STUNNING NEWS! YOU HAVE WON! IT IS TRUE! EVERYONE REALLY WINS! ACT NOW AND CLAIM YOUR AWARD WORTH MORE THAN ALL THE MONEY OF THIS WORLD!
This publication will tell you all about how and why the incredible award is offered to everyone. Study it carefully then you will know how to claim your prize. Respond and you get extra free gifts of your own choice. Details will be given on these pages. IMPORTANTLY, THERE ARE NO TRICKS, UNWELCOME SURPRISES OF HIDDEN OBLIGATIONS.
How come all the generous talk about winning? What’s the catch? None! It is not about positive thinking nor are we promoting a new kind of global lottery. We just want to draw attention in the most exciting way possible to the message of the world’s greatest Best-seller, the Bible. STOP! Don’t be put off by all the thoughts that flood your mind regarding it right now. They are well known and have been meticulously investigated. As a result we are even more confident in making this massive effort to promote the GOOD NEWS THAT YOU ARE DEFINITELY A WINNER! CAN YOU AFFORD NOT TO REPLY?
Just imagine how horrible you would feel for the rest of your existence to have missed out on the chance to start again a new and exciting life as a WINNER! Don’t delay. Keep reading and then post your response. And picture for a moment what you would do with your new life that will enable you to start all over again under ideal conditions. Never forget, you simply can’t lose what is really valuable. Here then are the subjects you can expect to find out more in the following pages:
The Bible describes in clear terms what you have won:
‘…we too may live a new life.’ (Rom 6:4)
A completely new life is yours for the taking! ‘I wish I hadn’t made that mistake. My wrong choice has ruined my life. If only I could start all over again.’ Most of us come to a point where we have such kind of thoughts. Here is the good news: You have won a new life! You can start all over again. You can have a clean slate. Wouldn’t you at least like to try out such an incredible offer. Read on and see how to claim it. Jesus said:
‘What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? What could you give to get back your life? (Mark 8:36)
These words were spoken to people who desperately tried to gain as much of the world as possible: Material wealth, honour, status, pleasure and satisfaction. Can you identify with them? In doing so they inflict irreparable damage to what is really important to themselves: Unselfish love and relationships. This is pictured as a ridiculous, sinful undertaking considering that human beings are worth much more than all the money and everything else of this world! Most importantly, in doing so they rebel against a holy God who created all of us to honour and enjoy him forever. Is it possible to escape such a madness, to get saved from it?
‘God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:4)
It is God’s compassionate desire that everybody should be saved from everlasting, unspeakable pain. To remain true to his character of love, justice and holiness, he acted in a most profound way. It alone enables all of us to be potential winners of real, meaningful lives with him and each other.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:1-5, 9-14, 16-18)
It is guaranteed! Whosoever believes in the name of Jesus, that means in who he is and what he said and did for the whole world, will become a child of God. They will win a new life! The next passages describe his work further:
The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
Sin in its essence is rebellion against God, the attempt to live without him. It has separated mankind from him and deserves death, eternal separation from him, as punishment. Why being so drastic about it? Because it is completely incompatible with God’s holiness and plans for us. We all have fallen short of his perfect standards. (See Rom 3:23) Out of love Jesus takes away the sin of the world by paying the punishment on our behalf through his death on the cross.
Again Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise…..For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:32-34 ,45)
The word ‘ransom’ literally means ‘a prize paid for release’. Jesus gave his life to release the world from bondage to sin and death. The ‘for many’ indicates those who accept his substitutionary death in their place. As a result they will win a personal relationship with God, and consequently a meaningful life of peace, joy, freedom from guilt, fear and worry in the midst of the hardship of their lives.
What a deal is in store for you! It is simply too good to be missed! To claim this fantastic award you have to realise that in front of God who is absolutely holy and perfect we are all sinners. We need to turn around from our own selfish ways. Next, ask God in prayer for forgiveness of your sins and invite him to come as leader in your life through the power of his Holy Spirit. Thank Jesus for his death on the cross on your behalf. Praise him for his unspeakable gift.
Then regularly talk to him, read his word, the Bible, put it in to practice and have fellowship with like-minded people. However, doing these great things are only the means of growing in your new life. The cause is and will always remain faith in Jesus and what he did for us on the cross. The Bible confirms this very important truth by saying: “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord (by faith), continue to live in Him, (by faith) rooted and built up in Him, and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Col 2:5-7 see also Gal 3:1-5, Rom 8:13, 1Tim 1:5)
Keep fixing your eyes on Jesus, keep telling him that you are a great sinner but that he is an even greater saviour. Another way of saying the same thing is, continue to remember him, talk to him, ask for forgiveness and constant help from him, stay with him and you will bear good fruit that will last. (John 15:5)
That is what true Christians are about. They are not called after Christ just because they happened to have been born into a Christian family or a country where the majority are of the Christian religion. As the saying goes: ‘God has no grandchildren only children.’ If you are ready to make the most important decision of your life please take time to pray right now. Afterwards, feel free to turn to the end of the booklet to get some more help.
‘But…., but….., but……,’ I hear some of you say. ‘I want to enjoy my life. I don’t want to be bothered with this boring religious stuff.’ The remainder of this booklet deals with your ‘buts.’ Please read on, its worth it! Consider the following passage that seems to confirm your point at a first glance:
‘And turning to the mass of people with his disciples, Jesus said to them, If any man has the desire to come after me, let him give up all other desires, and take up his cross and come after me. Whoever has a desire to keep his life, will have it taken from him; and whoever gives up his life because of me and the good news, will keep it. What profit has a man if he gets all the world with the loss of his life? And what would a man give in exchange for his life? Whoever has a feeling of shame because of me and my words in this false and evil generation, the Son of man will have a feeling of shame because of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’
Does not this very passage proof you right? Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus is not a kill joy! In fact the very opposite is true. Why else would he have performed his very first miracle at a wedding party? (see John 2) Also, in 1 Tim 6:17 we read:
‘Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.’
In the Biblical context we learn that ‘to give up all desires’ means to say ‘no’ to our own wishes when they contradict God’s wishes. The rich are asked not to put their hope in wealth but rather use it to further his purposes. ‘But…, but…, but…’ you ask, ‘isn’t religion just man made?’ Good question! Let’s see whether we can find an answer to that one.
Anthropologists and historians believe that some form of religion has been practiced since people first appeared on the earth. Many think that religion arouse out of fear and wonder about natural events like storms and earthquakes, birth and death. Human beings therefore are thought to have attached spirits to these phenomena. If follows that these beings were then worshipped. This, however, is impossible for three reasons:
A) In all religions we find the experience of the Numinous. The word is derived from the Latin ‘numen’ meaning ‘deity’. The feeling accompanying it is more than fear, it has to do with an awe inspired by a presence of divinity. It has come into a widespread existence and does not disappear with the growth of knowledge and civilization. An example may help to understand this concept. Suppose you were told in your living room was a bomb. Surely you would be afraid, after all it is common knowledge that it might go off at any time.
A different kind of fear would come into you if you were made to believe that a ghost was occupying your house. Since you have heard of the horrible things others went through having been in the same position, you too would be filled with dread because of the uncanny, frightening, rather than dangerous situation. To be told and to believe that an Almighty Being fills each room of your property would make you feel totally inadequate, ready to prostrate and worship in awe. That is exactly how others before you have lived through such an event. (Gen 28:17, Eze 1:18)
The point is that the step from fear to dread and to awe can only be made on the basis of interpretation and understanding of previous experience. Fear of danger arises by assessing physical facts known to be harmful and a logical deduction from them. Fear, however, does not produce dread and awe naturally, especially since the latter does still occur even in the mind at its fullest development. No factual description of any human environment could include the uncanny and the Numinous or even hint at them. These different categories can only be arrived at if they have previously been encountered. In religion the experience of the supernatural which causes awe is properly called revelation, God’s disclosure or manifestation to humanity of himself or of his will.
B) The second element in religion is the acknowledgment of some kind of approved and disobeyed morality in all human beings. Everyone is conscious of a moral law that makes them feel guilty at times, knowing that they ought or ought not to have done something. Again, this fact can not be logically concluded from the environment or any physical experience. If we did not bring it to a situation we could not find it there. It can only have been revealed to us. Any other explanation presupposes the very morality people are trying to explain.
C) The third stage in religious development arises when the numinous power is made the guardian of the morality to which people feel obligation. The fact that a lot of non-moral religion and non-religious morality exists shows that the combination of the numinous and the moral experience is not logical. After all, the behavior of the universe of which an unpredictable God is in charge, bears no resemblence to the behaviour which the moral law demands of us. The one seems wasteful, ruthless, cruel and unjust, the other demands of us the opposite qualities. Why would anybody want to have a master who seems to contradict his own commandments? Once more, only revelation justifies such a step. The origin of religion therefore must be supernatural.
Having clearly established that the origin of religion is supernatural and not man made, the following questions arise: Why are there so many different religions also known as worldviews? Do these understandings of the world and of life all present different ways that lead eventually to the same God? That is impossible because they often contradict each other substantially. God doesn’t contradict himself. He reveals truth which by its very nature is exclusive and leads to true freedom. The lack of absolute truth opens the door for manipulation. Therefore, the right beginnings must have been distorted by men. What we desperately need is a test for truth.
Everyone has a worldview. It is a basic belief system, a frame work through which we interpret and understand what is going on around us. It shapes our behaviour. Which set of assumptions is the right one? Let us consider briefly those tests for truth which have been set forth over the years. As shall be seen they are helpful in some respects but none of them can establish one worldview, or religion, one systematic analysis and critical examination of life, over another.
It is the view that knowledge is independent of sense experience. Whatever is knowable or demonstrable by human reason is supposed to be true. Since there is no way to logically prove the laws of thought which are used to prove things this test already comes to an end in the beginning. It is circular reasoning to use logic as basis for proving logic. Even in the weak form, that of non contradictoriness, rationalism is insufficient. The fact that something does not contradict itself does not mean it is true. It only means that it is consistent within it’s frame work of thought.
In this view truth can not be established by reason but must be accepted on faith. Since contrary beliefs are possible it is not really a test but more a claim for truth.
According to this view what can be experienced is true. Since all world views claim to be able to have special experiences it is also inadequate to establish truth.
It is the view that what can be verified as a fact is true. While this test, like others, offers some significant contribution, the interpretation of facts depends on the perspective of a world view. If facts gain their meaning by the context, then they can not be used to determine the truth of the context. Evidentialism too leads us into circular reasoning and can therefore not be used to establish the truth of a world view.
Combinationalism, sometimes known as systematic consistency
It involves a combination of some of the previously evaluated and found to be inadequate tests for truth between different world views. In the same way that one defective car will not bring us any further than two defective cars, it will not be helpful in our search for truth.
It holds that truth can not be thought or felt but it can be discovered by attempting to live it. Truth, according to this school of thought, is not what is consistent or adequate but what is experimentally workable. However, since some things seem to work well, such as lying, but are nevertheless wrong, pragmatism, at best, manifests only the application but not the justification of a world view. As a test for truth it needs to be discarded.
