Friday, February 12, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - External cleansing

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
We have all heard the old adage, Cleanliness is next to Godliness. While this saying does not exist in either the Jewish or Christian scriptures, it does appear that the God of Islam is very concerned with external cleanness and requires it of all who would draw near to Him.
"O believers, when you stand up to pray wash your faces, and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads, and your feet up to the ankles. If you are defiled, purify yourselves; but if you are sick or on a journey, or if any of you comes from the privy, or you have touched women, and you can find no water, then have recourse to wholesome dust and wipe your faces and your hands with it." (Koran 5:8-9)
"O believers, draw not near to prayer when you are drunken until you know what you are saying, or defiled -- unless you are traversing a way -- until you have washed yourselves; but if you are sick, or on a journey, or if any of you comes from the privy, or you have touched women, and you can find no water, then have recourse to wholesome dust [pure sand] and wipe your faces and your hands" (Koran 4:46)
The problem with external cleansing is that it does nothing to effect the inside of a person, where in is the seat of all sin, lust, and out of which our sinful behavior proceeds. We can wash all we want, but, unless we have come to faith in Jesus and have had the Spirit of God cleanse us on the inside, we sill remain dead and decaying within. Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders about their eagerness to dress up the outside while ignoring the inside, saying, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness." (Matthew 23:27-28) External cleansing is nothing more than an attempt to appear righteous on the outside but leaves our dead and decaying soul untouched on the inside. Similarly, Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders about their ritual and ceremonial washing and cleansing, saying, "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also." (Matthew 23:25-26)

God does not care what we look like on the outside. He does not demand that we first wash and clean ourselves up before coming to Him. He sees us through and through and what He is concerned about is our inward state not how dirty we may appear on the outside. It is what is inside that defiles a man, not his outward condition.

There was a time when the Pharisees and scribes criticized the disciples to Jesus asking, "Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?" (Mark 7:5) They assumed that their hands were defiled because they had not been properly washed. Mark tells us that, "the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots." (Mark 7:3-4) However, Jesus rebukes them saying, "Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man." (Mark 7:14-15) Muhammad did not understand this truth but perpetuated the error of the Pharisees and scribes down to his own day.

God does not care about our outward cleanliness, He cares about our heart. When you come to pray, clean your heart not your hands. Consider what is on the inside and don't worry about how you appear outwardly. If you have uncleanness of the heart, take care of that first and then return to pray. Just like Jesus taught us, "Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering." (Matthew 5:23-24) Let us not get side tracked with physical cleansing or improvements, let us focus on what is inside and we will do well.

More to come...
David Robison

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Deeds of Righteousness

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran thus defines those who will be granted entrance into Paradise at the end of the age.
"But those that believe, and do deeds of righteousness [things that are right], them We shall admit to [bring into] gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein dwelling for ever and ever" (Koran 4:121)
In Islam, faith alone is insufficient to secure for oneself a beneficial outcome at the end of ones life. It is not enough to believe in God and His message, but you must do the requisite works of righteousness to earn your spot in paradise.
"Those who believe and do deeds of righteousness the things that are right], and perform the prayer, and pay the alms [the legal imposts] - - their wage [reward] awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow [grief]." (Koran 2:277)
"But those of them that are firmly rooted in knowledge, and the believers believing inwhat has been sent down to thee, and what was sent down before thee, that perform [observe] the prayer and pay the alms [of obligation], and those who believe in God and the Last Day -- them We shall surely give a mighty wage [reward]." (Koran 4:160)
Notice that the blessings the believer enjoys in the life to come are call the wages (rewards by Rodwell) earned by the believers through the deeds of righteousness they performed while alive. For a Muslim, Paradise is not granted, but is earned through works. Paradise is not a gift given to us by God but rather a payment for our performance while here on the Earth; it is an obligation from God not a favor of grace.

So, what are the deeds of righteousness that the Koran requires us to perform if we are to hope to earn Paradise? We have seen some already, but they start with faith.
"O believers, obey God, and obey the Messenger [apostle] and those in [invested with] authority among you. If you should quarrel on anything, refer it to God and the Messenger [apostle], if you believe in God and the Last Day; that is better, and fairer [way of settlement] in the issue." (Koran 4:62 )
"O believers, believe in God and His Messenger [Apostle] and the Book He has sent down on His Messenger [Apostle] and the Book which He sent down before. Whoso disbelieves in God and His angels and His Books, and His Messengers [Apostles], and the Last Day, has surely gone astray into far error." (Koran 4:135)
In addition to faith in God, faith in other spiritual realities is also required, such as faith in angels and the last day.
"It is not piety, that you turn your faces to the East and to the West. True piety is this: tobelieve in God, and the Last Day, the angels, the Book [Scriptures], and the Prophets, to give of one's substance, however cherished, to kinsmen, and orphans, the needy, the traveller, beggars, and to ransom the slave, to perform the prayer, to pay the [legal] alms." (Koran 2:172)
It is interesting to note that the Koran, along with the Jewish and Christian scriptures, make little distinction between believing and obeying. One cannot, and does not, believe if one does not also obey. We see this in the letter to the Hebrews when the writer writes, "And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief... Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience." (Hebrews 3:18-19, 4:6) Here disobedience is linked to unbelief just as obedience is to faith.

