Kneel and Find Peace! So Says Loki; So Says Allah.


Last week during some down time I was watching a re-run of “The Avengers” on TV (I’m a sucker for action flicks, especially if they have some sci-fi or ancient mythology attached to them!), when for the first time I saw clearly the deep parallel between Loki, the evil demi-god of Asgaard, and Allah, the god of Islam on the particular themes of power, submission and peace.

I’ll let Loki speak for himself, as he introduces himself to a small group of human beings:

Later on in the movie, Loki seeks to assert his self-proclaimed “lordship” over human beings, requiring that they kneel before him as a sign of their “rightful submission” to his authority.  “It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation….You were made to be ruled.”

If the god of Islam were to appear in physical form and address the human race, it’s not hard to imagine that his words might mimic those of Loki. After all, Islam teaches that human beings were created by Allah to be his obedient slaves, and that their felicity ultimately depends on whether Allah considers them to have been good enough slaves or not.

Islam is committed to a future where the will of Allah, as embodied in the legal system of Shari’a, is enshrined as the unifying absolute rule over every human being in this world. In such a scenario, all humanity will have submitted to Allah, reflecting fully the cause for which the religion was named: the Arabic word “Islam” means “submission” in English.

And, as Loki says in the opening clip, “I come with glad tidings, of a world made free….Free from freedom. Freedom is life’s great lie. Once you accept that, in your heart, then you will know peace.”

This is key to understanding what orthodox Muslims mean when they say that “Islam is the religion of peace.” Peace will reign on earth when Islam has conquered all people and yearnings for anything other than submission to Shari’a. You will know peace when you are compliant, when you give up any pretense to freedom and conform your life and dreams to the dictates of Allah.

How different from the message of the gospel, where Jesus says, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free….So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36). Paul reiterates this same theme in Galatians 5:1 —

“It is for freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Of course, the worldview of Loki applies not solely to Islam, but to every kind of totalitarian movement. Most of those contemporary movements, however, do not overtly seek a theological justification; they rely on the dictatorial intent of power-hungry mortals who are not quite mad enough to declare themselves “gods”.

Loki’s madness, however, knows no bounds. Neither does Allah’s.

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Worldly Wisdom from Islam: “Be the Predator, Not the Prey!”

Dr. Shadee Elmasry is no intellectual slouch. elmasryHaving received a Ph.D. from the University of London in Near East Languages and Cultures, he now (since 2012) serves as Scholar in Residence and Director of Religious Education at the New Brunswick Islamic Center and Safina Society, located in New Jersey.

In an article published yesterday on the Muslim Matters website, entitled “14 TOPICS ALL ISLAMIC SCHOOLS SHOULD ADDRESS DURING HIGH SCHOOL,” Elmasry notes with concern how easy it is for Muslims to lose their faith amidst the challenges of higher education:

“…thousands of American Muslims and  millions world-wide lose their iman [faith] in college. Islamic schooling is truly effective if it’s [sic] seniors graduate armed with deep and nuanced understandings of the challenges to come.”

His solution to this problem is that Islamic high schools need to prepare Muslim students appropriately to be able to defend the worldview of Islam against the onslaught of secular teaching they will receive in the years ahead. So, in a helpful way, he lists fourteen subjects that Muslim teachers must make sure to cover adequately by the end of a student’s junior year.

To be fair, this concern for preparing the minds of the young before they head off to college is not limited to the Islamic community. Christians and believers of other faiths as well seek to inoculate their youth as a defense against the drumbeat of secularism they will face in academia. Elmasry’s list does not concern me. What does concern me is Elmasry’s attitude of militant supremacism (and here I don’t mean to imply an urging toward armed conquest but rather the approach to defeating and taking others hostage intellectually).

In his final paragraph, Elmasry declares:

Our seniors should enter into college with an agenda of their own…. We need to be the subjects of history not the objects. Instead of being the naive targets of someone else’s agenda, we need to have our own thought and our own agenda.

While the use of “agendas” and “targets” may be a bit concerning, Elmasry’s point makes sense — in a world of intellectual sparring, everyone has an agenda, and young minds in particular are often “targets” of experts from other worldviews. It is prudent for youth to be prepared in advance, to be able to defend their beliefs in the face of attack.

But Elmasry doesn’t stop there. The Muslim agenda, in his mind, moves from defensive to offensive with the next (and last) line of his article: Be the predator, not the prey. predator and preyThis metaphor, in my opinion, is unfortunate, but it reveals the deeper mindset of Islam, that of ruthless conquest.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul used the imagery of the predator and prey, but only to warn Christians against those who would make “…a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition” (Col. 2:8). Christians are to be prepared to defend their beliefs and practices, but never called to become predators seeking to capture and destroy others. Even in his most aggressive statement concerning the battle of beliefs in 2 Cor. 10:5, Paul speaks of what happens in the mind of the believer, not what Christians are to seek to do to the minds of others: “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ….” That is, we fight against everything within our minds and hearts which brings distance between us and God, and we seek to conquer our own thoughts which would lead us to disobedience against Christ.

roaring lion.jpgThe most well-known reference to a predator in the New Testament is that found in 1 Peter 5:8, and it is not meant to be imitated: “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour.”  

The Christian approach to changing someone’s mind about reality is not predatory aggression but gentle invitation. When challenged or attacked, we are to give a thoughtful, reasoned response for why we believe and act as followers of Christ, and in turn, never to retaliate with aggression or predatory intent. Again, Peter writes:

Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence;  and keep your conscience clear, so that, when you are abused, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.  (1 Peter 3:15-16).

While Christians would agree with Elmasry that no one should become the prey of another, no disciple of Jesus Christ could ever embrace the command, “Be the predator.” Jesus himself never engaged in such a lifestyle, but instead in obedience to the will of his Father endured the predation of the evil one so that humanity could be rescued from sin and death:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. (Is. 53:7)

lamb.jpgThat this passage is a prophecy concerning Jesus is confirmed in Acts 8 when Philip is sent by the Holy Spirit to converse with an Ethiopian eunuch  who is reading this exact text without understanding to whom it refers. Philip speaks to him of Jesus, and the eunuch joyfully surrenders his life to Christ.

