Apologetics

How Should Christians Address Islam?

Commons Objections Against Christianity

Corruption Of The Bible

It is a common belief within Islam that the writings of the Jews and Christians (the Old and New Testament) are corrupted. This belief is called Tahrif. The belief of Tahrif took some time to be developed formally but it is a systematized expression of what the Quran explicitly states about the practices of the Jewish and Christian peoples in regards to their scriptures (Baqra 75, 79; Al Maeda 13; Al Inaam 91; and Aale Imraan 78).

Surah Al-Baqarah 75-79 Do you ˹believers still˺ expect them to be true to you, though a group of them would hear the word of Allah then knowingly corrupt it after understanding it? When they meet the believers they say, “We believe.” But in private they say ˹to each other˺, “Will you disclose to the believers the knowledge Allah has revealed to you, so that they may use it against you before your Lord? Do you not understand?” Do they not know that Allah is aware of what they conceal and what they reveal? And among them are the illiterate who know nothing about the Scripture except lies, and ˹so˺ they ˹wishfully˺ speculate. So woe to those who distort the Scripture with their own hands then say, “This is from Allah”—seeking a fleeting gain! So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for what they have earned.

Now, the severity or application of Tahrif may depend on the Muslim being spoken to, but in a general sense there are two main understandings of the concept of biblical corruption. Some may state that it is the interpretation of certain writings that is corrupted by Christians and Jews, and other will say that it is the very scriptures themselves that have been corrupted due to people desiring to place their own interpretations and ideas within the biblical writings to make a justification for their religious beliefs and practices.

Jesus Was Just A Man

According to the Islamic faith, Jesus (Isa) is not in any way divine, instead he is considered to be a purely human individual who was the offspring naturally of Mary during the first century A.D … And he was chosen by Allah to be the promised Messiah to the Jewish people, bringing the revelation of Allah to them. It is also believed that the purpose of Jesus’ earthly ministry was not to pay for the sins of mankind, but rather to direct all who would listen to live lives in complete submission to Allah.

Surah Ali ‘Imran 3:59 Indeed, the example of Jesus in the sight of Allah is like that of Adam. He created him from dust, then said to him, “Be!” And he was!

They firmly believe that Jesus was not condemned to death on the cross and therefore he never resurrected or ascended into heaven as well. Depending on the Muslim you speak to, you will often hear what they call the substitution theory; that Allah miraculously delivered Jesus from persecution and torture by making another to appear in his likeness so that the other would be given the severe treatment that the religious leaders of that day intended for Jesus. One thing that they do confess which is similar to the eschatological views in Christianity is the belief in a second coming of Jesus where Allah will establish justice and peace on the earth through the Messiah and defeat the false Messiah.

Surah An-Nisa 4:157-158 and for boasting, “We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” But they neither killed nor crucified him—it was only made to appear so. Even those who argue for this ˹crucifixion˺ are in doubt. They have no knowledge whatsoever—only making assumptions. They certainly did not kill him. Rather, Allah raised him up to Himself. And Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.

Answering Objections

Reliability Of The New Testament

One of the most popular arguments against the reliability of the New Testament is, since the New Testament is old and has been passed through many hands, it must, therefore, be corrupted in some form, whether the original words have been lost or been purposefully manipulated. To this challenge, I would like to first state the age of the subject matter is a fallacious argument. We have reason to believe that the manuscripts we have are accurate to the original sources due to the fact that the Early Church Fathers loved to quote scripture in their writings. These two pieces of evidence alone give strong support to the accuracy of the New Testament in modern English bibles.

Modern secular scholarship renders itself inconsistent in regards to believing in the accuracy of classic writings over the accuracy of the New Testament. When taking into account the span of time between the originals being written and the earliest copies being made, as well as the number of manuscript copies we know about, it attests to the accuracy of our copies in relation to the original manuscripts. Examining classical works of antiquity in comparison to the New Testament is useful for properly understanding just how reliable the New Testament is. When comparing classic works to the New Testament, F.F. Bruce puts it this way, “For Caesar’s Gallic War (composed between 58 and 50 B.C.) there are several extant manuscripts, but, only nine or ten are good, and the oldest is some 900 years later than Caesar’s day…But how different is the situation of the New Testament! In addition to the two excellent manuscripts of the fourth century, which are the earliest of some thousands known to us, considerable fragments remain of papyrus years earlier still.”. This is the case with several classic works (Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Plato’s writings, Herodotus’ historical accounts, and even Livy’s history of Rome), and yet people would not dare question the accuracy of them to their original sources.

Another viable argument in support of the New Testament’s reliability is found in the writings of the Early Church Fathers. The Early Church Fathers can be defined as Christian theologians and writers that had influenced the early church from around 50 A.D to 450 A.D., they have been a prime witness of how quickly the writings of the New Testament had spread once written and what the early church believed about said writings. Personally, I find it more beneficial to look at the earliest of the Patristic sources (Apostolic Fathers and Ante-Nicene Fathers) whose writings ranged from the end of the first century to the end of the third century. It is in the early church that we find leaders who were directly taught and discipled by the Apostles themselves, which weighs over the assurance of the accuracy of the New Testament and how the New Testament should be understood. When addressing the citations of the Early Church Fathers, Geisler states, “By the end of the first century some fourteen books of the New Testament were cited. By 110 CE there were nineteen books recognized by citation. And within another forty years (150 CE) some twenty-four New Testament books were acknowledged. Before the century ended, twenty-six books had been cited.”. 3 John was also confirmed as the twenty-seventh book soon after; when the Old Latin Version of the Bible had been finished.

