It’s hard to know what to write about the latest attrocity. I’ve had a couple of posts in draft but James White at Alpha & Omega Ministeries has done our work for us. Before I turn to his detailed and incredibly helpful post, this from Adam4d

fordISIS

Now onto James’ piece.

I count James as a friend. I have known him for a number of years and have had the privilege of doing a little bit of ministry with him. James is a formidable debater, having participated in an enormous number of formal academic exchanges. He began in the area of Reformed Theology, answering objections of Roman Catholics and Arminians, then moving on to deal with various cults and other issues as they cropped up.

Then came 9-11 and James switched to working had at understanding Islam. At the time he stated very clearly he thought engagement with Islam was going to become a priority issue. We are now seeing the fruit of that work.

In this article he helpfully disects and explains a number of key factors.

First, the blindness of western governments and media to the real issues here:

Western media overlooks these words.  Christians cannot.  Theology matters.  It matters to worldview as well.  And when it comes to ISIS militants, it is vital.  That’s one of the reasons secular Westerners can’t seem to predict or anticipate their actions—a secular mindset is not up to the task.

We see this time and time again. Prime Ministers cannot acknowledge Islamism for what it really is nor can they get to the bottom of the key motivations of those who now seek to intimidate us.

On the question of violence in Islam:

But the reality is that Muhammad was a man of war, not a man of peace. You are changed when you personally behead someone.  The blood may wash off the hands, but it is not washed out of the mind.  Muhammad died in 632, so this was done toward the end of his life.  The progression of his life was from peaceful monotheistic prophet to warring leader and general, not the other way around.  Add in the doctrine of abrogation and you can see why the scholars of Al Qaeda and ISIS and Boko Haram have plenty of material to draw from in forming their theology.  They teach that the later revelations abrogate earlier ones (such as the later command not to consume alcohol abrogates the earlier commands which allowed it even though in moderation).  Sadly, that means the later sections of the Qur’an, which contain the warfare passages, are considered by most (not all) Muslims in the world to be more authoritative than the peaceful passages that came earlier.

On Islam’s utterly deficient understanding of Christianity and Jesus:

An English speaking coward (yes, coward—I doubt Paul hid his face during Stephen’s stoning, but these men hide their identities—I find it cowardly) who reads the message makes reference to Jesus returning and “breaking the cross, killing the swine, and abolishing jizya.”  This is a quotation of an oft-repeated hadith found in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sunan Abu Dawud:

Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya. Then there will be abundance of money and nobody will accept charitable gifts.”  Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 3, Book 34, Number 425

Remember, the leader of the ISIS murderers quoted from these hadith right before beheading the Copts.  What do these words mean?  It seems obvious that breaking the cross means destroying Christianity.  Swine are, of course, haram to the Muslims, a detestable beast, impure and revolting.  Some have connected the swine, however, to the Jews.  Jizya is the subjugation tax taken from Jews and Christians to live in the Islamic state.  Hence, to do away with that would mean that Jesus will end all other religions other than Islam.  Most Christians are completely unaware that Jesus holds a central role in Islamic eschatology—but he does.  Of course, this is not the Jesus of the Bible, this is the Jesus of Muhammad, a mere shadow of the historical and biblical Jesus.

Muhammad did not understand the cross.  He  undoubtedly saw inappropriate, unbiblical veneration by the Christians of his day.  But if Surah 4:157 tells us anything, it tells us Muhammad did not understand the cross.  As a result, I have yet to meet a Muslim today who has even the remotest concept of the atonement as it is found propounded in the text of the Bible.

There is a deep-seated, long-standing detestation of the cross in Islamic theology, history, practice and thought.  It goes all the way back to the earliest sources, as seen in Surah 4:157 and in the ahadith cited above. But it is a detestation based upon falsehood and ignorance, and that speaks loudly to the truth claims of Islam itself.

There’s plenty more to read here, and I would urge you to take the time to work through it. We will never have a proper answer and response to this ongoing madness until we both properly understand the motivations of those involved in this and also work out what a genuine cross-shaped response is.

