"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Christian Q&A Session

As you all know I've been reading a translation of the Quran that I borrowed from the library. If you didn't know, wellllll check the previous two thousand posts and you'll see. (Ah, I'm using a bit of that Middle Eastern exaggeration now, I see!) I've greatly enjoyed reading, posting my thoughts and interacting with several lovely ladies who have been so kind in helping me better understand things. I've heard various points of view and gotten some answers and clarifications. Thank you all so much! I hope you will continue to read and comment as time allows. I value your opinions.


In the comments section of one of the posts, a couple Muslim women asked me to answer some questions from my faith as they had some things they were curious about and wanted to finally get some answers. I answered one question which lead to a great follow-up reply and more questions. So, I thought instead of trying to answer them all there on a post about the Quran, I'd begin a new post where people can ask questions and we can all interact. I welcome all of you to question and try to answer the questions posed. I don't claim to be some authority on Christianity so I covet (in the not-breaking-the-ten-commandments sense of the word..ha!) your help (yes, YOU!) in explaining.


Instead of going back and answering those questions one by one, I'm going to tweak and copy a couple of comments I made on someone else's blog two months ago to jump start things. I believe part of the answer is within these comments. Thus you can read what I said and ask follow-up questions or simply ask again what you want to know if this isn't helpful in the least!


Here goes!


The discussion on that blog lead to someone reminding us of how bloody the Abrahamic religions were with circumcision, the offering of sacrifices according to Jewish Law, the significance of the blood of Jesus for Christians, and the slaughtering of lambs for one of the Muslim Eids. It was within this context that I replied with this first comment.


I know what you mean about how bloody the Abrahamic religions are. I’ve sometimes wondered about it as well since it creeps me out looking at it from a 21st-century point of view. I wonder how God could be sooooo bloody!

But then I wonder if perhaps it should show us just how awful our sins are in God’s eyes especially when we consider the sin offerings the children of Israel had to offer.

If you take the story of Adam and Eve according to the Biblical version, when they sinned God took the skin of an animal to cover them. An innocent animal lost its life (unless God somehow provided skin to make a garment without the animal being slaughtered..which He could). And each time the Israelites put their hands on the heads of animals in a “transfer” of their sins to the animal who then was sacrificed, it should have been a sobering reminder to them that sin is not cheap. It’s not something God shrugs and dismisses.

Leviticus 17:11 — “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

I’ve never been able to explain God and why He requires what He does, but then I guess it’s not my place to be His apologist. I’m sure when He looks at me, He wonders why I do what I do and accept what I accept soooooo…

I just chalk it up to His ways being different and higher than mine (Isa. 55:6-8) and leave it at that if I can. :)


Notice the mention of blood being necessary for atonement in the verse from Leviticus! This is why Jesus' blood has such great significance in forgiveness of sins! Jesus was the perfect lamb of God who was sent as the final sacrifice! In the OT, the people went to the Temple to offer sacrifices for their sins - deliberate ones and even unintentional ones. If you read the Torah, you will see precise details of what had to be offered for various sins. Sin is not cheap! It costs innocent creatures their lives! We believe this is a foreshadowing of the Lamb whom God would send as the one who would take the sins of mankind on himself and pay for them...for all those who believed in the work he had done on the cross. This is why I have a problem with the Quran and its taking out the blood of Jesus. Yes, it says nice things about him, but without the shedding of blood, the Bible says, there is no payment for sin. Without Christ's work, there is no salvation! Yeah, it's that serious. Contrary to what we'd like to believe, we cannot work hard enough to wash ourselves clean in front of a Holy, Perfect Almighty God. Quite simply, we cannot save ourselves. God is our Savior. Both the Bible and Quran agree on this. Yet most of us act as if we can somehow make ourselves clean enough that God will see fit to let us into heaven.





Picture something with me for a minute. Suppose you were a mechanic busy working under the hood of a car. You can imagine how greasy your fingers would be after a few hours on the job. You catch a glimpse of yourself in the side-view mirror and notice a smudge of pizza from lunch that somehow dropped on your chin. Without thinking you take a swipe at this tomato-y red stain and instead of wiping yourself clean, you leave a black grease spot on your face. The crux of the matter is: you cannot clean yourself when your hands are dirty! No matter how hard you try to get that smear of pizza sauce off your face, you will still be dirty as long as your hands are black with grease.


Now, apply this spiritually. In God's eyes we are all sinners. One sin made us imperfect and I am willing to bet my life (if I were a betting woman, that is) that all of you reading this now have done at least one thing wrong. Some of you maybe even two or three. For me, it's up near, ooooohhhhh, a billion sixty four, I'm sure. So. We are all sinners. We all have dirty hands like the mechanic. We can work hard at cleaning the spots off us, but in reality, we are only smearing the dirt. It's hopeless for us to clean ourselves! Ahhhhh, what do we do? We ask God for help. We call for the Savior which God claims to be! Both the Bible and Quran say this, in fact!

Joseph in Sura 12:

101.  O my Lord, you have given me dominion and taught me the interpretation of dreams; O Creator of the heavens and the earth, You alone are my saviour in this world and the world to come; let me die submitting to You, and place me among the upright."

And I did a post about God as our Savior from the OT earlier this year. In that post, I mentioned this lovely Psalm (40) from David. I think it explains how our "cleaning" is from the Lord, not our own efforts.


1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.

Notice how much of that is "He" doing the work and not "I." "He" even put a new song of praise in David's mouth! Why are you taking credit for what GOD has done?

