A few weeks ago, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the ambassadors of a number of Muslim countries, as a follow-on to his widely-condemned (in the Muslim world) speech of September 12. This was the speech in which he quoted Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologos, saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”
In his follow-on address, the Pope failed to make any mention of this quote; nor did he offer his own opinion on it. Instead, he avoided the topic entirely, while seeking reconciliation not through repentance, but through reiteration of his and the Catholic Church’s attitude toward Islam, and their position on how this relationship should advance.
I commend the Pope for not openly disagreeing with his own quote, at least in as much as he did not contradict the fact that everything new Muhammad brought was evil. It was indeed evil; a prime example of a man twisting what little he knew of the Scriptures to his own destruction, and the destruction of many others. On the other hand, it’s nonsense that what he brought was inhuman; for on the contrary, it was thoroughly human. Human beings are evil, having a desperately sick heart (Jer 17:9), out of which come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery (Mark 7:21)—indeed, the very things which differentiate the precepts of Islam from the precepts of biblical Christianity.
Unfortunately, however, the Pope did not take a stand on this matter. Despite his stance on violence in Islam, he did not unequivocally affirm that murder is sinful, and that taking a person’s life because of her religious inclinations is evil (I think, for example, of the Italian nun killed by Muslims following the Pope’s September 12 address). Without investigating the whole matter of what constitutes murder, it is sufficient to say that only the taking of a life in self-defense (Ex 22:2), or when explicitly sanctioned by God for judicial process or in time of war, is biblical and right. There is no sanction in the Bible for Christians to kill non-Christians for any other reasons than these, and indeed quite the opposite is true.
Similarly, the Pope did not unequivocally affirm that, since Islam teaches that Jihad is an acceptable policy of evangelism, Islam is therefore false. What he said, instead, was:
The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God (Declaration Nostra Aetate, 3).
Here, he is quoting precedent, in the ruling of Second Vatican Council regarding the Church’s policy as regards Islam. No doubt this is the safe option for him, since the complexity of the Church’s traditions must surely make it very difficult to say anything new without risk of contradiction. But this ruling is false, irrational, and unbiblical—it would have been better for him to have affirmed the truth, radical as it may seem to Muslims and Catholics alike, than to have simply restated a lie!
Muslims do not worship the one God—they worship a false god named Allah. Allah is completely dissimilar to the Christian God, as even the Pope himself acknowledged in his September 12 speech: “for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent [I suppose, as per the next sentence, that this is to the exclusion of his immanence as affirmed in the Bible]. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality […] God is not bound even by his own word […]”
This is unconscionable foolishness, for Hebrews 6:13-19 says (and I emphasize):
For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain [compare Titus 1:2].
The ruling further states that Muslims seek to submit themselves to God’s decrees, “even the hidden ones”. This is absurd: how can one submit oneself to a decree which is not revealed? One cannot even seek to do so, because one has no idea what the decree is and, therefore, how to go about submitting to it! There’s no need to go on at length, though. Suffice to say that it’s very evident that Muslims do not worship the one God; they worship an idol who is unary, not a trinity, and who is unknowable, instead of knowable. They deny the integrity of the Bible, God’s revealed word, and replace it with the invented words of man, the Koran. Most importantly, and most unforgivably, they deny God’s ultimate revelation, his Word and Wisdom, the Logos upon which the universe and human reason itself is founded, by denying his incarnation in Jesus Christ for the salvation of sins. Muslims believe a lie, from theology proper to anthropology to soteriology to eschatology. They do not worship the God of the Bible, the one God, creator of heaven and earth, incarnated in Christ, who has spoken to humanity—nor do they seek to submit to his decrees. No, they deny what he has spoken, and they scorn his decrees, replacing his word with their word, and his commands with their commands. They thus stand condemned, for “w
Yet, the Catholic Church looks upon Muslims with respect , and claims that they worship the same God that they do. But Muslims do not worship Christ, and “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). Thus, if it is indeed true that Catholics and Muslims worship the same God, then it can be clearly seen that the God of the Catholic Church is not the God of the Bible. The Bible does not show respect for idolatry—it openly condemns it (Ex 20:3, etc). And the Bible does not show respect for human wisdom and human ideas about God—rather, it calls these things foolishness, describing human thinking as futile (Rom 1:21), and commanding us to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).
