Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Do the differences ultimately matter?

Boy, am I in a mood tonight. I've been reading up on Islam and Christianity, similarities and differences, and right now I'm so confused I don't know *anything*. When I started, it was just curiosity; what is all the fuss about (Islam)? Now, it has me questioning the religion in which I was raised, but not feeling very certain about Islam, either. It's like neither of them is a definite "yes" or "no" any more. There's no sense of peace for me, either way. I'm very frustrated... : (

Now I'm thinking, do all the differences really matter? Can't all of us (Christians, Muslims, and Jews) be right in worshipping the same God, and everything else just minor details? Could it be that there is more than one true and right path to the same destination?

I've given myself a headache, so I'm going to eat dinner and try not to think about it any more tonight.


  1. Hello again, just posted on one of your previous blog entries. My name is Stephanie, I am new to following your blog. (again, sorry, I don't have a blog yet).

    I read this post, and it brought back a lot of memories and emotions to me. I read a book once, maybe you have read it: The Alchemist. In it, one of the book's plot lines it that as you get closer to your goal/dream, life seems to get more complicated and difficult. The closer you get the worst it gets. You must keep struggling on, or else you fall short and never reach what it is that you were going for! And it will be the struggle that cements you in your decision/goal/dream, ect.
    Anyways, really good book, might help to take a break from the rigidity of religions and read something more spiritual based. : )

    For me, it is important to know what my fundamental belief is: That there is only one God... that alone led me to where I am now. However, that doesn't mean that every woman that has the same belief will automatically end up in the same spot as I; God works in marvelous ways. Hope I made sense. Peace! ___Stephanie

  2. WOW! Amazing, it's like God brought me to you... A Christian e-mailed me the same question and I did a response on my blog.

    It's relevant to you also:

  3. The differences matter a great deal. They are of eternal significance. They've been discussed at length elsewhere in comments on your blog, so I won't repeat in any detail what has already been said here.

    An old pastor at a church I attended once upon a time summarized the differences between Christianity and all other religions as boiling down to the questions of 1) who Jesus is, and 2) what he came here to do.

    So, is he a) just a prophet, or b) not a man who made himself out to be God, but God who took on a human form for a time for a particular purpose?

    Did he come a) just to preach the message that there is one God and call people to repent and turn to Him, or b) all that and more - to be our key to a unique salvation to be found in none other?

    What I mean by 'unique salvation' is the following:

    the only way of dealing with our sins that faces the fact that sin is much more than just our deeds,

    the only way that puts our deeds in their proper place.

    What I mean by the proper place of deeds is:

    they do not contribute materially to our salvation (which would put them in a place that should be occupied only by God, and amount to worship of our deeds instead of God), but rather

    they are a result of already having been saved and given a new life and a new mind, transformed so that we are able to do the right thing for the right reasons: not to earn a reward or to avoid punishment, but only for God.

    I think the best thing to do to find out the differences between Christianity and Islam is read both the Bible and the Qur'an, not just take someone else's word for it. And in both cases, read the whole book before coming to a conclusion.

    It is fine to have questions about one's own religion. They are necessary in order to grow in one's faith. And it is even fine to examine other religions - with a critical eye.

    However, the question becomes 'what is going to be my measure?' I suppose it is even fine to take some distance from both religions and see what happens if you measure the Qur'an by the Bible, and see what happens if you measure the Bible by the Qur'an.

    But I think you already have some idea what you will find - that they are in very important matters mutually exclusive. So that this won't solve the problem.

    Someone may tell you to pray. And this is no doubt valuable. But many people ask God to show them the truth, and they end up in different, mutually exclusive religions. And the big question here is 'Why?'

    I think there are two answers to this: 1) the content of each person's heart is different; 2) there are many spiritual beings out there who give answers to people, but not all of them are God...

    Looking at Islam vs. Christianity, we are faced with a choice between:

    1) 'strict monotheism' (i.e. absolute oneness), but a 'salvation offer' that involves our efforts to achieve salvation;

    2) a God who became man (so, multiplicity in oneness), but a 'salvation offer' that involves our efforts - however, only to work out a salvation that has *already been given* by God's sovereign hand, so that God truly is the only Savior.

  4. (continuation) So what I am driving at is that mere study is not going to solve the problem. It is necessary to take a careful look at the content of our own hearts, because hearts have a tendency, left to their own devices, to take what 'seems good' to them. And that only leads to truth if our hearts really do desire to have only one God. In all the subtlety that that entails. Above all, no desire for reward. No desire to avoid punishment. No desire to contribute materially to one's salvation. A desire truly only for God.

    It is so easy to fool ourselves. One little book that really opened my eyes in this matter is Anthony DeMello's 'The Way to Love' (previous editions bore the title 'The Call to Love'). It's a book of meditations on verses from the Gospels. Very heavy stuff - better to read only one chapter a day, because even that much will have you thinking the rest of the day.