Back to the blog where I left another comment. A bit later in the discussion we were talking about repentance. I thought this comment might be helpful to the one who asked about forgiveness of sin.


First we must understand repentance which isn’t merely a “Oops, they caught me…I’m sorry, God.” Repentance isn’t just turning from your sins either. John Edwards could stop sleeping with his mistress and go back home to Elizabeth without being truly repentant. (I’m just using him for an example since he is in the news a lot these days and lives in my state. Substitute Tiger Woods, Mark Sanford or Cheater of Your Own Choice if you’d rather.)

Biblical repentance is changing your mind about your sin to the extent that your actions change. (We believe it’s a work of GOD in our hearts.) Like when Jesus visited Zacchaeus and salvation was brought to Z’s house. Z then repented and said he’d give half of his goods to feed the poor and restore fourfold what he’d taken from others. He wasn’t merely “sorry” for cheating his people in tax collecting, his change of heart changed his actions.

Notice the message of John the Baptist, Jesus and the disciples to repent. My point of bringing up repentance is to show that we cannot flippantly say, “Oh, I believe Jesus cleanses our sins so I can sleep around, get drunk, cheat others, lie, steal and live like the devil and still be OK.”

That’s a mistaken notion that Jesus’ blood is like an insurance policy — it gets me out of hell while I live like hell every day. Not so.

So if Hitler had a change of heart that resulted in a change of action and he asked God to forgive his sins, yes, I believe he would be forgiven. The same with Osama bin Laden which, by the way, an older friend of mine told me last weekend she was praying for his salvation. And the same for any other mass murderer. Yes, what they did is wrong and they will have to live with the guilt of what they did, but can OBL go back and apologize to those he killed? Can Hitler? Can George Bush?

Could King David go back and apologize to Uriah after Uriah was killed? No. Do I think God forgave David after he repented? Sure do.

This may differ from other Christians, but it is my understanding of repentance and forgiveness of sins. If you disagree or want to add or change something I said, please speak up!


Now I will leave the post open for more questions or simply feedback/comments/whatever you want to add on this subject or any other. I'll continue with the Quran posts soon. I have three in drafts ready to be published whenever I get the notion. Thanks again to all who've left feedback. You've been very helpful!

22 comments:

Sarira said...

Susanne,

Thank you so much for writing this whole post for me and my friend Sundus. I don’t think she noticed it, yet. I will definitely comment on this- the only problem is that I've spent this whole morning commenting on the others things I wanted to comment on- some of the posts on the Qur’an that I had noticed but hadn't had time to comment on cause my sis was here (yes, she's not here anymore, boohoo boo hoo :()

So I will have to comment on this later (perhaps later in the week as I have a HUGE Qu'ran test this week that I haven't studied for).

But anyways, I thought it would be hard for you to notice my ‘new’ comments, what with all the old comments, so I decided to write them all in a document and if possible, ask you to download it. I think it would just make them more noticeable and plus, hehe, it would make it easier for me, rather than having to keep cutting my little comments cause of how long they are, hehe.

So here it is :)

http://www.4shared.com/file/LrBnJPJu/Sariras_Comments.html

Anonymous said...

Hello!

This is a nice idea that you have to make this an open session. If it is alright, I’ve got a few questions on Christianity that have always puzzled me. For one thing, the concept of the trinity completely confuses me- I know that the idea is that they are three persons in one godhead. (I’ve also heard this quoted often: The Word was with Him….)
But how do you reconcile that verse with these:

You have heard Me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’ If you loved Me, you would rejoice because I said ‘I am going to the Father,’ for My Father is greater than I (John 14:28)

So we can understand that the Father is greater than Jesus, right? Doesn’t that imply that they are not ‘unified’ entirely as one? What about this verse?
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son but only the Father. (Matthew 24: 36)

(As a Muslim, the above verse reminds me this verse in the Holy Quran, 7:187: "They ask thee about the (final) Hour - when will be its appointed time? Say: 'The knowledge thereof is with my Lord (alone): none but He can reveal as to when it will occur….7:187)

How could Jesus, if he is ‘God’, not know when the Hour is?

What about this:

"But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.[b] 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23-25).

The beginning of this verse begins by telling us we have only one Master and that we are all brothers. It seems to be emphasizing the fact that we are equal. In my opinion, the verse continues to stress our equality by warning us not to call anyone on earth Father. But this is where I become a little baffled. Now, if Jesus and the Lord are one and are really unified, why does this verse forbid us from calling Jesus father (“and do not call anyone on earth ‘father’”). Again, it says “anyone”. The verse has already stressed our equality; I would think if Jesus and the Lord are one (and this is one of the most fundamental issues of Christian creed, right?),the Lord wouldn’t want us to think that we are equal to Jesus, or himself, right? But the verse doesn’t do that…instead, it seems to suggest that that Jesus and the Lord are not unified. The verse tells us three things: (1) that no one on earth should ever be called Father and we know that Jesus was on earth 2) that we have only one Father 3) that the Father is the one who is in Heaven. What I’m essentially confused about is: how unified are Jesus and the Lord if Jesus isn’t allowed to be referred to as the father?

And then why is there a distinction between Master and Teacher, here? If Jesus and the Lord are One, why isn’t Christ used in the first part like this: “But you are not to be called Rabbi, for you have only one Master, Christ, and you are all brothers.” Or why isn’t the third verse” Nor are you to be called teacher, for you have one Teacher, the Master, Christ.” In other words, why isn’t Christ ever connected to Master and vice versa. Why is Christ only used with respect to Teacher?

Anonymous said...

Also, how could the son of God be also considered the son of King David?

