Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State, Evangelism

Turning the World Upside Down

On Paul’s second evangelistic tour, he and Silas came to Thessalonica, and for three Sabbath days he reasoned with certain Jews in their synagogue. Some Jews were persuaded, and some were not. Later, those who were not persuaded stirred up trouble because of their jealousy. A crowd gathered, an uproar ensued, and the attempt was made to find Paul and Silas, but it failed. However, Jason and some other brethren were dragged before the rulers of Thessalonica, and the accusation was made: “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received: and these all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:6-7).

Years and years ago we were taught that the church ought to “turn the world upside down.” The idea at the time seemed good, and the expression could be found in Scripture. And it was an expression that could certainly motivate evangelism. After all, part of the New Testament pattern involved evangelism, didn’t it? So, it seemed to me as a young preacher that our people ought to be doing what the first century saints were doing in turning the world upside down! Many years have passed now since I first heard the “encouraging words” that in confronting the world, we ought to turn it upside down.

It is clearer now, however. The expression is certainly found in Scripture, but it is no part of the pattern of New Testament evangelism. The expression was taken out of its context and unfortunately misapplied to the church. We did ourselves no service in this interpretive mistake.

Think about it: the statement comes from the enemies of the gospel. Sometimes wicked men did tell the truth, however, that was recorded (cf. John 9:3; cf. Prov. 28:9; Mark 7:37). But sometimes they expressed error (John 9:34). So, how can we tell whether the expression is accurate or not here in Acts 17? Were Paul and Silas attempting to turn the world upside down? No. They were trying to spread the gospel for sure, and Paul had a particular assignment to do that very thing (Acts 9:15-16; 1 Cor. 9:15-18). But the assignment did not and could not entail the planned and purposed cause of social disruption. Never!

Remember that any inevitable but sinful fallout of doing good is not the fault (much less the credit) of someone’s obeying God. Was it Jesus’ fault that some Jews fell over him (Isaiah 8:14; Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:6-8)? No. Is Jesus to be blamed for their sin? No. Is he to be credited with their sin? Of course not.

Jesus encouraged his disciples to be peacemakers (Matt. 5:9). He himself in his ministry, while attempting to make his message known, did so without trying to stir up trouble or to evoke hostility (Matt. 12:19-20). If we would follow in his steps regarding preaching and teaching, we would also—while trying to circulate the message—try hard not to cause social disruption and invite hostility, resentment, and rejection. We need to be “as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves” (Matt. 5:16). And we are never to impose ourselves on others (Matt. 7:6). Whatever happened to “the golden rule” as applied to evangelism (Matt.7:12)? Is this an area where the rule doesn’t apply? Of course not.

Paul did not encourage the riot scene in Ephesus (Acts 19). We can’t blame him for it, either. Jesus had once told his apostles on the “limited commission” to the Jews to shake the dust from their feet when it became apparent that a city did not want the truth preached there (Matt. 10:14). Paul himself practiced this (Acts 13:51). And for public abuse, humiliation, and persecution, Paul did desire an apology from those who abused him (Acts 16:37). But, even in this, he did not attempt to create a scene. On one occasion, after being beaten to or near death, he returned to the city out of which he was taken, but Luke does not tell us why (Acts 14:19-20). Later, Paul was arrested (Acts 21), and before governor Felix denied the charge that he was an insurrectionist or stirring up a crowd (Acts 24:5-13). This was not his mission. It is not ours either. We all really know this, I think, but we sometimes face the fact that our practice is not the same as the principle we preach (like continually telling ourselves that we need to turn the world upside down). We either need to change our practice (and try to cause trouble) or change our principle (that is an encouragement to the causing of trouble)!

Sometimes we preachers have created false impressions because our own impressions were based on ignorance rather than truth. It is a confession I make. All honest preachers are in the same situation I am in, too. At times we have fostered a kind of obligation based on our faulty “understanding” of that alleged and supposed obligation. Trying to encourage brethren to turn the world upside down was one of those.