In Islam, it is not enough to believe in God, one must also believe in all his messengers, including Muhammad, and one must believe and obey all that has been sent down, including the Koran. You may believe in God but if you don't believe in Muhammad and the Koran, you cannot be saved. This is different from the Christian faith where the most important thing is to believe in God. The scriptures and the messengers are all sent for one purpose, to bring us to faith in God. This is why Jesus chastised the religious elite in His day when He said, "You diligently study  the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (John 5:39-40 NIV)

On top of faith, there are the prayers.
"Perform the prayer at the sinking of the sun [sunset] to the darkening of the night and the recital of dawn [daybreak reading]; surely the recital of dawn [daybreak reading] is [has a] witnessed. And as for the night, keep vigil a part of it, as a work of supererogation for thee; it may be that thy Lord will raise thee up to a laudable [glorious] station." (Koran 17:80-81)
The fixed times of prayer are clearly linked to the hope of a good resurrection. Prayer is essential to all religions, but was never made a condition of salvation for either the Jews or the Christians. Prayer maintains our communion with God and keeps our spirits attentive to what is going on around us. This is why Jesus taught us to, "Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matthew 26:41) Prayer is useful and laudatory, but its benefits are for this life not the life to come.

On top of the prayers the is also the giving of alms and the paying of the impost.
"Perform [observe] the prayer, and pay the [stated] alms, and obey the Messenger [Apostle]" (Koran 24:55)
"Those are the signs of the Wise Book for a guidance and a mercy to the good-doers [righteous] who perform the prayer, and pay the alms [impost], and have sure faith in the Hereafter [believe firmly in the life to come]." (Koran 31:1-3)
There is a difference between the alms and the impost. J.M. Rodwell writes, "to pay the impost, [was] required by Muhammad of his followers as a religious duty, and different from the alms." (The Koran, footnote 31.3) One was out of charity and compassion, the other out of religious duty. It is interesting to note that in the Christian scriptures, while many freely gave to those in needs, there is no requirement to give to the poor. Even the law of the tithe, as a religious requirement, is completely missing in the teaching of the apostles and the history of the early Christian church.

To the imposts, there was also the pilgrimages and ritual fasting.
"Those who repent [turn to God], those who serve, those who pray [praise], those who journey [fast], those who bow, those who prostrate themselves, those who bid to honour and forbid dishonour, those who keep God's hounds [bounds] -- and give thou good tidings to the believers." (Koran 9:113)
The religion of Christ was not a religion of ceremony, including ritual fasts and the necessity of pilgrimages to sacred or holy places. When a Samaritan woman asked Jesus where was the proper place to worship, Jesus said, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father... But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:21-24) While the early church did at times come together for fasting, it was a voluntary fast and not one instituted by Christ as a religious obligation.

Finally, along with all the other things required, there is the requirement to expend what you have, your wealth and yourselves, in the service of God. This includes in the battle and in warfare.
"O believers, shall I direct you to a commerce [merchandise] that shall deliver you from a painful chastisement [sore torment]? You shall believe in God and His Messenger [apostle], and struggle [do valiantly] in the way [cause] of God with your possessions and your selves. That is better [best] for you, did you but know." (Koran 61:10-11)"Those who believe in God and the Last Day [will] ask not leave of thee, that they may struggle with their possessions and their selves; and God knows the godfearing." (Koran 9:44)
Such a requirement to be faithful in war, as directed by the prophet, is wholly foreign to the teaching of Jesus, His apostles, and the early church. The idea of a holy war, and that one is obligated to expend his wealth and possessions in its execution, is completely absent from the Christian scriptures. In fact, when Jesus' disciples rose up to try and prevent Him from being arrested and crucified, Jesus rebuked them and said, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:52) There is no call to arms in the Christian faith, only a call to love.

More to come...
David Robison

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Earning prosperity and life eternal

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran teaches a life that is very much a life of works where we earn our blessings and prosperity through our works of good and where chastisement and punishment are the wages of our evil works as well. One's outcome in this life, and in the life to come, is determined by their works and deeds performed in this life while on the Earth.
"who do deeds of righteousness [the thing that are right], that theirs shall be a great wage [reward]" (Koran 17:10)
"Surely those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness [the things that are right] -- surely We leave not to waste the wage [rewards] of him who does good works;" (Koran 18:29)
While I am not an Arabic scholar, it appears form the various translations of the Koran that I have read that the terms of "reward" and "wage" are often used interchangeably. This is similar to Paul's use of these two words when he wrote, "He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward" (Matthew 10:41) Here the word "reward" in the Greek could have just as easily been translated "wages."

