Cross Examination (3) – Are Muslims Better Followers of Jesus than Christians?

The first to speak sounds right – until the cross-examination begins. (Proverbs 18:17)

This is the second part of a series examining some of the common claims Muslims make about Christianity. I am using a video I was referred to. This video is by a famous Muslim apologist named Zakaria Naik. He is supposed to be a doctor and an expert on the differences between Christianity and Islam. So far I have found his understanding of Christianity to be sadly lacking. Either he is being deliberately deceptive or he knows far less than he thinks he does.

Let me explain. First off, Naik makes the challenge for someone to quote from the Bible where Jesus makes a claim to be God. He says that if anyone can point to one, he will accept Christianity and leave Islam. I pointed to an abundance of scriptures in CE #1.

Second, Naik says that Christians claim to follow the teachings of Paul not Jesus when they say Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I showed that this is patently false. Time and again Jesus shows that He knew of His coming death and resurrection. Even more, Jesus Himself talked many times of the redemptive necessity of His coming sacrifice. See for yourself in CE #2.

Let us now continue on with the video:

Starting at four minutes in, Zakaria Naik makes his third claim that Christians are not following the teachings of Jesus like Muslims do. He mentions things like eating pork and drinking wine and points to multiple scriptures:

Ephesians 5:18 – Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit
Proverbs 20:1 – Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
Leviticus 11:7-8 – The pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you.
Deuteronomy 14:8 – The pig is also unclean; although it has a divided hoof, it does not chew the cud. You are not to eat their meat or touch their carcasses.
Isaiah 65:2-5 – All day long I have held out my hands to an obstinate people, who walk in ways not good, pursuing their own imagination, a people who continually provoke me to my very face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on altars of brick; who sit among the graves and spend their nights keeping secret vigil; who eat the flesh of pigs, and whose pots hold broth of impure meat; who say, ‘Keep away; don’t come near me, for I am too sacred for you!’ Such people are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that keeps burning all day.
Luke 2:21 – On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. (Muslims are all circumcised but apparently most Christians aren’t.)

Naik then drops his accusatory bomb at about 4:50. I quote “If Christian means, ‘a person who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ’ (pbuh) I am proud to say, ‘we Muslims are more Christian than the Christians themselves.’ ”

Can somebody please say double standard? Naik just made a claim that Christians are following the teachings of Paul, not the teachings of Jesus. Not one minute further in, he goes and does the exact same thing Himself. Are Leviticus and Deuteronomy, in prohibiting pork quoting Jesus? Is Isaiah? Did Jesus write about alcohol in Proverb 20:1 or was that Solomon? What about Ephesians 5:18? Did Jesus write that or was it… wait for it… PAUL!?! For shame!

To be fair, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day but that was something His parents did to Him, not His own teachings. Outside of mythology, we do not have any true words from Jesus until He is twelve years old and even that is merely a brief conversation (from which we can learn much)

So, about wine and pork, what did Jesus actually really say? Well, first of all his very first recorded miracle was turning water into wine for a wedding celebration. I am curious, if Jesus forbids it, why on earth would His very first miracle be putting such a great temptation (in abundant quantities) before them?

What about pork? Jesus doesn’t mention the food in particular but He does make a very strong statement about the concept in general:
Mark 7:18-23 – “Are you so dull?” he asked. “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.) [Jesus] went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

Here is a fundamental statement Jesus is making that will be reiterated by Paul and other writers later on. What you do is far, far more important than what you eat or drink. Naik’s claim isn’t just false, it demonstrates that he entirely misses the point in focusing on foods rather than on lifestyle.

Now that we have that taken care of, the question still remains, what are the teachings of Jesus and who is following them better? Since I want to at least make an attempt to keep this short I will focus in on Jesus’ most famous sermon rather than going through everything He taught in the 80+ chapters the gospels write about Him. You can find this sermon in Matthew 5-7.

Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit… those who mourn… the meek… the merciful… the peacemakers… those who are persecuted… Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad,because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

The Quran says, “And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.” (8:39)
“Whoever then acts aggressively against you, inflict injury on him according to the injury he has inflicted on you and be careful (of your duty) to Allah and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).” (2:194)

—–

Jesus says, “ For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

The Quran itself calls the Bible the “Books of God”, a “sign”, “light”, “guidance”, and a “mercy”. It commands us to follow it. (5:71, 7:156-157, etc) However common Muslim doctrine is that the Bible has been corrupted and changed and so it is no longer reliable. In making this claim are not Muslims calling Jesus a liar?

