Dr. George Bebawi is perhaps the closest thing we will ever see to Timothy. ((Timothy was a young pastor in the early days of the church who came under the guidance and tutelage of the apostle Paul. He was half Gentile, half Jew, a family heritage typically frowned upon and despised in those days.)) Here is a man who is half Egyptian, half Jewish and who converted from Islam to Christianity. As a result he has been imprisoned twice and tortured by the Egyptian government for his faith.
Dr. Bebawi now resides in the US and is a member of my church. Pastor Kauffman began a six-part ‘interview’ series with Dr. Bebawi that will bring to light some of the major differences between Chrsitianity and Islam. This is the first part:
*What are the differences between Christianity and Islam?*
by George Bebawi
Islam is a rapidly growing religion – even in America. As Christians, it is extremely important that we understand our own faith as well as the major and subtle differences between Christianity and other faith. The following provides a brief overview regarding some intial differences between the two belief systems:
*What is the significance of the names, “Christianity” and “Islam”? In what ways do the names help to distinguish the two religions from each other?*
First, let’s start with Christianity. Christianity took its name from Christ. In Antioch the disciples were called Christians. The word in the Greek essentially refers to those who belong to Christ Jesus or follow Christ Jesus. In the sub-apostolic period (about 100 C.E.), Christians called themselves Christoi which means, “The anointed ones by the Holy Spirit of God.” Christos is the Greek translatioin of the Hebrew Messiah which means the “Anointed.” Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit at his Baptism and the Father declared him as his beloved Son. The followers of Jesus are also anointed by the Holy Spirit.
bq. You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you have knowledge.
– 1 John 2:20
So we take our name from the great gift which God the Father bestowed on us by his Spirit through the mediation of his Son. Hence, our name goes back to the Christian doctrine of the Triune God.
In contrast, Islam means, “Submission and surrender to Allah and submission to his Law or Sharia.” Sadly Islam has confused the Holy Spirit of God with the angel Gabriel. Moslems think that the Holy Spirit is an angel and not God.
What is lost by this confusion between Gabriel and the Holy Spirit are the follow points that make for stark theological differences from the Christian faith:
- God does not dwell in the human form.
- Submission to God is the work of the human will alone and thus we do not submit to come close to God but to the Law.
- The human person is not sanctified by the Holy Spirit and made holy by God and thus remains far away from God. This means an eternal separation from God.
To this we have to add that the earthly life which the Moslems expect to have in Paradise is logical and is in harmony with their understanding of the divine-human relationship. Christians know that, _”the kingdom of God is not of food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”_ (Rom. 14:17).
_The Importance of a Name: The Witness of Ancient Christian Writers_
In conclusion, in light of these initial observations, it might be helpful to end by reflecting on the words and insights of some of the early church fathers who helped shape and guide the Church in its infancy. These comments serves as guides to protect the Flock from heresy and false teaching and continue to echo through the centuries of church history, making them still very applicable to our situation today:
“Let us not, therefore, be insensible to His kindness. For, were Jesus to reward us according to our works, we should cease to be. Therefore, having become His disciples, let us learn to live according to the principles of Christianity. For whosoever is called by any other name beside this, is not of God. Lay aside, therefore, the evil, the old, the sour leaven, and be ye changed into the new leaven, which is Jesus Christ.” – Ignatius of Antioch, one of the early church martyrs (ca. 117 C.E.), Letter to the Magnesians 10
“When men are called by any other name they cease to be Christians for they have lost Christ’s name and have clothed themselves in human and foreign titles.” _Justin Martyr (ca. 150), Dialogue with Trypho 35
“Never at any time did Christian people take their name from their teachers among them, but from the Lord, on whom we rest our faith. Thus, though the blessed Apostles have become our teachers, and have ministered the Savior’s Gospel, yet not from them have we our name, but from Christ we are and are named Christians.” -Athanasius of Alexandria (340 AD), Against the Arians 1:2