In Matthew 1: The Genealogy of Jesus
1A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David the son of Abraham….

If this is actually supposed to mean that Mary is related to King David only and not Jesus as ‘he is God’, why didn’t it state “Jesus, the Son, who is the son of Mary, daughter of ….”

What about this verse: "When all things are subjected to him , then the Son himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things under him , that God may be everything to everyone" (I Corinthians 15:28).

Within the context of the trinity, what does this verse mean? God will be subject to God?

My other major question is this: Why are St. Paul’s words taken as if he was a prophet? According to several articles, scholars, and things I’ve read/heard, the man lived during and after the time of Jesus but never actually claimed to have seen or heard Jesus except in some kind of mystical "vision" after the time of Jesus. Why are the words of a man who didn’t even see Jesus taken as the ‘foundation’ of Christianity? It is because there is a certain quote that Jesus said that that his blood would pay for mankind? Did he in any of his teachings give any indication that he knew he would be ‘crucified’ and the purpose behind this?

In fact, I have always felt that what Jesus is said to have said on the cross showed the exact opposite: My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

If God came all the way down to Earth to ‘let people know’ him, why did he teach us to think badly of God, as if God has forsaken us? And why didn’t he take the opportunity then to explain what you have explained in this post - about his blood atoning for our sins? Why didn’t He tell the people “Fear not for in my loss of life is your life” or something to that extent? Why did He seem to suggest it was something bad?

Also, again, back to point one here, the question everyone asks- if he is God, why is He talking to himself here? Why did he forsake himself?

Thank you and hope to read your answers soon.

Susanne said...

Sarira and Anon, just wanted to let you know I received your comments and have *hopes* to get some answers up for you sooner rather than later. Thanks much for your interest! :)

Susanne said...

I'll be posting more as I have time to sit down and formulate answers. Anon asked lots of good questions and I really want to give her something though I'm not sure what just yet. :)

I'm going to pray and reflect on your questions. It's not that there aren't answers, just it's not so easy for me to write a sentence or two to explain to someone without a basic understanding of the Bible's whole story...not just a passage here and there taken out of context.

I read this just the other day as it was the Question of the Week. When I read your comment now, I thought perhaps you would get something from it since it attempts to explain the Trinity and also discusses the subordination that you described in your questioning comments.

Give it a read if you are able to open it where you live. If not, let me know and I can try copying and pasting.

http://www.gotquestions.org/Trinity-Bible.html

Also a book that I found helpful is actually a fiction one called "The Shack." Through this contemporary story I was a bit better able to visualize and **enjoy** the unified, unique relationship of Father, Son and Spirit in the Trinity.

Sarira said...

Susanne,
I took the first part of my test today and after I finished- I came here to comment! Hehehe! Again I would like to thank you again for so graciously explaining this whole concept to me and Sundus. Very kind of you.

I found a lot of this very interesting! I also found it, ‘packed’ with information- I don’t even know where to start commenting, hehe, but I’ll just begin and hope that I am, in spite of all the hundreds of things I want to say, as coherent as possible.

So, in your words, ‘here goes’.

First of all I want to say I like how you said that you are not God’s apologist and that His ways are different from yours. Also, I need to stress something really important:

"We ask God for help. We call for the Savior which God claims to be! Both the Bible and Quran say this, in fact!"
We, Muslims, totally agree with this (as you said- it is in the Qur’an). We are all sinners and we could never even worship God completely properly/praise Him as He deserves. And definitely, He is our Only Savior and we rely on His Infinite Mercy; for this reason it is Sunnah to recite the following prayer when we prostrate in our daily prayers:

O Allah, I seek protection in Your pleasure from Your anger, and I seek protection in Your forgiveness from Your punishment. I seek protection in You from You . I cannot count Your praises. You are as You have praised Yourself.

We in fact, believe, that when it comes to repentance- Allah turns to us so that we may repent: “Then He (Allah) turned to them so that they might repent. Certainly, Allah is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.” [11; 118]

Also, we agree that we could never ever ever enter heaven ‘simply by our deeds’; we in fact, can never repay Him for what He has already so Graciously and Generously granted us. Rather than putting all these hadiths and making this really long, I will just paraphrase one hadith: on the Day of Judgment, God will say, let this servant enter heaven through My Mercy, and the servant who had devoted (I remember it being) 80 full years of worship to Allah will say “No, my Lord, through my worship”. Then Allah will say, let us measure your worship with the gift of eye sight that I gave you- and the gift of eye sight when placed on the scale will far outweigh the servant’s worship.
So not only are we all sinners, we are already all in debtfor all that Allah has given us, every breath of life, every chance to draw near Him.

But, and here’s the but….while the analogy you gave of the mechanic was very clear, we Muslims take the analogy of a mother with (not only her child) but her baby when we think of God with us (as Exalted and Beyond Compare as He is) . In fact, once the Prophet asked the Companions when they passed by a mother with her baby, do you think that this mother would cast her child into a fire? And the Companions said, “No”, and he said something to the effect of “God is more Merciful to us than her to her baby”. This means that God is so so so so Merciful to us and did not create us because He simply wanted to cast us into hell. Instead, He essentially created us for Paradise and to be Merciful to us: “Except for him on whom your Lord bestowed His Mercy; and for that did He create them…” [Quran, Surat Hud]..

So now that we established that God is more merciful than a mother, let’s explore a bit this analogy. Let’s say a mother tells her child, let’s call him Robert, “Robert, I don’t want you to eat any chocolate- you’ll spoil your dinner”. Now Robert just can’t resist the choco and he goes and eats some…

Now, Robert’s mother might get really angry at him. She might be offended that he didn’t listen to her, frustrated that he would do exactly the opposite as she said, etc. She might even tell him to go to his room (ground him) or even spank him!

