Christianity is cool
Table of Contents
Since starting my current job, I’ve met a couple of Muslim coworkers. I’ve challenged them to read the Bible, and in turn, I’ve read the Quran this year. The Quran actually has the Christian and Jewish scriptures in high regard and often incites the “People of the Book” to confirm its message from their own scriptures.
Say, ‘O people of the Book, you have nothing to stand on, unless you uphold the Torah and the Gospel and what has been sent down to you from your Lord.’
Surely, among the people of the Book there are those who believe in Allah, and in what has been sent down to you and what has been sent down to them, humbling themselves before Allah. They do not barter away the verses of Allah for paltry (worldly) gains. They have their reward with their Lord. Surely, Allah is swift at reckoning.
Do not debate with the people of the Book unless it is in the best manner, except with those of them who commit injustice. And say, “We believe in what is sent down to us and sent down to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him we submit (ourselves).”
I find this position problematic. In affirming this, the Quran both affirms and contradicts the scriptures that came before it, the Torah and the Gospel. As a very blatant case I can point to the verse where it claims Jesus did not actually die on the cross.
and for their saying, “We have certainly killed the MasīH ‘Īsā the son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah”, while in fact they did neither kill him, nor crucify him, but they were deluded by resemblance. Those who disputed in this matter are certainly in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it, but they follow whims. It is absolutely certain that they did not kill him
In a general sense I found the Islamic religion very unappealing. Reading the Quran didn’t have any effect in me other than giving me a gory mental picture of hell and a sensual mental picture of heaven.
In addition to that, the strong determinism I see affirmed in the Quran leaves me with a sense of hopelessness, because Allah’s libertarian will is the sole decider of my fate.
Had your Lord so willed ˹O Prophet˺, all ˹people˺ on earth would have certainly believed, every single one of them! Would you then force people to become believers? It is not for any soul to believe except by Allah’s leave, and He will bring His wrath upon those who are unmindful.
We have not sent a messenger except in the language of his people to clarify ˹the message˺ for them. Then Allah leaves whoever He wills to stray and guides whoever He wills. And He is the Almighty, All-Wise.
As a side note and a personal comment, I think that Islam is a religion filled with father issues.
- Muhammad was an orphan boy. His father died before he was born so Muhammad was raised by his grandfather. He who also died when Muhammad was in his teens, so the young man was then raised by his uncle. [source].
- The Quran actually forbids adoption, after a revelation to Muhammad concerning his marriage to the former wife of his adopted son [source].
- The Quran also denies again and again that God could have a son, however I believe this to be a misunderstanding of that Christians mean when they say that Jesus is the Son of God. The Quran seems to think that the trinity was God, Mary and Jesus.
Upon sharing my thoughts on the Quran and Islam, one of my Muslim coworkers made this comment about Islam vs Christianity.
Islam provides solutions Christianity doesn’t.
We have strict rules for marriage, who can marry who, reason to get married, what to say when you get married, how to solve conflicts between husband and wife, breastfeeding rules, sex rules, divorce, inheritance, etc.
Things like “Love Jesus, go to heaven” […]
Christianity is the cool religion […]
Less restrictions, less have to dos, more allowances, lack of rules.
Life has war, Islam sets rules for wars, Jesus says don’t fight.
Life has divorce, Islam sets rules for divorce, Christianity has no divorce.
Life has finance, Islam sets specific amounts of money, taxes, Christianity says: do charity.
I’ll try to deal with his criticism seriously, as I do think he makes some fair observations. It is completely true that Islam has many more rules than Christianity but the correct question to ask is not what religion has more rules, but rather if having more rules is the same as having a better religion. I would argue it is not.
The problems with rule-keeping #
At the time of Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders had set a number of rules one needed to follow to stay right with God. In Mark 7 Jesus condemns them for it, as they were invalidating God’s laws by adding traditions on top of them.
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.
- Jesus, Mark 7:8
A commercial mindset #
Having a list of rules fosters a commercial mindset, where people are encouraged to do the minimum. This is not what God has in mind when he sets boundaries on our behavior. The rules are actually for our own benefit and not to gain points with God.