A person's wages of prosperity or chastisement do not flow from parents or grandparents but are the direct result of what we do, not what someone else has done.
"that is the recompense [reward] of the self-purified [him who hath been pure]." (Koran 20:78)
We are the one's who must purify ourselves; we are the ones who must work good works that we might reap their benefits. These benefits do not reap good for this life alone, but we earn our peculiar state in the life to come by our works here and now. Our future is purchased by our works today.
"And thou shalt see the sinners that day coupled [linked together] in fetters, of pitch their shirts [garments of pitch], their faces enveloped by the Fire, that God may recompense every soul for its earnings [as it deserveths]; surely God is swift at the reckoning." (Koran 14:50-51)
Paradise is something that someone earns, it is not a gift or a promise made without constraints and requirements. It is a possession that is fully dependent upon our works in this life, be they good or evil. Our future life is decided by the balances of justice. If our good outweighs our bad, then we are reward with good things. However, if our bad outweighs our good, then evil things are the wages of our life.
"The weighing that day is true [with justice]; he whose scales are heavy -- they are the prosperers [shall be happy], and he whose scales are light -- they have lost their soul for wronging Our signs." (Koran 7:7-8)
"Whosoever comes [presents himself] with a good deed [works], he shall have better than it [shall be a reward beyond their deserts]; and they shall be secure from terror that day. And whosoever comes [presents themselves] with an evil deed, [they shall be flung downward on] their faces shall be thrust into the Fire: 'Are you recompensed [rewarded] but for what you did?" (Koran 27:91-92)
For Muslims, their only hope of prosperity in this life, and Paradise in the next life, is to live in such a way that, in the end, your good outweighs your bad. There is no grace, there is no providence, there is just working and the receiving of wages.
"And whosoever does a righteous deed [what is right], be it male or female, believing, We shall assuredly give [quicken] him to live a goodly [happy] life; and We shall recompense them their wage, according to the best of what they did [best deeds]." (Koran 16:99)
In fact, the only way to expunge ourselves of past sins is to make up for them with better deeds. The Koran leaves us constantly trying to pay for past sins while still having enough good deeds left over to purchase peace and blessing in the life come.
"Those are they from whom We shall accept the best of what they have done, and We shall pass over their evil deeds." (Koran 46:16)
"If you avoid the heinous sins that are forbidden you, We will acquit you of your evil deeds, and admit you [to enter Paradise] by the gate of honour." (Koran 4:35)
However, all these teachings are contrary to the teachings of Christ and to the Gospel he came to reveal to us. While it is true that there will be degrees of rewards in heaven, our entrance into heaven and the life to come is not purchased by our deeds but granted as grace by God and given to all who believe. "If any man's work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:14-15) There will be rewards in heaven, but our salvation, our entrance into heaven, is not determined by our good deeds or the comparative "weight" of our good verses our evils. Our salvation is not based on works or deeds of the flesh, but by the grace of God and our faith in Him. Paul wrote, "Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works." (Romans 4:4-6)

Heaven is not our reward or the just wages of our labors. One cannot earn heaven nor receive it as a reward for his good works. The truth is that we are all sinners and, even if all our good should be laid aside all our bad, we all would be found wanting. Even if we tried, we can never do enough good deeds to outweigh our bad. We are all hopelessly lost, hopelessly sinners, hopelessly condemned. Our only hope is in the grace and forgiveness of Jesus. "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:21-24) The Koran teaches us to work real hard and maybe, in the end, we will earn heaven for our reward, Jesus says to stop striving and working and believe and we will receive eternal life both here and now as well as in the life to come.

More to come...
David Robison

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Holy rites

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
Central to the religion of Islam is the religious obligations, disciplines, and ceremonies that are required by all the faithful. The Koran refers to these as "holy rites." It is through these works of religion that Muslims remain faithful to God, honor God, acknowledge God, and remember God.
"And when you have performed your holy rites remember God, as you remember your fathers or yet more devoutly." (Koran 2:195)
Certainly, traditions and religious observances, can be aids in remembering God and all He has commanded and done for us. During the Last Supper, when Jesus inaugurated what we call communion, He said to His disciples, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me... This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." (1 Corinthians 11:24-25) However, there is a difference between that which is observed because of law than that which is invited because of grace. The law defines that which one must do to be acceptable before God. Paul, speaking of the Law, says, "For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness." (Romans 10:5) However, Jesus came to establish for us a righteousness that is not dependent upon the law. "Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, 'The righteous man shall live by faith.' However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'He who practices them shall live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us." (Galatians 3:11-13) Jesus came, not to confirm or establish new holy rites, but to offer us a way to righteousness that does not depend on law, observances, or works. The new covenant is not  a covenant of holy rites but a covenant of faith and grace.

