A Response to “Seminar Kalimah Allah & Kristology Nusantara” – Come now, Let us reason together, says the Lord (Isaiah 1:18)
The “Seminar Kalimah Allah & Kristology Nusantara (“The word ‘Allah’ and Christology in the Malay Archipelago”) held on 6 May 2014 at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) in Shah Alam, has sparked strong protests from the public.
The NECF protests that higher institution of learning should not cause confusion and promote prejudice. The CFM adds that it would amount to abuse of trust and stewardship, “If there is to be sincere and genuine academic freedom, then let us have an intellectual exchange with integrity instead of a one-sided presentation with arguably inaccurate information being disseminated as fact…Otherwise, the seminar yesterday would be nothing more than hate speech and sectarian religious propaganda thinly disguised as academic freedom.”
The protests were in response to several seminar speakers who had mockingly posed questions that suggest the grounds for Christian beliefs are fundamentally flawed. For example, in a forum “Christianisation vs Islamization, the speakers answered pre-prepared questions that included “Did Jesus really die on the cross for the forgiveness of sins?”, “What is the Trinity?”, “Why did Jesus cry ‘Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani’ (Aramaic for “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”) while on the cross?”. Themalaysianinsider
Another speaker argued that the parts of the Bible based on his teachings should simply be called “Tales of Jesus” instead of the “Gospel”. The books in the Bible were written by Christ’s disciples such as Matthew, Mark, and Luke were considered hearsay and similarly should not be considered the Word of God. The so-called gospel is only Jesus’ words, speech, hence should not be called gospel. He asserted, “The Christian gospel is a fake gospel.” The malaymailonline
Two books published by MAIS, “Pendedahan Agenda Kristian” (Exposing the Christian Agenda) and “Obligation to Preserve the Sanctity of the Name Allah” were distributed to more than 1,000 students who attended a seminar, warning them to watch out for “tricks” by Christians to sway Muslims from their faith. Themalaysianinsider
The attempt by the speakers to confuse Christians and to promote prejudice among Muslims against Christianity is obvious. However, they will be disappointed to learn that the Malaysian Christianity community is not so easily shaken. Malaysian Christians continue to hold firmly their beliefs in quiet confidence, and indeed welcome questions from these detractors. After all, the Christian faith has weathered centuries of severe historical criticism; it has offered rational demonstration of the coherence of Christianity when challenged by sophisticated philosophical critics informed by the European Enlightenment; and finally, millions of Christians continue to find the Christian faith to be experientially fulfilling.
As an irenic response to the questions raised at the seminar, I invite inquirers of the Christian faith to read the two attached FAQ documents given below: a briefer “Answers to Common Islamic Questions” [taken from Colin Chapman, “The Cross and the Crescent” and a fuller document written by some academics from Yale University, “Questions Muslims Ask.”
Hopefully, reading these FAQs will assure our critics of the intellectual integrity and peaceful intentions of the Christian community. Christians are, after all, mindful of the SOP given in their Holy Book on how to respond peaceably to faultfinders, “Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (1 Peter 3:14-15).
FAQ (Fuller Document): QUESTIONS MUSLIMS ASK -PDF File Questions Muslims Ask
FAQ (Brief Document)
ANSWERS TO COMMON ISLAMIC QUESTIONS
1. ‘Why do you believe in the Trinity? Do you believe in three gods?’
We don’t believe in three gods! We believe in one God as strongly as any Muslim. When we speak of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, we are not thinking of three separate and distinct gods. Christianity is a monotheistic religion, as much as Islam. The word ‘Trinity’ is not found in the Bible; but the idea is taught in the Bible .
2. ‘Why do you say that Jesus is the “Son of God”?’
Because Jesus called himself ‘the Son’ and spoke of God as ‘the Father’ and ‘my Father’. We don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God in any physical sense; this idea is as repugnant to us as it is to Muslims.
