When I was a Christian I often heard people say that Christianity is a inclusive religion. I guess what they meant by that is that anyone can become a Christian. You don’t have to be born into Christianity or undergo a rigorous training program before you can call yourself Christian.
But that’s not entirely true.
Allah (which actually is just Arabic for “God”) is exactly how He is presented in the Qur’an and the ahadith (the teachings of Mohammad). He shares many characteristics with the Jewish and the Christian “Gods.” (Islam is the only one of the three religions that claims that they all worship the same God.) He is just, merciful, compassionate, loving, forgiving and eternal, the source of all things and Lord of the universe. But to have a relationship with Him, you don’t have to believe a lot of other things, like:
- God is made up of three parts, or persons, otherwise known as the Trinity, or the Triune God.
- One of those parts is Jesus, who is not only God, but was also a human being for 33 years out of his eternal existence.
- However, Jesus is not just one of the persons of the Trinity. He is also the son of one of the other persons (the Father).
- As a man, Jesus had to die as a sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.
- He also had to be raised from the dead to show his victory over death.
- Even though Jesus died for all mankind, the only way to reap the benefits of that sacrifice is to believe all of the above.
When a prospective Christian asks how all of this works, he or she is told to take a leap of faith. Or that this is a mystery we are not meant to understand.
I’m sorry, but that sounds like a cop-out to me. Of course God is more than we can understand. If we could grasp what He’s all about, he wouldn’t be God. But when having a relationship with Him means that we have to accept things that don’t make sense, it’s awfully hard to reconcile that with our reason and intellect. Does that mean that Christians have to be irrational in order to believe in the Christian version of God?
Don’t get me wrong: when I was a Christian, I thought I did understand the Trinity. But the truth is, many people who call themselves Christian don’t really understand how Jesus can have existed for all time, but not be all there is to God, how he could be tempted to sin as a man but live like a saint, how he “turns into” the third person of the Trinity (the Holy Spirit) in order to dwell in our hearts, and so on.
Most Christians simplify things in their own minds by saying that Jesus is God. Period. But that’s not really what the Bible clearly says. A lot of what Jesus supposedly said in the Bible about God and his relationship to Him is open to interpretation.
When I was a Christian, I repeated the creeds with everyone else. I told people that Jesus was my Lord and Savior. But when I tried to explain to non-Christians what that meant, I could hear myself saying words I wasn’t really sure I meant. (Or understood.) And that bothered me.
When I found out that Islam teaches that God is One, and only One, I could grasp that. Of course God has to be One. Otherwise, you never know if you’re worshiping the right God, or the right part of God. (If all three persons of the Triune God are equal, why are you never told to worship the Holy Spirit as well as the Son and the Father?)
Muslims don’t have to pretend to believe something that is unbelievable (unless you believe that the concept of God is unbelievable, in which case you’re an atheist, so this would all be a moot point).
Faith of any kind is not easy. We all have our doubts. There is no one religion that answers all our questions. But some religions raise more questions than they answer and for me Christianity is one of them.