Part of the holy rites prescribed in the Koran include animal sacrifices.
"There are things [cattle] therein profitable to you unto a stated term; thereafter their lawful place of sacrifice is by the Ancient House. We have appointed for every nation [people] a holy rite, that they may mention [commemorate] God's Name over such [brute] beasts of the flocks as He has provided them." (Koran 22:34-35)
Animal sacrifices were practiced under the old Jewish law, but such sacrifices ended with the advent of the Gospel of Jesus and the New Covenant.
"But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Hebrews 9:11-14)
Jesus was the end of the sacrificial system, offering Himself as the one true sacrifice able to take away every sin and to cleans the sinner from all unrighteousness. Having offered Himself once and for all there remains no need for further sacrifices and offerings for sin. Such sacrifices as the Koran prescribes are meaningless and powerless to effect any true holiness and righteousness. "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." (Hebrews 10:4) Such sacrifices and holy rites may appear to be religious, but are actually a mere reflection of natural religion and unable to affect any real change in the doer.
"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) — in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." (Colossians 2:20-23)
The Koran also identifies the holy rites with a nation's identity. The Koran teaches that God has given to each nation their own set of holy rites to follow and observe.
"We have appointed for every nation a holy rite [observances] that they shall perform [observe]. Let them not therefore wrangle [dispute] with thee upon the matter, and do thou summon unto thy Lord; surely thou art upon a straight guidance [on the right way]." (Koran 22:66)
Muhammad was instructed not to worry about what the other nations were doing or to let them judge him and his followers for their religion and religious practices. As each nation has been given their holy rites, so Muhammad and his followers had been given theirs and they were their's to follow even if other nations did not or had differing ordinances and holy rites given to them by God. This is certainly consistent with the law given to Israel through Moses. The law set Israel apart from other nations. They had different laws, different ceremonies, and different obligations than the nation around them. The law was truly their holy rites and not that of other nations. The nation of Israel was called to keep their laws and observe them as their own. However, they were not called to try and convert the world to their way of living. It was a law for them which they were to observe, but they were not to concern themselves with what God has required of other nations around them. If we are to believe the Koran, then it would be just as wrong for us to try and convert Islam to our way of life and our religious ways as it would be for them to convert us. Interestingly, the history of Islam has not shown any regard to this belief. 

This idea of a nations holy rites and the importance of national identity as it relates to religion, ignores the prophetic declaration of God and the reality of universal brotherhood that Jesus came to establish.
"I will sow her for Myself in the land. I will also have compassion on her who had not obtained compassion, and I will say to those who were not My people, 'You are My people!' And they will say, 'You are my God!'" (Hosea 2:23)
"I will make you jealous by that which is not a nation, by a nation without understanding will I anger you." (Romans 10:19)
God no longer sees nations, He sees people. The Gospel did not come to a nation, it came to a people, to all who would believe upon Jesus. God does not prescribe this holy rite to this nation and that holy rite to that nation, but He calls all men to faith, faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Muhammad saw religion in the context of nations and tribal communities, but God came to save the whole world and to establish a universal brotherhood not based upon works and observances but based on faith, grace, and love.

More to come...
David Robison

Saturday, February 06, 2016

Islam - A religion of works - Keep the Law

This is part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran teaches that there are three parts to every believers life: the Law of Moses, the Gospel of Jesus, and the Koran. Only by keeping all three is one to be considered righteous and acceptable before God. It is the infidels that neglect the three pillars of religion and those who reject any one of them will not be accepted into Paradise but find for themselves severe chastisement in the age to come.
"Had they performed the Torah [law] and the Gospel [Evangel], and what was sent down to them from their Lord, they would have eaten [have their fill of good things] both what was above them, and what was beneath their feet. Some of them are a just nation [among them who act right]; but many of them -- evil are the things they do... Say: 'People of the Book, you do not stand on anything [have no ground to stand upon], until you perform the Torah [Law] and the Gospel [Evangel], and what was sent down to you from your Lord.' And what has been sent down [the Book] to thee from thy Lord will surely increase many of them in insolence [rebellion] and unbelief; so grieve not [be thou not troubled] for the people of the unbelievers." (Koran 5:70, 72)
The Koran correctly understand that there were two laws previously enacted by God: the Law of Moses, given to the Israelites as both their governmental and moral laws by which, as a nation, they were to abide by, and the Law of Christ given through Jesus to all who would believe upon His name. However, Muhammad incorrectly viewed them as not serial, one replacing the other, but rather compounding, one building upon the other. He also incorrectly saw the Koran as another compounding of the Law and the Gospel that came before. To him, Muhammad believed that all must be observed for righteousness, but is this truly the case?

Paul, speaking of the difference between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ, speaks thus of the law: he calls it a Law of "works" (Romans 3:27) and a "law of sin and of death." (Romans 8:2) It's not that the Law was sin or sinful, but that it's effect upon us was to awaken sin, to give it vent and opportunity, and by it to bring forth death in our lives.
"But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died." (Romans 7:8-9)
However, of the Gospel, Paul calls it "a law of faith" (Romans 3:27) and "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:2) James refers to it as simply "the law of liberty." (James 1:25) What's important to note is that the Apostolic writers did not see the one following upon the other but the one supplanting the other. The writer of Hebrews clearly teaches that, long before the coming of Christ, God spoke of a new covenant that would replace the old covenant; one not supplying to the old but replacing the old.
"For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, 'Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah'... When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." (Hebrews 8:7-8, 13)
Paul writes that the law is incapable of making us righteous; not because of any deficiency in the law itself but because of the weakness of our flesh and our inability to keep the law. The Law is good and right but we are unable to keep it that we might gain its benefits. God's solution to this problem was not to refine the law or add more to the law, but to replace it with a different kind of law.
"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:2-4)
This new law is not a law of works but a law of faith, faith in Jesus Christ, His love for us, and His substitutionary sacrifice for our sins. "Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law." (Romans 3:27-28) Everything changed with the coming of Christ. Through Moses we received the law but through Jesus, "grace and truth were realized." (John 1:17) Those who have received and believed upon Jesus have been freed from the Law. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:4)