Jesus never commanded his followers to prey on others, and he never modeled such behavior himself. Muhammad, on the other hand, perfectly embodies Elmasry’s imperative, “Be the predator, not the prey.” According to the Qur’an, Allah commands Muhammad and his followers:

“Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease (from disbelief) their past will be forgiven… And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world ].”  (Sura 8:38-39)

And again in 9:5, Allah declares:

“But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them….”

In other words, make them your prey until they surrender and become Muslims. Then stop targeting them.

khomeini-quote.jpgAccording to a universally accepted report (Hadith) among Muslims, Muhammad swore:

“I have been ordered (by Allah) to fight against the people until they testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that Muhammad is Allah’s Apostle, and offer the prayers perfectly and give the obligatory charity, so if they perform that, then they save their lives and property from me except for Islamic laws and then their reckoning (accounts) will be done by Allah.” (Bukhari, 1.2.25)

Likewise, in another well-attested Hadith, Muhammad boasted,

“…I have been made victorious with terror (cast in the hearts of the enemy)…” (Bukhari, 4.52.220).

Since, according to Islam, Muhammad is the perfect role model for all believers to emulate, it is not surprising to discover among its most serious practitioners a mindset tinged with the attitude that all the world is “prey” for the Muslim community to pursue until either it surrenders to Islam or is consumed for the advantage of the predators. In fact, this is the will of Allah, who facilitates the advance of Islam by casting terror into the hearts of those who oppose him….

“He who has ears, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.”


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“Balanced, Robust, Wide-Awake”

I came across this phrase today, and thought, “What a wonderful way to describe Christians who wish to share the gospel with Muslims!”

How we need balance when interacting with the Muslim world! Many Christians are filled with fear or hate, lumping together all Muslims as terrorists or fanatics out to conquer the world. Others treat them as sub-human, worthy only of disdain and rejection, or cold apathy. Yet as followers of Jesus, we know that all human beings (whatever their backgrounds, beliefs or practices) are created in the image of God, and that we are called to love them in ways that draw them towards true life, which is found in Jesus. We must not be swayed by fear or anger, whether based on caricatures or realistic assessments, but must act according to the command of the Lord of love. It may demand courage on our part to step out in faith to befriend a Muslim, but God is able and willing to supply what we need. balance.jpgBalance demands that we weigh the abundant resources of the Holy Spirit over against the potential challenges presented by the mysterious Muslim before us. Love refuses to be cowed by fear, derailed by anger, or suffocated by apathy.

A robust outlook, characterized by living faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, is a tremendous asset for those seeking to bring the good news to Muslim hearts. Such an outlook grows naturally as we remember the One who has conquered sin and death, the One who reminds his disciples that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to him and that he promises he will be with his disciples in their mission till the end of the age (Mt. 28:19-20). robust.jpgTo walk in such knowledge is to live robustly, and to live robustly is to make a lasting impact on those around us who are hungry to know Him who is the Way, the Truth and Life. This includes Muslims, who are just as hungry as anyone else to connect with the Source of all blessing.

Third, those wishing to share the good news with Muslims must be “wide-awake.” We must be aware of the mindset that Islam engenders in its adherents. We must know the standard misconceptions that Muslims have been taught about the Christian faith, and how to help them correct those errors. We must be alert to their “felt needs” so as to share the gospel appropriately to best engage their interest. We must remember that most Muslims will claim that Islam is superior to anything else, including what we have to share, and that they may be thinking of how they can bring us into Islam even as we are wanting to introduce them to Christ. peanuts - wide awake.jpgTo be wide-awake is to remain conscious of the fact that only the Spirit of God can convict and change hearts, that our best efforts of love and persuasion will fall flat unless the Holy Spirit opens the mind and heart of our Muslim friend. Being “wide-awake” in all these ways improves our effectiveness as witnesses to the person and claims of Jesus Christ.

Balanced. Robust. Wide-awake. What a great description of those wanting to share the gospel with others! I saw these three adjectives this morning on a sign at Panera Breads, and acknowledge them with gratitude.panera.jpg Just think, if these three descriptors can make their dark roast so tasty, how much more can they enhance the attractiveness of those who herald the indomitable love of God in Christ Jesus!


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The Secularist Diagnosis: Jihadis Are Not Muslim But Mental!

In much the same way that extroverts cannot make sense of the thoughts and motivations of introverts (and vice-versa), secularists have a difficult time accepting that religious people can actually act on the basis of religious beliefs and motivations.

Nowhere is this more evident than when the political, media and law-enforcement worlds, firmly in the grip of secularist thinking, are faced with the reality of a jihadi terrorist attack.incomprehensible.jpg Finding it impossible to believe that the terrorist could truly be motivated by his Islamic convictions, they search high and low for some “more logical” assessment: the perpetrator was moved by poverty, or by anger over Western imperialism, or by social injustice, and so on. But certainly, the motivation could not come from actual religious convictions, because no sane person actually has such strong religious convictions (at least not among the average reporter or politician).

Perhaps the most popular diagnosis offered by official, secular, Western mouthpieces for jihadi atrocities is mental illness. This stems not from any deep psychological assessments by professionals but rather from the inability of secular observers to believe that any human being could hold a set of religious beliefs which would permit the slaughter, maiming, rape or enslavement of another human being.

Thus, it doesn’t really matter what the perpetrator says about his/her motivations, because that can’t be the true reason. If those calling the shots can’t pin the “real” motivation on poverty or some social injustice, they pull out the mental illness card, and in the process show their ignorance of the power of religion (in this case Islam) to inspire behavior.

