Monday, November 16, 2015

What the Bible Says About Islam

"Let God be true, and every human being a liar," the apostle Paul wrote (Romans 3:4 NIV). This is the call of the Christian life—to believe God even when it doesn't make sense, when doing so is tremendously difficult, and when everyone else is heading in the other direction. But sometimes believing God is not just about doing the right thing (although it's always at least that). Sometimes it's about believing His Word and allowing it to shape your view of the world.

This weekend, ISIS attacked the city of Paris, killing 129 (at current count), injuring hundreds more, and terrorizing peace-loving people around the world. Paris is not alone. It seems there is a terror attack somewhere in the world every few days.

What is happening here? What is causing this evil? To listen to our leaders, jihad is caused by global warming, the lack of good jobs in the Middle East, the presence of U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia, hatred of our freedom here in the West, cartoons of Mohammed, the salaciousness of Hollywood, and/or our alliance with Israel. Aside from the global warming—that one's just silly—there may be a sliver of truth to the others, but it's like saying traffic is caused by your next-door neighbor going to work. He may be contributing to the problem, but you're missing the bigger picture. 

Jihad is a foundational principle of Islam. Men and women commit acts of terror because they believe their holy book, the Quran, instructs them to do so. While most Muslims are not terrorists, terrorism is still one of the many fruits of Islam. 

But that's still not our answer. Why would someone willingly choose to strap a bomb to their chest and detonate it in a crowded theater? What would make someone kill so indiscriminately? Why would someone choose a path that is clearly so dark and twisted? The Bible tells us that false gods are neither imaginary nor harmless; they are, in fact, demons. Paul, writing to Corinthians about eating food sacrificed to idols, makes this clear: "The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons" (1 Corinthians 10:20).

I know—it's completely offensive to say that someone of another religion is worshipping a demon. But that's what the Bible says.

Consider the alternative: Is it any less offensive to say that millions of people worldwide are worshipping thin air? That's our only other option if we are to affirm Scripture's teaching that there is but one God (Psalm 86:10). And let's give folks some credit. Why would people continue to worship a false god if that god never showed up? There are other spiritual forces at work in our world—and when people call, those forces sometimes answer. Remember when the Lord turned the Nile into blood in Exodus? "The magicians of Egypt did the same by their secret arts" (Exodus 7:22 ESV).

There is nothing in my worldview that insists Mohammed didn't have an experience with someone claiming to be the angel Gabriel. And I have no reason to believe that Mohammed's own imagination came up with the violent commandments of the Quran on its own.

There are some who claim that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God, but that cannot be. The Q'uran preaches an ethic that is wildly opposed to the teachings of the Old Testament, where Yahweh revealed Himself to His people Israel. And though Jesus makes the goodness of God even more explicit in the New Testament, the Quran rejects "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6) in favor of Sharia (which incidentally means "way"), a lie, and death for everyone who will not surrender to Allah. There is no way to reconcile Islam with the Judeo-Christian tradition, so let's stop trying.

When dealing with a demon-inspired enemy, we must remember three things: First, this is evil, evil, evil. There is no way to reason with, appease, or outlast such a force. We must not fool ourselves into thinking Islamic radicals will somehow get tired of jihad. They won't, because the real enemy underneath wants to destroy everything good, true, and beautiful. We need World War II-type heroes. We need to be men and women who understand this is an existential threat. And we need to be unrelenting in our resolve.

Second, we can never forget that this is a spiritual enemy. While those killed and enslaved by ISIS, Al Qaeda and dozens of other terrorist organizations are the victims, those who do the killing are also victims. They have been ensnared by a demon—and unless they take hold of Christ, they will suffer in eternity for their crimes. The way to fight a spiritual battle is to draw closer to God, to pray for revival, and to never grow weary in doing good. No bomb alone can destroy this evil.

Finally, we must understand the root problem is Islam itself and not simply the tactic of terrorism. Islamic beliefs, including Sharia law, enslave men and women in shackles to a demon. This is where we must be clear-headed and hold fast to what the Bible teaches. Our task is nothing less than to oppose Islam and those who adhere to its teachings, all the while loving those very same people and praying that Jesus would give them new life. If we really understand the danger of Islam and the demon who inspires it, we cannot continue to pretend that love means building mosques, holding inter-faith services, and making accommodations for the worship of Allah.

God our Creator—yours, mine, and theirs—wants men and women from every tribe, tongue, and nation to discover freedom in Him. Islam's greatest goal is to stop such relationships. In fact, Allah wants nothing less than to destroy the people Jesus died for.

But because Jesus died, this too is a battle that has already been won. Terrorism and endless wars are not the end of the story. Those who today worship a demon will bend low before Jesus, side by side with their Jewish brothers. God promises:

In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and Egypt will come into Assyria, and Assyria into Egypt, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the LORD of hosts has blessed, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance" (Isaiah 19:23-25).

I hope I get to see that day.

Monday, November 9, 2015

White Mocha Rage and Its Proponents

It seems outrage is fairly cheap these days. You've probably seen the reports: "Some Christians Are Extremely Unhappy About Starbucks' New Holiday Cups."


I find it hard to believe that any serious-minded follower of Jesus is upset that Starbucks, a decidedly left-leaning corporation, has removed stylized snowflakes and cartoon snowmen from their disposable cups—as if those things constituted a strong gospel message and souls were coming to faith in Christ at the bottom of an eggnog latté. Starbucks is hardly attacking Christmas. The cups are still red and green, the traditional colors of the holiday, and there still available only during the commercial Christmas season. 

Something doesn't smell right about these news stories. It seems there's much ado about nothing, which in and of itself would not be so unusual. Who are the Christians who want to step up the arms race in the war on Christmas? As far as I can tell, this whole thing started with a selfie video made by Joshua Feuerstein, a former pastor turned self-proclaimed "social media personality." Some apparently sketchy things in his personal theology and his approach aside, watch the video for yourself and decide if his outrage is not just an attempt to draw attention to himself, to make his video go viral. 

There are two stories here. One is that there are people out there taken in by this sort of thing, who would see the Starbucks red and green cup, and believe their love for Jesus is being ridiculed. It's not, so that's just sad. 

But the second story is bigger: There is power in the media inflating a story beyond all necessary proportions. Do you know why we're talking about this faux controversy? Because in just 48 hours, the media has fanned the flames, and the perception now exists that this is an actual issue in the evangelical church. It's not. Just stop it. The church may overreact at times, but we're really not doing so on this one. At least not the vast majority of us. 

The next time you're in Starbucks, don't tell the barista your name is "Merry Christmas" so he writes it on your cup. Just wish him a merry Christmas and pray that the Lord would open a way to serve him in the name of Christ so he'd know you mean it.