Sarira said...

But would she ever say, “Okay, now that you did that, Robert, I’m going to have to spank Mark (your brother- the most obedient son I have) so that you, Robert, can face me again?”

That would be a bit odd, right. If we take it to a court scene with a judge and a ‘criminal’ and an innocent person, none of us could ever imagine a judge saying that he would incarcerate an innocent person for the criminal to be ‘cleaned’, could we?

I’m sorry if the above analogy offended you, and again, I want to stress that I understand that God is different and we do not always understand His ways- I know that you perceive the blood of Jesus being sacrificed as ‘merciful’. Now, I’m trying to avoid saying anything blasphemous in your opinion so let me just put in this way- we perceive that God is not only Merciful but He is The Just.

And this, I think, our concept of God’s justice is where we differ.

You see, because we believe that God is Just and (all Powerful), we reject the notion of original sin. Therefore, we disagree with your belief that One sin made us imperfect

We do not believe that Adam and Eve’s sin was hereditary or that it is what actually made us imperfect- to me, personally, this suggests that ‘a sin’, something against God, actually overcame God’s creation (human beings/perfect world/etc.) and changed us. How could that be? God is Greater than any sin, the Most Powerful! Instead, as I’ve said several times, we believe that we were naturally created, regardless of Adam and Eve’s sin, with the inclination to do good and to do bad (again, as I’ve said several times, though, we have been endowed with an innate disposition that guides us to do good and to go to Allah’s path- the test of life, thus, is to rise above the inclination to do bad, follow our innate disposition and put God’s commandments and desires above our own.) Out of God’s justice, this is what He will judge each of us, individually, on: how well did each of us uphold His Commandments? He would never judge us on say, how well our parents stuck to His path, neither would He hold us accountable for how well Adam and Hawa (Eve) did.

‘And no bearer of burdens will bear the burden of another. And if a heavily laden soul calls [another] to [carry some of] its load, nothing of it will be carried, even if he should be a close relative. You can only warn those who fear their Lord unseen and have established prayer. And whoever purifies himself only purifies himself for [the benefit of] his soul. And to God is the [final] destination’ (Surah Fatir 35:18)

And: ‘God does not charge a soul except [with that within] its capacity. It will have [the consequence of] what [good] it has gained, and it will bear [the consequence of] what [evil] it has earned’ (Surah al-Baqarah 2:286)

Before we jump around too much, let’s go back to when God told the angels about His decision to create us, in chapter 2 of the Qur’an:

Remember what the angels asked Allah?

And when your Lord said to the angels, I am going to place in the earth a khalif (vicegerent), they said: What! wilt Thou place in it such as shall make mischief in it and shed blood, and we celebrate Thy praise and extol Thy holiness? He said: Surely I know what you do not know

I won’t go into guessing exactly what Allah intended by that- but I put this here to explain that He knew, (like the angels said), that by giving us free will, we would sin, but above that, He also knew (that despite our sins), there would be a be a people who would love Him, put Him above their own selves, and try to draw near Him.

Sarira said...

Okay, so, what am I trying to say?

Am I saying that since God already knows that we are going to sin, sin isn’t a big deal? No! As you said before, God is “offended” by sin. Sin is very bad (contrary to what I may have led you believe before, lol, because I was talking about ‘repenting from sin. Sin, itself, though is very bad).

In fact, we say that when we sin, we essentially have 4 witnesses established against us:

a) The place we did the crime (i.e., scene of the murder).
"On that day, the earth will reveal all its secrets." (99:4)

b) The organ we used to commit the crime. "When their ears, their eyes, their skin will testify against them." (41:21)
"That day we seal up mouths, and hands speak out and feet bear witness to all that they did." (36:65)

c) The Angels who record the deeds (Kiraman Katebeen).
"The honored writers know what you do." (82:11)

d) God- the Greatest Witness

Yup, we believe that our ears will testify against us, our skin, too! That means that we believe that when we sin- we are sinning not only against God, but against ourselves, because our own bodies will testify against us on the Day of Judgment.

We also say that sin deprives one of provision, makes things difficult for us (each individual sinner), stains our hearts (again, if we do not repent) and distances us and alienates us from Allah. We say that if sin brought no punishment other than that it prevents a person from doing an act of worship (which is the opposite of sin, and cuts off access to other acts of worship), that would be bad enough.

So we definitely believe that sin is BAD. But we do not believe that one couple’s sin alienated each and every one of us from God. Did Adam’s sin personally distance me from God and make me need someone else (‘the most sinless one of us all’) die to bring me back to Him? No.

What it did instead was result in that couple (who did that sin) having to leave the Garden; it was punishment enough that they were physically distanced from God, but to say that their sin actually ‘distanced’ their children and all of mankind from God and that they can only be redeemed by the blood of an ‘innocent lamb’, doesn’t fit our perception of justice.

I know that you said ‘sin is not cheap’- it definitely is not. But to believe that it costs innocent people their lives would—I can’t get my head around that. He forbade us from ‘killing innocent people’ (causing innocent people to lose their lives)- how could He use that method for us to atone our sins?

In fact, while you have explained that in the Biblical account, an animal was killed to clothe Adam and Eve, in our account, instead, they were clothed by leaves:
(I see that you read Surat Taha- this should still sound familiar, then):

Then they both ate of it, so their evil inclinations became manifest to them, and they both began to cover themselves with leaves of the garden, and Adam disobeyed his Lord, so his life became evil (to him) . (121) Then his Lord chose him, so He turned to him and guided (him).

