a church in Mosul with the cross removed by the Islamic State
Islam is antichrist. No, this isn’t a fanatical End Times-obsessed piece trying to insert persons or organizations into John Nelson Darby’s dispensationalist eschatology, as seems to be commonplace these days. I am not an alarmist claiming ISIS is a sign of the end of the world. My interest in making this claim is not to advance an unprovable prophetic timetable, effectively reducing the Bible to a coded warning that only has meaning to believers already convinced that it predicts a specific eschatology. This study of doctrinal differences is not intended to suggest Islam is wrong because it is not Christianity, which would merely be an inversion of the Islamic method of claiming Christianity is wrong simply because it is not Islam. Instead, I’m going to present a rationally-based comparison of what each religion factually teaches to demonstrate that Islam is undeniably antichristian by design. That is to say, this is not a biased polemic by a non-Muslim attempting to demonize Islam, this can be objectively argued regardless of whether one believes either religion or not.
Some people wondered why in a recent series devoted to the Torah I spent most of the time talking about religions other than Judaism or Christianity. The reason is that I strongly believe interreligious studies are a highly beneficial but regrettably neglected way to better understand one’s own faith. Christians often fail to understand how the boundaries of orthodoxy that separate other religions from Christianity differ from the divisions that separate between denominations within Christianity. As a result, they may incorrectly engage people of other religions within the framework Judeo-Christian thought, failing to make the necessary paradigm shift to understand a completely foreign belief system. Without realizing it, they may treat Islam as another church, the Qur’an as another Bible, and Muhammad as another prophet. This can be troublesome because prophets, sacred texts, and theologies are not actually interchangeable like that. The Bible makes very different claims about its authorship than does the Qur’an (although I will concede too many Christians want the Bible to be a revealed text dictated word-for-word by God similar to what the Qur’an claims, even though the Qur’an itself fails to measure up to that claim), and people tend to believe in different religious teachers for dramatically different reasons. After all, everyone would more likely gravitate to the same figure if they were all looking for the same thing in a religious teacher, but the truth is Muslims are conditioned to seek a far different personality in Muhammad, just as they are to seek a different personality in Jesus Christ.
It’s a well-known fact that Islam’s principal theology is the complete denunciation of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, rejecting the deity and sonship of Christ, the fatherhood of God, and the Trinity. Of the many examples in the Qur’an:
“O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three” (Trinity); desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.” An-Nisa 4:171
In Islam, shirk, or equating “partners” beside God, is the greatest sin, and is unforgivable (I can’t resist going off course momentarily to comment on Islam’s horribly flawed moral center which prioritizes subjective theology over objective immorality, such as harming other people. This tends to result in a tribalistic deontology in which Muslims don’t seem to care much about harming others over petty theological differences). The explicit rejection of the deity of Christ is embodied in the shahada, the creed Muslims recite to convert to Islam: “There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God.” To reiterate: one absolutely cannot be a Muslim and believe in the deity of Christ in any sense, simply converting to Islam is a rejection of this distinctly Christian doctrine.
Interestingly, however, Christianity has never really been so totally strict in its adherence to Christ’s divinity or the Trinity. For centuries this was openly debated among theologians until mostly settled at the Council of Nicea, nevertheless Arianism, Unitarianism, Modalism, and other heresies persisted throughout church history. At the risk of sounding heretical I would say it has always been possible to be a Christian and not believe in the deity of Christ or the Trinity. To the many supposed Trinitarians gasping that I might say such heresy is permissible, I like to point out that most of them likely confuse Modalism for Trinitarianism. Even among professed Trinitarians, accurately understanding this doctrine has never been an absolute requirement. So while Islamic Unitarianism and Trinitarianism may be mutually exclusive concepts, Christianity has still never been as hostile to Unitarianism to the severity that Islam is toTrinitarianism.
