“Far from the Sermon on the Mount”
First Published: September 25, 2001
Our hearts are still very much preoccupied with the situation that our nation is in. Many are calling this “America’s New War” and it may be just that. Whatever the case, this is a time for prayer and I want to urge you all not only to be faithful in your private and family prayer for our nation and its leaders, but also to gather with God’s people on Wednesday evenings at First Church for corporate prayer in the sanctuary.
If you haven’t been to prayer meeting in a while you may not know that attendance is at an historic high, and that the season of prayer of late has been rich. Many are talking aloud right now of our land experiencing something of a spiritual renewal. Whether that is the case or not, we certainly ought to be praying together for it. The role of prayer in the Christian life and the life of the Church cannot be over-stressed. We ought and need to be praying with one another. Now’s the time to renew your commitment to it. Perhaps God will use this general concern for our nation to draw us back to himself in prayer.
Derek Thomas’s Wednesday evening messages are incredibly timely. He’s teaching us through 1 Peter, a book that aims to help Christians under enormous burdens and trials. Come yourself and invite a friend. It will prove to be time well-spent.
Now during the last few days we have heard a lot of gibberish from the politically correct crowd about how all religions are the same, about how we all worship the same God but call him by different names (Jesus, Allah, etc.), and the like. The bottom line is that this is utter rubbish. A couple of comments are in order.
First, for instance, to tell an orthodox Muslim that he worships the Trinitarian God of Christianity but simply under a different name or in a different way would be, from his perspective, blasphemy against Allah. The Muslim believes Allah to be one, absolutely one, an undifferentiated monad. The Muslim also believes, because the infallible Mohammed told him to believe it, that the Christian is a polytheist (because of the doctrine of the Trinity). Thus, he is perfectly clear that he does not believe in the same God in whom you and I trust.
Second, this means that the way to engender peace and tolerance and mutual understanding amongst peoples of different religious backgrounds is NOT to claim that all the differences are superficial and that deep down we all agree. They are not and we do not. Rather, the way to peace and cooperation is to acknowledge the real and substantial differences between us at the outset, and then to identify common concerns and go from there.
By the way, this is a good time for Christians to start learning more about Islam, the second most popular religion in the world. Many pundits have devoted themselves to vindicating Islam from the aspersions of the terrorist activity of September 11, 2001. But there are didactic portions of the Qur’an that are hard to explain away: “Fight for the sake of Allah those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. Allah does not love the aggressors. Kill them wherever you find them...if they attack you put them to the sword...Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme...If any one attacks you, attack him as he attacked you” (Sura 2:190-4). “Fight for the cause of Allah” (Sura 2: 244). “The true believers fight for the cause of Allah, but the infidels fight for idols. Fight then against the friends of Satan” (Sura 4: 76). “Allah has given those that fight with their goods and their persons a higher rank than those who stay at home. He has promised all a good reward; but far richer is the recompense of those who fight for Him...” (Sura 4: 96). “Unbelievers are those who declare: ‘Allah is the Messiah, the Son of Mary’” (Sura 5:17). “When the sacred months are over, slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them...” (Sura 9: 5). “...[M]ake war on the leaders of unbelief...' (Sura 9: 12). “...the Christians say the Messiah is the son of Allah. Such are their assertions, by which they imitate the infidels of old. Allah confound them! How perverse they are! They worship...the Messiah the son of Mary, as gods besides Allah; though they were ordered to serve one God only. There is no god but Him. Exalted be He above those whom they deify beside Him!...It is He who has sent forth His apostle with guidance and the true faith to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters may dislike it” (Sura 9: 30-3). “If you do not fight He will punish you sternly and replace you by other men...” (Sura 9:39). “Whether unarmed or well-equipped, march on and fight for the cause of Allah, with your wealth and your persons” (Sura 9: 41).
Needless to say, this is a far, far cry from the Sermon on the Mount!