(Post renamed from “Aren’t Muslim Radicals & Christian Radicals who commit violence the same?”)
What is the difference between Islamic radicals such as ISIS/ISIL, Al Qaeda, the Taliban, etc. and Christians who bomb abortion clinics, the Westboro Baptist Church people who hold up “God Hates Fags” signs, and the litany of Christians throughout history who have done horrific acts in the name of Jesus and the Bible such as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, torturing Anabaptists, genocide, or burning women at the stake as witches?
Don’t both holy books (the Bible and the Qur’an) contain commands to do such things?
Don’t both radical groups feel they are simply being faithful to their God and their holy book?
One thing I can do is talk about the Bible, a book I have studied at length and know well. Please read my interview with an ex-Muslim for his view on the Qur’an’s passages about killing, an interview he received death threats because of.
All of the Bible’s texts about killing are found in the Old Testament (Genesis – Malachi, the last of which was written ~400 years before Jesus) and reside under what is called the old covenant. In very updated language, the old covenant could be thought of as “the old rent contract” or “the expired rent contract.” That is: the rent contract between God and the Ancient Near East’s Hebrews, which does not apply to us today. (i.e. God is the landlord, the people are the tenant)
The terms of this expired rent contract were that the Hebrew people would obey the commands God gave them in his law, namely that they would worship him alone. If they did this, they would be given the land of Israel (then called the land of Canaan, first promised to their ancestor Abraham in ~2100 B.C.) and their crops and herds would be fertile, they would enjoy good health, and they would be at peace. The purpose of this covenant was not world domination, it was to have one location where they were to be a light to the rest of the world from, declaring to a culture of many gods what it looked like to obey and serve the one true God (Isaiah 49:6). If they did not obey God and they “cheated on him” by worshiping other gods, God would bring disease and bad crops on them and eventually they would be removed from their land and would lose it altogether. See Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 for the very specific terms of this agreement, called blessings and curses. In Exodus 24:1-8, Moses and the people signed this rent contract with God. They made the conscious decision to agree to it and to hold up their end of the bargain. This would have been around 1400 B.C.
There are two very very very very very very very important things about this expired rent contract that we must must must must understand, and they are both things the Bible is crystal clear about. These aren’t some cryptic, mystical, or hidden messages, nor do they require PhD’s in biblical scholarship to figure out. They are right there on the page for us to read:
1.Within the expired rent contract itself is a clear expiration date, and that date has passed! It no longer applies to us.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Written around 600 B.C., as a part of the final warnings before the Hebrews lost the land of Israel to the Babylonians because they had repeatedly broken the old covenant)
31 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
32 It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the Lord.
33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
34 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
The new covenant being referring to here is what Jesus brought 600 years later (Luke 22:20). Old rent contract expired, new rent contract in Jesus activated. God is the landlord, you and I are the tenants. Plain and simple: any commands in the Old Testament that have to do with killing someone for sinning or worshiping other gods or anything of the sort do not apply anymore because Jesus created a new and better covenant with us. In fact, the entire Old Testament was pointing to Jesus’ coming and doing this. Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant (Matthew 5:17, see below).
You can take issue with the way God decided to reveal himself to a lawless and barbaric ancient world, but ponder this: what happens when God himself takes issue with his own commands and comes and changes them accordingly?
I purposefully wrote that in a provocative way to prove a point: not that God had to fix his error, but that the Old Testament commands were temporary and only applied within an ancient barbaric polytheistic culture that we have no way of relating to. And we aren’t simply saying, “Oh those things don’t apply to us, times have changed.” No. GOD HIMSELF came and directly said this to us! The Bible is chronological. Don’t read the first part without reading the last part. Don’t watch the first part of the movie without watching the middle and the end.
2. Jesus fixes / updates the killing commands within the expired rent contract
(Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, speaking)
Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
It really can’t be any clearer than this. “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” is a direct quote from the expired rent contract, found in Leviticus 24:17-23. Anyone who ever points to any verse in the Old Testament and says “oh that’s deplorable” or they take any of those passages try to apply them to today, i.e. like people who bomb abortion clinics or like the Crusades and the Spanish Inquisition of centuries past are 100% ignoring how God himself updated all of these commands for us under our new, contemporary rent contract with him.
