Essay # 9 Shame vs Guilt

There is a world of difference between a shamed-based culture and a guilt-based culture.

“Culture” can mean a whole nation, religion, tribe, clan, family, church, or any other similar entity.

As an example let us say that a Christian leader is found to be guilty of a sin, which then is made know to others.

The shame-based church, of which there are many, particularly among churches that tend toward legalism, and might be either a works-oriented or a grace-oriented church. The fallen Christian leader is an embarrassment to the church, maybe a wider grouping of churches, perhaps a whole denomination. This leader may be cast aside, fired, shunned, or any number of things might happen. This is known as “shooting the wounded” and is demonstrative of a shame orientation.

The guilt-based church with a fallen leader will not shoot the wounded but will take steps to bring healing and reconciliation. And this will work when the Christian leader acknowledges the sin and moves away from it, confesses his sin to God and man, and repents. If treatment or therapy is required, very well, but the fallen leader is restored.

The difference between a shame-based and a guilt-based church could not be greater.

Now then, let us change the scenario. Islam is founded on and produces a shame-based culture. For instance, if a young woman rejects an arranged marriage, she dishonors her family, clan, and tribe, indeed the religion of Islam itself. It falls to the family to restore honor, and this is very often accomplished by the killing of the young woman. The father, a brother, even a mother, will carry out this act. The young woman brought shame, and the only way to restore honor is murder. The murderer is not shamed but honored.

Or, to site another example, a member of the family or clan converts to another religious faith. Knowledge of this might be discovered and become widely known. To restore honor, the apostate must be killed. The murder covers the shame, and again, the murderer(s) are honored.

Or again, let us say a starving ten-year-old boy steals a loaf of bread at the town’s market, is caught, and has his hand chopped off without anesthetic in the public square (common in Saudi Arabia), for honor to be restored to the community.

The above are examples of what may happen in a shame-based culture.

So too, in shame-based cultures there is a great deal of secrecy and silence. For instance, homosexuality is harshly condemned among Muslims, and a homosexual caught in the act may well be killed, depending on the country. At the same time, homosexuality is widely practiced, especially in Muslim-dominated countries, but it is concealed from public view. Shame only comes when forbidden acts are exposed. The sin of the act itself it not what brings shame; it is the exposure of the act that brings shame.

Consider a guilt-based culture, say an evangelical Bible-based church, which will probably view homosexual behavior to be sinful. If a case comes up in such a church, the sin does not tarnish the entire church community. The individual involved hopefully will receive appropriate ministry aimed at restoration and recovery.

The Bible Way

Most readers of the New Testament know that when Jesus was arrested and taken away to trial, Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus even told Peter and the rest of the disciples that such would be the case (see Mark 14:26–31). It turned out just as Jesus had foretold (see Mark 14:66–72).

Peter thought he was so strong, but fear got the better of him. When the pressure came, Peter crumbled completely. After the third denial, Peter finally came to himself: “And he broke down and wept” (Mark 14:72).

The early church was not a shamed-based culture but a guilt-based culture. The chief apostle fell and did so publicly, and everyone who has ever read a Gospel knows this. Peter was not shunned and did not suffer violence; rather, he continued on to be the one who preached the first Christian sermon, which we find in Acts, chapter two, and upon whose name the Roman church claimed to be founded.

Jesus Himself demonstrated for His Church the way things ought to be. We find a gripping and amazing story in the twenty-first chapter of John’s Gospel. The scene is a beach beside the Sea of Galilee after Jesus’ resurrection. It was a spring morning, and Peter, along with six other apostles, went out in a boat to fish but without success. Then at dawn the fishermen saw on the shore a stranger who told them where to cast their net. Immediately, the net was nearly bursting with fish. It was then Peter realized who the stranger was, so he jumped into the water and rushed to Jesus. Later on after the breakfast, which Jesus had prepared for the seven, Peter and Jesus took a stroll along the beach. As they walked, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Three times Peter answered, “yes” and three times Jesus responded with, “Feed my sheep.”

Peter denied Jesus three times. Jesus gave Peter the blessed opportunity to affirm his love for his Master three times. Jesus did not bring Peter’s sin up to him; there was no need, since the Holy Spirit does this far better, and Peter was encouraged to continue to follow Him.

This is the great model for a guilt-based culture, which the Church must be if it is to be healthy. The legalists get in the way, however, and twist things to shame-based. This is what Islam has done, along with so many other religions, and certainly most of the Bible-based cults in Christianity have followed this pattern.

And it is to the legalists, those who are sinners as we all are, to whom I am reaching out with this essay—whether Muslim, Christian, or whatever.

Jesus died on the cross to cover sin, not shame. Biblical Christianity is guilt-based and thankfully so, since sin may be forgiven. The healthy church is not shamed by the acts of an individual. And most importantly, God delights in redeeming guilty sinners and erring Christians.

