Islam & Terrorist "Talking Points"
How to talk with Muslims

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F. Earle Fox

One wonders just what the Western world has in mind with respect to Islam.  Mostly, I think, Westerners are far too locked into themselves to be aware even of what is happening, certainly on a "doing something about it" level.  We are generally incapable of reasoning about the matter, or looking ahead at the consequences of Islamic hyper-aggressiveness.  We are so engrossed in our own "feel-good" that we cannot entertain the notion that an enemy is not only at our doorstep, but has entered the gates to grab the levers of social, civil, and, yes, military and police control. 

But as with almost every public issue, the Western public seems incompetent to grasp the issue, let alone effectively deal with it. 

The following are suggestions on how to begin being effective in the dialogue with Muslims concerning Islam and Christianity and the West.   This is just the beginning of a much larger effort.
 

1. First of all define terms such as 'God'.  The Biblical definition of 'God' is 'He who is the creator of, and therefore sovereign over, all things'.   See if your Muslim correspondent agrees to that definition.  If not, ask for his. 

2. If speaking in English, avoid using the name "Allah" when criticizing their view of God.  Avoid stirring up Muslim ire.  Instead, simply reply to distortions of the nature of God, that "God (or Allah) is not like that".  God does not have to do evil things, such as terrorist activities, to maintain His cause.  Defend the nature and honor of God, do not attack Allah.  Point out that God always works in an honest, open, and honorable manner, never in a deceitful, hateful, or unjust manner toward any person.  God shows His majesty, not by violence, but by kindness.  God uses force almost solely against those who subvert truth and subvert honest discussion of truth.  That does more to force Muslims to think about the matter rationally than attacking Allah.  Let the truth speak for itself and do its own attacking. 

I.e., focus on their view of God, not on their deity.  Ask them why they attribute criminal activities to Allah, i.e., to God. 

E.g., when terrorists do despicable acts "in the name of God", one can respond that such persons are trashing the reputation of God, that a just and omnipotent God would not defend His case with cowardly and evil behavior.  Go after the criminals, not Allah (that is just the generic name for God).  Do not attack a deity which does not in fact exist.  Go after the terrorists who are blaspheming God by attributing to Him despicable, criminal behavior

Do not mention "Allah" unless it is linguistically natural to do so (i.e., if you are speaking Arabic), or if you make it clear that you mean by that name, the real God, whoever He is.  Force them to justify their behavior (not God's), why they can call terrorism "good", and why they are not willing to stand up and defend their religion in honest, mutually respectful public debate. 

The Biblical position is that it is better to lose honorably than to win dishonorably (see Job 13:7-12).  God will give the ascendancy to those who truly honor Him and His creatures. 

3. Talk about relationship with God, and about the meaning of sovereignty, majesty, etc.  What does it mean to be sovereign?  In what does the majesty of God consist?  The sovereignty of God does not (in the Bible) at all contradict His closeness to His people.  God is the first to be a servant, not the last.  Amazing grace. 

Ask them why they think it is blasphemy to talk about knowing God personally.  Explain how the coming of Jesus is our best evidence to the contrary, and then the giving of the Holy Spirit.  We do not merely get letters with regulations from a distant God, we know Him as Father. 

4. Talk about Jesus' revelation that the law (Sabbath) was made for man, not man for the law.  God is interested in persons, not laws.  The laws are to govern people so that they can find the most rewarding life, not to oppress them.  

Ask them whether they think such a view demeans God, and if so, why. 

5. The two highest laws are the laws of love -- of God and of neighbor.  God is not asking anything of us that He Himself is not already, by His own sovereign choice, doing.  Ask if they think of God as loving towards all persons, including sinners.  And explain how God honors both justice and mercy, how love is tough and just, and how justice is merciful.  Justice and mercy are wedded, not at odds. 

6. Inquire about how the Muslims themselves honor Jesus, (not as the Son of God, but as a great prophet).  Study with them what Jesus actually taught.  The Koran says some surprising things about Jesus. 

7. Talk with Muslims about the nature of revelation, and why God would bother to reveal Himself.  How do Islam and the Bible differ on revelation and God revealing Himself?  (See The Authority of the Bible in a Scientific Age.)

8. Compare the Muslim vs. the Biblical test for discerning the true God.   See Elijah on Mount Carmel (I King 18), or most of Isaiah, chapters 40-end. 

9. What is the role of evidence in either religion?  Can reasonable discussion be maintained in both religions?  Ask whether they would not consider it braver to persist in presenting one's case, even at the cost of one's life (as the early Christians did in the Roman Empire), rather than to kill innocent persons to "prove" one's point.  Which behavior is more noble? 