“Eye for eye and tooth for tooth” was a drastic improvement over “life for eye” and “life for tooth,” which were the barbaric law of the day in B.C. 1400. God gave his people what they could handle within their current cultural construct. But whether you like or dislike that point makes little difference in comparison to how clear Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, is about how we are to treat our enemies and those who mistreat us today.
You are not to bomb abortion clinics.
You are not to hold up signs that say “God Hates Fags.”
You are not to kill people who don’t want to convert to Christianity.
You are not to burn people at the stake.
You are not to torture people of a different religion or doctrine than you.
And on and on and on…
All of the people who have done these things over the past two millennia are in DIRECT DISOBEDIENCE of Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, and are DIRECTLY DISOBEYING the words of the Bible, God’s word.
(This is why Martin Luther and Co. had The Protestant Reformation from 1517-1648 to bring the Church back to Jesus’ teachings of the Bible and away from all of the false teaching being spilled out by the Church during the Crusades and murderous Inquisitions.)
The people doing these violent acts “in the name of Jesus” can call themselves “Christians” if they want, but they’re not. Their ultimate salvation is between them and the Lord but they certainly are not demonstrating Christ; they are demonstrating the opposite of Christ.
And this is the difference between Islamic “radicals” and Christian “radicals”… The evil acts that Christian radicals do are in direct disobedience to the Bible / Jesus’ commands. Whereas the evil acts that Muslim radicals do are in direct obedience to the Qur’an / Muhammad’s commands.
Consider the following chart:
Is there an old and new covenant within Islam? Not that I’m aware of. If there is, in all sincerity, someone please let me know. Is there a higher authority than Muhammad within the Qur’an or the other holy writings of Islam? Not that I’m aware of. If there is, in all sincerity, someone please let me know. Was Muhammad speaking symbolically or metaphorically here, even though he physically practiced these very acts? If so, in all sincerity, please explain how.
My point in this is not to bash Muslims. There are tons of good people who are Muslims who would never kill or be violent to anyone. Somehow they have rationalized the above commands from Muhammad, the highest of all their prophets and one who has the utmost sacredness to them. I would be more than happy to post the views of how those commands are rationalized if a practicing Muslim would be willing to send them to me. In the meantime, my point is simply to show a stark difference between Jesus’ and Muhammad’s teaching and to show that when an ex-Muslim brings this up as a reason he left Islam to follow Jesus, one cannot simply dismissively say,
“Well yeah but the Christian Bible has the same types of killing commands in it and Christian radicals have done the same things as these radical Muslims.”
My point is a hope that many Muslims will leave Islam and follow Jesus, who loves them so much and offers his amazing grace to them.
Christians, myself included, have not always obeyed God’s biblical commands to love our enemies as we are supposed to. And I repent of that on behalf of us all. But if you want to know about God, please don’t look to me or to any other man, but look to Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, and to the place where you will find his very words, the Bible.
In a culture where most people believe all religions are the same and there is nothing inherently wrong with any of them, I know this might be offensive to some. I apologize for the offense, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you. But if something was true, or something you have been believing your whole life wasn’t, and these things were both clearly written down in the two most widespread holy books of all time, wouldn’t you want to see this?
Some posts I’ve written previously on these tricky passages in the Old Testament:
- Understanding Weird Parts of the Old Testament: Old vs. New Covenant
- Where the old covenant came from and why it doesn’t apply to us.
- Why the old covenant is still God’s Word to us and why it is still useful for teaching, rebuking, and correcting (i.e. 1 Timothy 3:16)
- Why the entire Bible matters, even if Rob Bell says it doesn’t
- Why the Weird Old Testament Laws Ever Existed
- Richard Dawkins: God commanding Wars, Genocides, Infant Killing???
- You can’t have the New Testament Jesus without the Old Testament God
- Why God Was Justified to Bring Harsh Judgment in the Old Testament
- Ep. 37: Jesus bringing great calm to great chaos + new Flip Side book club exploring gay celibate partnerships with Wesley Hill - October 24, 2020
- Join the Flip Side Book Club: Spiritual Friendship by Wesley Hill, as we discuss gay celibate friendships - October 24, 2020
- Is Masturbation a Sin? - October 23, 2020