The Real Problem

The real problem with a shame-based culture is that guilt is never dealt with but persists and often resurfaces as depression, anger, or self-hatred—maybe all of these.

Imagine the father who is forced to kill his daughter who refuses to marry a man she neither knows nor loves. The shame may be covered by the murder of the girl, or so it is assumed, but what about the conscience, the heart, or the mind of the family members? Guilt, a natural occurring brain function, remains. And there is no forgiveness.

A young boy or girl steals a loaf of bread, is caught, and brings shame upon the family and clan. Sharia Law demands a public amputation of a hand and/or a foot. What about the boy or girl, the family, the friends? What about the observers of the event or those who have the responsibility of carrying out the punishment? Everyone is traumatized, unless all of these people are inoculated against such atrocities, which I suspect might be the case when a person is brought up in a shame-based culture.

I was a medic with the U.S. Air Force from 1961 to 1965. My unit was 2nd Casualty Staging Flight, which is based at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. For years my duty hours were from 5 PM to 8 PM. Many a green beret or ranger who had been wounded in Vietnam (starting in1963) would wonder down to my office late at night, and we would spend hours talking about what happened to them. It was known then as combat fatigue, and it was real. Not all had suffered actual bodily wounds. Many were listed as psychiatric on the flight manifest. Some had killed, raped, and maimed innocent civilians. They knew horrors such as I had never heard. My own brother, a combat engineer in Vietnam, came back emotionally wounded from experiences there and eventually committed suicide. With my college background in psychology and my newfound faith in Jesus, I was able to talk about forgiveness with traumatized young men. And for some, not many, the forgiveness found in Jesus Christ and His cross made all the difference.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can be deadly. Those who have experienced it have a high rate of suicide, become psychotic, and sometimes go off on murderous rampages. (The statistics are available by means of a Google search.)

I cannot help but wonder about the wrenching struggles many experience in Muslim cultures where the covering of shame is virtually mandated. Guilt does not go away. There it sits, eating away like a cancer deep in the interior. And this is why I emphasize the shed blood of Jesus in my witness to Muslim people.

At the conclusion of every morning service at our small Miller Avenue Baptist Church in Mill Valley, California, we observe the Lord’s Supper. We do it because Jesus directed His Church, the Body of Christ, to do so. (There is no set frequency of observance.) We also do it because it is a wonderful presentation of the forgiveness that we have in the finished work of Jesus, the Son of God. I conclude this essay with some of the passages we recite just prior to receiving the Bread and the Cup.

The Confessional:

“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23

The Jesus Prayer:

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

The Promise of acceptance and forgiveness

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Individual, silent prayer of confession

The Confirmation:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

The Assurance:

“Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Romans 8:30

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

Luke 1:5–25

1.         Herod the Great, born 74BC ruled Judea, Samaria, Galilee and more until his death in 4BC. About one year earlier Zechariah, husband of Elizabeth, (and both were righteous before God) was serving as priest at the Temple in Jerusalem as he would two weeks out of the year. It was his honor to burn incense, a most solemn honor.

2.         While conducting this event an angel of the LORD appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. The angel said that Zechariah’s prayer had been heard and that he and wife Elizabeth, who were past the age of childbearing, would give birth to a son.

3.         This son would be a Nazarite meaning he would live a very disciplined life and largely away from others.

4.         This son would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his very birth and would proceed and announce the arrival of the long awaited Messiah.

5.         Zechariah was concerned and stated that he and his wife were advanced in years. The angel then states his name, Gabriel, and that Zechariah would not be able to speak (perhaps even be deaf) since Zechariah did not believe his words.

6.         However, Elizabeth did conceive, and hid herself for five months, and for her it meant the ending of her being looked down on since this was the sense of things if a woman could not conceive.

7.         She knew that this was from the Lord and thus is recognized as the first woman to confess Jesus as Lord.

7.         It is plain that both Zechariah and Elizabeth died before their son John, to be known as the Baptist, began his ministry in the desert.

My First Essay on Islam

Essay Eight

I am sixty years old, born in Portland, Oregon, and now live in Mill Valley, California. I became a Christian at age twenty-one. I am married with five children and eight grandchildren. I was ordained in 1966; most of the time my denomination has been Baptist.

The first spiritual truth I knew was that I was a lost and hopeless sinner. This is while I was in the military. My life was ordinary, no crises, but after hearing the message of Jesus and the cross, I understood for the first time that He died in my place, taking my sin upon Himself. The second truth I learned was that Jesus is the Savior, raised from the dead, who loves me and would give me the gift of eternal life.

I have been in the ministry ever since my ordination, most of that as a pastor, and have seen many hundreds become followers of Jesus. For Christians this means conversion, or the new birth, one and the same thing. We are not born Christian, though we might be born into a culture heavily influenced by Christianity. But this can be problematic since we can mistakenly believe that we are Christian due to our physical birth.