Consider just a few of many news reports over the last decade:

  • In 2009, Major Nidal Hasan, himself a psychiatrist, shoots and kills 13 and wounds 30 more at Ft. Hood, while shouting Allahu akbar (Allah is greater). nidal.jpgDespite his prior interaction with a radical cleric and his official work seeking to justify the Islamic concept of jihad to his fellow Army mental health professionals, his rampage is officially labeled “workplace violence” and his mental health is questioned (“deeply troubling, schizoid behavior”).
  • In September, 2014, a young Muslim woman in Colorado was pled guilty to conspiring to assist ISIS. Judge Raymond Moore repeatedly asked her if she understood both the charge and what a guilty plea would mean. In spite of her affirmative responses, the judge delayed sentencing and ordered psychiatric testing, saying about her mental state, “I desire more information.”
  • In October, 2014, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a 32-year-old, Canadian Muslim who recently had a religious awakening, ottawa-shooterattacked Parliament Hill in Ottawa, killing a defenseless soldier before being stopped by Parliament Police when he stormed the building. Being dead, he could not supply his own motivation. Authorities, however, were quick to conclude that he had recently become “mentally unstable,” and fit the profile of men who are “isolated, disturbed and deeply troubled….”
  • In January, 2016, Edward Archer ambushed and wounded Officer Jesse Hartnett in the City of Brotherly Love as the policeman was driving his squad car. Edward-Archer-MugshotAfter being apprehended, Archer told detectives, “I follow Allah. I pledge my allegiance to the Islamic state. That is why I did what I did.” Despite this, during a press briefing Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney declared that whatever the motivation of the shooter, it had “nothing to do” with Islam. Archer’s mother, Valerie Holliday, acknowledged in a phone interview that her son was a devout Muslim who had been practicing the faith “for a long time,” but also believed he was recently suffering from some form of mental illness, hearing voices in his head.
  • On Nov. 28, 2016, Abdul Razak Ali Artan rammed his speeding car into a crowd of students on the Ohio State Columbus campus, then exited the stopped car wielding a butcher knife so as to stab more victims, but he was shot dead by a police officer before he could do further significant damage. artanJust prior to his act of terrorism, he had posted a rant on his Facebook page referring to “lone wolf attacks,” radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, and declaring that he had reached a “boiling point.” “America! Stop interfering with other countries, especially Muslim Ummah [community]. We are not weak. We are not weak, remember that,” he warned. Later at a press briefing, a senior law enforcement official remarked that investigators were trying to determine whether Artan had personal problems or something else that might have pushed him over the edge.

Let me skip over scores of other similar stories to the most recent one to grab my attention and illustrate this point: on July 28, 2017 a Palestinian Muslim (known publicly only as Ahmad A.) seeking asylum in Germany entered a market and engaged in a stabbing spree, killing one and wounding six others while yelling Allahu akbar. Though he confessed to terrorism, German authorities were hesitant to believe him, saying instead that he suffered from mental illness. This, in spite of the facts that a friend acknowledged that Ahmad had become significantly radicalized in the past month, and that investigators discovered a homemade ISIS flag in his apartment, and that he was already known to authorities as a Muslim radical. According to Hamburg’s Interior Minister Andy Grote, Ahmad A. “was known as an Islamist but not a jihadist,” whatever that means – apparently you’re not a jihadist until you’ve already spilled the blood of innocents.

In a sadly fascinating display of bureaucratic incompetence, Ahmad’s asylum application had been rejected prior to the attack, but German authorities couldn’t deport him because he had come to Germany in 2015 without any identification papers, and he had “mental health problems.” Not knowing what to do with him, they did nothing.

Yesterday, Ahmad A. stood trial for his crimes. ahmad-a-.jpgContrary to early police reports of mental illness, the defendant corroborated his initial confession to authorities, “Yes, I am a terrorist.” He asserted that his Muslim faith led him to want to kill as many Christians as possible. Ahmad’s lawyer read a letter in which the defendant pled guilty to all charges, and then went on to say his client believes that the deeds done were motivated by his religion. “He made this decision as a contribution to the global jihad,” the attorney summarized.

No verdict has yet been rendered. It will be interesting to see whether the court sees Ahmad A. as sane and takes him at his word that Islam led him to his jihadi terrorism, or whether, following the secularist narrative, he must be insane and so needs treatment for his psychological condition rather than punishment for his crimes.

As we continue to see, secular thinking has no native category in which to place religious motivations (of any sort), except perhaps that of mythology, and of course mythology cannot really inspire people to drastic actions. When a religious person commits heinous acts and attributes it to his/her religious beliefs, a secularist naturally concludes that the perpetrator must be mentally imbalanced or insane, because no sane person (as defined by a secular outlook) could be deeply motivated by religious beliefs.

Those who deeply believe in God know differently of course, but what self-respecting secularist is going to accept lessons on sanity from a religious person? In their minds, that would be like an iPhone user going to a Morse code operator seeking help. The motivations of believing Muslim jihadis will continue to stump the irreligious Western world.

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Can Islam Be Defeated?

Two of the questions I am most often asked are, “Why does Islam seem so attractive to converts?” and “Can Islam be defeated?” Not surprisingly, these two questions are interrelated.

There are many elements to Islam that attract Western converts today, including its seeming clarity on right/wrong, its unwavering commitment to monotheism and its appeal to anti-Jewish and anti-Christian sentiments in our post-Christian culture. But I believe there is an even greater appeal to the heart of fallen human nature.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul speaks of the fallen human heart as the life of the “flesh.” This stands in opposition to “life in the Spirit,” the new nature born in the human heart upon conversion to Christ, when the Spirit of God takes up residence within a person’s spirit and begins transforming him/her into the likeness of Jesus Christ, a lifelong process theologians refer to as “sanctification.”

Islam knows no such process, because it does not believe that human nature is fallen or inherently flawed by a sinful bent, but teaches instead that humans tend to be forgetful and just need regular reminders that their rightful role in life is submission as slaves to Allah. As such, Islam has no equivalent to Paul’s teaching that believers are to “put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col. 3:5; see also Rom. 8:13), but rather proposes that our natural earthly desires are to be harnessed in service to a very “fleshly” Allah.

