The Bible and the Qur’an Side by Side: Theological and Political Considerations
John C. Rankin (March, 2011)
[this article is continually updated, and it always seeks input of Muslim believers who may give good substance as to why it needs to be changed in any way]
Is it possible for biblically rooted Jews and Christians to communicate with Muslims who believe in the Qur’an?
This is more than an academic interest. My conviction is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the basis for healthy relationships, whether at the personal level, in local communities, and in international politics. Thus, in the love of God, and love of all neighbors as myself, I am deeply interested in honoring the equal humanity of all people fully.
When, for example, we look at the never-ending crises in the Middle East, and now, all the explosive turmoil ricocheting across the Arab world, along with the horror that is life in Gaza (regardless of your perspective on theology and politics), how can we make a difference where justice, mercy, freedom and prosperity triumph for all?
Honest communication is the basis for any good possibilities. Only if all of us are able to define our terms up front and honestly, fully accountable to any and all questions, and then willingly listen well to the terms defined by the others, can this happen.
All question posed here are done so open-endedly, as in a sense, I am thinking out loud. I have yet to formally study Arabic beyond the alphabet, but I have read the Qur’an closely in English, in two different translations, I have read large sections of the Hadith (eye-witness accounts of Muhammad’s life by his companions), am reading Shari’a law, I am on my fourth biography of Muhammad (the oldest, by Ibn Ishaq), and I have studied Islam and Islamic history substantially beyond that. But too, I have very much more to study, and the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know compared with what there is to be known. Thus, I am glad to be corrected if any of my factual understandings or interpretations are erroneous. This is an honest, and rigorous, invitation for Muslim scholars and believers to always question me.
- Biblically rooted Jews and Christians share belief in the Hebrew Bible, that it is is given by the Spirit of the LORD God (in the Hebrew, Yahweh Elohim), is trustworthy in all it claims, and its text has been faithfully stewarded by Adamic, Hebrew, Israelite, Jewish and Christian communities across six millennia. The key difference between a Jew and a Christian is the question of the Messiah’s identity.
- Biblically rooted Jews believe in the Tenakh (a transliterated acronym for the Hebrew Bible, consisting of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings), that it is trustworthy in all it claims, has been faithfully stewarded by the Abrahamic, Israelite and Jewish communities across four millennia, and that the Messiah is yet to come (whether as a singular person or fulfilled in a corporate identity of Israel).
- Biblically rooted Christians believe in the New Testament, that it is given by the Holy Spirit, is trustworthy in all it claims, including the centrality of Jesus as Lord and Messiah in fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures, and its text has been faithfully stewarded by the Christian community across two millennia, along with sharing stewardship for the Tenakh during the same period.
- Muslims believe in the Qur’an, that it is perfectly revealed by Allah to the last Prophet, Muhammad, it fulfills and supersedes the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures, is trustworthy in all it claims, and its text has been faithfully stewarded by the Muslim community across its 1400 year history.
In matters of civil society locally and nationally, and in terms of international politics today where Jews, Christians and Muslims interface, the deepest questions are rooted in the interpretations of the Bible and the Qur’an. In looking carefully at the theological assumptions in place in both, only then can questions of political implications be fully understood and addressed. Any shortcuts in this regard will shortcut political health for all concerned.
From my perspective as a Christian, here are some key biblical assumptions, most succinctly summed up, followed by questions for the Muslim ummah (community) to consider.
╬ The Bible is the uniquely true storyline, defined by the teachings of creation, sin and redemption. The order of creation is located at the beginning, in Genesis 1-2, and is entirely good; the reversal of that order (or sin, best defined as broken trust) is introduced in Genesis 3; and the order of redemption (a word that means to buy back out of slavery to sin) is introduced also in Genesis 3; the battle between sin and redemption lasts until Revelation 20 when redemption – provided in the death, resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus –triumphs, and in Revelation 21 the new heaven and new earth arrive. Thus, the goodness in the assumptions in Genesis 1-2 define all that follows.
