Archive for the ‘Truth’ Category

Is Islam a religion of war or peace? I get asked this question a lot. I know that people are asking this question again after all of the attacks on US embassies throughout the Middle East. I’ll give you my answer to this question and then I’ll tell you why I am posting about it.

I don’t know. There you have it, that’s my answer. I don’t claim to be an expert in Islam. Even if I was I am not sure how well I could answer this question. Honestly, I see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of war. There are Muslim scholars who confirm this (though they might not state it this way). There are some really hard verses in the Qur’an. There are plenty of violent acts throughout the history of Islam. And of course, we see the violence perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

However, I can also see lots of reasons why people conclude that Islam is a religion of peace. There are Muslims scholars who confirm this. There are good pointers in the Qur’an towards peace. Within the history of Islam there have been times of peace and prosperity. And of course, we see acts of kindness and love perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam all around the world.

So which is it? Again, I honestly don’t know. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t really care. That probably doesn’t sound good. Honestly, I am not that concerned about what true Islam is. I am more concerned about what my Muslim friend believes. This is not because I don’t care about the truth or don’t think that objective truth is real. I do. I care very much. It is because I have personally settled the issue of truth. Jesus the Messiah says in the Injil, “I am the truth” (see the Gospel according to John 14:6). He is enough for me. I am not saying Christianity is the truth. I am saying that Jesus is the truth. The truth of God has been embodied in a person.

When I am with my Muslim friend I don’t need to know what true Islam is. I need to know my friend. I want to know what he believes. Does he believe that such acts of violence in the name of Islam are justified? Or does he repudiate them? That’s what matters to me.

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I care deeply for Muslims as a group and for my Muslim friends in particular. I am really grateful to God for the relationships he has given me and the friends I have been blessed by. You also know that I have not been afraid to call anti-Islamic statements evil. I am more than willing to call out the evil from Christians regarding Muslims. I believe this film is offensive and the opposite of love.

However, one thing I really haven’t done is also call out the evil that Muslims have done. I feel angry about the response to this movie. I understand why it is offensive. But I cannot and will not understand the need to destroy property and ultimately kill others because of it, especially those who had absolutely nothing to do with the making of the film. I do not hold the American government responsible for the evil of individual citizens anymore than I hold other governments responsible for the evil of their individual citizens.

I am angry because the destructive and deadly responses are evil. I am angry because these responses make non-Muslims living in the Middle East fearful. I have American friends who live all over the Middle East who are fearful that they may need to flee. I am angry because the radical murderous Muslims are giving all of my Muslim friends a bad name. I am angry because the work that I do in trying to promote understanding and peace between Muslims and Christians can so easily be derailed by the site of angry mobs. I am angry because all people are made in God’s image and we are not treating each other with the respect that this simple truth demands. God made us. And therefore he loves us. How is it that this truth doesn’t change everything about how we live with people different than us?!

I feel for Muslims who are appalled at what is taking place. Surely they bear a greater burden of responsibility over their community than I do, but what can they do? I don’t know. And even if my responsibility is not as great, I still am responsible for my reaction and for the circle of influence I have.

So I will pray. I will pray to the God of peace. I will pray for those who have sinned in making the movie and those who have sinned in their response to the movie. I will continue to show the way of love that Jesus Christ teaches us. His way is the way of the cross. He didn’t kill his enemies. He died for them. He didn’t end their lives. He laid down his own.

The way of the cross is the only way forward because it teaches us to humble ourselves and extend the forgiveness we have received to others. It teaches us to love our enemies and to seek their good. It teaches us to love mercy and not merely insist on justice.

I will pray and I will seek to daily die to myself and my selfish desires so that I can love others, even others who don’t love me.

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Stephen Hawking’s new book, The Grand Design, makes the claim that we don’t need God to create the universe. Hawking writes, “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist.”

This is a great example of where Muslims and Christians come together in agreement. The universe has a Creator.

Usama Hasan has a Muslim response to Hawking. Here is a notable quote and his conclusion.

