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Islam, Secularism and the Gospel - Conclusion

October 6, 2008
S. Michael Craven
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Last week I demonstrated how secular humanism as a worldview fails because it doesn’t deal with reality. This manifested failure has ushered in the postmodern era, in which Westerners, having lost confidence in the secular story of the world, are floundering. Cynicism and relativism have followed (and often hopelessness), resulting in a careless approach to life’s great questions.

Unfortunately, in the wake of this void comes Islam, which secularism can neither persuade nor resist. The predominant representation of the (reductionist) gospel we now see in the West is, I would argue, similarly ineffective. Through neglect, cultural accommodation, and historical indifference, the Christian faith in the West has been largely reduced to a few doctrines of self-interest. As the late Robert Webber so aptly points out:

The Christian faith was reduced to the problem of my sin, the work of Christ for me, the necessity of my conversion and the expectation of my faithfulness to live like a Christian. I was made the center of the story. I needed to invite Jesus into my life and my journey so he could walk with me and bless my life and my ministry (Robert E. Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? [Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2008], 25).

This in no way diminishes the personal nature of faith in Christ, nor one’s personal experience. However, the gospel story as delivered by the apostles is not centered on me as much as it is on God and His purposes in creation, humanity, and history. The gospel story encompasses creation, the fall, redemption, and re-creation, thus explaining where we’ve come from, why there is death and suffering, and what God, in His sovereignty and mercy, is doing to remedy this condition and restore His creation.

Our modern tendency is to focus only on “redemption” in terms that are almost entirely personal. However, God’s redemptive mission includes the whole of His creation in which Christ Jesus is making all things new. There is both a present and future hope in which those who are “new creations”—already participating in God’s re-creating activity—are called to extend this redemptive work. The gospel story is much bigger than just my personal justification.

The “good news” is first spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he writes, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isaiah 52:7, ESV). Properly understood, the good news is the fact that the God who reigns—and whose reign has broken into the world through the Son—is undoing what sin has done to His creation. Jesus Christ, the King, is bringing peace, happiness, and salvation into the world. The gospel is the whole story of God’s creation, incarnation, and re-creation. This gospel is the only true and adequate contender to accurately explain the world and reality.

Islam also purports to explain the world—as do all worldviews—including a conception of economics, politics, and society. Islam attempts to explain and order everything, from religion and society to rules about food, clothing, and hygiene. It is here, however, that the fallacy of Islam is revealed in contrast to the freedom found in the greater gospel story of the world.

Islam rests on a desired reality: worldwide submission to Allah, which, it is argued, will only be realized when all the enemies of Islam have been subdued or put to death. The gospel rests on a now and not yet reality in which we can adequately account for the present evil, death, and suffering in the world, which has resulted from sin while also working to counter the effects of the fall through truth, justice, and love.

Where Islam seeks to subdue the world, the gospel rescues the world from its present sufferings. Where Islam seeks to order the activity of the world under a totalitarian and oppressive vision, the gospel liberates humanity from the bondage of sin and those attitudes that lead to division and oppression. Consider that “of the forty-six Muslim-majority nations in the world, only three [are] free” (Mark Steyn, America Alone [Washington, D.C.: Regenery, 2006] 16). Conversely, every nation into which the gospel has spread—having shaped the social consensus—has become free.

Where Islam seeks to control thought, the gospel encourages humanity to express their gifts in diverse in creative ways. Historian and journalist Serge Trifkovic observes, “Like all totalitarian ideologies, Islam has an inherent tendency to the closing of the mind. The spirit of critical inquiry essential to the growth of knowledge is completely alien to it. Western engineers, military officers, and doctors could train their Muslim students, but the latter never managed to give more than what was imparted to them” (Serge Trifkovic, “Decline without fall,” Chronicles of Culture, August 2006, 38).

Islam offers a god who is impersonal, unknowable, and uninvolved in the affairs of men. The gospel tells of an infinite and yet personal Triune God who is relational. God the Father is characterized by love, having experienced eternal relationship within the Trinity—a God who desires a relationship with humanity and, more importantly, a God who entered human history and suffered to restore the relationship once broken by a rebellious people.

Islam’s offer of eternal salvation is nebulous and uncertain, based on a person’s works and whether or not those works are found pleasing to Allah. Even Muhammad expressed doubts about his own salvation, writing, “Though I am the apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me” (Hadith 5:266). How much more insecure must the poor Muslim be whose works most assuredly must be less than those of the prophet Muhammad? By contrast, the gospel acknowledges our utter inability to earn God’s approval and instead places the hope and assurance of salvation firmly on the work of God the Son.

The only hope for the West in its struggle against radical Islam is what it has always been: the gospel. However it must be the true gospel, which includes its cosmic scope as well as the personal dimension, and not the reductionist version that is centered on me. It is the far grander story of what God has done and is doing in the world. It is this understanding that we must recover, and the one we are commanded to proclaim.

© 2008 by S. Michael Craven


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Responses
Response from : Walter A. Long  

October 6, 2008 9:53 AM
 

Michael, i just wanted to write and thank you very much for this message. We are at war of a different kind and if we do not adhere to messges like yours then we will only lose. I have enjoyed every word of your message on this subject and have posted all on my on blog on myspace and just wanted to once again for your words that has helped me and hopefully others will also.

God Bless and may our Savior Jesus Christ continue to guide you.