╬ In music theory, it is equilibrium, tension and resolution that produce beauty and satisfaction in the human soul, and serve as a predicate for worship; and which is a cognate to the reality of creation, sin and redemption.
- Does the Qur’an have any unique story line within it, any definition of a good order of creation, any definition of how sin or broken trust came to pass, and any definition of redemption and how it is accomplished? In Surah 1 (Al Fatihah or “The Opening”), being theologically definitive for the whole Qur’an, we find no definition of an order of creation unpolluted by sin or broken trust, and indeed, the presence of judgment and wrath are both present. Is there some other place in the Qur’an or Islam where the good order of creation is proactively defined? Is it likewise assumed?
- The Qur’an is essentially hortatory, to believers in Allah and to disbelievers, and organized according to the length of its surahs, after the first one, from essentially the longest down to the shortest. Chronological and historical order is not intrinsically a structural part as with the Bible.
- What does the Qur’an say about music if anything, and why is there no music in Muslim worship?
╬ There are ten positive assumptions in the biblical order of creation that define everything there is to know, that which equals the finest basis for a liberal arts education, out of which flows the six pillars of biblical power, four in the order of creation and two in the order of redemption, and which in sum produce the six pillars of honest politics.
- Does the Qur’an have any similar proactive foundation?
╬ First (1), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of God’s nature, the Creator, Yahweh Elohim, who in his name is greater than space, time and number – this being the source of his Trinitarian nature as fulfilled in the New Testament. The Three who are One reflects Diversity in service to Unity, or to put in other words, unity and diversity both exist within the nature of Yahweh Elohim. This also provides the necessary glue for marriage and the necessary checks and balances on power for any healthy social order. Yahweh Elohim’s nature is good, his power is unlimited, and it is the power to give blessings to all people. This power to give is also reflected by Jesus in his various statements concerning the Golden Rule – treat all others as you wish to be treated yourselves, Jew or Gentile.
╬ The power to give is the first of the six pillars of biblical power, and hence the first of the six pillars of honest politics, where:
The power to give affirms that the unalienable rights given by the Creator belong to all people equally, and leaders in human government should serve such a gift.
- In the Qur’anic understanding of Allah, does his name indicate that he is greater than space, time and number? Or is Allah better understood as singular in nature, “without companions” as the Qur’an notes often, thus a “monad?” To put it another way, is Allah greater than the human concept of the number 1? If Allah is fairly understood as being singular in essence, how does this relate to the idea of transcending the concept of number? Can a monad deity have any checks and balances within himself for marriage and the social order to learn from? Do both unity and diversity exist in Allah’s nature, or is it only unity?
- Does the Qur’an understand the classical Trinitarian doctrine of the Bible and the Nicene Creed? Namely, the Qur’an opposes polytheism and idolatry, and it views the Trinity as a tri-theism of three gods, consistent with the Nestorian deviation (e.g., Surah 5:16 which describes Jesus and Mary as “two deities” apart from God); and as well, Surah 5:72 says Christians are infidels who say, “God is the Christ, son of Mary,” and thus, “Whosoever associates a compeer with Allah will have Paradise denied to him by Allah, and his abode shall be Hell.”
- Does the Qur’an have any parallel to the Golden Rule toward those outside the Muslim ummah? And if so, how does this relate to the definition of the dhimmi, or “protected classes” – Jews and Christians under Islamic political control who have separate rights and responsibilities?
- Is there anything unattractive in the first pillar of honest politics to the Muslim ummah, and if not, does the Qur’an proactively define a superior concept to this first pillar?