Having been freed from the Law and given a new law, a law of faith, what further need have we for another law or to bind ourselves to an old law that has already been made obsolete? What need have we for the Koran and its law and its requirement that we hold to the old Law of Moses? For those who have yet to find faith in Christ, such laws may be helpful, but for those who have new life in Christ, they have no further need for law, be it the Law of Moses or the Law of Muhammad. Instead we should seek to remember and practice the words of Paul when he said,
"If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 'Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!' (which all refer to things destined to perish with use) — in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence." (Colossians 2:20-23)
We have been freed from the law, therefore let us not find ourselves again enslaved to law, whether it be the Law of Moses of the Law of Muhammad. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1)

More to come...
David Robison

Friday, February 05, 2016

Islam - A religion for men - Women must be vieled

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The Koran claims for itself, that one of it's mark of genuineness is that it is clear and easy to understand; that it sets straight all the things in which the Christian and Jews found themselves at variance against. "And We have not sent down upon thee the Book except that thou mayest make clear to them that whereon they were at variance" (Koran 16:66)  "And We have sent down on thee the Book making clear everything, and as a guidance and a mercy" (Koran 16:91) However, some of the most enigmatic suras in the Koran have to do with woman covering, or veiling, themselves.
"And say to the believing women, that they cast down [refrain] their eyes and guard their private parts [observe continuance], and reveal not their adornment [ornaments] save such as is outward [external]; and let them cast their veils over their bosoms, and not reveal their adornment [ornaments] save to their husbands, or their fathers, or their husbands' fathers, or their sons, or their husbands' sons, or their brothers, or their brothers' sons, or their sisters' sons, or their women, or what their right hands own, or such men as attend them, not having sexual desire, or children who have not yet attained knowledge of women's private parts [note not a woman’s nakedness]; nor let them stamp their feet [strike their feet together], so that their hidden ornament may be known." (Koran 24:31)
"Such women as are past child- bearing and have no hope of marriage -- there is no fault [blame] in them that they put off their [outer] clothes, so be it that they flaunt no ornament [but so as not to shew their ornaments]." (Koran 24:59)
These suras have been greatly debated by Muslims around the world and especially by Muslim women as to what exactly God was requiring of them. These suras have caused much confusion and variance between Muslims of all sects, nationalities, genders, and ages. At the heart of the issue is, what does the Koran mean by adornments (or ornaments) and what does it mean when speaking of those that are apparent (or external). Some have interpreted this to mean only the hair, some believe it refers to the hair and the hands of a woman, and others believe that it refers to her entire body and that nothing of a woman should be visible when she ventures out in public. It is also possible that the prophet is referring to the difference between the jewelry that a woman wears next to her skin verses that which is worn over her clothes. For example, in referring to the stamping or striking of their feet, Muhammad may have been referring to anklets worn next to the flesh of their ankles. Isaiah wrote of loose women saying,
"Moreover, the Lord said, 'Because the daughters of Zion are proud and walk with heads held high and seductive eyes, and go along with mincing steps and tinkle the bangles on their feet, Therefore the Lord will afflict the scalp of the daughters of Zion with scabs, and the Lord will make their foreheads bare.' In that day the Lord will take away the beauty of their anklets, headbands, crescent ornaments, dangling earrings, bracelets, veils, headdresses, ankle chains, sashes, perfume boxes, amulets, finger rings, nose rings, festal robes, outer tunics, cloaks, money purses, hand mirrors, undergarments, turbans and veils." (Isaiah 3:16-23)
Notice the reference to the anklets that would "tinkle" as they struck or stomped their feet. The question remains as to whether or not a woman ought to veil herself in obedience to God's law or whether or not it should be left to the individual woman to choose on her own; consulting her own conscience and faith before God in this matter? There is only one verseI know of in the Jewish and Christian scriptures that would require a woman to be "covered."
"But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved... Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels... But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God." (1 Corinthians 11:5, 10, 16)
There are several things of interest in this scripture. First, such coverings are required only when praying or prophesying, not all the time or even when in public. Secondly, the coverings are to show honor to her husband, not God. Third, Paul's reason for such a request has to do with the angles. It's interesting that Muhammad gives us no justification for his requirement. And, finally, its presented as a "practice" of the church and not a law of God. A woman not covering her head is said to be "shameful" not "sinful" which refers to how she is viewed within her culture and society not necessarily how she is viewed by God. It is interesting to note that as the Gospel expanded into the Greek culture, veiling became a common practice among some of the Christian women. Some teacher encouraging it, not out of law, but out or a recognition of the licentious culture in which they lived and in a desire to protect the young women from the leers and lustful looks of men. In my opinion, veiling or covering should be at the woman's own discretion and is not, as Muhammad claimed, as a direct requirement of God.