Scepticism / Agnosticism
Similarly, agnosticism (Greek: ‘agnosis’, ‘a’, without and ‘gnosis’, knowledge) the view that truth can’t be known, is wrong and also self defeating. Truth can not be denied unless some truth is being confirmed. In the limited form, namely that only some truths can not be known, it is unsuccessful because it does not eliminate the possibility that the truth of a world view can be known.
Undeniability and unafirmability
Whatever is undeniable is true, whether it is definitionally or existentially undeniable. If one view is undeniable, then conversely the other alternative views must be untrue since they are unaffirmable. As an example, a triangle, theoretically, by definition, must have three sides. If we find an existing triangle then it must actually have three sides. We shall now apply this only valid test for truth to the five main religions or worldviews in order to establish the one which is true.
It holds that a god made the world but does not intervene in it in miraculous ways. The deistic position is inadequate because it is undeniable that if he has miraculously created the world then the strong possibility of him performing other miracles follows necessarily. It is unaffirmable to state that a god is concerned enough for man to create him but that he would later not intervene on his behalf.
Pantheism (as found in the religion of Hinduism and New Age)
It generally holds that God and the universe are ultimately absolutely identical. Pantheism is not affirmable by man because according to this concept he is not really different from God and therefore can not say, “God is but I am not,” since one must exist in order to affirm that one does not exist. If we would be part of God , religious experience and indeed any other meaningful experience which has to be based on something or someone other than one self is impossible. Even those pantheists who allow for some reality to finite man will have to admit that this is a denial of the way man experiences himself. It is self defeating to claim that individual finite selves are less than real because then even statements such as, “pantheism is true,” would be impossible.
It is believed that God and the universe are one but that he is, at the same time, greater than the universe. The world is supposedly in God but he also exists beyond the world. God is absolute, eternal, and infinite only in potentiality. However, he is relative and finite in actuality. This bipolar concept of God poses an insolvable problem. How should God be able to actualise his own potentialities? In the same way that this booklet is not going to be written by itself, an author is needed, someone outside God would be needed to actualise God’s potentialities. Panentheism falls to the ground because a finite, changing God would need a infinite, unchanging basis for change since the relative always presupposes the absolute.
Atheism (as found in Confucianism and Buddhism)
In the light of God being the undeniable source of religion, atheism (Greek: ‘atheos’, ‘a’, without and ‘theos’, god), the belief that there is no God or supernatural power, is wrong. As truth it does not measure up because he who says that the world has come into being by mere chance can only make this statement in the overall context of design. That apparently contradictionary statement is explained as follows: There is no meaningful way to speak of a completely random universe as Atheists do.
Chance makes sense only on the backdrop of design, as meaninglessness can be understood only in the overall context of meaning. Likewise, there is no way to even express the state of complete randomness without implying that there exist such characteristics of design as relatability, or even intelligibility. That is why the argument for atheism from chance is self defeating; it presupposes design and a designer. In other words one must assume God in order to disprove God. For example, to say that God does not exist because of all the evil in this world is to presuppose the equivalent of God by way of an ultimate standard of justice. Also it would take absolute knowledge to absolutely eliminate God.
But absolute knowledge can only be derived from God. To be an atheist in the absolute sense, one would have to assume God in order to disprove God. Furthermore, contrary to reason, Atheists are forced to believe that something finite, changing and dependent comes from nothing, that matter generated mind and that potentials actualize themselves. Those scientists who claim that matter has always existed are making a very unscientific statement because there is absolutely no scientific proof, that matter has always existed.
Moreover, biological organisms (including humans) act in accordance with their nature. The fact that all human civilizations at all times and places have, by and large, looked for meaning beyond themselves indicates that it is in the nature of man to go looking for something ‘out there’ which then raises the question of why this is in man’s nature. Is it there because God put it there, or is it there because it evolved? And what would be the evolutionary purpose of such a desire? Darwin teaches that living things evolve traits that benefit them; what would be the benefit of a desire for God if no God exists?
Lastly, science is inherently unable to answer certain questions. Science cannot account for things like heroism, self-sacrifice for the sake of others, romantic love — those are all things beyond the reach of science. Faith in God is the same. Those who find him tugging at their heart, may not be able to offer a scientific explanation, but they are absolutely certain of it.
Theism (as found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam)
This only remaining view affirms the existence of one transcendent and personal God who created and is involved with the world from which he is distinct. By the process of elimination Theism would be true since it is the only remaining noncontradictory world view. It also passes the test for truth for the following undeniable positive reasons:
It is undeniable that some things do exist. My non-existence is logically possible since it is not absolutely necessary. Whatever has the potential not to exist must be caused to exist by another. This process of cause and effect can not go on forever because what receives existence from another can not be the ultimate cause of another’s existence. In the beginning it must be based on something independent, a necessary being with pure actuality and no potentiality. If it was not so then even that cause would in reality only be an effect.
Therefore a first uncaused cause of my existence exists. This uncaused cause must be infinite and perfect since nothing that is limited can cause itself. This infinitely perfect Being is correctly called “God,” the one who is worthy of worship, of an ultimate commitment. Therefore God indeed exists and we do live in a theistic universe. ( For a more detailed reasoning please refer to “Christian Apologetics” by Norman Geisler, Baker Book House, Michigan, 1976, chapters 1-13)
Let us begin by defining religion. The actual word is most probably derived from the Latin ‘religare’ meaning ‘to bind back’ or ‘to bind together.’ It could refer to the collecting of beliefs, conducts and rituals of a particular persuasion. Today the definition of religion in the western world is often understood in the way the 16th-century German reformer Martin Luther stated. He said that to have a god was to “have something in which the heart trusts completely,” whether such a god was a supernatural being or something in the world like wealth, power, career, or pleasure.
That kind of religion does not necessarily have to be involved with shrines, mosques, temples, churches, or synagogues. It does not need complex doctrines or clergy. It can be anything that is of ultimate concern to people, that fills their lives with meaning. By logical application of the test of truth we have already eliminated all religions and worldviews except the theistic one. Therefore we will be primarily concerned with the first, traditional description of Religion as belief in and worship of one God who is separate from his creation. This is only true for Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
They, like most systems of beliefs, attempt to give answers to basic questions such as, ‘what is the meaning of life, what happens after death, why is there evil, how should people behave, how can we get eternal life in heaven?’ In order to judge between the different truth claims of these three religions we need to formulate another test for truth: Whatever is systematically consistent in that it explains most facts in the best way, not contradicting itself and in a manner that fits with the overall system will be true. The test for truth within a world view will therefore not be based on undeniability as was the argument used to establish the truth between different world views. Rather, it will be based on a degree of probability.
Before we can compare the two religions we have to ask the question whether the Bible is still reliable. Today’s translations of the Jewish Scriptures, known as the Old Testament, are based on the Masoretic text the standard edition of the Hebrew Old Testament. It was prepared by Jewish scholars, called Masoretes, mainly from 500 to the 950 AD (See, “The World Book Encyclopaedia”, Volume 2, 1982, USA, page 222b) Furthermore the translators compared it with a number of other sources still in existence today, the most important of which is:
The Dead Sea Scrolls, written in Hebrew at about 100 BC, discovered in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s in Palestine. Among the fragments discovered are complete copies or parts of every Old Testament book except Esther, and the variations in the text after a thousand years of copying are minimal.
The manuscript evidence for the Christian Scriptures, known as the New Testament (NT), is equally strong. Approximately 5500 partial or complete copies of it are still in existence. That is by far the most we have of any ancient work. Further witness to the reliability of the New Testament include:
-About 18000 copies of NT translations into different languages at an early date.
-About 86000 citations of different parts of the NT in the writings of early Church Fathers within 250 years of its composition.
The oldest known copies of almost half of the New Testament that are still in existence, are dated about 200 AD, that is 130-174 years after they were originally written. It is important to realise that all the main Christian doctrines are therein contained! The oldest copy of the complete New Testament (Gospel) which still exists today is dated around 350 AD, that is 280-324 years after it was first written down. This time span is minimal when compared to most ancient works. No wonder that Sir Frederic Kenyon, former director and principal librarian of the British Museum, a leading expert on ancient manuscripts, wrote:
‘…the last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. Both the authenticity and the general integrity of the books of the New Testament may be regarded as finally established.’
(Cited in “Answers to Tough Questions”, by J. Mc Dowell and Don Stewart, 1980, USA page 6) For an in-depth study of the matter please see: www.domini.org)
Christianity has got its roots firmly established in the Jewish teachings of the Old Testament and agrees in principal with the following areas: God reveals his plans for the redemption of the whole world in the Jewish Scriptures also known as Torah and Zabur by Muslims. There we learn that a sovereign Creator chooses people, families, tribes, and eventually the Jewish nation out of which the Messiah was to come, to bless the whole world. In no case the selection took place according to their goodness alone, but because they respond to God’s love by faith, a simple trust that what he said he would do.
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (quote from Gen 15:6) Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (quote from Gen. 12:3, 18:18, 22:18) So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
The law was not given to the Jews so that they could become God’s chosen people by keeping its commandments. Rather it was to enable them to express their gratitude towards God for the fact that they were already chosen. The law taught them about God’s perfect and holy standards and at the same time created an awareness of their own sinfulness. The moral part of it, mainly expressed in the 10 commandments (Exo 20) kept them away from descending into the detestable practices of the surrounding nations.
Furthermore, the ceremonial part of the law, the regulations regarding sacrifices, offerings, washings and food separated the Jews from all the other nations of idol worshippers. Most importantly it reminded them that salvation was not based on what human beings do but on God’s ultimate provision in terms of the animals to be sacrificed in a unique, divinely ordained way. The writings of the prophets also contained in the Old Testament make it clear that the ceremonial law was only a shadow (Heb 9:1-10) of things to come:
You have no desire for an offering or I would give it; you have no delight in burned offerings. The offerings of God are a broken spirit; a broken and sorrowing heart, O God, you will not put from you.
(Psa 51:16-17, see also 1 Sam 15:22, Hos 6:6, Isa, 1:11-15, Mic 6:8)
The prophet Isaiah announced that sacrifices and offerings for sins pointed to the coming Messiah, the redeemer:
‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed….. For he was cut off from the land of the living….He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence,… After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied;…’
(excerpts from Isa 53:4-11)
Once the Messiah had come, the ceremonial law which had granted exclusive access to God for the Jewish nation only would become fulfilled in him. From that time onwards the way to the temple, symbolizing God’s presence, would be granted to all nations by faith:
‘This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.’ (Isa 2:1-3)
The identity of the Messiah (Hebrew ‘anointed one’, Greek ‘Christ’) is the only area of disagreement between the two faiths. While the Jews are still waiting for the one who according to the Bible would deliver Israel from its enemies and eventually establish a worldwide kingdom, the Christians have accepted him in Jesus. We can find out which position is more systematically consistent by looking at the following facts. They are verified on www.biblicalchristianity.freeserve.co.uk and are found in the articles mentioned in brackets hereafter. Alternatively, these articles can also be ordered free of charge at the end of this booklet.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not doubted by any serious historian today. (See, ‘Death and Resurrection of Jesus explained to Muslims’)
He fulfilled numerous prophecies in remarkable details. (See ‘What the Bible says about your future.’ It also explains in detail why the Jews rejected Jesus.)