Now, as to the issue of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism worshipping the same God—yes and no. Certainly Judaism and Christianity see the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the Creator God. Islam, however, worships Allah, and Allah was a local deity worshipped by people of a particular area, the area where Mohammed lived.

Mohammed was born in Arabia and lived in Mecca. He belonged to the Quraysh tribe that controlled the worship at the Ka’bah shrine, which contains the “black stone.” This shrine was the center of idol worship with more than 360 idols being honored. The Arabic word for idol is “ilah” and “al” is Arabic for god. Allah, a combination of these two, and was the name for the primary god worshipped in Mecca. In addition, Allah was the name pre-Islamic Arabs used for the moon god, which was represented by the crescent moon. This symbol, the crescent moon, was used for many idols in pre-Islamic Arabia. Indeed, it was common among pre-Islamic Arabs to pray facing Mecca and to observe a fast one month a year. Mohammed incorporated many pre-Islamic religious concepts into the Qur’an. Mohammed merely declared that only Allah would be worshipped to the exclusion of all other idols. Allah was essentially then the name of a local moon god.[1]

The claim that Islam worships the same God as Judaism and Christianity is false. This is not to say that Muslims are not people of good will who are seeking peace. Some may and some may not. My concern is spiritual not political. If I had a merely political agenda, I might overlook the theological differences between the religions. However, the issue that transcends all others is a personal relationship with God. Error here is ultimate, the greatest of all enemies.

Now Judaism, in rejecting Jesus as Messiah and Savior, makes a mistake. To worship the Son of God, Jesus, is to worship God the Father. He who has the Son has the Father, but he who does not have the Son does not have the Father. To love one is to love the other. The Scripture is plain on this point. Many Jewish people do trust in Jesus, however. And Muslims may also trust in Jesus—anyone may. The names of the various religions are merely man-made designations. The fact is there is one God and we are all made in His image. I am not personally concerned about religious labels, but I am a follower of Jesus Christ, He is my Lord and Savior. He is not God of the Christians; He is the Lord of heaven and earth.

Many groups claim the God of the Bible as their God—groups like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so on. But they reject or deny what the Bible says about the Messiah in both the Old and New Testaments. Are we Christians bound to accept the picture of Jesus that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, give us? They say Jesus is the archangel Michael and not Emmanuel, God with us, despite, for example, what the prophet Isaiah wrote (see Isaiah 7:14). Am I bound to accept the pronouncements of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? Because groups like the Mormons say their prophet is the latest prophet superseding all others, am I bound to believe this? The Mormons say their Book of Mormon is the final truth and all that came before is good but not the final revelation of God. Do I have to believe this?

Mohammed claimed to be the final prophet and the Qur’an to be the final revelation. Am I bound to believe this? Numerous so-called prophets have come along with new versions of truth—so what! They each diminish or do a re-make on Jesus so they can insert into the place of the Lord Jesus Christ their own prophet, revelation, or holy book. No, we are wise to this in America; these prophets and angelic revelations—they are a dime a dozen.

I live in a free society that has freedom of religion. My faith is personal, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it. I did not choose God anyway, He chose me. He called me and gave me faith in Jesus, His only begotten Son. I am not a Christian because I was born one, I did not even want to be a Christian. But when God, by His Holy Spirit, showed me that Jesus, the perfect lamb of God, had died in my place, had taken all my sin upon Himself, and through His resurrection gives me the gift of eternal life, well, that was enough for me. I did not figure anything out, I did no good religious work; no, God changed my heart, helped me repent, and gave me faith.

This is the Gospel. Please know that I wish all the people of the world would live in peace and harmony. I have no anger or resentment toward Muslims. For what it is worth, I am also the manager of a baseball team, and I just appointed as my primary coach a Muslim man. And my leadoff hitter and second baseman is also a Muslim.

Would you be a Muslim if you did not have to be? Could you walk away from Islam? What might happen if you decided to be an atheist or even a Christian? You made no choice in the beginning—you were born Muslim, so then you had no real choice about  who you are and what you believe?

America is my country, though I do not think all we do is correct. I am a Christian first, an American second. Being an American does not commend me to God in any way. Christian does not equal American and vice versa. Wherever I live the Scripture commands me to be a good citizen. We do stand for freedom and an open society, and these are great things. I hate war, as anyone would, and I wish there weren’t a reason for a war on terrorism. But there is, and we can pray that it will end soon and we can all live in peace.

Would the destruction of America solve Islam’s problems? Would the destruction of Israel solve Islam’s problems? Is not the problem sin and rebellion in the human heart? Isn’t the human heart deceitful and desperately wicked, as the prophet said (see Jeremiah 17:9). Perhaps Muslims might feel superior and vindicated, if America and/or Israel should fall, but would that stop the warfare that constantly goes on within the “Muslim brotherhood”? The problem is a proud spirit and evil that lurks within—and it was for all this that Jesus died on the cross. Jesus died in our place, taking the death and judgment and hell upon Himself that we would have to bear, if we were to die unforgiven. Jesus was sacrificed instead of us; He atoned for the transgressions of those who believe in Him.