David Robison

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Islam - A religion for men - A man's paradise

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
The description the Koran gives us of paradise, especially as it relates to the sexes, is not always a consistent one. At times it seems to honor the bonds between husband and wife and at other times it depicts a scene deliberately set to appeal to the pleasures of men. The Koran describes Paradise as something akin to a frat-house or one of the ancient Greek symposiums complete with wine and sex. Muhammad writes,
"See, the inhabitants [inmates]of Paradise today are busy in their rejoicing [joyous in their employ], they and – their spouses, reclining upon [bridal] couches in the shade; therein they have fruits, and they have all that they call for [whatever they require]." (Koran 36:55-57)
First, the idea of having spouses in Paradise clearly contradicts the words of Jesus when He said, "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven." (Matthew 22:30) But of greater concern to us here is the question of who exactly are these spouses? In one place, the Koran seems to indicate that they would be those wives you had while on the Earth.
"Enter Paradise, you and your wives, walking with joy [delighted]!' There shall be passed around them platters of gold, and cups, therein being whatever the souls desire, and the eyes delight in." (Koran 43:70-71)
However, in other places, they seem to be spouses whom God has provided before hand for men when they reach Paradise.
"whensoever they are provided with fruits therefrom they shall say, 'This is that wherewithal we were provided before'; that they shall be given in perfect semblance; and there for them shall be spouses purified [of perfect purity]; therein they shall dwell forever." (Koran 2:23)
"Surely the godfearing [pious] shall be in a station secure among gardens and fountains, robed in silk and brocade [rich robes], set face to face [facing one another]. Even so; and We shall espouse them to wide-eyed houris [the virgins with large dark eyes], therein calling for every [kind of] fruit, secure." (Koran 44:51-55)
Such a promise is very demeaning to women. It lower's her status in the marriage and constantly reminds her that she is inferior in every way, so much so, that as a reward to her husband, God will one day, in Paradise, give him the wife he really deserves, one who is pure and desirable to him, one who will fulfill him in ways she could never do. How can a woman compete with the promise of a perfect spouse in heaven? How can a man truly appreciate and cherish a wife whom the scriptures already impugns as being less that that perfect wife that is awaiting him in Paradise? How can the Koran claim to support strong marriages when it lures the desires of the husband away from his wife and towards something more pure and desirable in Paradise?

In the Koran, these perfect spouses are called the Houris.
"Reclining upon couches ranged in rows; and We shall espouse [wed] them to wide-eyed houris [damsels with large dark eyes]." (Koran 52:20)
"The Companions of the Right (O Companions of the Right [Oh! How happy shall be the people of the right hand]!) mid thornless lote-trees [sidrahs] and serried acacias [talh tree clad with fruit], and spreading shade and outpoured flowing] waters, and fruits abounding unfailing, unforbidden, and upraised [lofty] couches. Perfectly [of a rear creation] We formed them [created the Houris], perfect, and We made them spotless [ever] virgins, chastely amorous [dear to their spouse], like of age [of equal age] for the Companions [people] of the Right [hand]." (Koran 56:26-38)
It is unclear to what extent these Houris are actually human but we know the are created by God, have bodily form, and are created for the pleasure of men. To this end, the are created with a specific man in mind; created to be of the same age that they may be desirable to the one for whom they were created.
"and for the godfearing is a fair resort, Gardens of Eden, whereof the gates [portals] are open to them, wherein they recline, and wherein they call for fruits abundant, and sweet potions [drink], and with them [shall be virgins] maidens restraining their glances [modest retiring glances] of equal age [of their own age]." (Koran 38:50-52)
As to their form and appearance, we have this description from the Koran,
"Surely for the godfearing awaits a place of security [a blissful abode], [enclosed] gardens and vineyards and maidens with swelling breasts, like of age [their peers in age], and a cup overflowing." (Koran 78:31-34)
How demeaning to an Islam woman to hear from God that she is not beautiful enough or desirable enough, so much so, that He has to create some Houris to please him in Paradise? There is also the clear implication from the Koran that a truly desirable and beautiful woman is one with large dark eyes and swelling breasts. What are women without these physical attributes to believe about themselves? Does the God of Islam not remember His own wisdom as expressed through King Lemuel when he said, "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." (Proverbs 31:30) Is the value of a woman truly to be found only in her beauty and her desirability towards men? For a religion built for men, this might be the case, but not for a religion that elevates women to be the equals of men and to have equal standing before God.

More to come...
David Robison

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Islam - A religion for men - Polygamy

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
For millennia, polygamy had been practiced as a way of life. Even some of the greatest personages in the Jewish scriptures were polygamists including Abraham, Moses, King David, and perhaps the greatest of them all, King Solomon who had "seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines." (1 Kings 11:3) So much for being the wisest man to have ever lived! While the Jewish and Christian scriptures acknowledge the reality of polygamy present within the culture of their times, it never prescribes it or affirms it as an acceptable practice before God. God may tolerate polygamy but the scriptures contain no direct condoning of it from God Himself. However, polygamy is directly taught by the Koran as a divine precept and something that is normal, acceptable, and honorable before God.
"If you fear that you will not act justly [fairly] towards the orphans, marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four; but if you fear you will not be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own [slaves whom ye have acquired]; so it is likelier you will not be partial." (Koran 4:3)
To the faithful, permission is given to marry up to four wives, not counting any slaves with which they may live in concubinage with. The "fair acts" which Muhammad is referring to here are the obligations that men had to provide for the needs and futures of the orphans.
"Give the orphans their property, and do not exchange the corrupt [worthless things] for the good [your valuable ones]; and devour not their property with your property [after adding it to your own]; surely that is a great crime." (Koran 4:2)
In other words, after having taken on the care of an orphan and their property, if you should later rue the idea of giving up that property, then go ahead and marry them and keep their property as your own. There is no discussion of love or any real desire to care for the orphan girl, it becomes simply a financial matter as to which is better, to let her and her property go or to marry her and keep her property.

