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It was a rainy Sunday afternoon.  The mosque in Mission Viejo, California was hosting an open house, so with all the current interest in Islam we decided to pay a visit.  A well-groomed young Muslim boy walked out to our car with an umbrella and respectfully ushered us into a well appointed building.  A dozen or so smiling faces of Middle-Eastern descent greeted us — the men mostly in business casual attire, and the woman with head scarves.  It reminded us of attending an event at any local church.

We had many questions and they were eager to provide answers.  Book tables lined the entry.  Friendly people milled around us with a willingness to engage in conversation.  Then the announcement came that in a few minutes the head imam would make a presentation.  We went into the assembly hall with the forty or so folks who had similar suburbanite backgrounds to ourselves.

The imam was well dressed and brandished a huge smile telling us that he was from a small country in Northeast Africa.  He was a likeable fellow and a polished speaker.  He said that we were free to ask any questions and that nothing was off-limits.  He was my kind of person — I couldn’t wait to engage!

 The first 20 minutes or so was getting to know these new neighbors as friends: tolearn their history and the purpose of the mosque; how they serve the community and are faithful citizens.  He easily broke down any stereotypes I might have had that Muslims were somehow different.  No — they too were made in God’s image.  I was getting more comfortable with their different look, dress, language, and traditions.  However, in the following 20 minutes I started becoming uncomfortable as he addressed the tenants of Islam.

I have studied Islam to some degree.  I respect its differences with Christianity and can agree to disagree agreeably with Islam.  But what made me uncomfortable was the ease with which the imam smoothly glided over these differences, attempting to make Islam and Christianity seem like variations of the same religion.  For example, he and others later on misleadingly said:

  • We’re both monotheistic religions and both believe in the same God
  • The Bible was given by God and accepted by Muslims
  • All the OT prophets (Noah, Moses, Abraham, etc.) are indeed messengers of God and are respected as such by Muslims
  • Jesus was the greatest in the long-line of Hebrew prophets.  He had a miraculous birth,  performed many miracles and delivered “the gospel” (good news). 
  • Muhammad was the last of the prophets and the final revelation to mankind.
  • Each of these many Messengers spoke a different language and followed varied customs.  Yet the core faith taught by each was the same: surrender your imperfect and fickle will to your Creator.

The following Q&A was lively and engaging.  The imam has a regular TV program and was able to effortlessly handle the increasingly difficult questions coming his way:

  • What do you say about the Islamic terrorists?
  • Will there be the reward of 72 virgins in heaven?
  • Why don’t the moderate Muslims speak out against the radicals?
  • What’s your personal opinion about building the Mosque at Ground Zero?

Unfortunately my experience was becoming more like a Islamic PR campaign, and it started feeling like purposeful manipulation.  For example — Allah and YHWH are the same God. 

Allah is not the God of the Bible

They said that “Allah” is just the Arabic word for “God” and that Allah is the God of the Bible.  Not true –and it was deceptive how it was presented.  Yes — both Islam and Christianity are monotheistic (one God) religions, but their conception of God is fundamentally different even though they may have several similar attributes (e.g. God is the Creator). 

The Koran says:

“Allah is One, the Eternal God.  He begot none, nor was He begotten.  None is equal to Him” (Sura 112:1-4)

However, the God of the Bible says,

“I am the LORD (YHWH), that is My name; I will not give My glory to another” (Isaiah 42:8)

“I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me” (Isaiah 44:6)

“You are My witnesses,” declares YHWH … “I am the LORD: there is no savior besides Me” (Isaiah 43:10)

When there was an opportunity to discuss this with one of the leaders I said, “I respect your religion and how you are giving your children a good moral education” (we were impressed with what we saw in their School), “but let us not say that we worship the same God.  Our God is Triune, yours is not.  Our God was incarnate in Jesus Christ, yours was not.  In fact, you consider the incarnation blasphemous.  You do not worship YHWH and we do not worship Allah.  So either YHWH is God or Allah is God — or both of us are wrong.  I accept and respect those differences.  I can only hope you do too.”  After some discussion he sheepishly admitted that he attended a Catholic school when he was growing up in Pakistan; and that he knew the difference.  It appeared that he also knew (without admitting it) that Muslim evangelists say that Allah is just another name for the God of the Bible as propaganda to convert Westerners to Islam.

All in all it was a positive experience as I connected with those of a different culture and was able to see them as people for whom Christ died.  It increased my respect for Muslims as neighbors and American citizens.  At the same time it brought home that Christians need to understand the differences between the two religions, and not be swayed by attempts to eliminate or minimize those differences.  In this post-modern and politically correct age that is becoming increasingly difficult to do.

In future posts I will discuss the differences between the Koran and the Bible,  Jesus, the Prophets and Muhammad. 

Please Post a Comment and share with us your perspective, as well as any questions you may have.