╬ Second (2), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of communication, where Yahweh Elohim reveals himself with integrity, beginning with the proactive words, “Let there be light” – the original definition of revelation. The Word of God reveals truth for all to understand Yahweh Elohim’s will, the nature of his creation, and our place in it. The Word of God comes by the power of the Holy Spirit through members of the covenant community, and is trustworthy in all it claims, as Yahweh Elohim is consistently communicating with his people. The Bible invests in the freedom of our conversation with the one true Creator, and a classic example is with Yahweh and Abraham in Genesis 18:16-33 where Abraham is invited to intercede for Sodom and Gomorrah. In the Gospel of John, we learn that Jesus is the Word, the Communication (logos in the Greek), that Jesus is God in human form, and comes to us as the Light and Life, able to relate to us personally, giving the right for all people to become children of God. In the Bible, light and darkness are defined in three capacities where darkness by definition flees the light – physics, ethics and the spiritual warfare between Jesus as the Light of the world, and Satan as the prince of darkness.
╬ The power to live in the light is the second of the six pillars of biblical power, and hence the second of the six pillars of honest politics, where:
The power to live in the light means leaders in human government at every level should be as fully transparent as possible.
- What is the nature of Allah and light in the Qur’an, is the will of Allah transparently communicated to all people in proactive terms, and is Allah powerful enough to come into the midst of his creation, as does Yahweh Elohim in the incarnation of Jesus?
- The Qur’an claims to be the very words of Allah, written in eternity in Arabic, but without any human involvement, thus authenticating it, as its 114 surahs are dictated by the angel Jibril to Muhammad. Is this a form of communication congruent with a Creator who wants to relate to us dialogically, or it is merely a one-way communication?
- If the Qur’an is perfect as written in eternity, why the doctrine of abrogation where Allah makes changes to prior revelations?
- The Qur’an identifies Arabs, and hence the first Muslims, as the children of Abraham – yet, is there any example in the Qur’an where Allah has any conversations with Muhammad or any other human person, as Yahweh had with Abraham? The Qur’an is hortatory in nature, a one-way exhortation spoken by Allah to his prophet and all humanity. Thus, is communication in the Qur’an only one-way?
- Is there anything unattractive in the second pillar of honest politics to the Muslim ummah, and if not, does the Qur’an proactively define a superior concept to this second pillar?
╬ Third (3), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of human nature, where all people are made in the image of God, as the crown and purpose for his creation, where men and women equally rule over and steward Yahweh Elohim’s creation, where in our finite persons we were made to reflect the good qualities of the infinite Creator, made for peace, order, stability and hope, to live, to love, to laugh and to learn.
- How does the Qur’an view human nature, as the crown of Allah’s creation, or in some other capacity?
- Is there anything unattractive to the Muslim ummah about the idea that all people are the crown of God’s creation?
╬ Fourth (4), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of human freedom, reflecting the first words of Yahweh Elohim spoken to Adam, where the metaphor of an unlimited menu of good choices defines the nature of human freedom (in the Hebrew metaphor of akol tokel, “in feasting you will continually feast”). Set next to this menu is one prohibited fruit that leads to death, creating a boundary to true freedom. Thus, a level playing field between truth and falsehood, between good and evil, between life and death, between freedom and slavery, are defined honestly, so that the good can be chosen, but not forced; and Jesus reflects this level playing field in allowing his enemies to rake him over the coals with their toughest questions. This proactive power of informed choice is unique to the Bible, and is present in no pagan or secular construct. Truth is confident enough to allow falsehood to be measured in the open and side-by-side.
╬ The power of informed choice is the third of the six pillars of biblical power, and hence the third of the six pillars of honest politics, where:
The power of informed choice is rooted in an honest definition of terms in political debate, providing a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally, apart from which political freedom is not possible.
- Does the Qur’an have any proactive concept of human freedom parallel to the unlimited menu of good choices, where terms of truth and falsehood can be defined accurately, of a level playing field for all different claims to truth be compared side by side? In Surah 2 (Al Baqarah or “The Heifer”), v. 256 says, “Let there be no compulsion in religion: truth stands out clear from error.” This is a good concern, but this language is also a double negative, reactively posed. Does the Qur’an have a simple positive definition of human freedom? Too, these words from Surah 2:256 come from the early Meccan years of Muhammad’s leadership. How consistently were they followed in the Medinan period, and in the immediate expansion of Islam following his death?
