eschatological vision is for world dominance in the hope of Islamic theocratic supremacy in a society submitted to Sharia.

Angry For God

Jihad is viewed by many as the de facto “Sixth Pillar” of Islam. In other words, it is of the very essence of Islam itself. Extensively in Islamic and non-Islamic writings throughout the course of history, “Jihad” has been defined as a “Holy War” to be waged against “infidels” for the advancement of the Islamic Theocracy. Let me ask any honest reader to survey history, to scan the condition of contemporary nations. Do you not see that Islam oozes with blood? In 1907 Zwemer wrote: “The history of the Wahabis in the nineteenth century, the Armenian massacres, the Madhis of the Soudan and of Somali-land, and the almost universal hope among Moslems to use the power of the sword again – all these are proofs that Jihad is one of the religious forces of Mohammedanism which Christendom cannot afford to ignore. The sword is in its sheath, but the giant still wears it at his side, and it has never been rusty.” (Islam: A Challenge to Faith. p.115). Now, a century later, we find ourselves asking whether the sword is unsheathed. Samuel Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations p.256, 1996) writes: “Muslims make up one fifth of the world’s population but in the 1990’s two thirds to three fourths of [all] wars were between Muslims & non-Muslims. Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards.” “Wherever one looks along the perimeter of Islam, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors.” It has been a long time in the annals of Western history since its citizens were compelled to accept the fact that there are people who will saw off heads and detonate bombs amidst crowds of innocent civilians and then celebrate the carnage with expressions of religious righteousness. Which religion? Islam.

In 1995 I visited the ancient city of Peshawar, Pakistan. A tribal war was raging just fifty miles north. Covered military trucks went north carrying supplies and munitions and returning with the corpses of the slain. The purpose of my visit was to interact with a British missionary who had lived in The North West Frontier since the conclusion of World War II. My missionary friend was fluent in three languages and had lived in this region for over 40 years. I asked him about Islam, its core, its essence. He seemed to survey several options as potential answers to my question as they presented themselves to his mind. Then he knowingly settled on a statement that succinctly distilled all the books he had read, all the people he had spoken to, all the experiences he had had over the decades. “Islam,” he said, “means being angry for God.”

Angry for God. All that I had read and experienced of Islam suddenly came into clarity. The epitome expression of Islamic piety is the experience of presumed “righteous indignation.” The scenes of chanting, rifle-shooting, angry crowds, stomping on burning effigies, celebrating the collapse of the Trade Towers – such corporate anger now makes sense. To be angry for God is the summum bonum, the highest Islamic virtue in a theocratic religion designed for warriors.

The Anger of God: What We Have In Common

So, is love the common point of reference between Islam and Christianity? I think not, but let me suggest that Islam and Christianity do have a common point of agreement that does, in fact, separate them from the prevailing religiosity of postmodern relativism. Their agreement is evident in that which most characterizes their respective religions: the sword for Islam and the cross for Christianity. The commonality in both Jihad and the Gospel is a belief in the wrath of God.

There are liberal, secular Muslims who eschew the violence associated with their religion. Likewise there are liberal Christians who are similarly repulsed by the Bible’s teaching on divine wrath and especially the doctrine of hell. The idea of divine wrath is repugnant to many – Muslims and Christians. Yet the doctrine of God’s wrath is found in both Islam and Christianity. Rather than the love of God or loving God, a common point of reference which gives opportunity for “dialogue” is our common agreement that God is the God of righteous wrath.

Alan Dunn, Pastor
Grace Covenant Baptist Church
Flemington, NJ
  1. Thank you, Pastor Dunn, for your reflection and writing on this topic. Your courageous firsthand familiarity with Islam in Pakistan is a valuable asset in forming an accurate assessment. I eagerly await the next installment.

    D. Scott Meadows, Pastor
    Calvary Baptist Church (Reformed)
    Exeter, New Hampshire

  2. I can’t wait either. This is a very informative article. I have read that some Moslems want to reach out to Christians but that is not true of the whole.