Walt


 
Response from : K. Rogers  

October 6, 2008 9:59 AM
 

I agree with your thoughts on dangerous ME-centered Christianity, but shouldn't we go beyond creation-restoration to focus on the Body of Christ as the ultimate goal of the gospel? If a Christian believer’s thoughts and actions are molded by considering himself a small but precious part of the whole Body, which should take him out of self-focus into Christ’s perspective of His purchased possession.
My husband and I enjoy your newsletters and often discuss them.


 
Response from : MC  

October 6, 2008 1:43 PM
 

Please Michael, your information is incorrect concerning Beirut not having symphony orchestra.

L’Orchestre symphonique national du Liban or The Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra was founded in late 1999 in Beirut under the guidance of Dr. Walid Gholmieh and the management of Le Conservatoire libanais national supérieur de musique or The Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music. In a few years, the Orchestra has proven itself both locally and regionally and gained great success. It presented more than 60 performances in Beirut and other cities, playing a varied international repertoire by world-renowned classical music composers.

The Orchestra played host to well known soloist such as the Polish guitarist Vladimir Gromolak, Dutch violinist Werther Vosn, Spanish guitarist José del Ray, Lebanese violinist Zareh Tcheroyan, and the Polish pianist Radivonovitch.

The Orchestra has accompanied the Prague Chamber Choir in Rossini's "Stabbat Mater."

The Orchestra has participated in the programs of the Al Bustan Winter Festival in Beit Mery and the Baalbeck International Festival.

Reference:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lebanese_National_Symphony_Orchestra

I should also state that Lebanon is the only Arab country whose president should be a Maronite Christian. Beirut is a cosmopolitan area where both Christians and Muslims live together as brothers and sisters.

Even though the country went through a 15-year civil war, but the people of both religions (muslims and christians) came out of it and strive to live together side by side.


 
Response from : Habib Musti  

October 6, 2008 5:18 PM
 

Hi!

I was surprised after reading this article! which has too much of prorogation in it!
Attacking Islam is acceptable if you could point your finger to its teaching and please don't take text out of context.

You believe that the Christ in god? Then i challenge you to quote me your 'Holy Bible' where Jesus(PBUH) said I am god or where he said worship me?

And you will have to find another 'god' to worship because the Christ is not accepting you! (Mathew 7:22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
7:23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.'............You can read the book called 'crucifixion or crucificion' by Ahmed Deedat on www.scribd.com and then you will see where you stand!!


 
Response from : S. Michael Craven  

October 6, 2008 5:58 PM
 

Dear Habib,

In answer to your question, I am happy to provide you with just a small sampling of both Bible’s and Jesus’ own claims to deity. The biblical evidence is frankly overwhelming and no biblical scholar disputes the fact that neither Jesus or the Bible does not claim equality with God the Father. They are the one God, revealed in the three distinct persons of the Godhead.

Equality with the Father:
John 10:25-33
John 5:17, 18
John 8:58

Jesus due the same honor as that given to God:
John 5:23, 24
John 8:19
John 14:1
John 14:8, 9

Jesus speaks and teaches in His own name:
Matthew 5:20, 22, 26, 28, 32, 34, 44

Worshipped as God:
John 4:20-22, Acts 8:27

Jesus received worship as God and accepted it:
Matthew 8:2
John 9:35-39
Matthew 14:33

Jesus contrasted with others:
Acts 10:25, 26
Revelation 19:10

Paul taught that Jesus was God:
Romans 9:5
Philippians 2:6-11
Colossians 1:15-17
Colossians 2:9
Titus 2:13

John the Baptist taught that Jesus was God:
John 3:22

Peter taught that Jesus was God:
Matthew 16:15-17
Acts 2:36
2 Peter 1:1

Thomas claimed that Jesus was God:
John 20:26-29

The writer of Hebrews claimed that Jesus was God:
Hebrews 1:3
Hebrews 1:8

John the Apostle claimed that Jesus was God:
John 1:1, 14
1 John 5:20

These are only the direct claims to Jesus’ deity, there are numerous other indirect claims in Scripture that assert the deity of Christ not to mention the Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, which were fulfilled by Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Living God, very God of God. I would encourage you to read the Scriptures for yourself. Perhaps the book of John would be a good place to start.

Blessings,
Michael


 
Response from : Sylvia Huffnagle  

October 7, 2008 10:38 AM
 

I love your articles. I am thrilled with this aritcle "Islam, Secularism and the Gospel - Conclusion".

May I paste it on my website?

http://www.straightpaths.truepath.com

 
Response from : sarahseckinger  

October 8, 2008 5:22 PM
 

Thank you for your e-mail. I enjoy reading them very much. God bless. SS


 
Response from : judith  

October 9, 2008 7:49 AM
 

I like this comarison. I am going to e-mail this to my net chain. Hopefully, some will be convinced and others will be confirmed in their faith. (I am form the East Indian descent).


 
Response from : Marion Chase-Kleeves  

October 11, 2008 2:31 PM
 

Thanks for the article. I is so easy to become angry and hateful toward the muslim world view. But Yeshua said that they would know us by our love. Not the love we have for each other but the LOVE He puts in our hearts for our "enemy". Even now Jesus, Yeshua, Issa, is revealing himself in the world of Islam where western Christians are forbidden to go. He Himself is calling witnesses out of Islam to be witnesses of "The way, The truth and The Light." Pray for more believers to go into Muslim nations to spread the gospel. Thank you. MC-K


 

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