- A Christian is free to honor the Muslim the freedom to seek to persuade him or her to convert to Islam. Conversion is never just one-way in biblical context – it is always open-ended. The Muslim is invited to show a superior definition of truth, as it were. Does the Qur’an allow a Muslim the freedom to convert away from Islam? Or is Islam a one-way religion in this regard? How does Surah 2:256 apply in this context?
- Is there anything unattractive in the third pillar of honest politics to the Muslim ummah, and if not, does the Qur’an proactively define a superior concept to this third pillar?
╬ Fifth (5), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of hard questions, an assumption in place when Yahweh Elohim gave man and woman stewardship over the planet, to cultivate and care for it – an endlessly delightful learning process in his presence. In the face of sin, one powerful way to overcome distrust is by the passion to ask the questions that are most difficult or painful, in the presence of God and one another. This love of hard questions is celebrated consistently throughout the Bible, questions posed of God and one another, it is the height of the rabbinic teaching ethos where the posing of questions is the starting point for learning, and Jesus reflected this ethos more than anyone else in history.
╬ The power to love hard questions is the fourth of the six pillars of biblical power, and hence the fourth of the six pillars of honest politics:
The power to love hard questions is in place when political leaders honor and answer those who pose them the toughest questions.
- Does the Qur’an have any proactive and open-ended love of hard questions able to be posed of Allah and fellow Muslims, any parallel to the rabbinic teaching ethos, or does it place any limits on which questions may be posed, when, where and of whom?
- Within the Muslim ummah, is there the freedom to raise questions as to whether or not the Qur’an is fully inspired by the one true Creator? Within the Jewish and Christian communities across the millennia, this biblical freedom has been there to challenge the Scriptures, if not consistently, and that freedom is certainly there today.
- Among the ahadith (plural of Hadith), there are various examples of Muhammad graciously receiving questions of skeptics. What, then, is the essence of Surah 33:36? It says: “It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and his Messenger, to have any option about their decision.” Does this indicate a restriction on certain questions? For example, in the ijtihad (legal reasoning) Shari’a law, it is prohibited for a Muslim to question 1) the existence of Allah, 2) the prophethood of Muhammad or 3) the perfection of the Qur’an — to do so is to be regarded as an unbeliever or infidel.
- Is there anything unattractive in the fourth pillar of honest politics to the Muslim ummah, and if not, does the Qur’an proactively define a superior concept to this fourth pillar?
╬ Sixth (6), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of human sexuality, where men and women are full equals and complements as image-bearers of God, joint stewards of the creation, and joint heirs of eternal life. Healthy human sexuality is rooted in chastity outside of marriage, and fidelity within the marriage of one man and one woman for one lifetime, where diversity is in service to unity in the two becoming one.
- Does the Qur’an treat women as full equals to men in the sight of Allah, and can polygamous marriage serve diversity in service to the unity of two becoming one?
- Muslim men may marry non-Muslim women; but Muslim women may not marry non-Muslim men. Why? Does this comport with an equal humanity and freedom for women? As well, children of Muslim men and non-Muslim women must be raised as Muslims. Does this serve the equality and freedom of the mother?
- In Surah 2:223, it says to men: “Your wives are as a tilth (a field to be tilled) unto you, so approach your tilth when or how you will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand.” Does this language reify wives, that is, reduce them to concrete objects or property as opposed to being equally and fully human? The man is given full freedom to “approach” his tilth when and how he wills, even in spite of an offset to first do some (unspecified) “good act” beforehand. Is there a greater context here that would lead to a different interpretation?
