Friday, May 25, 2007

The Difference Between the Bible and the Qur'an (part 2)

This is the second in a series of posts responding to the he article “The Difference Between the Bible and the Qur’an,” based on a lecture by Dr. Gary Miller, a former minister who apostatized to Islam and is considered to be an apologist for the Muslim community to the west.

Dr. Miller attempts to draw a distinction between the Bible and the Qur’an by calling into question the genre and voice of the biblical text. He says plainly, “The Qur’an is a dictation. The speaker in the Qur’an—in the first person—is God talking directly to man. In the Bible you have many men writing about God and you have in some places the word of God speaking to men and still in other places you have some men simply writing about history.”

The Bible did not fall out of heaven as a black tome with “KJV” stamped on the cover; that is, the Bible was written over a 1,500 year span (over 40 generations), by more than 40 authors who lived in different places, at different times, in different moods, on three continents, in three languages. We would be hard-pressed to find 10 people, one from any walk of life just within one generation, and put them together in one place (regardless of their mood) and have them write harmoniously on any one subject in just one language! The Bible is more than an anthology, but a unity.[i]

Let us first consider what Dr. Miller fails to address: text that God Himself wrote. Surat 2 Al-Baqarah and Surat 3 Al-Imran (among others) both contain significant passages (if the dictation stands in English [see previous post]) explaining the source of the Qur’an, the Torah and the Injeel (Gospels) as being one and the same:

Surat 2.53, “And (remember) when We gave Musa [Moses] the scripture and the criterion so that you may be guided aright.”

Surat 2:87, “And indeed, We gave Musa [Moses] the Book and followed him up with a succession of Messengers, and We gave Isa [Jesus], the son of Maryam [Mary] clear signs and supported him with Rul-ul-qudus [Gabriel]. Is it that whenever there came to you a Messenger with what you yourselves desired not, you grew arrogant? Some you disbelieved and some you killed.”

Surat 2.89, “And when there came to them [the Jews], a book (this Qur’an) from Allah confirming what is with them [The Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel), although aforetime they had invoked Allah (for coming of Muhammad (pbuh)) in order to gain victory over those who disbelieved, then when there came to them that which that had recognized, they disbelieved in it. So let the Curse of Allah be on the disbelievers.”

Surat 3.3, “It is He Who has sent down the Book (the Qur’an) to you (Muhammad (pbuh)) with truth, confirming what came before it. And he sent down the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel).”

While it is possible to explore the question of Allah being the God of the Bible here, we will reserve this for another discussion. Focusing on the textual source, if the Qur’an agrees that the Torah came from God, it must agree with the Torah itself, specifically, the first five books of what we call “The Old Testament.” Torah can also mean, “Law.”

Exodus 24:12, “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to Me in the mountain, and be there. And I will give you tablets of stone, and the Law, and commandments which I have written, so that you may teach them’.”

After Moses receives the Torah, and the Qur’an agrees, the people took calf for worship (Exodus 32; Surat 2.51). When Moses broke the tablets, God replaced them, but notice how He did this:

Moses asked God to show him His glory, to which God replies that His glory will be declared in His perfection in the context of mankind (His goodness, graciousness, compassion). God tells Moses that to see His glory, God will cover him in the cleft of the rock as He passes by declaring His glory; however, ”the LORD said to Moses, ‘Cut out two tablets of stone like the first. And I will write upon the tablets the words that were in the first tablets which you broke’.” (Exodus 34:2)

What did God write? The Torah, the Law, the Book of the Covenant. God’s glory is connected to what He wrote; that is, the Ten Commandments. We understand that, “if the ministry of death, having been engraved in letters in stone was with glory (so that the sons of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses because of the glory of his face), which was being done away, shall not the ministry of the Spirit be with more glory?[ii] But I get ahead of myself. The point is that if we can be concerned about what God says directly to man, we must be concerned about what He wrote with His own hand. After all, if (as Dr. Miller says) the Qur’an is a dictation and the Qur’an must be accepted as the word of God on that basis, then we should also accept what God Himself has written, specifically those things written and delivered to Moses, as the Qur’an agrees.

Does not the Qur’an teach that one must do righteous good deeds to be a dweller of paradise? Since Qur’an emphasizes that what God gave Moses was criterion for right living (Surat 2.52), now is the time to ask, “how you are doing at what God wrote with His own hand?”

Have you ever stolen anything, regardless of the value or reason? Consider how in the eyes of the law of our land, if a policeman sees someone take something without paying for it (“stealing”) the law will immediately and always mark that person as a thief. The law demands justice and if justice takes its course, punishment must be delivered. Interestingly, if the eyes of the law do not see the act of theft, the one who steals is still a thief.

Have you ever told a lie, regardless of the reason? If I tell a lie one would not hesitate to call me a “liar,” so consider what you are called when you tell a lie. What righteousness is there in telling untruth?

What about this: have you always held honor and respect for your parents? Have you always obeyed them in every circumstance, without any rebellion?

With these three things in mind, our conscience tells us that, no matter who we are or what we believe, something is very wrong with us. Not only that, but that we are incapable of doing any good works whatsoever. Sure, we may be able to do some every now and then, but we are more inclined to do unrighteous works than good, righteous ones. Will my good deeds outweigh my bad ones? Consider this: will a drop of poison go away if I add more tea to the glass?

April 8, 2007 it was announced that Juan Luna will be tried for the 1993 murder of seven people in Palatine, Illinois. For nine years, the police could not find the murderer (click here for a timeline)! What was he doing for nine years? Regardless of what he was doing, whether he was caught and sat in a prison cell from the outset or greeted shoppers at Wal-mart, Juan Luna was a murderer in 1993 and will be tried and convicted for murder in 2007.

Think of what this means on an eternal scale: once a liar, always a liar; once a thief, always a thief. Once an adulterer, always an adulterer. No amount of good works can change that. We’re in big trouble on judgment day.

In his lecture on “What the Gospels mean to Muslims,” Dr. Miller anticipates this conversation with this creative response. Imagine the Christian saying, “Look, your book says my book is true. So read my book and then you’ll be in trouble because you’ll find out that my book is different than your book.” Here is his objection, “Even if the Quran says respect the books of other people, it must be that some people have put some lies in there, because I don’t go along with that thing you’re reading.”

Two matters to conclude: first, if Allah is the one God of the Bible who never changes, and if (according to the Qur’an) Allah cannot be equated with anything created, then Allah cannot lie. If Allah cannot lie, then the words he gave Moses would be true, so one cannot so easily dismiss “that thing” I read.

Second, one cannot dismiss his or her conscience. One can ignore it, but not shut it off. What God has written on stone has also been written on the conscience and this is evidenced by the fact that every person knows, regardless of location, language or culture, there is a difference between what is right and what is wrong. We know that lying and stealing, even disrespect for parents is wrong. We know that love for God above all else is right. Conscience tells what is right and what is wrong and the heart is deceitful above all else.

Can you be secure that one will inherit paradise if conscience agrees that one can never do or intend enough righteous acts?

More on textual criticism later.

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[i] McDowell, Josh. Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1992
[ii] 2 Corinthians 3:7-8

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