Over and above all that goes on in this crazy world, there is the reality of God. Let us seek Him, let us honor Him, let us worship Him, let us love Him. He has made this possible through our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Kent Philpott

March 2002

Mill Valley, CA

[1]     On this point I have altered my opinion. Christians will see things differently and on this point there are definite differences. My new book is entitled, If Allah Wills. I have found that even many Muslims who have converted to Christianity still call God Allah. Allah was the term for God among Christians and Jews who lived in the Arabian Peninsula before, during, and after the time of Muhammad. Let us determine to agree to disagree on this point.

Introduction to the Gospel of Luke

Luke 1:1–4 Dedication to Theophilus

Also read John 1:1–5

Slowly and carefully read the passages of Scripture.

1.              Luke, the only Gospel written by a Gentile, and a physician acquainted with that Roman/Greek world.

2.              Scholars note 3 characteristics to the Gospel account: one, it is universal in that it includes Gentiles; two, it is a Gospel of rejoicing; three, it is written for the “down and out.”

3.              In addition, that are 6 other unique features to Luke: one, it is Mark’s Gospel, that Luke is thought to have access to Mark’s story of Jesus, which was written about 20 years earlier; two, Luke likely used what is known as Q, which material not found in Mark but is found in Matthew and Luke; three, there are oral stories, not found in either Matthew or Mark such as the nativity account and the childhood stories of Jesus, thought to have been communicated to Luke by Mary, the mother of Jesus; four, Luke is the woman’s Gospel; five, it is the Gospel of the supernatural; six, it is the Gospel of prayer.

4.              Luke 1:1–4 is one long sentence, cleverly crafted, which contains 6 clauses.

5.              Theophilus, to whom the Gospel is directed, is unknown to us. Some think that Luke addresses his Gospel to all who are friends or lovers of God. Theo–the Greek word for God; philus–for friend or lover. Whether Theophilus is an actual person or not, is unknown, but this Gospel is for us all.

6.              The reason for the reading of John 1:1–5 is because this Gospel is also aimed at Gentiles living in the Graeco-Roman world. 7.                It is important to grasp what is meant by the world translated into English as Word, which in the Greek is logos. In the world at that time the term was not clearly defined but was used by religionists and philosophers to refer to the highest of that which is supernatural.

8.              Key to the understanding of Logos is that the “was” word is a verb of being, that is, without any time involved.  Thus, was can and should be translated “was and is.”

9.              This Logos was and is at the beginning, meaning was and is before the creation of the universe. The Logos was and is with God, and here we encounter one of the mysteries of the Trinity. This Logos was and is God. then and now.

Islam’s Cultic Connection

Essay Seven

Islam is rarely critiqued by journalists because it can be dangerous to do so. This has been less true since September 11, 2001, because people are interested in Islam and are searching for answers.

However, it is still risky to write anything that may impugn Islam and especially the founder, Muhammad. This is one reason why I call Islam a cult. Muslims often treat opponents with something less than kindness as they seek to defend the honor of “Allah.”

What Is a Cult?

My working definition of a cult is non-theological. Traditionally, Christians apply the term to Bible-based groups that have departed significantly from the mainstream and historical creeds. Such cults frequently deny the full deity and humanity of Jesus; His atoning work on the cross; His bodily resurrection; and His return at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead.

However, here I employ a secular definition of a cult: “any group that uses psychological or sociological techniques to recruit, motivate, and retain adherents.”

Cults are not necessarily religious; they may be political, commercial, educational/therapeutic, or economic in nature. They may be large or small, named or unnamed, known or unknown.

Cults may have a leader or be without a leader. The common feature is the use of control mechanisms that violate the individuality of participants in the three areas stated above: recruitment, motivation, and retention.

Is Islam Cultic?

Many would deny that Islam has the characteristics of a cult. But why is Islam not a cult when in many Muslim-dominated countries it is a capital offense to hand Muslims a Bible or explain Christianity (or any other religion) to them?

Saudi Arabia, the guardian of Islam’s most holy shrines at Mecca and Medina, is a highly restricted society where Christians are not allowed any public expression of their faith.

Why is Islam not a cult when it is virtually impossible for a Muslim to leave the religion, even if he merely wishes to become an atheist or agnostic?

Why is Islam not a cult when Muslim warriors force their religion on people? The history of Islam is full of that kind of “proselytization.”

It is true that the Roman Catholic Church has in the past forced “pagans” to adopt Catholicism. However, that church has acknowledged that it was both wrong-headed and anti-Christian to do so and has terminated the practice.

As a Baptist, I can say that in 500 years of our history we have not engaged in such tactics and neither have any of the traditionally Evangelical, Protestant denominations.