- In Surah 4:34, a man who believes it necessary to discipline his wife, is instructed first to “admonish” her; second to “refuse to share” her bed; and if that fails, third, to “strike her.” The word for “strike” in Arabic often means means “hit,” “beat” or “scourge.” Some modern western translators call it a “gentle slap,” another says it actually means “intercourse.” How can we know for sure? Is there some Qur’anic context that gives a definitive answer?
- In Surah 24:30-21, men are commended to be modest toward women; and women likewise, and specifically to “draw their veils over their bosoms,” keeping their beauty covered toward men outside their immediate family. Now, women wearing veils has a long history in many cultures, and in Corinth in the days of the Apostle Paul, a woman with a veil over her head indicated that she was either married or a virgin. And Christian women were to take note of that custom, so that in their own freedom, they would not be mistakenly thought to be prostitutes. But how does this line up with the wide cultural reality in many sectors of the Muslim world where veils go well beyond what the Qur’an indicates here, all the way to the full burqa? It is often said the covering of women is to protect the men from temptation. In this context, where does the measure of self-control figure? [It is listed as the final of the fruits of the Holy Spirit by the apostle Paul (Galations 5:22-23)]. Does such a practice indicate freedom and complementary equality for women?
- Is there anything unattractive to the Muslim ummah concerning the idea that men and women are both equals and complements?
╬ Seventh (7), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of science and the scientific method, where Genesis 1 treats the sun, moon and stars as inanimate objects, as opposed to pagan deities; and from there on, the Bible views creation as it is, presuppositionally setting the table for honest scientific observation of the world in which we live. The Law of Moses also provides the ethical basis for the scientific method, specifically here in terms of the principle of falsification in its treatment of the requisites for a true prophet (e.g., Deuteronomy 18:21-22). The historical, geographical and observational claims of the Bible are repeatedly and relentlessly confirmed by the discipline of archeology.
- Does the Qur’an have a proactive parallel for a positive view of science and the scientific method, and what place does archeology play in sustaining its claims?
- Jesus specifically applied the principle of falsification to himself (e.g., John 8:46; 10:37). Did the Qur’an have any parallel, and did Muhammad do so in any of the ahadith?
- Is there anything unattractive to the Muslim ummah regarding the idea of good scientific inquiry?
╬ Eighth (8), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of verifiable history, where beginning with Adam and Eve, the biblical revelation is always ratified by multiple eye-witnesses all the way up to Jesus, and then from Jesus to the end of the New Testament; indeed, when Jesus appeared, he did so in accordance with the continual witness of millennia worth of recorded history. The western commitment to verifiable history is rooted in how the Bible views itself. This commitment to history has informed all Hebrew, Jewish and Christian scholarship across the millennia.
- Can the Qur’an root itself in verifiable history? For example, the Qur’an has no historical storyline within itself, except for portions borrowed from the Bible, often without defining historical context, and it also quotes Gnostic pseudepigrapha as historical in reference to the birth of Jesus, as though they were part of the Bible, which they are not. The Qur’an declares that the Bible translations used by Jews and Christians have been corrupted, at least at one point in the historical interpretation of many, as it treats all that preceded Muhammad as a “period of ignorance.” Historically, in the ummah, it has been maintained that only that which the Qur’an says is of the Bible is really of the Bible. But what is the historical basis for such claims? What possible witnesses can there be to a revelation that only comes to Muhammad’s inner person from the angel Jibril? Indeed, it is in Muhammad’s word alone that Muslims place their trust, and not in thousands of years worth of eye witness history as do Jews and Christians in trusting the Bible.
- The Qur’an cannot be interpreted, it is said by many in the Muslim ummah, apart from the Hadith, the eye-witness stories about Muhammad’s life, given by his companions. More than a century after Muhammad’s death, there were some 600,000 of these ahadith in circulation, and through a most rigorous and honorable process of verifiable history, Sahih al-Bukhari traced all their chains of custody, and reduced the authentic ahadith to some 7,397 (and the Shi’a reduced them even further). He was the most respected of six main compilers of the Hadith. The Hadith is thus is spoken of as an entirely human project. But if so, does not the Qur’an depend, to some extent, on fallible human involvement in order to give context, as Islam has charged concerning the Jewish and Christian Bibles; and if the ethics of verifiable history are used for the Hadith, why not also for the Qur’an?
- ‘Abdur Rahman I. Doi, in his detailed explanation of shari’a law, says: “The Holy Qur’an with its wealth of detail is still insufficient by itself without the assistance of Fatawa (a religious decision) and Tradition, and the Hadith arose to supply this need.” Now, the Bible is much longer than the Qur’an, but completely sufficient to itself as the full and sufficient storyline and revelation, needing nothing subsequent. When the ahadith and Shari’a law are added to the picture, Islam is far more detailed oriented in managing every detail of a Muslim’s life. Is there not a remarkable affirmation of human nature between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, where all need need to address, in the final analysis, storyline, revelation and human involvement?
- The Bible understands Yahweh Elohim coming to us inside our own storyline in the person of Jesus as the Son of God, as God incarnate. The Bible has both God’s presence and human involvement side by side and interfacing in the same text. In Islam, Allah’s presence and the human storyline are separated between two texts, the Qur’an (understood to be divinely inspired) and the Hadith (understood to be a collections of human texts). In the balance of the Qur’an and the Hadith, does not the same human nature common to us all yearn for incarnation, for divine presence within the human story?
- In the Qur’an, and in the Sunnah (the example of Muhammad’s life recorded in the Hadith), and in Shari’a law, the emphasis is in imitating Muhammad as the best example on how to life a faithful Muslim life. Muhammad is only human, unlike Jesus as the incarnate Son of Man and Son of God. The apostle Paul calls Christians to imitate his faith as he imitates Christ; and Jesus tells his disciples that all he does is what he sees his heavenly Father doing. Thus, who does Muhammad imitate in order learn that which his companions and subsequent Muslims imitate? He is said to a passive recipient of the Qur’an as dictated by Allah through Jibril. Thus, is there any way Muhammad can imitate Allah as the basis for giving examples to the ummah, or is such an idea almost blasphemous in Islam?
- It there anything unattractive to the Muslim ummah about the love and presence of Yahweh Elohim through Jesus?
╬ Ninth (9), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of covenantal law, where Yahweh Elohim first holds himself accountable to being just and fair and loving, before he requires man and woman to obey his laws; covenantal law on this basis is a bulwark against human despotic governments.
- Does the Qur’an have any parallel concept to biblical covenantal law? For example, biblically speaking, Jesus, as God incarnate, held himself accountable to the covenant, even dying for our sins. In the Qur’an, it limits a man to 4 wives; but Muhammad was not held thus accountable, having had 14 wives over his lifetime, and more than 4 at one time. Is this a fair concern?
- Central to the biblical witness is the reality that covenantal people are held to higher standards than are the pagans. The prophet Amos quotes Moses in holding Israel and Judah accountable for their sins (3:2), and the prophet Habakkuk, in his questions of Yahweh, learns that the covenant community of Judah is judged before the pagan nation of Babylon is judged. The apostle Peter states: “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17). Does the Qur’an have any parallel concern?
- How does Islamic Shar’ia law compare with biblical covenantal law? Biblical law is understood in the context of “grace” (from the Hebrew hen and the Greek charis), where life and salvation are gifts of Yahweh Elohim, of Jesus, to be received and then acted on out of gratefulness. The gift precedes end empowers the actions. Shar’ia law, in contrast, micromanages people’s daily lives, and thus, life and salvation depend on a legal compliance with Shari’a, as Surah 7:8 says: “And the weighing will be just on that Day. Then those whose (deeds) are heavier in the balance will find fulfillment, and those whose (deeds) are lighter in the scale shall perish.” The actions precede and defines the ability to receive the gift.
- Shari’a law is understood to eventually rule all nations, by hegemonic control, in this lifetime, where people will ultimately have no choice but to “submit” to it (the root meaning of the words islam and muslim). Biblical covenant law imposes nothing in the present political order, but serves communities of choice both now and in eternal life.
- Is there anything unattractive to the Muslim ummah about covenantal promises being kept?
╬ Tenth (10), the biblical order of creation has a positive view of unalienable rights and the First Amendment, where Yahweh Elohim gives the gifts of life, liberty, property and hence the power to pursue true happiness, to all people equally; and on the basis of giving religious liberty, the freedoms of speech, press, assembly and redress of grievances are made possible in a society based on unalienable rights. This provides for religious, political and economic liberty for all people equally, regardless of theological or philosophical beliefs. Biblically rooted Jews and Christians celebrate these liberties for Muslims in the United States, indeed, for all people equally under the rule of law.
- Does the Qur’an have any basis for unalienable rights, and for the religious, political and economic liberties needed for a just and free society to exist and prosper for all people equally?
- Do any members of the Muslim ummah not pursue the dignity of unalienable rights for themselves?
╬ The power to love enemies is the fifth of the six pillars of biblical power, located in the order of redemption, it is the height of the Sermon on the Mount, and the essence of Jesus dying for our sins on the cross, making us his friends by his sacrifice. We who were once enemies of God are loved by him. Thus, we who are Christian are empowered to love all people who might consider themselves our enemies. These people are loved by God and hated by the devil, thus in our love for all people, we love God and hate Satan and his demonic hordes. The birth of the Christian church was accomplished through three centuries of suffering, of believers loving their enemies and suffering persecution and death as a result. But subsequently, Christianity was polluted by false political power in the rise of Christendom from Constantine to Theodosius to Justinian. Here is the fifth of the six pillars of honest politics, where:
The power to love enemies recognizes that even the harshest of political opponents share a common humanity and are to be treated with respect.
- Does the Qur’an have any concept of loving the enemies of Islam, and how does Islam explain its rapid and early expansion by means of political hegemony and/or the sword against nations that had not provoked them? What is the nature of jihad (“struggle”) in this context, and relative to the Qur’anic commitment to bring the whole world under Shari’a law?
- Is there anything unattractive in the fifth pillar of honest politics to the Muslim ummah, and if not, does the Qur’an proactively define a superior concept to this fifth pillar?
╬ The power to forgive is the sixth of the six pillars of biblical power, located in the order of redemption, it is the trajectory of the Lord’s Prayer, given by Jesus at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. The power to give and the power to forgive equal the bookends of the Bible – God gives, we refuse the good gift, then he forgives. That is, he gives again in spite of our original refusal, enabling life, indeed, eternal life once again to be received through the power of Jesus’ resurrection and the gift of the Holy Spirit. It also equals the sixth of the six pillars of honest politics, where:
The power to forgive recognizes the need to address our individual and societal transgressions against each other, and to work toward justice and reconciliation.\
- On what basis and by what means does the Qur’an provide for the forgiveness of sins? How important are the differences between historically biblically rooted societies where issues of guilt and forgiveness are central, and Islamic societies where the issues of shame and honor are central?
- Is there anything unattractive in the sixth pillar of honest politics to the Muslim ummah, and if not, does the Qur’an proactively define a superior concept to this sixth pillar?
╬╬ In this summation of a biblical worldview, and with questions posed of the Qur’an and Muslims, I am seeking to be proactive and honest – proactive in defining how the Bible understands itself, and proactive in the assumption that its ethical qualities are universal and attractive to all people of good will, and hence, the questions posed of the Qur’an and Islam are submitted in that light. As well, I would be delighted to see an Islamic scholar approach the matter in similar fashion – stating the positives of the Qur’an, and asking how the Bible lines up accordingly.
Is it therefore possible, between biblical and qur’anic people:
- To articulate the positives of what we believe and why, and then listen to the positives of what the other believes and why?
- With humility and intellectual rigor, to have the freedom to question one another as equals on points where we may not agree?
- Upon such clear definitions of terms, to then have the freedom to leave all open questions open?
- And, upon such a basis, to work together, each on our own articulations, to serve religious, political and economic liberty for all people equally?
When we know where we agree and disagree, and why, only then can trust be built, and only then can mutually positive goals be effectively pursued. Both the Bible and the Qur’an speak of light versus darkness. Who among us, in mutual accountability, lives with open agendas in the light, and who retreats into the darkness? And the toughness of this question must first be posed of Christians by Christians, where we first measure up to such transparency.
In the present and continuing Middle East crises between the Arabs and Jews, and over the nature of Jerusalem, it is ultimately a question of history and archeological science. Can Arab and Muslim peoples take the verifiable historical eye-witness ethos employed by Sahih al-Bukhari in his composition of a reliable Hadith, and apply it to tracing the eye-witnesses from Abraham to the present, tested where needful by good archeological science?
Jesus is the Prince of Peace whom I serve, and in his name, I want nothing less than unalienable rights for all people equally in the present political order – Jew, Christian, Muslim, Pagan, Secularist et al.
A biblically faithful Christianity embraces the six pillars of biblical power, in both theological confession and ethical conduct toward all people:
The Six Pillars of Biblical Power – An Affirmation
1. The Power to Give
We believe that the Creator, Yahweh Elohim, the Lord God Almighty, our heavenly Father, employs his unlimited power to give to and equally bless all people as image bearers of God. The power to give is modeled in the faithful marriage of one man and one woman, in parenthood, and is the basis for trust in human society.
2. The Power to Live in the Light
We believe that the Lord God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. As darkness and the prince of darkness flee the light, we embrace the power to live in the light of God’s presence, open and accountable to all people in all we believe, say and do.
3. The Power of Informed Choice
We believe that the Lord God gives us all the power of informed choice, to say yes to the good of freedom and life, and no to the evil of slavery and death.
4. The Power to Love Hard Questions
We believe that the Lord God gives us the freedom and power to pose hard questions of him, and of one another in Christian community. This is the power of sanctifying integrity.
5. The Power to Love Enemies
We believe that the Lord Jesus loved the world when we were yet enemies of the truth, drowning in a sea of broken trust. Now, as believers, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to love those who are, at present, enemies of the Gospel.
6. The Power to Forgive
We believe that the power to give is restored to the broken world through the power to forgive, purchased in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of the Lord Jesus. Thus, we as believers are called to extend this forgiveness to the broken world, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and in celebration of the mercy that triumphs over judgment in the second coming of Jesus.
The Six Pillars of Honest Politics – An Affirmation
Thus, I wonder to what extent Muslim nations, as well as the United States, would be willing to embrace the six pillars of honest politics, as rooted in the prior six pillars of biblical power but not in requiring a Christian confession to embrace them? Namely, it is possible for Jews, Christians and Muslims alike to embrace the six pillars of honest politics as a means to find truly common ground in civil society? To wit:
- The power to give affirms that the unalienable rights given by the Creator belong to all people equally, and leaders in human government should serve such a gift.
- The power to live in the light means leaders in human government at every level should be as fully transparent as possible.
- The power of informed choice is rooted in an honest definition of terms in political debate, providing a level playing field for all ideas to be heard equally, apart from which political freedom is not possible.
- The power to love hard questions is in place when political leaders honor and answer those who pose them the toughest questions.
- The power to love enemies recognizes that even the harshest of political opponents share a common humanity and are to be treated with respect.
- The power to forgive recognizes the need to address our individual and societal transgressions against one another, and to work toward justice and reconciliation.
These six pillars are by definition pre-partisan. In other words, they set the foundation for healthy partisan debates over public policy, in service to the consent of the governed. The deepest partisanship is the creation of a level playing field for all partisan ideas to be heard equally, where the pursuit of truth in any and all matters becomes possible.