  5. I think I know what you mean by "do the differences really matter". Yes the differences are what make the 3 religions but in the end does it matter which one you choose. My theory has always been that God created everything and therefore created Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. If God created three then there must be a reason. It would be pretty unmerciful of God to create three religions based on the concept of one God and then expect us to pick the "right" one or we won't go to heaven/jannah. I think that if you stay true to your self and the religion you have chosen, believe in the oneness of God, and maintain yourself as a good person you will be ok in the end.

    but that is just my theory, and I'm no theologian. Its just what I've gathered over many years of studying religions.

    Keep looking, keep reading :). Sometimes what you want most is the hardest to achieve.

  6. It's a hard question, I think. *If* either Christianity or Islam is right, then the differences, the choice you make does matter, because both claim exclusivity. One or the other, in this point of view, has to be wrong. However, many people (from all sides of the question) are beginning to believe that it doesn't, actually, matter - that there are many ways to God - it only matters that you choose, and follow the rituals of your choice and follow what God wants (which would be for you to be a good person). Unitarian Universalism has started its own religion that encompasses all 'paths' based on this concept.

    All I can really say is that I feel faith and religion are the journeys of a lifetime (despite my sometimes personally feeling like I *have to make the choice right now!*) so keep studying and learning, and eventually, the choice will be made clear. I think that God understands how hard this can be.

  7. I really *wish* I could say all (good) paths lead to God. I would LOVE that so much. But I don't believe it so I can't say assuringly that this is true. I wish God would prove me wrong in this, but so far . . .

  8. Susanne, it'd make things so much easier, wouldn't it? There'd be no driving worry about making the right choice, because all the choices would be right!

    Days where I worry about stuff like this are the days I miss being a pagan. :) It's very easy to live and let live when you don't think winning the argument makes any difference.

  9. Heather,
    Hey there :D I converted to Islam from Judaism about 3 years ago. I remember having a lot of the same questions.

    The answer is, yes and no. We all worship Hashem/God/Allah. That's a good start. And we should all have respect for each other, regardless of what name we call on Him with. And there are some translations of the Qur'an that say that if one does good in their monotheistic faith and they practice what was passed down and is truly faith, they will be rewarded.

    Have you read the whole Qur'an? It made a huge difference to me. Actually, there's one or two translations that are the easiest to get through...Please let me know if you want a copy of one or the other and I'll find a way to get you one, ok? (#1, Saheeh International's says Al-Muntadi Al-Islami- clearest English I've ever read. #2, Muhammad Asad's "The Message of the Qur'an", he was also a convert from Judaism. His work is amazing and his footnotes are incredibly detailed.)

    There aren't a lot of differences between Christianity and Islam, or even Orthodox Judaism and Islam. There's a choice to be made in that respect. No one can answer these for you but yourself.
    1. Is Jesus the Son of God or is he a Messenger? In that respect, were his miracles signs that he was a prophet or a son?
    2. Can you accept the trinity as it is? (This is what most converts I've met struggled with).
    3. Do you believe in...ok, I don't know the word for it, but blameless salvation (Ie, you believe in Jesus and all your sins are wiped away, not matter what they are) or do you believe your actions should dictate where you go?
    4. Do you believe your worship should be in the hands of elders (the priests, pastors, having to go to church, etc. that might just be Catholicism...) (intercessors to God of some sort) or do you believe your own prayer is what matters, you are directly linked to God?

    Those 4 seem to be the biggest differences. And also the hardest questions. See how you feel. And if you EVER need someone to talk to, please feel free to contact me, ok?

    And if you'd like to try a du'a or prayer of answering questions, here's a link to Salat-ul-Istikhara (The Guidance Prayer).

    Ironically, it helps many in wavering shoes to figure out the right course of action, Muslim or non-Muslim.

  10. I think that caraboska had a lot of good things to say and probably explained them better than I could anyway.
    What I keep coming back to are the words of Jesus in the Gospels. It is true that one must believe in Jesus to be a Muslim, but the majority of his life is not narrated in the Quran. I think that Jesus' teachings are just so profound and life-changing. The Quran has a lot of good material, but it just doesn't impact me the same way that the words of the Gospels did and continue to do. These things do have eternal implications for all of us, and I don't feel like I have all the answers either. There are a lot of good materials on both sides, but coming from a Christian background, you should study Christian history and theology a bit, then move back into trying to understand Islam better. Just take it one day at a time.

  11. caraboska YOU MUST get a blog. Definitely.

  12. So, I've been toying with the whole concept of everything for sometime now. I am so confused. I wish I could find someone in my area to help me. There are plenty of Muslims around me be the females my age are not really the best to follow. I'm not judging them but what I have seen and heard first-hand and hearsay I don't know.