Satanic Verses

A vivid illustration of the cultic nature of Islam is the case involving the novelist Salman Rushdie. Rushdie had a death contract issued against him for writing his book, The Satanic Verses and supposedly impugning the character of Muhammad. Yet novelists, journalists, commentators, filmmakers, and television producers routinely blaspheme Jesus of Christianity and the Creator God without reprisals made against them by Christians.

Of course, the fatwa against Salman Rushdie is blamed on “fundamentalists” and “extremists,” exonerating most Muslims who live in Western countries as peace-loving citizens. But the loyalty inculcated by Islam runs deeper than allegiance to any nation. Muslims will change political affiliations if needed, but their commitment to the defense of Islam easily becomes fanatical.

A Contrast

How insecure and weak must Islam be when Muslims threaten those who oppose it with violence rather than use reasoned defense. Such paranoid behavior renders Islam resistant to self-evaluation and exposes its internal deficiencies.

Biblical Christianity thrives in a free, pluralistic, and democratic society. It neither needs nor benefits from the support of a nation state. By contrast, Islamic control in many countries is totalitarian, dictatorial, and oppressive.

In countries ruled by Sharia Law, minor infractions may be punished by the loss of a hand, a foot, or life itself. Muslim women have been stoned to death for inadvertently exposing an ankle or forearm in public. The much-touted “mercy” of Islam is hard to detect.

Disillusionment with the religion simmers under the surface in Islamic societies. Many Muslim immigrants to Western countries, if not pressured by the local Muslim community to tow the line, either moderate or abandon Islam altogether. Others go through the religious motions, but their hearts are not in it.

The Cost of Defection

Today there is a “rallying to the cause,” as many Muslims believe the war against terrorism is between “Christian America” and Islam. But many Muslims would prefer to be free of such influences if they could. Of course, Muslim clerics in the West realize this and do not hesitate to isolate their constituents from non-Muslim influence. Isolation is a typical cultic mechanism—defections are treated most seriously.

In lands dominated by Islam, the rule is “once a Muslim, always a Muslim.” Like the Mafia, Islam is difficult to leave, and any who defect do so at a great price. Most cults ostracize defecting people, cutting them off from family, friends, and even employment. Muslims sometimes assassinate people who leave their religion. How very cultic!

World Rule

Cults are dangerous—they control and manipulate those under their sway. Islamic leaders may issue a declaration (fatwa) or call for a holy war (jihad). Muslims are expected to obey these calls despite their individual feelings. As with the fatwa against Rushdie, Muslims remained under a theoretical obligation to kill him even though restrained from doing so by the law of the land.

If Islam were not so fractured into sects and splinter movements, the non-Muslim world would face a more serious enemy than it does today. Islam sanctions the murder of infidels and, of course, I am one, and so is anyone who is not a Muslim. It is no secret that Islam’s goal is world rule. This is not some right-wing conspiracy theory; it is the stated aim of Islam.

On the other hand, while Christians seek to share the Good News of Christ worldwide, they are not intent on forcing people to accept Christianity, much less eliminating those who reject the message.

Spiritual Process

Conversion to Christ is a spiritual process, not the recitation of a formula such as, “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet.” Biblical Christianity is about grace, which is God’s gift of faith and forgiveness.

Christianity is grounded both in the sacrifice Jesus offered for sin on the cross, and upon His resurrection that declares that those for whom He died are “justified.” No one becomes a Christian on the basis of his or her works or actions. Rather, conversion is something God brings about. This is why the New Testament uses the term “new birth” to describe it (see John 3: 1-15). Humans do not control their physical birth, and with the new (spiritual) birth it is the same. Salvation is accomplished through God’s power, not man’s. No public or private declaration will ever make a Christian out of anyone.

Revised Religion

Islam is classed with those religious groups that have “revised” Christianity. Some of these are The Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

In these groups, including Islam, Jesus is acknowledged and honored as a prophet. He may even be worshipped to some degree. Yet Jesus’ teachings are declared to be incomplete and outdated. They must therefore be replaced or superseded by the teachings of ________ (insert name of group or prophet).

The Christianity Muhammad knew in the sixth and seventh centuries in the Arabian Peninsula was far different from New Testament Christianity—which had radically deteriorated. Observing the deficiencies in Judaism and a degenerate Christianity, Muhammad replaced them with his own concepts. This is understandable. The result, however, is not an improvement; it is simply another failed revisionist effort.


It is patronizing, too, for Islam to say it respects Jesus as a prophet while denying or altering what He said about himself and what the New Testament writers said concerning Him. I am thinking of such Scriptures as John 1:1-3 and Colossians 1:15-20 among many others. Of course, the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses do the same. Revisionist cults must downgrade Jesus so that the “new, improved prophet” (or “truth”) can be presented as a replacement.

If Jesus is God in the flesh—Emmanuel, as the Christian Scripture proclaims; and if Jesus is the Messiah prophesied by the great Hebrew prophets; and if Jesus is the only Lord and Savior who will return to judge the living and the dead, then it is impossible to replace him.

