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Questions on Islam vs. Christianity

In the following e-mail exchange, the e-mailer's questions are in black and enclosed in "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My responses are in red.


>Dear Sir,

My name is Yusuf ____, I am a Muslim. In our Book Koran, God tells us Christians are close friends to Muslims because of the deep love in their hearts. Maybe because of this, I'm closely concerned with the Christian belief. But my knowledge is not sufficient. If you can help me with few questions in my mind, I'd appreciate.

Do the Christians accept Mohammed as Prophet? In Christianity is it believed that Jesus is the last prophet?<

First off, by way of clarification, in the Christian faith, Jesus is considered to be much more than a Prophet. The Christian belief is that He was and is the Son of God. Moreover, Christ is considered to be superior to the Old Testament prophets (Hebrews 1:1-14).

Jesus then commissioned His apostles to preach His words and doctrines (Matt 28:19,20). As such, the writings of the apostles, as found in the New Testament, are considered to be inspired. However, the offices of prophet and apostle as givers of special revelation are not considered to continue indefinitely. The Christian belief is that special revelation ended with the apostles.

But to get to what I believe is the import of your question, Mohammed is not considered to be a prophet in the Christian faith. He, obviously, lived long after the death of the last apostle. So his teachings would not be considered to be inspired. Moreover, what he taught conflicts with what Jesus and the apostles taught, which leads to your next questions.

>In Koran, it is told that Jesus did not die but was raised up before Allah. Do you obey this? In Christianity is it believed that Jesus has died or he were raised up? Do the Christians believe that, "Jesus died taking over all the sin?"<

The apostle Paul summarized the central Christian beliefs (or "Gospel") with the words, "For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1Cor 15:3-4).

So, yes, the Christian faith most definitely teaches that Jesus died on the cross for our sins (known as the atonement); He was buried; and He rose again the third day. Moreover, these doctrines are considered essential to the Christian faith (Rom 10:9,10; 1Cor 15:13-17).

I am aware of the passage in the Koran that says that Jesus did not die on a cross (Sura 4:154-158). In fact, I refer to it in the following article on my site: What Actually Happened in 30 AD? - Part Two

I read the Koran a few years back. And I will say that my impression was that there is much agreement to be found between Islam and Christianity (such as in the teaching that there is only one God). However, there are some essential differences as well, namely the issues you raise in your questions. The Person, life, and work, of Jesus Christ is viewed considerably different in the Koran versus the New Testament.

In addition to denying Jesus’ death on the cross (and by implication, the atonement and His resurrection), the Koran also specifically denies that Jesus is the Son of God (Sura 4:171; 9:30; 23:80). Meanwhile, the Bible specifically affirms that Jesus is the Son of God.

In fact, near the end of his Gospel account, the apostle John wrote, "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:30,31).

And this leads to the last main point of difference that I will mention. In Islam, if I understand it correctly, one is saved by faith in Allah AND by one’s own works (Sura 14:23). But in the Christian faith, one is saved solely by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:8,9). Good works are the result of faith and salvation (Eph 2:10); but they do not lead to salvation.

For more on these points, see the items listed on the following pages on my site: Person and Work of Jesus Christ and Forgiveness and Salvation.

So you can see, despite some similarities, there are some very real differences between the teachings of Mohammed as recorded in the Koran and the teachings of the Bible. Going back to your first question, it is because of these differences that Christians cannot accept Mohammed as a prophet (Isa 8:20).

>If you can provide me answers to these questions, I'll be grateful.

Kind regards,
Sincerely.
Yusuf<

I hope the above is helpful. To conclude, may I suggest getting a copy of the Bible and reading it for yourself? I would suggest starting in the New Testament. Reading the Bible would be the best way to truly understand the Christian faith, as I read the Koran to try to understand the Islam faith. I even have a CD ROM with the full text of the Koran on it, along with the Bible and the Book of Mormon.

If you do not have access to a hardcopy version of the Bible, there are Web sites with the full text of the Bible posted. I have links to several such sites at: Bibles Online.

Follow-Up

>Dear Sir, I just read some excerpts from your Web page concerning Islam. My family and I are currently serving a 2 year term in the Middle East. (I am teaching English here with a mission agency.) The questions you received concerning Islam vs. Christianity are exactly the same type of questions we're asked on a regular basis.

Muslims love to discuss religion. My wife and I have shared with many neighbors, friends, and students, but unfortunately, our words seem to fall on deaf ears. We have done a lot of reading on apologetics, especially in answering the claims of Islam. We feel as if we understand the basic beliefs of Islam and how to answer any question that they throw at us. I must confess we have both felt quite a bit of discouragement at the lack of positive response. I personally have come to the conclusion that Islam is a religion of intimidation and fear.

People here do not change because they're afraid. One of my coworkers and I have both shared with a mutual friend about salvation. He comes on a weekly basis to study the Bible with us but has yet to confess Christ. He once told my coworker that if he were to become a Christian, his family would kill him. Fear and intimidation. With all of that in mind, I have a 3 part question.

1. Is there a special strategy or a Bible study outline of the plan of salvation that you use in Muslim evangelism?

2. How do you urge someone to cross over that barrier of fear and accept a new life in Christ?

3. I've read about 2 or 3 testimonies of former Muslims who have embraced Christ. Does your publication include such testimonies? I figure if I can understand what brought one Muslim to Christ, maybe it will do the same for someone here.

Blessings to you,
C. E.<

Thank you for your letter. What you relate confirms what I have heard about conditions in Muslim countries. However, I doubt I can be of much help. My experience with Muslims is very limited. The only contact I have had with Muslims have been via the Internet, and that only on a couple of occasions.

I have written a little on the subject, but not much. In addition to the "E-Mail Exchange" you saw, I mention Muslims on the following pages on my site: Muslims and Textual Variants and What Happened in 30 AD? - Part 2.

For more information and help in answering your questions, you might want to check the following site: Answering Islam.

God bless you in your efforts.

Books and eBooks by Gary F. Zeolla, the Director of Darkness to Light

The above e-mail exchange was posted on this Web site in February 1998.
The follow-up was added April 22, 1998.

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