The picture in the New Testament of the life of any faithful Christian—including preachers—is a life of quietness and peace (1 Tim. 2:1-4)! According to Paul, it is social peace that is conducive to the spread of truth—not riot or turbulence or agitated resistance. So, why would we ever think that the intentional effort to stir up trouble (turn the world upside down) would be Scriptural? Even in the days when the “great commission” was in effect and being carried out, our brethren were still being taught by inspired men to be ambitious to be quiet, to take care of their own business, and to do their own work so as to produce the best effect in community (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Such an obligation was never intended to be an impediment to preaching and teaching the gospel, however (1 Thess. 1:7-8). These two passages from 1 Thessalonians show us that the brethren in the first century were involved in the spreading of the gospel without attempting to cause upheaval in the community and the world. Should error be exposed with truth? Of course (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 4:11). Should sin be identified and condemned? Yes (Eph. 5:7-12). However, as the local church supports the truth (1 Tim. 3:15), we at the very same time do so while trying to be at peace with all men as much as possible (Rom. 12:17-18). We are not under obligation to make men angry. If they get mad at us, let it never be a fact that we tried to provoke such.

Honorable controversy (public debate) is, in my judgment, one way of helping people to understand more truth, but I do not ever plan on being a part of a mere fuss or wrangle, and certainly not a violent dispute. In our public services of the church, we still support the truth in our communities. It is not our fault when others do not come because they do not want truth. Men still know how to find the grocery store, the post office, and the hospital. They can find us, too. But, in TV programs, information sent out through the mail, newspaper articles, etc., we can still try to keep truth before a public, interested or not, without imposing ourselves on them. And in other cultures, we can do even more because of their interest in the gospel which is so new to them. Some efforts at evangelism will work in some cultures that will not work in others. But regardless of culture, it is never right to try to cause trouble. We can contend for the faith (Jude 3), and we need always to be ready to give articulated defense of our hope (1 Pet. 3:15), but we do all in love (1 Cor. 16:14). And even when the method for the moment must be sharper (1 Cor. 4:21), the motivation is still to be one of love, and never to be the willed desire that a scene is stirred up.

Finally, remember, it is God who ultimately controls evangelism. He is the only one who can open and close the doors (Rev. 3:7). Only God knows when and where and how the gospel is best spread (Acts 16:6-10).

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State

What are we to do?

Several months ago I wrote an article entitled “Can A Church Cancel Services During A National Emergency?” (available here). I discussed at that time ten points:

  • Each of us is under obligation to preserve his own life.
  • While a person’s own self-preservation is inherent in nature and obligated in Scripture, it has never been the ultimate obligation.
  • God has established the implementation of authority within three realms of responsibility: the home, the state, and the church.
  • If government requires what God disallows, or if government prohibits what God demands, all men should obey God rather than man.
  • Human government is to be viewed as a minister of God.
  • Just as personal and domestic conditions may vary, just so in the state conditions may vary, too.
  • God does not view all situations in the same way.
  • God treats disruption differently than He treats routine.
  • God manages His world including the use of disease that has entered it.
  • The nature of emergency may obscure the clarity of one’s obligation.

I supported my conclusion by two arguments that I won’t repeat here. What I want to do here is to respond to two points that some writers have made in their criticism that religious services ought to be closed for a while. Remember that my article was written to establish the point that in an emergency such as we have found ourselves in with the Coronavirus, that government has a right and obligation to protect its citizens, and that Christians have the obligation to submit to civil authority.

