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
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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?