Sarira said...

Also, : If you read the Torah, you will see precise details of what had to be offered for various sins. Sin is not cheap! It costs innocent creatures their lives!

That’s very interesting, but as we don’t have a reference to that, I can’t quite ‘reconcile’ that with God’s orders to take care and be Merciful to His creatures. (We have a hadith in which a woman is promised Hell fire for keeping a cat, caged in, not allowing it to go out and eat or do anything). But anyways, regarding ‘repentance’, we do have one interesting story of repentance during Prophet Moses’ time. After his people started worshipping the golden calf”, and they realized that they were wrong (when Prophet Moses came back), they were told to atone for their grave sin of worshipping the calf, they would have to kill themselves. Yes, this is a heavy price to ask for, but as you said 1) sin is not cheap 2) Moosa’s people saw so many of God’s signs. God rescued them from Pharaoh. They saw the staff that turned into a snake. They saw the signs He afflicted Pharaoh’s people with. He had the ocean ‘split’ for them, etc. God granted them so many favors and they turned aside from Him and turned to idolatry!

"0 my people (Moses speaking here)! Verily, you have wronged yourselves by worshipping the calf. So turn in repentance to your Creator and kill yourselves, that will be better for you in the Sight of your Creator." Then He accepted your repentance. Truly, He is the One Who acecpets repentance, the Most Merciful. Surah 2:54 (The story is much longer than this verse- Allah ended up resurrecting them and forgiving them- you can read more about it and Prophet Mosa’s story which literally takes up almost 1/3 of the Qur’an and since you just read surat Taha: here: http://www.fau.edu/~mabusway/prophetmoses.pdf or here: www.prophetmuhammedforall.org/webfles/prophets/Musa.doc

Therefore, as the story above highlights, the concept that we have should be obvious- we believe that we should give up our own lives to God, not have God ‘give up his Son’/ or Himself. We should sacrifice our lives- since we are the sinners.

In fact, this is one of the reasons many people are startled with Islamic punishments for sins. If a person steals something, their sin is not cheap; they have to pay for the crime they did by having their hand cut off. Again, they who committed the crime and broke God’s commandment willingly are solely responsible; no one can redeem them by ‘dying’ for them. They must own up to what they have done.

So definitely, in no way do we perceive that sin is cheap-

Actually, I do want to say that I found the OT method interesting as well because not every single person on this earth cares about the innocent people/innocent animals. Committing a crime and then having to slaughter an animal may not bother a person at all- some might in fact, only feel remorse that they are losing an ‘asset’, e.g. a nomad going like “aww, man, I lost money”, not “OMG, I was the reason a creature had to die”.

But when YOU have to pay- then, you realize fully that sin is not cheap.

I don’t want to give you the impression though that we should go kill ourselves, right now, lol or that Islam asks us to do that. One way to give up our life to Him is to strive in His cause, live by His rules 24/7, put His commandments above our own desires, as hard as that may be. We should ‘fear Him’ and His opinion of us wherever we are, whoever we are talking to, etc. placing Him above everything else.

Sarira said...

O you who have believed, shall I guide you to a transaction that will save you from a painful punishment? [It is that] you believe in Allah and His Messenger and strive in the cause of Allah with your wealth and your lives. That is best for you, if you should know. (11) He will forgive for you your sins and admit you to gardens beneath which rivers flow and pleasant dwellings in gardens of perpetual residence. That is the great attainment.

(Surat As Saff-notice how the ‘transaction is not based on Jesus’s blood but on our own blood- our own lives)

Let’s also consider these two hadiths:

Abu Sa'eed al-Khudree (Radiya Allah Anhoo) reported that Prophet Mohammed salah Allahoo alyhee wa salam said: " A Muslim is not afflicted by hardship, sickness, sadness, worry, harm, or depression - even if pricked by a thorn, but Allah expiates his sins because of that. " [ Bukharee and Muslim ]

In a way, we see it that God is giving us the chance to do what you see “Christ endured” for you- when we go through any ‘agony’ at all, God erases our sins for us (if we bear it with patience and trust in Him, of course).

Again, though, we don’t need to ‘suffer’ to be forgiven, though.
Abu Hurairahu (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: I heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) saying, "Say, if there were a river at the door of one of you in which he takes a bath five times a day, would any soiling remain on him?'' They replied, "No soiling would left on him.'' He (PBUH) said, '' That is the five (obligatory) Salat (prayers). Allah obliterates all sins as a result of performing them.''
[Al-Bukhari and Muslim].

You might be surprised at this but really- think about it. We wake up at dawn to talk to God and pray. We do it again, at noon, after noon, at sunset, and a little after that. 5 times, we come back to God and say that we need Him to guide us. How could He not forgive us for that? Imagine doing this not only 5 times a day, but for 365 days a year, X all of your life….do you see why I consider it ‘giving up’ our own lives to Allah?

Even simpler than that:

As for) those who fear their Lord in secret, they shall surely have forgiveness and a great reward.

You might say-see, all the above, the whole giving up your life idea, I don't really see "God's Mercy" in that. You [Sarira] keep talking about Justice, but where is the “Mercy” in us giving up our lives? We [you, hehe] think He is so Merciful He gave up His ‘son”.

The mercy is that we do not believe that we need an intermediary such as Jesus to bring us ‘back to God’- He doesn’t care that we are ‘sinners’, if we repent. I see the system that you describe as this- if it weren’t for Jesus, God sees us as ‘the untouchables’ from the caste system because of our sins- instead, we see it that God is so Merciful, He waits eagerly for us to repent to Him.