—–

Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

There are 36 references to enemy (عَدُوٌّ) in the Quran. Any guess as to how many of those are in reference to loving, forgiving, or praying for them? No. The quran teaches to be on your guard against your enemies, do not slow up in pursuing to the death your enemies, and ultimately kill them all. (4:101-104, 8:12-15, etc)

—–

Jesus says, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.”

Do Muslims pray in private or do they gather together to all pray in one place? Do Muslims pray in their native language or are they commanded to all pray in Arabic?

—–

Jesus says, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.”

If the lifestyle and words of another prophet do not match up with the life and teachings of Jesus, does He not warn us to be on our guard against them?

—–

Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

I agree with Zakaria Naik that there are many who claim to be Christians who are not actually following the teachings of Jesus. We all, Christians and Muslims and everyone else, fall so far short of our own standards let alone the standards Jesus puts forth. The question is, are we even making an effort to follow Him or are we simply justifying our failures while still performing our outward duties? Whether it is prophesying, driving out demons, and performing miracles, or if it is living up to the five pillars, it is not enough. Whether it is going to a church or attending a mosque, it is not enough. The true test is not in the appearance but in the heart. Like Jesus said back in Mark, it isn’t what is on the outside but what is in the heart that matters. Let us stop with the comparison game and look inward. Am I truly trying to follow after Jesus? Are you?

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Göreme Open Air Museum (Cappadocia Photo Dump #3)

First, a couple pictures I snapped on my way out of Göreme on my way to the museum…

The Old Cappadocia Pancake House gave me a little chuckle. I guess you can kinda call Gozleme’s “pancakes” but that really stretches it. On the menu list you can see the second option is “chese” a little later down they have another choice “beef and chesee”. On the scrolling neon sign they spell the word, “chesse”. Keep trying different spellings. Sooner or later they will get one right. 🙂

The skyline in this next photo is Sunset point (to the left of the flag) and path (extending off to the right) where many of the photos for Cappadocia photo dump #2 were snapped. There are three tiny dots on the right of the skyline that are actually three people sitting and enjoying the view. It is about where they are where I snapped the selfie that is currently my facebook profile picture.

And now on the road to El Nazar Church…

Inside:

This next one would have been the home of the priest or monk responsible for the church. It is actually larger than most homes I have seen and might even have been a meeting place. One thing that I am constantly reminded of here is how everyone’s homes were so much smaller than what we think we need today. Even those living with what we now call “tiny homes” would be extravagant by comparison.

Now on to the Open Air Museum…

I’m only allowed to take pictures inside when nobody’s looking to tell me no.  (Interpret that how you want) So know that any pictures like the next couple from here on out were snapped covertly. 😉

Most of the dozens of churches here are very small and are places for prayer (and burial) rather than meeting places like we consider church today. I do have a little evidence that the larger one halfway through the trip was the exception. The table for forty is served…

Now back outside:

When I returned to Goreme, I noticed a place that whares the name of one of my favorite restaurants in Gaziantep. While it was good, clearly not all Istasyon’s are created equal. Good bye till next time.

 

Walking in Göreme (Cappadocia Photo Dump #2)

I am going to just throw these photos up here. There’s a bunch of them on my phone and if I remember something about it then I will add some commentary, otherwise just sit back and enjoy the view…

One thing that surprised me was how integrated the old and the new were. I expected to see a relatively modern city and then, off a short way, all the old stuff. Instead you would see thousand year old cave homes with air conditioning, satellite dishes, and solar panels popping out at random intervals.

I was on a narrow road as I took the picture above. At the base of this road there is a big sign demanding: “No vehicles beyond this point.” This sign is in Turkish and English and you can’t miss it. At the top of this road there is a taxi station with three taxi drivers waiting for calls. The worst part about it is how this doesn’t surprise me in the least. Welcome to Turkey.

The next bunch of pictures are all taken from the top of a ridge called Sunset Point (the restaurant and lookout) and Sunset Path (the trail leading away from it).

With a name like “Sunset Point” I have this sneaking suspicion that it might be a great place to take in a sunset. Unfortunately, with all the walking I have been doing I have been much too tired to head back this way that late in the day. Perhaps in one of my remaining evenings… perhaps.

Speaking of exhausted, it is after 10PM now. So I will leave you with one sunset picture from the taken from the rope bridge in Avanos (the town north of Cappadocia). Goodnight.