Islam is such a powerful movement because it is the perfect religion appealing to the flesh. Our fallen hearts naturally lust after the fulfillment of certain basic cravings. Chief among these are three: ego (hubris); power; pleasure. In our natural state, we want to favorably compare ourselves to others, to show that we are better than those around us; we want power to be able to shape the world for our benefit or according to our whims and appetites; we want to enjoy a variety of pleasures the world affords and avoid its pains. Islam caters to these cravings.

As to hubris, the Qur’an teaches Muslims that they are “the best of all peoples ever raised up for mankind” (3:110), and that by contrast the rest of the world (all those who reject Islam, including Christians, Jews, pagans, etc.) are “the worst of all creatures” in Allah’s sight (98:6).  This theme woven throughout the Qur’an has produced the supremacist attitude so apparent in Islamic thought down through the centuries, an attitude central to its drive to conquer the world so as to justify the belief that Islam is better than any alternative and that Muslims are better than all non-Muslims.

As to power, Islam preaches a god of absolute might and sovereignty who routinely resorts to force when his creatures refuse to willingly comply with his will. The cry of Muslim armies, Muslim terrorists, and Muslim protagonists all over the world, Allahu akbar, does not mean “God is great,” as so many mistranslate it, but rather “God is greater!” It is not merely a metaphysical claim about a certain god, but rather an in-your-face challenge to all who follow someone or something other than the god of Islam. “Our Allah is greater than whatever you cherish and value most highly, and we wipe your idols off the throne of your lives and replace them with Allah, if you don’t voluntarily submit to Islam.” The Qur’an calls Muslims to “kill and be killed” for the cause of Allah (9:111), and Allah promises his warriors supernatural aid (angels will fight alongside them and strengthen them) so that twenty jihadis will defeat two hundred infidels, and a hundred will defeat a thousand (8:65). According to Islam, the true prophets have always fought and killed for the advancement of Allah’s kingdom. In Sura 8:67, Muhammad declares (as Allah’s mouthpiece), “It is not for a prophet to have captives [of war] until he inflicts a massacre [upon Allah ‘s enemies] in the land.” Allah harnesses the fallen human heart’s penchant for powers over others by giving them free rein to slaughter all who will not bow before their demand to submit to Allah. Such violent compulsion is not a sin when it is used in Allah’s cause.

Lastly, with regard to pleasure, Islam gives Muslim men (who are the masters of their women and children, and therefore have no say in the matter) the booty they collect from their wars against unbelievers, both in terms of material goods and those they have captured as slaves. Slaves could be sold off for financial gain or kept for service. Conquered females could be turned into sex slaves, whether married or virgin. These were part and parcel of the “benefits” Allah granted his faithful jihadis. But of course the greatest pleasures he promised his devotees was that if they were faithful enough to him on earth, he would grant them entrance to an eternal paradise at the Day of Judgment. And what characterizes this Paradise? All the earthly pleasures a fallen heart could ever desire: gardens filled with an unlimited variety of fruit-bearing trees, watered by streams of clear water, wholesome milk, pure honey and robust wine flowing between shaded banks covered with soft mossy rises; an abundance of foods considered rare delicacies in the desert reaches of Arabia; boys available as servants to do the Muslim master’s bidding, whatever that might be; houris (young, beautiful, buxom virgins created by Allah for the dwellers of Paradise, women panting with desire for their respective masters and available at a moment’s notice for sexual coupling, after which they miraculously return to their virginal state (Muslim commentators differ on the minimum number of houris assigned to each Muslim man in Paradise, from dozens to thousands), and if you think that this sexual gymnasium might become tiresome, there are commentators quick to assure readers that in Paradise Muslim men will be capable of ceaseless erections. Allah, of course, is not present, because in his loftiness he cannot condescend to hobnob with his rutting subjects, but he has provided them this erotic elysium as a reward for their unflagging service on earth.

Why does Islam appeal to so many in the West today? Because it gives divine approval to the pursuit of our sinful passions, making them virtuous: it encourages hubris by stroking the egos of Muslims, declaring them the best of humans in Allah’s eyes; it commands them to wield the sword and enjoy their divinely-bestowed power by lording their authority over non-Muslims, demanding that infidels serve them and accept an inferior status before their Muslim overlords; and it promises them unlimited fulfillment of the appetites of the flesh — what they can’t win for themselves through conquest on earth, Allah will supply in spades in heaven, all to be enjoyed without the least tinge of a wounded conscience.

Islam is the perfect religion of the flesh, even if it does promote the death of its followers. Death is only the gateway to infinite enjoyment of carnal pleasures.

Can such a religion be defeated? The answer, of course is yes. But can Islam be defeated by Western civilization as it now stands. I’m afraid the answer to that is no. The post-Christian West has lost the compelling reason for its existence. We still enjoy many of the fruits of the biblical worldview which inspired the fundamentals of Western thought: the notion that all human beings are created in the image of God and therefore of equal value and dignity, and imbued with certain inalienable rights, things we today call “human rights.” Yet as Western civilization has become increasingly secular in the last two hundred years, we have consciously jettisoned the metaphysical framework on which our freedoms and successes were built, and assumed that the structure would remain standing. We want to enjoy the good practices we have, but can no longer find the deep justifications for why they must exist. We are like the inhabitants of a great tree that is dying, still enjoying the few fruits that remain on its branches, wondering why the tree is so sickly while we are chopping away at the base of the trunk of the tree in the desire to gather wood for our huts in the branches. We have mindlessly cut ourselves off from the life-giving roots of our majestic tree, but continue to pick the diminishing fruits and hope vainly that the tree will somehow regain her strength.

America and Europe have squandered the legacy of a worldview that brought untold blessing to humanity. We have let slip through our fingers the majestic and profound truths upon which the best of human society has been built: that the God of all creation made human beings as the apple of His eye, and stamped our spirits with His image and likeness; that this God is Love Himself, and from Him flow all things good; that He made us for a relationship with Himself and for one another, to know Him intimately live in  love as brothers and sisters; that sin has destroyed this harmony and will only be fully healed by His self-sacrifice to repair the breach caused by human evil; that His incarnation as one of us to bear our sins and draw us to Himself has turned the tide against evil; that we are invited to enjoy the fullness of His redeeming love and to share that with all the world until He returns to bring all things to their appointed end and cleanse His creation once and for all of evil.