The claims Jesus made to be equal with God, to forgive other people’s sins, etc., are outrageous and shocking, especially in the light of Jewish thought. Either they were given by a complete lunatic or by someone who indeed spoke the truth. There is no middle way. To think that he was just a good moral teacher is simply no option. The records we have of him make the first hypothesis unacceptable. (See, ‘Jesus – God! An explanation for Muslims’)
As for the moral aspect of the law, Jesus explained the full meaning of it. (see Matt 5-7) These perfect commandments are still valid but can only truly be observed through the help and forgiveness of Jesus who ultimately fulfilled every aspect of them.
We are left only with either Christianity or Islam in the quest to find the one true religion. The above mentioned test for systematic consistency, for the highest degree of probability, will now be applied to them in five crucial areas where Christians and Muslims are of a different opinion.
It is systematically consistent with God’s revealed nature in the Bible and the Quran, the books of Christianity and Islam, that he will not contradict history. As mentioned before, the cornerstone of Christianity (1 Cor 15:1-14), the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is verified by secular, as well as Biblical history. However, along comes the religion of Islam and flatly denies this fact about six hundred years later (Surah 4, Al Nisa, 157). Numerous other historical contradictions are found in it, such as:
Alexander the Great, known in history as a licentious, belligerent, idolatrous man is according to many Muslim commentators, referred to as righteous and good in the Quran (Surah 18, Al Kahf, 83-98)
Dirhams, small silver coins, are mentioned in the Quran (Surah Yusuf, 12:20) where Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers about 1700 BC. Yet that currency was only introduced in about 600 BC. (For more details see, www.answering-islam.org)
The Bible does not contradict history. Many archaeological discoveries have confirmed its content. (See, ‘A Tour of Biblical Evidence in the British Museum’, by Dr. P. Masters, published in ‘Sword and Trowel’, issues 1996 no.4, 1997 nos. 1 and 2)
Science is impartial fact-finding, the objective and unprejudiced weighing of evidence. That kind of objective science is what makes technology possible, and where it can be employed it is indeed the most reliable way of determining the facts. Christianity and Islam teach that God who gave the laws of creation is not normally going against them. While the Biblical records confirm this truth the Quran does not. Here are a few examples:
Contrary to Geology, Surah 16, An Nahl, verse 15 teaches that mountains prevent earth quakes.
In Surah 27, Al Naml, verses 18-19, Solomon overhears a conversation of ants. The fact is that ants do not use sound but smell to communicate.
In Surah 4, Al Nisa, verses 11-12 the Qur’anic law on inheritance doesn’t add up. Here is an example: A husband dies and leaves his wife with three daughters and two parents. According to the Surah in question she must divide up his inheritance: Verse 11 = “If there are only two daughters, two or more, their share is two-thirds of the inheritance… For parents a sixth share of the inheritance each (i.e. the two totalling one-third). Verse 12 = “…their (your wives) share…if you leave a child, they get an eighth of that which you leave…” Thus if all is added up one gets 2/3 + 1/6 + 1/6 + 1/8 = 1 and 1/8!! This is mathematically impossible!
The Qur’an teaches that there are seven heavens one above the other (Surah 67, Al Mulk, verse 3; 71, Nuh, verse 15]) and that the stars are in the lower heaven (67, verse 5) The moon is depicted as being inside the seven heavens (71, verse 16), even though in reality the stars are much further away from the earth than the moon. (For more details see, www.answering-islam.org)
C) PURPOSE OF LIFE
God created mankind for a purpose. The Quran quotes Allah as saying:
“I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve me.”
(Surah 51, Al Dhariyat, verse 56)
The word “serve”, is a translation of the Arabic ‘Ibadah,” commonly rendered as, “worship.” In this verse it means total obedience to Allah’s commands. Muslims find their purpose in life by obeying the commands of Allah. (See “Islam, Beliefs and Teachings” by Ghulam Sarwar, the Muslim Educational Trust, London, 1984, page 15)
According to the Westminster Catechism the purpose of life for Christians is, “to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” This statement is based on verses such as:
“… every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isa 43:7)
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psa 37:4)
Whereas Christianity agrees with Islam in so far that one should obey God and in so doing one brings glory, honour to him, the aspect of fellowship with the Almighty is unique only to the God of the Bible! What a wonderful prospect Christians find expressed in the last book of the Bible describing their state in eternity:
“Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” And he who sat upon the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” ….He who overcomes shall have this heritage, and I will be his God and he shall be my son.” (Rev 21:3-5,7)
These comforting words are contrasted sharply in the picture the Quran conveys about paradise he created. There it is a place overflowing with sensual delights, material riches but where Allah is absent since he is distinct from his creation. (See Surah 55, Al Rahman, 54-60) The Quranic view of paradise is already met here on earth by the rich and famous. However, experience shows that they are still not satisfied. The richest man in the world was once asked, “You have got everything one could wish for, is there still something you desire?” “Yes, I want more,” was his sad reply.
The real worth of material riches and beauty is only learned in the midst of their abundance. That is why Switzerland, often lovingly called “heaven on earth”, has the highest rate of people committing suicide in proportion to the population of all other countries of the world. Money does not make one happy, as the sad saying goes. The Bible does not speak against possessions and that which is aesthetically impressive. (See Gen 2:9, Exo 25-28, Rev 21) The love of money is the root of all evil not money by itself. (1 Tim 6:10, Heb 13:5) Anything we consider worthy and valuable is to be used in a way that honours God and it is to point us to Him who is the maximum expression of value and beauty.
The greatest need human beings have to live deeply fulfilling lives is never found in sensual delights and materialism but in love that expresses itself in fellowship. There alone are our longings for love that takes and gives being fulfilled. At the very root of love that behaves in such a way is worship, found in the essence of our being. Worship urges us to appreciate, to gaze and hold our breath, not for what someone is and does for US, but for the very sake of their existence. To a certain extent the heart felt need of love can be met in marriage, family and other relationships. However, since human beings are inclined to selfishness our ultimate need is only met in an imperfect way. Only a personal relationship with God in heaven, as offered in the Bible, can truly satisfy both, our need for love and also its cause, the vocation to worship.
In this fundamental issue, the search for the purpose of life, Christianity is far more systematically consistent then Islam. According to the former, the meaning of life is not only reflected in men’s deepest need but also met eventually by God himself in heaven. Christianity as taught in the Bible explains these facts in the best way, not contradicting itself and in a manner that fits with the overall system. It therefore must be true. This does not mean that there is no truth in the Quran. After all, about 75% of it has originated from the Bible even though many of the facts have changed quite considerably. The point is that the Bible alone contains all truth necessary for our salvation and it alone gives the reader instruction on how to live his life in a way pleasing to God.
In the Quran we find an awareness that human beings will be corrupt once they are created. About Adam we read:
“And when thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I am about to place a vicegerent in the earth,’ they said, ‘Wilt Thou place therein such as will cause disorder in it, and shed blood?…” (Surah 2, Al-Baqarah, verse 28, see also Surah 17, Bani Isra’il, verse 62, Surah 7, Al-A’raf, verse 18)
As our terrible history shows continually the fear of the angels came true. Some parts of the Quranic account of Adam’s sin reflect the biblical perspective. God made a covenant with him (Surah 20, Taha, verse 116) and with his descendants. (Gen 9:9) God generally relates to men through a covenant. In Surah 2, Al’-Baqara, verse 40 we read:
“O children of Israel! remember my favours which I bestowed upon you, and fulfil your covenant with Me, I will fulfil My covenant with you, and Me alone should you fear.”
A covenant is an agreement between two parties. The corresponding word in the Injil, the Gospel is, “testament.” That is why Christians call the Injil, “New Testament”. Throughout His revelation God has made promises and given laws to his creation. When Adam and Eve sinned they violated the three following important aspects of the covenant:
The covenant is personal.
God Himself gave the covenantal commands in the Bible (Exo 10:1-2) and in the Quran. (Surah 5, Al-Ma’ida, verses 8-11) Therefore, sin is the breaking of a relationship and disobedience or rebellion against God who is behind the covenant. (Isa 59:1-2, Surah 7, Al-A’raf, verse 78, see also verse 73 where people who sin are said to have: “rejected our signs”, Surah 10, Yunus, verse 16: “disobey”, Surah 50, Qaf, verses 28-29: “rebel”, Surah 25, Al-Furqan, verse 22: “too proud of themselves”)
The covenant is revealed.
Both, the Quran and the Bible speak clearly about God who reveals His will to men. ( (Amos 4:13, Surha 16, Al-Nahl, verse 102, etc.) Man can respond to revelation either with belief or disbelief. If follows that another definition for sin is disbelief in God. (Surah 38, Sad, verse 75) Not to believe in God and his commandments means refusing to allow God to be God in one’s life. It means a refusal to acknowledge and trust God as God. God is selfishly and proudly replaced with self. One starts to believe in one self or somebody else. It is the purest form of idolatry, possibly the root of all sin which is equal to committing “shirk” (associating partners with God, worshipping somebody or something else except God.)
The covenant forms the basis of Law.
God’s law is his revealed will made known through his commands. Therefore, the person that disobeys them transgresses the law. (Surah 96, Al-Alaq, verse 7)
Like the Bible (Matt 12:34, Luke 18:11-14) the Quran too recognises that the heart attitude is more important than the external act of obeying the law. In Surah Al-Ma’ida, 5:4 Allah forbids the eating of certain kind of meat. However the verse finishes saying that in certain circumstances the forbidden becomes allowed:
“But whoso is forced by hunger, without being wilfully inclined to sin, then, surely Allah is Most Forgiving and Merciful.”
If it is possible to disobey God’s law as long as one is not wilfully inclined to sin, then it follows that it is also possible to obey God’s law outwardly but still to commit sin.
Let us look now at Surah 7, Al-A’raf, verses 20 -27:
(20) ‘And O Adam, dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden and eat therefrom wherever you will, but approach not this tree lest you be among the wrongdoers.’ (21) But Satan whispered evil suggestions to them so that he might make known to them what was hidden from them of their shame, and said, ‘Your Lord has only forbidden you this tree, lest you should become angels or such beings as live for ever.’ (22) And He swore to them, saying ‘Surely I am a sincere counsellor unto you.’
Verse 21 makes it clear that Adam and Eve knowingly disobeyed or rebelled against God. Adam’s supposed forgetfulness mentioned as reason for his disobedience in Surah 20, Taha, verse 116 is hard to reconcile with Satan’s reminder of God’s command. The two passages clearly contradict each other. Moreover, if they had only forgotten what God said, then surely we would not read in the next verse that Satan deceived them:
(23) So he caused them to fall into disobedience by deceit. And when they tasted of the tree, their shame became manifest to them and they began to stick the leaves of the Garden together over themselves. And their Lord called them, saying, ‘Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you: verily Satan is to you an open foe?’