Objection One:

It has been suggested that we should just go ahead with our services as usual and let the sick stay at home from services as has been our normal policy. Furthermore, the idea has been presented that we should not cancel services because spiritual welfare is more important than physical welfare. But I suggest that to argue in such fashion is self-contradictory. Why? It is because the spiritual welfare of any sick person who stays home from services with our approval is also equally more important than is his own physical welfare. In other words, the truth that one’s spiritual welfare is more important than is his physical welfare applies with equal application to the sick who already stays at home as normal policy. So, (1) to approve one sick person’s staying at home (as normal policy would dictate) with the approval of the rest of the congregation, and (2) to disapprove the rest of us staying at home (closing the services) for health purposes on the basis that the spiritual is more important than the physical makes no sense. The principle that the spiritual is more important than the physical applies equally to a sick person staying home already with approval or the rest of us staying home with disapproval. If there is legitimate criticism of the right of an eldership to suspend services temporarily for health reasons, it has to be based on some other route of argumentation.

Objection Two:

It has been stated that religious services should not be closed because the government does not run the church. Yes, it is true that the government does not run the church, but we Christians do submit to it in other ways anyway! The government does not run marriage. God does. And yet we must go to the government to get a marriage license. We do submit to government requirement regarding marriage because the New Testament obligates us to do so. And yet, as we do this, we still clearly understand that God rules marriage—not the state. So, to argue against service closure on the basis that the state does not rule the church is a misguided effort.

Remember that our former article and this one have to do with a temporary and emergency situation. It is not a discussion of submission to governmental decree to close services either as (1) a permanently required condition or as (2) a punitive measure. If the government requires permanent closure of public religious services and enforces such, then we will all of necessity become worshipers “underground” (or prisoners who will be unable to congregate as usual in governmental custody) or in private. If government forces the shutdown of public religious services as punishment, we will be forced to congregate in private so as to continue our services. I know that we have brethren right now in a Muslim controlled area of the world who have to worship in secret. May God help them, and may God help Christians everywhere to be faithful in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Posted in Christianity and Culture

Thanksgiving

By Weylan Deaver

Celebrations of Thanksgiving in America trace back to an October 1621 banquet of the Pilgrims in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, along with about ninety Wampanoag Indians. After God had so richly blessed the colonists’ efforts, Governor William Bradford declared a day of public thanksgiving that stretched out over three days.

Governor Bradford proclaimed a second public thanksgiving c. July 30, 1623. After a twelve week summer drought that threatened disaster, the colonists held a day of fasting and prayer, after which, the very next day, a rain came that lasted two weeks. The life giving rain revived both crops and spirits and the colonists were more than happy to give God the credit.

During the Revolution, after the victory at Saratoga, the Continental Congress issued the First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving on November 1, 1777. It read, in part,

…That it may please Him, to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people, and the labour of the husbandman, that our land may yet yield its increase; to take school and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under His nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth ‘in righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost’ (William J. Federer, America’s God and Country, p. 147).

After the discovery and thwarting of Benedict Arnold’s plot to deliver General Washington’s army to the British, the Continental Congress issued a Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer on October 18, 1780.

…It is therefore recommended to the several states…a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, that all the people may assemble on that day to celebrate the praises of our Divine Benefactor; to confess our unworthiness of the least of his favours, and to offer our fervent supplications to the God of all grace…to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth (Ibid., p. 148).

To celebrate victory and the end of the Revolution, Massachusetts Governor John Hancock issued A Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving on November 8, 1783.

…I do by and with the Advice of the Council appoint Thursday the Eleventh Day of December next (the Day recommended by the Congress to all the States) to be religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, that all the People may then assemble to celebrate…that he hath been pleased to continue to us the Light of the Blessed Gospel; …That we also offer up fervent Supplications…to cause pure Religion and Virtue to flourish…and to fill the World with his glory (Ibid., p. 277).

On October 3, 1789 President George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving.

…And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions…to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue… (Ibid., p. 165).

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving for the last Thursday of November 1863.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy…It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people (Ibid., p. 385).

Though Thanksgivings continued, it was not until 1941 that Congress ratified Public Law 77-379, whereby the President officially proclaims the fourth Thursday of November A National Day of Thanksgiving.