Hawking’s “spontaneous creation” is God-by-another-name: our atheist friends, like theists, have many names for God!

In conclusion, it should be remembered that Hawking is a brilliant scientist.  Science does an excellent job of describing Nature, or as a theist would say, how God creates.  But science can say nothing essential about why we are here and how we should live our lives: only true and balanced faith and religion can answer those questions, with Messengers of God to show us the Way.

James Anderson has a Christian response. Here area a couple notable quotes:

If Hawking thinks there is some law or principle that explains the very existence of the universe, he must have in mind a metaphysical law rather than a physical law. Unless I’m much mistaken, the law of gravity is a physical law. It appears that Hawking intends to leave behind physics (a subject on which he is eminently qualified to speak) and enter the realm of metaphysics (a subject on which he has no particular expertise, so far as I know).

In any case, it’s unclear how a multiverse explanation could provide a satisfying answer to the question at hand, namely, why our universe exists at all. If the existence of our universe is explained by the existence of the multiverse, the problem (once again) is only put back a step. Why then does the multiverse exist at all?

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Peace-loving Truth

Tim Tebow and his mom are doing a pro-life commercial that will be aired during the Super Bow. Apparently many pro-choice groups are upset about this and want CBS to refuse to air it. There is much that can be said about the contradiction of those who are for choice, but don’t want people to hear both sides of the argument (in order to make a choice!). Zach Nielsen had some really helpful thoughts regarding this and the wider issue of “tolerance”. He writes:

Just as an aside, would you please please please join me in advocating for the complete stoppage of all the “tolerance” talk. Tolerance is not the issue and it never has been. If anyone tells you to stop being “intolerant”, or that you should be more tolerant because of a view that you hold, just suggest something like this:

“Why are you asking me to be more tolerant?  That in itself is not very tolerant.  If you were really consistent in your view of tolerance you would accept ALL views, including mine, as valuable.  But we both know that is impossible.  No one wants to be “tolerant” of Hitler and his views on the Jews. So we both know that real tolerance is an impossibility.

Let’s just get down to what really is going on here.  We both disagree about something.  I think I am right, and you think you are right.  Most likely, we both can’t be right.  Do you think we can give reasons for or against our beliefs and not kill each other?  I do.  So why don’t we cease with all the “tolerance” talk that really doesn’t get either of us anywhere and give reasons for why we believe what we believe.  That way, maybe we can find out what is really true.  Peace-loving truth is what matters here much more than tolerance.”

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If you’ve read my about page you know that I enjoy U.S. presidential history. Currently I am reading An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963 by Robert Dallek. Most of you probably know that the Cuban missile crisis in October, 1962 was the closest the US and the USSR ever came to actually engaging in a nuclear war. And it was really close.

The lack of truth was in large part to blame for this crisis becoming as serious as it was. Chairman Khrushchev repeatedly insisted to President Kennedy that the weapons they were bringing to Cuba were solely for defensive purposes. Kennedy had seen the aerial photos and knew that this was a bold faced lie. At one point Andrey Gromyko, the Soviet foreign minister, met with President Kennedy in the Oval Office and also insisted that they were only defensive, all the while the photos (which Moscow didn’t know Kennedy had) were sitting in the president’s desk drawer. This made it more difficult for Kennedy to trust Khrushchev when he committed to dismantling the missile sites inside Cuba.

As I read this I was struck by how necessary truth is for peace. There can be no real peace that is built on lies. Khrushchev’s lies made it impossible for Kennedy to trust him at his word. This is a big deal when you are trying to avoid a war that would catastrophically destroy the world.

But it isn’t just in international crisis where truth is so important. It is essential in all relationships. What happens when a son repeatedly lies to his parents? What happens when a wife can no longer trust her husband? What kind of peace will they have in their relationship? Trust is essential for peace. Truth is essential for trust. If we want to be effective peacemakers we must first be truth tellers.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate peacemaker, for God calls him the Prince of Peace (see Isaiah 9:6). It is no wonder, then, that he says this about himself in the Injil, “I am the truth” (John 14:6).

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