Divinity Of Jesus

And we know that if it is true that the New Testament manuscripts are reliable and preserve the originality intended by the authors, then we also know that Jesus of Nazareth confesses an extremely high view of the Old Testament scriptures which he would have read, studied, and taught as a rabbi in Jewish tradition. But again, if the New Testament is accurate then what does Jesus state about himself? Well, Jesus is recorded to have stated in John 8:57-59 (NET), ‘“Then the Judeans replied, “You are not yet fifty years old! Have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!” Then they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out from the temple area.’. The section of this view that is significant to prove that Jesus claimed to be the divine God is when he states “before Abraham came into existence, I am!”. When Jesus states “I am” it literally translates to the Koine Greek phrase “Ego eimi” which while being a proper and typical way to say “I am (fill in the blank), Jesus is recorded to have left it open ended which is purposeful and odd for the Greek language. This usage of “Ego eimi” only makes sense if he is reference to the statement of God recorded in the Septuagint, Exodus 3:14 (NET), God said to Moses, “I am that I am.” And he said, “You must say this to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”. In the Greek Septuagint, the God of the Bible applies the phrase “Ego eimi” to himself, and just like Jesus, he leaves the phrase hanging there. This is a clear statement that the Jewish religious leaders would have recognized as Jesus claiming to be the “I AM”, the self existent one who identified himself before Moses through the burning bush, which explains their desire to stone Jesus right there on the spot because they recognized his claim as one that ascribed divinity to himself.

Holy Trinity

Orthodox Christianity has commonly come to understand that God exists as what is called the Holy Trinity. This view was extensively defended within the early church and became the official teaching of the early church as they recorded this doctrine within the various creeds (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian, Chalcedon). While the creeds themselves are not equal with the Word of God, they established these as a way to break down the truths within the Word of God. It is understood that God is one as shown in Deuteronomy 6:4. And that there are three individual and distinct persons who are called God and given his attributes throughout the Bible, The Father (1 Peter 1:2), The Son (John 20:28), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). Therefore the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in simple terms is the belief that there is one being of God, one divine nature, and all three persons of the Holy Trinity are completely God and completely hold the divine nature and yet remain distinct persons from one another.

Another way of helping come to terms with the concept of the Holy Trinity is through the philosophical distinction between “being” and “person”. A being is the “what” of something, it makes something what it is. A person is the “who” of someone, it makes someone who they are.

Mankind current lives in a limited reality, therefore due to these designed creaturely limitations a human can only exist as one being and a single person. The creator God by definition is not constrained to these limitations, rather he is the limitless creator who made all that exists in reality. He is unlimited due to the nature of his self-existence and freedom from the constraints of his created reality. Therefore, God can exist as one being and yet three distinct persons.

How To Present The Gospel To A Muslim

Now, after assessing what Islam claims about itself, what it claims about Christianity, and what Christianity really believes; how are we to give the gospel of Muslims? I would start with this, what examples and teachings do we have in the Bible for gospel presentation? This is essential because if our evangelistic efforts are not founded in the Bible then whatever course we take will not be honoring to God. Jesus’ example throughout the gospels is one that proclaims the truth of the gospel with authority and yet he approaches those who he’s teaching with a genuine desire to see them come to repentance and true faith. Therefore, he is stern when he addresses the hard-headed and calloused religious leaders, but meek and humble to those who recognize their unworthiness before God. Paul tells the Church in Rome that it is the Christian’s responsibility to proclaim and preach the gospel to others, because how can anyone hear the good news if they are not sent and teaching the truth.

What does this look like practically? It means being respectful of the Islam tradition. Do not purposefully or ignorantly misrepresent their faith or else your message will fall on dead ears because you will appear to be a liar. Instead, do your homework and thoroughly study a faith so that when you reason about the truth of Christianity you can pinpoint exactly where to properly apply the gospel and discuss scriptural inconsistencies with them.

Another tip is to not be prideful of yourself or your knowledge, rather a Christian must recognize that he was also a slave of darkness at one time and convinced that lies were the truth. So when speaking, be sure to recognize that this deceived individual is no better than you were apart from Christ. Be humble, meek, and caring whenever approaching topics that are integral to the faith of others.

Be honest. Do not weasel your way with lies to get them to accept Christ, because if you are not properly teaching the orthodox doctrines of Christianity, then they will be no closer to Jesus because they may end up believing in another false portrayal of Jesus Christ or a false understanding of the gospel of Christ.

And lastly, remember to be in constant prayer. Prayer for wisdom from God about how to handle and steer the conversation, pray for patience, pray for God’s love to fill your heart, and pray for the soul of each Muslim, because it is God who is in total control as he uses us as tools to accomplish his good and perfect purposes. God Bless!

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