Reading over such pious declarations of American history, one cannot help but be impressed with the humility, sincerity, and religious devotion that characterized our presidents, governors, and legislators. To their credit, they were not embarrassed to discuss, in front of the world, their indebtedness to God, their acknowledgement of national sin, the need for virtue, their desire that God take America’s schools under “His nurturing hand,” their wish that Christianity spread the world over, and their praise and thanks for all the Lord had done for America.

We concur with President Lincoln that “…God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.” Anything less is too little.

As you gather with family to dine on a Thanksgiving feast, remember to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Posted in Christianity and Culture

An Education Itself

Who is an educated person? A man with a doctoral degree? A master’s degree? A bachelor’s? An associate’s? A high school diploma? One who can read? One who does read? A man who knows well the field in which he earns a living? One acquainted with history and who appreciates fine art? One who mingles with the academics? Webster defines educate as “to cultivate and discipline the mind and other faculties by teaching.” Thus, an educated man is taught and disciplined in respect to some area(s) of knowledge.

Has America made the mistake of making a god of the educative process with little to no regard for what the process is actually teaching? We’ve raised generations to such heights of “education” they now believe people are nothing but glorified chimpanzees. Many “educated” educators teach the next generation of “educated” to trust the state and doubt the Bible, to indulge the flesh and refrain from religion, to deify man and detest the Messiah. We’ve “educated” a horde of lawyers and judges to teach us that the Lord has no real place on the public scene, on public property, or — in essence — in the public psyche. Ironically, God has become almost a trespasser in a nation whose coins still vow trust in him.

The apostle Paul indicated there is such a thing as “falsely called ‘knowledge’” (1 Tim. 6:20, ESV). Surely it does not profit the mind to be full of falsehoods. Deceit will not deliver; lies will not last. The human mind was designed to run on higher grade fuel than error offers. Yet, there will always be he who “loves and practices falsehood” (Rev. 22:15), thereby hindering his own ability to perform as a man educated in what truly matters. There will be those “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). What results is that the ostensibly educated are, in fact, blinded to genuine truth. This is why Festus could say, “Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind” (Acts 26:24). No doubt Festus fancied himself more rational than the apostle when it came to the gospel, but reality was otherwise.

Let us lay aside the question of who Americans think is educated and, instead, ask, “Whom does God deem educated?” That answer reveals a strikingly different perspective. There is no degree required. No particular school is mandated. No diploma, no class ring, no alumni association, no grade point average, no transcript. In fact, it consists in nothing else but learning and doing God’s truth (John 8:32), which puts one in very close contact with a man named Jesus. Antagonists of the gospel long ago came to see that Jesus had a most unsettling way of turning the socially unlearned into the spiritually enlightened. “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). You see, being with Jesus is the education.

Listen to and do what he taught and you will far outshine the rest. The psalmist wrote about God’s word, “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:99). So, who is educated? Is it a Ph.D. who rejects the gospel and goes to hell, or a high school dropout who obeys the Lord and goes to heaven? Who knew what mattered? As C. S. Lewis put it in the book, Mere Christianity (p. 78): “If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all. But, fortunately, it works the other way round. Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.”

Posted in Christianity and Culture

Master of Illusion

By Weylan Deaver

Satan is master of illusion. Though pure evil, he can give the appearance of an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). The devil can make the righteous feel outnumbered, outgunned, and overpowered, when such is not the case at all. He can talk Christians into surrendering on his terms by getting them to overlook the vast spiritual resources God puts at their disposal. Long ago, the prophet Elisha was surrounded by a Syrian army bent on his capture (2 Kings 6:8-17). Elisha was not bothered by this, but his servant was greatly distressed. Elisha told his servant, “Fear not; for they that are with us are more than they that are with them.” Elisha then prayed for God to open the eyes of his servant so he could see what Elisha already saw. God did so, and the servant was able to see “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.” God had the matter well in hand, and was more than able to conquer the Syrians, which he did. Elisha’s servant gained a new and accurate perspective. He learned the enemy’s strength was illusory, and that, if God is for you, there is more power at work than can be defeated. And there is more to a battle than meets the eye. Wickedness is at high tide in America: abortion, homosexuality, fornication, divorce, drunkenness, hatred, lying, atheism, false religions, etc. The list is long, but sin’s heyday will not last. The master of illusion is served by the deluded. We need to believe the Bible and dig in, not give up. After all, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

