Bible colleges and seminaries regularly offer courses on non-Christian religions so students, especially future missionaries, can better understand what others believe. This article is written in this spirit and for this purpose. From a biblical perspective, while there is much that could be said in condemnation of Islamic teaching, practices, and politics, this article is not intended to be a critique of Islam. Knowledge, accompanied by the Word and love, can help us more effectively witness about our Christian faith.
Islam is a religion which has come into a new prominence and into the forefront of American news in recent years due to the political and military struggles in the Middle East. While some may know a great deal about its history and beliefs, others are filled with questions. One prominent question is, “Who are the Sunnis and who are the Shiites?” Hopefully, this brief article will shed some light on this question, as well as provide some basic understanding.
Christianity and Islam are Mutually Exclusive
At the outset, let us note that Christianity and Islam are theologically mutually exclusive. Note these differences:
- Christianity teaches a “grace through faith” salvation. Islam, meanwhile, has certain requirements, such as praying five times each day while facing Mecca. In fulfilling these requirements, and other good works such as studying the Koran (the Muslim scriptures), an individual may think he or she has become righteous. Christianity, in the New Testament, makes it clear that an individual can only be saved, forgiven of their sins, and justified by believing in Christ as his or her Savior, and that no amount of good works can earn the sinner forgiveness or a place in Heaven. Thus, Ephesians 2:8-9 declares: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
- Christianity teaches that Jesus was God’s only begotten Son; the Messiah promised in Old Testament prophecies. It teaches He died on the cross voluntarily as our “substitutionary atonement,” on the third day He arose from the grave, He ascended into Heaven, and He is coming again to judge the quick and the dead. Islam denies all of this, claiming the New Testament errs, that Judas Iscariot, not Jesus, went to the cross, and that Jesus was not raised from the dead. It teaches Jesus was only a prophet, the tenth in a line of fourteen prophets.