Indeed, as Paul says in verses 3 and 4, “though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” Yet Muslims do indeed wage war according to the flesh, with weapons of metal to destroy the flesh, as if somehow this will accomplish spiritual change. They do not heed the biblical approach, which says that we are to wage spiritual warfare using intellectual weapons, tearing down every pretension set up against the knowledge of God (v 5, NIV) so as to leave our opponents without defense. Rather, they attempt “evangelism” through physical means, achieving nothing, but bringing condemnation upon themselves.
But at least the Muslims attempt warfare! Though they are wrong and their thinking is twisted, they nonetheless are willing to go to extreme lengths in their attempts to defend their beliefs. They do not compromise with non-Islamics. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, does not attempt warfare at all, even though biblical spiritual warfare is a simple matter, being based in the power of the wisdom of God, through the Bible, which is able to make us wise for salvation, and which is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, sufficient to make the man of God competent, and equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:14-17). Though the Pope pays lip service to reason and its harmony with faith (Sept 12), he does not attempt to uphold that reason as the Bible requires, destroying the foolishness of unbelief—rather, he and the Church respect the idolatrous and futile religion of Islam, and are complicit with its evil, saying: “the lessons of the past must therefore help us to seek paths of reconciliation, in order to live with respect for the identity and freedom of each individual, with a view to fruitful co-operation in the service of all humanity” (ibid).
But the Bible says:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God (2 Corinthians 6:14-16)
And, though “whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men” (Rom 14:18), we do not serve man—we serve God. This notion of “service of all humanity” is humanistic and atheistic—it does not honor God, but man. Though the Catholic Church claims to be the temple of the living God, it yolks itself with unbelievers, approving them and even claiming that they are not unbelievers at all! How are we to view them, then, in light of Romans 1:29ff?
They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
The way to serve humanity is to bring them the good news of the gospel, and rationally destroy the pretensions and opinions they raise against the knowledge of God. This is the teaching of the Bible, and this is biblical Christianity—for Christians are to be a light to the world. Yet the Pope, and, by extension, the Catholic Church, would seem to desire that light placed under a basket in the interests of false peace and a human-centered philosophy of mutual respect. Heaven forbid! There can be no reconciliation between truth and falsehood! As Jesus himself said:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10:34-37).
Now, Jesus is, of course, speaking metaphorically about bringing a sword—as already mentioned, the weapons of spiritual warfare are spiritual (that is, intellectual), rather than physical. His point is that, for the sake of the gospel, believers will be set against unbelievers even in their own families—for anyone who loves Christ must love him more than a mother or father or daughter. For the sake of Christ we are enemies even to our own unbelieving loved ones. How much more, then, to Muslims?
Now the Bible does not by any means advocate violence, and I am not suggesting that any Christians should be violent toward Muslims. We are spiritual, and not physical, enemies. As Paul says, “if possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:18). So I am not suggesting the Pope should not be interested in peace; rather, I am condemning the kind of peace in which he is interested. The biblical teaching on what our attitude toward other religions should be (including Islam) is not an attitude of respect and cooperation! Rather, it is to be an attitude of spiritual antagonism, wherein we rationally destroy non-biblical worldviews and affirm Christianity. This by no means entails hatefulness on the part of Christians, or refusal to live peaceably with non-Christians. I am not condemning the goal of peaceful living; I am condemning the attitude of complicity with, and approval of, non-Christian teaching for the sake of peace. Peaceful living is not our first priority—the defense of our faith to the glory of God is. We cannot compromise this goal with the subservient goal of peace; but rather, if possible, we are to live in peace with Muslims and other non-Christians while still working toward the goal of evangelizing to them.
The biblical principle in this matter can be summarized very simply: “do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). We cannot “respect” other religions and respect God; the two are mutually exclusive. No more can a Christian love money and God than another religion and God. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other” (Matt 6:24). If we are to remain faithful to biblical teaching, we cannot compromise with Islam or any other religion for the sake of humanistic goals. We cannot dilute our witness by claiming that Islam “isn’t so bad”—let alone by falsely affirming that Muslims worship God! We are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet (Matt 5:13).