(24) They said, ‘Our Lord, we have wronged ourselves; and if Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, we shall surely be of the lost.’ (25) He said, ‘Go forth, some of you being enemies of others. And for you there is and abode on the earth and a provision for a time.’ (26) He said, ‘Therein shall you live and therein shall you die, and therefrom shall you be brought forth.’
The fact that God said “Go forth” echoes the biblical account of separation from God because of sin. (Gen 3:3, 23-24) In Surah 20, Taha, verse 122 we read that his life became miserable as a result. If Adam’s sin was caused by mere forgetfulness then these severe punishments would in no way fit the light “crime”. A deeper study reveals that the reason for the severity of it lay in the fact that in both, the Biblical and Quranic accounts Adam rejected the type of creaturehood God had assigned to him. He rebelled against His maker who is absolutely Holy and therefore can not tolerate this.
Joseph is quoted as having said in Surah 12, Yusuf, verse 54:
“And I do not hold my own self to be free from weakness; for, the soul is surely prone to enjoin evil, save that whereon my Lord has mercy. Surely, my Lord is Most Forgiving, Merciful.”
He does not place the blame on Satan or circumstances but points to a problem at the core of human nature!
In Surah 16, Al-Nahl, verse 62, the universal effect of the problem is made plain:
” And if Allah were to punish men for their wrongdoing, He would not leave thereon a living creature, but he gives them respite till an appointed term……”
This truth is supported by at least two traditions:
Muslim recounts a story by Muhammad in which Moses says to Adam: “because of your sin you caused mankind to come down to earth.” (Mishkat al-Masabih, trans and ed. James Robson (Lahore: Sh.Muhammad Ashraf, 1963), I, 23, Bk. 1, Chap. 4, Sec.1)
Al-Bukhari attributed to Muhammad the words, “Satan touches every child when it is born, whereupon it starts crying loudly, except Mary and her son.” (Sahih al-Bukahari, VI, 54, Bk. 60, chap. 54, trad. 71)
Muhammad’s earliest biographer, Ibn Hisham, quoted the prophet saying:
‘Two men in white raiment…opened up my belly, extracted a black drop from it and threw it away; then they washed my heart and my belly with snow until they had thoroughly cleaned them.’ (Ibn Hisham, ed., The life of Muhammad: (Ibn) Isahq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, trans. Al Guillaume, London: Oxford University Press, 1955, p.72)
To quote a more resent example, Ayatholla Khomeini said: “You should pay attention and all of us should pay attention (to the fact) that man’s calamity is his carnal desire, and this exists in everybody, and it is rooted in the nature of man.”
(‘Islamic Government does not spend for its own grandeur’, by K. International, Sep 4, 1985, p.3)
Let us now have a detailed look at the Biblical view. Sin is “missing the mark.” It is any lack of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God” (1 John 3:4 Ro 4:15) in the inward state and habit of the soul, as well as in the outward conduct of life, whether by omission or commission (Rom 6:12-13, 7:5-26). It is “not only a violation of the law, but an offence, a rebellion against God (Gen 20:6, 39:9, Psa 51:4, who vindicates his law with penalties. Sin justly deserves punishment, and calls down the righteous wrath of God. Hence sin carries with it guilt and shame.
The moral character of a man’s actions is determined by the moral state of his heart. The disposition to sin, or the habit of the soul that leads to the sinful act, is itself also sin (Rom 6:12-17 Gal 5:17, Jam 1:14,15). Adam and Eve’s sin (Gen 3:1-6) consisted in their yielding to the assaults of temptation instigated by Satan and eating the forbidden fruit. It involved, the sin of unbelief, virtually making God a liar, the guilt of disobedience to a positive command. By this sin they and their children became apostates from God, rebels against their Creator. They lost the favour of God and communion with him. The doctrine of original sin is proved biblically and anthropologically:
From the fact that all men sin and are depraved. (1 Kings 8:46, Rom 3:19,22,23)
From its early manifestation (Psa 58:3, Prov 22:15)
From the absolute and universal necessity, for supernatural renewal of the human nature by God (John 3:3, 2 Cor 5:17)
From the universality of death which came into being as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin. (Rom 5:12-20)
From the fact that everybody has to ‘live up to’ the outward appearance of others. This shows that there is something within us which falls far below even our most careless public behaviour. From the awakening of the social conscience. It is this the awareness of our involvement in an iniquitous social system that makes us share a co-operative guilt. This is a result of our own individual corruption. From the truth that there is ‘no safety in numbers.’ It is erroneous to think that since most people are selfish it must be unavoidable to behave in such a way. After all it is wrong to say exams are too hard just because most people at one school failed them. Such a view will have to be corrected quickly when scores are compared with other schools.
Three questions are often asked in connection with this doctrine:
‘Your belief about sin is against human logic. Why should we suffer because of Adam and Eve?’ Common sense tells us that God created us for himself, to do good, not to put ourselves at the centre of life and thereby destroying it. Yet human experience shows time and time again that the latter is exactly what happened. A brief look at the last century will underline what we all know to be true: In 1905 the Armenian genocide took place. About 2 million Christians were brutally murdered by Muslims belonging to the Othman empire. Nine years latter the First World War started. It was followed by the Second World War in 1939. Many millions died in unbelievable suffering.
The list of absolute horror seems to be never ending: Kigali, Beirut, Bosnia, Algeria, Palestine, Israel, etc. The almost unbearable complexity of evil is intensified when we look at the socio-political atrocities: divorce, abortion, adultery, abuse, prostitution, corruption to name but a few. Even education is powerless to stem the flow of evil. Doctors, lawyers, politicians, artists, scientists use their skills for good as well as for destructive and immoral purposes. Furthermore, many of us know what is right and good yet we act irrationally and don’t put our noble thoughts into practice. What an offence is wickedness to reason and much more so to God! But iniquity becomes even more bizarre.
Think of worthy motives in outrageous actions, and ugly, selfish roots behind good actions. To add to the confusion humans are also capable of great acts of heroism, of selfless, wonderful deeds, of devotion and service to the truth. Thankfully, evil is identified only by reference to the good which also exists though to a much lesser degree. If we were basically good at heart only with the potential to sin, as many would have has believe, then the world should be in a much better shape with peace being the norm and trouble and selfishness being the exception.
However, our experiences as described above, tell of our innermost being basically inclined to evil yet still with the potential to do good. That is why we have to teach our children to do the good not the bad. The latter comes naturally to them. This profound duality of experience comes both from personal responsibility and social conditioning. Children resemble their parents in terms of temperament, intellectual and other gifts and even in moral traits.
Human evil stirs up feelings of guilt, indignation or shame. This proofs the fact that our wicked human behaviour is not natural in the sense that we were created as week beings, like animals that just follow their often cruel instincts. What went wrong? Even the atheist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre reckoned: “Man is a being to whom something happened.” (Sartre, ‘Cahiers pour une morale’, Paris 1983, p. 51)
Judaism and Christianity teach that our first parents, the heads of humanity, rebelled against God. As a punishment they got separated from his immediate presence and therefore from many of his blessings. Since then we, their children, have not inherited their sins, but their proneness, their inclination to commit wrong. This is what theologians call ‘original sin’. The phrase has to be understood as original sin flowing from the originating sin, propagating itself in each person’s beginning and becoming the origin of actual sins.
They start with dreadful thoughts and desires in our heart. Original sin is defined as ‘universal sinfulness, consisting of attitudes, orientations, propensities, and tendencies which are contrary to God’s law, incompatible with his holiness, and found in all people, in all areas of their lives.’ (Blocher, ‘Original Sin’, Leicester, 1997, p.18) Common sense tells us that because all human beings have sinned, all are separated from a holy God and deserve punishment. The wrath of God is upon us because of what our first parents have done and because of our own evil deeds. We decided to do them as a result of the corrupted and depraved nature we were born with. (‘natura’ comes from ‘nasci’, ‘to be born’). We inherited that nature from our first parents, hence it’s name ‘Erbsünde’ in German, literally ‘hereditary’ sin.
Therefore, the sceptic objects and says, ‘why should we suffer for the sins of our first parents? It is not fair that because of them our nature is now inclined to do evil rather then good.” To that opposition Henri Blocher, professor of Systematic Theology replies, that the role of Adam and of his sin is ‘to make possible the imputation, the judicial treatment of human sins. His role thus brings about the condemnation of all, and its sequel, death. If persons are considered individually, they have no standing with God, no relationship to his judgement.
They are, as it were, floating in a vacuum. Sin cannot be imputed. But God sees them in Adam and through Adam, in the framework of the covenant of creation. Therefore he sees their sins as committed against the Genesis 2 command (Do not take from the fruit…), as grafted on to Adam’s sin in Eden….How did the punishment, death, reach all persons on the basis of their actual sinning? It reached them in the same way that death entered Adam’s person (by personal disobedience): since all were in Adam, the head, sin could be reckoned to them according to the terms of the Adamic covenant, as offshoots of his sin.’ (Blocher, ‘Original Sin’, Leicester 1997, p. 77f)
More support for the doctrine, again from human experience: The Standord and Yale experiments
In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo organized and conducted an experiment in the cellar of the psychology building at the Stanford University in the USA. After creating a simulated prison twenty-four Stanford students were randomly assigned to be either guards or prisoners. Within a few days of the test, the students playing guards had become sadistic. They placed bags over the “prisoners'” heads and forced them to strip naked to subject them to humiliating sexual pranks.
Students from one of America’s most prestigious institution of higher education descended into barbarism at an alarming speed. Zimbardo was forced to end the experiment less than a week after it began. (For details see: http://www.prisonexp.org/) These dramatic results at Stanford confirmed an earlier experiment at Yale University. There people’s willingness to inflict pain on others was tested. They were told to push a switch that supposedly delivered an electric shock every time another subject answered a question incorrectly. With only the researcher’s insistence for motivation, two-thirds of the participants were willing to bring about potentially lethal shocks to the victim—even though they could hear his screams. Although the set-up was fake, the willingness of one person to inflict suffering on another was all too real, just as at the Stanford research.
Human experience once again proves the doctrine of original sin to be right. Throughout history tribes, communities and nations have not just been conceived as individuals but also as organic wholes under representative ‘heads’. Both, leaders and followers express and influence a common identity. In opposite to animals the human race is one in some spiritual way, as well as genetically. Mistakes of leader have not just made them suffer immensely but also their supporters. (E.g. Hitler in Germany, Hussain in Irak, Bush in USA)
The acts of our first parents who were appointed by God as the leaders of the human race rightfully counted as those of the entire community. Since God selected them as leaders prior consent of the individuals represented for representation is not necessary. The blood relationship has indeed affected us deeply as is reflected in the so called ‘honour killings’ in the Muslim world. If adultery has taken place relatives often kill the culprit in order to restore the family honour. Especialy in the middle eastern culture of the Bible the individual is looked at in the context of the whole family.