The Australian Prime Minister is want to call ISIS a “death-cult”. It’s catchy rhetoric but it’s actually unhelpful because it ignore the deeper issue. We have Muslims who see the acts of the Prophet recorded in the Qu’ran and the Hadith and are going and doing likewise. It is not a cult of dealth so much a cult of the Prophet who dealt in death and ignoring the part of the Prophet in all this is to ignore the heart of the matter.

Set against Islam’s historically-remote and consequentally false view of Jesus is the true New Testament picture of our Lord; the One who came to die for His enemies but who will one day return to deal with those who do not turn to Him now. While we wait for His return in judgment (which we are confident He will execute, and therefore we do not need to) it is a day of mercy. And as others have noted there are sometimes Sauls amongst those who stand and approve of the persecution. It is only the mercy of Jesus that can bring about such change and so here is the deep, deep irony of what occured on that beach in Libya; the only real hope for those masked men and their only chance of escape is the one that they mocked and persecuted (Acts 9:4). But then isn’t the only hope for any of us?

Comments

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14 comments on “James White: thinking clearly about the latest ISIS massacre

  1. Yes, about time we called Islam for what it is instead of shutting up for fear of being politically incorrect, and/or losing the next election.

    Islam is the direct opposite of Christianity and what nonsense to listen to Islamic spokesmen and others who say it is a religion of peace.

    As well it is also nonsense to say criticising Islam is racist ………”religionist” yes, racist no.

    What a breath of fresh air that Jordan and Egypt have mobilised their air forces. About time too.

    The God of Islam is certainly not the God of Christianity.

    100% agree that secular governments just haven’t got a clue on the Islamic front………you reap what you sow?

  2. Furthermore, re the extract below, l cannot agree with James White that the answer is “just to pray for our enemies”. We have to stand up to them for the sake of the innocent. We would not be having this conversation right now had we not stood up to Hitler and the barbaric nazis and Japanese. I do believe this would be the viewpoint of the Anglican Church too.

    Extract from James Whites stand …”Which leads me to another word of warning. Horrific acts like this feed the angry and the unhinged on the other side of the conflict as well. “Christian crusaders” like Walid and Theodore Shoebat will call for Christian jihad in response to such actions, showing they have no more understanding of the Prince of Peace than the Muslims kneeling on the backs of helpless men. Jesus rules the nations with a rod of iron, but He grows His kingdom by subduing rebellious hearts by grace, not by Hellfire missiles. As much as our flesh cries out for vengeance, Christ teaches us to pray for these men, that they may come to know the very one they are persecuting, just as Paul did so long ago”

    This said, l do agree with all else James writes.

    • Nigel, don’t James’ words in his earlier paragraph help?

      But then I am reminded to think as a Christian. And when I do, I realize that 1) if justice were to be done, a Hellfire missile would have to take me out, too—at least prior to my bowing the knee to Christ, and 2) that group of militants is just one large band of men named Saul, of Tarsus.

  3. Yes absolutely David, was even thinking this before I read James words.

    The dilemma is “yes, yes, yes, yes, we must pray for our enemies, and yes, yes, yes, we are no better than Saul” ……l realise this very very very much, but what do you do if you see the innocent about to be murdered? Why do we have an army? Should we now be idealist and retrench our armed forces? Should Israel get rid of her army?

    But most of all, if you were a Christian in one of these ISIS infiltrated countries and we’re praying for your enemies at all times had and then you personally came home one night to see your wife and children about to be beheaded or set alight by a maniac or maniacs and absolutely all options were exhausted what would would you do when your wife and children look at you……you as their protector?

    I am sure that we were all praying for the maniac in Martin Place …..would the right thing to do have been to allow all the hostages all have their heads cut off in front of our eyes when we have the means to stop the murder of innocents?

    If the answer is just to say “we are all Sauls and should pray for our enemies” and then sit on our hands and allow murderous after murderous atrocity to happen then we are no different to Jehovas Witnesses.

