A question from a Muslim, and an attempt at an answer

Posted: August 29, 2013 in Apologia, Evangelism, Islam
Tags: , , , , , , ,

NOTE: Some names and other details have been changed or removed from the original message to protect the guilty…

Dear Mohid,

It was good to meet you again last week.

Your question was: ‘In our modern times, how is the teaching of Jesus important to us after we abolished many aspects of that time such as slavery and pedophilia? Aren’t we better off?’

My initial response is that, sadly, pedophilia and slavery are still major problems in the world today. Human trafficking and sexual abuse (often of minors) is rampant today, as can be seen by the information given by International Justice Mission –  http://www.ijm.org/. Because of this, Jesus’ teaching about love, justice, unselfish living, and protecting the vulnerable is still very much relevant to the issues we face today. Unfortunately in our sophisticated society, a lot of these human rights abuses, while happening in our own countries, are cleverly concealed, so that many are not aware of them. I would also say, though, that in nations where Christian teaching has been an important part of our culture, these things are not tolerated. Many non-believers who are protesting and acting against these things do not realise that they are working from a Christian ethic. (I dod not know enough about Islamic teaching to say whether this is also true in Islamic countries)

Secondly, I would say that the ultimate goal of Jesus’ teaching on morals and ethics are not so that we should follow them in order to make this world a better place (although if everyone did follow them, the world would be a much better place in many ways). Jesus’ teaching of God’s Law, as seen in the famous Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel according to Matthew, chapters 5-7, is to show us what an incredibly high standard God’s law sets for us – such that even a lustful thought about a woman is considered equal to adultery, and feeling superior to someone is the same as murder. This in turn shows us that we cannot save ourselves by our own works or progress – since we constantly fail to keep this standard. And so Jesus’ ultimate purpose for coming – as Samuel presented – was to do for us what we are unable to do for ourselves through his life, death and resurrection.

This is really the teachings of Jesus. He said in Matthew 20:28, ‘The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ So the Apostles (his followers who wrote down his words), were primarily concerned not with spreading Jesus’ ethical teaching, but the news of his death and resurrection, because it is through faith in Jesus that a person is set free to begin obeying the Law found in the Torah. The Christian teaching, from Jesus himself, is that genuine change does not come when a person simply decides to try to do good by following teachings. Instead, a person needs to be ‘born again’ – literally made a new person in their soul, by the Holy Spirit changing their heart to be able to trust in Jesus.

I hope that answer makes sense. Feel free to reply or to ask any other questions about the Christian view.

Kind regards,

James

Dear James

As you can see my questions are for both Muslims and Christians, and I don’t find them to be able to provide a satisfactory answer. Where Mariam was wedded  the age of 13 to Joseph of the age 90, or where Muhammad married Aisha at the age of nine. The big issue is that such acts were committed from people who were assumed to be the ultimate moral avatars for humanity. At todays measures, such acts could only be accomplished in the dark, and with our moral standards of judging these people very negatively.   

As for the standards  of God, to judge us so harshly for “lustful thoughts” which are encrypted in our survival instincts by god himself displays a major flaw of design. Why would God create us and our survival to depend on such thoughts when it’s a sinful act?. This could easily be said for muslims as well who would stone adulterers who would angry god, yet God would reward them with 72 virgins.

Both religions have existed a long time ago. Both advised to kill for god, rape for god (slavery), hate for god, give money for god, idolise current living men as connected to god (shikh or clergy), stoning, beheading, and the list keeps going countless. Aren’t we better to say no god would ever say such a thing?

Thanking you for your kindness and time. Again you display to me how kind and thoughtful you are after all these years.

Highest regards

Mohid

Dear Mohid

Thanks for your response, and I can understand your difficulties.

I would have to be honest, though, and point out that the issue of pedophilia is only a concern for Islam, as none of the prophets in the Bible were married to children (the Gospel does to mention the age of Mary (Miriam)). Jesus himself taught that ‘causing a little one to stumble’ – which could be understood to include sexual abuse – was a heinous crime, and that it would be better for the perpetrator to have a large stone tied around their next and be thrown into the sea! 

In the Torah, Prophets, Psalms and Gospels, none of the prophets are held up as models of moral perfection for us to follow. All of them, except for Jesus, are example of sinful human beings who, just like us make terrible mistakes and who need to depend on God’s grace and mercy. So we are to follow their example in repenting (turning from our sin) and trusting in God.

The Christian view of instincts – or ‘desires’ – is that while God created human beings (Adam) perfect, with only good desires, we have become corrupt, and sinful by nature. That means that desires that were designed by God for good, like being sexually attracted to our wife, have become distorted, so that we think lustful thoughts about women who are not our wife. This is not strictly how God created us; it is how we have become because of our sinfulness. We can blame no-one but ourselves for this.

And so the harsh penalty is given, not to say, ‘Every society in every place should adopt these laws,’ but rather to highlight the serious nature of sin, and the fact that sin is a matter of the heart. 

What I mean is, every sin starts with a desire. We want to do something, and so we end up doing it. Jesus himself said, 

‘”Whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled.” Thus he declared all foods clean. And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”‘ (Mark 7:18-23)

So the reason God judges us harshly, is to highlight our desperate need for reconciliation with Him, and this reconciliation is found in Jesus. So the One who judges us so severely is also the one who loves us so greatly that He sent His only Son for us.

James

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