Posted in Christianity and Culture

Society is out of touch with reality

By Weylan Deaver

Reality is what exists. Truth harmonizes with what is real. Truth is not a fabrication of the imagination. A fact is a true reflection of actual condition. When it comes to human behavior in a godless society, when “the sky’s the limit,” Judgment Day is still the destination, even if most don’t see it coming. People can do whatever they want, but none can do it with impunity. Denying truth does not make it false; loving the lie does not make it true. Sin is real, even if the doer does not see it. God still says certain activity is sinful, regardless what is acceptable to our president, courts, laws, customs, entertainers, academics, or neighbors. To name a few: Sex outside marriage is sin (Hebrews 13:4). Homosexuality is sin (1 Corinthians 6:9). Men dressing like women, or vice versa, is sin (Deuteronomy 22:5). Lying is sin (Revelation 21:8). Not being sober is sin (1 Thessalonians 5:6). Refusing to repent of every sin is sin (Acts 17:30). Refusing to obey the gospel of Christ is sin (2 Thessalonians 1:8). “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8, ESV). The Bible’s message does not evolve to accommodate political correctness, or to coddle the sensibilities of people in rebellion against the Lord. God states the facts, tells us what is right and what is coming. He warns us against the foolishness of the world (1 Corinthians 1:19-21). God educates us on reality. He does not ask us what we want; he tells us how it is. To adopt the Bible’s perspective is to see things accurately, that we might be prepared for eternity. A society that celebrates sin constructs its own coffin. In the church of Christ, we stand in God’s truth, as given in God’s book. Whether that appeals to anyone or not, reality still looms closer every day. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Posted in Christianity and Culture

Our Nation’s Root Problem

By Marlin Kilpatrick

Every tree has a tap root. The tap root supplies the tree with the proper nutrients that will make the tree grow. The tap root is the tree’s main source for survival. Any disease affecting the tap root may have devastating effects on the tree. Indeed, the consequences may be fatal.

Our nation’s “tap root” is in serious (if not fatal) distress. Our tap root is full of disease; it is putrid with all uncleanness. We have become a spiritually sick nation. It doesn’t take a Solomon to see our nation is heading for a fall, unless crucial corrections are made, and made promptly. We cannot last as a free nation when the One who made us free is mocked, scorned, and rejected. “Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Pro. 14:34).

Anyone who grew up in the 40’s and 50’s knows there was a time when our nation had at least some moral fiber. Compared with today, these years were truly an age of innocence. I was a Junior in high school before I heard the word “marijuana.” Today, marijuana (a drug) is considered beneficial for medicinal purposes, and is even being legalized in many of our states. Drugs, such as heroin, crack cocaine, et al., are common fare on many street corners in downtown U.S.A. Alcohol (another drug) freely flows among our teenagers and, often, in our places of employment. This environment has had a detrimental effect on the Lord’s church. Some members of the Lord’s church think nothing of keeping a six-pack of beer in their refrigerators. Unless alcohol is prescribed for medicinal purposes, its consumption is condemned in the Scriptures. Drunkenness is a matter of degree. To whatever degree one consumes alcohol as a recreational beverage, to that degree one is scripturally drunk. The claim that one may drink so long as he does not become drunk is surely not sound.