Turkish Night (Cappadocia Photo Dump #1)

It was getting close to dinner time and my hotel manager told me that tonight was Turkish Night. “What is Turkish Night?” You might ask. OK, maybe you wouldn’t, but I did. He got excited and started explaining quickly and I had to have him slow down and remember to use simple Turkish. (I’m still too much of an amateur and after a couple months in the States I am out of practice.) So he explained, Turkish sing, Turkish dance, Turkish music. Very good.

Actually, it sounded a bit touristy. I was right but even still, I am here in Cappadocia to do the tourist thing so… why not? Off I went to:

Sorry, I didn’t think to adjust my camera to night time exposure. Anyways, I went into this restaurant which, like nearly everything in Cappadocia, is actually a cave. There was this large open area with five or six atrium branching off from it each holding eight large tables. I was sat at one of these and even before anyone came to take my order something like this was put before me:

On these plates we have a chickpea salad, two yogurt type dips, bread, watermelon, cheese (all gone), çiğ köfte (mostly gone), humus, mixed nuts, and water (just to the left off the screen). They also had a bottle of white and red wine but I had them taken before I even set to. Before the main course they also brought out a börek plate as well (with four: cheese, mashed taters, olive, and cheese&spinach). Honestly, I could have enjoyed this alone as my meal. The main course was a let down. But long before that came out, the entertainment started…

Again, I apologize about the incredibly poor quality of these pictures. These three (actually four, one off screen) male whirling dervishes are not true Mevlevi (or even Sufi, I would guess). They will all appear in many of the other dancing acts that follow. The female does not reappear when the normal group of nine (five men, four ladies) do their acts.

After these two, the night rotated between a band (kettle drum, djimbe, clarinet, accordion, and cymbals) and the dancing with various traditional costumes…

Near the end there were a couple acts where they drew on audience participation. These were some fun acts except I was never chosen. Oh well. Considering the number of people there, the odds were against me. In all, except for the dry chicken in this final picture, and of course my overpriced bill (I’m always too cheap),  it was a great night.

Abandoned Democracy and Emptied Tombs

Today is a big day in Turkey. Today is all about abandoned democracy and emptied tombs. Most people today will be casting a vote to decide if it is time to do the former. While they do so, others will be taking the narrower road in celebrating the latter.
As you, wherever you are, celebrate the empty tomb today, please remember to also pray for an infusion of common sense into those who are considering the possibility of abandoning democracy. Fortunately, no matter how the vote turns out, we know who still reigns.

Two Truths And A Lie – February Reading Wrap Up

Truth #1

Book: The Martian

Author: Andy Weir

Date Finished: February 15

Review: Absolutely brilliant!

This book covers the near future story of an astronaut, Mark Watney, whose suit was punctured and was left for dead on Mars. He then spends the next year and a half struggling to survive on this inhospitable planet while those back on earth learn of their error and then scramble to recover him.

Right off the bat I honestly did not think I would like this. Much of the story is told in a diary style as Mark records his mission logs. For the first few days after he is stranded there is obviously a lot that needs to be done right away and these first four or five chapters are heavy on both technical detail and foul language.

Once his shock and urgency evolves more into a long term struggle you really begin to see a very well developed and written personality that shines through. Also once earth discovers he is alive the story broadens beyond just him and I found myself reading through the final 2/3 of the book in one setting (barely putting it down even to eat or… other stuff).

While I love physics and cosmology, I am not so much a fan of engineering and this book is highly technical with regards to the mechanics and biology of what it would take for one man to survive in such an inhospitable environment. I don’t know nearly enough to know how accurate and realistic Andy Weir was in telling this but he sure *sounds* well researched and knowledgeable. Please don’t let that technical detail scare you away from this great read. He writes it well enough that even an amateur like me can grasp it and it actually enhances the telling of Watley overcoming impossible odds in his struggle to survive. I can’t remember the last time I was pulled so deeply into the life of a book’s protagonist and found myself laughing and crying and cheering right along with him.
Read this book. Seriously. Read it.

Truth #2

Book: Chaucer’s Tale

Author: Paul Strohm

Date Finished: February 26

Rating: 3.8 of 5 stars

Review: This an excellent detailed and readable biography of Geoffrey Chaucer leading up to and concluding with the posthumous publication of the Canterbury Tales. Actually, I’m not sure “publication” is the right word for a book created before the invention of the printing press. Either way, if you are interested in Brit Lit or in the history of medieval England than this is a great read. If you like early British literature or are a fan of Chaucer, this is essential.

On the other hand, if such things do not interest you, don’t bother with this book. It is definitely well written enough to hold interest but the subject matter is quite focused. Personally, I’m more a fan of the preceding era (Richard Lionheart to Edward II) but even still I enjoyed the read.