The latter effectively swallows up the former. (See Gen 46:4; 48:21) Adam was constituted by God the federal head and representative of all his descendants, as he was also their natural head, and therefore when he fell they fell with him (Rom 5:12-21, 1 Cor 15:22). The testing of his free will to choose becomes our testing as soon as we become aware of God as God and of ourselves as ourselves. Then the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to us. An honest look at ourselves confirms that we rebel against God day in and day out. Because of Adam’s first sin all the future generations came into the world in a state of potential sin and condemnation. Man’s whole nature became depraved.
Adam and Eve are the root of us, because of them we are. In that sense we are part of them. Furthermore, legal principle and practice demands that all members of the group should stand under the obligation to pay the legal debt. The legal bond is added to the natural ‘family’ fellowship, the genetic commonality. (See Turetin, 1847:557, IX.9.11; Murray 1977:37f)
Freedom of choice
We must also question the assumption that to commit an evil act is just a freedom of choice exercised by individuals rather then also a process initiated and influenced by the nature of a person. Similarly, the terms ‘biological’ and ‘spiritual’ are not mutually exclusive. It is a fact that our feelings influence our physical well being in a complex way. Fear, for example, influences our digestive system. While there is a distinction between bodily processes and personal freedom there is no separation. Both work together in harmony.
This truth solves the problem of original sin as being of nature, something we can’t help because it was inherited due to our first parents disobedience, and yet incurring guilt. Freedom of choice is not contrary to our human nature but part of it.
Hereditary sin, the concept that we have inherited our first parents inclination to do evil, is reflected in the following parallels:
Moral and religious life is modelled largely by symbolic systems, language, traditions, art and literature. Choice is not an option for a long time. When we are old enough to go against such influences, to do so is humanly speaking almost impossible due to the strength of those pressures. Psychology has established the fact that children’s personalities are influenced by damaged images of mother and father. There seems to be mysterious bonds of a psycho-spiritual nature among people.
The science of genetics has established that thoughts can not be transferred to and encoded into the genetic system of human reproduction. But certain character traits are passed on without scientists being able to know how. The same is true for animal instincts. Children do not receive from their parents actual diseases such as calluses, gout and breast cancer but undoubtedly certain genetic impressions which make them more likely to get those diseases.
Lastly, the disputed field of the spirit world, if confirmed, supports the case of heredity in sinfulness. Experiences of Marabuts, Phirs and Pastors indicate that evil spirits under some conditions can not just negatively influence individuals but also their children and relatives.
Ayatholla Khomeini said: ‘You should pay attention and all of us should pay attention (to the fact) that man’s calamity is his carnal desire, and this exists in everybody, and it is rooted in the nature of man.’ (Islamic Government does not spend for its own grandeur, by Kayhan International, September 4, 1985, p.3)
The answer given so far to the question of ‘what went wrong’ makes us realize how completely helpless we all are. It makes us aware that we are not worse or better then others. From God’s perspective we are all in the same sinking boat. Awareness of our powerlessness keeps us in the only rightful state before an Almighty God, that of humility and compassion.
How can a new-born baby be called a sinner by birth as described in Psalm 51:5 and 58:3? Here is what Dr. Norman Geisler, a renowned expert in the field of apologetics has to say in answer to this objection. “We are not born in sin actually, by action, in reality, personally. We are born in sin potentially, by inclination, in tendency, judicially.” (‘When Critics Ask’ by Norman Geisler, by Victor Books, page 240) The term “original sin” is frequently and properly used to denote only the moral corruption of the whole nature inherited by all men from Adam.
This inherited moral corruption consists in, the loss of original righteousness, that is our right standing with God, and the presence of a constant proneness to evil, which is the root and origin of all actual sin. It influences and depraves the whole man, and its tendency is still downward to deeper and deeper corruption, there remaining no recuperative element in the soul. (Rom 3:10-23. 5:12-21. 8:7) The doctrine of original sin does not mean that human beings are incapable of doing anything good (Rom 2:14 and Acts 10:31). However, it means that we are prone to commit wrong things inevitably, unavoidably, because it is our nature to do wrong. From the polluted spring of our hearts flow streams of contaminated behaviour.
Original sin does not mean that we have an excuse for our own sinful actions and can say it is all Adam and Eve’s fault. (see Surah 7, Al-Araf, verse 29) God has not designed us to act sinfully but he initially created us in the beginning as very good with the faculty of choice. Now we are not very good anymore but we can still choose to do good. Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31 speak about temporal consequences in this life regarding our own good or bad choices. Since mankind still is excluded from Eden and therefore sharing in Adam and Eve’s punishment to a certain degree it logically follows that human beings also share to a certain degree in their disobedience.
Does science disprove the Biblical teaching of original sin by saying, ‘Man has slowly risen from brutality and savagery? It is not true to say that the farther back we go the more wicked and wretched we find man to be. Early civilisations made lots of wonderful discoveries, such as language, family, clothing, the use of fire, the domestication of animals, the wheel, the ship, poetry and agriculture. As far as brutality is concerned one only needs to look at today’s news to see that we are just as depraved, if not more so, than our ancestors.
The Biblical account is to be preferred over the conflicting explanations of the Quran. We now need to establish whether the Islamic view of salvation measures up to our test of truth. Is it systematically consistent, explaining the facts in the best way?
Our deliverance from sin and evil, the restoration to our true state and the attainment of eternal blessedness is called salvation in theistic religion. In Islam and most other religions salvation is thought to be achieved by believing in God and doing good deeds. By reciting the creed, known as Kalima and by trying to keep the many laws, Muslims strive for peace with God. (Surah 14, Ibrahim, verse 24) Muslims get punished for bad deeds in hell as a temporary measure, to deter others and for remedial purposes. It can even be dispensed with altogether if it will not damage the character and productivity of man. (Religion of Islam, by Muhammad Ali, page 160) While the latter may be possible in individual relationships it is an impossible way of action when many people are involved or when the one who punishes is in some official position. In such he can not be merciful if he wants to remain just.
If, for example, a teacher in school is lax with one child, how will it affect the rest of the class? Or let us think about the confusing implications it would have to look at punishment as a reformatory process only that intended to make the sufferer a better person. If even the greatest sin were immediately succeeded by hearty repentance, there would be no mercy of God necessary in withholding punishment; It could simply not justly be inflicted where reformation had been already produced by other influences. There are also cases in which repentance is less likely to be awakened by inflicting pain through punishment then by conferring new joy and honour. In these cases the lightest penalty would be unjust, and justice would require that the life of the sinner should be made brighter and happier. By looking at these examples which applied the theory that rests the justice of punishment mainly on its reformatory power, it can easily be seen that it leads to all kinds of grotesque consequences. (For more details see, The Atonement, by Dale, London Congregational Union of England and Wales, 1894, pages 380-381)
The Islamic view of punishment is self contradictory in that it is rendered unjust. If people are not punished first of all because they deserve it they are treated outrageously because suffering is inflicted on them for the sake of deterrence or improvement only. To say that they deserve it is admitting the Christian claim of retribution, a deserved punishment for rebellion against God. The reformatory aspect (the belief that chastisement will make the sinner better) which is ascribed to God’s punishment in Islam is further questioned by statistics that show clearly how most ex-prisoners committed offences again once they were released.
While it is true to a certain extent that crime figures fall if the punishment is harder and more frequent, the apparent success comes at a high cost. The threat of punishment produces hypocrites, in that people will obey the letter of the law but their hearts are not won for God nor for their fellow human beings. Selfishness will still prevail in subtle ways that prevent true, lasting peace and sincere love. Real change in people usually occurs because they are loved and appreciated not because they are punished. The three ‘R’s in bringing up children hold still true: Rules without Relationship leads to Rebellion.
In spite of these sobering facts Muslims hope to improve their old nature which is inclined to do bad naturally into a nature that becomes inclined to do good. They try to achieve this lofty goal through teaching, education, the passing on of knowledge and through punishment. To use an example they try to change a bicycle into a space rocket. This, of course, is an impossibility since a bicycle naturally is made to ride on the ground and a space rocket is designed to fly into space. The solution found in the teaching of the Bible is not to improve the old nature but to get a new nature that is inclined to do good through faith in Jesus. Salvation is entirely a gift of God as a result of his love for us:
“But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. (Rom 5:8-10, see also Eph 2:4-5)
The love of Allah in the Quran is conditional on man’s behaviour and is therefore inferior to the love of parents who love their children without any condition. They do however hate the way their sons and daughters often disobey them. Out of unconditional love for their rebellious children parents have to punish them. A difference is made between loving them as persons but disapproving of what they sometimes do. This is how the love of God is portrayed in the Bible, of course in a much more perfect way then parents could ever be capable of.
Jesus Christ is the key to salvation. However, some may ask, ‘Why did he have to die on the cross and raise again? Could God not simply punish and then forgive man when he committed sin? There are two main reasons for his death on the cross:
To restore God’s honour
The Old Testament, known as the Torah by Muslims, tells the wonderful story of how God created Adam and Eve and later the Israelites to be his people. We learn how he loved them like a father loves his children. Time and time again, however, we read with great sadness how his chosen ones break his commandments, how they become guilty of lawlessness. Even more disturbing is the fact that their rebellion is only a fruit of a conscious rejection of the Almighty God. His own people spit in his face and bring shame upon him before the very nations they were supposed to be witnessing of his honour and glory. To make matters even worse, they were not ashamed of themselves:
‘Therefore the showers have been withheld, and no spring rains have fallen. Yet you have the brazen look of a prostitute; you refuse to blush with shame. Have you not just called to me (God): ‘My Father, my friend from my youth, will you always be angry? Will your wrath continue for ever?’ This is how you talk, but you do all the evil you can.’ (Jeremiah 3:3-5)
The people of old did as they pleased because they had lost a sense of shame. While their mechanical, outward ritual acts may still have been in place they were not concerned about God’s honour at all. Repentance, the turning round from one’s evil ways, was later expressed in terms of recognition of shame and disgrace. (Jer. 31:19) Likewise, our disloyalty to God, our resistance against his work among us is known and is exceedingly shameful. We too deserve to be punished ever so severely. Since God is pure, completely removed from all evil, man’s sin has cut off, effectively killed, the relationship between the two. The warning given to Adam and Eve became a frightening reality:
And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.’ (Gen 2:16-17)
‘For the wages of sin is death,…'(Rom 6:23)
Only through death God’s honour will be restored. Consequently God introduced an elaborate sacrificial system to the Israelites through Moses. Shame could be removed by getting forgiveness for sins, but only if an animal would die in their place.
‘…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’ (Heb 9:22)
This all important truth is also reflected in ‘Qisas’ the Islamic law of retaliation. (Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verses 178-179) It consists in doing to the person who has committed a crime the very same thing they have done. The life of someone who is wilfully killed demands the murderer’s life in retaliation. However, the next of kin can accept a financial compensation instead. According to Surah 5, Al Maida, verse 45, retaliation for inflicted wounds is also necessary. A nose for a nose and so on. If a member of the body which is to be cut off in revenge is defective, a compensation will be accepted.