Revelation and Misunderstanding

The Qur’an declares that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, is a revelation from God. But it then proceeds to reject the clear message of the Bible! If the Bible is accurate about Jesus, there is no need for the Qur’an or Muhammad.

So, was Muhammad using flattery or attempting to patronize Christians when he seemed to honor Jesus? Or did he simply not understand? Essentially, Muhammad rejected a Christianity vastly different from the teaching of the New Testament.

Another sign of a cult is the way it keeps its adherents in the dark about other faiths. I doubt whether Muslims today know much about the message of Jesus and His Gospel. They know only what they have been told by their religious teachers. How accurate would we expect this information to be considering that the Qur’an is their authority?

To make it even worse, there is a general misunderstanding of what Christianity is. One misconception, for example, is that the West is Christian and that America is a Christian nation. Obviously, all that goes by the name of Christian is not Christian. To grasp what is the true essence of Jesus’ teachings, we must examine the primary source, the Bible.

Christians reject the belief that Muhammad is the prophet of God. Christians reject the Qur’an as a revelation from God. At least this is an honest position, innocent of any effort to mislead, flatter, confuse, or patronize.

What about the Crusades?

Muslims often ask, “What about the Crusades?” The intention of this question is often to deflect attention from the violence and oppression displayed by Muslims worldwide in the name of Allah.

Yes, there were the Crusades, and historians debate the complex tangle of religion and politics that gave rise to them. The Church of that era did not always pursue a true Christian and Biblical agenda. And this same authoritarian organization persecuted Jews and Protestants also. This same medieval church persecuted to the death those who believed the truths that I, as a Christian today, hold precious.

Is it therefore accurate for Muslims to blame all that goes by the name Christian for the Crusades? Would it not be fairer and wiser to discriminate amongst Christians? After all, most people do not blame all Muslims for the actions of some extremists.

Women in Islam

Another cultic aspect of Islam is the oppression of women in countries under Islamic rule. It is shocking, deviant, and evil.

Why is this frightful treatment tolerated? Why is there such an exaggerated fear and mistrust of women? Islamic spokesmen say the women are merely being protected. The women themselves generally resent their treatment and lowly status, but are seemingly powerless to bring about change.

The plight of young men and women in Islamic countries is sad indeed. Their isolation from one another distorts normal social relationships between the sexes. Wealthy (and usually older) men can have four wives and as many concubines as they can afford, while younger, poorer men, are deprived. This deplorable situation stems directly from the nature and traditions of Islam itself as well as the tribal culture from which it sprang.

Women are denied education in countries ruled by strict Sharia law. Why? Is it to keep women in their place? Why must women cover themselves so that not even an ankle can be seen in public? These are twisted gender mores.

Moderate Muslims claim that these practices are only enforced by extremists. The “extremists” claim they are only interpreting Islam in the purest manner possible! Who is right?

Fruit of Islam

Islamic political control has prevented social progress and economic development. For example, does anyone own a car made in an Islamic country? How about a television set, a computer, an alarm clock, an airplane, or a boat? Why are many Islamic countries among the poorest in the world even while their oil reserves are vast?

Where do wealthy Muslims send their young people to be educated? To Western countries, for the most part, since those countries freely entertain examination of all points of view for the widest number of topics using the latest discoveries and thinking.

The cultic nature of Islam prevents Muslim-dominated countries from developing middle class wealth, which would require an ever-increasing importation of Western ways, and this is feared and condemned by Muslim clerics. The shot callers in Islam fear the rise of a middle class.

Muslims have undoubtedly contributed to the world’s storehouse of achievements. But if we look at the Islamic nations today, we see they are something less than wonderful. Except for Afghan refugees trying to enter Pakistan, I haven’t read about people lining up at their borders waiting to get in. Islam is sometimes described as the “beautiful religion,” but where can this beauty be seen? What Islamic country practices Islam in such a way that someone might be motivated to move there?

It is one thing for Muslim leaders to disown the September 11 terrorists as extremists. It is another to demonstrate peaceful moderation and tolerance.

Please understand I am not saying that Muslim people are not as capable, intelligent, and worthy as any other people. Rather, it is the toxic and repressive nature of recruitment, retention, and motivation that is cultic.

Muslims are born into a religious heritage they did not choose and cannot walk away from. They are molded by their environment into dedicated Muslims; there is essentially no choice available for them—they are stuck.

The Major Difference

Islam is a religion based on performance, whereas Biblical Christianity is grounded on God’s grace. The Islamic deity rewards obedience. Muslim heaven, or paradise, must be earned, either by martyrdom or by carefully keeping rules and regulations.

And since Allah is depicted as remote and detached from the individual Muslim, there is no assurance of salvation nor any confidence that even the faithful Muslim will achieve paradise.

Works-based religion can and does inspire fear and extremism in those who take it seriously. It is not surprising that some go to extremes to curry the favor of the deity and their religious leaders, especially when a favorable eternity is at stake.

