Tag Archives: Islam

What Are the Differences Between Christianity and Islam? Part 1

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?*

_Christianity_
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.

_Islam_
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:

  1. God does not dwell in the human form.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Unfocused Rage

I have trouble determining the focus of these Islamic terrorists’ rage, anger, and hatred. They really gained a permanent spot on the American radar on 9/11, but since then we have also seen them inflict violence and death on their own people. In Iraq we have seen numerous car bombings, mine fields, grenade launches, among other things, directed at the peacekeeping forces, American and Iraqi alike, established there. On top of that, though, Iraqi men, women, and children “have been killed”:http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/thomas022306.asp, mosques bombed, and “shrines destroyed”::http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,185782,00.html, all done with no peacekeeping presence being targetted. In short the terrorists are bombing and killing their own people.

Hence my confusion. Who are the terrorists lashing out against – unbelieving American, capitalist infidels or just anyone who does not believe exactly they way they do? From my perspective it does much more to damage whatever goals they are trying to accomplish when they seem to have no particular agenda, other than to inflict as much pain and suffering on others as they can. I simply don’t understand what they are hoping to accomplish, if anything. Nothing in their behaviors and actions makes much sense to me, since they are also alienating the very people they claim to be trying to save. It’s a very twisted and sick world in which they live, apparently.

Unintentional Support

There’s been a great “discussion”:http://open-dialogue.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=279 on my “forum”:http://www.open-dialogue.com about Islam and whether or not it is actually a peaceful religion. A thought occurred to me this morning that I wanted to share:

A lot of attention has been given to the fact that very few Muslims have been speaking up and speaking out against the terror bombings or the riot violence. Accusations have been launched that this means that the Islamic community is actually silently supportive of the violence. The problem with this is that just because someone does not speak out against something that is wrong does not mean that they are supportive of it (though inaction does accomplish essentially the same thing as outright support). How often have Christians in this country performed acts that are completely counter to the teachings and doctrine of our faith, only to have hardly anyone say anything against it? Does that then mean that we support the action?

There _are_ always people who speak up and speak out, but those voices are typically too few. Most people just prefer to let the problem pass by without addressing it, ironically enough, _because_ they don’t support it. Ignore it, and it eventually goes away, right? The problem with this approach, though, is that it does make it look like the entire group is supportive of the extremist fringe.

Just something to think about…

Living On the Fringes

It is the extremists of any major religion that end up giving the whole a bad reputation. Bad news travels more quickly than good news does, and poor behavior is more easily remembered and available to memory than is good behavior. So what typically ends up happening is that the whole organization gets placed under the banner of those who make the most noise, even though they are not necessarily a representative sample of that population. Christians are often perceived as hateful, unforgiving bigots because there are many who are exactly that. Note, however, that I did not say ‘majority’ or ‘most’ because it has been my own experience that, in general, those who call themselves Christian do strive to live up to the compassionate, forgiving ideals of the Bible and of Christ’s teachings. The same goes, as I understand it, for those of the Muslim faith. The vast majority are a peace-loving people, and those who perform heinous acts of murder and bombing are the fringe extremists, just as are those Christians who bomb abortion clinics, twisting the ideals of their religion into a perverted distortion of the actual. In the process they give the entire faith a black eye, and the world sees the whole as being just like the extremists.

So, the question becomes then, what underlies these fringe, extreme groups? What drives them to justify horrible acts and behaviors that are counter to the basic tenets of belief that define the faith they claim to espouse? Ultimately, I can only conclude that they are flawed people, just like the rest of us, who, whether through willful disobedience or through genuine ignorance, misunderstand the teachings of their religious system in such a way as to justify hatred and murder. They are the people who lack the personal discipline to control their emotional impulses, who act on their base desires, rather than striving to live up to a higher ideal of morality. They are the people who pick and choose which parts of their canon to abide by, rather than understanding that the bits they follow are parts of a whole and cannot be separated from it without ending up, by definition, with a completely different set of beliefs. They are the people who were already angry and bitter, who found a system of belief that was attractive to them and fit at least somewhat with their own preconceived notions of how the world should operate. They are the people who then twisted the system of belief to fit their own ideals, rather then reshaping their own ideals to fit the system. In so doing they found justification and an outlet for the violence already in their hearts, and by acting upon that violence, then sullied the name and reputation of the group they claimed to be a part of. Christians who bomb abortion clinics or express hatred, bigotry, and superiority to those not like them are Christian only in name; they are not Christian in actuality because anyone who truly understands the teachings of the Bible would not perform the sorts of behaviors that these extremists tend toward. Similarly, Muslims who fly planes into buildings and strap bombs to themselves and blow up a group of children, and who decapitate innocent victims are Muslim in name only; they do not represent the Muslim faith at large or the teaching of the Qu’ran and do more harm to people of that faith than good. These extremists cannot and should not be called Christian or Muslim, even though they call themselves that. They should be called murderers and hatemongers and should be separated, both in name and in deed, from the whole of the groups that they claim to be part of. Yet, perhaps because it is convenient to do so, they continue to be categorized into the group by the population at large, thereby stereotyping the whole by the deeds of the few. Unfair? You bet. But stereotyping is easy and convenient, even if it is at times unfair and makes it harder for those with the true ideals of their beliefs to communicate them. It is a challenge, no doubt, and that is why unity of the whole is necessary in order to overcome the misdeeds of the few.