This worldview once empowered our forebears and became the foundation of the greatness of Western culture and civilization. But we have gradually walked away from that and replaced it with secular humanism, a notion that there is no God behind this world, that we just exist as human beings with inherent rights granted us by a lifeless, mindless, random universe of matter and energy. We want desperately to believe that we matter, that all human beings matter, that concepts like justice, mercy, kindness, freedom, and love have inherent worth and value, but if in the end we are all just products of random acts of a mindless and uncaring universe, why should anyone care about anyone else, or about “enduring moral principles”? For in the end, everything will blink out of existence in the same way as it randomly came into existence. We may rage against the night for the brief blip of our existence, but soon enough the night wins.

Secular humanism has been hacking away at the trunk of Western civilization for quite a while now. I saw a sad but telling example of this a few months ago in the suburbs of London. Having an afternoon off on a rainy day, I took a hike along the banks of the Thames River till I came upon the town of Teddington in Middlesex. Deciding to follow the pathway into town, I spied a beautiful church rising above the nearby roofs and trees, and determined to spend some time inside. As I walked completely around the perimeter, I could find no main entrance into the sanctuary, only a side entrance into an area called the “Landmark Arts Centre,” where a few people were coming and going. Finally, not seeing any alternative, I walked through that entrance and spoke with a very helpful attendant at the welcome desk. “Isn’t this a church?” I asked. “May I see the sanctuary?”

Former sanctuary of the Church of St. Alban the Martyr

“Oh, no, I’m sorry,” she said. “This hasn’t been a church since the 1990s. It now serves as space for our Landmark Arts Centre, which hosts art displays and social dinners and concerts as part of our effort to support local artists.” I discovered in further conversation and research that the original structure, Church of St. Alban the Martyr was built and dedicated to the glory of God in 1889. Though never formally designated a “cathedral,” it became known informally as “The Cathedral of the Thames Valley.” It is indeed a majestic building, reflecting the religious gratitude of multitudes in constructing such a monument to the grace of God.

However, as British society grew more secular and indifferent to things Christian, St. Alban’s disbanded as a congregation in 1977 (only 90 years after the cornerstone had been laid!) and the building was declared “redundant” (don’t you just love British terminology? — it means “superfluous/no longer needed”). Once a glorious edifice, St. Alban’s deteriorated for some 15 years as a derelict building until locals formed a “robust campaign” to see it restored as an English Heritage site in the 1990s. And so today, the Church of St. Alban the Martyr no longer exists, but has been replaced by the Landmarks Art Centre.

Here’s what the former sanctuary looked like the day I visited in November 2017.

A sad, real-life parable reflecting what has been going on in Western civilization as a whole. The original purpose of the structure has been lost, and now serves a small enterprise that cannot give meaning to that original architectural masterpiece. A cathedral built for the glory of God now fronts as a warehouse to view paintings and sculptures.

Secular humanism cannot breathe meaning and purpose into a civilization built upon a biblical worldview. It can seek to maintain the structure for a while, as it has in America, but sooner or later the grand architecture of rights and blessings we have enjoyed due to the out-working of the gospel will weigh too heavy on the small enterprise of humanism, and post-Christian civilization will collapse upon itself.

So, can Western civilization defeat Islam? Hardly. It is having a hard enough time standing on its own two feet to take on a robust worldview that wishes to knock it over. Certainly, the Western world has enough military power and political resources to restrain the world of Muslim nations and radical jihadi groups, but mere force cannot destroy Islam as an ideology or worldview. Secular humanism is a lightweight against the juggernaut of Islam, which is not just a set of religious beliefs but an all-encompassing worldview, informing all of life for its adherents. What is needed to defeat Islam is exactly what the West has jettisoned — an embrace of the worldview of Christianity.

What is needed to defeat a strong worldview is an even stronger one. What is stronger than a god of hate if not a God of love? What is better than a god who uses and commands brutal force than a God who exhibits and commands self-sacrifice? What is stronger, a god who harnesses the power of temptation to advance his cause, or a God who defeats the power of sin so as to rescue human beings for a higher calling? What is stronger, a god who promises to reward those who kill and are killed in his name, or a God who conquers death by His own death, in order to offer eternal life as a gift to those who come in gratitude? What is a greater worldview: one that commands love for fellow believers and hatred for non-believers, or one that commands love for all neighbors, including enemies?

The religion of Islam will one day crumble into oblivion, because it is built upon a worldly spirituality that opposes the true Kingdom of God as revealed in and through Jesus Christ. It will not be other earthly powers that defeat Islam, whether military, political or religious. Only the Church has the message that sounds the death knell of Islam — but it won’t happen primarily by a frontal attack on its tenets and practices. It will come about by the conversions of massive numbers of Muslims who discover that the message of the gospel shines with light and love and truth which Islam has never been able to match, for all its efforts.

Already, over the last forty years Muslims have been leaving Islam in droves. Many turn first to atheism, thinking that if the “final religion given to man” has proven untenable, then no religion can be true. But thousands upon thousands are being exposed to the gospel for the first time in their lives, and discovering to their irrepressible joy that the Arabian prophet cannot hold a candle to the Son of God.

Can Islam be defeated? Yes, and it will, but only when the Church wakes up once again to her true Love, and lives out her mission with a passion to love and reach the lost, including 1.6 billion Muslims! If the last forty years are indicative of what God holds for the future, the tide is already turning. May it be so, Lord Jesus!

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Tectonic Shifts in Iran!

This new year is pregnant with hope for the people of Iran. As popular discontent grows within the Islamic Republic, many commentators are claiming that the unrest today ranks second only to the failed 2009 Green Movement,Iranian-green-movement when masses protested publicly the rigged national elections that secured a second, disastrous presidential term for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The commentators are wrong. This is bigger than 2009.