Unlike in Islam, theology is actually secondary to Christianity. The Qur’an had nothing else to offer from a (supposedly) singular author centuries removed from the events and eye witnesses he described. Muhammad’s claims could not have gained traction unless followers were dogmatically required to accept it in its entirety on a theological basis. Christianity, however, relied on compelling arguments and the testimony of witnesses to back its claims. One didn’t have to blindly believe in a prophet or a sacred text because for the first decades of Christianity no New Testament even existed; the idea of a written record came about only later, as a form of preservation. Rather than being driven by theology, they were driven by events, namely the life of Christ. And the single-most important event in the life of Christ was his death and resurrection. Christians can possibly get everything else wrong about their religion, as evidenced by the wide range of irreconcilable theology across thousands of denominations. According to Christ’s own teachings, his followers’ identity was observable by their actions, not by knowledge of a series of creeds. But the Passion is one definitive belief of which the absence calls into question a group’s Christian identity. As a matter of course, Islam rejects such a disgraceful death for a prophet of God, and consequently his resurrection:
“And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.” An-Nisa 4:157-158
Once again we see Islam uncompromisingly set itself at variance with a Christian doctrine, so that one could not be considered a Muslim and still hold that belief. This ironically puts Islam in an awkward position, because it still holds to the belief of a general resurrection into eternal life either in heaven or hell, yet it has no rational basis for such a belief like Christianity does. The three theories available for what happens after death are: annihilation, reincarnation, and resurrection. Annihilation is simply the belief that one’s existence ends when one dies; while it cannot easily be proven, this is admittedly a very logical assumption, which is why it is generally the default position for atheism (it also seems to have been popular in Judaism). Reincarnation is the belief that one’s existence continues on in another form after death; while popular among eastern religions, it is virtually impossible to prove objectively. Resurrection is the only available theory which could possibly be proven objectively, all it would need is for somebody to die and rise again. In fact, it doesn’t actually even need to be a historical event, a belief system that teaches resurrection on the basis of someone hypothetically dying and living again would still be more logical than another which doesn’t. Before Christianity, Judaism had no real consensus on what happens after death, clearly Islam borrowed its appealing afterlife theory from the Christians, yet the Muslim’s hope in an afterlife rests purely on dogmatic theological claims and not on any reality.
It’s my theory that Islam was deliberately engineered as a system to suppress competing religions. Some of these efforts may have been unintentional and only have the coincidental benefit of Islamic supremacy. Other choices in constructing Islam were harmless and merely intended to make Islam decidedly different from its neighbors. For instance, the adhan, or Muslim call to prayer, was obviously an innovation to differentiate itself from Christian church bells and Jewish shofars. Friday prayers were picked because the Jews already had the Sabbath and the Christians had Sunday. Other choices, however, seem to have an underlying sinister intent. The Muslim requirement for a divorced woman to consummate a marriage with a new husband before being able to return to her ex-husband is clearly a deliberate albeit nonsensical, if not outright mean-spirited, negation of the Hebrew prohibition against remarrying an ex-spouse after another marriage (Deut. 24:1-4). It’s likely that the Muslim aversion to dogs is based on little more than an attempt to suppress Zoroastrians, for whom dogs are considered sacred animals. Similarly, I suspect the Islamic prohibition of alcohol was designed to some extent to try to ban the widespread Christian custom of the Eucharist. Originally, the alcohol ban was specific to coming to prayer inebriated (An-Nisa 4:43), as it was believed the Christians did by incorporating wine into a religious ritual. This total rejection of one of the primary symbols of Christianity made it clear that Christian customs, just like the distinct Christian beliefs mentioned above, were unwelcome in the mosque. In practice, this was far different from Mormons similarly electing to substitute water in place of the sacramental wine within the confines of their own church (although I would also argue to a lesser extent that this substitution still makes Mormonism anti-Christian). It’s one thing to have uncompromising custom variations in a pluralistic society, it was another thing entirely in the conquest days of Islam when churches were forcibly converted into mosques. Unlike the early church who felt at home in the synagogue without forcing radical changes on the Jews already there, Islam attempted to co-opt existing religious infrastructures while simultaneously eradicating the traditions of those communities.
As is typical of Islam, tolerance is a one-way street on which Islam expects to receive but gives none in return. Islam doesn’t just prohibit certain beliefs and customs among its own members, it considers such things a sin for all people, including non-Muslims. I would venture to say that tolerance as is understood in the West is a non-existent concept in Islam. This can be demonstrated by Westerners who think they’re having an interfaith dialogue with Muslims when they promote tolerance because “we’re all God’s children”, unaware that they’ve just committed an unpardonable sin in Islam. Under total Muslim supremacy, not only can a Muslim not believe like a Christian, it is difficult if not impossible for a Christian to believe like a Christian. To the Muslim mindset, a good Christian is one who doesn’t commit shirk by believing that Jesus Christ was God or the Son of God, doesn’t believe Jesus was crucified, and doesn’t memorialize his shed blood when they drink wine. The tolerance that Muhammad extended towards Christians as “people of the book” really applies as long as Christians don’t actually hold orthodox Christian beliefs. This amounts to zero tolerance, otherwise any religion could say they tolerate others as long as those people believe and behave the way they want them to. People like to think of Indonesia as a tolerant Muslim country because it allows five religions (Islam, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, and Hinduism), whereas intolerant countries like Saudi Arabia only permit Islam. But if you don’t have the freedom to believe any of the thousands of religions banned in Indonesia, like Mormonism, Sikhism, Judaism, Jainism, Baha’i, or just plain atheism, then really you have just as much freedom of religion as any non-Muslim in Saudi Arabia. Freedom of religion only on Islamic terms is not actually freedom. This is the reason why I say Islam is antichrist, because it forces Muslims and Christians alike to be less Christian.