Our nation’s root problem is its rejection of God and His Word, the Bible. Most of our nation’s forefathers had at least a nominal knowledge of the Scriptures. Most of our forefathers were not New Testament Christians, but most had a high respect for the Bible, and they often quoted the Scriptures to explain their civil, as well as religious, convictions. Our nation is spiritually suffering as a result of several U.S. Supreme Court decisions, not the least of which are the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, legalizing abortion, and the more recent legalization of so-called “same sex marriage.” If there were ever a misnomer for marriage, “same sex” is it. “Same sex marriage” is not biblical marriage; it is biblical fornication—period. There will be no fornicators in heaven. Fornication is a work of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21).

Today evolution is taught in our public schools as a fact, not as a theory. Biblical creation is flatly denied by our school teachers and anyone who believes the biblical account of creation may be mocked. When we watch the National Geographic channel and a group of apes are being observed, it’s not at all uncommon to hear someone refer to these apes as “our nearest relatives.” Behind such an observation is the theory of evolution. One cannot believe Jesus and believe the theory of evolution. Jesus endorsed the Genesis account of man’s creation when he said, “have ye not read that he which made them at the beginning, made the male and female” (Matt. 19:4). Man has not evolved; rather, he was made by his Creator. The theory of evolution leads to many problems for society. If man is just an improved ape, then he will care nothing about spiritual matters. Is it any wonder why most people live as they do? When our boys and girls are taught the theory of evolution, we are sowing to the wind and, like Israel of old, we shall reap the whirlwind (cf. Hos. 8:7).

Our nation’s root problem can only be solved by a return to respect for God and His Bible. Today all accountable persons are amenable to the gospel of Christ. The gospel is God’s only power to save man from his sins (Rom. 1:16). To be saved we must throw off the moral degradation which has engulfed us. We must humbly submit our wills to the New Testament of Jesus Christ. There is no other alternative. If we continue on our downward slide into immorality in any form, we will one day reap what we have sown (cf. Gal. 6:7-8). Think about it.

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Climate Change

Christians and the climate

By Weylan Deaver

Cries of alarm go out about the future of Earth, along with accusations that people are destroying it and must take immediate, drastic measures or else face ruin.

It used to be conventional wisdom that the climate was cooling, then it came to be thought the climate was warming. Now, it seems enough for proponents of doom to simply say the climate is changing, and, whichever the direction, it is our fault. “Manmade climate change” has become a sacred tenet of political and cultural progressives that is used to scare, intimidate, tax, regulate, and even obliterate certain freedoms to grow government in the name of saving us all…

[This was first published at BrotherhoodNews.com. Read the rest of the article here.]

Posted in Christianity and Culture, Church and State, Gender

Battle for the sexes: American women in combat

By Weylan Deaver

In Dec., 2015, the United States Secretary of Defense declared all military combat roles open to women. That proclamation led quickly to the question of whether women should have to register for the draft with Selective Service, as men are required to do. After all, if women can fight in uniform wherever men fight, however men fight, as well as men fight, then why should the country require one sex to register for potential combat roles, while exempting the other?

The question makes perfect sense if you have a godless worldview. Secularists are not the target of this piece, since no appeal to Scripture will convince those who already despise Scripture. But there are still many in America who claim respect for the Bible. A Christian worldview has always maintained a distinction between the sexes by appeal to biology (the way God created men and women) and the Bible (what God wrote about men and women).

[Read the rest of the article here.]

Posted in Christianity and Culture, World Religions

Impressions from the Koran

Having read the Koran in its entirety (A. J. Arberry’s translation), I have various impressions of it. Some might accuse me of lacking objectivity, to which I would reply that everyone has a worldview which he brings to any subject. It is possible, by the evidence, to be persuaded out of a given worldview and into another. But, everyone brings his current beliefs to the table. So, I don’t claim “objectivity” in the sense of not already having my own conclusion. That would be akin to someone telling you, “Here’s a new math theory to consider, but first you’ve got to stop knowing that 2+2=4.” One cannot just “stop knowing” that 2+2=4, anymore than I can “stop knowing” that God wrote the Bible. Having completed my trip through the Koran, nothing in it came close to convincing me that Mohammad was inspired, or that I should abandon the Bible. What follows are a few scattered thoughts, though so much more could be said.