    In alternative news streams l read this morning that ISIS have just burned 40 odd people in Iraq. The whole Christian church is praying every Sunday for this situation, but when push comes to shove, as a Christian l feel we have a responsibility to protect the innocent, as hard as it would be to pull the trigger.

    • hi Nigel. Knowing James, again I think you’ve slightly misunderstood him. He’s not saying there’s no room for a response of justice, simply that we ought not to forget mercy.

      • Mmmmm, just me n you on this issue David so far.

        I wonder why the silence since this is a number #1 issue above all issues which surpasses homosexuality and women bishops I.e. the murderous in your face persecution of Christians.

      • With all the islamic awareness and commentary at the moment, a short sentence from the Anglican Prayer Book jumped out at me yesterday ……”Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” I.e. Not to accuse, point the finger, tell you off, throw you in jail, or bash you up etc, and l got to wondering how we would complete this sentence ……”Mohammed came into the world to……….”

        What?

  4. David, I agree with the PM. Identifying ISIS with Islam falsely taints all Islamic people. It entails a shallow, non spiritual, literalistic interpretation of the religious texts that agrees with the ISIS murderous and rapacious attitudes. Identifying them with Islam is like identifying Christianity with such people as Fred Phelps of WBC or abortion clinic bombers.

    The spiritual interpretation of ‘jihad’ involves the spiritual struggle between good and evil influences in the minds of individuals. Jihad as a religious war comes from literal and materialistic thinking.

    The core scripture of Islam is the Quran (see Wiki on Criticism of Hadith – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Hadith). James White’s ideas and criticisms are based on and around the Hadith. I see his selective use of the atrocities of Mohamed as mere cherry-picking. One could also point to the 1099 massacre of Jerusalem’s inhabitants by the Crusaders contrasted with the merciful retaking by Saladin.

    The same applies to White’s ‘breaking the cross’ comments – once again cherry-picked and from Hadith. Islam has a great respect for Jesus, considering him a great prophet. An example is the work of Hamza Yusuf (see Wiki article and https://www.sandala.org/files/Documents/Walk-on-Water.pdf )

    The Islamic “view of Jesus” is not as true as it could be from a Christian perspective but it is, IMO, far from being a “false” one. Jesus is called a prophet in the NT (Matthew 21:11, 46; John 6:14; 7:40) and called himself one (Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24)

  5. David, I agree with the PM. Identifying ISIS with Islam falsely taints all Islamic people. It entails a shallow, non spiritual, literalistic interpretation of the religious texts that agrees with the ISIS murderous and rapacious attitudes. Identifying them with Islam is like identifying Christianity with such people as Fred Phelps of WBC or abortion clinic bombers.

    The spiritual interpretation of ‘jihad’ involves the spiritual struggle between good and evil influences in the minds of individuals. Jihad as a religious war comes from literal and materialistic thinking.

    The core scripture of Islam is the Quran (see Wiki on Criticism of Hadith – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Hadith). James White’s ideas and criticisms are based on and around the Hadith. I see his selective use of the atrocities of Mohamed as mere cherry-picking. One could also point to the 1099 massacre of Jerusalem’s inhabitants by the Crusaders contrasted with the merciful retaking by Saladin.

    The same applies to White’s ‘breaking the cross’ comments – once again cherry-picked and from Hadith. Islam has a great respect for Jesus, considering him a great prophet. An example is the work of Hamza Yusuf (see Wiki article and https://www.sandala.org/files/Documents/Walk-on-Water.pdf )

    The Islamic “view of Jesus” is not as true as it could be from a Christian perspective but it is, IMO, far from being a “false” one. Jesus is called a prophet in the NT (Matthew 21:11, 46; John 6:14; 7:40) and called himself one (Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24)

  6. thanks Ralph.

    I fear you've not read the OP nearly carefully enough. James argues from both Qu'ran and Hadith. Further he points out that the law of abrogation is critical in this question and others will have to demonstrate how it should no longer come into play when it is clear that Mohammed was far more violent towards "infidels" as things progressed.

    Others are picking up these things to. For example http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2015/02/what-isis-really-wants/384980/

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