From God’s perfect perspective animal and all other sacrifices are defective. They can not take away sins but were only serving as a cover and a shadow of Jesus, the Messiah, the perfect sacrifice to come (Heb 10:1-18). He, being without sin, by taking our shame upon himself through his death on the cross, restored the honour of God in a most profound and just way:
‘Moreover, the Father judges no-one, but has entrusted all judgement to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him. I (Jesus) tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.’ (John 5:22-24)
‘Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ (Phil 2:5-11)
God raised Jesus from the dead confirming his authority, loyalty blessedness and blamelessness. Those who deny the cross refuse to accept God’s generosity, his blessing. They dishonour the giver.
To meet the demands of God’s justice and love
The Bible (Leviticus 11:45) and the Quran (Surah 59, Al Hashr, verse 23) tell us that God is holy. That means He is separated from anything that is unclean, bad, and hypocritical, in other words from anything that is sin. Both, the Bible (Isaiah 59:1-2) and the Quran (Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verses 35-36) tell us that sin separates man from God. Therefore, sin is not just a minor mistake, but absolutely intolerable in the sight of God! Another reason why sin has to be treated seriously, is because God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4, Surah 95, Al Tin, verse 8).
He punishes every wrong doer and awards the one who does right. However, God will not judge according to our good or bad works alone (Romans 3:23-24, Surah 35, Fatir, verse 45). He loves us so much (John 3:16) that in His mercy he chooses to forgive our sins. But if He would forgive our sins without punishment, then in His mercy He would become unjust!
That is why God revealed Himself in Jesus and died on the cross for our sins. In Jesus God met the requirements of His justice and of His love! Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, for our sin. In Deuteronomy 21:23 anyone who hangs on a tree is described as being sinful and under God’s curse. Galatians 3:13 explains that Jesus, himself without sin, became a curse for us because he took our sin on himself. After paying the penalty for sin through His death, Jesus rose again. Consequently the death and resurrection of Jesus are of the utmost importance for Christians! The following illustration will help to better understand this profound matter:
There was once a king who possessed a huge kingdom over which he also ruled as a just judge. He wrote down laws which had to be kept by everyone so that order and justice would be maintained. One day his very own son, whom he loved so dearly, committed a terrible crime. The law made it very clear that a perpetrator, such as his child had become would have to face a fine of £ 100,000,000,000.
The king’s son was not able to pay that large amount of money. However, the just judge could not change the law simply because the sinner was his own son, otherwise he would not have been impartial anymore. He decided that his child too was guilty, but when he pronounced the judgement, out of love, he offered to pay the fine on behalf of his son. In that way he could meet the demands of his justice but also of his love for the disobedient child. The son sorrowfully repented of his crime and humbly accepted his father’s offer. This incident changed him so completely that he decided to love and serve his father forever. By doing this he could certainly never pay back the £100,000,000,000. No, he changed his way of life to express his great thankfulness towards his just and loving father.
The king in the illustration symbolises God, the kingdom is the world. The laws are the Holy Scriptures, the king’s son is all mankind and the terrible crime committed by him is sin. The sum of £100,000,000,000 stands for the punishment of sin, which is a invincible separation from the Holy God. The king who took his son’s place and paid the fine on behalf of him illustrates what God has done for all mankind in Jesus.
He paid the punishment for sin by dying on our behalf at the cross. Finally, the complete change that took place in the life of the son is a picture of the new life of a Christian. By faith, through a prayer of forgiveness he accepts what Jesus Christ had done for him. He believes that Jesus took upon him the punishment for men’s sin. Only out of thankfulness he starts to love and serve God, not because he thinks he could ever earn a place in heaven by doing good. Whatever the newly born Christian now does will be motivated by love for the One who saved him from a terrible punishment.
Some Muslims might object to the illustration above by saying that God’s attributes of Justice and Mercy can not be understood. They are completely different from our human concept. It is true that God’s attributes are different from ours, but only in regard to their perfection rather than their definition. If the meaning of God’s characteristics were so completely different from our understanding then the ninety nine names given to him in Islam to describe them would be meaningless! Besides that, God Himself used illustrations in the Quran: In Surah 13, Ar-Ra’d, verses 16-17 we read that “…Thus doth Allah set forth parables.” (See also Surah 16, Al Nahl, verses 75-76)
A Muslim enquirer recently asked: ‘The Bible states that God sacrificed his Son, but yet we also read that Jesus was resurrected back to life and is sitting on the right hand of God. When you sacrifice something, you do not take it back 3 days latter, is this not a contradiction?’
The reason why Jesus the perfect sacrifice was raised to live again on the third day is found in the word ‘perfect.’ Animal sacrifices were imperfect, they just pointed to the perfect one. That is why they had to be offered again and again and were not raised to life afterwards. However, Christ being the perfect, sinless sacrifice only had to die once. Since he paid the punishment for sin, namely death by his own death, death no longer became a reality! That is precisely why God raised Jesus to live again. This profound truth is expressed in 1 Corinthians 15:54-57:
‘When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Death that came as a result of sin is defeated by Jesus! He as the firstfruit has been raised to life therefore. Those who believe in his perfect sacrifice will follow his example once they die physically. The following verses, again quoted from 1 Corinthians 15, confirm this good news:
‘But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (Verses 20-22) Those who neglect such a great salvation, refusing to admit guilt, also have to accept no forgiveness. Such people are characterised by their rejection of everything that is not simply themselves. Sadly speaking, God grants them their ultimate wish by sending them to hell. There they will suffer everlasting punishment, destruction and exclusion.
These ferocious experiences suggest something unspeakably horrible. Jesus talks more about them than anybody else in the Bible. (Mat 5:21-22, 27-30, 23:15,33, 10:28, 25:41,46, 7:23, 8:11-12, 22:13, 25:30, 13:30, 40-43, 49-50, 18:6-9, 24:51) Destruction means the transformation of the destroyed into something else. If we burn a log we get gases, heat and ashes. Annihilation, life that ceases to exist, is not possible. If that is the case, must there not be a state of having been a human soul? Hell was not made for man. To enter it is to be banished from humanity.
Is it not occupied by people but by the conscious ‘remains’ of them? What will happen to those who have never heard of him? God is just and good. He will deal with them according to his perfect attributes. What about the apparent disproportion of eternal damnation and transitory sin? Rather than a prolongation of time should we think of eternity as line? That would be a good image, because the parts of time are successive and no two of them can co-exist. There is no width in time, only length. Consequently, do we have to think of eternity as a plane or even a solid? Thus the whole reality of dammed human beings would be represented by solid figures. Once done with life would they be living with its results for ever in that sense?
Why don’t they get a second chance after their death? Teachers only know too well that it is really useless to send pupils in for certain examinations again. Finality must come some time also regarding our relationship with Jesus. We have to admit that our knowledge is greater about heaven than hell. Heaven is the home of humanity and therefore contains all that is implied in a glorified human life. In most ways hell is not parallel to heaven. We know only with utmost certainty that hell will be the eternal dwelling place of those who rebelled against God.
It will be inhabited by those who rejected Jesus and his work on the cross. In the long run the answer to all those who don’t accept the doctrine of hell is itself a question: What do you want God to do? To wipe out humanity’s past sins and to give everyone an opportunity of a fresh start? But he has done so at the cross! Sadly, many refuse to be forgiven. Do you want God to leave them alone? Alas, that is what he does. Again, the Christian view of salvation is more systematically consistent than the Islamic one because it explains the facts in logical ways.
F. WHY DOES GOD ALLOW ALL THE SUFFERING AND INJUSTICE?
According to Islam God is the source of both good and evil. Orthodox Muslims believe that whatever has, or shall come to pass in this world, proceeds entirely from the Divine Will, and has been irrevocably fixed and recorded on a preserved tablet by the pen of fate. (Surah 54:49, 3:139, 87:2, 8:17, 9:51, 13:30)
“Allah forgives whom he pleases and punishes whom he pleases.” (Surah 5:20, see also Surah 14:4, Surah 76:29-31)
Christians believe that all this is total determinism. Man is judged and condemned for what he cannot help doing. This is total injustice! By forgiving whom He wants God would contradict his attribute of justice at the cost of mercy. Moderate Muslims, in contradiction of all the above verses, go along with the Christian view of predestination. There it is not something arbitrarily decreed or pre-ordered, but resulting from God’s foreknowledge:
“For those whom He foreknew He also predestined…” (Rom 8:29)
The Judeo-Christian view of God presents us with a more profound challenge. In opposite to all other religions the Holy Bible clearly describes God as ‘good,’ ‘love’, ‘without falsehood’ and ‘almighty’. (Psa 25:8, Rom 11:22, 1 Joh 4:8.16, Num 23:19, Gen. 17:1). Why then is not everybody happy? Why doesn’t he stop all the suffering in this world if he is in control? The solution to these age old questions is found in defining what is meant by saying ‘God is good and all powerful.’ For such revealed attributes of God to be meaningful, they must be used in a similar way as when they are applied to human beings. As mentioned before, the difference is not in kind but only in degree of perfection.
Contrary to all other creatures only human beings have the gift of free will. Unlike people, animals can not say ‘no’ to food put before them. They just follow their instinct. It would be nonsensical to think that God gives the capacity to choose and then withholds it from us. Yes, all things are possible to the all powerful One yet mutually exclusive alternatives are not things but non-entities. It is absolutely unthinkable for God to do something that goes against his attributes. The wise One does not do the silly. Not because his power is limited but because nonsense remains nonsense in the sight of man and God.
In order for us to choose freely creation must be relatively independent and unchanging. Choice demands the existence and experience of things to choose from (e.g. laws of creation, environment) If those building blocks of life kept on changing their characteristics, it would be impossible for us to make sensible decisions. God will not change matter miraculously every time it is misused to cause suffering. If he did, for arguments sake, make every knife blade soft that is used to murder someone, he would deny free will, the foundation of our life itself. The great majority of sufferings are caused by people who make wrong choices. Like in the case of well-meaning parents, God’s goodness and love too are not to be understood as superficial kindness. Such an attitude would only have in mind to enable someone to have a good time at any cost. Parents who really care about their children would rather see them suffer for a while than to see them happy in contemptible or estranging ways. Anything less amounts to indifference which is really the opposite of love. (See Heb 12:6)
Good parental love means authoritative love and asks for obedient love on the children’s side. Parents use their authority originating from experience and superior wisdom to help their children become the sort of human beings they want them to be. As we all know this process is wrought with pain. Suffering is also an integral part in our relationship with God who wants to be our ‘Father in heaven’. Since our rebellion against him, the fateful event known as ‘the Fall,’ among theologians, we are in desperate need of change. Our free choice to become independent from God made pain unavoidable. What else could be expected by a creature that goes against the purpose it is made for?
