by Bill Nugent
Islam is a Christian heresy. That statement may seem strange to people who are used to regarding Islam as a “world religion” that is totally distinct from any other faith. The best scholarship acknowledges that Islam has its roots in its parent faiths of Judaism and Christianity. The Quran is chock full of references to Bible characters.
We all know that Christianity is the fulfillment and extension of Judaism. Jesus is the promised Messiah of Judaism. I often point out that Jesus came in fulfillment of over 300 messianic prophecies contained in the Old Testament. Christianity can be called Judeo-Christianity. Islam tries to take it a step further to be Judeo-Christianity-Islam. Islam is not a free-standing faith. It is not separate from other faiths.
Islam considers the biblical figures, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus to be prophets. They regard Muhammad as the last and greatest prophet. Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Christ and also acknowledge various things about the life and ministry of Christ and they even believe in Christ’s second coming. They don’t, however, believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ or that Christ died for our sins. The fact that Islam denies that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins in His suffering and death puts Islam totally outside any claim of being a Christian denomination.
Muhammad (c. 570 – 632) had close contact with both Jews and Christians from his early days in the desert of what is now Saudi Arabia. Scholars don’t claim that Muhammad was ever baptized or that he, in any way, claimed to be a Christian but it can be inferred that he was influenced by Christian doctrine and culture.
Muhammad was a trader who married a wealthy woman about fifteen years older than himself. He lived a rather unremarkable life until at about the age of forty, in 610 AD, he claimed to have received revelations from God conveyed to him by the angel Gabriel. He immediately began to preach to the citizens of Mecca and condemn polytheism and idolatry. He attracted a loyal band of followers and was forced out of Mecca and fled to the nearby city of Medina in 622. The year 622 is, incidentally, the first year of the Muslim Hijra lunar calendar. This year, 2012, is the Hijra year 1433.
His band of followers increased rapidly and gained abundant resources from their predations upon the surrounding villages, including the attack on the Jewish enclave of Khaybar. He and his followers conquered Mecca in 629.
The alleged revelations of Muhammad were spoken by him and memorized by his followers and eventually written down in the Quran which traditional Muslims regard as verbatim inspired by God. The Quran nowhere claims that Muhammad performed miracles and the Quran contains little, if any, predictive prophecy. I did see a list of a couple of dozen alleged Quranic prophecies but they seemed rather general and vague. Prophecy and fulfillment is not a major point of Islamic apologetics.
Muslims also look to the Hadith which is a compilation of writings about the life, times and sayings of Muhammad but is not considered verbatim inspired. The Hadith is compiled into several books of which Sunni Muslims acknowledge six and the minority Shia follow four. There are smaller Muslim minority sects withinShia Islam including the Druze and the Alawites. Basher Assad of Syria is an Alawite and is presently fighting a Sunni led insurgency that seeks to overthrow his authoritarian rule.
Muslims believe that God is utterly transcendant and unknowable. The Quran contains 99 names of God. Muslims claim that these names are descriptions of God’s character. Nowhere in the Quran is God referred to as “Father.”
Many Christian scholars regard the name “Allah” as the name of an Arabian war deity and not referring to the God of the Bible. However, in the Arabic Christian Bible, the word “God” is translated as “Allah.” Arabic speaking Jews also use the term “Allah” in referring to God. There is debate about whether the name “Allah” is just a phonetic handle to refer to God or if it is actually the proper name of a false god and should not be used when referring to the God of the Bible.
Muslims believe that all people will experience a bodily resurrection from the dead and final judgement by God. They believe that destiny in heaven or hell is determined by one’s good deeds versus bad deeds.
Muslims believe that God will forgive sin, if He so chooses, if the person repents. Muslims believe that a person’s good deeds are weighed against his bad deeds and if the good deeds outweigh the bad deeds then God may allow the person to enter heaven. No Muslim, however devout, has absolute confidence he will enter heaven. Even Muslims who die in martyrdom are not guaranteed heaven according to Islamic doctrine.
Islam doesn’t claim that Muhammad was a savior. He didn’t die for their sins. There is no blood sacrificial system, no blood atonement and no savior in Islam. Biblical Judaism had an animal blood sacrifice system to atone for sins. Jesus, the Messiah, came and fulfilled the Jewish sacrificial system by offering Himself on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice to atone for sin. Islam’s rejection of blood atonement is its great challenge to Christianity and Judaism. Islam is similar to the heresy of British monk Pelagius (c. 354 – c. 430). Pelagius, like Islam, denied original sin (sin nature) and promoted salvation by self-effort.
Islam is a religion of earning heaven by good works. This simplicity of its salvation message may, in part, explain why it is so popular and why it’s growing so fast. You can write its salvation message on one page. Salvation by works is the way most any carnal or nonreligious person would describe the way to heaven. It is the presumption of claiming that any human is capable of earning heaven by self effort.
The Bible, on the other hand, is clear in its many verses that show that people cannot qualify for heaven or earn heaven by good works. The Bible teaches that God is holy and humans have fallen into sin and have a sin nature. The Bible says in Isaiah 64:6 “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment” (NAS). All of our good works of charity and all of our best efforts are nonetheless partially motivated by selfish desires and are unacceptable to a holy God in terms of earning entrance into heaven. The Bible commands people to do good deeds but the Bible is also clear about the value of good deeds. Valuable and important as they are, good deeds nonetheless can’t atone for our sins to cause us to merit heaven.
The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (NAS). Salvation is a gift. We receive the gift of salvation when we admit that we are sinners and ask for forgiveness on the basis of the death and resurrection of Christ on our behalf.
The Bible is also clear in its teaching that once a person is saved, he or she must live in obedience to God and do good works. In the Christian faith, salvation comes first, then deeds of charity.
It is hard for people to understand that salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. It is so contrary to human nature to regard ourselves as helpless before God. That’s why the Bible is backed up by the supernatural witness of thousands of Bible prophecies and their fulfillments. The prophecies and fulfillments prove that the Bible is inspired by God and we should take its difficult teachings seriously. We should believe the Bible’s many warnings that it is futile to try to save ourselves by good deeds. People must humbly turn to Christ and repent of their sins and ask for the gift of salvation. Salvation is forgiveness of sins and entrance into heaven.