Dr. Nabulsi, explaining/referring to a hadith, said: If a disobedient slave turns to Allah (with sincere repentance), it is called out in the heavens and the earth: ‘Congratulate so-and-so, for he has been reconciled with Allah!’”

"He is the one who accepts repentance from His servants and forgives sins and He knows all that you do. And He listens to those who believe and do acts of righteousness, and gives them increase of His bounty" (42:25-26).

We believe that He is so Gracious and Merciful, He accepts us if we try hard to be pious, submit to His Will, if we call on Him, admit to Him our flaws and how we need Him to save us, lead us to the right way:

Sarira said...

Allah, the Almighty, has said: O Son of Adam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O Son of Adam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you. O Son of Adam, were you to come to Me with sins as great as the earth, and were you then to face Me ascribing no partners to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.

"Say: 'O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of God: for God forgives all sins (except shirk): for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.'" (39:53)

Is that not Merciful? He doesn’t need to sacrifice a son/Himself in order to forgive us; He merely says “Be” and it is.

The way I see it, is that we believe the very verses you put up from (in a different post):

"'I will cleanse them from all their iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have transgressed against Me." -- Jeremiah 33:8

"Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love." -- Micah 7:18

"I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins." -- Isaiah 43:25

That is who Allah is- He is the Forgiver, the One who accepts Repentance, the One who Blots out Sins, etc.

Not only that, but He is the Al-Wakeel- “The Defender”. I like how this website put it: Now, with four such strong witnesses (against the sins we have committed), how can we present ourselves to Allah? The Defender, Allah, like a smart lawyer, removes all the witnesses against those whose repentance has been accepted, so that we present ourselves with a clean record. Case dissolved due to lack of witnesses. Hadith is like this. "When Allah accepts repentance and forgives His servant, then recording angels erase their records, organs lose their memories, and earth removes its stains of evidence so that when that person appears before Allah, there is no one to be a witness against him. Subhan Allah.

Again, this to us is how we have that Allah is both the Most Merciful and the Most Just- we pay for our sins, we are immediately absolved from our sins and brought closer to Him again if we repent.

As for this That’s a mistaken notion that Jesus’ blood is like an insurance policy — it gets me out of hell while I live like hell every day. Not so . Biblical repentance is changing your mind about your sin to the extent that your actions change.

I was personally relieved to read that. I used to also wonder how it all worked out in Christianity.

For us, I would say it is fairly similar. We believe that in order for forgiveness to be accepted, these conditions should be met:

(1) The crime is committed out of ignorance, not with the intention that, "Let us go ahead and commit this crime as Allah is forgiving, so He will forgive us.";
(2) Quickly turn into shame and repentance after committing a crime out of ignorance;
(3) After asking for forgiveness, make a promise or pledge to "mend his ways", and to stick to his promise. Let us examine verses of Quran.
"...if any of you did evil in ignorance, and thereafter repented and amended (your conduct), lo! Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." (6:54)
"Forgiveness is only incumbent on Allah towards those who do evil out of ignorance and then turn quickly (in repentance) to Allah. Toward them will Allah turn in mercy; for Allah is full of knowledge and wisdom." (4:17)

"Forgiveness is not for those who do ill until death faces one of them, who then says, 'Lo! I repent now, nor for those who die as disbelievers, for such we have prepared a painful doom.'" (4:18)

Sarira said...

Also, let’s take a look at this- let’s say you consume usury and then repent. You would have to give up what ‘you were supposed to get’:

“O you who believe! Fear Allaah and give up what remains (due to you) from Ribaa (from now onward) if you are (really) believers.
279. And if you do not do it, then take a notice of war from Allaah and His Messenger but if you repent, you shall have your capital sums. Deal not unjustly (by asking more than your capital sums), and you shall not be dealt with unjustly (by receiving less than your capital sums)”
[al-Baqarah 2:278-279]

It reminds me of the nice story you shared :)

Also, about this part "He" even put a new song of praise in David's mouth!

I liked that!! Ma’shaAllah! It reminds me of this: Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of forgiveness , and his Lord turned toward him, for He is Oft-Forgiving and Most Merciful. (2:37)
What were those words taught to Adam? They said, "Our Lord, we have wronged our souls and if you forgive us not, and bestow not upon us your mercy, we shall be losers. (7:23)

Since God already taught Adam how to seek forgiveness and He sent all the Prophets to teach us, we believe it is up to us, to ask God for His forgiveness. Does this mean that we ‘are doing all the work’? No, but we are doing the work He wants us to do.

And finally, now that I think I have covered all my main points, I conclude this with Prophet Mohammed’s dua- O my Lord, forgive me, because you love to forgive, thus forgive me, O you Merciful!

OH and p.s. I have to say I’m glad you wrote George Bush’s name, too :D Anyways, yes, we agree with this concept as well.

Sarira said...

I just saw your new post, Susanne (I feel like calling you Suzy, is that okay?)about how you are going to publish that draft about Paul and I just had to ask something, since we're on that subject.

When I saw this verse in anon's comment:

Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ,

I was a bit surprised, because it seems to me that Christians think of Paul as teaching them their religion- or is this my perception only?

Zaiynab said...

To add to Sarira's comment, the hadith about the woman and the cat always reminds me of the hadith about the woman and the dog-

Hadith - Bukhari 4:538, Narrated Abu Huraira (radhiAllahu anhu)

Allah's Apostle (Salalahu aleyhi wa salam) said, "A prostitute was forgiven by Allah, because, passing by a panting dog near a well and seeing that the dog was about to die of thirst, she took off her shoe, and tying it with her head-cover she drew out some water for it. So, Allah forgave her because of that."