The Qur’an assures martyrs that they will attain paradise, and it is this very promise that attracts and motivates suicide bombers, including those who turned commercial airliners into missiles on September 11. Since that day, the Qur’anic command to “strike terror into the heart” of the infidel has been obeyed more and more often by young men and women recruited by watching on the Internet horrific violence against innocent civilians in dozens of filmed executions and other gruesome attacks.

Biblical Christianity, on the other hand, emphasizes grace, which signifies “God’s giving”. Through Jesus Christ, God imparts forgiveness and salvation as a free gift, apart from any good work. Salvation is by grace, not by works (Ephesians 2:4-10). Even extreme devotion, sacrifice, and obedience will never secure God’s favor.

Furthermore, Christians have assurance of salvation by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, so they are not left in doubt and insecurity (Romans 8:15-17). Everlasting life with God in heaven is given to the Christian through the work of God the Son. It cannot be lost, since God the Father keeps the believer by His great power (John 10:27-30).

An Absurdity

Cults employ mind-bending techniques to induce their followers to be obedient—this has long been understood.

What about the mind-boggling promise of seventy-two virgins available for the pleasures of every martyred Islamic warrior? This is as extreme an example as can be found even in the strangest cult sects!

Certainly, for poor, young, love-starved men, whose future is clouded at best, the promise of unlimited fleshly pleasure in the hereafter might be an inducement to die for the sake of Allah. But is this obscene and sexist doctrine true? Moderate Islamic interpreters say no; the sexually oriented promises are unfounded. Yet, this perverse promise is constantly embraced. Many a mind-bent warrior has killed and died to acquire his virgins.

A Challenge

Harassment of Muslims is unacceptable, and this essay is not an attempt to bring grief to Muslim people.

However, I would challenge Muslims to examine their religion—indeed, their hearts and minds, and ask themselves these questions:

Why am I a Muslim? Is my commitment to Islam based on a free decision apart from family influences?

What is my attitude towards those of other religions, particularly Jews and Christians?

Are my attitudes cultic in any way?

Do I honestly think that killing Jews and Christians serves Allah?

Do I believe it is a Muslim’s duty to defend Islam by martyrdom or suicide?

Should I support religious tolerance for people of other faiths in Muslim-dominated countries like Saudi Arabia?

Many Muslims are seekers after God, and this is good. The Hebrew prophet Jeremiah wrote: “You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

Whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, nominal Christian, or nothing at all—the challenge is to seek God because He can be found. Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Knowing God

Regardless of our religious background, we are created in the image of God. We have been made by and for Him, and we will never be satisfied until we know Him personally. The Creator God sent His Son, Jesus, to break down the walls of separation between men and reconcile all kinds of people to Himself (Ephesians 2:14-18).

The challenge is to make up your own mind about Jesus Christ. Learn about Him yourself and do not merely accept the opinions of others.

Find a New Testament, read the story of His life, and see if you find anything amiss with Him. Is there any sin, or anything false, in the one who came from God? Find an Old Testament and read the prophecies of the Messiah (which is Hebrew for “Christ”), passages like Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53. Are these passages not about Jesus?

If you seek Him, He will be found.

The Gospel of Luke, The Beloved Physician: An Introduction

Find a quiet place, alone and apart from distractions. Be comfortably alert, still, and at peace. Recite the Lord’s Prayer. Sing or cant the Jesus Prayer. Pray for family, friends, neighbors, and yourself.

1.         This Gospel is the story of the Jewish Messiah written by a Gentile, and is the first of two books, which are the Gospel and the Book of Acts. The date of the writings is between 62 and 64 AD according to the majority of Biblical commentators. There are other views as well.

2.         Some distinguishing characteristics of Luke are: He traces Jesus’ genealogy to Adam; he commends Samaritans, which is revolutionary; he shows there is a place for women as followers of Jesus; he shows that Gentiles will accept the Gospel; he has more of the parables of Jesus than the other Gospel writers; he is the most educated of the Gospel writers; he spent years in association with the ministry of Paul, and Paul highly commends Luke;  Luke is writing to second generation Christians; one of Luke’s reasons for writing his Gospel and Acts is to show the message of Jesus had reached Rome and that the Gospel is to be proclaimed to the entire world; the Gospel and Acts are addressed to Theophilus, which means friend of God; Luke acts as an historian as he spoke with eye witnesses to the ministry of Jesus; Luke is careful to show that the events of Jesus’ life were in fulfillment of ancient prophecy; he shows that Christianity is not a new religion but is the fulfillment of the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

3.         Though trained as a physician, he may still have been a slave, which was common in that day.

4.         Of special note are the “we” and “us” passages in Acts, among which are Acts 16:10–17, Acts 20:5–21:18, and Acts 27:1–28–16. It is recommended that these passages be examined.  