The nascent revolution of 2009 was fomented by widely held perceptions that the presidential election was fraudulent, as reflected in the ubiquitously chanted motto, “Where is my vote?”. The driving engine was political, based on displeasure with the government’s handling of the economy, repression of dissidents, and the clownish behavior of its president on the international stage. The fact that the protests began Tehran, the seat of government, supports this analysis.wherevote

But today, things are different. This brewing revolution had its start in Mashhad, one of the two holiest sites in Iran (the other being the city of Qom), before spreading in less than a week to over forty other cities across the country. The initial trigger was economic – in a country with over 12% unemployment, where the average Iranian is 15% poorer than ten years ago, while inflation hovers around 10%, it doesn’t take much to anger people when the cost of eggs and other staples rise 40% overnight. But the economic unease quickly shifted into politics. Why is the government spending scarce resources to underwrite militaristic activities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen when things are so dire at home? (Witness the popular chant, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my soul for Iran!”) Why has government aid been so lacking to survivors of the massive 7.3 earthquake that hit the western region of Kermanshah on November 12th, killing some 630 people – the deadliest temblor of 2017 worldwide? kermanshah earthquakeWhy has the leadership in Tehran been so ineffective in dealing with the longstanding economic malaise of the country? Why is there so much corruption in what is supposed to be the most perfect Islamic government in the world?

It didn’t take long for the protests to morph from economic gripes to political condemnations. Chants of “Death to Rouhani” (the president of Iran) accompanied expressions of exasperation over repressions of basic freedoms – of dress, of speech, of travel, of religion or the lack of it.

The national leadership responded to this at first with the velvet glove approach. The police chief of Tehran declared that women would no longer be arrested for appearing in public without head coverings. President Rouhani acknowledged that the government needed to improve its record on the economy, and that citizens had the “absolute freedom” to protest, as long as they were not a threat to the security of the nation…. The Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Khamenei) sought to absolve the Iranian people of responsibility for this civil strife by declaring it to be the work of “foreign agents” and Sunni insurgents, who are ever eager to destroy the wonderful Islamic Republic of Iran.

But as protests spread to more than one hundred thousand across the country, and the chants of “Down with the Dictator,” “Death to Khamenei,” “We don’t want an Islamic Republic,”death to khamenai “Clerics, shame on you, let go of our country” began to ring out en masse, the charade of foreign incitement could no longer be sustained. The velvet glove came off, exposing an iron fist. Hundreds of anti-government leaders have been arrested, violence is being applied in increasing measure to disperse “illegal gatherings of protesters,” access to social media apps such as Instagram and Telegram (by which protesters spread word of their events) have been (“temporarily”) suspended by the authorities, schools and trains were shut down last Sunday (to prevent large-scale crowds from gathering), the various military and volunteer vigilante organizations have been mobilized for readiness, and government threats have grown in magnitude against all who take part in these protests. While leading clerics and public officials are publicly playing down the significance of this unrest, privately there is evidence that they are terrified of the breadth and depth of the anti-government animus seething among everyday citizens.

What is so different now from the state of affairs in 2009? During the Green Revolution, no one spoke of overthrowing the Islamic Republic, only of demanding honestly elected leaders. The theocratic mullahtocracy was never in serious question, because it was unthinkable that Islam could be the cause of the malady infecting the whole country. Now, however, thirty-eight years after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, people on the street have suffered long enough under the all-pervasive, never-ending demands of religious law, policed by heavy-handed zealots with divine authority. As they weigh the rule of the ayatollahs, they see hopelessness in the eyes of their friends and family. People who can’t flee the country find escape from oppression and dreariness in drugs (estimates indicate up to 40% of the population is addicted to opiates easily accessible from Afghanistan next door). The joylessness and drudgery of Islam (Ayatollah Khomeini once said famously, “There are no jokes in Islam. There is no humor in Islam. There is no fun in Islam. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious.”) has stifled the soul of Iran. Hatred for its international enemies (once Iraq and Israel and the Great Satan, otherwise known in the world as the USA) continues with one changed protagonist (it’s now Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Great Satan). The regime is better known for what it stands against than what it is for. The constant grasping for more power, the rattling of sabers, the promotion of sectarian supremacy – all this leaves many Iranian people declaring, “If this is what Islam leads to (and why would I doubt that since the ayatollahs know Islam the best), I want nothing more to do with Islam.”

I believe that the unrest of today in Iran has much more to do with a spiritual rejection of Islam than with economic hardship or political dissatisfaction. And because of that, what is happening now among the Persian people is of much greater and enduring importance than the Green Movement of 2009. This cry for freedom is a convulsion of the collective soul of Iran.

How can I make such a brash claim?

Less than two months ago, I was part of a group on a “fact-finding” mission to discover what is going on within the explosive house-church movement in Iran, which stands as the fastest growing Christian missions effort (about 20% annually, by conservative estimates) in any country in the world. How could this be happening in a country so dominated by Islamic power? The Iranian house church leadership gave us their estimate that up to 80% of the Iranian people are fed up, not just with the Islamic Republic and its mullahs, but with Islam itself. Perhaps the fastest growing population among former Iranian Muslims is the atheist segment (“If Islam is not the true religion, then no religion can be true”), but the second largest segment is that of the Christian convert (those who are attracted to a God of love, grace and mercy found through Jesus Christ, and who are ready to give up a god of threat and demand and hate for infidels). Former missionaries to Iran (who were expelled by 1980 under Khomeini’s direction) estimated at that time there were perhaps 500 Muslim converts to Christ in all of Iran. Best estimates today (some 37 years later) put that number at around 4 million. Iran_Baptisms.JPGAnd the house church movement keeps expanding like wildfire. With a total population of under 80 million, Iran can’t help but be impacted spiritually by such sweeping changes in the hearts of its people. The Shiite theocracy of Iran is on its last legs, if this spiritual tectonic shift is truly happening.