Susanne said...

Oh, here is a great post my friend Amber wrote last year about the "teacher" and "father" thing. I urge you all to check it out. She's an interesting writer.

I'll answer more questions later. I am late for a Memorial Day outing if I don't hurry!! :-)

http://littlestepshome.blogspot.com/2009/09/and-call-no-man-your-father.html

You can ask her questions on her blog, too! :-)

Anonymous said...

Dear Susanne,

I have seen your new post about the draft regarding Paul and I am eagerly waiting to read it.

As for the article you provided regarding the Trinity, I had no problem accessing it (thank you for your offer to copy paste) and I was glad to see this right in the beginning:

“The most difficult thing about the Christian concept of the Trinity is that there is no way to adequately explain it. The Trinity is a concept that is impossible for any human being to fully understand, let alone explain.”

Now, unfortunately, the rest of the piece baffled me. To be honest and frank with you, I was expecting the ‘analogies’ that it so thoroughly rejected in the end. I read through all the verses it provided and simply ended up being confused again; I felt it only confirmed all that I had been asking about in my post.

Take this part: This shows that Jesus did not consider Himself to be the Father or the Holy Spirit. Consider also all the other times in the Gospels where Jesus speaks to the Father. Was He speaking to Himself? No. He spoke to another person in the Trinity—the Father.

Also, instead of ‘rejecting’ or “explaining” the subordination verses I showed you, the website simply reaffirmed that there is subordination and that:

“This is simply an area which our finite minds cannot understand concerning the infinite God”

To me, I cannot grasp how if there is subordination, there is unification. I understand that the idea of the article is that God is Higher than us and that we have finite minds and cannot grasp Him, and I agree that we could never fully grasp Him, but to not even understand the ‘basic’ idea of “Him” makes little sense to me. I am not saying that we should be able to do that all on our own; but He did not create us without intellect and He did not leave us alone to find out who He was- He sent prophets and Divine Books.
Does the Old Testament really have any verse that explicitly states the trinity?

I know the website provided this:
The Hebrew plural noun Elohim is used. In Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8, the plural pronoun for “us” is used. The word Elohim and the pronoun “us” are plural forms, definitely referring in the Hebrew language to more than two...

I am not truly convinced of this. We also have the usage of ‘us’ in the Honly Qur'an; to us, though it acts as the “We” the British Royal Queen uses. The ‘we’ of authority and respect, not plurality.

I decided to go and read a bit though to see what others had to say about this aspect.

“To prove the singular is the intent of one-God in Genesis 1:1 the verb is singular which identifies the subject as being singular. Although trinitarians do not like it and say the Jews are telling lies, the ancient Godly Israelites always understood God to be one person, a numerical ONE and not three. They understood the plural Elohim to speak of the majesty of intensity and his attributes of power. And for any trinitarian to say the plural means *GODS*, then let them translate it that way and see what a mess they make of the Scriptures. Even staunch trinitarians know this would be a pollution and sacrilege. The great schema: Hear O Israel the LORD our God is one LORD, settles the argument. But within Mystery Babylon the skilled scribes of the occult would not be so easily exposed and rebuked by Jewish doctrine. No, they would live by the reinterpretations of Nimrod and his gnosticism and impregnate the world with his doctrines. And thus we have Ministers and people today who believe in the trinitarian doctrine of Mystery Babylon and don't know it is a philosophy of man and not a true doctrine of God.”

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you can help me with this: did the Prophets before, David, Moses, etc. mention the trinity? Is there anything other than this proof?

Unfortunately, I probably won’t be able to read that book, “The Shack” as I am currently preoccupied right now with certain things, but it occurred to me to recommend books that might be of interest to you and that you may want to add to your reading list:

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound and Jesus was not a Trinitarian by Anthony Buzzard.

I only heard of him and his books when I was researching the trinity and came across this website: http://unveilingchristianity.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/mark-1229-34-refutes-the-trinity/.

If you read the comments, a Christian answers what the Muslim has written, but then the Muslim comes back and finishes writing and Anthony Buzard, himself, comments and encourages the people to read the book.

Also, if it interests you to read it, the website where Pastor G. wrote is this: http://www.jesus-messiah.com/apologetics/catholic/trinity.html

Kind regards,
(Anon)

Sarira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarira said...

(Sorry, my last comment wasn't written clearly so I deleted it)...

Hey Susanne!

I read the article of Amber's but I think my question is more related to 'anon's question of why you take Paul as the teacher rather than as why it is alright to use the term teacher and father-
"There is no doubt that Paul was not violating Christ’s teaching in Matthew 23 by referring so often to others as "teachers." as explaining the correctness of the term 'father' and 'teacher'..


^ I completley understand what she is saying, but my question is why do you take Paul as 'the teacher' of Christanity if the Bible says to take only Jesus. I guess the idea is that we are wondering about this verse:

"I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:14–15).

Who appointed him as 'the father'/'teacher'? His vision, only?

Why we are confused (and it appears all the Muslims you konw, hahhah) is because we don't understand why Christ would come all the way here and not personally talk to Paul in front of people, teach him the religion and appoint him as the teacher?

Also, "Does the Old Testament really have any verse that explicitly states the trinity?"