The Weakness of Islam

Essay Six

In nearly every edition of major American newspapers are stories of Muslims somewhere, east or west, engaged in acts of violence—in the name of Allah. Suicide bombing, kidnapping, killing Christians, Jews, and Hindus, burning churches and temples, destroying ancient religious relics, protesting free expressions of religion and the press—such terrorist reports are routine. What does this indicate about the very fabric of Islam?

I say it demonstrates a core weakness.

By weakness, I mean Islam is not able to compete in the spiritual marketplace of ideas. It must instead resort to repression, intimidation, and violence. Perhaps there is a sense of inferiority in that Muslims are gripped by the fear that Islam is not able to stand alongside Christianity, which does not seek to gain influence and converts by dependence on questionable, cultic methods.

I am reminded of Paul who, prior to his conversion, vigorously persecuted the Church. Many Bible scholars think he was motivated by a fear that his religious beliefs were inadequate or even erroneous. Paul was a terrorist while he was still known as Saul, according to the Biblical account in Acts. Yet after Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus, Paul no longer threw men, women, and children in prison merely because they believed in Jesus. Rather, he himself became a simple preacher of the gospel armed only with the message of a crucified and risen Savior.

Paul learned from Jesus, who taught His disciples to turn the other cheek, to pray for their enemies, and to do good to those who treated them shamefully. Jesus taught that His followers were to love their neighbors as themselves and to do to others as they would have done to them. Jesus said nothing of killing infidels or repressing religious teachings. He did warn of false prophets whose aim would be to deceive and corrupt. Clearly, however, He did not advocate imprisoning or killing them. In one instance, Jesus taught His disciples to simply go on to the next town when opposition arose. Jesus Himself practiced this, as did Paul throughout his missionary journeys.

Consider a society like Saudi Arabia where even the simple recounting of the Christian message to a Muslim is a capital offense. That is weakness in the extreme.

Islamic evangelistic strategy, known as da’wa, is so very often fueled by intimidation and violence. “Convert or die” has too often been the Muslim message. Am I exaggerating here? I don’t think so, since sufficient historical data supports my claim, both ancient and modern. In fact, I think that the Islamic means of spreading the faith are held in check only by fear of retaliation from target peoples.

Biblical Christianity has entirely different weapons of warfare. Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). Such is the power of the message of Jesus.

Evangelical Christians proclaim the message of the Cross of Jesus and His resurrection. The Holy Spirit of God then convicts individuals of their rebellion against God and draws them to the Savior, Jesus Christ, who has completely provided for their salvation. No one can be forced to become a Christian; no one can even “join” Christianity or apply for membership. It is a work of God and not of man. One of the great weaknesses of Islam is that it arose and continues to exist as the work of man. Few voluntarily choose to join Islam, especially in recent years now that the religion was been partially unmasked. It is usually by birth and community attachments that one becomes a Muslim. And especially in Muslim-dominated countries it is nearly impossible to leave it. This again is a great weakness. There is no religious freedom for Muslims to come and go, to be faithful or not; there is only fear of the community, of hellfire, and peer pressure. To be an apostate Muslim, that is one who has declared faith in Jesus rather than Muhammad, is to be classified worse than an infidel. The result is often death.

Paul trusted in the work of the Holy Spirit and did not revert to his old ways of violence and imprisonment—fleshly warfare. In Ephesians, Chapter 6, he describes the “armor of God”— which is the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, for the feet the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (see Ephesians 6: 10-20).

This is strength. This is confidence. This is peace. This is actual dependence on and submission to God.

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Luke 18:9–14

Also read: Psalm 51:1–3; Matthew 5:17–20; 9:10–                          13; and 10:1–4.

1.         A Pharisee, either of the school of Shammai, or Hillel, praying at the temple in Jerusalem, boasting really, that he was better than others due to his good deeds.

2.         Noticing the tax collector, a Jewish man who worked for the corrupt Roman government and thus was despised by his fellow Jews, was also present at the temple praying.

3.         The Pharisee gives thanks while standing, and likely with eyes open and hands lifted up, that he is not like others, especially the tax collector he could see also praying. (We are reminded that Matthew, one of Jesus’ chosen apostles, had been a tax collector.)

4.         The tax collector, standing “far off” does not look to heaven, rather he beats on his chest, a kind of self-punishment, and has nothing to commend himself to the God he worships.       

5.         All he can manage to say is “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” (This becomes the inspiration for the oldest prayer found outside the Bible, which reads, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”)

6.         Jesus now lets it be known that this turncoat robbing tax collector left the temple “justified,” that is, forgiven of his sin, while the Pharisee was not forgiven.

7.         Jesus then concludes the parable with incredibly dramatic declarations.

8.         The proud and self-righteous Pharisee will be “humbled,” that is, brought down thus not in heaven upon his death. The verb humbled is a perfect passive indicative and means he was acted upon or judged.

9.         The humble and repentant tax collector will be “exalted,” again a perfect passive indicative verb, meaning God saves him and not due to anything he did or did not do.