Likewise, human beings equipped with feet for walking should not be shocked if they find themselves suffering after trying to fly from a roof top. God created us for his own good pleasure (Rev 4:11, Isa 43:7), not that we would put ourselves in the centre of the universe. What we call our happiness here and now is not the end God chiefly has in view. He is love and therefore he desires us even though much of our spiritual beauty is lost but not because it is lost. Love can not cease to wish for restoration. It forgives most but condones least. Although it is pleased with little it demands all.
Love in its own nature longs for the perfecting of the beloved one. Because we spoiled ourselves, good to us, in our fallen state must therefore primarily mean remedial or corrective good. And it is exactly here where suffering plays a profound part. Although not good in itself, several good things come out of it:
C.S. Lewis wrote about the purpose of pain: ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’ (‘The problem of Pain’, Fontana Books, 1957, page 81) The more people commit evil the less they become aware of it. To the contrary, pain is unmasked, unmistakable evil. It enables the bad to be recognised as such. Everyone knows something is wrong when they hurt. That is why the public cries out for bad people to be punished by experiencing suffering themselves.
Without the experience of suffering there would be no reason for bad people to change their ways. God exploits evil produced by bad people for his redemptive purposes. It reduces the rebel will.
Pain also destroys the illusion that what we have, whether good or bad in itself, is our own and sufficient for us. While our lives are comfortable we will not surrender to God who is the rightful owner of them. He therefore takes away our false sources of happiness. In his divine humility and passionate love God accepts us even if we come to him as a last resort.
Anguish stirs up compassion in others and leads to acts of mercy. Pain provides an opportunity for heroism. It is seized with surprising frequency. Someone who suffers physically is not usually in danger of loosing self control, or of becoming wild and irrational. Suffering creates a longing for heaven. Pain becomes insignificant when compared with the joys of being in God’s presence. (Rom 8:18) It is not wrong to think these thoughts for love by definition seeks to enjoy its object. As far a we know animals are not capable of sin or doing good.
The points above can therefore not be applied to them. Why do they suffer? Since we know that God is good it is certain that the appearance of divine cruelty must be an illusion. Much more can not be said with absolute certainty. Only the following statements can be made: Life in the biological sense has nothing to do with good and evil until a conscience appears that enables us to distinguish right from wrong. The fact that animals and inorganic matter react to injuries does not prove that a conscience is present. Especially higher animals who have nervous systems similarly to our own indicate the presence of an awareness or sensation. That does not need to involve thought or perception.
After all, an unconscious, anaesthisiesed human body also shows reactions to pain. We can even answer questions while being asleep. It follows that when an animal gets a blow with a stick pain is taking place. To say that the animal feels pain is to presuppose an unconfirmed ‘self ‘, a ‘consciousness’, standing above the sensation and organising it into an experience as we do.
The message of Christianity is absolutely unique because of its beliefs in Jesus Christ as God who came to live among us as a human being. Only in the Biblical faith does God something personally about the sin that separates us from him.
Consequently it is only here that salvation is by grace, a completely undeserved favour, through faith in the work of Jesus on the cross alone.
Since salvation is God’s work, the outcome for those who trust him is absolutely certain. (1 John 3:14) Only Christianity offers absolute assurance of heaven and eternal life. Christians are commanded to do good deeds too. They change their selfish lives not that they might get saved but as an act of immense gratitude for the free gift of eternal life they have already received. Those whose selfish lives are not changed as a result of their encounter with Jesus only pay lip service to the saviour. Such a ‘faith’, of course, is absolutely useless.
Christianity is also unequalled in that God exists as a Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Because God is both One and also Three. He stands above the world not only as God ‘up there’, the Father, but also as one of us, Jesus the Son and, again as God in those who believe, the Holy Spirit. One of the Hebrew names for God in the Torah, ‘Elohim’, is plural. It cannot be explained as a plural of ‘majesty’; this was entirely unknown to the Hebrews. It has been seen as on a level with the words for ‘water’ and ‘heaven’, which both also happen to be in the plural in Hebrew.
Water can be thought of in individual raindrops or in terms of the mass of water in the ocean. The plural in this case points to ‘diversity in unity’. The Christians definition of Trinity is based on the Bible and expressed in the Athenasian Creed as: ‘We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding (mixing up) the Persons; nor dividing the Substance (Essence)’ The word ‘Person’ is here used in the sense of ‘self with a particular function.’ (‘The Illustrated Bible Dictionary’ by F.F. Bruce, IVP Leicester, 1962, see ‘person’) It has to be stated emphatically that Christians do not worship three gods but one God because each member of the Godhead, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, in some sense indwells the other, without diminishing the full personhood of each.
The essential unity of the Godhead, then, is found both in their inmost equality of divine characteristics and also in the intensely personal unity that comes from mutual indwelling. Thus when Jesus died at the cross, God did not cease to exist but was separated from himself regarding the relationship within the Trinity not regarding his essence. To think that God gave up a perfect relationship for a time shows how great his love towards us is! The main stream of Christianity throughout the world believes in one God, the Holy Trinity. It is indeed a mystery, as God Himself is.
Many attributes of Him are accepted, yet are simply not fully comprehensible to the human mind. We all accept that God has no beginning, yet do we understand this? ‘Impossible!’ the sceptic cries out, yet true. Then why should it be such a problem if there is some aspect of God’s essential nature (his Trinitarian existence) which is difficult for us to grasp? C.S. Lewis, professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University said: ‘if Christianity was something we were making up, of course we could make it easier. But it is not. We cannot compete, in simplicity, with people who are inventing religions. How could we? We are dealing with Fact. Of course anyone can be simple if he has no facts to bother about.” (‘Mere Christianity’, Macmillan Company, New York, 1943, page 145) The Trinity also answers difficult questions about the nature of God:
‘How could God have been self sufficient and loving before the creation of angels and of the earth?’ Since true love needs an object to whom it can give, if the Trinity of God did not exist, there would have been a time when he was incomplete, being unable to have the attribute of self giving love. This can not be true because God has always been and always will be perfect.
‘Is God selfish?’ Since love is described as having ‘…no envy;…no high opinion of itself,….no pride;…no thought for itself…(1 Cor 13: 4-5) some unbelievers, like John Stuart Mill, Mark Twain or Pablo Picasso have come to the conclusion that God is utterly selfish. They say that by asking us to worship nobody else but God, he himself commits the sin of seeking glory for himself only for which he condemns man. Bible believing Christians find the answer to this apparent contradiction in the Trinitarian nature of God. There he shares his glory among himself.
‘Is God limited?’ Of course that can not be but he who thinks of God as an absolute unity where there is no room for multiplicity at all, is forced to believe in a god who does not know himself. Self-knowledge demands a distinction, a multiplicity, between a person and the knowledge he aquires. Self-consciousness, the recognition of a creature by itself as a ‘self’ can only exist in contrast with an ‘other’, a something which is not the self. Only a Trinitarian concept of God allows for such a vital distinction. (see, ‘The Trinity explained to Muslims’ and, ‘Jesus – Son of God, an explanation for Muslims’ for more details)
Incomparably he alone does not compromise his justice when he forgives sinful man; rather he paid the prize that his own holy justice demands at the cross. In no other religion we find God who personally suffers with the people. P.T. Forsyth wrote in his book ‘The Justification of God’ (Duckworth, 1916) on page 32: ‘I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the One Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it?
I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.
He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolises divine suffering. ‘The cross of Christ…. is God’s only self-justification in such a world’ as ours.’ What is here said about Buddha can be said about Allah and all other concepts of God which have been presented to the people throughout human history. The playlet entitled ‘The Long Silence’ sums up well the above: ‘At the end of time, billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God’s throne. Most shrank back from the brilliant light before them. But some groups near the front talked heatedly – not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.
‘Can God judge us? How can he know about suffering?’ snapped a pert young brunette. She ripped open a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. ‘We endured terror…beatings… torture… death!’ In another group a Negro boy lowered his collar. ‘What about this?’ he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. ‘Lynched… for no crime but being black!’ In another crowd, a pregnant schoolgirl with sullen eyes. ‘Why should I suffer’ she murmured, ‘It wasn’t my fault.’ Far out across the plain there were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering he permitted in his world. How lucky God was to live in heaven where all was sweetness and light, where there was no weeping of fear, no hunger or hatred. What did God know of all that man had been forced to endure in this world? For God leads a pretty sheltered life, they said. So each of these groups sent forth their leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. A Jew, a Negro, a person from Hiroshima, a horribly deformed arthritic, a thalidomide child.
In the centre of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. it was rather clever. Before God could be qualified to be their judge, he must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God should be sentenced to live on earth – as a man! ‘Let him be born a Jew. Let the legitimacy of his birth be doubted. Give him a work so difficult that even his family will think him out of his mind when he tries to do it. Let him be betrayed by his closest friends. Let him face false charges, be tried by a prejudiced jury and convicted by a cowardly judge. Let him be tortured. ‘
At the last, let him see what it means to be terribly alone. Then let him die. Let him die so that there can be no doubt that he died. Let there be a great host of witnesses to verify it.’ As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the throng of people assembled. And when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No-one uttered another word. No-one moved. For suddenly all knew that God had already served his sentence.’
Never will I forget the day that brought about a complete new beginning in my life. It was the 19th August 1981. A few months earlier I had arrived in Brighton, at England’s beautiful southcoast. Having been born and brought up in a very rich nation I thought that the only thing missing to bring about my happiness was to learn English and then to travel the world. My parents were rich. I was used to being able to chase successfully after things to satisfy my hunger for a life of meaning. However, with fulfilling one’s dreams comes the frightening realisation that neither things nor people on this earth can truly satisfy. This is a shocking reality that only those can fully understand who have tasted the luxury this world has to offer.
Only they that possess can truly judge the value of possessions. But at the age of 22 I was slow of learning, hoping all this would be different abroad. Although in my late teens I did try to quench my thirst for the meaning of life with studying about God. Faith in him presented the only alternative to everything else I had done before. That led me first into confusion and then into a false kind of certainty. Confusion because all religions claim to know the exclusive way to the Creator. False kind of certainty because I began to pick and choose from among these different ways to mix together my own beliefs.
My statement of faith read: There is a supreme being who made us. We have to try and please this God by our good deeds. In that way we would be incarnated into a different, easier life next time. One day we would be set free from the cycle of birth and rebirth and then maybe, just maybe we would be accepted by God into heaven. Sadly, I failed to practice doing good time and time again. Selfish human nature is just too powerful. It can not be improved, especially in the light of God’s perfect standards. Looking back I realise that is was rather arrogant of me to think I could figure out the ways of the Almighty myself.
Wasn’t that exactly what the founders of many religions did? The fruit they and their followers produce is terrifying: Murder, wars, forced confessions, feelings of guilt and shame, hypocrisy. I came across the latter in my youth when I was made to attend the Roman Catholic Church. On Sundays, we listened to the Priest and on weekdays we listened to our selves. The last thing this world needed was yet another religion.