We believe that ‘God is love’ in his very nature, and that there has always been a relationship of love between God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, even before the creation of the universe. Jesus of Nazareth is more than a prophet, since he was fully human and fully divine. When we say that Jesus is the Son of God, what we mean in the simplest possible language is that he was like God in a way that no other human being has ever been. When we look at Jesus, therefore, and see what he was like, we have some idea of what God is like.
3. ‘Why do you believe that Jesus was crucified?’
Because this is what our Scriptures teach. The New Testament explains that it wasn’t out of weakness that God allowed Jesus to be crucified. It was his way of showing up the evil in human nature in its true colors. But it was also his way of showing how much he loves us and wants to forgive us for all our sins. Christians see the death of Jesus as a ‘sacrifice for sins’, as the one final and complete sacrifice which does away with the need for any other sacrifice offered to gain forgiveness of sins. God allowed Jesus to experience death because all human beings have to die. But by raising him from the dead, God not only vindicated Jesus and revealed his true identity, but also destroyed the power of death once and for all who trust in him.
4. ‘Your Scriptures have been corrupted.’
I know this is what you have been taught. But have you read them? According to the Holy Quran , the message which God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad confirmed the previous Scriptures: the tawrat revealed to Moses, the zabur revealed to David, and the injil to Jesus. If these Scriptures, which were in the hands of the Jews and the Christians at the time of the Prophet Muhammad, were already corrupt, how could the Quran confirm these Scriptures? Can you tell me who corrupted the Scriptures, and when it was done? Would you like to read the life of Jesus as it is recorded in our injil? How can you say that our Scriptures are corrupted if you haven’t read them?
5. ‘Your Scriptures are full of mistakes and contradictions.’
Christians are aware of the so-called contradictions that you find in the Bible, because Christian scholars have been aware of them for a long time. But they have their own way of explaining these differences, and some of them can be explained very easily. Others raise harder questions of interpretation. Are you prepared to listen to the way we explain these difficulties?
Two can play the same game! Some Christians say that they find contradictions in the Quran. How would you feel if I were to criticize the Quran? But I don’t want to do so, because I am not interested in criticizing the Quran. If Muslims don’t like Christians criticizing the Quran, why do Muslims criticize the Bible?
The basic reason you have problems with the apparent contradictions in the Bible is that you are comparing the Bible with the Quran. You believe that the Quran is the very words revealed directly to Muhammad, and you assume that the Bible was revealed in exactly the same way. Christians do believe that the Bible is the Word of God, and that God through his Holy Spirit inspired the different books of the Bible. But the Word of God in the Bible has come through a large number of different authors. The Bible is therefore for us both the Word of God and the words of human beings. The fundamental problem between us at this point is that we have different views of revelation. Muslims believe that the supreme revelation God has given was in the form of a book, the Quran. Christians, however, believe that the supreme revelation was given in a person, Jesus (see further chapter 28).
6. ‘We recognize Jesus as a prophet. Why don’t you recognize Muhammad as a prophet?’
If we did recognize Muhammad as a prophet in the way that you do, we would be Muslims. We are glad to accept the teaching of the Quran about the one true God which we also find in our Scriptures. But we cannot believe the whole Quran, because its teaching is different at many points from the teaching of our Scriptures.
We believe that Jesus was the last of the prophets, God’s final word to the world. We see Jesus as the most complete revelation of God in the form of a human being. We cannot believe that there could be any more complete revelation of God after Jesus.
7. Why do you not recognize that the Bible foretells the coming of Muhammad?’
There are two verses which are often used to support this argument. The first is the words from Deuteronomy about a new prophet who was to come: ‘The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers’ (Deuteronomy 18:15). This could hardly refer to Muhammad, since Moses says that this prophet is to be raised up ‘from among your own brothers’, that is, from among the children of Israel.
The second verse gives us the words of Jesus about the coming of the Paraclete: ‘I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth’ (John 14:16; cf. 14:26; 15:26; 16:7). Christians have always interpreted these as predictions about the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus never spoke about another prophet who was to come after him.
Source: Colin Chapman, The Cross and the Crescent IVP Books 2008.