Beware the lone prophet. Mohammad lived c. 570-632 A.D. and the Koran was supposedly revealed to him by the angel Gabriel. Thus the content of an entire religion is filtered through one human being. In stark contrast, the Bible was penned over 1,500 years by about forty different writers—separated by time, education, ethnicity—who, nevertheless, composed a thematically cohesive book like no other. The last book in the Bible was written 500 years before the Koran. Mohammad was clearly influenced—directly or indirectly—by the Bible. There would be no Koran had the Bible not been here first, for Mohammad spends a lot of time talking about biblical characters, rewriting biblical accounts (e.g. Abraham was a Muslim), and criticizing Bible believers. At times, Mohammad introduces things without context or explanation, expecting the reader to know what he’s talking about, when the answer has to be sought somewhere outside the Koran.

The Koran is repetitive in the extreme. Not that repetition is bad, but read it yourself and you will soon see. Omitting the duplicate stories and phraseology, the book might immediately shrink by half. Or more. Were it a novel, the Koran would surely have few readers. Its content, style, and language plod on in a tautologous circle. The very last page contains a warning about evil women “who blow on knots.” I realize the suras (i.e. chapters) are arranged by length, not chronology, but, still, the whole thing winds down in a very anti-climactic “more of the same”—certainly nothing to compare with the moving, encouraging invitation in the Bible’s final chapter.

The Bible has convinced minds for millennia, on the persuasiveness of its evidence. While there are adults who voluntarily convert to Islam, the religion’s success is tied to pounding (not persuading) the Koran into children from earliest days. Read the New Testament and the Koran’s inferiority is painfully evident by any measure of comparison. There are unbelievers who read the Bible and even write commentaries on it. Even some unbelievers appreciate the moral influence the Bible has exerted in history. Were the Koran not drummed into their heads from childhood, it would not be convincing multitudes to convert on the merit of its message. In point of fact, it just might be the loneliest book on the library shelf. The late, former atheist philosopher, Antony Flew, decided at the end of his life that God exists, but he was not ready to embrace the gospel. However, in his book, There Is a God, Flew noted, “…I think that the Christian religion is the one religion that most clearly deserves to be honored and respected whether or not its claim to be a divine revelation is true. There is nothing like the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first-class intellectual like St. Paul…If you’re wanting Omnipotence to set up a religion, this is the one to beat” (p. 185f.).

Maybe it’s me, but the Koran comes across as paranoid. Over and over it says “they cried lies.” The “they” who “cried lies” are those who reject Islam. Imagine someone who wants to rule other people by convincing them it is God’s will, but his case is so unconvincing. What to do? He can call names, threaten, intimidate, terrorize. It is incredible how much of the Koran is devoted to people who reject the Koran, as though Mohammad could not deal with opposers who called his work lies and fairy tales. He brings them up ad nauseam. “They cried lies,” and Mohammad cannot stand them for it.

Whatever the page, you are never far from a line in the Koran about unbelievers, chastisement, an evil homecoming, or being roasted in the fire, even having to drink “oozing pus.” Sura 56 warns, “Then you erring ones, you that cried lies, you shall eat of a tree called Zakkoum, and you shall fill therewith your bellies and drink on top of that boiling water lapping it down like thirsty camels.” There is an unmistakable fixation on punishment that permeates the Koran. The gospel of Christ stresses holiness and the struggle against sin, whereas the Koran hammers on the conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims, and how Allah is going to get all those who “cried lies.” Over and over the Koran criticizes Jews and Christians as unfit for friends on earth, and losers in eternity. Take out its constant criticism of non-Muslims, and its unending talk of their roasting in hell, and what is left? The Bible has warnings about hell, but it is all about avoiding the place. The Koran, on the other hand, seems to relish the fate awaiting unbelievers, and cannot emphasize it enough.

