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Peaceful Co-Existence between Christianity and Islam?

Inquiry: I understand that Christianity and Islam can never co-exist in peace with each other because of their extreme dogmas. Is this true?

Response: From the perspective of Christianity, this statement is not true. In fact, from the very beginning Christianity has co-existed peacefully with other religions, including religions that opposed it. For example, the leaders of the Jewish religion considered the truth claims of Christianity blasphemous; and, as a result, the leaders attempted to kill those who followed it whenever they could. For example, Saul of Tarsus (see Acts 9) persecuted Christians. But the Christians did not therefore view it as their duty to revenge their persecutors. Rather, Christians are instructed by Holy Scripture to "live at peace with all men" (Romans 12:18, see also Hebrews 12:14), including those with whom we disagree. Attempts to execute wrath upon others are totally contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. (Sadly, it must be acknowledged that not all Christians have truly followed the teachings of the Bible in this respect.)

Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 (NIV)

By contrast, your statement is absolutely true from the perspective of the teachings of the Qur'an. Near the end of his life, Muhammad commanded his followers to fight and subdue non-Muslims. By doing this, he abrogated the early toleration verses that were preached in beginning of his ministry in Mecca. At the end of his life, he left his followers with the instructions to make the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) pay a special tax (Jizya) and feel subdued. So, there is a important difference between Christianity and Islam. Christianity teaches its followers to live in peace with all men, while Islam teaches its followers to fight and subdue non-Muslims and to have them submit to Shari'a law.

Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued. Sura At-Tawba 9:29 (Yusuf Ali's Translation)

It is also true that Islam and Christianity can never co-exist in the sense of both being true. To accept Christianity as true is to deny implicitly some of the truth claims of other religions. It is simply illogical to say that two contradictory ideas are both true at the same sense. If Jesus Christ is really the divine Word of God (John 1:1), and that He really provided the only way of salvation, as Christianity affirms, then it stands to reason that all other religions, including Islam, that deny these claims cannot be both true.

Some people will evaluate religions on a subjective basis. They weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the various religions, and try to pick the "best" one. What really should matter is whether or not its truth claims are, in fact, true. Some might argue that Christianity is a "good" religion, because many Christians have done good deeds in the world. Similar claims might be made by other believers. However, a subjective standard for truth is flawed. The real test should be whether or not the truth claims of Christianity are true. Paul put it this way, 

If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14) 

When Jesus taught in the temple (John 7), many people wondered whether or not he was for real. His teaching was strange to them, and they realized that what truly mattered was not whether his teaching sounded good, but whether it was true. In other words, if Jesus were really sent from God the Father as he claimed, then his teaching had to be true. But if he were not truly sent from God the Father as he claimed, then his teaching was not completely true, no matter how sensible or practical it sounded.

Jesus' response to those who had these questions was this: 

My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from myself. (John 7:16-17)

In other words, Jesus promised that we can know that his teaching is true, provided that we have the right attitude. We need to be truly willing to submit to our Creator, even if we don't understand who he is or what he wants of us. When we evaluate the evidence with this attitude of humility in our innermost beings, Jesus promised that it would show his teachings and claims to be true.

I can't say what exact evidence God will use to show you that Christianity is true. Some have been convinced by the historical evidence in the gospel, including the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Others have been convinced by the evidence of nature, which points to there being a Creator who has a purpose behind everything he created. Some have studied the various prophecies of the Old Testament that were fulfilled in the New Testament, such as the one about the Messiah (Jesus) being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), or the one about his suffering for our sin (Isaiah 53).

The inner voice of conscience can also be a factor in showing us that Jesus' teachings are true. I believe we are born with the innate knowledge that some things are good and some are evil. Evolution can perhaps explain a natural repulsion for things which are bad for the human race, but I believe we all know deep down that the question of good and evil goes beyond than that. Furthermore, we all know (if we are honest with ourselves) that we have a problem with evil. We are not as good as we ought to be. The Bible not only provides an explanation for this problem, but also tells what God has done about it. 

According to the Bible, we are all guilty of sin, and therefore not fit for the holiness of God's presence in heaven. We can never make ourselves holy, no matter how well we follow the Ten Commandments or any other standard. But the good news is that Jesus' died for our sin, so that we can have our guilt removed and be given new life. We don't earn this gift by being good, it is simply ours for the taking if we want it.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

So the question is, do we believe God offers this free gift of salvation, as the Bible claims? If not, then we are not accepting the gift. One thing is sure: This is not a trivial question. Anyone who thinks there may be even the slightest possibility that God exists should realize the absolute importance of investigating this matter as thoroughly as possible. As Jesus said, 

What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26)

Last edited 12/10/2001

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