Polygamy has its own challenges, as the Koran readily acknowledges.
"You will not be able [have it at all in your power] to be equitable between your wives [treat your wives alike], be you ever so eager; yet do not be altogether partial so that you leave her as it were suspended." (Koran 4:128)
The great wisdom of the Koran is "just try!" You will not be able to do it but at least try to do your best. In fact, if it gets too bad, give up marring other wives and just take concubines from your slaves where at least there is no expectation or requirement that you be equatable towards them.
"but if you fear you will not be equitable, then only one, or what your right hands own [slaves whom ye have acquired]; so it is likelier you will not be partial." (Koran 4:3)
Sometimes it is better to take slaves than to have to worry about pleasing multiple wives. In fact, the Koran places no limits on the sex permitted between a man and the female slaves he owns. They are property and he has God's permission to go into them as he pleases. He may lay with them without having to worry about treating them as people or as one of his wives.
"Any one of you who has not the affluence to be able to marry believing freewomen in wedlock, let him take believing handmaids that your right hands own [as slaves]." (Koran 4:29)
"[and who] guard their private parts [control their desires] save from their wives and what [the slaves] their right hands own [have won], then not being blameworthy" (Koran 70:29-30)
Polygamy demeans women and reduces them to objects for a man's pleasure and satisfaction. He is in control of the relationship and uses his wives as he sees fit and when it suits him. Little thought is given towards the wives; their part in the relationship is at the total discretion of the man.
"Thou mayest put off [decline for the present] whom thou wilt of them, and whom thou wilt [take to bed] thou mayest take to thee; and if thou seekest any thou hast set aside [long for of those thou shalt have before neglected] there is no fault [crime] in thee. So it is likelier [easier] they will be comforted [to give them the desire of their eyes], and not sorrow [put them to grief], and every one of them will be well-pleased [satisfied] with what thou givest her [accord to each of them]." (Koran 33:51)
In such relationships, women are powerless except for the influences their charm and sexual wiles may have upon their husband. Philip Schaff writes this concerning the evils of polygamy that is so freely permitted by the Koran,
"Polygamy and servile concubinage destroy the dignity of woman, and the beauty and peace of home. In all Mohammedan countries woman is ignorant and degraded... A Moslem would feel insulted by an inquiry after the health of his wife or wives. Polygamy affords no protection against unnatural vices, which are said to prevail to a fearful extent among Mohammedans, as they did among the ancient heathen" (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Section 45)
While the Jewish and Christian scriptures do not speak directly to polygamy, it is clear from a careful reading that such was never God's intent. From the beginning, "He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created." (Genesis 5:2) He did not create them man and many women but one man and one woman. Similarly, when speaking of their oneness God says, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24) Not the many should become one flesh but the two should become one flesh. Paul later teaches on marriage when he says, "each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband." (1 Corinthians 7:2) The clear implication is that each man is to have but one wife and a wife should have her own husband and not have to share him between many wives. Later, in speaking of his own celibacy, Paul says, "Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?" (1 Corinthians 9:5) Here he speaks of the "right" as being that of a single wife not many wives.

There may be many reasons why one would justify polygamy and concubinage, but the benefits always accrue to the man and never the woman. Such social practices demean woman and keep them repressed in the social structures that tolerate such practices. In advocating for such practices as the social norm, the Koran, once again, displays Islam as a religion built for men, not women.

More to come...
David Robison

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Islam - A religion for men - Abuse in marriage

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here and the previous post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
From the beginning, God intended marriage to be a safe place; a place of companionship and love. At the beginning of creation, God found only one thing that was not good. "Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'" (Genesis 2:18) God took the woman from the man and fashioned her to be a helper and companion for the man. Together they were to be companions to lighten the load of loneliness and to love one another. Taken from Adam was one who made two that they might become one again; one in flesh, one in emotions, and one in spirit. "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh." (Genesis 2:24) Of all the places we go, our marriages should be the one place where we feel both safe and loved; a place where we know we will never be lonely again. This idea may not always be realized in a marriage, but it is the original intent and the present hope of God for all married couples.

However, the Koran paints a rather different picture of marriage; one where the men are above their wives and wives are for their husband's pleasure and benefit. Wives are seen more as property than people; to be used and discarded when no longer desired. In the Koran, the marriage is no longer a safe place, at least not for the woman.

In the Jewish and Christian scriptures, the wife answer directly to God for their behavior and attitudes in marriage. However, in Islam, wives must answer to their husbands and are subject to his "judgment" and "punishment" as he deems fit.
"Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret [during the husband’s absence] for God's guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat [scourge] them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them." (Koran 4:39)
There was a time in our country when it was considered acceptable to hit a woman, but this acceptance came from the prevailing culture. Here God is directly telling men to admonish their rebellious wives, even striking them if necessary to bring them into line. And what must a woman do to deserve such a beating? It is only required that her husband fear that she may be rebellious. There is no requirement for actual proof, the mere suspicion of the husband is enough to justify his violence. How different from the counsel of Peter, "You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered." (1 Peter 3:7) Similarly, Paul tells husbands to "love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:25) and again, "Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them." (Colossians 3:19) How can a husband who in such ways loves his wife ever find and excuse to hit her? Certainly not from God!

