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