This post is part of a series.
In Part 1 of this series, I argued that the statement made by Wheaton College professor Larycia Hawkins was at best irresponsibly ambiguous, if not largely incorrect when we examine the many possible meanings of her broad claim. Again, her tweeted statement was:
“I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book. And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God.”
But there is a second gross error here – that Christians, Jews, and Muslims are “people of the book.” In fact, this phrase comes from the Koran to describe ONLY Christians and Jews, not Muslims. In fact, all you have to do is visit the liberal-leaning Wikipedia to find this out:
People of the Book (Arabic: “Ahl al-KitÄb) are adherents of Abrahamic religions that predate Islam.1
So merely on its face, here statement is theologically and historically WRONG. But her error is worse than that. She assumes that Muslims also respect our “book” (the Old and New Testaments). But this is not so.
In fact, because Islam denies the passing of the Abrahamic covenant through Isacc (they believe it went to Ishmael), it also denies what the New Testament says about Jesus.
The Problem of Tahrif
While the Quran seems to honor the Old Testament in many ways, it also claims that it is unreliable and is less clear and authoritative than the Quran.
Muslim’s claim to believe in the torah (torat) and the writings of David, the Psalms (zabur) and the Gospel (Injil). However when it comes to the Bible in our hands today they consider it corrupted, not being accurate as it was written. Because of this God gave the restored truth to Mohammed which is written down in the Qur’an.2
In Islamic thinking, however, the Bible is faulty for two reasons. First, because it was not delivered in the divine language of Arabic, but in the imperfect Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic languages.
Second, Muslims argue that these books have been adulterated by Jews and Christians to hide the fact that the promises were to Ishmael and the coming “prophet” Mohammed:
A more troubling flaw from the Islamic perspective is that the Tawrat and Zabul in their current form suffer from severe tahrif, a term from the Quran that refers to such flaws as corruption, changes and forgery. Over time unbelieving editors excised offensive truth and introduced errors not found in the lost original texts.3
Gospels Are Reliable, Except for Shirk
Not only do Muslims accept only the Gospels, rejecting the book of Acts and all of the Epistles of the New Testament, even then, they claim that the gospels have been corrupted, and that much of what God told the original Christians is twisted and lost:
They forgot a good part of the message that was sent themâ€ (Sura 5:15).
Even worse, all verses that seem to indicate the divinity of Christ are rejected as polytheism, or “shirk.” So write off Muslims being “people of the book.”
Jesus We Love, Peter and Paul We Hate
Let’s not forget that Islam entirely rejects the majority of the New Testament outside of the gospels, especially the letters of Paul. The typical Muslim stance goes like this:
- The original message of Jesus was highly Judaistic and involved legal maxims. This original message was taught by Judaisers in the early ecclesias, not by Paul.
- The Judaisers were supported by the real Apostles.
- Paul changed the Gospel to make it universal, adopting bits of Greek and Roman philosophy in the process.
- In this he was opposed by the other Apostles who represented the Judaisers. 4
Or, in the words of one Muslim writer:
St Paul is not an original apostle of Jesus. . He may have been called original because he pioneered a new religion and named it Christianity which was not the religion of Jesus. He preached Trinitarian philosophy as opposed to genuine monotheism and abolished Law and originated new guidelines for salvation. He simplified religion in to believing and confessing (faith) alone. He changed laws related to diet, circumcision and sacrifices to segregate Christianity from Judaism. He infiltrated Pagan ideas in to the teachings of Jesus in the name of universalism.5
Obviously, such a low view of both Old and New Testaments means that any positive mention of our Bible by Muslims is couched in serious disagreements with its actual contents, and rejection of much of it.
Professor Hawkins is guilty not only of sloppy ambiguity in claiming that Christians and Jews serve the same God, she is guilty of being wrong that we are both “People of the Book.” Neither Muslims nor Christians nor Jews believe that. So building a bridge on this kind of lie is poor scholarship, if not irresponsible sloganeering.
However, one question remains to be explored – can Professor Hawkins be excused on taking a compassionate (though erroneous) action towards Muslims as part of meaningful ministry? Stay tuned for Part 3.