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11 Comments

  1. Muslims are committed to proselytizing as are Christians.

    Muslims in other countries are pretty persuasive, and ultimately mean and deadly, to get others to convert to Islam…witness all the unrest between religions around the third world.

    Of course in the early years after the Christian religion was invented Christian people were killing heretics, blasphemers, those who didn’t follow the thin line, witches, assorted Jews and other infidels…sure glad they settled down and got civilized.

    The conflict between Muslims and Christianity is going to lead to Armageddon…count on it.

    • Shelley Mitchell
    • Posted October 31, 2010 at 11:30 pm
    • Permalink
    • Reply

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your Mosque visit. My husband works down the street from this mosque and we often wonder if the teaching is respectful of American Christian values. I was happy to hear that the Inman was open to your dialogue and agreed with the differences in our faiths. Thank you for stating what those differences are.

  2. Hi Stu! enjoyed your report from the mosque. I’m glad you made a meaningful personal connection w Islam. By the criteria that you differentiate Allah from Jehovah one might assume that the Jews also worship a different God because they would never consider Jehovah triune. So would you equate Allah w the God of the Old Testament but not the new revelation in the N.T.? Wouldn’t that be splitting hairs. Sincerely from the Philippines…

    • Good observation re: the Triune God and the Jews, but it not the same argument.  Jews and Christians worship the same God, however the Jews don’t yet understand God’s fuller revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ as they deny their Messiah. Yes, the Jews consider the Trinity a heretical view of YHWH even though the full and complete revelation of YHWH began in the OT.   When one looks at the OT after understanding the NT one clearly sees the precursors to YHWH being Triune in the OT.  Some examples —

      the plurality of God– Elohim (plural form of the noun for “God”) yet there is but one God (Gen 1:1 etc.) “Let Us make man in Our image”  (Gen 1:26; 3:22) Shema (Deu 6:4) “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one”  The term “one” is a composite one used to described a compound entity (Hb. echad).  It is not the word for a singular, absolute one (Hb. yaheed). God’s Best,   Stu  

  3. Great challenge to go and do likewise! We have a Mosque just down the street from us. I’ve been wondering how we might reach out to them.

    • Thank you Wanda for getting involved with the blog and posting a comment.  Islam is the faster growing world religion — even if mostly by birth rate. It is easily projected that Europe will be a Muslim continent by 2050 or before (France as early as 2030).    Stu  

  4. Nice work! I enjoyed your post. I have often heard that Muslims are taught to lie to the Infidel to deceive him and that their Alla encourages it. This is another difference between our two distinct Gods. I am glad that you persisted to catch him at it.

    I will look forward to your other posts!

    Lee

  5. Stuart – Interesting as always. As a Christian I must admit that I am predjuiced against Islam because of all the negative things we hear about its teachings and the horrific practices the radicals perpetrate. Yet I know I am to separate the religion from the people and see them as God sees them – souls who need a savior. The account of your visit definitely gives me food for thought and has reminded me that Muslim people are no different than any of the peoples of the world -they love, they hate and they protect what is precious to them. Unfortunately, as a woman I am agast at some of their radical practices against women and so I must commit this to prayer and ask for God’s perspective in order to become more balanced on this issue. Keep up the good work! Sandra

    • Thank you Sandra for your honest reflection.  It is hard to lovingly disagree with anybody in this politically correct culture without being called a bigot or worse. But as Christians we are called to continue to seek loving dialog with those whom we disagree.     

  6. Thank you very much for this Stu. I appreciate your updates. Interestingly, we see a mass imigration of Muslems into the USA seeking freedom. Freedom is what Christ taught. And Christ’s freedom is what this country and our laws are founded upon. Huge numbers of conversions are taking place from Islam to Christianity on US soil. Many supernatural reasons for this (I understnd they are having visions and witnessing miricles), but I think also because our laws protect them here from the death penalty of the Sharia laws about apositcy.

    Yes, in the USA we are free to drink alcohol and read Playboy. Jesus would not have it any other way. He wants to see us freely chose Him over the vises and sins of the world. He also considers men and women equals, black and white. There is no place on earth like the USA that better expresses the freedom and opportunity that Christ taught about. From the Muslem countries they call the USA the “great satan” because so many people in the USA freely choose to sin. Whatever.

    You were a great witness for Christ in this situation. We need to continue to not hate the muslems that are here, and treat them the same way Christ would. that does not mean to agree with them about the “same god” (lukewarm), but to politely but firmly stand in our knowledge and faith of the one true God. And the forgiveness and freedom found with Christ.

    • Thanks Bob for your insightful comments. It’s very encouraging to hear of these conversions and your take on the possible reasons.

      As an apologist I find the hardest line to walk (but one that develops my maturity the most) is telling the truth without being judgmental. And defending Christianity against false claims without damaging my witness to Muslims. This will be quite a challenge in the coming posts.


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