God wants a loving relationship with us. There is no hard rule on the Bible for Christians to follow about when and how much to fast, but we do it anyway, not to gain God’s favor, but because it is good for our relationship.
The same thing happens with my wife. There is no rule on the marriage contract for me to give flowers to my wife, but I do it anyway. And when I do, it shouldn’t be about getting something from her but simply because I love her, and I know she enjoys it.
Look how great I am #
The more rules and procedures we need to keep, the more we (me?) will be inclined towards comparing ourselves to others. This is a slippery slope, because (1) we are usually blind to our own faults, and (2) we are usually more kind towards our faults that we do see, excusing them as not that serious. I’m reminded of Jesus’ saying about the “sawdust in your brother’s eye”,
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
- Jesus, Mathew 7
and Jesus’ parable of the self-righteous Pharisee
Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.
- Jesus, Luke 18
A loophole! #
If following God’s will is simply a matter of adhering to a set of rules, then we would have an army of lawyers ready to argue with God about following the strict sense of the rules that scripture establishes.
As a father of very smart small children, I can tell you that this is exactly what they do. They do the bare minimum of the things I tell them to do, and then if I get upset, they tell me they have complied to the letter.
The issue is in the heart, not the external rules #
Christian ethics is not about a set of rules, and Jesus diagnoses humanity’s problem correctly: the sin in the heart.
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” After he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about this parable. “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.)
He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person."
By having a list of rules, we can have a “checkbox” mentality, and forget that rather than keeping a set of rules, what God wants from us is that we become more like Jesus.
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The point of the Christianity is not to make you compliant with a set of rules, but to transform your heart’s desires to be aligned with God’s desires. This is not a one-off deal, but a lifelong commitment to being transformed into followers of Christ - AKA Christians - who desire to be like him.
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world […] All of us also […] gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. […] But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions [..] For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.
Our works, our efforts for keeping the rules are worthless when it comes to making us alive. We are dead in our sins apart from God’s grace, and the good news (the gospel) is that we can live again by putting our faith in Jesus.
Does this mean that there are no rules? #
This is a fair and on point concern, but not an unforeseen one. The apostle Paul gives a clear answer to this.
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
Making the link with the previous text on Ephesians 2, we were dead in sin, but now we are dead to sin. We are not given licentious permission to sin, but rather we are new creations, whose purpose is to do the good works God has prepared for us. I left out the last sentence of the previous Ephesians quote.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do
The higher moral standard of Christianity #
Life has war, Islam sets rules for wars, Jesus says don’t fight. Life has divorce, Islam sets rules for divorce, Christianity has no divorce. Life has finance, Islam sets specific amounts of money, taxes, Christianity says: do charity.
This is exactly on point, and for those three items I have the same answer.
Muhammad set some rules to restrict some evil, Jesus has set rules to maximize the good. Muhammad has set earthly rules, Jesus has set a heavenly standard. We cannot keep His standard apart from His grace.
- Islam sets rules for wars, but Jesus says for us to turn the other cheek, and to pray for our enemies
- Islam sets rules for divorce. Jesus reiterates the creation story, explicitly saying that divorce is only permitted in case of adultery. Permitted, not mandated
- Islam sets specific amounts for charity but Jesus says “if you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven”
The seriousness of following Jesus #
Many times, Christians make the gospel sound like “Love Jesus, go to heaven”, and that’s our fault. While that is part of the truth, actually loving Jesus means keeping his commandments, and the greatest commandments are loving God above all and loving others as ourselves.
Successful Christian living will be filled with acts of selfless giving, dying to sin and sacrificing ourselves in order to serve others.
In short, to follow Jesus is to become like Him. This is not expected to be easy but rather an ongoing war!
Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’
the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’
Christianity is the cool religion #
My coworker said:
Islam provides solutions Christianity doesn’t
To this I reply:
On the contrary, Islam provides a band-aid over some of the symptoms, but only Jesus provides the cure
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness