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Egyptian Muslim questions Christianity. A Catholic replies.

cairo egyptThe following interview/discussion took place between Abdallah and me from October 6-8, 2013.  Abdallah is my Facebook friend from Cairo, Egypt. He is a software engineer and a supporter of the restoration of President Morsi.  We met via the chat feature of an online chess program.  (Published with Abdallah’s approval).

Abdallah:  Many times I keep thinking am I following the right religion?, so I keep reading and comparing my religion with other religions , until I reach a point where I feel comfortable to Islam. I always feel I want to share these thoughts with all my non-Muslim friends. I’ve read a verse in the bible where I’m assured that Jesus is more close to a messenger than to god. Do you mind sharing it with you? If you say No, it’s ok, and I’ll never discuss religions again with you.

Struble I’d love to hear what you have to say.

the-temptation-of-jesusAbdallah:  Matthew 4:9-10 :- Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory;  and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'”…

Me :- 1- I can’t imagine how the devil demands from god to kneel down to him (How dare he demands such thing from god ??), just to give god some kingdoms and glory. (Could such things attract god ?? ) (Or is Jesus just a human that can be attracted to such things, as I believe). 2- I expected punishment from Jesus the god to the devil for his fake pride. But I found Jesus answering that he is ordered to worship god not the devil. It is obvious that this respond is said by a worshiper not by the worshiped one. This is only an example of many verses showing that Jesus is only a messenger, as Islam mentions.

You can read starting from Matthew 4:1, and you’ll see what I mean.

Struble:  Abdallah. Read ahead seven chapters to Matthew 11:29 where Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” God is so great that he does not need (though he may decide for other reasons than necessity) to punish Satan immediately on the spot for his every impudence. After all, in the eternal scheme of things Satan will suffer forever.

Consider, also, Jonah 4:11 in the Old Testament. Here Jonah is rebuked by God for his desire to work vengeance against the city of Nineveh. “But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

Sirach 2:18 describes God as follows: “Equal to his majesty is the mercy that he shows.”

Abdallah:  Yes, either punishing the devil or not, it’s up to god, I agree with you . But this is not a main point. The topics that confuses me are :- 1- I can’t imagine how the devil demands from god to kneel down to him. Are you sure he is talking to god ? 2- Could kingdoms and glory attract god the creator of all thing ?? 3- And finally Jesus respond to the devil that he is ordered to worship god not the devil.

Struble:
1. The devil is pretty bold; he’s described as the “accuser,” as opposed to the Holy Spirit of God who serves as the “advocate” in the trial for our souls.

2. No, except for our sake, not His.

3. Jesus often refers to his “Father” in heaven. Here is where Islam and Christianity part company: We believe in the Holy Trinity, with Jesus as the 2nd person in the Trinity, i.e. as the only begotten Son. Whereas the Koran begins by alleging that God is not begotten nor does He beget.

On point 2: Also, Jesus had a dual nature, human and divine. It was to Jesus’ human nature that the Devil proposed his temptations.

Abdallah:  I think this is summarized as : Jesus is a god (the son) but could have human characteristics and act as human to teach them how to avoid sins and do good things. Did he say that clearly and frequently in the bible since this is a critical point ??

Struble:  I would not say that he went around blowing his own trumpet, or frequently announcing his divinity. But he did say, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) Also, at his baptism and his transfiguration the Father speaks and affirms that Jesus is his beloved son. Again in Matthew 16: 16-17, Jesus affirms Simon Peter’s identification of the Lord as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Abdallah:  I will research for the verse that says “I and the father are one”, since it can not hold except one meaning. But concerning the other verses, I noticed that all Jesus followers were considering them selves sons of god, just like Jesus. If Jesus is a begotten son, then this should be mentioned clearly in the bible.

If You say that Jesus is the only begotten son of god, How is he and father one ?? I’m more confused now

The Holy TrinityStruble.  Well, Abdallah, you are not the first to be confused by the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Three persons in one God, i.e. the triune God, is an article of faith not reason. In John 1:14-18; 13:16 the inspired Apostle uses the term, “only begotten son.” Jesus is the only one in this category, although God has many children among men. BTW, I am enjoying this conversation very much.

Abdallah:  OK, now we reached a point where I will never be able to win you (in this discussion only, not in chess ;)), because your believe in your religion is based on faith not reason. The only way to convince you is to show you something based on faith + reason. I can show you a few verses in Koran, that obviously shows that no human can write such thing, only god can. (If you agree of course) I can show you few verses of the following topics :- Miracle of science in Koran (with evidence from non-muslim sites) , Miracle of numbers in Koran (I calculated it myself) , Miracle of prediction in Koran. If you prefer not, it’ OK, and I can win you in game of chess instead

Struble: Actually, Abdallah, the Catholic religion is not based on faith, but rather on the person of Jesus. Our faith is not blind, or contrary to reason, but enters via the reasonable trust that Jesus is telling us the truth, and is not deceiving us. Also that he speaks for God the Father who would not have endorsed his words — via the most extraordinary miracles, like the Easter resurrection — unless Jesus spoke truthfully when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me.” (John 14:6)

I’m not prepared at this point to do a Koran study in anything like the thorough fashion which I try to apply to my endeavors. I am quite busy editing and writing about American politics now (maybe you’d like to see some of my published articles?). Meanwhile, let’s have that chess game.

 


Bob Struble is a retired history teacher, and a writer of books, articles and poems. He is Lecturer for the Knights of Columbus in Bremerton WA, and is an associate editor at Catholic Lane.
  • RightThinkingWoman

    This was a fantastic example of Socratic dialogue. It was a charitable sharing!

  • MV

    Excellent discussion –

    For showing the nature of Jesus to be equal or co-equal with God – I love using Revelations.

    In Rev. 4:8 and 11 – there is a song of worship to the “Lord God Almighty….worthy – to receive glory and honor and power…”

    Then in Rev 5:9, 10 and 12 – a new song to the Lamb that was slain includes- “Worthy is the Lamb – to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and PRAISE!”

    Those 2, when compared with each other, are very suggestive!

    In Rev. 19: 9 10 and again in Rev 22: 8 – 9 – the author and Apostle John starts to worship an angel, but is admonished to worship GOD. (Recall the worship to the Lamb that was slain? Somehow if that Lamb was less than God – worship to the Lamb would not be appropriate.)

    But – at the beginning – in Rev. 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who it to come, the Almighty.” That is pretty definitive. But in Rev. 22: 12 – 16 – Jesus’s statement includes “I am the Alpha and the Omega”. Jesus is making the same claim as God – which He can only do if He IS God!

    Of course, there is far more gold to be mined in Revelations, and it is a joy to search for that gold!

    It is also noteworthy that the Old Testament and New Testament are wonderfully consistent in that the OT points to the LAW – and the NT points to God’s Grace because we fall short of the Law. The NT does not contradict the OT.

    However – for the Koran – there are significant contradictions between the earlier portion of the Koran compared to the later portion…where there is more tolerance and compassion in the early sections – and later, lots of intolerance! There is no “Agape” love of Allah for the people he created, there are no provisions for any grace and redemption – and there is no hope, no joy and no peace!

    • Abdallah

      Concerning the Koran part, you are speaking very general. Kindly mention the name of the “Surah” that holds contradiction.
      Here is a little sample of Hope , Joy , Peace and Love :
      ” My servant does not draw near to Me with anything better than his doing that which I have enjoined upon him, and My servant keeps drawing near to Me by doing Nawafil (supererogatory) deeds until I love him. And when I love him, I am his hearing with which he hears, his vision with which he sees, his hand with which he strikes and his foot with which he walks. Were he to ask Me for anything, I would give it to him, if he were to call on Me, I would respond, if he were to seek Me for refuge I would surely grant him it.”

      Volume 8, Book 76, Number
      509: (Sahih Bukhari – Hadith al Qudsi)

      More love in Islam :-
      http://sufism.org/articles/love-in-islam-2

  • Mary Kochan

    I think the nature of God discussion really has to back all the way up to the first philosophical question, which is very simply: why is there anything instead of nothing? http://www.catholiclane.com/being-in-love/

  • Daniele

    I think that it is important to ask the question did Satan even KNOW that Jesus was the Word made Flesh? I don’t think this is evident. Moreover, if I am not mistaken, in Islam Jesus in fact is called the “Word of God” in addition to being called the Messiah — who is described in Isaiah chapter 9 v. 5 as being “God Hero” and “Father Forever” (And Jesus said “He who sees me sees the Father” in Jn 14:9)). In short, if the Bible is the word of God, Jesus is definitely the Word made flesh who is God (Jn 1:1-14). Somewhere in the Sura the Table, as I recall, Mohammed mentions that there appear to be contradictions between Islam and the other religions of the Book and he says that God will make it clear (in the future) — in other words, he gives no clear answer to his followers on this.

  • Daniele

    I
    would like to make a few other comments. Islam teaches the Mohammad is the last
    and greatest of the prophets. How then do we explain things like the fact that
    Islam recognizes the Jesus was born of the most noble woman, Mary, who was also
    a virgin to whom his birth was announced by an angel; also, according to Islam,
    Jesus already in the crib defended his mother’s virtue. How can one explain the
    elevated status Jesus and his mother have if he was inferior to Mohammad as
    Muslims believe? — especially since Mohammad had none of these dignities. How can Mohammad be greater if he is dead and buried and Jesus
    (according to Islam) will return from heaven (where is now present bodily) to
    defeat the powers of evil in the world? How is it that Jesus, in Islam, already
    as a child had the power to give life to clay birds (as God created mankind in
    the Bible) if Jesus is not acting as God? How is it that Islam recognizes that
    Jesus had the power to cure the sick and even raise the dead if he is inferior
    to Mohammad? These are just a few questions that come to mind at this moment.

  • Howard Kainz

    “The Catholic religion is not based on faith”?? Very ambiguous.

    the Catholic religion is not based on faith,
    the Catholic religion is not based on faith,

    • Struble

      The basis of our faith is the person of Jesus. It is from Jesus first and foremost — not philosophy, not belief, not the human heart — that our faith proceeds.

  • Daniele

    Another
    thought occurs to me on this topic. According to Islam, Mohammad heard an angel
    who dictated the messages he later proclaimed (by memory) since he was
    illiterate. Various people who heard him later recalled what he said, and at
    some stage these were collected. Finally, after decades the final form became official
    and all other versions were destroyed (which caused some controversy at the
    time). However, in the Christian Bible, we are specifically warned not to accept
    “a different Gospel” even if it is presented by “an angel” and that if someone
    proclaims such a Gospel he is “accursed” (Gal 1:6-9). Doesn’t Islam seem to be
    foreseen and forbidden in the Bible? This is all the stronger when we read in 2
    Cor 11:14 that Satan disguises himself as an “angel of light.” How does Islam
    respond to these problems?

  • walkingaway

    Satan didn’t know of Jesus’s Divine nature, if he did he would have went out of his way to prevent the crucifixion. No crucifixion, no Perfect Sacrifice, no redemption. Several of the Early Church Father illustrated in their writings by using the example of a baited hook. Jesus’s humanity was the bait, and His divinity was the hook….or something to that effect.

  • Ioannes

    Great dialogue!

    theres also the verse that John says that there are three in heaven giving testimony and the three are one. Or when he says in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was made flesh. And the Word IS God. (Jesus=the Word) Or all the times he calls himself “I AM” (the name of God)

  • cestusdei

    I believe that Pope Benedict pointed out that Islam is the religion that does not use reason.

  • Kelly Thatcher

    Thank you. I can’t thank you—and the Holy Spirit—enough. You are blessed.

  • cestusdei

    I usually respond that our scripture is “God breathed” and no human word matches it. I then issue the challenge they often use and ask them to write something more beautiful then the beatitudes. Usually they say that it is unfair since I will be the judge. Exactly. The quran WAS written by one man and he produced no miracles.