You won’t hear much about this in mainstream media analysis because the secular media is completely blind to spiritual factors as a force for change in the world. But those who have spent any significant time in a religiously dominated culture will know better, and will understand what I am saying.

The times are pregnant with hope for the Iranian people. What’s happening today is not “the strongest popular protest since the Green Movement of 2009.” It is the strongest cry for freedom and light since the enslavement of Khomeini brought darkness and chains in 1979!

May God prevent the abortion of this burgeoning life in the womb of the people of Persia, defeating the theocratic doctors of death and replacing them with those who publish peace and bring good news, who will nurture the rich Persian culture as it gains its feet once again of the road of freedom and hope. May 2018 be the year of Iran’s new birth!

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Half-Truths: Christmas, Islam and Islamophobia, Courtesy of Haroon Moghul






In Poor Richard’s Almanac, Benjamin Franklin noted wisely, “Half the truth is often a great lie.”

A recent article by Haroon Moghul stands as proof of this maxim. Published online by NBCNews on its “THINK” page, the article is entitled, “Christians don’t have a Christmas monopoly on Jesus. Muslims honor him too.

The author hopes that by pointing out the “many similarities” between Christianity and Islam, particularly on the nativity of Jesus, we can take the wind out of the sails of Islamophobia and make the world a more wonderful place, free of hatred and bigotry from Christians/Westerners against Muslims because after all we share so much in common.

Since this article appeared on NBC’s THINK page, I suppose a little deliberation on his thesis would be in order.

Moghul points out, no doubt accurately, that most Americans don’t know any Muslims and so are vulnerable to swallowing all the negative stereotypes awash in the media. If only we learned “a little bit about the Muslim basics,” then our perception of Islam would swing from “menacing and foreign” to “remarkably familiar.” Hence his attempt to educate the ignorant reader that Christians don’t have a “Christmas monopoly” on Jesus, because Islam also proclaims the Virgin Birth in its Qur’an.

This is true, as far as it goes. Apart from some small errors of fact (Moghul states that in the Qur’an the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is already pregnant, but that is putting the proverbial cart before the horse; further, he remarks that Mary responds not only with confusion, but also with horror and despair, yet we find no evidence for the latter two conditions either in the Qur’an or in the Gospels), Moghul tells the Nativity story from the view of the Qur’an.

Here is where we find points of commonality:

  • An angel (or group of angels – the Qur’an has two different, conflicting accounts) comes to announce to Mary that she will conceive a child miraculously by the power of God, and that this child will have a special role to play in history (though Islam and Christianity fundamentally disagree on that role)
  • Mary wonders how God could accomplish this without the involvement of a man
  • Mary indeed is the name of Jesus’ mother (in the Qur’an Mary is the only woman referred to by name, which indicates a bit of her uniqueness because of Jesus, and a bit of Islam’s disdain for the standing of women generally).
  • Mary gives birth to Jesus (in the Qur’an, Joseph is nowhere to be found – Mary is alone in the wilderness under a palm tree when Jesus is born; the Qur’an gives us no geographical hints about where this all takes place)
  • Mary bears the unjust rebukes of her neighbors for the out-of-wedlock conception and birth of Jesus (implicit in the Gospel accounts, explicit in the Qur’an).

Now let’s look at some of the major differences, found primarily in what the Qur’an omits from the biblical Nativity accounts:

  • The angel of the Lord’s appearance to Joseph reassuring him of the miraculous nature of Mary’s conception and directing him as to the name of the son she will bear is completely absent from the Qur’an. This is no surprise, as the meaning of the name chosen for the Messiah is Jesus, which in its Hebrew form means “Yahweh (the I Am) is salvation,” and the angel underscores the reason for this name: “because he will save his people from their sins
  • The Gospel-writer Matthew, in commenting upon this revelation, connects it with the prophecy found in Isaiah which predicts that a virgin will conceive and bear a son, who will be called Immanuel (Hebrew for “God with us”). Clearly, according to the biblical accounts, God has much bigger plans for Jesus than his being one of a procession of great prophets. It makes sense that Muhammad would leave this out, so that he could hide the divinely given name of Jesus (in Arabic Yasu’a – bearing the same meaning as the Hebrew Yeshua) and replace it with the name for Jesus found in the Qur’an – ‘Isa – which has no salvific significance
  • Likewise, the Qur’an omits the angel Gabriel’s decree to Mary about naming her son Jesus, and that “he will be called Son of the Most High” whose Kingdom will never end (Islam rejects with loathing the idea that Jesus could be the Son of God, and reiterates that he is only a mortal, definitely not an eternal King
  • Conceived by the coming of the Holy Spirit upon Mary and the power of the Most High overshadowing her, Jesus will be called holy, the Son of God. In the Qur’an, Jesus is referred to as “a pure son”, but of course not as the Son of God. In terms of the virginal conception of Jesus, what the Gospels leave as a mystery, the Qur’an explains very graphically – the spirit being standing before Mary (whom most Muslim clerics believe to be the angel Gabriel) breathes into her vaginal opening, as the result of which she conceives (Sura 66:12; this is often masked in English translations, but the Arabic is very clear)
  • The account of a newly-pregnant Mary going to visit her relative Elizabeth, who is herself six months pregnant with a boy who will become known as John the Baptist, is absent from the Qur’an. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Elizabeth, “filled with the Holy Spirit” on that occasion, expressed this remarkable sentiment: “Why is this granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mother of my Lord? That sure sounds like incarnational language, something that would make Muhammad’s head explode – much better to push that truth aside.
  • No angel bearing glad tidings to Bethlehem shepherds is found in the Qur’an, for what would Muhammad do with this good news of great joy that will be for all the people: “to you this day is born in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”, a message punctuated by multitude of angels singing their hearts out in praise to God.
  • Neither Simeon nor Anna get any play in the Qur’an, even though in the Gospel of Luke their sighting of the baby Jesus in the Temple brings their long spiritual vigils to fulfillment. Simeon declares, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace…for my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles (this, of course, would include the Arabs and all future Muslims), and for glory to Your people Israel.” Anna, after seeing the baby Jesus, gives praise to God, and in the words of Luke, “spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” Of course, neither of these saints’ testimony concerning Jesus as the hope of humanity would fly with Muhammad, who must deny the preeminence of the Savior of the world in order to toot his own horn as Allah’s final messenger to mankind.
  • Of course, all this has to do only with the Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke. What does Islam do with the Prologue of the Gospel of John? The pre-incarnate Jesus is the Word who is with God and is God; he is the one through whom all creation has come into existence; he is the Light and Life of humanity; he is the light that shines in the darkness and cannot be extinguished; he is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us as one of us, and yet as our Savior. What does Islam do with this incarnational narrative? Nothing — except to reject it wholeheartedly.

