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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Stories That Go Nowhere

As I walked along the road near Regent's Park Mosque in London, listening to my new Muslim friend explain the Islamic (revisionist) history of salvation, I began to feel like I was listening to Grandpa Simpson telling one of his long-winded, farfetched stories from his youth. It wasn't that it was just crazy and unconvincing. It was a story that just meandered on and didn't go anywhere.

You see, the counterfeits of God's Word are easy to spot, and I praise God for making this so. Islam is supposed to be the greatest rival to Christianity in the monotheistic religion business, but its account of salvation history is akin to an amateur trying to copy the Mona Lisa. You see some resemblance, but clearly it is not the work of a Master. God's people hear his voice, and are not fooled by the voice of another. Sure, you could probably make a syllogistic argument to differentiate the two, or provide quantitative measurements of the geometric disparities between the two, but that's rather superfluous, isn't it?

Islam could have at least taken advantage of the head start the Bible gave it, and simply copied and pasted portions of the biblical account. But it didn't, and what remains of various biblical stories in the Quran is, um, interestingly edited. I realized this as my Muslim friend was relating the Quranic account of Adam and Eve to me. OK, Adam and Eve sinned, but there was no Fall, my friend assured me. Huh? The story seems kinda pointless with no Original Sin or Protoevangel to account for evil or provide hope of salvation from it.

So, according to my friend, God forgave Adam and Eve and they were sent on their way out of the garden after Adam repents. That's it. An utterly pointless story. And on it went, down through many of the biblical prophets, with Jesus and Mohammed being last in line. The Quranic Jesus (Issa), of course, was not a Savior or Messiah, just another prophet. The message of these prophets? "Try harder," I guess. Then, supposedly, God would forgive you.

Essentially, the Quran tries to gut the biblical accounts of the Gospel, while upholding a form of the Law. The stories so-gutted, however, plain old don't make any sense since the biblical stories exist to speak of how God has, is, and will save His people, not just trumpet a shallow moralism. In the Quran, all elements, figures, and types of substitutionary atonement are gone. Those things which give the Bible unity, coherence, and Christocentricity are gone, so the stories themselves lose their meaning and become trite, meandering Grandpa Simpson tall tales. The Quranic account does not rise above the level of a trivial morality tale.

Bare moralism, however, cannot account for the pervasive and fundamental evil and suffering in our universe, much less provide a theocentric answer to the Problem of Evil: the Gospel. It doesn't understand the problem, much less provide a solution. No solution, no hope.

What happens when there is no hope? Well, Muslims respond by making up crazy stuff. In the photograph above, Muslims are seen on their holy pilgrammage (Hajj) to Mecca. There, they purge themselves of their sin by throwing rocks at pillars that represent the Devil. Sadly, 345 of these folks died this week because the crowd stampeded to these pillars to do their rock-throwing.

Dr. James White responds:

Pelting rocks with stones purges you of sin? And this from the religion that has
spawned the modern generation of apologists who mock the cross? The article
likewise notes that similar stampedes took place in 1990 (1,426 people dead) and
2004 (244 dead). Thousands dying in a mad rush to throw stones at the devil? The
contrast again is tremendous: in Islam you throw stones at the devil; in
Christianity the very Creator enters into His own creation and gives Himself as
the sacrifice that brings forgiveness to all those who are vitally united to

Category: Theoblogia


  • But haven't they been telling us that Islam is a religion of peace?

    By Blogger Call Me Ishmael, at 11:36 AM  

  • "Pelting rocks with stones purges you of sin?"

    This rhetorical question seems to expose a fundamental flaw in Dr White's reasoning, or at least to the extent that his reasoning is represented in this excerpt.

    Here's a rough interpretation of what I think he's trying to say:

    1. It's stupid to do anything believing that it is more than what it really is.

    2. Pelting rocks with stones is merely that and nothing more.

    3. Muslims pelt rocks with stones believing that it purges them of sins.

    4. Therefore, Muslims are stupid.

    Now, let's try the same test on the Christian belief which Dr White defends. In this example let's take the sacraments:

    1. It's stupid to do anything believing that it is more than what it really is.

    2. Getting dunked in water is merely that and nothing more.

    3. Christians get dunked in water believing that it purges them of sins.

    4. Therefore, Christians are stupid.

    So if this is the case, then, whoops, it looks like someone sunk his own battleboat.

    Now, I'm sure this is not what Dr White intends to say, since it seems he later contradicts this claim when he says they "throw rocks at the devil," thereby signifying the possibility that there is something more than what appears to be taking place.

    My point is that before he can legitimately make such a claim, or even be consistent with himself for that matter, he needs to go further than this to answer such questions as: "If we believe that Christian sacraments are in fact more than what they appear to be, then why do we not believe that such Islam sacramental-esque activities are also more than what they appear to be?" and "If we do believe that they are more than what they appear to be, then what is it about the nature of these activities that would warrant comparing or contrasting them against the sacramental mysteries?"

    By Blogger Joshua, at 12:45 AM  

  • Joshua,

    You have missed the point if you think Dr. White's argument is addressing the wisdom, or lack thereof, in believing that spiritual realities are behind physical realities.

    Incidentally, Dr. White (being a Reformed baptist) would deny, as would I (a URC guy), that our sins are forgiven by being dunked in water.

    Dr. White's point is that GOD saves us - we do not save ourselves by performing trite rituals. To say that we save ourselves by gestures is foolishness in light of the justice of God.

    By Blogger David Gadbois, at 3:33 PM  

  • I notice something interesting when studying other religions and, yes, some "christian" cults...they're all works based. The focus is on what MAN can do to earn his salvation (as if that were even possible)...For Muslims it's following the directives in the Q'uran, for Hindus it's based on how devoted they are to the gods and goddesses they worship, for Buddhists it's based on how much they can "empty themselves" of reality through their lifetimes in order to reach this enlightened nirvana state....and those are only the major religions...

    But regardless of other many they are and where in the world those who believe it are all comes down to one having to DO something to EARN a positive eternal goal.

    Kind of interesting how satan uses these other religions to get man focused on man instead of man focused on God. It is only Christianity which emphasizes that it is none of OUR doing which saves us...but only what Christ did in our stead.

    By Blogger Danae Zenor, at 11:35 PM  

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