In the last blog post we covered the major difference between Christianity and Islam with regard to God’s nature and character. In this week’s blog post, we pick up the remaining two major differences between Christianity and Islam: the identity and deity of Jesus Christ, and soteriology (the study of salvation).
Identity and Deity of Jesus Christ. To the Muslim, Jesus is merely one of the many prophets of Allah (Sura 4:171; 5:74). According to Islam, the prophet Muhammad supersedes Jesus Christ. Yet, according to the Qur’an, Jesus did miracles (Sura 3:49; 5:110) but Muhammad did not (Sura 13:8; 6:37; 6:109; 17:59; 17:90-93). Jesus was sinless (Sura 3:46), but Muhammad sinned and needed forgiveness (Sura 40:55; 42:5; 47:19; 48:2). Jesus was called “the Messiah” and was even born of a virgin (Sura 3:45-57), yet remarkably He is not the Son of God or a part of the Trinity (Sura 5:17; 5:116, 19:35)! Most Muslims believe that Jesus Christ was taken bodily into heaven without having died (Sura 4:157), yet Sura 199:33 says He died and would be resurrected. (1) With all of this inconsistency in the Qur’an, it is comforting to know that the Bible delivers the same message. The Reformation Christian Fellowship Statement of Faith presents Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, being fully divine who became man without ceasing to be God. The divine and human natures of Jesus Christ are distinct but united in one person. Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He was tempted as we are but lived a sinless life. Jesus was crucified for our sin, buried, and raised from the dead. He ascended to the Father and now rules over all and makes intercession to the Father for his people. Jesus is the head of the body, the church, and He will return in glory to judge the living and the dead and usher in the final glorious state. For Biblical references, see the RCF Full Statement of Faith.
Soteriology. The Qur’an teaches that all have sinned: “If God were to take mankind to task for their wrongdoing, he would not leave here one living creature” (Sura 16:61a) and “ask forgiveness of thy sin” (42:5), and were created weak (Sura 4:28). While the LORD is a God of grace and mercy, every Muslim who hopes to escape the judgement of Allah must fulfill the works of the Five Pillars of the Faith (Sura 10:109):
1. Recitation of the Shahada (“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah”);
2. Five daily prescribed prayers in Arabic, which include genuflection and prostration in the direction of the holy city, Mecca;
3. Almsgiving, which Muslims are required to give 1/40th of their income;
4. Fasting during the entire month of Ramadan, when Muslims are supposed to fast from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset in atonement for their own sins for the previous year;
5. A pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in a Muslim’s lifetime. (2)
Holy War (gihad) used to be a condition of faith, and early Muslims believed it was their sacred duty to murder anyone who would not embrace the one true faith. Contemporary Islam is much more moderate, although some groups talk of restoring gihad as one of the essentials of Islamic faith. (3)
Thankfully, the Bible consistently presents that before the creation of the world in eternity past, The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit covenanted to accomplish salvation. This covenant is called the Covenant of Redemption. Salvation, which is sovereignly administered by God, is being rescued from God’s wrath and being given eternal life in Christ. The Father from all eternity chose people for eternal life. This choice was not due to any foreseen faith or merit in the chosen (elect), but only due to his mercy and good pleasure. The Father gave the elect to the Son, who accomplished redemption on their behalf. The Holy Spirit applies this redemption to the elect by regenerating unbelievers and sealing them for eternity guaranteeing their complete salvation. All who are foreknown by the Father are chosen, called, justified, and glorified. All aspects of salvation, including our faith in Christ, are gifts from God so that he receives all the glory. For Biblical references, see the RCF Full Statement of Faith.
So what’s in a name? When it comes to the one true God, it makes all the difference in the universe. To the LORD be all glory!
(1) Walter Ralston Martin, with Hank Hanegraaff, The Kingdom of the Cults (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1997), Appendix D, 622-623
(3) Thomas W. Lippman, Understanding Islam: An Introduction to the Muslim World (New York: Mentor Books, 1990), 112-120