Grace for the Straight Path

    As we approach the anniversary of the vicious terrorist attacks of September 11, we can expect another round of mushy, easy-going ecumenism. "There are many paths to God," we'll hear over and over -- not so. In his outstanding new book Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?, theologian Timothy George carefully and sensitively makes the major differences between Christianity and Islam clear. One of the critical differences is salvation. How do we attain God's favor and paradise when we die? Islam and Christianity have radically different answers. George writes, "The Qur'an says Adam forgot to walk the right way. Sin is forgetfulness, heedlessness, a failure to remember. This forgetting to obey is the result of inherent weakness, not active rebellion against God . . . Once Adam repents, as he does, God quickly forgives. From that time on, Adam lived a perfect life." If the sin is forgetfulness, the solution is remembering. And so one of the Pillars of Islam is the practice of Salat, ritual prayer five times a day. To help people remember, God sent 124,000 prophets from Adam to Muhammad. And the Islamic law, or Shariah, enforces remembering and should be applied to "legal, political, and economic structures, as well as one's personal life." In this view of salvation, according to George, "human beings are fully capable of determining their own eternal destiny by their own exertion, discipline, and devotion. Redemption is not a category Islam recognizes. Every Muslim is his or her own redeemer." But, George argues, if all we need is guidance to walk the straight path to God, why, 124,000 prophets later, do we all -- Muslims, as well -- stray from the path? If we all have the power to be good, why do we experience so many moral failings? Why do we know what's right and do what's wrong? The Muslim answer to the nature of human sin is as inadequate as its solution. The Islamic point of view is that we are sinners because we sin. Stop sinning: You're no longer a sinner. But Christians know that we sin because we are sinners. It's in us. Our hearts don't forget. Our hearts are twisted. Christians believe that Adam didn't forget to obey. Instead, remembering perfectly well what God required, he rebelled. In doing so, he broke the relationship of love he had with God. George tells us that Allah forgives easily because human sin does not affect him deeply. But in the Bible, George writes, God is clearly offended and grieved by our sins. If the relationship is to be restored, it can only be by the sheer generosity of God Who offers His Son to die as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of His people. An integral part of a Christian worldview is an understanding of the nature of sin. It's also required if we're to intelligently answer our neighbors when they either assert a Muslim worldview or easy-going ecumenism. Timothy George's book Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? does a great job of exploring both Islam and Christianity in clear, useful terms. It gives us just the ammunition we need for these trying times. For further information: BreakPoint's "9/11 Worldview Resource Kit" includes Timothy George's book Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad?, Chuck Colson's When Night Fell on a Different World: How Now Shall We Live?, and a "BreakPoint Weekend Special" CD including two interviews with Chuck Colson recorded after September 11 and a year later. BreakPoint commentary no. 011218, "Mushy Ecumenism: Incoherent Civil Religion." BreakPoint commentary no. 020430, "Truth in the Closet: America, Islam, and Politically Correct Palaver."


Chuck Colson


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