Looking beyond the message of the Nativity, we discover in the Qur’an a very clear agenda to repudiate all the key Christological truths at the heart of the New Testament, because if they are indeed true, then Islam is false and Muhammad is no more than a religious pretender. So the Qur’an levels its big guns at these definitional claims concerning the person and work of Jesus:

  • Jesus is only human; he is not God the Son, the second member of the Trinity, who in the incarnation took on flesh to become “God with us,” fully God and fully human. Despite the fact he was regularly accused of blasphemy for “making himself equal with God,” Muslims adamantly declare he never claimed to be God.
  • Of course, if Jesus is not God the Son, then the cardinal Christian doctrine of the Trinity goes down in flames.
  • He did not come to save sinners by offering himself as a sacrificial lamb to bear the punishment of humanity’s capacious evils.
  • In fact, he did not die on the cross at all, but Allah “raptured” him to heaven before he could be killed by the Jews.
  • Since he did not die, there could be no atonement available through him for the world.
  • Since he did not die, he could not be the conqueror of death; he was not raised from the dead, and has no power to overcome death for his followers. He is not the Alpha and Omega, Firstborn from the dead, the One who holds the keys to death and Hades; he is only a faithful slave of Allah, who carried out his prophetic role to bring judgment to the Jews.
  • He will come again at the end of time, but not as divine Judge who will separate humanity into sheep and goats for final judgment. Instead, he will arrive as the leader of the Muslim community, and lead them as an avenging angel, as it were, to conquer the whole world under the banner of Islam. In the process, he and his Muslim armies will slaughter all Christians and Jews (and any pagans as well) who refuse to convert to Islam. This is apparently what Moghul means in his deceptive article when he says that Muslims believe Jesus “will someday return to fill a volatile world with goodness.”

Haroon Moghul is so intent on combatting Islamophobia that he wants us to accept the notion that Christianity and Islam are really not that far apart. Sure, he says, you Christians speak of Jesus as the Son of God, and we don’t, but listen, we see Jesus as “a very special human being to whom God granted miracles.” The Qur’an has some exalted titles for him. You see, we love Jesus, too. And his mother as well – what a great gal she was. Christians and Muslims have so much in common after all.

So let’s all just get along together. Let’s get rid of this terrible Islamophobia by recognizing that Muslims aren’t enemies – we’re cousins whom you don’t know very well, but with some effort we can all kiss and make up. Never mind that Islam wants to destroy Christianity at its very core. Look beyond that. Let’s be friends because we share so much in common….

My response to Moghul is that the primary engine behind “Islamophobia” is not ignorance of Islam in the West (though that is inexcusable in this day and age) but the highly-justified fear of Islam and its adherents due to its supremacist ideology and violent methodology of jihadi conquest. No one had ever heard of “Islamophobia” before the 9/11 attacks. In the sixteen years since then, there have been over 32,000 deadly jihad attacks worldwide in the name of Islam. No other religion or ideology can hold a candle to the supernova that is Islam when it comes to the use of violence and deadly force to advance its agenda. If Moghul really wants to eradicate Islamophobia, he would do better to rally Muslims to a radical reformation of Islamic texts and practices which have caused so much evil than to use half-truths among Western audiences and in the process spread great lies.


When will Islamophobia end in the West?


When Muslim men are no longer the principal force behind the rape and sexual assault epidemics in Europe as a result of massive immigration from Islamic lands;

When honor-killings cease (91% of these happen in Islamic societies);

When women and non-Muslims are accorded the same human rights in Muslim lands as Muslim men;

When people are free to join or leave any religion without threat of force or death;

When anti-Semitism is eradicated from Muslim hearts;

When innocent civilians no longer feel threatened with vehicular attacks, knife-stabbings, mass shootings, suicide bombers, and explosives hurled into churches and synagogues, all accompanied by shouts of that Muslim supremacist slogan Allahu akbar (which does not mean “God is great,” but “God is greater,” i.e., our God will conquer any and every resister);

When Sharia law is no longer touted as perfect divine law which must one day replace all man-made systems of government.

Understanding some surface similarities between Islam and Christianity while ignoring the huge, glaring, irreconcilable differences results in telling half-truths that produce great lies. The Islamophobia about which Mr. Moghul is rightly concerned stems not from ignorance of Islam but from the contemporary, ugly, widespread fruit of Muslims claiming to act in the name of Islam and carrying our reprehensible deeds. His solution to stopping the spread of Western fears of the Muslim world is akin to seeking the halt of a hurtling car by believing the fluttering wings of a fly on the rear window are the source of its movement rather than the driver who is flooring the accelerator.

In fact, to many in the West, contemporary Islam appears much like a car hurtling out of control toward us, ready to mow down however many are in its way until it reaches its goal. Our Islamophobia stems from the perception of the very real dangers engendered by the deadly vehicle. Our fears have nothing to do with the cause of careening vehicle. We do not need to be told to give up our fear and just understand how much the driver is like us. What we need is for the driver’s family and friends in the car or on the phone with him to tell him to take his foot off the accelerator, move it to the break, and turn off the engine. Then our pedestrian fears will subside and life can get back to normal. We may even find it in our hearts to forgive the formerly treacherous driver and those who cheered him on.

No more half-truths, please!

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