The Bible’s is a soaring story of redemption, inspiring with God’s own sacrifice for humanity’s sins. There is nothing remotely akin to it in the Koran. Islam is missing a Savior. It speaks much of sin, and says that God is forgiving, but offers no basis of forgiveness—there is no sacrifice to wash away sin. Christianity has the cross because that was the unavoidable price required, the only thing that could deal with sin. Islam makes salvation cheap. Say the prayers. Give the alms. Obey the Prophet. Paradise awaits. Islam fails utterly to provide a mechanism by which a holy God can save sinners. Only by the blood of Christ can it be done.

But what Islam lacks in a Savior it makes up in severity. The New Testament teaches Christians, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:4, ESV) and “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12), and “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). It is a far cry from Mohammad’s instruction to slay people. As one of a multitude of examples from the Koran, consider: “This is the recompense of those who fight against God and His Messenger…they shall be slaughtered, or crucified, or their hands and feet shall alternately be struck off, or they shall be banished from the land. That is a degradation for them in this world; and in the world to come awaits them a mighty chastisement…” (from Sura V). “Muhammad is the Messenger of God, and those who are with him are hard against the unbelievers, merciful one to another” (from sura XLVIII). Search the Koran in vain for anything resembling Jesus’ lofty ethic in the Sermon on the Mount. Islam, as portrayed in its founding document, is a violent religion. Anyone who says Islam is inherently peaceful is either ignorant or lying. The violent, so-called “extremists” have not hijacked Islam. They are the true believers, taking their cue from the Koran itself. Islam offers a theocracy completely incompatible with the American Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Concerning the sexes, it was the gospel of Christ, more than anything in history, that elevated women. “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), and “there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). In contrast, the Koran advises, “…marry such women as seem good to you, two, three, four” (sura IV). Likewise, Mohammad says “Men are the managers of the affairs of women…And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them” (sura IV). Thus, Mohammad condones domestic violence, at least in cases where a husband thinks his wife has a bad attitude.

The Bible and the Koran have vastly differing concepts of the next life. According to Jesus, “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Matthew 22:30). The Bible says there are no sexual relationships in heaven. The Koran, on the other hand, describes Paradise as a place of sensual pleasure, full of “maidens…untouched…by any man” (sura LV) and “spotless virgins, chastely amorous” (sura LVI). Per Mohammad, “Surely for the godfearing awaits a place of security, gardens and vineyards and maidens with swelling breasts, like of age, and a cup overflowing” (sura LXXVIII).

Nothing in the Koran is worse than its denial of Jesus’ deity, which it does over and over. For example, “They are unbelievers who say, ‘God is the Messiah, Mary’s son’” and “The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger” (sura V). Muslims say Jesus existed, but that he was not God’s Son and he did not die on the cross: “for their saying, ‘We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God’—yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him…” (sura IV).

This is a tiny handful of examples, and much could be said regarding the traits of inspiration in the Bible, and their absence in the Koran. The ethic of Christ and the ethic of Mohammad are light years apart. Remember, the New Testament and church of Christ had been on earth nearly 600 years before the Koran was written. Islam is a late comer on the scene. It offers nothing good except what it borrows from the gospel (which is always better stated in the New Testament), which it mixes, unashamedly, with a host of gospel-denying verses.

Islam’s threat to Christianity comes, not from any theological superiority, but from its oft-exercised powers of intimidation, threat, coercion, and violence. Those who still live in a culture not dominated by Muslim oppression should recognize the threat and refuse to buckle. Silencing ourselves for fear of reprisal means we are already losing to its influence, and being victimized by the very definition of “terrorism.”