The Lie

Book: The Alchemist

Author: Paulo Coelho

Date Finished: February 14

Rating: 2 of 5 stars

Review: This is one of those books critics love to promote but the people suckered by the marketing into reading it end up disappointed. Honestly, I can’t believe I bought into the hype. I knew this wasn’t going to be worth my time but I just felt it needed to be one of those books I have under my belt. This is what I get for caving into peer pressure… a couple hours wasted time.

Imagine starting with a second rate life coach. This guy has a bunch of one liners that mean nothing like: “If you want something bad enough, the whole universe conspires into helping you achieve it.” Now convince this run of the mill life coach that he should write a book even though he has no real talent for the craft. This book would be the result of his efforts.

The Alchemist follows the journey of one poor Spanish Shepherd boy who crosses the straits into Africa and then journeys the entire Saharan desert all because one gypsey told him he would find treasure near the pyramids. Along the way he is robbed of his life savings three times but never loses his pluck. He also meets Melchizedek, the king of Salem (see Hebrews 7), a crystal salesman, an English scholar, a caravan master, the love of his life, and the alchemist. Each person teaches him some “profound” lesson as they spew their life coaching one liners at him. (About once every ten pages the one liner I quoted above will be repeated by someone new.) The characters and locations were brimming with possibility but no one and nowhere along the journey bears any true resemblance to the culture or history they should have represented. Each is simply a cardboard cutout trope meant only to convey the next phase of this life coach turned author’s “ten steps towards personal fulfillment” or some other such drivel.

Seriously, don’t bother reading it, but even if you do desire to cave to hype there’s no worries. It is a quick read. At worst you are annoyed for a couple hours like I was. At best, you have a few one liners you can throw around at the gym or when you want to annoy rather than cheering up a depressed friend. If that is your aim… have at it.

Other Books Read:

Blood and Bone – Ian Esslemont
Sharpe’s Eagle – Bernard Cornwell
Lion of Macedon – David Gemmell
Restoration of Faith – Jim Butcher
Storm Front – Jim Butcher
Fool’s Moon – Jim Butcher
Flourishing – Miroslav Volf

For reviews of these books (except Storm Front) or any other books I have read in 2017 please check out my goodreads page.

Two Truths And A Lie – January Reading Wrap Up

 

Truth #1

Book: Slavery Inc

Author: Lydia Cacho

Date Finished: January 9

Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Review: Some books are such that we do not love them so much as we need to read them. This is one of those books. Here Lydia Cacho presents some sobering truths about the global sex slave trade with specific emphasis on how our governments and many corporations are complicit in this modern day tragedy. She begins like David Batstone does in Not For Sale by moving place to place weaving heart rending stories with regional statistics and trends. In si chapters she covers Turkey, Israel, Japan, Cambodia, Burma, and then Argentina/Mexico pulling you in with heart breaking personal stories and then knocking you out by revealing how this story is repeated tens if not hundreds of thousands of times and how local and international governments are complicit in allowing (or even aiding) its perpetuation over and over again. She then turns in the next portion of the book to show how specific groups or organizations serve to continue this crime. She talks about the clients, the pimps, and the mafia’s involvement but also the banks and the militaries (with specific focus on American, Japanese, and Thai forces)

What I loved in this book most is how she would often highlight specific groups that are on the ground fighting the herculean effort against this human tragedy. What I did not like is that throughout the book there was very little of how we, the reader, can help where we are at right now. She does have a portion of her appendix cover some practical things but even then most of the ideas are no more than common sense. I appreciate this appendix but I would have loved to see the same things weaved into her narrative as well.

Also, there are no footnotes and there is no bibliography. While most of the individual stories and interviews are her own and I understand the desire to protect those people’s privacy, I would have loved to be able to do further research into many of the numbers and statistics she also uses or to read deeper into some of the geopolitical problems she highlights.

Truth #2

Book The Five Elements of Effective Thinking

Author: Edward Burger and Michael Starbird

Date Finished: January 25

Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: Burger and Starbird co write an excellent book on what I view as an essential lack in modern contemporary society. More and more of our society, including many supposedly well educated individuals do not seem to have even the most basic ability to think well. Rather than harp on this problem as I would, they use natural elements as touch points to set down what they view as key view as the way towards more effective thinking. Those are:

Earth – Embrace a deeper understanding of the most basic concepts.
Fire – Fail, and learn from your mistakes.
Air – Ask challenging questions.
Water – Watch the flow of ideas.
The fifth element is that the only unchanging fact of the universe is that it is always changing.