  3. Very informative article. In prison ministry Islam is more or less the de facto faith among black inmates and I detect an enormous amount of repressed anger that they seem to channel into Islam. It takes nothing less than the Holy Spirit working in their hearts to show them the love of God in Christ when their sinful nature finds a congenial outlet in Islam.

  4. I appreciate how you point out the “mask” of Islam claiming that it is about love. A works based, effort-driven religion has nothing to do with love. Our God so loved us that he took on our form so that he could take on the punishment for our sins. This a sacrificial love. An exchange made not out of reciprocity, but a true gift.

    Your last two paragraphs are very confusing to me. I could be reading this wrong, but it seems you are saying that a “conservative Christianity” that holds to a teaching of God’s wrath is biblical. And then you compare this biblical understanding of God to a Muslim who also believes in a God that judges. So then should the conservative Christian behave more like the militant Muslim who seeks to enact God’s judgment on earth?

  5. Gospel means “good news.” Jihad means “holy war.” I’m not seeing the comparison. Will you clarify?

    Our God has just wrath, but it is exercised against sin. “Allah” has wrath, but it is mostly exercised against “infidels” who don’t perform the religious rituals of Islamic culture.

    Jihad uses force to modify behavior. Indeed, the end of the law, for Moslems–is submission. The Wrath of God brings us to our knees, yes. But it brings us to the recognition that without grace, change from the heart is impossible. The end of the law, in terms of the Gospel–is freedom. A slave does not abide in his master’s house forever. A son abides forever.

    If you follow the rules in Islam…it will save you (possibly) from the wrath of God. If you become a slave, you may be spared.

    As Christians, we are slaves of righteousness, but we are like the slaves who voluntarily put their ears on their master’s doorposts after the year of Jubilee. We are sons happy to be slaves, not slaves trying to earn the birthright of sons.

    Brother, your comparison alarms me! The wrath of Allah fails to point to the righteousness of God, because its end is to coerce conformity, and by the works of the Law no man is justified.

    The wrath of our God vindicates his righteousness. It burns so purely and righteously against evil, that it drives men to the only solution that can satisfy it: the blood of Jesus Christ.

    And he did not shed his blood to save us from contemporary culture, but from our sins.

  6. A careful, critical assessment must exercise the discipline of self-restraint against reading into the examined text what the author did not say or intend to say, for that would be execrable eisegesis, no more legitimate in the extrabiblical realm than the biblical. Pastor Dunn has written substantially little concerning God’s wrath in this short piece beyond asserting that conservative Christians accept it as real,  which is true, and that conservative Muslims do too. Let us await Pastor Dunn’s further elaboration and eschew jumping to unwarranted conclusions. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Prov 18.13). Straw men are easily toppled, but the exercise is vain and counterproductive in the pursuit of truth.

  7. Brother, I agree that “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” That is why I’m asking for clarification and seeking to explain some of the reasons why confusion exists.

    I do not know what “execrable eisegesis” means, and I am not sure what “unwarranted conclusions” you are referring to.

    How ought we to pursue truth?

  8. Matt,

    If you had only asked clarification, my comments would not apply.

    I recommend a dictionary for words you don’t understand.

    Your handle is “A Calvinist John Calvin Would Have Burned,” and you aren’t aware of any unwarranted conclusions? Calvin was a godly pastor and should not be so defamed. Also, Pastor Dunn’s comparison does not contain the implications you attribute when suggesting it is wrong.

    Patient listening, tentative consideration of the other’s point of view, and deep reflection upon it are all indispensable to the pursuit of truth. Let us all strive to practice these, especially in theological dialogue.

  9. Si venerit, modo valeat mea autoritas, vivum exire nunquam patiar (!)

  10. http://ch-books.com/blog/?tag=d-scott-meadows

    Here are a couple articles explaining why I appreciate John Calvin so much. These were written after I read about 20 books by and about Calvin. He may well have been the greatest exegete and theologian since the first century. The Servetus matter has been addressed effectively many times before. It should not become the sole matter of consideration for assessing Calvin.

  11. Thanks, Scott. I give you my word I will read these.

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