Given all that you have shared of the Prophets, I thought this was a good question of Anon. I wonder how come the OT gives such detailed accounts of the Prophets, but fails to give a clear account of the crucifixation? Why are so many 'details' that you do not really need in your daily life expliclty stated but what will lead you to salvation, only 'implicitly stated' (through the usuage of a plural pronoun? )

Does my new question make sense? I hope I wrote it better this time cause the first time I read it, it didn't make any sense! LOL!

Susanne said...

Sarira, that's a lovely prayer you recite every day - I'm glad you shared the words with me.

Thank you for the mother/child (Robert) analogy to explain your beliefs. I appreciate that.

As for this: "You see, because we believe that God is Just and (all Powerful), we reject the notion of original sin. Therefore, we disagree with your belief that One sin made us imperfect "

I'm pretty sure I was talking about each of our one sins make us imperfect. I do believe in original sin, but I didn't mean Adam's sin made YOU imperfect. But your own sin did. The first time you lied, had a bad attitude, stole a candy bar made you imperfect. I just wanted to clear that up.

Thanks for the interesting part about 4 witnesses in relation to our sins. You are teaching me a lot about your faith by your explanations! :)

" That means that we believe that when we sin- we are sinning not only against God, but against ourselves"

I totally agree.

"I know that you said ‘sin is not cheap’- it definitely is not. But to believe that it costs innocent people their lives would—I can’t get my head around that. He forbade us from ‘killing innocent people’ (causing innocent people to lose their lives)- how could He use that method for us to atone our sins? "

Well, not innocent PEOPLE. I said innocent creatures -- like goats and lambs. You have to read the Jewish sacrifice system in the OT to understand. The only innocent PERSON whom I think died was Jesus and I believe Jesus was God in the flesh so GOD - out of His love - took the sin of mankind upon Himself to be our Savior. I know that's not your beliefs, but I wanted to explain a bit more my understanding so you won't think I mean any ol' "innocent" person could die for another's sins. On the contrary, there IS NO other innocent person if ALL have sinned and fallen short of God's glorious standard.


"That’s very interesting, but as we don’t have a reference to that, I can’t quite ‘reconcile’ that with God’s orders to take care and be Merciful to His creatures"

Yet Muslims have no problem sacrificing innocent creatures after the hajj for your special eid each year. And plenty of animals give their lives so we can eat schwarma, kebab, hamburgers, hotdogs, shish tawook and so forth, right? I agree it seems bloody, but my point is that God made the animals and while I don't think He wants us to torture them and be inhumane to them, they were created FOR A REASON and His reason may be different from ours. Yes, I know the Quran said Adam and Eve used leaves. This again shows me how the BLOOD is not important to Islam, whereas it is the most essential thing in Christianity. My whole complaint with Islam is that it took out the crucial need for the blood - from start to finish - because Satan knows the blood is what gives us power over him.

Susanne said...

I agree that the five prayers a day is a wonderful way to keep God in mind regularly, however, I wonder how much of this become rote and ritual rather than true worship and remembrance. I can't judge as I'm sure many are sincere, while many others maybe are not. Only God knows.

"Again, this to us is how we have that Allah is both the Most Merciful and the Most Just- we pay for our sins, we are immediately absolved from our sins and brought closer to Him again if we repent. "

The difference for me is that we can't do enough to pay for our sins. We can try all we want for the days we live on this earth and it won't be enough. This is why GOD is the only Savior.

We just have different thoughts on this and that's understandable. I do greatly appreciate your thorough comments as I've enjoyed your examples and the discussion thus far.

Ha, ha....glad you liked that I put Bush in there. I thought it would resonate with Arab and/or Muslim readers! :-D

LOL...yes, you can call me Suzy!

I wouldn't say Paul taught us about our religion so much as he preached Jesus' message and taught the churches about Jesus. We read those letters for a variety of reasons a few of which will be mentioned briefly in my Paul post. We believe the Holy Spirit is the best teacher and as we read the Bible, He gives us understanding and directs us in life as we submit to God (see we are 'muslim' too. Little m.) :-) As for the verse in Corinthians....Paul went throughout much of the surrounding region to share the gospel with the Gentiles. He established churches there -- think groups of people meeting in houses NOT church buildings as we see today. They were new followers of Jesus Christ so Paul taught them about Christ and how to live godly in a wicked world. He considered them his spiritual "children" that he cared for and nurtured in the faith. Thus he was their "father" in the spiritual sense. Just as our parents care for our physical, emotional and spiritual needs, Paul saw himself in this spiritual role for these babies in Christ. Kind of like when someone converts to Islam, I'm sure there are people who mentor them into the faith and teach them the rituals and rules expected of them. Likewise Paul took care to *DISCIPLE* or teach these people how to live like Christ taught us to live. Jesus told his followers to share the good news and disciple new believers so Paul was only being obedient.

Hopefully my post about Paul will help you understand more about him. When I post it, please feel free to comment there about that particular post if you have things you want to discuss. I'm planning to post it later today. I only waited a while because I was posting notes too fast and wanted to give people time to read and catch up if they wanted. The Paul post is rather long, but hopefully it will explain why I like him. :)

Susanne said...

Zaiynab, welcome and thanks for sharing that story. I've heard it before and it's very sweet. :)



Anon, thanks for the recommendation of Mr. Buzzard's book. I agree that understanding the Trinity is baffling. Sorry about that. I really don't know how to explain it so someone can understand logically as you wish to understand it.

We believe there are many references in the OT to Jesus' coming. One of my favorites concerning his crucifixion is this from Isaiah. It's only about 16 verses so give it a read if you can.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Isaiah%2052:13-%2053:12&version=NIV



Thank you all for your great comments, questions, feedback!