With these frustrating tensions I set foot on the British Isles in 1981, the year that heralded in the greatest change in my life. I chose to go to a Christian language school because it was the cheapest. There I met practising Christians whose lifestyle made me uncertain of my own beliefs. They spoke about having found the meaning of life in that they wanted to honour God and enjoy him forever. What they said did not impact me much in the beginning. After all, I felt I was a Christian too. I believed in God and tried hard to please him by doing good.
I soon discovered though that Biblical Christianity is not about doing first of all, but about being. Being in a living relationship with a Majestic, Holy and Loving God who desires me to become His child so that He can be like a perfect Father to me. I argued with a good friend of mine saying: ‘There are so many religions out there, how am I supposed to know which one to follow?’ He calmly said: ‘Why don’t we pray that God would show you the right way?’
And pray we did. And an answer I got in a most amazing way! On the evening of the 19th August I said ‘good night’ early to my host family. My intention was to look up a few passages in a little green Bible which was given to me by another friend. In there I was reading a few words which were about to trigger off my absolutely life changing experience. Speaking about false teachers, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians, chapter 11, verses 13-15:
‘For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.’
I was stunned. Had I been deceived by false teachers? Yes, they did talk about God, they did pray but so did those religious people whom Paul condemned about 2000 years ago. What then happened is difficult to put in words. Suddenly I became aware of God’s Awesomeness, of His Holiness and of my own sinfulness. I saw certain key events of my life coming up in my mind as vivid as if I was watching them on a cinema screen: How I lied, cheated, was selfish, had a relationship with a girl just for sexual pleasure. How could I survive this encounter with God?
I remembered the heart of the Gospel, that Jesus paid the punishment for my sins by his death on the cross. For the first time in my life I knelt down and prayed, ‘Jesus, please forgive me.’ Each time when I named an incident that had appeared in the film of my life it was as if a heavy burden would be removed from my shoulders! With tears in my eyes I thanked Jesus and offered him to take over my whole life. After all, he had given his for me so it was only fitting to give mine for him. Finally I had found what I was longing for. Peace and rest, assurance of forgiveness, a purpose in this life and a place in heaven on the day I die.
The next day I went whistling and joyful to school. A changed young man. People asked what had happened and so I told them the Good News. And that is what I have basically been doing ever since. God called me to give up my secular, well paid job in the graphical industry and to go into full time Christian ministry. The message of the Gospel is indeed Good News. Not that I have no more problems. But that in the problems and difficulties of life Jesus guides and comforts me. Not that my old, selfish nature is being improved to near perfection, far from it.
The more I follow God who is light, the more I see my own, previously dark depths of sinfulness. By God’s grace I have succeeded in becoming a better person outwardly. God gives his followers a new nature through faith in Jesus. Now they can choose not to give in to the sinful cravings of the old nature by fixing their eyes on Jesus, by remembering who he is and who they are. Nevertheless, inwardly I have realised that it is far worse with me than I had previously thought. That’s exactly why God had to send Jesus, because he sees our thoughts and the intentions of our hearts. Needless to say that there is no other way to satisfy the attributes of his Justice and Love.
Some may think: ‘ Well, that’s his experience, where does it differ from the one people of other persuasions have had?’ The difference lies in the explanation that even though my experience was subjective like that of many others, in opposite to theirs it is based on objective, historical facts. As mentioned already, no serious historian doubts the death and resurrection of Jesus. Millions of Christians base their different experiences on that very same truth.
A) Biblical Christianity from a psychological perspective
My faith in Jesus has led me from mere existence to a fulfilled life. Here is a description of that major change from a psychological point of view. By applying the test for truth we have established that the Biblical revelation of God has the greatest credibility. It describes human beings having been created in God’s image as men and women (Gen 1:27). Similar to the Triune God, relationships are also at the centre of our lives. In order to develop and enjoy them we were given the faculties of thought, will and emotion. Leaving aside the foundational needs for food, clothing, etc., we were created with two main legitimate basic needs:
-Security, expressing itself in the desire for love, relationships, acceptance and being cared for.
-Importance, expressing itself in the desire for meaningful work and purpose, power, respect, recognition and leaving a great legacy.
These needs were fulfilled by God in that he looked after Adam and Eve and put them in charge to take care of the earth. We are made first of all to have a relationship with our maker. Our two basic insufficiencies can only be met by him. However, everything changed after Adam and Eve rebelled against their creator. He was replaced by a new ‘god’ namely man himself who alone wanted to be in control of his life. The unsuccessful attempt to have our legitimate basic needs met satisfactorily by ourselves and other people produces a painful lack of self confidence.
In most communities and groups this makes people only to easily submit to the pressure of conformity in order to get accepted. The search for love and importance we all so desperately desire produces a hypocritical unity. A prime example of this is found in today’s Islamic societies in the West. Many young, second generation Muslims do secretly disobey their religion’s rule not to have premarital relationships with members of the opposite sex. To keep a shallow unity the subject is taboo and the parents turn a blind eye on the reality.
To fulfil our needs and to protect ourselves from more hurts we all come up unconsciously with strategies. These approaches to life are many faced, such as, trying to please people, being humorous, dominant, forceful, submissive, knowledgeable, generous, etc. Of course, these things are not wrong within themselves. They only turn out to be bad if we use them to satisfy the needs for security and importance ourselves rather than having them fulfilled by God.
These tactics to be independent from him are not satisfactory. Therefore, many people turn to ‘painkillers’. These methods of killing or at least numbing the pain of living, easily turn to addictions such as drugs, alcohol, sex, pornography, masturbation, over eating, etc. Nobody can be self-sufficient since we are not made for that purpose.
We can find out our own strategies by asking others and ourselves, ‘Why do I do what I do?’ Most importantly God is willing to show us our motivation if we ask him to do so. Reading his word, the Bible, will also help to find answers for our behaviour. Change for the good is possible only if we recognise our selfish strategies and replace them with God`s plans as it was in the beginning. He wants us to turn around from our sinful ways and accept the forgiveness freely available through faith in Jesus. Once we give him control over our lives we will experience a deep sense of fulfilment, independent of our outward circumstances.
B) Practical consequences of living life according to God’s plan
God nowhere promises to solve all our problems here and now. Troubles don’t cease in our lives because without them our rebellious hearts would be more likely to fall away from God. He assures us, however, to be present in difficult times and to help us getting through them:
Jesus said: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, see also 2 Cor 12:8-10)
A honest look into our lives causes confusion about what we see in us and in the world. This gives birth to bitterness and discouragement. We are disappointed with ourselves and others because in critical moments we fail to act sensibly. That fact produces distance between people in order to avoid more hurts. Masques are worn that further hypocrisy. Disappointment leads to the conviction that we fail miserably in fulfilling the two most important commandments of God: to love him and others. Depression, indifference, lethargy and in its worst manifestation suicide are unavoidable. These chain of events lead automatically into developing the previously mentioned strategies and obsessions.
Practising Christians, however, do not need to follow that path of self distraction. Since God has promised to ultimately fulfil their basic needs for security and importance they are free to follow his ways. They are liberated to help other to become the persons God wants them to be since they don’t need to use them as sources to have their needs met. As a result, the response of Christians to the confusions of life is faith that God will carry them through the troublesome times.
Their disappointment with themselves leads to a hope which is certain that things will be different, if not now to a perfect extent, then in heaven. Their conviction of failure brings forth love that is deep and real. A selfless kind of love that gives others what they need not necessarily what they want. A love that is prepared to say ‘no’ to someone’s request that momentarily but not ultimately would be good for them.
It is important that we acknowledge, yes, even embrace the pain of our past and present. In doing so we will get a deeper understanding of how our own strategies of self fulfilment and self protection brought us to the point of breakdown in relationships. It will open up a door for a profound return to God against whom we have sinned first and foremost by expecting from people what only he can truly give. Then we will understand better why Jesus had to die for us; not only because of our wrong doings but more importantly because of our wrong beings, manifested in the rebellious and selfish motivation to do it our way, without God.
Not to use our old strategies any more means to consciously open up to the possibility of being hurt. When the pain reaches a peak the temptation to revert back to our old ways and painkillers becomes almost unbearable. Having arrived at that point we need to make the choice of not doing so by throwing ourselves in complete helplessness and dependence into the arms of God. Those who seek God’s presence in such a way through prayer will experience how their faith and character matures. Yet, while Jesus has won the ‘war’ for us at the cross, some of the ‘battles’ we are still engaged in we loose. The great tendency for Christians is to find their acceptance not in Christ but in their own performance.
‘….for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.’
In pain we need comfort. God, the Holy Spirit wants to be the comforter to those who ask him. (see John 14:26) The way ahead is narrow and difficult. The answers to some of our questions are not found in research, therapy, counselling or any other method but eventually in a living relationship with God as described in the Gospel. As ancient Israel with its feasts and rites revisited its calling as a people of God, so Christians must daily revisit their roots in the gospel and be renewed by its glory. It is a story about the gift of acceptance in Jesus Christ.
It is a story about being called from alienation, fear and slavery into the wondrous security and love of home. We need to keep remembering the facts that we are great sinners but Jesus is an even greater saviour!
Dear reader, congratulations! You have done it. You have finished a journey which the world is desperate for you not to make. Together we have marvelled at the boundless blessings of a new life available in Jesus. We have established that religion is not man made but originates from God. You have been taken through the process of formulating and applying a test for truth that left Biblical Christianity as the unrivalled winner among all other religions.
Logical, thought provoking answers to the question of suffering were found. I have written about how Jesus is changing my life. With God’s help I have taken you as far as I can. Now you are at the most important cross road of your life. My dear friend, I pray that you will choose the right way by following Jesus who alone says:
‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.’ (John 14:6)
-“Answers to Tough Questions” by J. Mc Dowell, Here’s Life Publishers, California, USA, 1980
-“Christian Apologetics” by N. Geisler, Baker Book House, Michigan, 1976, chapters 1-13.
– “Cries of the Heart,” by Ravi Zacharias, Word Publishing, London, 1998, ch. 6, pgs. 153-180.
-“Dictionary of Islam” by T. P. Hughes, Asia Publishing House, London 1988
-“Destination Unknown” by G. Nehls, Evangelical Mission Press
-Effective Biblical Counselling, by Larry J. Crabb, Zondervaan Publishing House, 1977
-“Just thinking,” Communiqué of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, Norcross, GA, USA, Winter 1998, ‘Unobservable Aesthetics: The point of beauty,’ by Manuel Zarate, pages 9-10.
– “International Journal of Frontier Mission,” Volume 14, Number 1, Jan- Mar 1997, El Paso TX, USA, ‘One’s Future in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam,’ by Dr. D. P. Fuller, pgs. 15-25.
-“Islam Beliefs and Teachings” by Ghulam Sarwar, Muslim Educational Trust, London, 1984
-‘Muslims&Christians on the Emmaus Road’, edited by J. D. Woodberry, MARC, USA, 1989
-‘The Problem of Pain’ by C.S. Lewis, Collins, Fontana Books, UK, 1957
-Understanding People, by Larry J. Crabb Zondervaan Publishing House, 1973