Each of these concepts is broken down into smaller elements with plenty of illustrations and practical application steps. All of these are great but my only complaint is that I seem to keep seeing the same illustrations popping up in similar type of books. For example, both Edison’s light bulb and Newton’s apples are used to show that “aha” moments are never truly that. The Accidental Creative, another book that I read a couple years back, used the same two examples to say the exact thing. The creation of Post It was used here and also in Made To Stick, or was it the Tipping Point, either way I heard it before. They are all great illustrations but it seems all these self help gurus tend to dip from the same well.

The Lie

Book: Doubt, A History

Author: Jennifer Michael Hecht

Date Finished: January 28

Rating: 1 of 5 stars (if that)

Review: This book is a lie.

When I first pulled it off my (virtual) shelf and started to read it, I was expecting to read an Armstrong or MacCulloch like history of Doubt. I was expecting to read of great thinkers who challenged the way those around them viewed their world and in the process brought about change and innovation. I don’t know why I would expect this… maybe the title? What a red herring. Honestly I don’t remember if she gave a definition of doubt at the beginning. It doesn’t matter, because throughout she equates doubt with atheism and the more anti religious a person was (or rather, as she could twist them into seeming), the greater of a doubter they were.

At first things didn’t seem all that bad. She opened up with working her way through the Greek philosophers and she showed how each rejected the beliefs of those a generation before. It did seem a bit inconsistent because she was praising people for rejecting the very beliefs she was praising others for just a few pages back. This intellectual inconsistency became even more glaring when she moved on to the Romans. She spends a large chunk of her time focusing on two individuals: Cicero and Lucretius. She goes to great lengths to show how great Cicero was for bashing Epicureanism and then in the very next moment she lauds Lucretius to the heavens for composing an epic poem delineating the “doubting” world view of Epicurus. Huh?

Things get even worse when she moves from the Greco-Roman past into the Judeo Christian one. Most of her time on early Jewish thought is spent cherry picking her way through the books of Job and Ecclesiastes. To be fair, this is probably exactly where I would have zeroed in too, but she willfully ignores the main thrust of each of these books. In Job she doesn’t even once mention the fact that he is doubting the justice of God, not God Himself. In Ecclesiastes she doesn’t bother to recognize that the entire book is structured to record the writings of the “teacher” who works his way through his doubts to find faith. Her propagandist dishonesty continues into the beginnings of the church era where she goes to great lengths to “doubt” the veracity of the gospels because they were written decades after the events they describe and then turns right around and relates the martyrdom of Hypatia (a pagan supposedly killed by Christians). She describes the story as is without “doubting” it one bit even though it was written more than five centuries after the event it purports to describe.

Once Hecht moves into the early Medieval Era she equates doubt directly with the Greek philosophy she praised Cicero for criticizing and yet doesn’t even to bother to share the fact that it is the lowly “believing” monks she cannot bring herself to say one good thing about who are faithfully preserving and copying these very same writings so that they are not lost to history and we can enjoy them today.

In moving eastward, she gives a description of the early Muslim intellectual movement and especially the Mutazilites and Falsafah that is vastly different from what I read of them in The Closing of the Muslim Mind. I am not read enough yet to critique it beyond that except to comment on what she says of al-Ghazzali. He is probably the most influential Muslim thinker outside Muhammad himself and is the greatest reason why Islamic fundamentalism and anti-intellectualism is so prevalent to this day. He started out as a Falsafah (a skeptic or rationalist) but left that to become the first true fundamentalist and author of The Incoherence of the Philosophers. Without any giving cause to defend her stance Hecht blames his sudden conversion on a nervous breakdown. It couldn’t possibly be because he began to doubt his earlier atheism, now could it.

I could go on and on working my way through this “history book” pointing out all her logical inconsistencies, intentional misdirections, and the like but already this review is going long. Instead I will look back to an illustration she herself brought forth. She credits Cicero with claiming that the Stoics of his day have reinterpreted the early Greek poets so that, to the poets surprise, they have all become stoics. Well, Jennifer Hecht, you have done one better. You have reinterpreted hundreds of great men down through history so that, to their own surprise, they are now all atheists. I can honestly say I haven’t read propaganda this dim since reading Hitchen’s short work trying to paint Mother Teresa as a devil. Good job.

 

Other Books Read in January:

Islam and the Son of God – Daniel Shayesteh
Seven Days That Divide the World – John Lennox
From Eternity to Here – Sean Carroll

For reviews of these or any other books I have read in 2017 check out my goodreads page.