Terrorist jihad relies on the notion that winning is everything.   Successfully exerting one's power is everything.  The Biblical God show us that only honest, loving winning is noble and worthy.  Christians won the Roman Empire without ever raising a sword.  Their love for each other and their neighbors (Christian or pagan) converted the Roman citizens.  That was the kind of unity which Jesus said would convince the world that He was from the Father -- because the world cannot produce that kind of unity.  (See discussion between a Christian pastor and an imam.

10. Point out how power is used differently between Islam and the Bible.  God's power is used to give us life and to defend that life, to defend our freedom to give an honest answer to God's own invitation.  We are invited into the Kingdom, not coerced.  Coercive power is used to stop those who would coerce honest decisions. 

11. The Iraqi elections proves that the average human being, even in the most backward of situations, will eventually respond to the offer of freedom We can rejoice that the Iraqis are voting for freedom. 

But we MUST tell them about real freedom, not sell them the pseudo-freedom of secular democracy.  (See http://www.newswithviews.com/Erica/Carle16.htm for a critique of Bush's speech on freedom in Iraq.) 

President Bush (along with most of America, the West, and most Western Christians) is naive and misguided.  The brand of freedom inherent to so-called "liberal democracy" is undefined and thus promiscuous (to do whatever you choose) -- a terribly destructive notion.  The Muslims have been right to criticize the West on that score.  We must admit our faults.  We have no freedom to do wrong.  Our basic freedoms are only under God (as per Declaration of Independence), and are (1) to be seekers after truth (2) and righteousness, (3) with a loving spirit.  There is no legitimate political freedom inconsistent with these.  We can challenge Muslims (and others) on these issues about their ultimate values.  Where do their religions or philosophies stand on these issues?  Can they show Christians a more noble way that God might be doing things?   

Christians and Jews can show how the whole of the Bible pictures a God who builds His creation from top to bottom on the principle of freedom -- but not on promiscuity.  We call it "grace". 

11. Carefully spell out areas of agreement between Muslims and Christians.  Enlist Muslim help in combating those evils which we both agree are to be stopped.  And be ready to show them an honorable and effective way of doing so.  The Way of the Cross.  Speaking the truth in love.   How to wield the Sword of the Spirit. 

12. Talk about intellectual credibility and courage, a big issue with Muslims.  They want to be known as macho, brave, warrior types, but they (like most Christians) miss the real war, the spiritual war for truth.  Help them to understand the courage and bravery required to risk one's view in an open, honest public debate.  Ask if they are willing to do that. 

Tell them that it looks like they are trying to get by coercion and deceit what they cannot get openly and honestly by persuasion, by the evidence showing that they are right.  Tell them that they are pasting a terrible image on God by their behavior.  Keep pressing this point of what they are doing to the reputation of God.  It is blasphemy.  Ask them for their definition of blasphemy, and how they discern it.  Is their definition of blasphemy in any way tied to violation of truth?  If it is, how does one discern truth? 

Keep pressing on why they are willing to blaspheme God (or Allah) by attributing to Him criminal, deceitful, lying behavior -- i.e., by commanding His people to do such things.  God can do whatever He wants.  But the God of the Bible forswears all such thought or activity and binds Himself to a perfect love for His people.  Including His enemies. 

Truth is the key issue, and we can always link courage with defending truth in an open contest.  Ask if they think one is courageous who cheats on the rules in a game or match?  Is there such a thing as a "good loser" or a "loyal opposition" in his understanding?  Or does a loser always have to resort to violence and deceit to win?  What is the difference between that and a spoiled brat? 

Ask what might be the rules for keeping open and honest discussion of deep issues, including religion.  See articles in the "pluralism" section of the Constitution Library, and keep gently pushing the issue of honest debate, courage, and good losers -- who are always welcome to come back and present their case again.  (For honest pluralism, see Constitution library, scroll down to section on "pluralism".) 

13. Friendly Muslims must be expected and asked to stand against terrorists publicly, with fatwahs, and with police and military force.  They must seek out and turn in terrorists.  Only that will put teeth into their "moderate" words.  They cannot be trusted until they are willing to risk their lives in this struggle for truth and freedom. 

14. Challenge Muslims with the reasonable character of the God of the Bible:  Isaiah 1:18, Isaiah 43, I Kings 18:17 ff., 2 Cor. 4:1 ff., John 8:31 ff., Job 13.  God is willing to hear the complaints of His people.  We are urged to be honest with God even if it means criticizing Him (Micah 6:3).  God, like a good father, knows how to handle our complaints.  And Genesis 18:25, where Abraham asks, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"  God does not need Abraham's lectures about His strategy with Sodom, but He is willing to hear Abraham out.  Reason was a fundamental part of God's dealing with us long before any Greek philosophers were on the scene.  God is building a freewill covenant, which requires full disclosure on all sides, enabling a free and rational choice, yes or no.    

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