IS IT RELIGION OR NOT?

Dear followers of daneskelton.com

It came to my attention this week that in my haste to post this blog I made a mistake about the doctrine of salvation in Islam.

For your records I have pasted in the corrected version of the article below. As I know some of you like to share these with friends I would appreciate it if you would do the same with this correction.

I apologize for my mistake and going forward will do my best to fact check before I post.

Blessings,
Dane

It’s all very confusing, is it not? ISIS slaughters left and right, Christians as well as fellow Muslims. Boko Haram murders its way through northern Nigeria in the name of Muhammad. And the creators of Charlie Hebdo are ruthlessly assassinated by Muslim converts shouting, “The prophet has been avenged!”

In response, leaders in America from the White House to famous athletes deny any substantive connection between Islam and violence. It is mind-boggling to say the least.

I’ve written about that disconnect in the past and others are writing brilliantly about it today, see: http://www.wsj.com/articles/an-administration-adrift-on-denial-1424392150, so I’ll leave that job to them. I do however want to address some basic theology that, because it is so often left out of the discussion, adds to the confusion.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, (I remember when he was basketball star Lew Alcindor), revealed the heart of the theological confusion at the beginning of his January 26, 2015 article in TIME, Paris Was Not About Religion, saying, “For me, religion–no matter which one–is ultimately about people wanting to live humble, moral lives that create a harmonious community and promote tolerance and friendship. All religious rules should be in service of this goal. The Islam I learned and practice does just that … Violence committed in the name of religion is never about religion–it’s about the money.”

Who could argue with that? He’s paraphrasing Micah 6:8. “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

I have deep respect for Mr. Abdul-Jabbar. He has contributed much to the goodness of our country since his basketball days, but his theology is more akin to Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD, the phrase coined by Christian Smith ) than it is to Quranic Islam, or Biblical Christianity. In fact, many cultural Christians follow the same basic theology: there is a god–that’s the deism part, he wants us to be good–that’s the moral part, he helps us with our problems–that’s the therapeutic part. But MTD leaves out core doctrine that drives both religions, and that explains the violence of the one and the peace-loving nature of the other.

That doctrine is the holiness of God, or Allah, take your pick. In Biblical Christianity, God is so holy, so perfect in righteousness, so morally pure and infinitely good, and man is so sinful that God cannot be reconciled to man apart from some kind of atonement. Some price for the sins of men and women must be paid in order for justice to be satisfied.

In Christianity that price was paid on the Cross by Jesus, who, as God in the flesh, was the only perfect human being who ever lived and the only one competent to take on the sins of the world. When we accept his gift of payment for our sins we are “cleansed from all unrighteousness,” and made acceptable in God’s sight. God’s holiness and wrath against the sins of man is satisfied. (See 1 Peter 3:18; Romans Ch. 3-6; Colossians Ch. 1 etc.)

Biblical Christians live in the joy and peace of that gift and seek to share it with others, following the command and example of love, service and sacrifice set by their savior. The characteristics lauded by Kareem are acts of gratitude for the goodness of God.

In Quranic Islam man is basically good, but fallible. Men and women must live perfect lives in order to deserve paradise and nations must live according to the Quran in order to honor the righteousness of Allah. Allah can tip the balance if he chooses, but his will is unknowable and one should always live in fear of Allah and the judgment. Every nation which refuses to submit, (submission is the basic meaning of Islam), must be forced to do so and every offense against the holiness of Allah and his prophet must be avenged. This is the Islam practiced by conservative Muslims everywhere.

Quranic Muslims live in constant fear of judgment, ever doubtful that their righteous deeds will be enough to save them from hell. It is no wonder then that even if they do not participate in violent jihad (one of the few things guaranteed to tip the scales of judgment in their favor) they do not actively oppose those who do.

So as much as I’d like to agree with Mr. Abdul-Jabbar, it isn’t about the money. It’s about the theology.

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