Even where there may not be physical abuse, the Koran allows for an atmosphere of fear to rule a home, at lease as it pertains to the wife.
"It is possible that, [haply] if he divorces you, his Lord will give him in exchange wives better than you, women who have surrendered [Muslims], believing, obedient, penitent, devout, given to fasting, who have been married and virgins too." (Koran 66:5)
How can one live in freedom when they are constantly in fear of being tossed out and/or replaced? What possesses God to hold such fear over the lives of women? The clear message from God is that, unless the wife is obedient enough, religious enough, or penitent enough, she might just one day find herself replaced by another more obedient, religions, and penitent wife. And to make this point even more fearful (and painful), God reminds them that its not just other women that their husband might take in their place but other previously married women as well as virgins that he might find more suitable than her.

In Islam, there remains no security in marriage. Marriage, as a commitment, is only as secure as the husband desires to be committed. Divorce is always a very present option; an option that is wielded at the discretion of the husband, not the wife.
"And if you desire to exchange a wife in place of another, and you have given to one a hundredweight [a talent], take of it nothing [make no deduction]. What, will you take it by way of calumny and manifest sin?" (Koran 4:24)
It is interesting that, in the Koran, divorce, as long as it is done right, is never portrayed as being wrong or something that we should avoid if possible. Divorce is accepted and permissible so long as it is done right. In the Koran, the marriage covenant of the man goes something like this, "I am committed to you until I change my mind or get tired of you and want someone else." Certainly this is not a strong foundation for any marriage.

Marriage is a joining of two people onto one in a life long covenant of love and companionship. Jesus said, "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." (Matthew 19:6) While God did permit divorce, it was not ever His intent in marriage. Jesus said, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." (Matthew 19:8-9) Marriage was always meant to be a place of security, safety, and love but this can only be established where covenant is enjoined and sustained by both involved. A marriage where you never know if you are in or out, a marriage where you never know if you will be hit or not, is not a marriage as God created it and is no place for one created in the image of God.

More to come...
David Robison

Monday, February 01, 2016

Islam - A religion for men - Sex is for men

This is a continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first post here. This is also part of a larger series called "The Koran from a Christian perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
When treating the subject of sex, the Koran always presents in from the man's point of view. Sex is always presented as something for the man, not the woman. Women are nothing more than objects for the satisfying of a men's sexual appetite. Even in marriage, sex is for the man's pleasure and women are merely objects for its fulfillment.
"Your women [wives] are a tillage [field] for you; so come unto your tillage [field] as you wish, and forward for your souls;" (Koran 2:223)
Even during the holy month of Ramadan, God writes to men not to deprive themselves of sex and, where thy did not but had lied about it, God forgives them. God tells them that it was never His intent that they should deprive themselves of sex or try to hold in check their sexual desires, even during the holy month. Men are to enjoy sex as often as they like.
"Permitted to you, upon the night of the Fast, is to go in to your wives; -- they are a vestment [garment] for you, and you are a vestment for them. God knows that you have been betraying yourselves, and has turned to you and pardoned you. So now lie with them, and seek [with full desire] what God has prescribed for you. And eat and drink, until the white thread shows clearly to you from the black thread at the dawn; then complete the Fast unto the night, and do not lie with them while you cleave to the mosques." (Koran 2:183)
What is missing from the Koran is any discussion of a man duty to his wife or the benefit of any pleasure sex might bring to a husband's wife. Sarah says something very interesting when she first heard the angel say she was about to become pregnant.
"Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'" (Genesis 18:12)
I believe that, at least in part, the pleasure Sarah refereed to was the pleasure of intercourse and she laughed, in part, because she understood Abraham's inability to perform as he once did. We know that Abraham, "contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old." (Romans 4:19) For them, sex was out of the question, yet Sarah had not forgotten the pleasure it once brought to her and to her mate. Paul goes on to teach about sex in marriage saying,
"The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." (1 Corinthians 7:3-4)
Here, Paul presents sex and something the two of them share together and with the open consent of each other. Sex is not one-sided; it's not something that the wive gives to her husband whenever he wants it; it's not something her husband demands or takes anytime he pleases. Sex is for their mutual satisfaction and pleasure and is an expression of their oneness in the flesh. When sex becomes one-sided it becomes a perversion of what God intended, even when it happens in a marriage.

Sex in marriage is never to be demanded or taken as a right, but God intended it to be consensual. In speaking of times when a couple might abstain from sex, Paul writes,
"Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control." (1 Corinthians 7:5-6
Sex in marriage, including its time, place, and frequency is to be determined by the couple alone, by their common consent, and not demanded by one for the sake of their own sexual impulses or desires. Sex is not just for the man, but for the two that have become one. God always intended sex for the mutual pleasure of a wedded couple and as a token of mutual love between the two of them.

More to come...
David Robison